Health experts have described a report warning that one in 10 people will end up with “long Covid” as “jaw-dropping” and used it to insist Australia must change its relaxed attitude to the virus.
Infectious disease researcher Professor Brendon Crabb criticised the current strategy of “allowing transmission to go pretty much unchecked” and urged politicians to “change the narrative” around the risks of Covid.
Crabb, the CEO of the Burnet Institute said the government should begin promoting booster shots again and continue to encourage people to wear masks.
He cited a report, published in the academic journal Nature Reviews Microbiology, stating that 65 million people worldwide already had long Covid which is defined as when symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks after initial infection.
The report, which Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton described as “incredibly important”, estimated more than 10 per cent of people who got Covid would experience on-going chronic health issues.
Women aged between 30 and 55 were particularly at risk, the report said.
Long Covid’s symptoms include fatigue, brain impairment and nervous system dysfunction, as well as vomiting and shortness of breath.
Crabb said that every time a person was reinfected with Covid they had the same likelihood of catching long Covid.
“Our clear national policy is to protect the aged, protect those who are immunocompromised, but in the rest of us, allow transmission to go pretty much unchecked,” he said.
“But if you factor in long Covid, then we’re all vulnerable.”
Crabb said it was important that doctors believed patients who complained about long Covid.
“Long Covid is not some vague mysterious thing that you can palm off as psychosomatic, though many do. It is a very clear clinical illness with a biochemical and cellular underpinning,” he said.
A federal parliamentary inquiry into long Covid closed its submissions in November 2022. The inquiry made headlines when former Australian Medical Association president Dr Kerryn Phelps made a submission urging more discussion about vaccine injuries.