Long COVID is generally defined by clinicians as people who have signs and symptoms of the virus that continue for more than three months after being infected and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
Dr David Darley, respiratory physician at St Vincent’s, who is also a lead researcher on the landmark ADAPT study, said the most recent data showed about 20 per cent of patients suffered persistent symptoms at eight months after infection.
“But this data was collected in the first 2020 wave and the prevalence of long COVID after the Delta and Omicron waves remains unknown,” he said. “We don’t know what effect vaccination will have on the rates of long COVID. We are doing ongoing studies that are trying to clarify that question.”
For Ms Payton, constant fatigue and “muscle aches and pain that are worse at night” has led her to has scale back the days she spends in the classroom, disrupting her first months of year 12.
“I’ve just been exhausted. If I’m at school, I need to rest twice a day,” she said, noting that after trying to return to her regular netball and basketball training in early February she found it impossible “to get through a game … I had to keep stopping midway through”.
After running a broad spectrum of tests – which all came back clear – her GP referred her to Dr Morgan Hee, one of the rehabilitation medicine physicians who will treat her at the St Vincent’s Hospital clinic.
She will participate in a rehabilitation program, including a graded exercise program to build up endurance and strength and psychological treatments for fatigue.
“There are people we are seeing with just respiratory problems like breathlessness, fatigue cough and wheezing who need pulmonary rehab. And there is another group of patients that might have respiratory symptoms, but also have muscle joint pains and mental health issues after being admitted to hospital and ICU with severe disease,” Dr Faux said.
The clinic would take referrals from general practitioners, Dr Faux said, and extra specialists would be called on when needed.
“Most patients with long COVID are complex. They don’t have just one symptom they have a whole collection of persistent symptoms,” he said.
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