On June 15th 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a media briefing on COVID-19. Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that although it took more than two months for the first 100 cases of COVID-19 to be reported globally, that more than 100 thousand new cases of COVID-19 have been reported every single day for the past two weeks.
Apart from the response to the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases, Dr. Tedros Adhanom said that it was important not to lose sight of other public health issues such as influenza, as they may further increase the transmission of COVID-19
According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom, “Despite the on-going global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of other significant public health issues including influenza. Influenza affects every country every year and takes its own deadly toll. As we enter the southern hemisphere season and begin planning for the northern hemisphere season, we must ensure that influenza remains a top priority. Co-circulation of COVID-19 and influenza can worsen the impact on healthcare systems that are already overwhelmed.”
However, Dr. Tedros indicated that there has been either a decrease or suspension of influenza surveillance in many countries along with a sharp decline of influenza and virus information due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to prevent more severe cases of influenza, the WHO has published guidance on how to integrate influenza surveillance with COVID-19 surveillance.
Dr. Tedros stated, “Dr. Tedros stated, “WHO has published guidance on how to integrate surveillance for COVID-19 into routine influenza surveillance as an efficient way to track both of these important respiratory viruses. This is not only cost effective, its also essential for protecting the world against the next flu season. The southern hemisphere flu season is already underway. There is no time to lose.”
From the 21st to 24th September 2020, the World Health Organization will host a Consultation and Information meeting on the composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2021 Southern hemisphere Influenza season.
By Allen Alexander