Health January 12, 2024 | 2:22 pm

COVID-19 Pandemic persists with evolving virus, WHO warns

London.- Maria van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19, cautioned that the world remains in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the situation being less severe than in previous years. The ongoing evolution of the virus and continued hospitalizations underscore the persistent health risk.

In a press conference addressing the global rise in COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory diseases, Van Kerkhove highlighted that while death rates have drastically decreased from peak levels, approximately 10,000 deaths are still occurring monthly based on data from fifty countries. The United States accounted for half of the deaths reported last month, raising concerns about underreporting in various regions.

Wastewater analysis suggests that the actual spread of the coronavirus could be significantly higher than reported figures, potentially 2 to 19 times greater. The recent holiday season saw an increase in communicable respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, flu, RSV viruses, and other seasonal pathogens.

The WHO noted a recent 42% rise in hospitalizations and a 62% increase in ICU admissions due to COVID-19, although these figures are based on incomplete data from only about twenty countries. Van Kerkhove emphasized that while the current situation doesn’t match the peak crisis levels of the pandemic, COVID-19 remains a global health threat and continues to cause avoidable problems.

The issue of “long COVID” was also addressed, with approximately 6% of patients experiencing multi-organ symptoms lasting months or years post-recovery. Van Kerkhove expressed concern about potential long-term heart, lung, or neurological problems emerging in the future.

Acknowledging a sense of complacency four years into the pandemic, Van Kerkhove pointed out the significant mental health impacts of COVID-19 on those directly affected and those who lost loved ones. She reiterated WHO’s recommendations for vaccinations, including booster doses for older individuals, health workers, and vulnerable groups every six to twelve months.

Additionally, the use of masks is advised in healthcare settings and by sick individuals to reduce the spread of respiratory diseases.

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