Wednesday, June 19 2024

Preparing for a double epidemic

Preparing for a double epidemic

Winter is coming with a more easily manageable coronavirus but also with a resurgence of influenza, according to scientists.

More specifically, they point out that the high rate of immunity in the population due to vaccination and infection with the virus, which has made the disease milder, and the arsenal of vaccines and antiviral treatments now available, have contributed to the emergency phase of the pandemic receding.

“It is very likely that we will have simultaneous circulation of both pathogens. The good news is that both viruses are similarly transmitted and therefore preventive measures are effective for both viruses. We also have vaccines for both pathogens to protect vulnerable groups from severe disease,” said Dimitrios Paraskevis, an associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the Athens University School of Medicine.

“Although there are constantly new emerging sub-variants of Omicron, at present none of them seem to have a significant advantage to cause a new outbreak. This fact should not be interpreted to mean that a variant will not emerge in the near future that has the potential to cause a frenzy in the community,” he said.

The second booster shot, he stressed, provides greater protection against severe disease and death, compared to the first booster dose, in vulnerable groups of the population, especially in age groups over 70.

“For the rest of the population we do not yet have sufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the second booster dose,” he explained.

“Vaccines, antiviral drugs and preventive measures have allowed us to return almost to pre-pandemic levels,” he added.

Paraskevis added that the influenza vaccine can even be given on the same day as the coronavirus vaccine – but at different parts of the body – as well as any day before and after the coronavirus vaccine.

The time restriction on administration of the influenza vaccine in relation to Covid-19 infection applies to asymptomatic or symptomatic patients with a positive laboratory test for Covid-19. They should get their influenza shot as soon as they have completed their isolation, he noted.

So far, data available from the southern hemisphere has shown that the spread of influenza has been at significantly higher levels than last year or in 2020-2021. Similar estimates are made for the northern hemisphere.