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25 June, 2024
 
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Covid, RSV & influenza are causing a triple epidemic

The cases requiring hospitalization are exceeding the hospital's safety limit - Pediatric viruses in remission

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

With regard to seasonal viruses, hospitals seem to be operating in a precarious situation in terms of bed availability. While the COVID pandemic appears to be in remission in terms of hospitalizations, seasonal viral infections in children and adults are becoming a source of concern. The current situation is considered manageable, but it keeps doctors on their toes. According to experts from the Ministry of Health's Epidemiological Surveillance Unit, the reason is an increase in seasonal influenza cases, which is nearing its peak. If pediatric viruses were not in decline and serious cases of COVID were not showing signs of a renewed decline, the situation would be different.  In the opposite scenario, as health sources point out, the health system's resilience would be called into question today, not by COVID, but by the triple pandemic that scientists were discussing after last summer.

The triple epidemic

In the past three months, in addition to COVID, the medical community has been dealing with the re-emergence of viruses that had vanished during the pandemic years.

The simultaneous onslaught of viruses is not a scientific theory. In the past three months, in addition to COVID, the medical community has been dealing with the re-emergence of viruses that had vanished during the pandemic years. The large increase in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases in mid-autumn and early winter provided the first indication that this winter would be different. With RSV initially causing many admissions to pediatric clinics and then subsiding, seasonal influenza emerged, which maintained high rates of hospitalization (over 60%). When combined with severe COVID hospitalizations that have remained stable, scientists estimate that the triple pandemic in Cyprus began in December and is still ongoing, exceeding the hospital safety threshold of 80%.

The flu

According to official data, seasonal flu cases are at or above 60%. There is an increase in new cases and hospital admissions, mostly involving adults, especially after Christmas. As a result of the increased cases and admissions, hospital occupancy rates have risen to high levels. The situation can be illustrated by comparing cases before and after the pandemic. This year's average exceeds the previous year's epidemic outbreak average of 4 to 5 deaths. They increased to 18 in 2019, declined significantly or even disappeared during the pandemic as a result of the measures implemented, and the situation has improved this year, with 8 cases of infections ending.

RSV

Throughout the previous period, there was widespread concern about cases of childhood RSV, which put a strain on pediatric beds in November and December. Although RSV-related respiratory infections have decreased significantly at this point, pediatric beds still have a high occupancy rate, which is one of the reasons for the continued pressure on pediatric beds. However, the healthcare system is far from the phenomenon that occurred during the pandemic, when patients were eventually denied admission to hospitals to be treated for more serious cases.

According to experts, the health system is currently overburdened, with serious hospitalizations divided into two categories: common wards with increased patient care and intensive care for cases that show deterioration. Given the typical duration of seasonal infections in Cyprus, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon. When the flu shows signs of remission, the pressure will be relieved.

Over 110 thousand flu vaccinations have been administered

Beyond COVID, scientists have reached firm conclusions about the causes of this year's increase in infections. Vaccines do not appear to be one of the causes of an increase in viral infections. According to official figures, over 110 thousand people have been immunized against influenza before the winter season. This figure is higher than the pre-pandemic vaccination rate, which was around 80 thousand. The scientific community has identified two factors related to the COVID pandemic behind the viruses. Both factors work to reduce immune system resistance. First, sanitary measures implemented during the pandemic resulted in a significant reduction in seasonal viral infections. Secondly, the return to normality found organisms with weakened resistances. In terms of common infections, scientists anticipate a gradual return to normal conditions. A sense of normalcy will be felt once COVID becomes endemic.

[This article was translated from its Greek original] 

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