Saturday, December 4

What we have learned from the pandemic: this is how we are going to try to monitor all respiratory viruses circulating in the country

We are going to celebrate 24 months of the pandemic and there are many things in which it seems that we have not learned much. It is not something that is necessarily bad: a priori, in most areas of our life there are no solid reasons why the “new normal” should be different from the old. Nevertheless, the coronavirus crisis has pointed out some structural problems that we are not being able to solve. At least clearly.

If tomorrow (next month, next year) there were another pandemic of the same magnitude, many of the reactions of institutions and governments would be as improvised as those of two years ago. Nevertheless, there are things in which we have learned and they allow us to be optimistic about the future (epidemiological).

File viruses to avoid the next pandemic

One of the most interesting things, from my point of view, is the change we are seeing in how the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network of the Carlos III Health Institute monitors respiratory diseases. Until 2019, your efforts in this field mostly focused on the flu. The sentinel (and non-sentinel) systems of the Surveillance System covered the national territory to detect mild cases and severe cases of the disease.

COVID turned all this around and, as we all know, monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 has been a constant. Something that, on the other hand, had to be built almost on the fly while Spain closed. For this reason, the RNVE has decided to change all this and start monitoring all the viruses that are behind respiratory infections. For this, it is using two networks of Acute Respiratory Infection Sentinel Surveillance (ARI) for primary care (very similar, if not the same, to that used in influenza) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Sentinel Surveillance (SARI) in hospitals.

For months, we have explained that the SARS-CoV-2 variants used to appear in the United Kingdom because they sequenced much more than the rest of the countries around us. That made the variants much more likely to appear there. In Spain, although we have very good teams on this issue, there is no public effort (from the Ministry and the autonomies) comparable to English. In the same way, most pathogens responsible for winter colds (that myriad of rhinovirus, adenovirus, metapneumovirus, bocavirus and coronavirus that take over the country during the cold months) They go unnoticed.

The pandemic has taught us that this was a mistake and, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the new system seeks to monitor all diseases from the most basic level. That is the most effective way to prevent a new threat from passing under the radar long enough to knock us out of the game. This, if done right, is extraordinary news.

Image | CDC

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