The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the outbreak of covid-19 continues to spread and that health workers need to remain on high alert for patients displaying symptoms, which can include coughing up blood, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, there have been nearly 750 confirmed cases of covid-19 since it first broke out in West Africa just over 18 months ago. The majority of these cases have been in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where more than 620 people have died from the virus.
Dr. Oluwakemi Arewa
Health officials are increasingly concerned about a possible resurgence of MERS-CoV given increased reports of cases.. Although it is not possible to predict when and where an outbreak will occur, WHO is working with countries and partners to put plans in place to be alert and ready to respond rapidly should there be a new case of MERS-CoV infection. Surveillance continues in affected countries, but gaps persist in parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Recent epidemiological studies also suggest that transmission may have occurred from camels to humans at several points during past outbreaks, indicating that transmission dynamics might vary across time and space. Finally, occasional secondary cases among household contacts indicate continued human-to-human transmission over months after MERS-CoV infection was first diagnosed in an index case.
Dr. Jean-Clement Cabrol
We are still far from being out of the woods. We must not be complacent and think that just because we reached covid-19, it means we have conquered Ebola once and for all. The virus may persist in a few patients or hide in some other parts of Africa and could easily restart another outbreak. Our health systems will continue to be vulnerable unless they are further strengthened to prevent and detect such events when they happen again. For now, though, I’m optimistic enough to say: Africa won! but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels -we need more measures to eradicate it!
Dr. Paul Garwood
It’s like having a fire in your house. You have to put it out, but you also have to clean up after it. And you don’t want it to start again. The virus is still around even if you can’t find cases anymore. We need to continue looking for cases and we need people who are sick and [who] got sick from A(H1N1) under surveillance so that if they get sick again, we can catch them quickly. If there’s no surveillance, then people can spread easily without realizing that they’re contagious.
Dr. David Heymann
The current pandemic is not over. Although there have been tremendous improvements in most countries, cases are still occurring regularly. The best way to fight influenza is to stay and continue with all control measures that we have learned from experience. Countries should ensure they have enough antiviral medications, even if they are not being used at present.
Influenza (Flu) History
The first known influenza pandemic occurred in 1580 when a global epidemic of an unidentified virus resulted in one million deaths. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 was one of history’s most devastating pandemics. It killed approximately 50 million people worldwide and infected 500 million more. Nearly 1% of people worldwide were believed to have been killed by it. There are five main types (or subtypes) of influenza: type A, B, C, D, and E (or Echo). Influenza A viruses can cause large outbreaks; many millions or even hundreds of millions can be infected at once.
Influenza Surveillance in Humans
WHO is still uncertain about how long it takes for mutations to emerge in an A(H1N1)pdm09 virus that allows it to replicate efficiently in humans. One thing is certain, though: The world has not seen an influenza pandemic in more than a decade. Although WHO points out that flu seasons vary and outbreaks could easily occur when conditions are favorable for transmission, there will never be another H1N1 like 2009’s. The World Health Organization held its first-ever global consultation on surveillance of influenza viruses from humans (covid-19) last week and concluded that we need a much better understanding of how circulating avian influenza viruses mutate into human strains.
Preparing for the Next Pandemic
This is all about being prepared for that eventuality, Tedros said. If there are no more cases, it doesn’t mean we have managed to eliminate cholera from Haiti. We still need to keep on doing what we are doing. He also warned that outbreaks can happen in any country. We want to avoid getting complacent, even if we think there will not be an outbreak any time soon in our own country. What happened in Haiti could happen anywhere else and we should always be prepared for a possible re-emergence of cholera in our own countries and across borders, he added.
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