29 November 2023

A new community health survey being undertaken by VAHI is aiming to identify the prevalence and impact of post-acute COVID-19 disease (‘long COVID’) in the Victorian community.

The have been nearly one million known cases of COVID-19 in Victoria since the beginning of the pandemic, with many thousands more likely to have gone unrecorded due to people not experiencing symptoms or getting tested.

An unknown number of these people will still be affected by the disease for an extended period after no longer being infectious, generally known as long COVID. Potential symptoms[1] including fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell among many others.

VAHI CEO Dr Lance Emerson said the Victorian post-acute COVID-19 health survey project is driven by the need for a stronger data base to underpin the care of long COVID in Victoria.

“A lot of the currently available data focuses on people who presented to hospital, but this only represents a small proportion of those who test positive for COVID in Victoria,” Dr Emerson said. “This survey will capture a much wider range of experience, helping establish a more accurate picture of health outcomes after COVID-19 in Victoria.”

The survey will provide the prevalence of people with persistent symptoms and of individual symptoms and symptoms clusters, and how this prevalence compares with close contact controls. It will also identify demographic, pre-Covid health and post-acute illness risk factors, as well as factors associated with return to function and work.

The survey data will help build a better understanding of the medium to long term impact of COVID-19 beyond infection rates, hospitalisations, and deaths. This will support the Victorian Department of Health’s public health functions, including supporting service planning, service delivery and the development of clinical guidance to support Victorians with long COVID.

VAHI is aiming to conduct the first wave of the survey from July 2022, with plans to contact tens of thousands of COVID-positive Victorians around 12 and 24 months after their infection.

Patient privacy and confidentiality will be respected and protected throughout the project, and consumer representatives are being actively sought to be part of the project steering committee.

[1] Victorian Government, ‘Information for people with long COVID symptoms’, Victorian Government Coronavirus information, Melbourne, VIC, https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/information-people-long-covid-19-symptoms (accessed 3 February 2022).