Lockdown in Germany caused other infectious disease cases to plummet
The spread of coronavirus in Germany saw society fundamentally change, as tough restrictions were put in place to try to curb the spread of the virus. But these tough measures weren't just effective at combating COVID-19 - they also led to a decrease in the transmission of other infectious diseases.
Effective lockdown measures
A study by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has revealed that the number of infections caused other diseases decreased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to previous years. The RKI analysed data regarding other infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, salmonella and hepatitis E, and found that, from March to August, around 140.000 cases were reported. This corresponds to a 35 percent decrease in what was expected, based on data from previous years.
According to the study, infections from gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases fell significantly, while the rate of sexually transmitted diseases also decreased, albeit less sharply. While there is no one specific reason for this, the restrictions put in place to curb the pandemic certainly had a big impact.
The transmission of pathogens would have been severely limited with the contact restrictions put in place, for example with offices, schools and childcare centres closing, as well as through social distancing and increased hygiene awareness.
The decline of infectious diseases
The study shows that the decline in infections was noticeable across all age groups. However, the most significant decline was in children aged 14 and younger, as well as seniors over the age of 80. The study also showed that diseases like chickenpox and whooping cough were down by more than half of what was expected. The number of influenza cases also decreased, with only 300 cases being reported nationwide since the beginning of autumn; last year there were more than 5.000 cases.
The number of measles infections is down by about 85 percent. However, scientists have cautioned that strong annual fluctuations are common with measles and that even at the beginning of the year the numbers were low. The only disease which increased in prevalence after March was tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).
Other reasons for the decline
Sonia Boender, who works at the Surveillance Department at the RKI, suggests that another reason for the decline of infectious diseases is restrictions on travel. Since flights to most countries were restricted for the bulk of 202 and many Germans could not go on holiday last year, fewer instances of diseases such as dengue fever and malaria have been reported.
It has been suggested that many people might have also avoided going to the doctor, so the number of recorded infections is potentially lower than the real number. The fear of overloading of the healthcare system and the strong focus on coronavirus have been identified as potential reasons why people are avoiding hospitals and doctors' waiting rooms, as well as the threat of catching the ever-present virus from these places.