July 14, 2024

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A public health study confirms that one-third of people who die during the winter are infected with a respiratory virus

A public health study confirms that one-third of people who die during the winter are infected with a respiratory virus

A study conducted by the Institute of Public and Occupational Health of Navarra (ISPLN) confirms that one third of people who die during the winter are infected with a respiratory virus. In this regard, the head of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Vaccines and the principal researcher in the project, Jesús Castilla, explains that “this does not mean that all people in whom the virus was discovered were a cause of death, but rather the percentage, so “the rise indicates that the excess death rate that was observed In winter, it may be due to this infection.”

ISPLN launched this pioneering research project in 2016, in order to determine the real impact of influenza and other respiratory viruses on the increase in deaths observed in the winter, during which every year there are between 200 and 400 deaths in Navarre. Thus, taking into account that the mortality rate among people admitted to hospitals with confirmed cases of influenza or other respiratory viruses explains only part of this increase and that approximately half of the deaths occur outside these health centres, they recognized that They have to look for an explanation outside the health field.

To do this, they contacted the Tanatorius Irache group, which joined the investigation and promised to contact the families of the deceased, inform them and, once the consent was signed, obtain the sample to send to the Microbiology Clinic of the University Hospital of Navarra (HUN), where they perform PCR identification to evaluate 14 different viruses, in addition to… Genetic sequencing to identify virus strains and variants.

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Latest study results

In the 2023-2024 season (October to May), 515 samples with valid results were obtained – the highest number recorded to date, 19 more than the previous year and double that of two years ago – of which 187 (36.3%) were obtained. ) have tested positive for one or more respiratory viruses. Specifically, 12.8% were infected with rhinovirus. 7.4%, SARS-CoV-2; 6.8%, coronavirus; 5.8% influenza; 2.3%, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); 2.4% for influenza; 2.1%, pneumococcal virus. 0.6% adenovirus; and 0.4% boca virus.

In this regard, Dr. Castilla points out that “the presence of respiratory viruses is diverse.” Influenza and COVID are the most important infections because of their frequency, severity, and availability of vaccines, although many other viruses appear frequently. Rhinovirus, the main cause of the common cold, is the most common cause of death. Respiratory syncytial virus, which causes bronchiolitis in children, is found in a large proportion of older people who die, and vaccines against it are expected to become available soon. Non-coronavirus-related coronaviruses are also frequently detected in the analyzed cases.

This study was made possible thanks to the collaboration of ISPLN, the Laboratory of the Clinical Microbiology Service of the University Hospital of Navarra, and the Tanatorios Irache group, as well as the dedicated collaboration of the Navarrese community. Likewise, she submitted three calls for public and competitive funding, and was awarded funding in all three calls, allowing her to continue her research for over 8 years. In 2018, the Ministry of Health awarded him the Best Applied Research Project Award.

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As the lead researcher highlights, “By knowing the cause or possible cause of this excess in deaths we can direct specific or general preventive interventions” and recalls, in this regard, that all these infections “can be prevented by those measures that we have learned during the epidemic: “For people with symptoms to avoid contact with other vulnerable people, maintain physical distance between individuals, use masks correctly, ventilate rooms and wash hands.”