When there was talk of a serious epidemic in China in the news at the beginning of 2020, nobody could have guessed how lastingly SARS-Cov-2 would change the whole world. Since then, the corona virus, which can cause serious lung diseases, has determined large parts of people's public and private lives.Instead of soccer results, incidence values, case numbers and ct values are topic number 1. In the meantime, the virus has disappeared from the focus of public perception; Thanks to hygiene rules, tests and vaccines, the danger has largely been averted. But scientists are certain: the corona virus will be with us for a long time.
What is Corona and what are the symptoms?
SARS-Cov-2, or Covid or Corona for short, belongs to the group of corona viruses. Infection with this virus can cause respiratory diseases with different symptoms, ranging from a simple cold or flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia.
After surviving an acute infection, some of those affected report the after-effects: The so-called long Covid syndrome causes constant exhaustion, headaches and a reduction in athletic performance - even simply climbing stairs becomes a feat of strength.
There is not just one coronavirus variant: the alpha, beta, gamma and delta mutations are known. Some variants are more contagious than the original SARS-Cov-2 and cause more severe disease progression. Scientists are constantly observing new mutations in the coronavirus.
How is the coronavirus tested?
In order to be able to reliably prove an infection with the coronavirus, a PCR test is carried out. A sample (nose or throat swab or mouthwash) is evaluated in the laboratory. The sample is processed in the laboratory to isolate and thus detect genetic material of the virus (RNA).
The rapid antigen test is also carried out using a sample from the nose or throat area. The rapid antigen test, as the name suggests, provides a result after only about 15 minutes. Although this type of test is less time-consuming, it has a higher error rate than PCR tests. The quality of the test material and proper sampling are of great importance for the results of the antigen rapid test.
There are no general figures on how reliable such a rapid antigen test is. Cologne researchers from Cologne will already have 17 global studies with more than 6.000 children and eight rapid antigen tests analyzed. The result: 35.8 percent of the tests were false negatives – so more than a third of the infections in the children tested remained undetected. The rate for a true positive was 99.1 percent. The studies came from the USA, Spain and Germany. The tests performed poorly in infected children who showed no symptoms: the result was correct for only 56.2 percent.
Another type of test for Corona is the antibody test using a blood sample. A prick of the finger is enough to determine the concentration of corona antibodies with a little capillary blood. If a certain number of corona antibodies can be detected in the blood, it can be assumed that the person has already been in contact with SARS-Cov-2. This type of test can be carried out if you want to know how well the immune system will react to a potential corona infection or if the vaccination protection is still there. However, experts agree: The test result does not provide any guaranteed statement about how strong or weak the symptoms of a possible corona disease will really be. Because to this day it is not known how high the antibody concentration must be in order to speak of reliable protection.
How dangerous is the corona virus today?
The development of the various vaccines against the coronavirus was remarkably fast compared to other vaccines: within a year of the first corona infections appearing in December 2019, several vaccines were developed and vaccinated worldwide. According to the RKI, on 12 March 2023 the vaccination rate of the fully vaccinated in Germany was 76.4 percent, which corresponds to a number of 64.873.equates to 659 people.
This relatively rapid development is mainly due to the acute threat posed by the virus: close cooperation between pharmaceutical companies, science and governments as well as more funding for research and development were consequences of the high prioritization. Numerous medical studies ensured a good evidence base to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Today you hardly hear anything about the topic of Corona. So how dangerous is the virus today? The constantly new corona mutations require further research and development to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccines. There is no 100% guarantee that a vaccination will protect against a severe course of infection.
The coronavirus also remains dangerous for people who have previous respiratory diseases or a weakened immune system, as well as for older people. Retirement and nursing homes and hospitals are still among the vulnerable groups and areas that can be protected by tests.
Carnival first, then Corona
It has been emphasized again and again that vaccinations can protect against severe corona courses, but not against the infection itself. The fact that crowds of people are still an incidence driver can be seen from the figures from the RKI, which were published after the last carnival session. In short: where many people were celebrating, the corona numbers skyrocketed a few days later. An increase in the incidence values can be observed in "regions with stronger carnival activities", according to the RKI weekly report at the beginning of March 2023.
Accordingly, a nationwide increase in incidence continued at a low level in the first week of March: it was estimated at plus 14 percent compared to the week before. However, the values rose particularly sharply in Rhineland-Palatinate (36 percent), North Rhine-Westphalia (35 percent) and Saarland (34 percent) as well as in the 20 to 29 age group - all federal states that are known for their carnival strongholds. This information only relates to laboratory-confirmed corona cases. The authorities therefore assume a much higher number of unreported cases.
General information about testing | Together against Corona COVID-19 rapid tests: study shows high error rate in children | National Geographic What do Covid-19 antibody tests do? | Apotheken Umschau (apotheken-umschau.en) More infections registered: First Carnival, then Corona | daily News.en