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Coronavirus: what does the omicron wave mean for intensive care units?


The new corona infections have reached a new high. However, the number of people in intensive care units has fallen slightly. However, experts warn that this is no reason to give the all-clear.

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Around 3,000 people infected with corona are currently being treated in intensive care units

Photo: Ina Fassbender / AFP

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is now predominant in Germany and the Robert Koch Institute reported a new high of 92,223 new infections on Friday morning.

So far, the omicron wave has not been reflected in the intensive care units.

However, experts see no reason to give the all-clear for the next few weeks, partly because a further increase in infections is expected and some questions about Omikron are still unanswered.

Admission to the intensive care unit with a time delay

The number of people infected with corona treated in the intensive care units has fallen just below the 3000 mark for the first time since mid-November, according to data from the Divi intensive care register (as of Thursday).

Since the peak of the fourth wave in December with around 5,000 corona intensive care patients at the same time, the number has steadily decreased.

The trend is also declining in the number of reported first-time admissions.

In general, however, there is a delay before an infected person - in the worst case - ends up in the intensive care unit.

The duration can vary depending on the variant, from a good one week to more than two.

Regarding Omikron, there is still no certainty.

"We shouldn't see an increase in the number of intensive care patients in Germany quite so quickly," expects Christian Karagiannidis, scientific director of the Divi intensive care register. While with the Delta variant around one in five corona patients who came to a hospital required intensive care treatment, with Omikron it was only around one in ten, he said. In addition, there are the comparatively strict measures in Germany, which could possibly lead to an increase in infections that is not quite as explosive as in other countries.

However, the Cologne professor warned against dismissing Omicron as mild, even if the variant per se is actually less morbid than Delta.

"There is also a risk with omicron, especially for people without vaccination," said Karagiannidis.

“Unvaccinated people are currently the main clientele in intensive care units.” With a basic immunization or after an infection plus vaccination, one is well protected against a severe course.

more on the subject

  • New dominant variant in Germany: Delta is at the end, the Omicron wall is there by Julia Merlot

  • Coronavirus variant: What is known about Omikron - and what we cannot yet knowBy Viola Kiel

A data analysis by Divi and the RKI showed that 62 percent of the corona patients admitted to the intensive care units between December 14, 2021 and January 12 of this year were not vaccinated.

According to this, 10 percent had incomplete immune protection (recovery without vaccination or partial immunization), 28 percent had complete basic immunization or already had a booster vaccination.

Not all questions with regard to German peculiarities have been clarified, said Karagiannidis: »It is open: what happens when omicron arrives at older and very old people?

That still worries me.” Germany has a relatively old population – compared to South Africa, for example, where Omicron was discovered.

How the Omikron variant affects the occupancy of intensive care units or deaths in other countries can only be transferred to Germany to a limited extent. (Read more about the question of how well the findings from South Africa, London and the rest of the world can be transferred to Germany.) The Federal Government's Expert Council also referred to this in its last statement. It states that, compared to other countries with a similar population structure, there is still a larger proportion in Germany without immune protection. This also affects a significant number of people who can be assigned to a vulnerable group. “Especially among people who are older than 60 years, this proportion is higher compared to other European countries such as Great Britain or Spain.These factors could lead to a greater intensive care burden than in comparable countries.«

The RKI writes in its weekly report on Thursday evening that the load in the intensive care units is high, even with currently 3000 cases.

"Although the occupancy figures are currently still declining, there may still be regional capacity bottlenecks in the intensive care area."

According to the RKI, initial studies indicate a lower proportion of hospitalized patients compared to infections with the delta variant among those infected with full vaccination or booster vaccination.

However, the data is not yet sufficient for a final assessment of the severity of the disease.

A sharp increase in infections is expected in the coming weeks.

more on the subject

  • Omicron infections:Several European countries are running out of hospital staff

  • US clinics at the limit because of Corona: “We have patients from eight months to 88 years”

The increasing numbers could soon put Berlin's hospitals under a stress test.

“We've lost staff, and the staff that's still there – nobody can do that anymore.

If we have patient numbers like from the second wave again - no matter what wards - then there is really a risk of overloading, "said the chief physician at the Sankt Gertrauden Hospital in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Jörg Weimann, the daily newspaper "taz".

“We have already postponed almost all treatments that can be postponed.

This will continue.

And this wave that is coming now can hardly be compared with the past waves," says Weimann, who coordinates the Save Berlin network, in which the Berlin and Brandenburg intensive care units are represented.

"Now we intensive care physicians are rather pessimists by nature and are preparing for the worst," said the intensive care physician.

It's impossible to say seriously how bad it will be.

»But if we actually have a high failure in all areas of life including the hospitals at the same time and many patients come - even if they only need oxygen and someone to look after them - then we are in a situation in which not much is possible anymore .«


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-01-14

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