A virus that “does not follow seasonality” with a subline that is causing an impact: what explains the increase in Covid-19 cases?

The number of covid-19 cases in Portugal has been increasing since the end of May. Data from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) show two records, in recent weeks, that have not happened for a long time: 616 cases were reported on June 14th (the highest value since September 8th). last year – 629) and on June 26, 18 people died, the highest number since July 15, 2022, a day with 24 deaths.

But, for now, there is no reason to be alarmed and it is important to remember the recommendations already known, according to the experts interviewed by Expresso. For epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes, there are two reasons for the current situation: the “great success†of a new sublineage of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the time that has passed since vaccination It is seasonal, in autumn 2023.

In Portugal, the JN.1 sublineage and descendants mainly circulate, among which KP.3 stands out, according to the National Health Institute Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA). “The virus is adapting and these KP have a great capacity to evade our antibodies,†explains Manuel Carmo Gomes. This encourages infection, despite generally maintaining “protection against the most serious forms of the disease†. Furthermore, “vaccination coverage last fall, unfortunately, it wasn’t brilliant†, adds the professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL). Among the population eligible by age – those over 60 years old – 56.14% were vaccinated, indicate DGS data.

The increase in infections, despite it being the beginning of summer, is also due to the fact that the virus does not take the time of year into account. “SARS-CoV-2 does not follow seasonality because it is quite infectious and not having perennial immunity means that there are potentially out-of-season waves of transmission of this virus,†explains Bernardo Gomes , doctor specializing in public health. At large events, such as the festivals that characterize this period, infection is “more likely†given the high proximity and concentration of people.

The situation may “induce some more pressure†on hospitals, especially when or where there are “other open doors†, taking into account “the functioning of SNS emergencies as a whole”, points out the vice-president of the National Association of Public Health Doctors. But, for now, it is not having a significant impact. “No pressure is being felt caused by Covid, but for people who have many comorbidities, the elderly, Covid is a very big danger. This, in a way, justifies the deaths,†says Manuel Carmo Gomes. The average for the last seven days is 12 deaths per day, compared to three just over a month ago, on May 27, according to the epidemiologist.

Two weeks ago, the DGS warned of the “increase in transmission†and “growing trend the proportion of emergency episodes†by covid-19 in all regions and age groups, with a “more evident growth†in the oldest groups. The Director-General of Health recalled, last week, the importance of “good practices†to avoid contagion, in particular the use of a mask in case of symptoms.


“The use of a mask in certain circumstances is quite important,†emphasizes Bernardo Gomes. It falls under the measures of “respiratory etiquette†and “self-care and care for third parties and vulnerable people†, that is, “that anyone who has symptoms takes care to protect themselves so as not to infect others†. Air quality and ventilation of spaces is another relevant aspect, sometimes forgotten. “We know that Covid is essentially transmitted by inhalation. If we are breathing in an environment where there is another person who has Covid and the simple fact that the person is there, talking, if the air is not moved, there is no draft or windows open, we are infected. €, remembers Manuel Carmo Gomes.

Both experts also emphasize the importance of vaccination. The next seasonal campaign should start in the second half of September, announced the DGS, with the challenge of seeking to counter the trend of decreasing coverage against Covid-19. “Don’t miss the opportunity to reinforce the vaccine next autumn,†appeals the epidemiologist.


Francesco Giganti

Journalist, social media, blogger and pop culture obsessive in newshubpro

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