“I would describe the situation as high but stable”, says scientist about COVID | MUSK

Two and a half years into a pandemic that has led to many firsts for this era, a scientist at the Medical University of South Carolina said he is seeing another one this summer.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been in a time where we have a push coupled with a lot of people being unaware of it and with minimal masking and distancing and favoring the outside over the inside. The vast majority of people don’t do any of these things. It’s unique.

But Michael Sweat, Ph.D., professor in the College of Medicine at MUSC, adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said context is key. In the early days of the pandemic, people were afraid of dying from COVID. Fewer feel that way now – with good reason.

“We have certainly seen a very low mortality rate in this outbreak. I think a lot of it is due to the immunity that exists because so many people have caught it or been vaccinated.

Long COVID, however, is a real concern, Sweat said. “I think a good number of people, something like 20-30%, get what you could technically call long COVID.” The most reported symptoms of long COVID include fatigue and brain fog, according to the American Medical Association.

The way to avoid that is to avoid getting COVID, Sweat said. But it may not be easy right now for people who aren’t paying attention. It’s hard to say exactly what the COVID case numbers are for the Charleston tri-county area because many tests are being done at home. But using scientific modeling, Sweat thinks he has a pretty good idea. “I would describe the situation as high but stable.”

Dr Michael Sweatshirt

Could this stability be shaken by the upcoming July 4 holiday? Maybe, Sweat said. “Big holidays in general tend to be correlated with small bumps afterwards. Sometimes big bumps. Lots of people are going to get together, and it’s hot now, so people are staying inside in the air conditioning. This can lead to a lot of transmission – and there is already a lot of transmission going on. »

But he’s encouraged that a recent weekly update from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control showed a 15% decrease in COVID cases for the tri-county area of Charleston. “IIt can descend and then ascend. So you want to see a consistent pattern before you get too excited.

This caution is due not only to the upcoming holidays, but also to the evolution of the coronavirus. We have seen a series of variations. Omicron is dominant these days. Its BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants recently shown in tests at MUSC.

“Looks like they’re going to take over. And that could lead us down the path to more serious disease,” Sweat said.

“The other thing about BA.4 and BA.5 is that you can get re-infected. Same with BA.2. If you had it, two weeks later you could catch the virus again. He was able to overcome the immunity acquired by the earlier variants. So that’s what the virus does – it mutates into transmissibility.

But the tools to fight COVID are also evolving, Sweat said. “Moderna tested a bivalent vaccine, which means it has two components: the old original, which came from the Wuhan variant, and an Omicron-specific component. Pfizer is also working on it. So it will be a big breakthrough. I think it’s really going to make a difference, I guess.

A breakthrough – for people who choose to get the updated snaps. “I don’t know if people are still going to get vaccinated a lot. Some will, but you will always have those people who will never take a vaccine, and especially an mRNA vaccine. And so from a public health perspective, it will certainly help a lot, but it may not be a game-changer. »

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