Fewer deaths and fewer hospitalizations than in previous waves but more infections among children. Last week, the infection rate among children under the age of ten was a milestone with the highest number of infections per 100,000 registered residents in Spain since the beginning of the epidemic; Inconsistent as it may sound, this is good news.
The rise in infections among children, the least immunized group, heralds the beginning of the end: it means, according to experts, that the virus has less and less of a role due to the most vulnerable groups, either because they have overcome the disease. Or due to the effect of vaccination, they are less exposed. Another important indicator: For the first time since the outbreak of the epidemic, the positives for the Corona virus were higher than the number of acute respiratory infections, which means that there are more and more mild and mild cases.
If infection already spread in the fifth wave among people aged 20-40, the population with more social interactions, now at the height of the sixth wave, the focus has shifted to boys and girls, the age group in which vaccination coverage is lower. .
Infections among minors are increasing across Spain despite the fact that fewer tests are being carried out in school settings than before Christmas. The Ministry of Health changed the work protocol three days before the start of the school year: it canceled tests for minors and raised the minimum positive for positivity from one to five, after which an entire class group is restricted.
However, the procedure in Catalonia is more stringent because the classes are not confined, but the examination is carried out from the first case, although it is voluntary and it is left to the consideration of families to participate in it. While in Spain, tests on children who had contact with a positive person at school depended on the willingness of parents to self-test them, the Catalan health system “in just two weeks carried out more than 250,000″ diagnostic tests in children from 0 to 9 years ” Soriano’s sorry. “It is not possible to compare the infection rate between different communities because the testing approach mechanism is very different.”
Cases continue to grow in the population between the ages of 0 and 9 years. Quique Basat, an epidemiologist at ISGlobal, criticizes both in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain, where “many societies have already succumbed to Omicron and decided to manufacture the coronavirus from now on”. In the third week of January, across the state, more than 3,141 children ages 0 to 9 tested positive for coronavirus for every 100,000 people within that range. This was by far the highest rate of any age group in the entire epidemic. In Catalonia, the infection rate is doubled in the same population in Spain due to the difference in testing and is around 7,400 positive results.
And while cases among minors continue to rise, in other age groups this increase has not only slowed, it has begun to decline. This is due to the increasing immunization of these groups, either because of the surge in infection or because of the vaccination coverage itself, which has already reached girls and boys from 5 to 11 years of age.
Despite the fact that global numbers are still high due to record infections among children, the data indicates the arrival of a new epidemic scenario. Not only does the omicron variant cause milder disease in most cases, but it is – although it is a variant that can escape vaccine protection without boosters – being found with a growing proportion of the immunized population. “The epidemic is not over, but we are in a new scenario,” Dr. Soriano predicts.
This lower severity, in addition to being scientifically validated, is also evident in the records of patients infected with the virus in the health care system. For the first time in two years after the outbreak of the epidemic, the number of positives for coronavirus in the health system outnumbers the number of acute respiratory infections (ARI), which means that there are more and more cases asymptomatic or cases that are very mild. This change in the registry was verified in Catalonia, where the Carlos III Health Institute refused to provide data on the incidence of acute respiratory infections at the state level.
So far, no case of coronavirus has been classified as a respiratory infection. However, the new situation makes it possible to separate infections that are asymptomatic or those with mild cases from those that can more severely affect the respiratory system.
Despite the fact that the natural trend in this new context of a milder disease and a more protected population is to stop monitoring and monitor only hospital and care indicators, which is worrying, it is still too early to talk about the end of the epidemic. “Let’s not do that now, let’s talk about it in April, when we have analyzed this wave,” asks Kiki Bassat, ISGlobal’s global epidemiologist. Until that curve curves completely, talking about influenza could backfire: We have to be careful, because, as Basat warns, “it makes us forget that we have a huge problem with the health field and the health system and people think that’s on.”
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