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Omicron, why doesn’t heat slow down the pandemic? Is there a risk even outdoors? Questions and answers

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Omicron, why doesn’t heat slow down the pandemic?  Is there a risk even outdoors?  Questions and answers

Even yesterday, infections are growing strongly. The new positives recorded were over 94 thousand, almost double those recorded on the Wednesday of the previous week. Fortunately, the number of seriously ill patients admitted to hospital is still low, albeit growing, but the data still call for caution. And one wonders how this new wave of contagion despite the great heat. «Unlike last summer – explains Massimo Andreoni, director of Infectious Diseases of the Tor Vergata Polyclinic in Rome and scientific director of Simit (Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases) – now there is less attention from people. Let’s not forget that the virus is now much more transmissible and the state of immunity we have protects us well from the disease, but less from infection “.

Does the heat help stop Covid?

Assuming that the heat will send the virus away – explains Andreoni – was a mistake at the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, it is known that in India or Texas the virus also circulated at 45 degrees. However, it must be specified that when we talk about heat, we mean two different situations. First, we are referring to the ability of ultraviolet rays to inactivate the virus that is outdoors, but not that which is in the respiratory tract. The idea that the heat limits the circulation of the virus is then linked to the fact that in summer people are more outdoors, houses are more ventilated and therefore in theory there is less chance of getting infected.

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What has changed since last summer?

Basically, in June 2020 and 2021, people behaved more cautiously. We know that then in the month of August the security measures were loosened more, and it was no coincidence that a resumption of the virus was punctually recorded. Now, attention is very low and, moreover, a much more transmissible virus is circulating.

Is there a risk even outdoors?

The probability that contagion occurs between people indoors is much higher: in fact, there is ventilation outdoors and droplet particles do not saturate the environment. But zero risk does not exist. Contagion can also occur outdoors, especially if there is a crowd. As always, it is the precautionary measures that make a difference.

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Are street parties dangerous?

With the new variants, this virus is much more transmissible in the same situations. In 2021, alpha and beta were widespread, now omicron circulates. Therefore, in 2022 the gatherings are more dangerous because the vaccines have lost the ability to control the infection as they did on the other variants: the protective action of the vaccine on the infection is now reduced to 10-15 percent; previously it was around 30-40 percent. Although immunity is always very valuable, it protects us from serious illness, but it does not help us to get infected.

Can air conditioning affect?

Absolutely yes. As Andreoni recalls, it has already been shown in several studies that ventilation in closed environments, if a mask is not used, facilitates the transmission of the virus. In any case, the infection depends on the air changes: if there is an aeration system that creates the recirculation of air between the internal and external environment, at least twice a minute, the risk of infection is reduced. If, on the other hand, there is a movement of air within the same environment, the virus moves according to the vortex of air and therefore the possibility of becoming infected is obviously higher.

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Was the summer wave predictable?

Yes, several weeks ago we knew that the omicron variant (4 and 5) with very high transmissibility was circulating in other countries. It was only necessary to allow time for the variants to arrive also in our country to observe the peak in the number of new infections. It was an expected event, although it was difficult to know in advance whether we would have more cases in May, June or July.

Are the precautions still needed?

When we are faced with an epidemic event, precautions are always necessary. “It is necessary as soon as possible to restore all the measures we had put in place – says Andreoni – that is to wear the mask indoors or outdoors when there is a strong crowd and respect the isolation”. Although it is true that we are all sufficiently immunized and therefore do not face particularly serious forms of Covid, unfortunately there are fragile people who run high risks. Let’s not forget that at the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome there are children hospitalized in intensive care due to covid.

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