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Society Covid-19 outbreak in western Pará leaves Amazonas specialists on alert

For infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists, what has been happening in western Pará is a clear example that the pandemic is not over yet (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Bruno Pacheco – from Cenarium

MANAUS – The research of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Labimol) of the Federal University of the West of Para (Ufopa), which showed the existence of an outbreak of Covid-19 in Santarem and Alenquer, a region near the border with Amazonas, left authorities in the Amazon on alert. For infectologists and epidemiologists, what has been happening in the west of Para is a clear example that the pandemic is not over yet and that it is necessary to maintain preventive measures against the virus.

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“The example of western Pará makes it clear that the pandemic is not over and that it is showing signs of resurgence, albeit discreet and to be confirmed in other major cities in Brazil (Aracaju, Maceió, Belo Horizonte, Cuiabá, for example), many of which have not yet managed to dramatically reduce the incidence of cases of Covid-19”, Jesem Orellana, an epidemiologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz Amazônia), told CENARIUM.

The epidemiologist from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz Amazon), Jesem Orellana (Archive/Reproduction)

According to the survey, in the first 19 days of October, there was an increase in the registration of analyzed samples and 21.5% tested positive for Covid-19. In the second week of the month, 53 military policemen who were taking a course in Santarem had tested positive for the disease. The suspicion is that the transmission of the virus happened because of the Delta variant, which has a strong power of propagation.

To CENARIUM, the researcher and coordinator of Labimol, Marcos Prado, pointed out that it was possible to identify a stable quantity of Covid-19 cases in the months of July, August, and September. However, at the end of the third month, the researchers started to register an increase in contaminations by the virus and, as of October, the numbers became even more evident.

“We had and are having, even, an explosion of cases of Covid-19 in the western region of the state of Pará, mainly in two municipalities: Santarém, the third largest city in Pará, and in Alenquer. In Santarém, for example, we had, from October 1st to October 19th, 215 cases of Covid [out of 999 analyzed samples], that is, much more than the numbers registered in the months of July, August, and September in only 19 days. We are experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak in the region”, Marcos Prado declared.

Researcher and coordinator of Labimol, Marcos Prado (Archive/Ufopa)

In the same period, Alenquer had 23 positive cases of Covid-19, out of 43 samples analyzed by the laboratory. According to the researcher, the scientists work with the possibility that the Delta variant has originated the outbreak of Covid-19 in Santarém and Alenquer, because most of the infected people are those already vaccinated against the virus, showing the power of transmission of the strain. The data that will identify the origin of the virus will be obtained after genetic sequencing, which is being done by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Rio de Janeiro.

“Most of these people who are being infected are people vaccinated with the two doses of the vaccine. In some cases, even with three doses, we have already identified positive cases. This is being studied by the laboratory and followed up by the Pará State Department of Public Health, and we have sent samples to Rio de Janeiro, with the objective of doing the genetic sequencing to find out if it is the Delta variant that is causing this outbreak or if it is a new variant”, he explained.

Marcos Prado also informed that most of the cases identified in Santarém and Alenquer are of medium and low complexity, but there are intubated patients. “We will wait for the conclusion of October to look at the data again and try to verify what is happening in our region”, he concluded.

Relaxation

One of the measures that may have contributed to the increase of Covid-19 cases in western Pará, according to specialists, was the relaxation of prevention measures and people’s belief that the vaccine is “miraculous”. For the infectious disease physician Nelson Barbosa, from Manaus, being vaccinated does not mean total protection.

Infectologist Nelson Barbosa (Personal File/Reproduction)

“Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you are 100% protected, when we have other variants, like Delta, which is eight times more transmissible than P.1 [Gamma variant]. The vaccine is only for people not to have the severe form of the disease, not to be intubated, admitted to the ICU [Intensive Care Unit]. Even vaccinated, the preventive measures must be strictly followed, such as the use of masks, hand sanitizer or washing hands with soap and water”, Barbosa pointed out.

The researcher Jesem Orellana also reinforces that, although the Amazon and the capital Manaus, in particular, are witnessing dramatic falls in the incidence of the disease, hospitalizations and deaths, it is known that there is still a large amount of people without vaccine or with incomplete scheme.

“We also have people who, even with two doses, continue to be infected because they mistakenly believe that the vaccine is a miracle worker. For these reasons, we need to be cautious, keeping the use of masks and avoiding crowds, because we are being tested by an unpredictable enemy, the new coronavirus”, he reinforced.

The scientist also criticized the realization of the “Boi Manaus”, an event of the city hall of the Amazon capital, whose 2021 edition has been confirmed for October 24, in celebration of the 352nd anniversary of the city, with the presence of more than 40 local artists. “Everything you don’t need”, laments Jesem Orellana.

The laboratory

The Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Labimol), from the Federal University of Western Pará (Ufopa), is located in the city of Santarém and performs testing for the new coronavirus in 20 cities in the western region of the state, with resources coming from the institution and from the State Department of Public Health (Sespa), of the Government of Pará.