Pulitzer Prize winner warns of 'mass disability event' as millions could end up with long COVID

A Pulitzer Prize winner is warning a 'mass disability event' is already underway as millions could end up with long COVID symptoms. 

Ed Yong, a science writer for The Atlantic, has been recording people who suffer symptoms post-COVID since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

Yong's collection of work on long COVID in 2020 won him the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

In 2020, tens of thousands of people around the world were known as "long-haulers" when they continued to have symptoms after they had recovered from COVID. 

Two years on, the Washington-based journalist said he still receives emails "from people who've been dealing with symptoms since near the start of the pandemic, and others who've started down that path more recently". 

He's warned that with omicron cases skyrocketing around the world, it could lead to a "mass disability event. 

"Even if you take the most conservative estimates for the proportion of people with COVID who develop long-term symptoms, that still translates to tens of millions of people worldwide," Yong told News.com.au.

"Some of those people will recover, but others will be disabled for the foreseeable future.

"The scale of such a mass disability event is truly hard to imagine, and it is appalling that we are forced to imagine it because two years on, long COVID still isn't being counted, and many long-haulers are still being ignored."

Research in Canada in 2021 found that long COVID had more than 200 different symptoms across 10 organ systems. 

The most common symptoms are ongoing debilitating fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression.

People suffering from long COVID may also have symptoms that impair their ability to perform daily activities such as dressing or bathing, reduced ability to care for family members, difficulty returning to work and increased health care use.

The World Health Organisation reported one in four cases experience symptoms of long COVID for at least a month, and one in 10 experience symptoms lasting beyond 12 weeks.