Monday, November 29

Super cold or covid? ‘Normal’ brings back seasonal viruses

Respiratory diseases


More pharyngitis, sneezing, coughing … Vaccination corners the coronavirus and gives way to the ‘usual’ pathogens.

Citizens and tourists walk through the streets of Santander without masks on the first day that the obligation to wear them abroad is lifted since the beginning of the pandemic.
Citizens and tourists walk through the streets of Santander without masks on the first day that the obligation to wear them abroad is lifted since the beginning of the pandemic.DAVID BUSTAMANTE

With the arrival of autumn, the first seasonal viruses appear and with them colds. With a pandemic that seems to be close to ending, and even more so at near-normal levels, with hardly more measures than distances and wearing the mask indoors It seems that in our organism the ‘usual’ pathogens regain their space. One more sign, as experts point out, that precovid normality is closer.

From the Sentinel Network of Castile and Leon it is noted that “the set of IRAs [infecciones respiratorias agudas] has tripled in the last four weeks, especially due to the increase in the common cold, sore pharyngitis and acute infections of the upper respiratory tract of multiple location or unspecified location. No significant increase in bronchiolitis has been observed, and the incidence rate of influenza syndrome is below the epidemic threshold “.

Other communities with a similar data collection system also register increases. What The Rioja, in which there is even one-third more acute respiratory infections in the past two weeks. Salvador Tranche, Primary Care physician and president of Semfyc (Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine), explains that “With the vaccination against the coronavirus we now see the competition between pathogens to reach the host“.

And this is reflected in the fact that if there are more people immunized against SARS-CoV-2, it is other viruses that appear on the scene. “It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between covid and influenza, because the pictures are similar: fever, malaise, headaches, tiredness… Then when in doubt we start the tests “, says Tranche.

But are there more obvious differences between colds and covid?

Without reaching the seriousness that a SARS-CoV-2 infection supposes, today ‘colds’, cases of pharyngitis, are beginning to be observed, but with almost no fever. “There is no need to be alarmed either, because they are processes that we have always had. Except that our memory fails us for this anomalous year that we have passed, “insists the doctor and explains that”when we are facing a mild picture of a mild respiratory infection, such as a cold, there is presence of mucus, coughThere are hardly any feverish symptoms and there are discomfort in the nose and throat “.

The return to normality of seasonal viruses is not only appreciated in Spain. In the United Kingdom, the Health Security Agency has also registered a rebound in viral cases in which mucus predominates, respiratory problems, in the age groups between 15 and 44 years. So the English doctors have launched the slogan of “stay home and avoid social contact with this respiratory process“It should be remembered that the use of masks indoors or in crowded open spaces is not mandatory there.

The GP explains that there are several reasons that converge that this year they “pay more attention to them.” “We are not facing something remarkable, but it can attract attention because last year the situation was different and people did not go to the doctor, perhaps preventive measures also do. Although I believe that people are still responsible and use the mask indoors and when necessary outdoors, “says Tranche.

But the ‘ecological niche’ left by vaccination against Covid It is not only occupied by seasonal viruses with repercussions in adults, but also in the smallest ones. And this means that “Although it has been proven that with the coronavirus children have not been an important vector of transmission, with the rest of the respiratory viral infections they are“, explains Teresa Cenarro, pediatrician in Zaragoza and spokesperson for the Spanish Association of Primary Care Pediatrics (Aepap).

Which leads us to remember that “when a viral process of this type reaches a home ‘by the hand’ of a child, the whole family is infected and passes it“.

“Viral processes in children have come back with great force”

Cenarro acknowledges that last year “was completely atypical for pediatricians.The number of cases we saw was zero or anecdotal in some cases. “Neither seasonal nor rash infections were seen. [procesos víricos sistemáticos]. “And in this return to normality, at the beginning of the course we already see the respiratory processes typical of the time. They have come back with great force “, emphasizes the pediatrician.

Experts point out that lack of training of immune systems to these types of infections can make their impact is greater. “Children are immunized based on infectious processes, last year many ‘skipped’ this step and we are facing a significant bag of sensitive subjects to suffer the impact of these viruses “, highlights Cenarro.

Therefore, the pediatrician advises to be alert in the return of the respiratory syncytial virus, the person responsible for the admissions of children due to bronchiolitis. “Maybe covid is no longer the most powerful virus and the rest return to occupy their usual space“.

Masks and distances to avoid any type of respiratory infection

The year of ‘forced coexistence’ with the coronavirus should serve to know well how respiratory viruses are transmitted. Although it has been agreed that SARS-CoV-2 uses the air medium as transport in search of its ‘victim’, it is also known that various respiratory pathogens, including the flu and the common cold, are spread through infectious respiratory aerosols, which can float and travel in airflows for much greater distances and for much longer, infecting those who inhale them.

A study published this August in Science that’s how he picked it up. The exhaustive investigation, signed by seven authors (José Luis Jiménez, from the University of Colorado, USA) highlights how the airborne transmission of pathogens has been vastly underestimated.

This is due, as they point out in the ‘paper’ “mainly due to an insufficient understanding about the behavior of aerosols in the air and, at least partially, to the erroneous attribution of anecdotal observations. Given the lack of evidence of transmission by droplets and fomites and increasingly strong evidence that aerosols transmit numerous respiratory viruses, we must recognize that airborne transmission is much more prevalent than previously recognized“.

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