One and a half year of pandemic: where do we stand?

Challenges

One and a half year of pandemic: where do we stand?

It has been 18 months since the World Health Organisation announced the pandemic state caused by COVID-19. By this time situation began to be serious and we were surrounded by dreadful news, the closing of the borders between the countries, and chaos. The pandemic took almost 5 million lives, vastly impacted our lifestyles, and created a burden on economical development.
What had to change since that moment? What did we learn? Are our habits adjusted?

The virus evolves
Viruses possess the intrinsic ability to mutate and evolve. These features allow the virus to quickly adapt to the conditions that they are facing and avoid possible killing. Mutations in viruses are fast responses to environmental changes. This will allow the virus to not be recognized by antibodies produced by our immunological system. When the virus is not recognized by our body it can’t be destroyed and therefore has the ability to infect our cells. This is the case with coronavirus as of September 2021, there are five dominant variants of SARS-CoV-2 spreading among global populations: the Alpha Variant (formerly called the UK Variant and officially referred to as B.1.1.7), first found in London and Kent, the Beta Variant (formerly called the South Africa Variant and officially referred to as B.1.351), the Gamma Variant (formerly called the Brazil Variant and officially referred to as P.1), and the Delta Variant (formerly called the India Variant and officially referred to as B.1.617.2) and most recently Mu Variant (formerly called Colombian Variant and officially referred to as B.1.621).

Vaccination
A coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine can protect you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19 complications. But how do the different types of COVID-19 vaccines work? Each COVID-19 vaccine causes the immune system to create antibodies to fight COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines use a harmless version of a spikelike structure on the surface of the COVID-19 virus called an S protein.
The main types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available or being studied include:

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. This type of vaccine uses genetically engineered mRNA to give your cells instructions for how to make the S protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
Vector vaccine. In this type of vaccine, genetic material from the COVID-19 virus is placed in a modified version of a different virus (viral vector). When the viral vector gets into your cells, it delivers genetic material from the COVID-19 virus that gives your cells instructions to make copies of the S protein. 
Protein subunit vaccine. Subunit vaccines include only the parts of a virus that best stimulate your immune system. This type of COVID-19 vaccine contains harmless S proteins.

The principle is always the same: once your immune system recognizes the S proteins, it creates antibodies and defensive white blood cells. If you later become infected with the COVID-19 virus, the antibodies will fight the virus.

Prevention measures should become a habit
During the International Conference of Infection Prevention and Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, we listened to presentations of world opinion leaders in the field. All of them are agreeing on one point: prevention is essential. Starting with the face masks, but change them often and continuing with hand hygiene. Experts are convincing us that we should read the labels of sanitizing products, be aware of their tolerability and effectiveness. Here we are reminding you to check one of our challenges about hand sanitizers published a few months ago. The prevention includes also just being careful and avoid risky behaviors or exposure. All of this should be rational. Importantly prevention measures can prevent you not only from covid infection but also communicable diseases such as influenza or bacterial infections. The benefit is truly worth it and we heard about it from talks of exports such as Eli Perencevich, Benedetta Allegranzi, and Pierre Parneix.

Don’t believe in everything you read or hear
Misinformation and panic research constitute big trouble as this pandemic still lives on. We should verify carefully the information we read in the newspaper or see in the news. Don’t forget to look for specialistic literature. Here we find another problem. The number of scientific publications on covid is tremendous. So how to find an answer to the nurturing questions we have? We strongly recommend you ask your doctor for details. During ICPIC 2021 Alexandra Peters talks about this subject. Interestingly misinformation spread 6x faster on Twitter (and this is not fake news).

Bibliography

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020
Mishra SK, Tripathi T. One year update on the COVID-19 pandemic: Where are we now? Acta Trop. 2021 Feb;214:105778. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2020.105778.
Tonacci A, Genovese S, Pioggia G, Gangemi S. COVID-19 pandemic: different roles for scientific publications and funding face to epidemiological data-an European, country-based perspective. Clin Mol Allergy. 2021 Sep 13;19(1):16. doi: 10.1186/s12948-021-00154-9.
https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/human-regulatory/overview/public-health-threats/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/treatments-vaccines/vaccines-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines-key-facts
Orso D, Federici N, Copetti R, Vetrugno L, Bove T. Infodemic and the spread of fake news in the COVID-19-era. Eur J Emerg Med. 2020 Oct;27(5):327-328. doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0000000000000713.
Isaakidou M, Zoulias E, Diomidous M. Machine Learning to Identify Fake News for COVID-19. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2021 May 27;281:108-112. doi: 10.3233/SHTI210130.
Harder T, Koch J, Vygen-Bonnet S, Külper-Schiek W, Pilic A, Reda S, Scholz S, Wichmann O. Efficacy and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection: interim results of a living systematic review, 1 January to 14 May 2021. Euro Surveill. 2021 Jul;26(28):2100563. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.28.2100563.
Goto M, Ueckert N, Meiches RK, Perencevich EN. Successful multimodal measures preventing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks without universal frequent testing within long-term care units in the Midwestern Veterans’ Health Care Network. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2021 Jan 11:1-3. doi: 10.1017/ice.2020.1419.

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