The media reports a new line of coronavirus with an unprecedented lethality called “Iota” (Iota). According to published data, “Iota” kills 82% of infected people from older age groups. Panic is brewing among the population — there has never been a strain with such a high mortality rate before.
In fact, the line of strains of the new coronavirus “Iota” is absolutely not new. It was allocated back in November 2020 in the United States and was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the list of “of interest.”
Another list is “causing concern,” but “Iota” did not get into it, which is already good news. Today, the “Iota” variant has been found in at least 27 countries.
Iota attracted unexpected attention to itself, thanks to new scientific work published on the website medrxiv.org. The team of scientists aimed to study the epidemiological properties of variant B.1.526 (Iota) because due to the lack of extensive genomic sequencing and contact tracking data, its key characteristics were not known.
Scientists based on available scientific publications conducted a comprehensive simulation to assess contagiousness and mortality. They concluded that the “Iota” line could increase the mortality rate from COVID-19 by 62-82% among the elderly compared with the original Wuhan version of the coronavirus.
Most of all, “Iota” turned out to be similar to the “Alpha” variant (according to the WHO classification, it is on the list of causes of concern). At the same time, there is reason to believe that “Iota” should spread faster and be more resistant to the immune defense of those who have been ill with the Wuhan strain.
Nevertheless, an epidemiological study using data on individual patients from January 1 to April 5, 2021, showed no increase in the frequency of secondary infection among contacts of patients with “Iota.”
The same study demonstrated that, most likely, the B.1.526 line does not increase the risk of hospitalization or death, as well as a breakthrough in reducing the effectiveness of vaccination. Scientists summarize that new variants of SARS-CoV-2 can increase the lethality of the virus; its ability to bypass the immunity developed for other strains, and increase the severity of the disease. Therefore, it is necessary to continue monitoring the strains.
Where, then, did the information about the new super lethal “Iota” appear in the media? As the experts explained, this horror story is nothing more than translation difficulties.
“Iota,” apparently, really has an increased lethality, but, of course, it is not 82%. The English-language publication indicates an increase in mortality “by 62-82%,” and not “up to 62-82%”. However, information about the unprecedented high mortality rate resulting from infection with this strain has spread through the networks and in the media. The article on medRxiv, which started all the fuss, is just a retrospective analysis of the situation in New York from October to April. It’s just that one of the journalists caught a glimpse of the creepy “82% lethality” – and it started. Although the article itself only says that with the Iota variant, the mortality rate in the age group of 65-74 years presumably increases by 82%. It is not 1%, as for the “wild option,” but 1.9%. In addition, now almost everywhere, the more contagious “Delta” has successfully replaced the” Iota.” And do not forget that WHO characterizes “Iota” as an option of interest and not at all a concern.
From the preprint of the article published in medRxiv by American authors, all the details become clear. The Iota variant is now the predominant strain in New York and, as previously thought, does not increase the frequency of hospitalization or death, reduces the sensitivity to vaccination, and does not increase the frequency of repeated infections.
Actually, the new article refutes these conclusions based on certain mathematical models. Iota does increase mortality in patients over 45 years of age – by 46% at the age of 45-64 years, by 82% (65-74 years), and 62% (75 years and older). In reality, there may be less and more; this is just an average figure. The transmissivity (contagiousness) of this strain can be 15-25% higher than that of other strains circulating in New York. The probability of getting sick again is 0-10% higher (that is, perhaps not higher than getting infected again with other strains). The Iota option does not pose any global threat yet.”
Meanwhile, unfortunately, it is impossible to say such a thing about Delta.
The Oxford vaccine development group director, Professor Andrew Pollard, made an official statement that the Delta coronavirus line makes it impossible for the population to form collective immunity. According to him, those who have not been vaccinated will sooner or later encounter the virus; there is no means to stop its transmission completely. At the same time, he noted that there are no reasons for panic at the moment since the existing vaccines, although they do not save from infection, are very effective means of protection against the severe course of COVID-19. A recent study by Imperial College London suggests that fully vaccinated people aged 18-64 years are 49 percent less at risk of contracting coronavirus than unvaccinated people.