Long-COVID symptoms mirror those in other viral illnesses, study shows
Published Monday, 17 April, 2023 at 08:38 AM
Premier and Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath
- New research by Queensland Health suggests vaccination could reduce incidence of long COVID
- The study was completed when 90 per cent of the state’s population was vaccinated against COVID-19
- Patients surveyed 12 weeks post Omicron infection, in Queensland's highly vaccinated population, reported similar incidence of persistent symptoms as patients who had been infected with influenza
In the highly vaccinated population of Queensland, long-COVID symptoms may be no more severe than those seen in influenza, according to new research by Queensland Health.
During concurrent waves of Omicron and influenza in mid-2022, 2,195 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 and 951 adults diagnosed with influenza were studied for 12 weeks and asked about ongoing symptoms and functional impairment using a questionnaire.
Of those diagnosed with Omicron, 21 per cent (469) reported ongoing symptoms at 12 weeks and 4 per cent (90) reported having moderate to severe functional limitations in everyday life.
Comparatively, 23 per cent (214) of adults diagnosed with influenza reported ongoing symptoms and 4 per cent (42) reported moderate to severe functional limitations.
Long COVID symptoms are those that persist for more than 3 months and can include breathlessness, a cough, heart palpitations, headaches, and severe fatigue.
The study is the first of its kind in Queensland to consider the state’s individual experience with a milder COVID-19 variant infecting a highly vaccinated population.
More than 90 per cent of the population of Queensland had been vaccinated against COVID-19 before the community first experienced widespread transmission of the Omicron variant in 2022.
The results will be presented at the prestigious European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
An abstract of the study is available here.
Quotes attributable to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk:
“We know our high vaccination rates protected Queenslanders from the worst of COVID-19. It appears they also helped suppress the severity of long-COVID symptoms.
“It backs up what we have seen from similar studies overseas that found unvaccinated people infected with COVID-19 were at greater risk of long-term symptoms.
“It is why I am proud to lead a Government that did all it could to protect the community against COVID-19 when the pandemic was at its peak, including vaccinating 80 per cent of the population before reopening our borders.
“There was fierce opposition to this but Queensland stood firm.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath:
“Queensland is a textbook example of how to respond to a one-in-100-year pandemic, and this study shows that.
“The fact that long-COVID symptoms are on par with those of other seasonal viral illnesses in Queensland shows how critical vaccination is.
“The study is also a reminder that the best way we can continue to protect ourselves is remaining up to date with vaccinations.”
Quotes attributable to Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard:
“There were very high vaccination rates in Queensland before there was widespread circulation of COVID-19.
“In that context, the study shows a longer-than-expected recovery after a viral illness is not unusual and occurs with other diseases like influenza.
“Simply put – long term symptoms are not unique to COVID-19 when applied to Queensland’s highly-vaccinated population.
“The study also found the impact of long COVID on the health system is likely to stem from the number of people infected with COVID-19 rather than the severity of long COVID symptoms.
“Vaccination is effective against severe disease and the vast majority of vaccinated Queenslanders recover quickly from COVID-19 or influenza infection.
“While getting vaccinated remains the best protection against COVID-19, the problem of waning immunity in older Queenslanders remains a concern.
“People over the age of 65 should seek another dose of COVID-19 vaccine if it has been more than six months since previous vaccination or natural infection.
“This research provides information to better understand the impact of long COVID and other viruses like influenza on our health system.”
- Compared the symptoms of COVID-positive cases and those who tested positive to influenza
- The results show long-COVID symptoms can occur in other viral illnesses at the same level of severity
- The study is specific to Queensland’s highly vaccinated population and ran between June and September 2022 with more than 3,100 participants
Media contact – Cullen Robinson 0418 170 474