Sunday, February 5, 2023

Corona: Lockdown affected immunity, due to which cases of infectious diseases are increasing.

Coronavirus: Along with Kovid, countries in the northern hemisphere, including the US and the UK, have currently seen a large increase in cases of influenza, RSV and the common cold. Due to all these infections, a large number of people are being admitted to the hospital.

The Conversation: There is so much to be happy about this Christmas. covid Still exists but not in a severe form thanks to vaccines and treatments. The festivities of Christmas, the theater and preparations for the New Year’s Eve party are back as before. However, life returning to normal will also bring with it winter diseases which were not encountered during the last two winters due to less contact with people due to restrictions.

Countries in the northern hemisphere, including the US and the UK, currently witness a large increase in cases of influenza, RSV and the common cold, along with Covid. Due to all these infections, a large number of people are being admitted to the hospital due to which the health system is under pressure. People are telling the reason behind this to the social distancing that happened earlier, due to which the immunity of the people has been affected.

This suggests that not being exposed to seasonal viruses during pandemics may have affected our immune systems, leading to higher rates of some infectious diseases, especially among children. This hypothesis is controversial because there is not enough evidence to support it. I would protest that whatever situation we are seeing is due to the social distancing that happened earlier.

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More people sick than last year

UK data after two years of restrictions suggests people are getting sick more in the lead up to Christmas than last year. The reason for this is that as the restrictions are weakening and life is getting back to normal, diseases are also getting a chance to spread. Over the years, many countries had laws, policies and guidelines about what to do when sick. This year the onus is on the common sense of the people and on them personally.

I have argued before that there is no such thing as common sense about Covid – none of us have been through this pandemic before and we are learning as we go. Surely lockdown and social distancing laws are a thing of the past now. But people still need guidance.

There is still covid-related guidance, for example from the World Health Organisation. Still the challenge is to find out if you have got Covid. The problem is that many symptoms of respiratory diseases and Covid are similar.

Symptoms of new variants are not dangerous

The symptoms of the new Covid variant are not as distinct as those of the original strain (for example, a “persistent cough” or loss of taste or smell). The most common Covid symptoms now include sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and cough without phlegm. All these are also symptoms of common cold and flu. In short, if in doubt, get the Covid test done. Definitely better to get tested than risking your life. (I believe that the governments should make the test free at least during winters).

The only way to be sure if your cough or sneeze is due to covid or not is the test. Although Kovid has caused a lot of havoc in the last few years, it is necessary to prevent respiratory diseases as far as possible. Overall, Covid, flu and pneumonia are still responsible for a large proportion of all deaths in many countries including the UK.

A Hierarchy of Protection To keep ourselves and others safe this Christmas, we can call it a “Hierarchy of Protection”. It is inspired by the model used to manage workplace safety, the “Hierarchy of Control”.

This model outlines five levels of protection against hazards in the workplace. By narrowing down occupational exposures to respiratory viruses, we can use this model to guide our actions if we have symptoms of COVID.

Protection by elimination: The only surefire way to avoid spreading an air-borne disease is to avoid close contact with someone who is contagious. But some people are not able to isolate themselves. Perhaps he needs the care of loved ones this holiday season, or he simply cannot face the prospect of celebrating another Christmas alone.

Protection by substitution: If we cannot eliminate contact with people when we are sick, we can at least try to reduce them, especially those who are medically vulnerable. Meeting people outside is also a good idea. The chances of spreading the virus are very less in Christmas markets as compared to indoor ones.

Engineering protections: If we can’t get outside (it’s winter after all), we can at least try to keep indoor spaces well ventilated, for example by opening windows and buying portable HEPA air filters .

Administrative protections: Visit people for a while when sick and avoid physical contact such as hugging and shaking hands. By doing this, it can help in preventing the spread of infection.

Protection by PPE (Protection by PPE): In the last one year, there has been a significant decrease in the habits of wearing masks and even keeping hand hygiene in many countries. But it is necessary to adopt these measures when sick. We can compare face masks to umbrellas, use them when needed.

Of course, some of these things can be adopted together, it will depend on the situation. Doing what we can to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses may mean making some personal sacrifices this Christmas if you’re one of the unlucky ones to get sick. But this sacrifice will benefit your loved ones and public health at large.

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