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Five things we’ve learned about long COVID

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We got some key things wrong about long COVID. Here are 5 things we’ve learnt

In late 2020 as we hid from COVID behind the moat of “fortress Australia”, we started to hear that in some people, COVID symptoms persisted for months. They were called “long haulers” or had “long COVID”.

Contrary to what we’d expected, it wasn’t just affecting people’s lungs or breathing. Long haulers were experiencing an enormous range of other symptoms: fatigue that was worse after activity, muscle aches and pains, headache, and cognitive dysfunction or brain fog.

A parliamentary inquiry is currently investigating Australia’s response to long COVID – patient experiences, the health system’s response and what the latest research shows.

Three years in

It’s now clear we got some key things wrong about long COVID earlier in the pandemic. Three years in, and with an estimated 65 million people affected by long COVID, here are five things we now know or suspect about the condition.

We now know full recovery of lung function is not guaranteed for people with long COVID: one in five still complain of severe breathlessness and 10% have severe functional impairment.

Among people admitted to hospital, studies report impaired lung function, abnormal chest scans, impaired capacity to exercise and persistent breathlessness months after leaving hospital, especially for those who needed breathing support in ICU.

In those people who where hospitalised with COVID-19 pneumonia and who have persistent breathlessness, pulmonary (lung) rehabilitation improves quality of life and exercise tolerance. While this evidence is not strong, it is consistent, across one randomised control trial and seven observational studies.

We need a national approach to assess all patients who survive hospitalisation, to determine if they are still breathless and ensuring they have access to pulmonary rehabilitation.

Early on, we failed to understand COVID would increase the risk and worsen other chronic diseases.

Since then, large population studies have clearly documented people with long COVID are at increased risk of stroke and heart disease and an increased risk of diabetes.

Time to recover

These problems are more likely in those who are socially disadvantaged, and unable to have sufficient time to recover.

We initially thought of long COVID as a single disorder. We now know it’s a complex condition, caused by a number of different factors. Emerging evidence suggests this includes:

impaired immunity

the development of autoantibodies (where the immune system attacks the self)

the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

microclots (small blood clots and/or damage to blood vessels).

Studies investigating these causes are still small and observational – and these factors are likely overlap and vary among sufferers. The only way to address these issues will be with further research.

A number of treatments are advocated, but they all need to be tested in properly controlled trials, too few of which are in progress.

In the past we had not devoted sufficient resources to treat post-infectious or immune syndromes such as myalgic encephalitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). These syndromes are defined by excessive fatigue, which worsens after exertion, and include cognitive impairment or brain fog.

Disease and disability

These symptoms are responsible for much of the disease and disability associated with long COVID in many people and are often more prevalent than respiratory problems.

Severe cases of long COVID, ME/CFS and other post-infectious syndromes may include a condition known as POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), where an excessive heart rate results in falls in blood pressure with even mild exertion.

Unlike survivors of COVID pneumonia, people with POTS are much less likely to benefit from traditional exercise-based rehabilitation programmes. Such programs may even exacerbate their symptoms.

Instead, approaches are proposed that have been previously applied to ME/CFS and POTS are proposed, including exercise pacing, and medication regimes. However, there is a lack of good evidence, and while trials are underway, they are few, especially in Australia.

Finally, there has been the problem of attributing long COVID to poor mental health. While worsened mental health often accompanies chronic disease, this link for long COVID has been overstated and we are at risk of dismissing the physiological problem.

A large population study of more than 1.3 million people following COVID demonstrated that while there was an initial increase in anxiety and depression, it was transient, unlike features of long COVID such cognitive dysfunction.

COVID treatment has focused on the acute life-threatening illness and largely ignored the long-term consequences. But long COVID isn’t a problem that will disappear. It requires investigation into the illness it causes, robust clinical trials into treatments and effective models of care. This is not currently happening.

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NASA confirms Odysseus lunar aircraft tipped over after failed moon landing

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NASA has confirmed that the first privately owned spacecraft to land on the moon, named Odysseus, has tipped over onto its side after a failed landing.

Despite the setback, the spacecraft is reported to be “alive and well.”

Initial data received by Intuitive Machines, the company behind the spacecraft, indicated that Odysseus had successfully landed with all six feet on the lunar surface.

However, subsequent updates revealed that the lander is now laying on its side on the lunar landscape.

According to CEO Steve Altemus, the mishap occurred when one of the lander’s legs became caught, causing it to tip over onto a rock.

