The flu season is winding down, but the germs that led to it are still stirring up troubles.
The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that it expects a “bleak” but “humanitarian” year ahead — with “severe emerging and re-emerging diseases, severe resource constraints and financial pressures,” including several typhoid outbreaks in the Middle East and ongoing war in Yemen, along with “routine high and severe vulnerability.”
Read all about it in a briefing prepared by WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Poonam Khetrapal Singh. (Last year the briefing was sent by email, a spokesman for WHO said, but that has been discontinued this year.)
This is the fourth such briefing that the United Nations health agency has released about the virus that is now causing deaths in several countries: an acute respiratory virus known as NCoV (the “non-seasonal influenza virus” is a code for the virus).
NCoV was first identified in a pigeon, or Prevotella pandemicis, and then infects humans in “clusters,” referred to as sub-populations, in different regions. New infections tend to be sporadic, occurring every few years. The first three infections appear to have been clustered in a population in southwest China, with infections from 12 to 16 clusters in that region. A 48-year-old man with underlying health conditions died from NCoV infection in Ukraine, making it the country’s first NCoV death, and the fifth globally. In Saudi Arabia, a 57-year-old man with underlying health conditions died from NCoV, as did two children.
According to the WHO, no new cases of NCoV have been reported in the United States as of Feb. 7. Five confirmed cases of NCoV have been reported in South Korea, a country that saw a severe outbreak this year. And in Hong Kong, the first human case of NCoV this year occurred, bringing the total to 13. In a previous briefing, the WHO described cases of the virus as “unique,” noting that it can travel from person to person or from person to animal.
The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released two “Vaccine Fact sheets” and two “Triggers” (other than NCoV) that people can be infected with.
These are must-reads for anyone planning on getting vaccinated, or planning to study abroad, or practicing traditional or traditional Chinese medicine.
The briefing documents also include updates on the decline of flu-related deaths in the U.S. The largest fall occurred in 2016, when nearly 18,000 people died from the virus, according to the CDC. In the 2017-2018 flu season, there were only about 1,000 deaths, including four in California. The severe flu season in 2018 can be seen in the following graph:
Read our entire briefing on the flu and NCoV, including information on secondary infections, recent vaccine usage and the location of the four countries experiencing severe outbreaks.
—Margaret-Ann Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a former deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.
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