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Health Agency Debunks 'Long COVID' As ‘Unnecessary Fear’

Health Agency Debunks Existence of 'Long COVID'
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An Australian government agency study found that symptoms of so-called “long COVID” were no different from those who struggled to recover from other viral illnesses.

Mar. 18 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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Health experts in one country have advocated for the abandonment of the term "long COVID," likening it to discarding expired N95 masks.

According to these experts, symptoms reported by individuals purportedly suffering from the effects of COVID-19 for an extended period are no different from those commonly associated with typical viral illnesses, such as the flu.

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Government-supported medical researchers in Australia have called for an end to the usage of the phrase, which gained popularity amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases leading to what they describe as generally non-severe "virus fatigue symptoms."

These symptoms, which would typically go unnoticed, are believed to have become more pronounced due to heightened awareness resulting from the pandemic, reported the South West News Service.

Dr. John Gerrard, Queensland's Chief Health Officer, who spearheaded a recent study on the subject, emphasized the need to abandon terms like "long COVID," asserting that they falsely suggest something unique about the prolonged symptoms associated with this virus.

According to Gerrard, such terminology can instill unnecessary fear and hyper-vigilance towards lingering symptoms, potentially hindering recovery.

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The study conducted by researchers at Queensland Health involved surveying 5,112 individuals aged 18 and above who reported experiencing symptoms. These symptoms ranged from fatigue and brain fog to cough, shortness of breath, changes in smell and taste, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat.

Participants were drawn from a pool of Australians who had undergone COVID-19 testing, both positive and negative, in the spring of 2022. A year later, they were questioned about their symptoms and overall quality of life.

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The findings revealed that 16 percent of respondents reported experiencing symptoms in the spring of 2023, with 3.6 percent indicating moderate-to-severe impairment in their daily lives.

Crucially, there was no evidence to suggest that individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19 in 2022 experienced a higher level of impairment compared to those who tested negative or those afflicted with the flu.

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The study attributed the lower rates of diagnosed "long COVID" in Australia to stringent pandemic restrictions imposed by the government.

The results of this study are scheduled to be presented in April at the 2024 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona.

Dr. Gerrard emphasized that in health systems with high vaccination rates, long COVID may have appeared as a distinct and severe illness due to the surge in COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. However, the study found that the rates of persistent symptoms and functional impairment were comparable to those seen in other post-viral illnesses.


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