This unexpected turn of events occurred a day after what was initially confirmed as a soft landing.

Solar power

While laying on its side has hindered radio transmission and potentially impacted the craft’s ability to receive solar power, Altemus reassured during a press conference that much of Odysseus’ operating abilities remain intact.

“We do have communications with the lander,” Altemus stated, noting that commands are still being sent to the vehicle.

Efforts are underway to obtain the first photo images from the lunar surface at the landing site.

Despite the setback, Intuitive Machines expressed confidence in Odysseus’ overall performance.

Mission director Tim Crain highlighted the spacecraft’s flawless flight to the moon, during which it utilized a propulsion fuel of liquid methane and liquid oxygen for the first time in space.

The journey to the lunar surface was not without its challenges, as a problem with the lander’s navigation system emerged during the final approach and descent. Ground engineers had to implement an untested workaround at the last minute to ensure a safe landing.

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Policeman charged with murdering TV presenter and his boyfriend

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A major update in the disappearance of a Channel 10 presenter and his Qantas flight attendant boyfriend, as a police officer with connections to the missing couple has been charged with two counts of murder.

NSW Police have released footage of constable Beau Lamarre-Condon handing himself in to Bondi police station.

Beau Lemarre, 28, a former celebrity blogger turned NSW Police officer, surrendered to authorities on Friday morning, following a frantic overnight search.

The charges stem from the mysterious disappearance of Lemarre’s ex-boyfriend, Jesse Baird, and Baird’s partner, Luke Davies, who were last seen on Monday.

Jesse Baird and Luke Davies are pictured.

Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty confirmed the charges, stating, “Charges have been submitted for two counts of murder.”

He further added that Lemarre is expected to be formally denied bail and brought before the court.

Jesse Baird on the set of Studio 10

Police weapon

Police allege that Lemarre used his service weapon to fatally shoot Baird and Davies at Baird’s home in Paddington on Monday night.

The bodies have yet to be found, but evidence collected at the crime scene, including bloodstained clothes discovered near a skip-bin in Cronulla, and a projectile matched to a NSW Police firearm, have led investigators to pursue charges against Lemarre.

Beau Lemarre, 28, a NSW Police officer and ex-celebrity blogger

A white van believed to be connected to the disappearance was located on Friday morning, prompting authorities to intensify their search efforts.

However, the whereabouts of Baird and Davies remain unknown.

The couple’s disappearance has sent shockwaves through the community, with friends expressing concern for their safety.

According to reports, Baird had previously voiced fears of being stalked, adding a layer of complexity to the investigation.

Police are searching for a white van (pictured) they believe was being driven by Mr Lamarre. It was captured on CCTV (pictured) driving past the couple in Paddington on Monday night

Major crime scene

Police sealed off a street in Lambton, Newcastle, located 165km away from the Paddington crime scene, on Friday after a white van matching the description of the one being sought was spotted in Karoola Road near Lambton Pool.

Local residents reported a heavy police presence in the area, with streets cordoned off and officers conducting door-to-door inquiries.

“There’s cops everywhere, walking the streets, door knocking,” said one resident.

“Got the road closed past the pool,” they added.

Another resident mentioned, “The park is taped off with police tape up near the bowling club and lots of police are walking the park at the moment.”

It is suspected that Beau Lamarre-Condon, the individual charged in connection with the disappearance, may have driven the van, registered as CW82PM, to a residence in the Newcastle suburb where it was sighted around 10pm the previous night. However, by 2am, the van had vanished again.

Prior to becoming a police officer, Lamarre-Condon was a celebrity blogger

These significant developments occurred after Lamarre-Condon’s phone showed signs of activity shortly before his arrest.

He had evaded authorities following the launch of a manhunt for the missing couple, after it was revealed that he was Jesse Baird’s ex-boyfriend.

Prior to his tenure with the NSW Police, Lamarre-Condon was known as a celebrity blogger, famous for capturing selfies with prominent figures such as Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

His entry into law enforcement in 2019 was not without controversy, as he garnered attention for tasering a man in the face during an arrest, which was captured on camera.

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Generative AI is threatening to kill off original music

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From original sounds to entire songs, generative AI is sparking debates on the future of the music industry.

Generative artificial intelligence can already produce original sounds, lyrics, and entire songs on its own.

So, as the new technology continues to develop, will AI mean the death of original music, or herald a new era of creativity?

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