• COVID-19 has moved from pandemic to endemic status, with Omicron remaining a dominant strain • In many countries, the number of Monkeypox cases has decreased, but UAE authorities continue to monitor developments closely • Preparedness in public health is key as we move forward, says H.E. Dr Al Hosani
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 February 2023: Monkeypox and COVID-19 topped the agenda at the Immunology conference at Medlab Middle East, with both viruses discussed by a range of experts, including H.E. Dr Farida Al Hosani, Executive Director of Infectious Diseases Sector, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC).
One of the Middle East’s most highly regarded immunology experts and an official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, H.E. Dr Farida Al Hosani, said: “From the middle of 2022, there has been a significant decline in the number of cases of COVID-19. However, this may not be a true drop. As governments worldwide have worked to normalise the virus, this has resulted in reduced testing.”
Since the end of 2022, COVID-19 has entered a new stage, becoming part of a group of routine respiratory viruses circulating annually around the world. Last year, Monkeypox also gained global attention as the virus began to spread more widely, having previously been confined to Western and Central Africa.
The UAE has been one of the most active countries in testing. Figures from ADPHC state that 108,927,504 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the UAE, with a total of 747,909 cases confirmed in the country since the start of the pandemic. In the last 24 hours, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recorded 75,025 new cases of COVID-19 globally and over 754 million confirmed cases.
Omicron has been the dominant strain of COVID-19 for the past year, and according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), on a global level, the Omicron variant BA.5 and its descendant lineages remain dominant. From 9-15 January 2023, they accounted for 65.7% of all submitted sequences to GISAID.
Since 2022, the nature of the Monkeypox virus has changed, spreading increasingly from human-to-human contact than the original form of the virus. Addressing the latest updates on Monkeypox, H.E. Dr Farida Al Hosani said: “Recent risk assessment studies have classified Monkeypox as a moderate risk, existing more in the European regions and the United States. Cases have also been found in other parts of the world but to a lesser extent.”
The WHO Global Situation on Monkeypox shows that there have been 716 new cases (representing a 0.8% increase in total cases) across 22 countries, with Mexico currently experiencing the highest number of cases. In many countries, the number of cases has decreased.
The majority of the recent cases of Monkeypox have been mild and self-limited in terms of the disease, with mainly supportive treatment needed for most patients. The latest research conducted by GISAID shows minor changes in the strains of Monkeypox as they mutate from the original African variants.
H.E. Dr Farida Al Hosani concluded: “Preparedness in public health is key as we move forward. Covid-19 was a game changer and had a major impact on immunology. It taught us to be flexible, opened new ways of working, and inspired innovative research and technologies.”
With preparedness in mind, the ADPHC is working closely with various stakeholders to strengthen the surveillance system and integrate more closely with UAE hospitals and clinics. The Centre is also expanding the passive and active surveillance of Influenza along with a wider panel of respiratory diseases to stay up to date with the latest science and identify any emerging public health risks.
Medlab Middle East takes place until Thursday, 9 February, at Dubai World Trade Centre. Now in its 22nd edition, the event provides exceptional education as well as management solutions to help advance laboratory skills and improve laboratory functions.
For more information on Medlab Middle East 2023, please visit https://www.medlabme.com/en/home.html or register through the link here.