Influence at the highest level in years, sheltersd still in circulation and with new variants And hospitals on alert. From many angles, in view of winter and the greater proliferation of airborne viruses, the return to the use of masks is invoked which, as we have experienced, reduce transmission between people with a simple and economical gesture.
A call to that effect comes from the general practitioners of Lombardy. “We have very complete studies: not just the flu, but also Covid. The situation has already exploded, worse than in recent years and pre-Covid. The number of patients is significantly higher. At the moment, the group of young adults seems to be more affected, the elderly a little less,” reports Paola Pedrini, general secretary of Fimmg (Italian Federation of General Practitioners) Lombardy, inviting citizens to “restore the use of the mask ».
“We reiterate the need to continue taking the individual and collective behavioral measures considered and/or recommended, such as the use of the mask,” specify the Higher Institute of Public Health (ISS) and the Ministry of Health on the sidelines of the weekly report on Covid. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) have also issued a joint note in recent days on the importance of individual protection measures, such as masks in closed and crowded places.
«Masks are not forbidden – recalls the virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco. We need attention and common sense” and he continues about flu to the RadioUno microphones: “It will be a tough season, as always there will be deaths, usually between 5,000 and 15,000. The peak is expected at Christmas, with around 250,000 cases per day». Focus more on vaccines Matteo Bassetti: «I say absolutely not (about the return of the masks, ed). These microorganisms must circulate and have always circulated, we must protect ourselves, but how? For example, we have lost a lot of coverage for pneumococci, vaccination against pneumonia, but also for influenza,” specifies the director of infectious diseases of the Policlinico San Martino hospital in Genoa. “Today, given the high spread of Sars-CoV-2, it is best to recommend the protective measures we know, including the mask,” notes Massimo Andreoni, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Tor Vergata Polyclinic in Rome and director scientist of the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases. Claudio Cricelli, President of the Italian Association of General Medicine and Primary Care (Simg), explains regarding the large increase in flu cases: «The elderly are highly vaccinated and have learned to protect themselves, so they get sick less. If you want to protect yourself, the suggestion is to use a face mask in very busy places,” he concludes.
The validity of using masks to reduce transmission is now known, viruses transmitted via saliva droplets, such as Covid and flu, are almost completely blocked by FFP2 filters (especially when emitted by sick subjects). Mask-wearing is a device that may have been little known before Covid, but has now become a habit that can be easily “brushed off”, available to those who choose to be less at risk of becoming infected.
The obligation to wear masks has been abolished in Italy (except for hospitals and health institutions), but those who want to can protect others and continue to protect themselves. The topic of yes or no masks is also discussed in the Alps: the French health minister, François Braun, does not rule out a return to obligation due to a jump in Covid-19 cases, but he assured that he would rather avoid it and at the same time issued a call to get vaccinated.
In fact, the problem is not so much the spread of infectious diseases, but the resulting duplication of pathologies and the impact on fragile people, with the importance of hospitals and intensive care units.
For now, the situation in Italy is under control, even if there are warning signs from the emergency department in some regions.
Peak at Christmas
Meanwhile, the flu peak is expected at Christmas with strong figures: according to the latest report from Influnet (dated December 2), the incidence is equal to 12.9 cases per thousand helped (9.5 in the previous week). The incidence is increasing in all age groups, but the pediatric age groups are most affected (children less than 5 years old, where the incidence is equal to 40.8 cases per thousand helped). “If the cases increase, I might keep the mask on public transport and crowded places, especially for the elderly and the frail. Without reintroducing the obligation, but recommendable,” says Massimo Ciccozzi, Head of the Department of Medical Statistics and Molecular Epidemiology of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Campus Bio-Medico in Rome.
Stable but underestimated Covid
Covid cases are stable, but would be largely underestimated: according to independent monitoring by the GIMBE Foundation, during the week of November 25 – December 1, 2022, currently positive cases increased by +14,712 (+3%), but the note reads : «The number of new weekly Covid cases is no longer a reliable indicator of viral circulation, underestimated by at least 50% both for the widespread use of DIY tampons and for the lack of testing of asymptomatic people ». The 7-day moving average of the positivity rate remains stable at 13.5% for molecular smears and decreases from 18.8% to 17.8% for rapid antigens.
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