With an increase in COVID-19 infections in the region, seasonal influenza on the rise, and a spike in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Carissa F. Etienne, called on countries to implement the tools proven to keep communities safe, including vaccines, surveillance, mask-wearing and social distancing, particularly in the run-up to the festive period.
“The rise of a single respiratory infection is a cause for concern. When two or three start impacting a population concurrently, this should put us all on alert,” she said during a media briefing today.
Covid-19 cases have increased by 17% in the region over the past week, and deaths increased in South America and Central America. A reduction in testing may be hiding the true number of infections.
Meanwhile, influenza cases in North America are rising and an out-of-season increase in cases in the Southern Cone is also being seen, particularly in Argentina and Uruguay, which is putting unexpected stress on health systems.
RSV infections have also ramped up significantly, burdening health systems in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and the United States, and having a particular impact on children and infants under the age of one.
Dr. Etienne highlighted that the strategies used to limit the spread of Covid-19, including mask-wearing and social distancing, also apply to other respiratory diseases, including RSV, for which there is currently no vaccine.
This year, the PAHO Revolving Fund has procured 39.5 million vaccine doses against Covid-19, and 31 million influenza vaccines to Member States.
Turning to the additional outbreaks in the Americas, Dr. Etienne reported that the cholera situation in Haiti continues to worsen, with over 700 confirmed cases since early October, 7,000 suspected cases, and 144 deaths.
Monkeypox infections have fallen in most of the severely affected countries, and Dr. Etienne called on countries to continue to engage with those who are most at risk, “to drive cases to zero as quickly as possible.”