“It is still early. Thinking of treating, from an epidemiological and prevention point of view, the Covid as a simple one influenza it is unacceptable. I see that our ward is filling up again and among the most serious patients many have been infected with Omicron. The false news must not pass that this variant is not insidious. Sure, these inmates they were not vaccinated“. Professor Massimo Andreoni is the scientific director of Simit, the Italian Society for Infectious and Tropical Diseases. But he is also the head of the infectious diseases department of one of the most important Roman hospitals, the Tor Vergata Polyclinic. “Believe me – he explains – seeing the pressure that there is in us as in all Covid patient hospitals, the idea of considering Covid as flu already today appears inappropriate. Maybe it could happen in the future, but we are not in that phase yet ».
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In Spain, however, the Sanchez government is thinking about it. And even in the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, beyond his troubles related to the party organized during the lockdwon, is heading towards a normalization. Some scientists ask that the daily contagion data, considered misleading, no longer be provided. “But it is one thing to keep our nerves and deal with this new phase of the pandemic with reasoning, knowing that we have weapons such as vaccines, monoclonals and antivirals at our disposal, it is quite another to think that we are not yet in a delicate phase” Andreoni opens his arms . Taking into account that we will also have to address, in the coming months, the problem of some of the recovered patients who continue to suffer from the symptoms of long Covid, the long-term consequences of the disease. it is another difference from the flu, which once passed does not leave any aftermath.
Let’s start with the numbers. In Italy, the monitoring of influenza, the data of which are reported on the website of the Higher Institute of Health-Epicenter, are not as detailed as those of Covid. However, the annual estimate, according to research that also takes into account the excess deaths compared to the expected, fixes deaths from influenza at 8,000. They are not only the direct ones, but also the indirect ones: perhaps the flu has aggravated other pathologies. In summary: 8,000 is a prudential figure. Covid has accustomed us, unfortunately, to very different figures. In 2021, therefore, with the country effectively open but also with the vaccine shield, the deaths were eight times as many as the flu, 63,243. The comparison, therefore, does not hold up. Not only that: Covid, compared to the flu, affects much more on health systems and also on the economy, given that today we have 2.2 million infected people and prisoners at home (in the vast majority of cases, fortunately they are not in hospital) who therefore cannot go to work. To these must be added the close contacts who, if not vaccinated with a third dose, must still respect the quarantine. In hospitals, the numbers are merciless. Of course, even the flu, in its seasonal peaks, put the emergency rooms in particular difficulty, but with Sars-CoV-2 it is the wards that cannot hold up. There are no data on hospitalizations for flu, but what we see today, despite the vaccine shield, are the beds occupied by Covid patients that continue to increase: we have reached 19,000. “When we can begin to think about a return to normality – observes Professor Andreoni – we must have already strengthened the hospitals, increased the number of places and staff to respond to each wave”. It is not done overnight, because there is a lack of professional figures, there are not enough trained doctors and nurses to hire. We will also need professionals who take care of people who have passed the infection but who suffer from long Covid, which normally does not happen with the flu. How many patients are we talking about?
Some researches hypothesize 50% of those who have been hospitalized, a recent study carried out in Lombardy stops at 42%, obviously with a different degree of severity. Out of 858 patients visited by Lombard Pneumology, Dr. Michele Vitacca, Director of the ICS Maugeri Rehabilitation Pneumology Department explained to “Quotidiano Sanità”, “21 per cent had been hospitalized in Intensive Care, 60 on ventilation. Well, only 58 per cent of cases had no disability at all while 20, 12, 6 and 4 per cent respectively had mild, medium, advanced or extremely advanced disability. ” The research concludes that the most frequent long-term effects are respiratory, neurological (“brain fog”); there are also memory difficulties, headache, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms. But is the situation improving? «We have more weapons – says Andreoni – A type of monoclonal antibodies gives excellent results even with Omicron, but this forces us to do sequencing every time so as not to use the wrong ones. We begin to use the new retroviral Molnupiravir, which however only works at the onset of the disease and still cannot be given to everyone “. Pfizer’s will soon arrive. And then we have vaccines, which thankfully reduce hospitalizations. “But it is one thing to say that the situation is improving, it is quite another to think that we can already consider Covid as the flu. Of course, Omicron causes fewer hospitalizations in percentage, but large numbers, given its transmissibility, sends many people to hospital and is also lethal. And we still don’t know what the next variant will be like, to be honest ».