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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Jan 09, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 1 day, 17 hours, 24 minutes ago

COVID-19 News: SARS-CoV-2 Infections And Hospitalizations Still Rising In New Zealand And Experts Warn That JN.1 Wave Will Last For Weeks!

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COVID-19 News: SARS-CoV-2 Infections And Hospitalizations Still Rising In New Zealand And Experts Warn That JN.1 Wave Will Last For Weeks!
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Jan 09, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 1 day, 17 hours, 24 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: As the sun shines brightly over New Zealand's summer landscapes, a persistent shadow looms in the form of the fifth wave of COVID-19. Health experts are urging citizens and organizers alike to remain vigilant, as the relentless surge shows no signs of abating in the coming weeks. With over 6550 new cases reported in the last week and hospitalizations soaring to 355 - triple the numbers seen during the previous winter - the nation is grappling with the challenges posed by the highly transmissible JN.1 variant.
https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/our-health-system/data-and-statistics/covid-19-data/covid-19-current-cases/


COVID-19 Infections Still Rising In New Zealand
 
There were a total o 176 COVID-19 attributed deaths reported in the last 28 days in New Zealand.
 
Current State of Affairs
Despite a slight dip in hospitalization numbers and a decline in wastewater surveillance data in late December, experts caution against premature optimism. COVID-19 modeler Professor Dr Michael Plank raises concerns about the JN.1 variant, which, if prevalent, could be responsible for over half of the infections, making it a dominant force in this surge. The uncertain trajectory of this wave leaves the nation on edge, contemplating whether this represents a mere bump or a sustained increase in COVID-19 cases.
 
Factors Influencing the Wave's Duration
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Dr Michael Baker sheds light on the potential duration of the ongoing wave. Unlike the rapid decline seen in January and February of the previous year, this wave's slower build-up hints at a protracted decline. Dr Baker suggests that a return to a new baseline might take a month or possibly two, and if the wave descends as gradually as it rose, additional cases could surface, prolonging the nation's battle against the virus.
 
Concerns from Large Events
The recent outbreak traced back to a Scouts jamboree at Hamilton's Mystery Creek serves as a stark reminder of the virus's potency at large gatherings. This incident was covered in local COVID-19 News coverages.
 
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/dozens-of-scouts-catch-covid-19-at-hamilton-jamboree/JKUCUMP5GJFPBDXY4JCFHAAY5I/
 
https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/506234/dozens-of-scouts-catch-covid-19-at-jamboree
 
Experts emphasize the need for event organizers to implement precautionary measures. This includes urging attendees with symptoms to stay home, providing well-ventilated venues, and having robust plans to manage potential outbreaks. The analogy of COVID-19 precautions to host responsibility at events reinforces the importance of public cooperation in curbing further transmission.
 
Remaining Vigilant - The Role of Boosters and Antiviral Medicines
Amid concerns about reinfection and Long COVID, health officials stress the importance of avoiding complacency. Boosters, freely available for those aged over 30, pregnant individuals aged 16 and over, and those aged 12 to 29 at higher risk of severe illness, remain a crucial tool in enhancing immunity. Te Whatu Ora data reveals a steady demand, with over 24,300 people receiving their third boosters last week, indicating the public's awareness of the ongoing importance of vaccination efforts.
https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/our-health-system/data-and-statistics/covid-vaccine-data/
 
Dr Luke Bradford, the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners medical director, encourages high-risk individuals to consider antiviral medicines. Freely prescribed to eligible individuals, antivirals can potentially lessen the impact of illness, particularly for those over 65 or with multiple medical conditions. Bradford underscores the need for timely medical consultation to ensure appropriate care measures are taken to mitigate the severity of the illness.
 
Epidemiological Insights - Waning Immunity and Complacency
Epidemiologist Michael Baker attributes the surge in COVID-19 cases to factors such as waning immunity and growing complacency among the public. Wastewater testing indicates a rise in cases throughout November and December, suggesting that the wave began before the arrival of the JN.1 variant. Baker warns against complacency, emphasizing that the virus remains a constant threat, causing waves multiple times a year.
 
The Challenges of Immunity and Recurrent Infections
Baker emphasizes that immunity to the virus fades over time, leaving individuals vulnerable to reinfection within a few months. Recurrent infections may lead to long-term consequences, including a potential scarring effect on organs and blood vessels, contributing to the development of Long Covid. This underscores the importance of preventive measures, regardless of age, to avoid repeated infections and potential complications.
 
Looking Ahead - Annual Boosters for Vulnerable Populations
As the wave persists, older and more vulnerable populations may face an ongoing threat, necessitating annual vaccination boosters. Baker suggests that those over 75 years of age, along with immunosuppressed individuals, are particularly vulnerable to severe illness and should prioritize getting booster shots annually. This long-term strategy aims to provide additional layers of protection for those most at risk, ensuring their safety in the face of evolving variants.
 
Conclusion
New Zealand finds itself in the grip of a formidable summer wave of COVID-19, marked by rising infections and hospitalizations fueled by the relentless JN.1 variant. The nation is urged to remain vigilant, with health experts emphasizing the importance of ongoing vaccination efforts, antiviral treatments for high-risk individuals, and the need for continued caution at large events. As the nation navigates through the challenges of waning immunity and the specter of recurrent infections, a collective effort is required to curb the spread and bring an end to this prolonged wave. The road ahead may be uncertain, but with a unified commitment to public health, New Zealand can emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever before.
 
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