Photo taken on March 30, 2021 shows an exterior view of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (CHEN JUNXIA / XINHUA)
COPENHAGEN / MOSCOW / LOS ANGELE – European health leaders on Thursday voiced their concern over a potential surge in respiratory virus infections across the region this winter, and called for better protection of the population, especially the most vulnerable.
As concerns over the spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increase and COVID-19 remains a threat, the 2022-2023 influenza (flu) season has gotten off to an early start in the European region, according to a joint statement issued by European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge and Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Andrea Ammon.
Those aged 55 years and older are particularly vulnerable. They have accounted for almost half of all reported influenza hospital admissions since Oct
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"The World Health Organization Europe region is currently experiencing increasing circulation of influenza and RSV. Together with COVID-19, these viruses are expected to have a high impact on our health services and populations this winter," the statement said.
It highlighted the current influenza viruses (A and B), which are rising in circulation in different parts of the region, among all age groups. Those aged 55 years and older are particularly vulnerable. They have accounted for almost half of all reported influenza hospital admissions since Oct.
Another cause for concern is the spike in RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes bronchitis or pneumonia and can be fatal, particularly in infants and the elderly. RSV cases have "also been on the rise since Oct, with some 20 countries and areas experiencing intensified RSV activity."
While case rates, hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and death rates are all currently low compared to the previous 12 months, there are concerns that "this situation could change as new variants emerge, and the disease continues to strain healthcare resources."
"With the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the circulation and health impact of other respiratory pathogens, it is challenging to predict how the new winter period will develop," the statement said.
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The leaders also recommend that clinicians consider early antiviral treatments and prophylaxis for influenza, RSV and COVID-19 for those at risk of severe disease in order to prevent severe outcomes and reduce the burden on healthcare systems.
"We cannot say it enough: vaccination saves lives. It decreases the chances of being infected and reduces the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and seasonal influenza," the document said.
Russia has registered 6,785 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 21,597,613, said the official monitoring and response center on Thursday.
The center said the nationwide death toll increased by 58 to 392,060, while the number of recoveries grew by 5,865 to 21,003,575.
COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, have surged to highest levels since summer wave, local media reported on Thursday, citing official data.
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COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates have risen dramatically through the last half of Nov in Los Angeles County, reported the Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper on US West Coast.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Los Angeles County was reporting 11.9 new coronavirus-positive patients every week for every 100,000 residents. That's a 38 percent increase from last week's rate of 8.6, according to the report.
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