Call for a long-term solution to Long COVID

May 2, 2023 BY

Lung Foundation Australia says getting at least one dose of a COVID vaccine before you test positive for COVID-19 lowers your risk of Long COVID by about 35 per cent. Photo: BARWON HEALTH

Lung Foundation Australia (LFA) has warned the community to not be complacent about the risk of COVID-19 infections or reinfections as the winter flu season approaches.

The foundation has raised concerns about the growing number of people living with Long COVID in need of ongoing care.

LFA senior manager of policy advocacy and prevention Paige Preston said COVID-19 and Long COVID was still very real for many Australians, and the cohort experiencing ongoing COVID symptoms needed to be better supported.

“As the Federal Government prepare to release the findings of the Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections Inquiry, we’re urging consideration of the best long-term plans to manage Long COVID.

“In Australia COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths are still high. While COVID-19 infections continue to be very much a public health concern, Long COVID is also now an established threat as current evidence indicates at least five per cent of acute COVID-19 cases are likely to turn into Long COVID.”

Long COVID is a new and complex illness that can affect many body systems and affects everyone differently. For some people it may cause symptoms such as breathlessness, cough, hoarse voice and fatigue, while others may experience memory or thinking problems (often referred to as “brain fog”).

“In our survey of over 2,000 respondents, breathing problems and cough, along with fatigue, were among the most commonly reported ongoing symptoms four weeks post initial COVID-19 infection,” Ms Preston said.

“Lung Foundation Australia has convened a consumer and clinical advisory group, provides a national peer support service, as well as dedicated lung cancer social work program; but more is needed to meet demand and ensure that Australians living with lung disease, lung cancer, or now Long COVID, have the support they need.”

She said the best outcome for the growing community of people living with Long COVID was a combination of multidisciplinary care, often provided in Long COVID clinics, and community-centred care.

“Long COVID clinics have been effective at helping patients learn to manage their symptoms and ultimately improve their health trajectories, and the multidisciplinary care that can be provided in clinics of this kind is hugely necessary and beneficial.

“For the proportion of Long COVID patients who do not require multidisciplinary care (for example, those with symptoms that could all be managed by a certain healthcare professional), care in the community setting should be available.

“As we head quickly into the winter months, we encourage Australians to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations, and speak to their doctor about COVID boosters, flu vaccines, and for those living with a lung disease to discuss the pneumococcal vaccine.

“Recent studies have shown getting at least one dose of a COVID vaccine before you test positive for COVID-19 lowers your risk of Long COVID by about 35 per cent, while unvaccinated people who recovered from COVID-19, and then got a vaccine, lowered their own Long COVID risk by 27 per cent.”

To read Lung Foundation Australia’s Long COVID report, which includes 10 recommendations to the federal inquiry, head to lungfoundation.com.au/resources/covid-19-a-roadmap-for-recovery