As many as 400,000 Australians are suffering the long-term effects of Covid, and the current situation will only make that number worse.
It is now estimated that around 400,000 Australians are suffering from the long-term effects of Covid, and that number will increase as the number of Omicron cases increases.
While most people who contract the virus experience short-term illness, it is estimated that about five percent of people infected with Covid-19 continue to experience long-term symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, headache and “brain pain.” “. fog”.
Although it is a small percentage of people who suffer from “prolonged Covid”, the sheer number of infections in Australia means it is becoming more common.
As a nation, we now average more than 30,000 new cases per day, and a total of eight million of us have had the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Taking the five per cent figure into account, this means that around 400,000 Australians could become long-distance runners – and that’s a conservative estimate.
With still no clear consensus on what constitutes a case of long-term Covid, the percentage of people suffering from long-term systems ranges from 5 percent to 50 percent, depending on the definition, the population studied, and the time frame used.
“I think we’re landing in the area of, roughly, let’s say 10 percent of people who are infected with long-term Covid at the three-month mark, which is the critical point where it’s really ‘long-term Covid’,” health economist Professor Martin Hensher told the Saturday newspaper†
His team of researchers found that ongoing diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, likely accounted for about half of the total health burden of Covid-19, and that long-term Covid alone accounted for about 10 percent of the impact.
That was before Omicron — and now the impact could be even greater as cases skyrocket in Australia.
‘Australia’s leading cause of long-term disability’
The University of Sydney today released an editorial calling for greater awareness and support for the growing number of Australians living with long-term Covid – which it says “could even become the leading cause of long-term disability in Australia”.
It says Australia’s health, welfare and disability services are under-prepared for the rise.
“While most people infected with Covid recover unaided, the five percent who get Covid for a long time will often need health care to support them in their recovery. That support can be intensive and time-consuming,” according to researchers at the university.
“We also have very little information on the number of people with long-term Covid, as Health Secretary Mark Butler acknowledged last week.”
One of the key issues in tackling the problem is the challenge of defining Covid for a long time.
Different timeframes are used to define it. According to the Australian Department of Health, a person experiences long-term Covid when their symptoms persist four weeks after they first had Covid.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says Covid usually lasts three months after infection, lasts at least two months and cannot be explained by another diagnosis.
Whatever the definition, the number of people who have symptoms long after their Covid infection is increasing.
The University of Sydney says this means we need:
• Long-term Covid surveillance to track rates, symptoms and impact on work and quality of life over time
• Better support and resources for GPs to treat long-term Covid in primary care
more specialized long Covid clinics for people with more complex problems
• Disability support for people whose problems become long-term
• Research to understand long-term Covid and how best to treat it
“In the US, President Joe Biden has insisted that people with long-term Covid have access to federal disability support. We need a similar plan in Australia,” the researchers said.
“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of stigmatizing and dismissing previous post-viral or post-infectious syndromes such as chronic fatigue syndrome. The devastating impact on those struggling to receive a diagnosis, and adequate treatment and support is still being felt.”
The University of Sydney added that people who have been vaccinated are less likely to get Covid for a long time, with lower rates among those who have had their boosters.
New Study Helps De-mystify Covid Brain Fog
This all comes as a small new study published this week by scientists at the US National Institutes of Health suggests that the immune response triggered by coronavirus infections damages the blood vessels of the brain and may be responsible for long-lasting Covid symptoms.
The article, published in the magazine Brainwas based on autopsies of the brains of nine people who died suddenly after contracting the virus.
Rather than detecting evidence of Covid in the brain, the team found that it was the people’s own antibodies attacking the cells lining the brain’s blood vessels, causing inflammation and damage.
This discovery could explain why some people have lingering effects of infection, including headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, and inability to sleep, as well as “brain fog” – and could also help devise new treatments for long-term Covid.
NIH scientist Avindra Nath, senior author of the paper, said in a statement, “Patients often develop neurological complications with Covid-19, but the underlying pathophysiological process is not well understood.”
“We had previously demonstrated damage to blood vessels and inflammation in patients’ brains at autopsy, but we did not understand the cause of the damage. I think with this article we have gained an important insight into the cascade of events.”
The nine individuals, ages 24 to 73, were selected from the team’s earlier study because they showed signs of blood vessel damage in their brains on scans.
Their brains were compared with those of 10 controls, with the team examining neuroinflammation and immune responses using a technique called immunohistochemistry.
The scientists found that antibodies produced against Covid-19 erroneously target cells that make up the “blood-brain barrier” — a structure designed to keep harmful invaders out of the brain, while allowing the necessary substances to pass through.
Damage to these cells can cause protein leakage, bleeding, and clots, increasing the risk of stroke.
The leaks also cause immune cells called macrophages to rush to the site to repair damage, causing inflammation.
The team found that normal cellular processes in the areas targeted by the attack were severely disrupted, affecting things like their ability to detox and regulate metabolism.
The findings offer clues about the biology at play in patients with long-term neurological symptoms and could inform new treatments, for example a drug that targets the build-up of antibodies on the blood-brain barrier.
“It is very possible that the same immune response persists in Lung Covid patients, resulting in neuronal damage,” Nath said.
This would mean that a drug that inhibits that immune response could help those patients, he added. “So these findings have very important therapeutic implications.”
— with AFP