FLiRT, the new “more contagious” but less aggressive type of Covid virus

FLiRT, the new “more contagious” but less aggressive type of Covid virus

And It has been more than four years since the first wave of Covid Which forced hundreds of thousands of Catalans to isolate themselves in their homes. Complete confinement lasted for several months, until it gradually turned, thanks to the recovery of the health system and the arrival of the first vaccines, into a simple memory. since then, The respiratory virus has undergone several mutations and adapted to the human immune system to continue life. In other words, they have evolved New variants The latter is known as FLiRT -a name created from the first letters of the protein modifications of the virus-, which have been detected on an international scale in recent months and have been circulating in Catalonia since the end of February, according to data provided by the Ministry of Health. In the hands of Acting Counselor Manel Balcells. Experts consulted by El Mon confirm that it is a new variant that is “more contagious” than previous strains, but that at the moment it is not “lethal”: “With new mutations and adaptation of the immune system, each of them sometimes becomes more dangerous.” It is difficult to trace,” says the head of the infectious disease service at Hospital del Mar, Dr. Juan Pablo Horcajada.

But the expert points out that despite the morphological changes of the virus, This new variant is not as aggressive as some previous versions. In other words, most residents infected with this variant do not develop serious symptoms. An idea proposed by the Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Clinic Hospital, Dr Anna VilelaHowever, he warns that at the moment there is not enough information to make a full diagnosis about how this mutation in the respiratory virus affects people: “It’s all just estimates,” he says. In this sense, the head of the respiratory viruses unit in the microbiology service at Val d’Hebron Hospital, Dr. Andres AntonHe points out that the virus has been changing since 2020, adapting to the “immunity” developed by all people who have been infected at some point or who have received Covid vaccines.

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The three specialists say that this new species has modified its “protein composition” to attack people’s immune systems. but, This does not mean that the vaccines that have been used so far will not be effective: “Protection against the virus persists in the body, but is no longer as effective as with other variants [les que s’havien fet servir per crear les vacunes]”, says Andres Anton. This means thatCurrent vaccines allow you to ‘avoid disease’, but not avoid ‘infection’. But in this sense, Dr. Villella emphasizes that people infected with this new type of Covid who have developed previous immunity can show “mild symptoms.” In fact, Dr. Horcajada asserts that “memory immunity,” that is, that developed through vaccinations and contact with previous variants, “protects against the severity” of the respiratory virus, but not against infection.

Photo of a box of masks to protect against Covid / Europe Press

Incidence of FliRT in the Catalan health system

According to the latest data provided by the Ministry, “the infection rate of SARS-COV-2 fluctuates in the low range, with approximately 25 cases per 100,000 population.” In other words, although it has risen slightly in recent weeks, the number of people affected remains “low”. The three experts stress that these numbers do not represent a negative impact on the health system in Catalonia, because although the number of infections is increasing “sustainably”, “a decrease in hospital income” is the norm: “We must take into account that” the number of people Those admitted with serious symptoms are a very small number,” recalls the head of the infectious diseases service at Hospital del Mar.

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In addition, the specialists consulted by this newspaper also take a frame of reference from the impact of this new variant in the United States, because it is one of the first points where it had a “significant” impact: “In the United States, the healthcare system is resisting this latest wave without problems, so we have no reason to doubt that it will be different in Catalonia.”“, argues Juan Pablo Horcajada. For his part, Andres Antón believes that the Catalan health system will “not be overflowing” at any time because “there will be no increase in cases”. It is an idea that is also agreed by the head of the Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology Service at the Hospital Clinic, who He sees that the hospital framework in Catalonia can only be slightly destabilized with “a strong rise in cases with serious symptoms but the recovery is not planned.”

An injection and a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 |  ACN
An injection and a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine against one of the old strains of Covid-19 | ACN

Expert recommendations

At the moment, due to the slight increase in cases, Public Health has begun to monitor the epidemiological situation, but does not see this new type of Covid as a risk factor that could destabilize Catalonia. In fact, Dr. Anna Villella considers what is most “worrying” to be the rise in measles cases in Europe, which has prompted the Ministry of Health to provide the vaccine to all those born between 1966 and 1980. Now, in order to prevent more cases of measles. Experts recommend “reintroducing masks” to people at risk, especially in closed spaces or where there are large crowds, such as the subway, and “encouraging hand hygiene” and “frequent places with good ventilation.” In other words, the same recommendations that are already applied in other cases of respiratory viruses. Therefore, despite the increase in cases, experts ask for calm and stress that the Catalan health system is preparing to absorb the onslaught of the wave of recent months.

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