Now let’s avoid falling into the pandemic of fear

A little girl with protective masks in class, in a nursery school in Los Angeles, in February 2021 (photo Ansa)

Now that Covid seems to be a reduced threat, there are those who are pulling the strings of two years in which the work of doctors, nurses and researchers was fundamental, but in which some political decisions have produced a lot of collateral damage. Prolonged lockdowns, school closures, disproportionate obligations and bans imposed by decree, witch hunting climate and censorship towards those who expressed doubts about some measures, continuous alarmism caused consequences psychological, cheap And social even serious all over the world. Suffice this figure, quoted a few days ago by Wall Street Journal:

“Covid-19 is deadly, but so have been the draconian steps taken to mitigate it. During the first two years of the pandemic, “excess deaths” – the death toll above historical trend – clearly exceeded the number of deaths attributed to Covid. […] What are non-Covid excess deaths? During the pandemic, deaths from accidents, overdoses, alcoholism and homicide have soared, as have deaths from high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. […] Knowing that the pandemic response would involve a total disruption to ordinary life, the public health community should have actively monitored its effects on the millions of Americans we knew were suffering from drug addiction, diabetes and many other life-threatening health conditions. It’s never too early to recognize and start alleviating the collateral damage of Covid policies.”

From pandemic to “triplodemia”

But there is a more subtle consequence that Covid and the policies to counter it have left many, a pandemic that has nothing to do with a virus, but with fear. Talk about it The Free Press Vinay Prasad, doctor and professor at the University of California San Francisco, recording how alarms are increasing in the United States for the latest “viral assault” of recent months: «It has been called “triplodemia”, a combination of Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), blamed for high rates of illness and overhospitalization, especially among children. The message is clear: fear winter respiratory viruses and take all possible precautions. It’s time to put your masks back on once again, avoid the crowds and socialize outdoors if possible.”

These are the suggestions of the American experts (but it also applies to Italy), ready to dust off the measures adopted in the critical phase of the pandemic in a Pavlovian way. Yet, writes Prasad, scientific evidence and data “contradict the narrative of the media and many public health officials.” The recommended precautions, in fact, are as scientific as “burning a stick of incense or wearing garlic to ward off vampires”. The “trilpodemia” is tackled by living what we called normal life before Covid, explains the professor: “insisting on infinite precautions in the face of inevitable exposure to germs is not only misleading from a medical point of view, but also threatens to stigmatize interactions more mundane human beings”.

The flu is no worse than other years

Media and experts insist on inviting children to wear masks at school (and there are institutions where this happens again) repeating that only this “will help keep our children safe in class with their peers”. The fact is, says Prasad, “triplodemia” probably doesn’t even exist, respiratory viruses can’t be avoided, and there’s no evidence that prolonged precautions delay the inevitable.

The data collected so far says that the flu season is no worse than in other years, and if anything, the problem is understaffed hospitals and a lack of pediatric beds. «In the last two decades, as explained by the Washington Post, there has been a sharp decline in pediatric beds nationwide. In short, we should be less fearful of RSV and more concerned about our diminished ability to manage routine viral illnesses year after year.”

It is “natural and healthy” to expose children to viruses

Second, explain the short essay about The Free Press, “respiratory viruses cannot be avoided. With extreme and draconian measures, exposure to respiratory viruses can be delayed, but it can never be avoided. Humans have to breathe every minute of every day. And, because humans are social creatures, most of that breath will naturally be in very close proximity to other humans.” As any parent knows, children get sick at some point, and “this has nothing to do with a more compromised immune system,” says Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control.

It seems superfluous to underline this, but «it is natural, healthy and necessary for young children to be exposed to many viruses. In order for children to develop immunity to common pathogens, for them to develop a normally functioning immune system, they must have such exposure, which will sometimes make them ill.”
Not only that, Prasad adds:

“There is no evidence that the interventions purported to stop Covid-19, flu and RSV will help. Before Covid-19, the evidence to support the usefulness of masks was scarce. I co-authored a study on the subject conducted before the advent of Covid-19, to see if masks had interrupted the transmission of respiratory viruses. In fourteen out of sixteen cases the tests showed that the masks were ineffective. In other words, pre-Covid studies clearly said that recommending masks for normal people was pointless. […] Worse still, there is no evidence at all that making young children wear masks helps them avoid getting sick from Covid-19, flu and RSV.

How useful are masks for children during the pandemic? Little

Prasad cites two international studies showing that children with masks fell ill with Covid in the same percentages as their peers who did not wear them. Not only that, even assuming that the masks prevent contagion, making those who have recovered from Covid wear them (9 out of 10 children in America, it is estimated) means protecting them from a new infection which for them would be less serious than the common flu or even of some cold viruses.

“Covid-19 has disrupted all aspects of life,” observes the professor. “It has disrupted immigration, travel, business, education, religious practices, family life and society itself. Some of these disruptions have interfered with the spread of respiratory viruses such as RSV and influenza. The fact that Covid-19 continued to spread despite all of this is a testament to how contagious it is, especially in a population that had essentially no pre-existing immunity at the time. Now that shutdowns like those just mentioned are gone, other viruses are inevitably back. Hospitals should prepare for this.”

Thinking of facing any virus in the future with masks at school (and we know how much damage they have done especially to the little ones) and suggesting people to avoid crowds and closed places for fear of getting sick, cannot stand. «Three years after the start of the pandemic we are faced with a crucial question: how do we want to live the rest of our lives? Like most Americans and as a doctor, my answer is sensational: normally». Going from the Covid pandemic to the fear pandemic cannot be the solution.

Now let’s avoid falling into the pandemic of fear