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Traditionally, the burden on health systems around the world increases in winter. First, asthma and cardiovascular attacks, as well as strokes, are more common at low temperatures. Secondly, influenza and SARS are easier to spread in the autumn-winter period. As a result, appeals to health care facilities are increasing, hospitals are full more than in the summer, writes CNN.
According to experts, from September this year to June next year, 119 thousand Britons may die. For comparison: as of today, the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK is about 45 thousand. This is currently the highest figure in Europe.
This year, a coronavirus pandemic could cause health systems to collapse, as Covid-19 could be affected by an epidemic of influenza and SARS. As reported, the World Health Organization has long predicted a second wave of Covid-19, which may be more powerful than the first. In addition, vaccines against coronavirus infection have not yet been developed – according to the most optimistic forecasts, it will appear on the market early next year.
In the cold season, in order not to freeze, we spend more time in poorly ventilated rooms (often public places), which in itself facilitates the spread of the virus. In addition, cases of coronavirus disease are likely to be more difficult to track because its symptoms are similar to those of winter respiratory infections. In addition, it may be more difficult for governments to impose restrictive measures on people who are already tired of quarantine.
Last winter, the countries of the Northern Hemisphere easily slipped through the flu season – the incidence rates did not exceed, and the disease was often not severe, but there is a risk of more severe than the last flu epidemic this year. In addition, the pandemic has shaken health systems around the world, depleting doctors and hitting patients with other (chronic) illnesses who are left without full care due to quarantine restrictions.
But it’s not just European doctors who are sounding the alarm. According to Yang Zhangqi, a professor at the Institute of Virology at Wuhan University, during the second wave of coronavirus may behave more aggressively and be more contagious than the strain of the virus found in Wuhan (Note that a softer version has reached Europe: less contagious and lethal – “Glavkom”). The scientist notes that it is not yet clear how the virus will mutate further: weaken or intensify.
In turn, the Japanese infectious disease doctor Akihiro Sato called the second wave of coronavirus is “almost inevitable.” According to the scientist, about 99% of the world’s population has not yet fallen ill, and during the second wave of patients will be much more than now. He clarified that the spread of coronavirus will decline in the presence of antibodies in 60% of the population. The doctor noted that the problem may be the unpreparedness of the medical infrastructure to receive a large number of new patients.
Change the attitude to the open window
Researchers from the British Academy of Medical Sciences emphasize that the long-term stay indoors or in transport in winter greatly simplifies the process of transmitting viruses from person to person. Poor ventilation in combination with a large number of people in the room increases the density of viral particles circulating in the air. Decreased humidity and low temperatures also help keep the virus on the surface longer.
“In cold, wet or windy weather, people are reluctant to open the windows because they are afraid of the cold, drafts, so in winter the level of ventilation is significantly reduced. This can be a particular problem in modern airtight buildings, which have very low infiltration rates for energy efficiency, as well as for low-income people who are trying to reduce heating costs. claim experts of the British Academy of Medical Sciences.
According to scientists, the number of Covid-19 cases will increase again in the fall, peaks in different countries may occur in January-February – the busiest time of year for health systems. However, these predictions do not take into account the use of existing drugs for treatment or existing efficacy against existing coronavirus – such as dexamethasone. These drugs can reduce mortality. The scenario also does not take into account the emergence of the vaccine.
Get vaccinated against the flu
It is likely that the habit of social distancing developed by mankind may reduce the spread of influenza. In Hong Kong, which was one of the first to encounter Covid-19, there was a markedly shorter and milder flu epidemic last winter. However, simultaneous outbreaks of coronavirus infection and influenza and SARS may contribute to the spread of Covid-19. In addition, influenza and other respiratory illnesses have the same symptoms as Covid-19, so this can make it difficult to track coronavirus cases.
As a result, both British and American epidemiologists are urging as many people as possible to get vaccinated against the flu. “This action can save lives,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control.
Traditionally in Ukraine, the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health resumes monitoring of the situation with influenza and SARS on October 1. It is believed that the season begins in mid-autumn and ends in late April. It is at the beginning of the epidemic season that vaccines against several strains of influenza appear in Ukraine. Selection of strains for vaccines is based on forecasts and recommendations of the World Health Organization.
Although we know much more about Covid-19 than six months ago, there are still many unknowns. It is possible that the coronavirus may interact with the flu or rhinovirus in some way.
It is difficult to predict the development of the situation, say doctors at the British Academy of Medical Sciences. The option to track the incidence trend in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is now mid-winter, does not seem optimal, as Australia and New Zealand have responded quickly to the threat of Covid-19, and coronavirus transmission there remains very low. However, in some South American countries the situation is completely different.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, many students have not yet returned to school and college, and the new school year is a factor that tends to increase the spread of influenza. British scientists also recommend creating the conditions for widespread testing for influenza in order to detect it early.
“The simulation suggests that during the new wave of Covid-19 this winter, mortality may be higher. But the risks can be reduced if action is taken immediately, ”said Dr. Stephen Holgate, a clinical professor of immunopharmacology and an honorary consultant at the University of Southampton.
“The next few months are a critical window of opportunity to prepare for the worst,” he added. The most important thing, according to Holgate, is:
- influenza vaccination;
- preparation of hospitals for the reception of a large number of patients;
- creating conditions for extensive testing, not only for coronavirus infection, but also for influenza;
- access of fresh air to the premises: offices, educational institutions, public institutions. It is about effective ventilation.
Natalia Sokirchuk, Glavkom