As COVID-19 restrictions gradually ease across Australia, health professionals expressed concerns over a “very big wave” of people with long COVID.
“We can ignore this problem simply, but even if you say that five percent of Australians will have significant symptoms from long COVID. You’re talking about nearly half a million people in Australia,” said Peter Wark, a respiratory specialist and conjoint professor at University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute.
Wark told Xinhua on Friday that while many issues around long COVID are still unclear, the impact could be significant.
According to a statement from Health Minister Mark Butler in June, Australia may expect a “very big wave” of people with long COVID over the next few years. It’s estimated that the number of people living with long COVID could be up to 1.4 million with possible symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, or headaches.
Wark said this multitude of complex symptoms makes long COVID a difficult condition to track down, study and treat, and there is no single test that could diagnose it. But vaccination does reduce the risk of long COVID.
He also suggested that health professionals need to be updated and get trained on long COVID management, and a coordinated response is also needed to deal with symptoms of mild to severely debilitating.
Wark’s attitude is largely shared by researchers from the University of Sydney, as a research article from the university in this week warned long COVID might become Australia’s most significant cause of longer-term disability.
“While clinicians are familiar with post-viral or post-infective syndromes, long COVID is new. It’s really a mixture of different conditions with different underlying causes,” said the article authors from the university’s Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases.
The article cited recent data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics, suggesting triple vaccination seems to reduce the chance of long COVID, and the Australian government would also need to provide more specialist long COVID clinics to prepare for the potential burden in the future.
“While we may not know the best ways to treat all the aspects of it, we certainly can’t ignore it,” Wark added.