All eyes are constantly on the lookout for surges in COVID-19 cases both in one’s own country and around the world, but other outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic are on the rise and getting very little attention or preventative measures. The CDC and WHO are monitoring current outbreaks, which include alerts and warnings about an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, Influenza A in Brazil and yellow fever in French Guiana.
“Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. The question now, with most hospitals worldwide overflowing with COVID-19 cases, is how can people suffering from any other disease get the aid that they need? Taking a look at individual states around the world and how they each are handling outbreaks within the current pandemic will allow for discussion on keeping more people safe and healthy.
CDC Guidelines for Non-COVID-19 Care
The CDC has created a framework for providing non-COVID-19 care in hospitals and clinics, with a graph depicting what a patient is advised to do depending on the seriousness of their sickness or condition. Potential for patient harm, level of community transmission and symptom lists are all considered.
The CDC also lists a few key considerations for healthcare providers at this time, asking that they are prepared to detect and monitor COVID-19 cases in the community, provide care with safety procedures in mind and consider other services that may require expansion. While in theory, these are positive factors to implement during a health crisis of this magnitude, many countries with high poverty levels do not have adequate resources or staffing to ensure these practices.
Ebola and Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
While the two-year Ebola outbreak was just declared over on June 25, 2020, the DRC is facing a rise in measles cases due to a lack of vaccines while it prioritizes COVID-19 treatments. In 2019, the percentage of vaccinated children increased from 42% to 62% in Kinshasa but the plans for a national immunization program in 2020 experienced delay.
Now, staffing is short, vaccinations are not a priority and those who are receiving vaccinations are doing so in danger of contracting COVID-19 due to lack of resources. Progress toward polio eradication is also suffering, and over 85,000 children have not received immunizations. The DRC is seemingly engaging in a three-front war, fighting numerous other outbreaks during COVID-19. Thabani Maphosa, Gavi managing director, hopes that if the pandemic clears in three months, immunizations will catch up to necessary levels within the next year and a half.
SII Concerned Over Clinical Trial Postponements
The Serum Institute of India is cautioning the public about the concerns for other outbreaks during COVID-19. Clinical preliminaries may be in danger and CEO Adar Poonawalla shared his thoughts about the findings: “The resulting dosing of the enlisted subjects has been postponed, therefore affecting the immunization plan given in the convention. In addition, follow-up visits for inoculation, well-being appraisal just as blood withdrawal are postponed.” He also mentioned the fear of hospitals due to COVID-19 contamination and the flipping of general hospitals to COVID-19-only clinics.
There have been a few other outbreaks during COVID-19 but the world has yet to see the long-term effects. While the whole world scrambles for a vaccine for COVID-19, it is not surprising that other medical and health concerns seem to be on hold, especially when countries are highly recommending or, in some cases, enforcing social distancing and quarantine. These limitations for worldwide immunization trials and vaccines mostly concentrate in low-income and low-resource areas, like the case in the DRC. While funding these areas always desperately need funding, information and discussion about the concerns are also quite valuable at this time.
– Savannah Gardner