The World Health Organization (WHO) is on high alert, closely monitoring several strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the pathogen responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization's vigilance is a stark reminder of the persistent threat of the virus, despite a decline in case numbers and deaths in some regions of the world. The statement, "The virus has not disappeared. It is changing and killing", underscores this ongoing menace.
Emerging Variants and Global Concern
The capacity of the virus to mutate and potentially spawn variants with different characteristics, such as increased transmissibility, evasion of immune protection, or altered disease severity, is a cause for global concern. The recent emergence of the BA.2.86 variant, causing nearly one in ten new COVID-19 cases in the U.S, and the classification of the Omicron subvariant Eris, or EG.5.1, as a variant of interest by the U.K, are cases in point. The WHO's continuous surveillance aims to detect these changes promptly to inform public health responses.
Updating Vaccines and Treatments
Keeping pace with the ever-changing face of the virus, the WHO is also focused on updating vaccines or treatments as necessary. In this context, the recent grant of Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the WHO to Novavax Inc's Nuvaxovid XBB 1 5 COVID-19 Vaccine NVX CoV2601 for individuals aged 12 and older is a significant development.
Emphasis on Vaccination and Public Health Measures
The emergence and circulation of SARS-CoV-2 variants underscore the importance of ongoing research, vaccination efforts, and adherence to public health measures. A study from Israel highlights this, revealing that adult solid cancer patients had a higher risk of death and hospitalization after COVID-19 infection than infected patients without cancer during a period of Omicron variant predominance. Simultaneously, it was found that vaccination lowered this risk.
In conclusion, the WHO's relentless vigilance and the global scientific community's continued efforts in research and vaccination are crucial in mitigating the impact of the ever-evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus.