Seminar unpacks long COVID

GPs wanting practical information about how to manage patients with long COVID are being invited to sign up to an educational session next week.

The event will be held on Saturday April 6, from 9.30 am -12:30 pm, at the Bendat Parent and Community Centre in Wembley. 

While the science on long COVID is far from settled, with ongoing studies currently investigating post-COVID prevalence, models of care and treatment, patients presenting with suspected long COVID require effective diagnosis and management. 

GPs attending the interactive, educational session will hear discussion about long COVID, including: 

  1. Prevalence and predisposing factors 
  1. Rational investigations and red flags 
  1. The role of the GP in management 
  1. Available models of care 
  1. A multidisciplinary approach to care, involving allied health. 

The facilitator will be Dr Mariam Bahemia (FRACGP) WA Faculty Deputy Chair and Education Committee Chair, while the lead presenter is Dr Nadine Perlen (FRACGP), the RACGP representative on the Department of Health WA’s Long COVID Clinical Reference Group 

Guest presenter will be Hayley Wright, senior physiotherapist at Bentley Long COVID clinic. 

GPs can bring their cases, queries and experiences with long COVID to share with colleagues at this practical session. They can earn 3 CPD hours and can complete a mini audit back in practice worth 5 Measuring Outcomes hours. 

 Register here 

The workshop comes as a new paper by Queensland Health has suggested that among the state’s highly vaccinated population, long COVID’s impact on the health system was likely to stem from the sheer number of people infected within a brief period, rather than the severity of long COVID symptoms or functional impairment. 

They found that long COVID appeared to manifest as a post-viral syndrome indistinguishable from seasonal influenza and other respiratory illnesses, with no evidence of increased moderate-to-severe functional limitations a year after infection. 

Specifically, the new study reported a year follow-up on 5112 symptomatic adult COVID patients (omicron sub-variant of the SARS CoV-2) and 995 post influenza patients and indicated that 3-4% of people have significant symptoms a year after either COVID or influenza, leading the authors to conclude that they are effectively the same. 

However, Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Australian National Phenome Center at Murdoch University, who was asked to provide to provide expert commentary on the study, noted a significant number of COVID patients transitioned to a long-term or persistent form of the disease even after the active virus had departed.  

“As the authors of the new paper state, this is a post-viral syndrome of the sort that has long been recognised for other viral infections including influenza. The question is ‘is long COVID unique, worthy of its own name, or is it just another post viral syndrome?’” he said. 

“Unfortunately, this question cannot be simply answered in this work. The study is observational, based on reported symptoms with no physiological or detailed functional follow-up data. Without laboratory pathophysiological assessment of individual patients, it is impossible to say that this is indistinguishable from flu-related or any other post-viral syndrome. 

“The absence of evidence is different from evidence of absence – so the authors’ assertion that long COVID is the same as flu-related post viral syndrome, is not proven, even if long COVID is indeed a post-viral syndrome (which it is) …  we still do not know whether long COVID is physiologically or mechanistically different to other post-viral syndromes, we lack the evidence because it has not been studied properly to date.  

“This is important because such pathophysiological mechanistic knowledge is relevant to developing therapies for any post-viral syndrome including long COVID. Until this is resolved, we should still use the long COVID term because it pinpoints exactly the underlying viral cause for a given individual.”