World Health Organization officials said Thursday that COVID-19 is far from a pandemic and could cause “major epidemics.”
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“We are still in the middle of this pandemic, and we all wish it weren’t, but we are not in an endemic stage,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s coronavirus response officer.
During a question and answer session on social media, she announced that she herself had contracted the virus, and is in quarantine in the United States.
From Geneva, Michael Ryan, director of emergencies at the World Health Organization, added: “I don’t think we are close to an endemic situation with this virus.”
“It has not yet fully followed a temporal rhythm or a seasonal pattern (…) and therefore the disease remains quite volatile,” he said during the session.
“It still has the potential to cause major epidemics as we’ve seen, even among populations that have been exposed before,” he said.
Mr. Ryan stressed that when the disease becomes endemic, it does not mean that the disease is not serious.
“Tuberculosis is endemic, and malaria is endemic…it kills millions every year. Please do not take endemic to mean ‘it’s over’ and ‘it’s benign,’” he insisted.
Listen to Genevieve Petersen’s interview with Benoit Barbeau, virologist and professor of biological sciences at UQAM, on QUB Radio:
He also said that once some diseases become, over time, epidemic, they tend to become childhood diseases, such as measles and diphtheria.
But if vaccination levels are going down in the population – as with measles, “we see epidemics starting again because population protection levels are going down,” the WHO official noted.
The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee on COVID-19 was unanimous this week, saying this was not “the time to let our guard down.” Therefore, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus maintained a public health emergency of international concern for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest level of preparedness for the World Health Organization.
According to the latest weekly report on the epidemiological situation released by the World Health Organization on Tuesday, the number of coronavirus cases continued to decline for the third consecutive week. The number of deaths also decreased compared to the previous week.
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