Health December 26, 2023 | 8:11 am

Dominican Republic issues alert for respiratory viruses including COVID-19 variants

Santo Domingo.- The Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic has issued an epidemiological alert due to the circulation of several respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza A (H1N1), and various strains like pdm09, adenovirus, and Influenza B Victoria. The provinces most affected are Barahona, Duarte, La Romana, Santiago, Santo Domingo, and the National District.

Recent reports identified COVID-19 variants EG.5.1, FL.1x, and JN.1. As of epidemiological week 51 of 2023, there have been 1,226,613 reported cases of upper tract acute respiratory infections (ARI) and 246,361 lower tract ARI cases, which are lower than last year’s figures for the same period.

Public Health advises vulnerable groups, especially those under five and over 65, healthcare workers, and individuals with comorbidities, to get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19. They also recommend completing vaccination schedules and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings. In case of illness, physical distancing, wearing a mask, and visiting the nearest health center are advised.

The Ministry also urges healthcare centers to strengthen surveillance for influenza and prioritize monitoring acute respiratory infections (SARI) to track epidemiological changes and viral trends. Timely reporting and investigation of suspicious cases, rapid sample submission to labs, and public education on preventive measures against influenza and COVID-19 are crucial.

As of December 2, 2023, 73% of genetic sequences in the GISAID Initiative were from lineages descended from the XBB variant, including the rapidly spreading JN.1 variant, which the WHO classified as a “variant of interest” on December 19 due to its rapid spread. Despite its high transmissibility, its health risk is comparable to other omicron subvariants.

Countries across Europe, Australia, Asia, and Canada have reported exponential growth of JN.1, accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations. The WHO asserts that existing vaccines should provide protection against this JN.1 subvariant. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the infection and vaccination status, according to the CDC.

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