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Outbreak of Covid 19 Omicron: Virgologists answer five questions about winter

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Bloomfield said there would be some changes in the reports of Covid-related deaths.Video / NZ Herald

We are now in the midst of a wave of Omicrons – but what can we expect when we return to New Zealand, where other more familiar viruses have resumed? Dr. Jema Geogegan, a virologist at the University of Otago, answers five questions.

What trends do you think you will see this winter?

It’s hard to say yet, but there are clues last winter.

When I opened the travel bubble in Australia, I experienced a very large and serious wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It is highly contagious and causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.

More than 6000 cases of RSV were reported here, but due to the small number of reports, the actual scale of the outbreak may have been much larger.

And it was probably big and serious because we had an immune-inexperienced population or weren’t exposed to the virus for a year because the border was closed.

We don’t know if we get it as badly as it again.

Dr. Jema Geogegan, a virologist at the University of Otago, says our hospital is busy this winter, no matter what winter illness is prevalent.Photo / Attached
Dr. Jema Geogegan, a virologist at the University of Otago, says our hospital is busy this winter, no matter what winter illness is prevalent.Photo / Attached

But as the borders with other viruses such as influenza, human metapneumovirus (HPV), enteroviruses, and adenoviruses gradually widen, not just RSV, you get an idea of ​​what will happen.

There is a risk of recurrence of illnesses such as measles. Because of other priorities, measles vaccination rates are not as high as we would like.

Some viruses, such as rhinovirus, only catch colds. We haven’t actively investigated them, so we can’t necessarily rule out them-though there may be something we have.

Anyway, we know that winter is also traditionally at high risk due to changes in people’s behavior. We are indoors and most likely the windows are not open.

That said, reintroduction of the virus can cause outbreaks even outside the winter. As we saw in the RSV epidemic in Australia last summer,

Therefore, with each new reintroduction of these viruses, problems can occur here.

What can we say, especially about the risks of the flu season?

Influenza will be interesting to observe.

Traditionally, it is estimated that about 200,000 New Zealanders catch it each year, frequent seasonal spikes occur in hospitals, and at least 500 die from it.

Inventions other than pharmaceuticals have dominated it worldwide. Here, border closures, blockades, and an increase in vaccinated people have reduced the reported rate by about 99% last year.

An estimated 200,000 kiwis get the flu each year, and 500 die from the flu. Photo / NZME
An estimated 200,000 kiwis get the flu each year, and 500 die from the flu. Photo / NZME

Overseas, many people are still working from home and schools are moving online, so the effects of the flu have not yet been seen in other countries.

It may not come back much this year, but at a low level, it will come back someday as it is still circulating around the world.

for example, Recent research Influenza is still prevalent around the United States and Southeast Asia, but genetic diversity has been shown to be low.

In addition to the fact that there is not much immunity, how the flu recurs can depend on the subtype of the virus.

Currently, many strains are not sufficiently detected in surveillance programs, making it much more difficult to select the strains of the influenza vaccine we receive.

Is it possible for the hospital to overcome this wave of Omicron before dealing with seasonal illnesses?

Traditionally, seasonal illnesses such as influenza are monitored primarily around May-October, with peaks occurring from July-August.

The overseas Omicron waves are quite sharp and short, so I think it is highly likely that they will overcome the worst waves of this wave by then.

Another thing I’ve seen abroad is that there isn’t a second Omicron wave yet.

We know that Omicron tends to infect many people-we are seeing it here now-and we know that reinfection is possible, but people It still seems to be quite rare, as it has developed immunity from vaccines and infections.

So I don’t know why to deal with the second wave in addition to what is circulating in winter.

But can Covid-19 still exacerbate that seasonal pressure?

That was certainly possible. I really expect another variant to arrive by that time. I don’t know what the variant will look like because of the variety of possibilities.

But we know that variants are coming – especially because we’ve shifted from eliminating Covid-19 to mitigating it or trying to live with it.

So no matter what happens, our hospital will be busy.

What can people do to relieve this pressure?

It is highly recommended to get the flu vaccine when it becomes available in April.

Other than that, it’s a good idea to pay attention to everything you’ve used to minimize the spread of Covid-19, such as wearing a mask or staying at home in case of illness.

All of these are equally important to reduce the risk of other respiratory viruses.

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