Epidemiologist Manuel Santiago questioned the results of the Casper study (Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response) of seroprevalence conducted by the Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust (Prpht) and the Puerto Rico Hurricane Hub (Prhh, both attached to the Trust for Science, Technology and Research of Puerto Rico (Fctipr) The study revealed a seroprevalence of just 2.8% for Covid-19 on the island.
Seroprevalence refers to the number of people who have been exposed to some type of virus – in this case Covid-19 – so that their organisms have been able to create an immune response to possible future infections.
“I think there are many reasons why this (the low seroprevalence) is so. You have to see what type of test was carried out, the selection of the sample … you cannot be assigning more importance than the study really has, “said the epidemiologist, before noting that he still does not know what the evaluation has been made. their peers (‘peer review’).
Last Wednesday the professor of the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), José Rodríguez Orengo, presented the finding of the study that surprised several of the researchers due to “the level of such low exposure to the virus” that the population of Puerto Rico has had.
When comparing the 2.8% seroprevalence index with the figures corresponding to the positivity index, hospitalized cases and deaths from the coronavirus, Rodríguez Orengo could not hide his surprise at the supposed low percentage of seroprevalence on the Island.
“Certainly I expected a number much higher than 9%,” said the biochemist at the time, referring to how much higher he anticipated the seroprevalence percentage to be compared to the average positivity percentage on the island.
Santiago acknowledged that if the Casper study is considered valid, it is possible to interpret that the low level of seroprevalence could be due to the fact that the general public is aware of the safety protocols – use of a mask, hand washing, avoiding crowds, etc. and puts them into practice, thus limiting the spread of the virus. Similarly, he cautioned that this is only one interpretation of several other possible interpretations.
“Covid-19 mortality is significantly lower in Puerto Rico than in all of Latin America. Is that because we have been more effective in prevention? Or are there other reasons? The point is not to assign more importance than the study could have, ”argued Santiago.
The epidemiologist contrasted the low seroprevalence index with the population mobility indices of the Google company. According to Santiago, Google Mobility Data monitors population mobility by tracking the use and movement of cell phones.
“Since the first executive order was modified (to stop the spread of the coronavirus), people here have maintained between 75% and 80% of their mobility before quarantine,” said Santiago, to raise a possible contradiction with the result of the seroprevalence study.
“But that’s the beauty of science … contradictions are revealed and studied to confirm them or not,” he said.
For his part, the president of the College of Surgeons, Víctor Ramos, said he was not surprised by the results of the study.
“In countries where there have been disasters (due to the contagion of Covid-19) the seroprevalence does not even reach 10, and that is why the vaccine is so necessary,” he said.
Both health professionals agreed that people should continue to use the mask, washing their hands frequently and avoiding meetings and crowds of people.
A pediatrician dies
On the other hand, pediatrician Edith Marrero Pesquera died yesterday morning from the coronavirus, becoming the eleventh doctor to die from the virus on the Island since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the president of the College of Surgeons, the pediatrician was in a hospital in Manatí.
Marrero Pesquera had his medical office in the Lomas Verdes urbanization, in Bayamón.
The Health Department had reported nine additional deaths from Covid-19 early yesterday, all victims over 55 years of age. These deaths occurred between December 13 and 24, according to the agency’s most recent report. With these cases and that of the pediatrician, there are already 1,433 deaths from coronavirus on the Island.
Meanwhile, the total of positive cases of Covid-19 (confirmed, probable and suspected) amounts to 122,881.