FAll winter has always been peak seasons for respiratory viruses. With the weather getting colder in many parts of the United States, people are forced to live in indoor environments where viruses can spread more easily. Holiday and travel gatherings can also become breeding grounds for disease.
This is one reason experts are concerned that the number of COVID-19 cases may rise in the United States in the coming weeks. But there is also something else. To help predict rates of COVID-19 in the United States, Experts often look for Europe– And the data there is not promising. More than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 were reported across Europe during the week ending October 2, an increase of about 8% from the previous week, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Latest Global Situation Reportpublished on October 5, more than 400,000 of these diagnoses came from Germany, and about 265,000 from France.
“We are concerned,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical chief on COVID-19, on October 5. Press Conference. “In the northern hemisphere, we enter autumn and winter, so we will see Common circulation of other viruses such as influenza…. We need to be prepared for health systems. “
The United States does not always follow in Europe’s footsteps. The alpha variant, for example, caused greater spikes in Europe than in the United States, but European outbreaks related to delta and omicron preceded similar spikes in the United States.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says that COVID-19 in the United States has been on a “high plains plateau” for months. Since spring, about 300 to 500 people have attended Died from COVID-19 every day– Rate is still tragically high but is relatively stable.
Osterholm says the situation in Europe “could be a harbinger of things to come”. He fears a “perfect storm” may be on its way to brewing, threatening to turn that American plateau into another eruption. decreased immunityAnd the Low support absorptionever-evolving Subvariants that are getting stronger at evading the immune systemand people You act as if the epidemic is over They all indicate “we’re heading to the end of the High Plains Plateau,” says Osterholm. “I just don’t know what [the next phase] Resembles.”
Federal case numbers are not showing a slight rise in the US yet; In fact, daily diagnoses and hospitalization rates have steadily decreased since July. But the number of cases is becoming increasingly unreliable People rely on tests at home And the Countries back down from reporting. Osterholm says he is paying more attention to death and hospitalization rates, but both are behind the actual spread of the virus, as it can take time for the infection to become serious enough to result in hospitalization or death.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control sewage control panelwhich tracks the level of virus detected in sewage samples across the country, indicates circulation is increasing in multiple parts of the country, including parts of the Northeast and Midwest.
Taken together, the signs suggest an increase is coming, says Ariana Marie Blaney, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
“I don’t like using the word ‘inevitable’ because all of this is preventable,” Blaney says. “It’s just that prevention is harder and harder at this point in the pandemic,” when mitigation measures like mask mandates wear off and many people also vanish Do not know or do not want to get the new Omicron boosters.
Planey encourages people you know to reinforce and make sure they know tools like Evoshield (An alternative vaccine for people who are immunocompromised or unable to get their vaccines) and the antiviral drug Baxlovid. She says she would like to see more urgency from the government, including stronger communication about the need for reinforcement and a constant push for those who have never been vaccinated to get their initial vaccinations.
The problem, Osterholm says, is getting people to actually heed those warnings. Numerous polls show that Americans are ready to leave the epidemic behindeven if the virus continues to spread and mutate in the future.
This leaves public health experts with the frustrating task of repeating the same advice they have given over the past several years to an increasingly separate audience. “There’s no fun in saying, ‘I told you so,’ because people are sick and dying,” Blaney says.
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