Three years after the beginning of the pandemic, Covid-19 is certainly less scary, but it has not yet disappeared: in fact, it continues to infect many people all over the world, even if the situation in Italy is currently under control . However, the Coronavirus with its different variants is not the only virus out there, on the contrary: the 2023 winter season is proving to be particularly aggressive as regards respiratory viruses and there are already numerous cases reported, although January is not over yet and therefore there are several weeks left until the end of winter. Here’s what they are the most common respiratory viruses in this vintage.
Respiratory viruses: what they are
As the definition itself says, respiratory viruses are viruses that affect the respiratory tract: generally, they spread through droplets of saliva or mucus emitted by an infected person while talking, coughing or sneezing and enter another person’s body through the nose, mouth or eyes, but they can also be carried through contact with objects such as toys, towels, doorknobs.
Depending on the type of virus, its aggressiveness, the conditions of the affected individual, the microorganisms can cause more or less serious infections which can manifest themselves with symptoms such as: cold, cough, sore throat, fever, difficulty breathing.
The most common viruses
According to the surveys carried out by InfluNet, the epidemiological and virological surveillance network of theHigher Institute of Healthat the moment the most widespread respiratory viruses in the 2023 winter season are influenza, followed by the respiratory syncytial virus in children and by Sars-CoV-2 in adults and the elderly.
The Higher Institute of Health has carried out an in-depth study on the most widespread respiratory viruses between 14 November 2022 and 8 January 2023, from which it emerged that at least half of the Italian people who fell ill in the period under consideration contracted the flu viruses.
The flu epidemic this year started particularly early and seems to have caught up the peak in the 48th week last year, i.e. between the end of November and the beginning of December. Usually, however, the peak is recorded in January.
Influenza is caused by viruses belonging to the family of Orthomixoviruswhich includes three kinds: influenza type A, which is more common, type B, and type C, which is very rare. These viruses possess a particular characteristic, namely the great ability to mutate, assuming slightly different characteristics every year. Over 3,800 have been identified since the start of the 2022/2023 season type A influenza viruses and 51 type B.
In subjects in the 45-64 age group and in those over 64 years of age, the Coronavirus is also quite widespread, with percentages between 21.4 and 25.5%. Although new variants have emerged in recent times, the prevailing variant is still the Omicron, with the BA.5 subvariant largely predominating. The symptoms are different, but not necessarily all are present. The main ones are: persistent cough; cold; temperature; tiredness; heachache; usually intense sore throat; respiratory difficulties; gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain; loss of taste and smell (ageusia and anosmia).
The respiratory syncytial virus
In the children under two years, leading the ranking of the most common respiratory viruses is respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. It is a pathogenic microorganism that is responsible for over 64 million cases of acute respiratory infections worldwide each year, particularly in young children and the elderly.
In most cases, the virus causes a mild infection that is not cause for concern, but in infants and older adults it can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia. In these cases, symptoms such as difficulty breathing; breathlessness; shortness of breath; characteristic emission I hiss or whistling when you breathe; persistent and deep cough.
In children, attention should also be paid to very rapid breathing or, conversely, to respiratory pauses; to indentations at the intercostal level (deepening of the skin between the ribs that appear during inspiration); to the dilation of the nostrils; to decreased appetite. If these signs appear, it is important to seek help immediately.
other respiratory viruses
In addition to these three prevalent microorganisms, many others obviously circulate, albeit to a lesser extent. A small percentage of Italians have contracted or can contract viruses such as adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, rhinovirus, metapneumovirus, bocavirus, coronavirus humans other than Sars-CoV-2. The symptoms are always of a respiratory type and can easily be confused with those typical of seasonal flu, Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus infection.
- Avoid approaching people who are visibly cold.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Always do this maneuver before and after handling food and before and after being in public places.
- If you have a cold, keep a certain distance, avoid close contact and perhaps wear a mask.
- Run all recommended vaccinations.