Long Covid: QLD chief health officer John Gerrard wants term scrapped following new research

One of the nation’s top health authorities is calling for the term “long Covid” to be scrapped as new research suggests it is no more “sinister” than the long-term effects of the flu.

Long Covid emerged as a term during the heart of the pandemic when it was determined a small minority of people experienced long-lasting symptoms for a number of months after recovering from the initial viral infection.

However, new Queensland Health research suggests the term could be creating “unnecessary fear”.

The state’s chief health officer John Gerrard said a study of more than 5000 Australians found the lasting effects of infection from seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses were experienced at the same rate as those who were infected with Covid.

“It causes unnecessary fear. It implies that there is something particularly sinister and ominous about Covid-19,” he said in a statement released by the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) on Friday.

“Our evidence suggests that there isn’t, that it is not dissimilar to other viruses. That does not mean that you can’t get these persistent symptoms following Covid-19, but you’re no more likely to get it after Covid than with other respiratory viruses.”

Overall, 16 per cent of all respondents reported ongoing symptoms a year later, and 3.6 per cent reported moderate-to-severe functional impairment in their daily life activities.

The study’s results will presented on April 30 at the ECCMID conference in Barcelona.

Dr Gerrard said this does not mean the long Covid effects weren’t real or debilitating, with people reporting fatigue, brain fog and changes to taste and smell a year after their infection.

The findings add to previous Queensland Health research that found no difference in ongoing symptoms and functional impairment when Covid-19 was compared with influenza 12 weeks after infection.

Rates of long Covid in Australia are low due to high vaccination rates upon the easing of Covid restrictions and the population’s subsequent exposure to the Omicron variant.

The authors also point to several limitations of their research, including the risk of long Covid being lower during the Omicron wave and because 90 per cent of people in Queensland were vaccinated when Omicron emerged.

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