A tsunami of post-viral disease is about to hit Australia; and those living with ME/CFS are already drowning

Australia may have avoided the worst of COVID-19 but we are now facing a new crisis. According to Deakin University, up to 325,000 Australians may develop Long COVID in the coming months. Add this to the 250,000 with ME/CFS and almost 600,000 could soon be living with post-viral disease.

For years, our health system has systemically neglected and failed to meet the needs of those with ME/CFS. If the number of Australians with post-viral disease more than doubles, health services could be overwhelmed and our economy smashed - ME/CFS alone costs an estimated $14.8bn a year in healthcare and lost productivity.

Our policymakers need to act fast and think smart.

ME/CFS and Long COVID are strikingly similar in their causes, symptoms and impacts. To prepare Australia for what’s about to hit we must tackle post-viral diseases holistically with centralised policy and collaboration between ME/CFS and Long COVID bodies.

We must make sure the knowledge and learnings of those who have worked with ME/CFS for decades are available to those now working on Long COVID. We must ensure new Long COVID research includes ME/CFS patients wherever possible.

Rather than waste time and taxpayers’ money building Long COVID support from the ground up, we should build the capacity of proven ME/CFS resources already in place. And we must increase awareness and understanding of all post-viral diseases amongst GPs, employers and the general community.

Emerge Australia has been supporting Australians living with ME/CFS for over 40 years and has a vital role to play to help Australia prepare for what’s coming.

With limited government funding, in recent years we have been able to develop effective support programs and advocacy campaigns. For the sake of all Australians who will soon be living with post-viral disease, Canberra must come to the table with meaningful investment and an appetite for working with organisations on the frontline of ME/CFS and Long COVID research and support.

Specifically, Emerge Australia has identified the following five areas:

  1. GP education
  2. Coordination of care and allied support services 
  3. NDIS and DSP access and equity
  4. More research collaboration 
  5. Updated Australian Clinical Guidelines 

Australia cannot afford to neglect those living with post-viral disease any longer. The numbers affected will soon be simply too large.

In the coming weeks, Emerge Australia will release a State of the Nation report. Subscribe to receive a copy and to find out how you can send a message to your local MPs to help bring about the changes Australia needs now.

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