Rising COVID levels in Europe especially affect seniors

Older man lying down checking his temperature
Older man lying down checking his temperature

lakshmiprasad S / iStock

COVID activity continued to rise in many European countries last week, up 14% compared to the previous week, in people ages 65 and older, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today in a regular update.

In the United States, COVID indicators continue to fall, with the BA.5 Omicron variant still dominant, but newer subvariants are slowly making more of a mark.

Europe's seniors account for most new hospitalizations

The pooled rate in Europe for all age-groups has been rising for the past 3 weeks, and the impact on seniors is leading to rising hospital indicators.

However, deaths—often a lagging indicator—continue to fall, and the ECDC noted that deaths declined 10% last week compared to the week before. The agency said forecasts predict that deaths will start showing an increasing trend in the middle of October.

The ECDC said the rise in cases is likely due to changes in population mixing following the summer break, with no indication that the rise is linked to changes in circulating SAR-CoV-2 variants.

Similarly, the United Kingdom's Health Security Agency (HSA) yesterday said most COVID indicators rose last week, with hospital admissions still highest in people ages 85 and older.

Susan Hopkins, MBBCh, the HSA's chief medical officer, said the further increases are concerning, with hospitalization rates at their highest levels in months. "Outbreaks in hospitals and care homes are also on the rise," she said.

Denmark's cases rose last week in all five of its regions, the Statens Serum Institut said yesterday in an update. Hospitalizations are also rising, with people ages 70 to 89 making up the largest proportion of new COVID admissions. However, officials added that intensive care unit (ICU) admissions remain very low. Deaths are also rising, but there is no excess mortality in the population.

Small shifts continue with US Omicron subvariants

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its latest variant proportion updates said the percentage of BA.5 continues to decline slowly, as newer Omicron subvariants erode a bit of its dominance. The BA.5 proportion dropped from 81.5% to 79.2% of sequenced samples. Meanwhile, the BF.7 subvariant rose from 3.3% to 4.6%, BA.2.72 rose from 1.5% to a share of 1.8%, and BA.4.6 rising slightly from 12.7% to 13.6%.

The 7-day average for new daily cases was at 43,692 yesterday, the CDC said yesterday, down from a 7-day average of 47,112 reported a week ago. Hospitalizations and deaths also continued downward trends.

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, from April through July, US COVID deaths increased for all ages, but rose faster for older adults and stayed high through August. Deaths fell slightly in September, but remained at a higher level than for April and May.

So far, 11.5 million people have received the updated COVID booster, up from 7.5 million the previous week.

In other US developments, a new Pew Research Center survey this week revealed mixed reviews from the public about US health officials' response to COVID. In one of the main findings, 51% said the CDC and other groups did a good job communicating, but 49% gave officials fair or poor marks. Many respondents, however, said interference from elected officials hampers public health officials' response.

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