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Health chief says ‘long Covid’ is no longer a thing – makes virus sound sinister

References to “long COVID” should be scrapped according to Queensland’s Chief Health Officer after new research found long-term symptoms associated with the virus are the same as other viral infections.

Mar 15, 2024, updated Mar 15, 2024
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard (AAP Image/Darren England)

Dr John Gerrard said health officials recognise the ongoing effects suffered by people who have had COVID-19 as real but they are not unique to the virus.

Common symptoms of ‘long-COVID’ include fatigue, post-exertional symptom exacerbation, brain fog, and changes to smell and taste.

Health officials have been investigating the long-term effects of COVID-19 since early in 2022.

Queensland health compared the recovery from COVID-19 with people with other viral infections.

The health department surveyed 5112 patients over 18 years old, comprising 2399 with COVID-19 and 995 with influenza.

Some 1718 patients with symptoms of a respiratory infection but who had neither COVID-19 nor influenza, were also surveyed.

Dr Gerrard said the patients were diagnosed between the 29th of May and the 25th of June 2022, when the Omicron variant was dominant and more than 90 per cent of Queenslanders had been vaccinated.

Patients were asked in the survey if they still had symptoms, what they were, and how much those symptoms impacted their daily lives.

Dr Gerrard said 16 per cent of respondents reported some ongoing symptoms regardless of whether they had COVID-19, the flu or another respiratory infection.

Only 3.6 per cent reported moderate-to-severe functional impairment in their activities of daily life.

But there was no evidence that COVID-19 positive adults were more likely to have moderate-to-severe limitations a year after the diagnosis than symptomatic adults, who were negative for COVID-19, he said.

Those results were similar when compared with the 995 symptomatic adults who had influenza, the CHO added.

Dr Gerrard said the survey results indicate 94 per cent of people who tested negative to COVID-19 reported moderate-to-severe functional impairment.

“So there was no difference,” Dr Gerrard said.

“I believe it’s time to stop using the term long COVID – it wrongly implies there is something unique, exceptional and somewhat sinister about longer term symptoms associated with COVID 19 when we know that all viruses can have longer term effects, so we’ve seen very similar effects from other virus.

“What we’re saying is that these symptoms and these long term effects of COVID are real, but that they are the same as what we see with other viruses and to identify COVID as a particularly unique or sinister virus is doing more harm than good.”

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