Covid-19: what you need to know today
Mumbai, ravaged by the coronavirus disease pandemic – 290,914 cases and 11,076 deaths as of Sunday night – has seen a 50-85% reduction in the incidence of dengue, H1N1 flu, gastroenteritis and leptospirosis, infectious diseases that plague the city during and after the monsoon each year, according to HT Mumbai health reporters. October is one of the most unpleasant months in the commercial capital of India, where heat and humidity combine to make it very uncomfortable and also extremely conducive to the spread of the diseases mentioned above, but this time, the city seems to have been saved. , courtesy of an unlikely savior – Covid-19. The safety protocols associated with the coronavirus disease (washing hands frequently, wearing masks, being socially distant, eating mostly homemade food) and the restrictions that the pandemic has placed on us, in terms of travel (it’s so easy to get the flu on a flight) or even moving seem to have helped. However, Mumbai will not be the first region to have a fluke with Covid-19.
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In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that in the southern hemisphere, which generally sees more cases in its winter, which begins in late May and early June, very few cases of influenza were recorded. The report noted a 95% decrease in influenza cases in Chile (at the time the report was written) and a 64% decrease in Argentina. In Australia (a country that is usually the most affected by influenza), over a two-week period in the second half of June, there was a 99% drop in influenza cases. The report cited experts who attributed the drop to restrictions in place to stop or slow the spread of Covid-19. Some of them cited the near absence of international travel as one of the main reasons behind the sharp drop in influenza cases, but also cited other recently acquired human habits (washing hands, wearing masks) as contributing factors.
In mid-December, Nature reported a similar situation in the Northern Hemisphere where “levels of many common seasonal infections remain extremely low.” The report, which acknowledged that the southern hemisphere almost completely evaded seasonal influenza, added: “The mosaic of responses aimed at fighting the pandemic, from temporary confinements to the use of masks, social distancing, greater personal hygiene and reduced travel, has had a major impact on other common respiratory diseases as well. “The same report, using data from the global influenza surveillance system FluNet, showed that even the last influenza season (2019-20) was interrupted by announced measures to combat Covid-19, and the number of cases declined in April. Interestingly, the Nature report adds that the viruses that cause the common cold, rhinoviruses, do not appear to be greatly affected, with or without a mask, and whether you wash hands or not, you will catch that cold.
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India tends to see an increase in flu cases at this time of year. This year, anecdotal evidence from Delhi and data from Mumbai suggests that there have not been as many cases as there usually are. But the data from Mumbai is also revealing: it shows that basic hygiene is among the best prophylactics for a variety of infectious diseases.
Post script: An article posted on the medRxiv prepress server by Yale researchers (including Akiko Iwasaki) shows that the timing of a body’s immune response is perhaps more important than its magnitude when it comes to fighting Covid-19. According to the paper, which is based on a study of 209 Covid-19 patients (ranging from asymptomatic to those with severe infections), those whose immune systems produced neutralizing antibodies within 14 days of becoming symptomatic had a much higher chance of recovery than those whose systems produced these antibodies after 14 days (even if they did more). As Iwasaki pointed out on Twitter, this means that any antibody treatment (such as the use of monoclonal antibodies) will have to be used early in the treatment cycle to be successful.