One of the leading Russian experts in the field of molecular biology and pathogenic microorganisms, academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Vasilievich Zverev.
There are a lot of rumors and talk about the new wave of flu and covid. To clarify the situation, the first deputy editor-in-chief of MN Andrey Avdonin talked with scientists on topical issues.
SCARE, BUT WE ARE NOT SCARY?
– Vitaly Vasilievich, recently there have been many publications about new varieties of coronavirus, we are again being actively frightened. Especially the fact that people began to fall ill with both covid and flu at the same time, their different crosses … Is this true and what to do?
– Now at the beginning of autumn, there is traditionally an increase in all respiratory diseases. Including influenza, and covid, and rhinovirus. A whole bunch of diseases! And this is understandable: after the holidays, people again gather in large teams, which, as you know, are a breeding ground for the spread of viruses. Of course, one must distinguish between the situation in the provinces and the capitals, where planes arrive and hundreds of trains arrive every day. Various kinds of infection are brought here from everywhere, therefore, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the incidence is traditionally higher – these megacities are always in sight. By the way, it is worth remembering that in 2021 there was no serious seasonal rise in the incidence of influenza.
– And why?
– Because strict measures were taken to combat covid, and this had a positive effect on other respiratory diseases, plus then the flu vaccination was quite successful throughout the country.
– But today they scare us with some kind of “Hong Kong flu” …
– You know, we are always scared. But nothing serious has changed in the structure of the flu, it came almost in its usual form. We have three common flu variants circulating today. But as for the coronavirus, it really has changed a lot over the past year. The so-called omicron appeared. And these are variants of the virus, which has undergone changes in the structure of the surface protein. This is very important to understand, because all the vaccines that were created two years ago against the Wuhan strain become obsolete. They were no longer effective even with the delta strain. In the USA, they wrote that the effectiveness of those vaccines fell to 60-70%, we were told that it was higher. But when the Omicron strain appeared, the WHO generally announced that previous vaccines worked at a 10% efficiency level.
What is 10%? This is the placebo level. It must be clearly understood that those old vaccines no longer work. But fortunately, the virus that killed these vaccines with its changes is practically unchanged. And despite the fact that its structure has changed and the virus has begun to spread faster, it does not cause serious illness. There is always some kind of compensation: the faster the spread – the easier the disease. In our country, and in Europe as well, hospitalization, as well as mortality, have decreased by an order of magnitude.
WHO SHOULD BE PROTECTED TODAY?
– Vitaly Vasilyevich, despite the fact that the virus does not threaten the masses of the people today as actively as before, but there are still risk groups?
– They exist, and we need to think about how to protect them in the new conditions. These are older people, those who have chronic diseases like diabetes. Now there are treatment regimens that were developed, by the way, by Academician Ivashkin from the First Moscow Medical University, these are regimens with hormonal drugs and blood thinners. Among his patients, the mortality rate was practically zero. After all, we don’t have anything better than hormones to treat any inflammation. But, of course, hormone therapy must be used correctly and accurately, according to effective schemes …
– In general, the situation now is not as terrible as it seemed at first?
– Undoubtedly. Now it has become clear, for example, that children were asymptomatic with coronavirus, no one almost noticed it. Yes, there are children who could and can die from covid, but then again, these are those who suffer from severe chronic diseases. These are the ones we need to pay special attention to today.
– And what about the vaccination of the population?
– We must wait to take action, we now have several new vaccines being tested. These are the drugs that are created against new variants of the coronavirus. And now, after the tests, it will already be necessary to think carefully whether it is necessary or not to massively vaccinate people. It is a serious question how many times a person can be vaccinated over a period of several years. After all, the vaccination calendar does not exist by chance, it is necessary that vaccinations do not overlap one another. They, of course, save from the disease, but they also load the immune system.
TWO ENEMIES CAME AT THE SAME TIME
– Vitaly Vasilyevich, what happens when two epidemics – covid and flu – go on at the same time?
– We have not described cases of such a double infection, only a theoretical possibility is assumed. It often happens that an influenza epidemic is accompanied by outbreaks, for example, of an adenovirus infection. And this can cause severe recurring diseases, but it is repeated, and not simultaneous. You should not be afraid that these two viruses will unite in the body.
– Can we advise our readers to make a mandatory flu shot?
– This must be done in an unconditional manner. I personally buy 20 doses of vaccine every year and vaccinate my whole family, as do my employees.
THE DANGERS OF SMALLPOX
– As for the information wave associated with monkeypox, is it threatening us?
– So far, one case has been recorded in Russia when a person came from abroad who became infected there (a second case has just been announced in St. Petersburg. – Ord.). I think that WHO missed this moment, did not give clear recommendations on how to behave in case of new outbreaks. But we know that our vaccine, last used in 1981, also protects against this type of smallpox.
Is smallpox transmitted by contact?
– Yes, but it is not transmitted in the same way as HIV and hepatitis.
– A number of publications have emphasized that smallpox is especially common among gay people.
– No, non-traditional connections do not really play any role here. It’s just that a lot of virus infections happened at so-called hangouts, and the fact is that people of non-traditional sexual orientation have seven times more contacts than ordinary people …
– Excessively, so to speak, sociable …
– Exactly. But the transmission did not occur sexually, but by contact. These are skin manifestations, skin contact. And then the virus spreads through the upper respiratory tract. So close and numerous contacts, and not just sexual contact, are the reason for the widespread spread of viruses.
– Maybe, just in case, it is worth resuming vaccination against smallpox?
No, I don’t think it makes any sense. This smallpox vaccine caused severe reactions in a certain percentage of people. So I do not think that mass vaccination against smallpox is so relevant today. The flu is another matter.
ABOUT CONSPIRACY THEORIES
– There are many conspiracy theories that the current dangerous viruses are the consequences of malicious American experiments both at home and in other countries. And these viruses are constantly “escaping” from their secret laboratories. For example, “hard evidence” has again appeared that the COVID-19 virus was bred artificially.
– Let’s face the facts. Wuhan, China, is where the COVID-19 virus was first detected. Although this does not mean, of course, that it first appeared there, because there have already been similar cases, but no one identified this virus then. As for artificial creation, I am very serious about the work that the Americans are doing in all their laboratories. And I think that covid is most likely a natural virus that was missed from the laboratory that dealt with it.
– That is, before that, the virus existed in nature, but did not attack people …
– Viruses exist in nature all the time and attack people sooner or later. In this case, there is no direct evidence that the covid came to people from the laboratory, and not from the animal population. But if, after all, it was a laboratory leak, then let me remind you: we have always talked about the strictest observance of safety rules, about control over such dangerous developments. Because the consequences of leaks are millions of deaths, they are simply catastrophic.
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