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Monday, December 05, 2022

Matt caught COVID in January, but he’s now lost almost 25 kilos and is still not over it

Matt Schneider describes his brush with COVID-19 in late January as “relatively typical”.

He spent three or four days in bed with fevers and flu-like symptoms before recovering and launching back into his busy life.

But the virus had a sting in its tail and about one month later he was struck down.

“This is the most unwell I’ve ever been,” Mr Schneider said.

“What started as a relatively annoying cough developed into quite severe fatigue.”

The father of three lives at Tamborine Mountain, inland from the Gold Coast, and works as a town planning consultant at the glitter strip.

His exhaustion was so severe he sometimes had to sleep in his car between appointments or before driving home.

The 38-year-old had received two doses of a COVID vaccine and contracted the virus just before he was due for his third.

He lost almost 25 kilograms which he said was “confronting” for his family and colleagues.

“The coughing kept building up, over time that became more and more debilitating … at its worst a few weeks ago [I was] struggling to sleep, no appetite, struggling to eat, struggling to keep the food down that I did eat,” he said.

“The symptoms as recently as Easter had me in bed for almost all of those four days, I think I was out of bed for about three hours over that long weekend.”

Matt Schneider And Dog
Matt Schneider has lost almost 25 kilograms since having COVID-19 in late January.,ABC News: Emma Pollard,

Mr Schneider said getting medical answers was “frustratingly slow”.

“It was really a 12-week exercise between starting to feel the symptoms and then really getting to any point where the medical treatment was starting to make a difference,” he said.

“Three months is a long time to wait to start feeling a little bit better.”

After having chest X-rays, CT scans and blood tests he was prescribed steroids and antibiotics for a secondary lung infection and has been improving with rest.

He said more treatment options for people struggling with long COVID would be “a great investment”.

“We’ve come out of the first couple of phases of the COVID pandemic and this is a new thing for us to collectively think about,” he said.

What is long COVID and how many people get it?

Describing it as a “post-COVID-19 condition”, the World Health Organization said long COVID occurs in people with a history of probable or confirmed infection “usually three months from the onset of COVID-19” with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by another diagnosis.

It lists the common symptoms as:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • cognitive dysfunction

It said symptoms may persist from the initial illness or start following an initial recovery and can “fluctuate or relapse” over time.

Research published in June last year followed 94 per cent of the COVID cases diagnosed in New South Wales between January and May 2020.

It found 80 per cent of those with the virus recover within one month, but about 5 per cent “will continue to experience symptoms three months later”.

Crowd Of People Wearing Face Masks Walking Across A Scramble Crossing In Brisbane Cbd.
An estimated 5 per cent of Australians who get COVID-19 will develop long COVID.,AAP: Darren England,

Brisbane-based general practitioner and Australian Medical Association Queensland director, Maria Boulton, said the data on long COVID in Australia was “changing all the time”.

“At the moment the estimate is about 5 per cent of Australians with acute COVID will go and develop long COVID,” Dr Boulton said.

Vice president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Bruce Willett, said given the time it takes for patients to develop long COVID, the state has only just started to recognize cases.

“We’re currently at the height of the pandemic now, we’re seeing the most cases that we’ve seen in Queensland, so I think we can expect those cases [of long COVID] to really ramp up over the next two to three months,” Dr Willett said.

‘Urgent need’ for dedicated long COVID clinics

Queensland has officially recorded more than 1 million cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic alongside 905 deaths.

Maria In Her Gp Clinic.
Australian Medical Association Queensland director Maria Boulton says Queensland is “playing catch up” on setting up long COVID clinics.,ABC News: Emma Pollard,

Dr Boulton said the state “most definitely” needs dedicated long COVID clinics – staffed by a range of health workers – in both metropolitan and rural and remote areas.

“It’s AMA Queensland’s position that these clinics should have already been established – we knew that COVID was going to hit our shores,” she said.

Dr Willett said patients with long COVID have a “whole constellation” of symptoms and there was “no silver bullet” in treating the condition.

“It requires a team approach of psychologists, GPs, other specialists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and a whole team behind the treatment of long COVID,” he said.

Dr. Bruce Willett
Dr Bruce Willett warns there will be a “significant number” of people needing intensive help at long COVID clinics.,ABC News: Emma Pollard,

Dr Willett said it would be “prudent” for authorities to start planning multi-disciplinary clinics.

“It takes a while to get those in place and I think the sooner we get working on that the better,” he said.

Dr Willett said while GPs will be able to look after many patients with long COVID, there will be a “significant number” of people who need referral to a dedicated service for intensive help.

Both doctors highlighted the importance of vaccination in reducing long COVID.

“We know that even two vaccines will at least halve your chances of getting long COVID, so very important to get vaccinated,” Dr Willett said.

“There’s something of a belief that we’re over this COVID situation — we absolutely are not.”

Dr Boulton said measures including mask wearing and better ventilation should be considered to reduce the number of COVID infectious.

“I wouldn’t want to be in the 5 per cent that get long COVID,” she said.

“We’ve treated a lot of people with, for example chronic fatigue following diseases like glandular fever.

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