July 19, 2024 | 8:21

Bizkaia

The COVID surge is the omicron variant

Jesus Carames

May 19, 2024 | 9:30 a.m.

A new wave of covid-19 infections is beginning to be noticed in hospitals in Spain. According to data from the Acute Respiratory Infection Surveillance System released by the Carlos III Health Institute, hospitalizations due to covid-19 have quadrupled in two weeks, mainly affecting people between 65 and 79 years old.

Significant increase in infections in Madrid and other communities: incidence and hospitalizations on the rise

In communities like Madrid, infections have skyrocketed in patients aged 60 or over, increasing by 60%. This new outbreak of the disease is also reflected in the fact that the incidence of all respiratory infections has risen from 400 to 477 cases per one hundred thousand inhabitants in Spain. In the case of Madrid, the incidence rises by 56,4% to 445 cases.

The general hospitalization rate linked to covid-19 in Spain has risen in two weeks from 0,3 to 1,3 cases per hundred thousand inhabitants, tripling. In the case of citizens between 65 and 79 years old, previous reports from the Carlos III Health Institute point to a fivefold increase, although in both cases they are maintained in normalized records. However, these data indicate a once again worrying advance of the disease after the winter period.

Positivity due to Covid-19 detection and incidence in Spain has also skyrocketed, tripling in the last week. This increase in the numbers of infections and hospitalizations is a clear indication that the epidemiological situation is worsening.

The variant behind the covid-19 outbreak: the advancement of omicron sublineages

Behind this increase in hospitalizations and infections could be the advance of Omicron sublineages, specifically the A.2.86 subvariant, known as Pirola. This variant already had a notable incidence in December of last year. In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified this variant as a "variant under surveillance" and shortly after elevated it to a "variant of interest."

In addition to the circulation of these variants, we must add the loss of hybrid protection (vaccine and previous infection) and the relaxation in preventive measures with respiratory diseases after winter. However, experts believe that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, although they certify that the covid-19 indicators "are moving."

Since the beginning of the respiratory infection season in Spain, the Sars-Cov-2 variant identified in the highest proportion has been Omicron BA.2.86. From this variant comes a puzzle of lineages and sublineages like JN.1, which have gained ground in recent months. The WHO has asked pharmaceutical companies to adapt their vaccines to these new lineages to better face the situation.

Conclusions and recommendations: a call for caution and updating vaccines

The recent increase in infections and hospitalizations due to Covid-19 in Spain highlights the need to continue closely monitoring the evolution of virus variants and maintain appropriate preventive measures. The Pirola variant and its sublineages represent an ongoing public health challenge, especially among the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

It is essential that health authorities and the general population do not let their guard down. Vaccination remains a crucial tool in the fight against Covid-19, and updating vaccines to cover new variants is vital. In addition, maintaining hygiene and prevention measures, such as the use of masks in closed places and adequate ventilation of spaces, remains important to reduce the spread of the virus.

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