Some fear 'twindemic' could overwhelm hospitals   Visit Site

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

In the eye of the Omicron storm, some Israeli doctors are watching aghast as flu cases also rise, fearing that the so-called twindemic effect could overwhelm hospitals.

The major concern is there could be an unbearable burden on the medical system that could cost in lives, Prof. Ran Nir-Paz, infectious diseases specialist at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel, stressing that he sees this scenario not as pessimistic, but as realistic.

After a virtually flu-free winter last year, significant case numbers are a worry, he said, noting that the flu challenge is accentuated by the low number of people getting flu shots and an apparent low effectiveness of this year’s flu shot.

Resources that were previously given to COVID alone would need to split between COVID and flu, and this would mean too much strain and could cost in lives, he said.

But theres no consensus on this bleak outlook. Former coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu gave a much more optimistic assessment of the threat from influenza during a press briefing last week, insisting that the specter of a joint threat is not a real issue.

Concern surrounding flu focuses on the growth of cases, and disappointment over take-up of flu vaccines. Health Ministry figures released last week showed that since September 2,825 people have been hospitalized for the flu, including 863 children and 181 pregnant women and new mothers. A spokeswoman for Leumit, one of Israels four healthcare providers, told The Times of Israel that doctors are seeing more cases than expected.

Community health teams are reporting a subdued demand for flu vaccines. Acceptance of flu shots is down 32% in Leumit, the spokeswoman told The Times of Israel. Only 75,000 of Leumits 720,000 members got flu vaccines this year compared to 110,000 last year and 100,000 the previous year.

The largest healthcare provider, Clalit, is witnessing a similar lethargy. We are at two-third to three quarters of the usual immunization of previous years against flu for adults and children, said Prof. Amnon Lahad, head of the Jerusalem district for Clalit. And its largely because the populations are tired. If you tell people to get immunized for flu people say Ill do it another time.

Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, better known as Ichilov Hospital, said that he doesnt see flu hospitalizations as particularly high, and thinks coronavirus precautions are also protecting against its transmission.

I dont see a real issue here, he commented. Our internal medicine departments are crowded but it’s not causing the very high peaks we were used to seeing in the very overloaded winters, so Im not sure that we have a tough situation in this regard.

In his analysis, hospitals are well stocked and well prepared, and ready to cope with the challenges of the winter.

But Nir-Paz insists that the equation is simple: two potentially serious infectious diseases spreading quickly is a threat. If many people are sick with influenza and mortality gets higher, people will pay a price, he said.

We were lucky last year to see virtually no flu cases because of social distancing and any other factors we dont fully understand, but this year the take-up of vaccine by the community is lower for many sociological reasons, with people taking a gamble and thinking theyll protect against COVID but can take a chance with the flu.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine in preventing infection is 20% to 60% each year, but also prevents disease among a higher percentage of people. This year, he said, effectiveness is believed to be at the low end of the spectrum.

Apparently the strain is H3N2 which has major shifts in the virus that reduces efficacy of vaccinations, he observed. Its part of the vaccine but not in its exact form. So we have a combination of lower take-up of vaccines and lower efficacy of vaccines.

Preliminary research on flu vaccines suggests that this seasons edition has limited effectiveness as the flu strain that is spreading picked up mutations that make it mismatched to the vaccine. A team of American researchers wrote in a study, which is not yet peer reviewed: Our studies suggest that the new 2a2 H3N2 replicates efficiently in human airway cells and can partially circumvent antibodies elicited by egg-adapted 2021-2022 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccines.

Commenting on the challenges for the coming weeks, Nir-Paz said: Omicron is a tsunami, influenza is a storm, and the combination of both is unpredictable. We need to try to manage both.

Do you rely on The Times of Israel for accurate and insightful news on Israel and the Jewish world? If so, please join The Times of Israel Community. For as little as $6/month, you will:

Thats why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we havent put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Today's Daily Briefing

Iran gets angry; Lapid gets vocal about disabilities funding

Related Stories
United States To Release Venezuela From Some Oil Sanctions
Some police critical of force after violence at journalists funeral in Jerusalem
Nnamani: Some of those buying forms for presidential hopefuls are struggling to pay rent
Watch: Some Del Piero magic for Juventus''s #GoalOfTheDay
Some voting officials adopt safety measures against election conspiracists
Nigerian Senator, Aliyu Wamakko Empowers Community Women With Cloth And Some Cash To Sew The Fabric
Some of the weapons delivered to Ukraine will be used against us
Some EU Members Ready To Veto Oil Embargo
Hottie! Venita Akpofure Is Not Scared To Show Some Skin In This Sexy Swimwear
Some clashes reported at Al-Aqsa ahead of planned right-wing march in Jerusalem
Russia Says Some Buyers Agreed To Rubles-For-Gas Payments
Some Russian servicemen seeking help to avoid Ukraine war, lawyers say
Some Nigerians Planning Another #EndSARS Protest Over Fuel Scarcity In Nigeria, Secret Police, DSS, Raises Alarm
El-Rufai: Some APC governors are against Sani Bello chairing caretaker committee
Some of the world''s most dangerous bioweapons are made at a lab in Maryland (not just in China and Ukraine)
Obasanjo: Some presidential aspirants should be in prison if EFCC, ICPC did their job
Some politicians running for president should be in jail if EFCC...
Twitter Ban: Civil Society Organisations Slam Lai Mohammed For Claiming Some NGOs Working To Destabilise Nigeria
Ukraine Crisis: Some Nigerians Dont Want To Return “ Says Foreign Affairs Minister, Onyema
Police: Some Dowen College parents hindered probe into Oromoni''s death
Web Services Cloud Services Business Solutions Tech. Services Install Apps Company
© Plucom Technology Ltd.  Nigeria. All right reserved.