Thursday, August 18

COVID-22: we have thousands of infections around us again but we don’t care anymore

“The current coronavirus is very different from the original, it is a different disease, so we can start talking about covid-22 now.” These are the words of Antonio Zapatero, the general director of the Madrid Health Service, and the extremely rare explosion of cases in recent days seem to agree with him.

But they only seem that way: just when we thought coronavirus was a thing of the past, it’s back. Renovated, yes; but with the same potential to turn everything upside down. A potential that everything seems to indicate that we are going to take for granted.

A different virus?. Zapatero’s expression can only be understood from a health communication point of view. A health communication not very well calibrated, on the other hand. Although the new variants (especially BA.4 and BA.5) are already the majority in Spain, the virus is the same. There is no new virus. There is not even a virus substantially different from the previous one. Obviously, the virus mutates (and it mutates a lot), but focusing on the variants is blurring the problem.

Because the fact that we see different things (that is, that the evolution of the current wave is radically different from the previous ones) is a natural consequence of the new variants, yes; after all, they are proving to be highly contagious. But, above all, of the evolution of our immune relationship with the virus. Therefore, beyond the dubious journalistic claim, it makes no sense to talk about another disease.

The world since yesterday: about a society living together for years with COVID-19 without a vaccine or group immunity

So why has it changed? As I said, and this is worth emphasizing, it is not so much because it is “a disease caused by a different virus”, but because the combination of new variants and the enormous immune wall has meant that, although “the transmission of the disease at the moment is very high”, what we find at the doors of the emergency room is something different: basically, “at the moment, [el COVID] It mainly affects chronic patients or patients with previous pathologies, because it exacerbates the disease, just like the flu does”,

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This also means that the number of asymptomatic and short-term patients is very high. The disease is progressively targeting the most vulnerable. And not because it wasn’t like that before, but because as vaccination levels grew and natural immunity settled in the population, vulnerable groups are increasingly defined. The reference to the flu is not causal, in fact; The script that SARS-CoV-2 is following is very similar to that of the flu: it has become flu-like.

What are the consequences? What can we expect? That’s the big question. As the cases grow and many institutions begin to require, once again, the mask or some regions reactivate things like the “autobaja”, the media is filled with images of crowds (pride parties, Sanfermines, the season of concerts and festivals) and statistics showing the growth of cases. The general perception is that the virus is out of control; social concern is almost zero.

In fact, this little concern can be seen with the lack of enthusiasm that is generating the recurring announcements of the next dose. As with other large vaccination programs, once the social urgency wears off, immunization rates plummet.

The influenza A epidemic in the middle of spring is another proof that the winter we knew is a thing of the past

“An Ordinary Summer”. And it is that the problems of oversaturation that we currently see are due more to the systemic problem (the decrease in health resources in summer) that adds to the fatigue of the system after these years of pandemic. We are not close to the worst moments of the health crisis and, although from an epidemiological point of view it would be interesting to introduce measures, it does not seem that society can bear that cost (even more so, in an environment of war and inflation such as the current one).

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Image | Yoaz Aziv

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