Covid, return: what you need to know this fall

Covid, return: what you need to know this fall

Vaccination was necessary at the height of the pandemic, and the general consensus is that booster vaccinations are beneficial for the most vulnerable populations. Frederick J. Brown/AFP

As autumn arrives, Covid-19 cases are rising again in the Northern Hemisphere and new variants have emerged. An update on what you need to know in the coming months.

How does this compare to the flu today?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a terrible impact, killing almost 7 million people worldwide.

But thanks to vaccines, immunity acquired after infection, and more effective treatment, the virus is now more under control.

“If you ask me to choose between the flu and Covid, I would choose Covid because every single case of flu is riskier,” said Ashish Jha, a physician and former White House adviser. But while Covid is now less likely to cause death, “it appears to have a higher complication rate in the long term.”

Covid-19 is also more contagious. Less seasonal than influenza, it peaked between December and January in the last three winters in the United States, slightly before influenza.

Covid remains “clearly more serious than the traditional cold,” infectious disease specialist Amesh Adalja also stressed.

Booster dose or not?

Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have developed updated vaccines, new versions better tailored to the variants currently in circulation.

Vaccination was necessary at the height of the pandemic, and the general consensus is that booster vaccinations are beneficial for the most vulnerable populations. But the advisability of revaccination of young and healthy people is debated.

Studies have shown that in Western countries almost the entire population is already infected. And these infections, along with vaccines, taught the immune system to defend itself.

According to medical professor Monica Gandhi, undifferentiated recommendations for everyone can undermine trust in government. Messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna carry a risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), especially in young men.

Therefore, the UK, France and Germany recommend annual revaccination only for at-risk groups.

Other experts believe the risks involved are minimal. Epidemiologist Ziyad al-Ali estimates that even people at low risk of developing a serious case of the disease “benefit from a booster Covid vaccination.”

The United States is recommending booster vaccinations for the entire population this fall.

What about masks?

The issue of masks sometimes becomes very sensitive, especially in the US.

According to an analysis by the authoritative organization Cochrane, promoting the wearing of masks had no visible effect on slowing the spread of the virus.

But thanks to laboratory testing, researchers know that a well-fitting, quality mask (N-95 in the US, FFP2 in France, etc.) protects.

So people can wear them indoors, although Monica Gandhi said this is usually not necessary given the protection provided by the vaccines.

Do you still need to check yourself?

People at risk – older people or those with conditions such as cancer, obesity or diabetes – should continue to check themselves if they develop symptoms, experts agree. Because then they could benefit from antiviral drugs, drugs that need to be taken quickly at the beginning of an infection so that it doesn’t get worse. The main treatment is Paxlovid from Pfizer.

Some countries believe that testing only people at risk is sufficient, for example the UK. Free tests are still available for them.

But “most people no longer need to test themselves,” British health authorities write. To avoid spreading infection, stay home if you feel unwell.”

What about long Covid?

Research into long Covid – symptoms that last for months – remains hampered by the lack of a definition that everyone agrees on, says Amesh Adalji.

According to Ziyad al-Ali, the prevalence is between 4 and 7%, or 65 million people worldwide. “Unfortunately, we have not made progress in treating long Covid,” he said. This should be a priority for agencies around the world. »

Vaccination appears to reduce the risk of developing long Covid, which also often correlates with the severity of the infection.

The American government has funded several clinical trials to better understand this pathology. According to one of them, an antidiabetic drug helped reduce symptoms by 40%.

More results are expected in the coming months.

Issam Ahmed/AFP

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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