The number of hospitalized patients in Brazil with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in recent weeks has increased exponentially, coinciding with the arrival of the new coronavirus in Brazil, according to a survey carried out by Fiocruz’s InfoGripe system.
In the last week alone, between March 15th and 21st, about 2,250 cases of people hospitalized with symptoms of a strong flu syndrome were estimated in the system – in addition to fever, cough, and other symptoms, they have difficulty breathing. Most were in São Paulo – 1,218. Last year, for example, in the same period, there were 934 cases across the country. The value considered to be optimal is 250 to 300 cases in that period. What we see now is an activity considered “very high”.
The growth of cases has been occurring since February. In the week that the first coronavirus case was officially identified in Brazil, on February 25, there were about 660 people hospitalized for SRAG.
InfoGripe monitors all notifications of this type of problem in Brazil, based on data from the Health Surveillance Secretariat of the Ministry of Health and from public and private state networks. In general, he observes the peak of cases, of very high intensity, only in May, when the temperature is lower.
The number of patients hospitalized for SARS in February and March, however, is already four times higher than during the entire seasonal influenza period last year. “The increase observed in the last two weeks is partly due to the arrival of the new coronavirus, as the growth was much greater than what had been happening until then”, says researcher Marcelo Gomes, a public health researcher at the Computer Program Scientist at Fiocruz and coordinator of InfoGripe.
He explains, however, that this does not necessarily mean that all cases of hospitalization are caused by the new coronavirus. SRAG is a definition that takes diseases also caused by other viruses, such as influenza and other known coronaviruses. Coronavirus cases in Brazil have only been known, in most situations, after patients with SARS are hospitalized. It will only be known what led to this large number of hospitalizations when all these people are tested.
According to Gomes, since the beginning of the year the volume of cases was a little higher than usual, probably due to some other virus that was circulating in the country. “But the recent change in the speed of growth suggests something new. As it coincides with the growth of confirmed cases of covid-19 and the confirmation of community transmission, there is a great chance that a good part of these cases is due to the new virus, which added to this upward trend ”, he says.
System estimates are made based on the official number of reported cases, taking into account the typical delay between hospitalization and registration in the system. InfoGripe was created in 2014 to help federal and state governments in monitoring these diseases in the country. Such notifications have been made since 2009 in response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.