Sunday, February 25, 2024

COVID cases up, but mortality rate remains low

COVID-19 cases are increasing in Mexico, but the mortality rate isn’t, according to health authorities. The Health Ministry reported 7,905 new infections between Dec. 13 and Dec. 21, bringing Mexico’s current total of active COVID cases to 330,805. There have been 106 reported deaths during the same period.

According to the Health Ministry, hospital beds filled by COVID-19 patients are at 4% for the third consecutive week. Some authorities are calling the rise in cases COVID-19’s “sixth wave” in Mexico. 

In October, the federal government issued new guidelines advising that the use of face masks was no longer obligatory in outdoor and indoor spaces.

At the same time as COVID cases are rising, there has also been an increase in the number of individuals infected with influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a so-called “tripledemic” that could end up overwhelming hospitals and leading to medication shortages. 

Mauricio Rodríguez, a member of the University Commission for Coronavirus Emergency Care at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), noted that there will be higher rates of respiratory illnesses such as the flu and RSV due to isolation over the past few winter seasons, during which the illnesses typically peak. Fewer infections occurred over the last two years, due to isolation, decreasing population immunity.

UNAM COVID expert Mauricio Rodríguez said that respiratory illnesses like influenza and RSV will be more prevalent this year thanks to so much COVID isolation in 2020 and 2021.

While it is possible to contract multiple infections at the same time, this is uncommon, Rodríguez said. When an individual catches a virus, the body raises immune defenses to prevent others from arriving. 

This year, 4,536 confirmed cases of influenza have already been reported in Mexico, compared to only 308 at the same point last year. Of these cases, 94.8% correspond with the AH3N2 variant, also the most common strain during the past two years.  

The states with the highest number of flu cases are Nuevo León, Querétaro, Aguascalientes, Mexico City and Zacatecas. 

There have been 57 reported flu deaths so far this season. During the 2021–2022 season, there were five and none during the 2020–2021 seasons. 

According to Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, 24,086,715 flu vaccines have been applied, covering 60% of the priority population. This includes adults over 60 years old, children between six months and five years, pregnant women and those who suffer from certain health conditions. 

Photo: Gob.mx

To date, Mexico has recorded a total of 7,190,702 COVID-19 cases, with females representing slightly higher than half the cases, at 53.3%, and the median age of the infected being 38. A total of 99,165,928 people have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, or 84% of Mexico’s population over five years old.

According to specialists quoted in the newspaper El Economista, the country’s health authorities are not prepared to face the three viruses. 

UNAM microbiology researcher Laurie Ann Ximénez-Fyvie noted that Mexico only purchased about 30 million influenza vaccines this season, for a population of over 131 million. Given the complexity of the current season, she contends, the country’s health authorities should have purchased enough vaccines for non-vulnerable individuals as well. 

There is no vaccine for RSV, which primarily impacts children. 

With reports by El Economista, El Universal and the SSa

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