The World Health Organisation is warning that a post-viral condition, seen in many Covid-19 patients is becoming so widespread, it could create a global health burden.
The symptoms are known as Long Covid and can be debilitating, with urgent studies underway, right here in New Zealand and have been described by WHO as a global disease burden.
It all started for sufferer, Karl Hewlett, with a mild illness that soon progressed to heart issues, a collapsed lung, crushing fatigue and much more.
“I'd walk to the letterbox, I'd stop and I'd rest, and that was it – I would stop and I would sit down for an hour,” he said.
His symptoms kicked off during the pandemic last year, leading him to suspect Long Covid - a debilitating illness, that can linger long after a coronavirus infection.
“I thought was dying, I actually, really, you know, I thought I was dying,” he told 1 NEWS.
Early international research has shown as many as 30 per cent of Covid patients develop ongoing complications.
A Kiwi study is still working on the rates here.
“Some people are getting feelings of breathlessness, some people are getting ongoing fevers, some people's stomachs are upset, they're feeling nauseated or they've got diarrhoea, some people are feeling just wiped out and fatigued,” says Michael Maze, University of Otago, Christchurch researcher.
But little is known on the cause or cure and the WHO is calling for urgent action.
“Worldwide, it's a huge problem, because we now have a whole new disease entity, that people are going to be carrying with them and people don't know for how long - and at the moment, we don't know how we're going to treat it either,” says WHO’s Dr Margaret Harris.
The worry is it can follow even in mild and asymptomatic cases, sparking up in people who have no idea they were ever infected.
Hewlett was one of those tested late in the piece and while he's been diagnosed with a post-viral condition he can't definitely prove that it was Covid-19.
“Now I'm dealing with something that's been going on for a year,” he says.
“I have no information and I have nothing to help me, nothing to focus on, nothing to know and think about.”