Seasonal cough and fever will put a strain on COVID-19 testing facilities

Global pandemic of COVID-19 didn’t make all the other diseases disappear. And as the cold season approaches, more and more people will experience cough, fever and flu. Scientists from the UCL and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine say that this is going to be quite a problem in the face of the second COVID-19 wave.

Increase in flu and other cold season diseases will put a huge strain on COVID-19 testing sites. Image credit: mcfarlandmo via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Scientists took a deeper look into cough and fever cases in 2018-2019 when COVID-19 was not threatening us that much (this disease emerged as a global problem just at the end of 2019). They gathered 873 participants and analysed data collected over 23,111 person-weeks. This research revealed that high incidence of cough and fever between October 2020 and February 2021 will become a huge problem for COVID-19 testing sites across the United Kingdom. But why?

Scientists predict that cases of coughs and fevers would rise to 444,660 a day by December. Many of these cases will require testing, despite the fact that these health problems will be related to seasonal cold rather than COVID-19. The issue here is that the most common COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to those of the common cold and flu. This means that people experiencing seasonal coughs and fevers are likely to consider the possibility that they have contracted COVID-19. They will contact healthcare centres and, most likely, will be advised to visit a COVID-19 testing facility. Combine that with the second wave of COVID-19 and you can see how quickly the capacity of these testing facilities may be exhausted.

Max Eyre, first author of the study, said: “Prompt identification of cases is critical for effective contact tracing and it is imperative that the UK’s testing capacity is scaled up immediately to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to respond to this predicted rise in testing demand and ensure that detection of COVID-19 cases is not compromised.”

Part of the problem is going to be that many people may refuse to get tested. This is because they will be informed that they will have to wait for results for longer, which is really discouraging for many. Scientists say that if 80% of people predicted to have coughs and fevers requested COVID-19 test, demand would exceed current capacity for five consecutive months in the UK. 

COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. And we will have to learn to live with it. Control measures will have to be adapted to other healthcare processes so that people suffering from flu would be separated from those with COVID-19. Something also has to be done to keep COVID-19 testing sites working efficiently during times like this.


Source: UCL

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