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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 30, 2023  1 month, 3 weeks, 22 hours, 23 minutes ago

COVID-19 News: Greece Faces 37 Percent Increase In COVID-19 Hospitalizations Amidst JN.1 Growing Spread

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COVID-19 News: Greece Faces 37 Percent Increase In COVID-19 Hospitalizations Amidst JN.1 Growing Spread
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 30, 2023  1 month, 3 weeks, 22 hours, 23 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: As the world battles the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Greece finds itself grappling with a significant surge in hospitalizations, reporting a startling 37% increase in the week leading up to December 24, 2023. The situation has raised concerns among health experts, with the Assistant Professor of Hygiene and Epidemiology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Dr Gikas Majorkinis, shedding light on the factors driving this upswing.

The Role of the JN.1 Subvariant:
Professor Majorkinis identifies the JN.1 subvariant of the BA.2.86 lineage as a major contributor to the escalating cases. Designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a subvariant of epidemiological interest, the JN.1 subvariant is characterized by its high transmissibility. In Greece alone, 102 cases of this subvariant have been detected, posing a considerable challenge to containment efforts.
Hospitalization Surge
The surge in hospitalizations, according to Professor Majorkinis, is partially attributed to an underestimation of the effectiveness of the new enhanced vaccine.
The latest epidemiological report from the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) reveals that, from December 18 to 24, a staggering 1,496 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, marking a 37% increase compared to the average weekly admissions in the preceding four weeks. Intubations exhibited a slight decrease, while deaths saw a concerning rise, reaching 62.
Summary of Report Findings
-COVID-19 Infections
Positivity in all tested samples for COVID-19 has shown an increase compared to the previous week.
The number of admissions (n=1,496) has surged by 37%, surpassing the average weekly admissions of the preceding 4 weeks (n=1,094) and exceeding the admissions in the corresponding week of 2022 (n=1,250).
New intubations (n=13) have decreased compared to the average weekly number over the past 4 weeks (n=26) and were lower than the number in the corresponding week of 2022 (n=51).
The total number of intubated COVID-19 patients is 54.
A total of 62 deaths were recorded, with a median age of 83 years (range 39-99). The number of deaths has increased compared to the average weekly number in the previous 4 weeks (n=53) but was lower than the number in the corresponding week of 2022 (n=170).
In week 48, the most prevalent sub-variant of BA.2 was EG.5 (33%), followed by XBB.1.5 (29%) and BA.2.86 (22%).
In Greece, 102 strains of JN.1 (a sub-variant of BA.2.86 recognized as of epidemiological interest since 12/19) have been identified, with a sampling date ranging from 3/10 to 3/12. The international assessment currently considers the additional risk to public health from JN.1 as low.
Surveillance of viral load in municipal wastewater has revealed an increase in the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 viru s in 5 out of the 10 tested areas.
-Influenza Infections
The incidence of influenza cases per 1,000 visits has increased compared to the previous week.
Influenza positivity in the community (sentinel network) remains above 10%, surpassing the seasonal threshold for initiating epidemic influenza activity according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Three new serious cases with ICU hospitalization were recorded, with no new deaths from laboratory-confirmed influenza.
From week 40/2023 to week 51/2023, 21 individuals with laboratory-confirmed influenza were hospitalized in ICU, and 5 deaths from laboratory-confirmed influenza were documented.
A total of 78 positive samples for influenza were detected from week 40/2023 to week 51/2023 (9%). In the two influenza reference centers, 76 samples were subtyped, with 74 belonging to type A and 2 to type B.
Of the 71 type A strains that were subtyped, 15 (21%) were of subtype A(H3), and 56 (79%) were of subtype A(H1)pdm09.
-Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infections
RSV positivity in sentinel PPH samples has shown an increase compared to the previous week.
Vaccination Concerns and Low Rates
The professor emphasizes that vaccination remains the most effective method of protection against severe complications of viral respiratory infections. He highlights the importance of understanding that the COVID vaccine is seasonal, akin to the flu vaccine, and urges citizens not to underestimate the need for vaccination, particularly in the face of the evolving threat posed by the JN.1 subvariant.
It was reported that Greece faces particularly low vaccination rates, with fewer than 200,000 individuals vaccinated. Professor Majorkinis underscores the heightened risk for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who may be at greater risk of severe illness and increased pressure on the healthcare system.
Pressure on the Health System
The surge in COVID-19 cases has not only led to a substantial increase in hospitalizations but has also placed significant pressure on the Greek health system. Professor Majorkinis warns that the pressure is "not negligible" and emphasizes the need for public adherence to protective measures, especially during the festive season.
Holiday Interactions and Protective Measures
The holiday season has exacerbated the situation, with increased interactions and a lax attitude toward personal protection measures contributing to the widespread transmission of the virus within the community. Professor Majorkinis underscores the importance of protective measures, particularly the use of masks by vulnerable groups, although he clarifies that this recommendation is not mandatory for the general population.
Local COVID-19 News coverages are warning that the increase in infections and hospitalizations are expected to keep on increasing till the end of January 2024.
Recommendations for Symptomatic Individuals
In addition to protective measures, Professor Majorkinis offers valuable advice for individuals experiencing symptoms, emphasizing the importance of a five-day isolation period and the prompt administration of antiviral treatment for high-risk individuals.
As Greece grapples with the challenges of the JN.1 subvariant and a surge in COVID-19 cases, it is evident that vaccination and adherence to protective measures remain crucial. The global fight against the pandemic continues, emphasizing the need for ongoing vigilance, public cooperation, and the adaptation of strategies to effectively curb the spread of the virus. With the peak of the outbreak anticipated by the end of January, the nation faces a critical period in its battle against the evolving threat of COVID-19.
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