Respiratory viruses rising in Europe: WHO official

(Xinhua) 11:05, January 17, 2024

COPENHAGEN, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- A leading World Health Organization (WHO) official on Tuesday called for vigilance in the face of rising cases of respiratory diseases in Europe.

Meanwhile, Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO's regional director for Europe, underlined the critical success of COVID-19 vaccines since their introduction in December 2020.

"A new study led by WHO Europe has found that at least 1.4 million lives in our region were saved thanks to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines," said the WHO official during a press conference in Copenhagen.

The vaccines have been particularly effective for those over 60, who accounted for more than 90 percent of lives saved, according to the WHO study.

Since the vaccine rollout began in December 2020, there has been a 57 percent reduction in COVID-19 deaths across the WHO European Region, with the first booster doses alone saving an estimated 700,000 lives.

Nevertheless, Kluge expressed concern over the rapid spread of COVID-19 JN.1 variant, which has become the dominant strain.

Despite a lack of evidence suggesting increased severity, the variant's unpredictability requires continuous monitoring, Kluge said.

"Thirteen countries in our region did not report any data on respiratory viruses last week. Surveillance remains our first line of defense to monitor unpredictable respiratory pathogens, be it mutations or new viruses," he emphasized.

Kluge also noted a recent surge in influenza infections and hospitalizations, urging health systems to prepare for a likely increase in cases in the coming weeks. Vulnerable populations must be kept up-to-date with their COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations, he stressed.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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