As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, experts warn that emerging viruses are inevitable in the coming years and that better surveillance is needed to stay ahead of potential new pathogens.
The recent emergence of monkeypox has researchers scrambling to learn how the rare infectious virus spreads in countries, including Canada, that you don’t usually see.
Meanwhile, cases of severe acute hepatitis in children have raised concerns in many countries.
The World Health Organization has warned that outbreaks of diseases such as monkeypox are becoming more frequent
“Emerging infectious diseases can always strike us,” said Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
“We have to be as prepared as possible, which means strengthening global public health capacity,” she said during a news conference on Friday.
Experts say climate change and increased interaction between humans and wildlife are contributing factors when it comes to the emergence of viruses, which are “largely man-made”.
This is why outbreaks of endemic diseases are becoming more persistent and frequent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tam confirmed that 58 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Canada
Animals and humans are changing their behaviour, including foraging habits, to adapt to rapidly changing weather conditions linked to climate change, Mike Ryan, emergency director at the World Health Organization, said during a news conference on Wednesday.
As a result, he said, diseases that normally circulate in animals are increasingly jumping to humans.
“Unfortunately, this ability to amplify and transmit this disease is increasing within our communities, so the emergence and amplification factors for disease have increased.”
Study: Climate change may increase risk of new infectious disease spreading across species
Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease expert at the University of British Columbia, explained that warm air and water make it easier for viruses and bacteria to thrive and multiply.
It’s a “troubled situation” that has come to the fore due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Donald Finh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at McGill University Health Center (MUHC).
“We are in a fragile equilibrium with our environment,” Vinh told Global News. “Unfortunately, if we do not respect our environment, the environment will present us with mistakes that we are not prepared for.”
Mysterious cases of hepatitis in children have been reported in Canada
Is there any link to COVID?
An exhausted global population two years after COVID-19 has had to grapple with news of the arrival of monkeypox, although experts don’t believe the recent outbreak will turn into another pandemic.
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While both are infectious diseases, Bach said the spread of monkeypox is not linked to global transmission of COVID-19.
Monkeypox outbreak: Canada now has 77 confirmed cases
“It’s a completely different virus, so it’s not from the same family (like COVID),” he said.
Experts describe monkeypox, which is endemic to at least 10 African countries, as a “neglected disease” for which not enough research has been done or drugs have been developed to treat it.
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While investigations are still ongoing, the “sudden and unexpected simultaneous appearance of monkeypox in several non-endemic countries suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for some unknown time, followed by amplifier events,” the World Health Organization said in Saturday’s update. Last”.
For severe acute hepatitis in children, some studies have indicated a possible link to COVID-19 infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says adenovirus infection, a common childhood virus, is the main hypothesis for recent cases.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and adenovirus have both been detected in a number of cases.
However, the exact role of these viruses in causing acute hepatitis is not yet clear, according to the World Health Organization.
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Meanwhile, COVID-19 restrictions and strict lockdowns have altered infection cycles for other viruses such as influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), said Dr. Anna Banerjee, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto. .
This is because newborns and infants have not been exposed to routine childhood illnesses, such as cold viruses, either through the mother in the womb or their older siblings.
“A lot of viruses have changed their seasons, but also some viruses are more dangerous because babies were not exposed to them through their mother’s antibodies,” Banerjee told Global News.
Global response and monitoring
To better respond to future disease outbreaks, experts say better surveillance, global collaboration and health capacity building are needed.
“Bringing each country to a reasonable level is really important,” Tam said, adding that there are “definitely loopholes.”
48 cases of norovirus, celiac-associated gastrointestinal disease across Canada: PHAC
Vinh agreed, saying the global response must be fair and come early before the disease breaks out and spreads to different parts of the world.
“We need to actively research and look for potential new pathogens that are coming in so that they really emerge and become a problem, we will really have solutions within reach,” he said.
“It’s not when the infection is spreading in your community that you start studying the insect, it’s long before that.”
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— With files from Reuters, the Canadian Press, and the Associated Press
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