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Doctors say you can catch 3 viruses at the same time

According to the last Respiratory Virus Surveillance Reportfrom the Institute of Public Health (ISP), during epidemiological week No. 17 (April 21 to 27, 2024), the viral agent with the greatest circulation in the country was influenza A, with 49.6% of reported cases, mainly affecting the age group of 5 to 14 years.

Sars-CoV-2 genomic surveillance also showed an increase in circulation of the JN.1 variantwhich displaced other predominant variants such as EG.5.1, GK.1, and JD.1.1*.

Specialists warn that if you do not take good care of these respiratory viruses, they could replicate the “tripledemic” phenomenonwhich became popular in 2022, when thousands of people in the United States became infected with three respiratory viruses, collapsing hospital systems.

It was the infection of three viruses at the same time: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (VRS), the flu (influenza) and the Covid-19which at that time resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US alone.

Co-infection or simultaneous infection It is not unusual, and can also occur with other respiratory diseases. And the possibility becomes more latent, as the winter season progresses, which increases the circulation of several viruses such as influenza, syncytial, Sars-CoV-2 and metapenumovirus, explains the doctor. Alexis Kalergis, director of Millennium Institute in Immunology and Immunotherapy (IMII)and creator of the only Latin American vaccine against RSV.

At the moment, The most frequent and worrying co-infections include Covid-19 along with influenza and RSV. In addition, combinations are observed such as influenza with Covid and rhinovirus, or influenza A with Covid and rhinovirus, adenovirus, or metapneumovirus, among others.

However, the most serious coinfection that generates the greatest concern is that of Covid-19 with influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Combinations that are more common during winter, although they can occur at any time of the year.

“In this age, post-pandemic“In addition, we have lost a little the seasonality of the viruses,” comments the Dr. Loreto Twele, pediatric infectologist and academic of Medicine of the San Sebastian University (USS).

This tripledemic can cause severe viral pneumonia with respiratory failure, oxygen requirements, fever, general malaise, muscle pain and deep respiratory symptoms associated with triple viral infection, adds the infectious disease specialist.

The probability of suffering from a viral coinfection is directly related to factors such as:

  • Exposure to viruses present in the community.
  • Degree of susceptibility due to underimmunization or predisposing conditions.
  • Contact levels with infected people in high-risk settings.
  • Absence or low effectiveness of personal prevention measures.

If you have symptoms of respiratory illness, it is important receive medical attention and the corresponding diagnosis, wear a mask and maintain distance to avoid transmitting the virus to other people. “It is important to reinforce the message of the risk of exposing yourself to these viruses, without being up to date with the respective immunizations,” emphasizes Kalergis.

Health Alert
Photo: Agencia Uno.

In general, infection with more than one respiratory virus can have similar symptoms, however, the type of infectious viral agent can be diagnosed with laboratory tests. These types of diagnostic tests allow us to identify the virus responsible for the infection and the disease.

Therefore, it is very important that people who suspect an infectious disease with respiratory symptoms seek medical assistance, since clinical examination and ”Laboratory tests will allow you to identify the agent causing your symptomss and determine if it is caused by infection with one or more viruses,” adds Dr. Kalergis.

This will also allow determining the most appropriate treatment, depending on the viral combination that the patient has.

In all cases, with or without co-infections, it is very important to see a doctor or hospital when the person has symptoms. that shed light on severe symptoms of infection, such as respiratory difficulty.

In small children, under 1 year of age, it is very important to pay attention to symptoms such as excessive respiratory difficulty, respiratory sounds, sustained fever greater than 37.5°, sinking of the ribs when breathing, nasal flaring when breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, discoloration bluish on the lips, among others.

All of these are signs that indicate that there may be a severe compromise and must be attended to by health personnel. In these circumstances, the clinical evaluation and a laboratory examination will indicate whether the infection is caused by one or more viruses, or respiratory bacteria, explains the Dr. Pablo González, iIMII researcher and UC academic.

However “There is no way to differentiate the symptoms.” warns the Dr. César Bustos, infectologist University of the Andes Clinic.

The clinical symptoms may provide clues as to which respiratory virus is present, especially if there is a high fever and a significant compromise in general condition, which suggests a possible case of influenza, either alone or in combination with other viruses. However, since diagnosis based solely on clinical symptoms can be complicated and imprecise without adequate diagnostic tests, it is advisable to go to a healthcare facility for accurate diagnosis and treatment in case of doubt about the nature of the disease. respiratory.

The main groups at highest risk are:

  • Newly born.
  • Pregnant.
  • Older adults.
  • People with predisposing conditions.

“At the same time, we are exposed to the circulation of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 like Ómicron with high transmissibility,” adds Kalergis.

For this reason, it is very important be up to date with vaccination against influenza and Covid-19, since these viruses circulate continuously and by themselves can cause severe illness, and even more so in case of coinfections.

According to published scientific studies, coinfection with two or more viruses can increase the severity of the condition, leading to longer complications, more serious pneumonia, among other risks such as respiratory failure, explains the USS academic.

  1. Use of mask.
  2. Frequent hand washing.
  3. Avoid spaces with high crowding.
  4. Maintain good ventilation in closed spaces.

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