possible side effects
Are there more other infections threatened after Corona?
The corona measures not only protect against Sars-CoV-2, but also against other pathogens. According to a simulation, people could be more susceptible to other infectious diseases after the corona rules are no longer applicable. Experts consider this to be speculation.
The current hygiene and distance rules not only reduce the spread of Covid-19, but also that of other infectious diseases such as flu and colds.
According to a simulation study, US researchers are now warning that the temporarily reduced contact with other pathogens could lead to people becoming more susceptible to such infections after the corona measures were lifted. Independent German experts stress that the work contains a lot of speculation and should not be misinterpreted.
The corona measures common in many countries, such as keeping your distance and wearing masks, have been proven to protect against Covid-19, writes the team led by epidemiologist Rachel Baker from Princeton University (US state New Jersey) in the “Proceedings” of the US National Academy of Sciences («PNAS»). This also applies to other infectious diseases. “A decline in the number of cases of several respiratory pathogens has recently been observed in many places around the world.”
It was only at the end of October – after the end of winter in the southern hemisphere – that researchers reported in the journal “The Lancet” of an all-time low in flu in Australia and New Zealand. As an explanation for the phenomenon, they also referred to the corona measures such as keeping your distance, mouth and nose protection and school closings.
Baker’s team assumes that such measures and the reduced contact with pathogens can later increase the susceptibility of the population to various infections. Using various models, the researchers simulated how the elimination of the corona measures could affect two seasonal pathogens: Influenza A type flu viruses (IAV) and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes respiratory diseases, especially in young children. According to her estimate, the number of RSV transmissions in the USA has fallen by around 20 percent since the introduction of the Corona measures.
On this basis, the authors calculate that even short-term measures could lead to an increase in RSV infections with a delay. In the simulation for the USA and Mexico, most RSV cases would occur in winter 2021/22. The team came to similar conclusions with regard to seasonal influenza A outbreaks. However, the authors themselves admit that predictions about influenza waves are problematic primarily due to the diversity of these viruses and the different effectiveness of existing vaccines.
This is actually a weak point of the study, says the virologist Gülsah Gabriel from the Heinrich Pette Institute in Hamburg, who was not involved in the study. «Influenza A viruses are changeable and adaptable. This virus evolution is a dynamic process that cannot be modeled. ”
Infectiologist Bernd Salzberger from Regensburg University Hospital also objects that such dynamics can hardly be captured in mathematical models: “There could be an excessive wave of influenza, but the opposite could also occur,” says the President of the German Society for Infectious Diseases (DGI) . The statements of the study are speculative.
“If we were to keep all viruses away from us for three years, it would certainly be problematic for our immune system,” emphasizes Salzberger. However, most people would not wear a mask all the time, but only for a short time. Years of abstinence from pathogens are also unrealistic because various vaccines against Sars-CoV-2 are already well developed.
The virologist Gabriel especially warns against misinterpreting the study results as an argument against the corona measures – for example against wearing mouth and nose protection. This is currently particularly important, also to reduce the risk of co-infection. If you were to be infected with influenza viruses and another pathogen, the combination would be much more serious.
In addition, high-risk groups in particular should be vaccinated against influenza. Therefore, it is important to have sufficient influenza vaccinations ready in the coming winters.