August 14, 2022

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Infection is devastating - one thing that surprises Nakstad

Infection is devastating – one thing that surprises Nakstad

Two and a half years into the pandemic, infection numbers have gone up and down, and we’ve gone through wave after wave of infection.

However, the summer months, both last year and the year before, were generally marked by little contagion.

But the situation is very different this year, and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, we are now witnessing a summer wave spreading across Europe.

The fact that we now have a wave of infections in Europe, in the middle of summer, is surprising, says Assistant Director of Health Espen Nakstad.

Summer wave: A number of European countries, including Greece, Italy, Germany, Great Britain and Spain, experienced a significant wave of infections this summer. Photo: Luisa Golyamaki/AFP/NTB

– stuns the immune system

Since the coronavirus was first detected in China at the beginning of 2020, infection control experts around the world have speculated about how the infection will develop.

Many believe that the coronavirus will eventually become more like the flu virus, which mainly circulates in the winter.

Most respiratory viruses thrive best in the winter, and eventually this is likely to apply to corona as well, says chief medical officer Preben Avezland at the Institute of Public Health.

However, the significant increase in infections this summer clearly shows that corona has not yet turned into a seasonal virus.

I currently think the virus mutates so much that it manages to trick the immune system. This effect is stronger than the seasonal effect, Aavitsland says.

New variants: FHI is closely monitoring variants of the novel coronavirus.  Now it is omikron BA.5 that dominates in Norway.  Photo: Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB

New variants: FHI is closely monitoring variants of the novel coronavirus. Now it is omikron BA.5 that dominates in Norway. Photo: Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB

The most contagious type

Both the FHI and the Department of Health realized early on that the coronavirus wasn’t going away any time soon.

It’s no surprise that an epidemic takes time, says Nakstad.

But what wasn’t expected for the assistant health director was a wave of infections in the middle of summer.

We went into the summer of 2020 with almost no infection in Norway, and in the summer of 2021 there was also very little infection. Nakstad says it is surprising to see that in the third summer we have a wave of infections across Europe.

Travel: Many Europeans have traveled to other countries this summer, which could lead to an increased spread of infection.  Photo: Frank Augstein/AP/NTB

Travel: Many Europeans have traveled to other countries this summer, which could lead to an increased spread of infection. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP/NTB

He thinks this summer wave shows that the current alternative is our most contagious yet.

The problem is that the new virus variants bypass the immunity we have in the population. This means that even if you get vaccinated or get sick, you can still get infected, says Nakstad.

New waves: We still have new waves of infections ahead, says Nakstad.  Photo: Jonas Done Henriksen / TV 2

New waves: We still have new waves of infections ahead, says Nakstad. Photo: Jonas Done Henriksen / TV 2

– Alarming speed

Internationally, too, there are many researchers who have been surprised that waves of infection do not appear to be stabilizing.

The way this epidemic has emerged, and continues to emerge, is unexpected, says Stephen Kayser, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Watchman.

In April 2020, he published an article in which he said that corona would become a seasonal virus that only spreads in the winter months.

Mute: The coronavirus has mutated several times since the beginning of the pandemic.  Photo: Mathias Kleiveland / TV 2

Mute: The coronavirus has mutated several times since the beginning of the pandemic. Photo: Mathias Kleiveland / TV 2

More than two years later, an epidemiologist began to doubt this conclusion. He thinks it is astonishing that the virus continues to spread at record speed with new virus variants.

The fact that we are seeing such rapid development of new varieties, at an alarming rate, is all the more surprising. It changed the way waves of infection looked, says Kiser.

This has changed

Professor Peter Openshaw at Imperial College London is also reacting to the way the virus has recently spread.

The waves seem to be getting closer to each other. They’re actually becoming more frequent, Openshaw tells the Guardian.

More waves: In the past year, there have been a number of waves of infection closer together.  Photo: FHI

More waves: In the past year, there have been a number of waves of infection closer together. Photo: FHI

The explanation may lie in the fact that in the first year of the epidemic there were waves of infection that were driven by new viral variants that were more contagious. This applies, among other things, to alpha and delta variants.

The professor now believes that waves of infection are driven by viral variants that have been able to evade immunity to earlier virus variants. This applies, among other things, to the latest omikron variant BA.2.75.

As the coronavirus continues to mutate, Openshaw and Keiser fear we will never reach the point where the virus becomes a seasonal virus that only comes in winter.

less serious

Family Health International believes that Norway has reached the peak of the summer wave, and that infections are now on the decline. However, they estimate that between 2 to 3% of the population is currently infected with corona.

We have a lot of corona infections this summer, says Aavitsland.

It is still believed that the virus will eventually stabilize and become more like a flu virus.

– I think we will have more seasonal epidemics in two to three years, says Avitzland.

Although this means that there may still be a number of waves of infection in store, both Aavitsland and Nakstad assure that we are well prepared for infection.

– What we’re really seeing is that the disease is much less dangerous, because there is widespread immunity in the population, says Avitzland.

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