The large scale COVID-19 epidemic in Italy was explained

The large-scale epidemic of coronavirus COVID-19 in Italy is explained by the fact that the virus entered the country at the beginning of winter, but an outbreak of influenza prevented it from detecting in the early stages. This was stated in an interview with RBC by the head of the department of infectious diseases at the Italian Higher Institute of Health, scientific adviser to the Italian government Giovanni Rezza.

“In most cases, COVID-19 is mild in patients, and therefore its symptoms are easily confused with flu symptoms. Only when we began to face severe cases accompanied by pneumonia, it became clear that we were dealing with something else, ”he said.

Rezza suggested that the virus could have entered Italy in mid-January, however, the first official case of the disease was detected on February 20. “That is, by the time we just discovered the virus and began to realize its danger, the epidemic had already gone quite far,” the scientist concluded.

Italy is the third country in the world in the number of diagnosed cases of the disease (almost 200 thousand, behind the United States and Spain). In the past week, authorities have recorded a slowdown in the spread of the virus in the country. On April 20, for the first time since the start of the epidemic, the total number of people infected in Italy decreased compared to the previous days – the base virus reproduction rate dropped below unity. “In recent weeks, the rate of infection has slowed, and, according to our forecasts, this trend will continue in the coming month,” said Rezza.

At the same time, the healthcare system is able to cope with the flow of patients, Rezza assured. “We have built special hospitals for patients infected with COVID-19, and all who have at least symptoms of coronavirus are accommodated there. Since the crisis began, the number of beds in intensive care units has been increased by 50%, ”said the epidemiologist.

The threat of the second wave of the virus
Although, due to economic factors, the Italian authorities are forced to soften the quarantine, such exemptions pose risks of new outbreaks of COVID-19, the expert warned. “To avoid a large-scale second wave, the government will need to constantly remind people of the importance of maintaining social distance,” he said.

Special attention, in his opinion, should be paid to the issue of controlling the movement of citizens within Italy and minimizing the risk of the virus moving from north to south of the country. “If people from the northern regions bring the virus to the south, this can cause great difficulties, especially since the health care system in the south is poorer prepared for the epidemic than the more affluent north,” he explained. Doctors and local hospitals need to record new infections as quickly as possible in order to suppress potential large outbreaks of the epidemic, Rezza added.

According to data on April 28, in the Lombardy region (the epicenter of the spread of the virus), more than 74 thousand people have been diagnosed with the virus for the entire time, and Campania is the leader among the regions of the south, where there are about 4.3 thousand diagnosed cases.

It is likely that people can return to normal life in Italy and other countries only with the advent of a vaccine, the development of which can take a year, if not more, says Rezza. Until this moment, citizens will have to observe safety measures, including keeping a social distance.

“We will have to live with the virus and learn to respect it: this is a very dangerous guy,” said the Italian scientist. Even in Italy, which has become one of the centers of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the population still has not acquired immunity to the virus, which poses risks of new foci of the disease.

“In the near future we plan to deploy a large-scale test system that will show the percentage of the population with a positive reaction to COVID-19 based on serology (blood serum). So far, according to rough estimates, in the epidemic centers in the north of the country, the percentage of the population with immunity can reach 30-40%, in other regions affected by the crisis – about 10%, in the rest of the country – from zero to several percent, ”the scientist said. “If we take the indicator for Italy as a whole, the proportion of people with immunity is much lower than 10%. We are still very far from collective immunity, ”he explained.

So far, the best that can be hoped for in the short term is the development of more effective treatments for coronavirus, says Rezza. According to him, Italy is already undergoing tests of various drugs and techniques used to treat patients, but have not yet passed the study. “We are talking about a whole host of therapies: these are antiviral drugs, and immunomodulators, and other drugs. For example, we use heparin to prevent vascular thrombosis in the lungs, ”the scientist explained.

According to him, the first confirmed treatment methods will be revealed after a few months. “Further, if we prove the benefits of a drug that is already used against other diseases, then almost immediately we can use it widely. If this is some kind of new medicine, then this is a more complex process, ”said Rezza.

WHO was late
Giovanni Rezza, a scientific adviser to the Italian authorities, believes that the World Health Organization (WHO) could have earlier called on other countries to take measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. “WHO is a little late with the pandemic,” he said.

On April 15, US President Donald Trump ordered the suspension of contributions to the WHO budget, explaining that the organization “failed to fulfill its primary responsibility and should be held accountable.” According to Trump, the organization’s actions contributed to the “misinformation” of China about the coronavirus, which most likely led to a larger outbreak of COVID-19 than it otherwise would have been. The United States was the largest donor to WHO and contributed $ 500 million annually. In Russia, Trump’s decision was called an attempt to find the “guilty” for the spread of the virus and prove its “sinlessness”.

By Cindy
In Other
April 30, 2020

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