WHO leader says Covid is “still a Pandemic”

It is still a pandemic causing far too many reinfections, hospitalizations, deaths, and long covid when tools exist to prevent them. Another year has passed where covid has been part of our reality. While the United States remains in a federal public-health emergency free zone, a leader at the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concerns about where the world stands at this stage in the pandemic.

Covid is still a global health threat. Cases and hospitalizations for covid have been on the rise for months. Hospitals in many countries are burdened and overwhelmed from covid and other pathogens, and deaths are on the rise. The world has gone through something traumatic, governments and individuals can not give in to complacency. Too many think covid is not something to worry about, that they need a new variant with a Greek letter to take this virus seriously.

When we need to assign a Greek letter, we will not hesitate. The message comes as JN.1, a virus variant in the Pirola clan, is now the most dominant strain in the United States, according to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Deaths and hospitalizations from covid are also on the rise across the country and other parts of the world.

The covid pandemic is still ongoing.

People died alone and people are dying now, thousands each week. Hundreds of thousands of people in hospital right now fighting for their lives. Those suffering from long covid struggling each and every day. Marian Van Kerkhove, M.D., who led the WHO’s response to the virus, wrote on X over the weekend that she was worried about the current state of the global outbreak heading into the fifth year since the virus’ eruption.

Van Kerkhove is an American infectious disease epidemiologist with a background in high-threat pathogens. She specializes in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and is based in the Health Emergencies Program at the WHO. She specifically highlights the JN.1 variant, a strain increasing in prevalence that is believed to be more contagious than previous versions of the virus.

However, it is not believed to cause a more serious infection than other strains. According to the CDC, JN.1 made up 44% of cases during the week that ended on December 23. It is the most widely circulating variant, increasing from 21.3% a week earlier and overtaking the HV.1 strain. The CDC also reports a 10% increase in deaths caused by the virus during the week that ended just before Christmas.

Covid is still a worry as the global fight against the virus enters a new phase, the WHO has warned.

This condition develops for some people infected by the virus, often leading to months of debilitating symptoms. We are certainly in a different phase now. It is marked by reduced impact compared to the peak of covid a few years ago. Van Kerkhove called on governments to remember the tragedies of the early days of the pandemic, and the ongoing crisis facing many people.

The virus is still evolving. We are entering the 5th year of the pandemic. The variant JN.1 is becoming dominant. This was recently marked as a variant of interest by the WHO. The covid pandemic was not normal. It did not have to be this bad, and this was not even the worst pandemic we need to prepare for. So let us talk the positive and the future because, while Van Kerkhove is worried, she is also hopeful and optimistic.

Van Kerkhove expressed gratitude to healthcare workers and scientists, highlighting the dramatic difference vaccines made to the pandemic. These advancements must be maintained to deal with covid and all pathogens that have epidemic and pandemic potential, including the flu and other contagious diseases.