There are viruses in China… and the United States

If one is carried away by the headlines and the dominant news, it seems that the spread of the virus in China is a danger and ignores that a virus from the United States has been more dangerous for months. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) had already warned that the XBB.1.5 variant -called Kraken- is the most contagious of all to date in the world. It is a variant of American origin that was detected for the first time in New York and Connecticut last October.

Why not the United States first?

Have you heard that precautions have been put in place for incoming flights from the United States since October? You will have heard that it has been done with those who come from China. However, the new strain XBB.1.5 -which currently causes more than 40% of all covid infections in the United States- generates a very high number of hospitalizations among people over 70 years of age-; in fact, analysis of the sewage shows that the country is currently mired in the second worst wave of infections of the entire pandemic.

The number of people visiting Spain from the United States was five times greater than that coming from China before the pandemic and is currently ten times more. So why not establish precautions against the arrival of flights from the other side of the North Atlantic? Not because XBB.1.5 causes more deaths than the previous ones, but because of its rapid expansion, its resistance to current vaccines, and its possibility of mutating, generating reinfections. As a result, at this time it is probably more dangerous than the variants circulating in China.

The US variant Kraken is 63 times less likely to be neutralized by antibodies in the blood of infected or vaccinated persons than the omicron subvariant BA.2, and up to 49 times less likely to be neutralized than BA.4, BA.5, and BF.7 which are currently dominant in China. These virus lineages are already circulating in Europe. However, the US subvariant is different and more dangerous, with the unstoppable increase in hospital admissions of vulnerable people. This new American variant of the virus threatens a probable wave of infections in the first months of 2023 in the rest of the planet.

Persist in measures against the virus

Actually, China now receives the variants that are already circulating in the rest of the world, which have already passed through Europe. Therefore, for the media to highlight the Chinese virus and not all that has been circulating in Spain for a year is totally wrong. What you have to do is persist in caring for the elderly and people at high risk; and fight not only Covid, but all respiratory diseases.

They must not confuse us with what comes from China – which is unlikely – and hide our responsibilities here, which are to protect our elders and protect us all by demanding that air quality be controlled. And you have to do it right.

The first thing is not to cross your arms. Second, be proactive instead of reactive. In other words, it is not a matter of accumulating a greater number of cases, hospitalizations and admissions to ICUs, and reacting only when there is already an alarming situation, but of anticipating with preventive public health policies. To stay ahead of viruses, and not several steps behind.

As well as other respiratory diseases

We have the overlapping of three peaks of acute respiratory diseases that have come together; influenza (seasonal flu), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (bronchiolitis) and SARS-CoV-2 (Covid), with its variants.

That of bronchiolitis mainly affects children under 4 years of age, and has generated a notable increase not only in the number of cases but also in hospitalizations and unfortunately ICU admissions, to the point of reaching a certain danger of saturation in pediatric ICUs.

Of course we must promote vaccination -of the new formulations of Covid and seasonal flu- with much more force, with much more emphasis on public opinion. There have been no messages in recent months from the health authorities insisting on the importance of vaccinating against respiratory viruses, neither in people over 60 years of age, nor in children. There is a certain silence from the authorities regarding the pandemic.

But since there are three respiratory viruses, we can combat the contagion of all three at the same time: using the mask indoors, taking care of ventilation and air filtering, and once again strictly taking hygiene measures such as hand washing and the use of hydroalcoholic gel.

a global problem

But the other great challenge, which we should not forget, is that we are facing a global public health problem, facing a global pandemic. At this time, in the world, at least 67% of the global population has received at least one dose, but that means that a third of humanity is totally unprotected against Covid. However, the disproportion is enormous: in poor countries, barely 25% have received any dose, and therefore 75% are not immunized. And this leads to increasing the possibility of new variants emerging, some of which may be more transmissible, or more virulent, or further escape the protection of current vaccines. In addition to being enormously unfair. We must increase vaccination not only in Spain or in Europe, but throughout the planet.

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