PAHO Director Highlights Triple Threat of Illness as Holidays Approach


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With an increase in COVID-19 infections in the region, seasonal influenza on the rise, and a spike in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne, called on countries to implement proven tools to keep communities safe, including vaccines, surveillance, mask-wearing and social distancing, especially as the holiday season approaches.

“The rise of a single respiratory infection is concerning. When two or three start to impact a population simultaneously, that should put us all on high alert,” she told a news conference today.

COVID-19 cases have increased by 17% in the region over the past week, and deaths have increased in South and Central America. A reduction in testing may hide the true number of infections.

“The situation can change quickly,” she warned. “Every time we become complacent with this virus, we run the risk of resurgence. We cannot let our guard down.

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Meanwhile, flu cases in North America are on the rise, and an off-season increase in cases in the Southern Cone is also being seen, particularly in Argentina and Uruguay, putting unexpected pressure on healthcare systems.

RSV infections have also increased significantly, straining healthcare systems in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and the United States, and particularly impacting children and infants under the age of one. year.

Dr. Etienne stressed that the strategies used to limit the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask and social distancing, also apply to other respiratory diseases, including RSV, for which there is no currently no vaccine.

Countries should also strengthen genomic disease surveillance and continue to encourage vaccination against COVID-19 and influenza.

This year, the PAHO Revolving Fund provided 39.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 31 million influenza vaccines to Member States.

“We have enough vaccines to keep us all safe. Let’s use them,” the director urged.

Regarding additional outbreaks in the Americas, Dr. Etienne reported that the cholera situation in Haiti continues to worsen, with more than 700 confirmed cases since early October, 7,000 suspected cases and 144 deaths.

PAHO continues to help Haiti provide life-saving care to patients, deploy health workers, and facilitate access to fuel for health facilities, but other countries must be extra vigilant, urged the Director.

Monkeypox infections have declined in most severely affected countries, and Dr Etienne called on countries to continue to engage with those most at risk, “to reduce cases to zero as quickly as possible”.

Regarding poliomyelitis, the PAHO director reported no further cases in the region, although vaccination remains “historically low”.

“We must remember that polio spreads silently and has no cure or treatment,” she said. “Vaccines are our best tool to prevent this disease.”

As we head into the holiday season and travel to visit family and friends, people need to stay alert to all of these health threats and learn from the lessons of COVID-19, said the Dr. Etienne:

“We have the tools at our disposal to limit the impact of severe respiratory disease, and we must continue to respond to these crises as a region.

“Let’s not take these lessons for granted.”

THE SOURCE: Pan American Health Organization/SLT

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