Potential Health Threats: Covars Committee Identifies Risks for New Pandemic Emergence

2024-04-12 10:22:00

the essentials In an opinion made public a few days ago, the Committee for Monitoring and Anticipation of Health Risks (Covars) is concerned about potential health threats. The structure assessed the risks of the emergence of a new pandemic.

We thought this reality was far behind us. That of a globalized virus which, for years, has shaken up our daily lives. Four years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee for Monitoring and Anticipation of Health Risks (Covars) published a document that is worrying to say the least, assessing the risks of exceptional health situations over the next five years. In its opinion, transmitted to the “national authorities” on April 3the institution – which took over from the Scientific Council – has identified 35 infectious diseases likely to disrupt the daily lives of the French.

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“These risks exist. We don’t know when they will arrive but we know that they will arrive, explained the president of Covars, Brigitte Autran during a press briefing this Wednesday, April 10. We are not crying fire, we We don’t want to be alarmist, just realistic.” Concretely, the twenty members of the committee anticipate a new pandemic linked to a “respiratory” virus. Two types of threats have been identified by Covars: zoonoses (diseases transmitted to humans through certain animals) and arboviruses (viruses that spread through mosquitoes, such as dengue, Zika or chikungunya).

New coronavirus, disease X…

At the top of the list, committee members cite the Avian Flu (also known as “H5N1”). This viral disease, far from being unknown (particularly in the southwest of the country), mainly affects birds. “The mortality rate is very high among farmed birds (chickens, geese, etc.),” specifies the Pasteur Institute. In 2022 and 2023, 402 farms were infected and 10 million birds had to be culled. This flu presents a “significant, clearly identified risk” for humans, comments virologist Bruno Lina.

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The members of Covars also fear the emergence of a “new coronavirus”, however mentioning epidemics which would remain “of lesser magnitude than that of Covid-19”. The Committee underlines the benefits linked to the “protective effectiveness” of the vaccines that have been developed against SARS-CoV-2 and “the capacity to develop appropriate vaccines quickly and on a large scale”. Covars further believes that “continued surveillance and research are essential to mitigate the risk of a global pandemic.”

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The president of Covars also mentions the risk of seeing the emergence of an “acute winter respiratory infection” and in particular a “disease“This is a disease “for which today we do not know the infectious agent, we do not possibly know the vector and we do not know the disease that it will present”, continues Bruno Lina .

Risks linked to climate change

THE climatic changes could also contribute their two cents and increase the circulation of emerging diseases. “One of the consequences of global warming is the lengthening of the period of the year which will be favorable for the multiplication of vectors, comments Patrick Giraudoux, member of Covars. For example, the tiger mosquito will be able to reach larger populations over the course of ‘a year and therefore potentially be at greater risk.’ The Committee also speaks of “increasing exposure to ozone”: this oxidant could lead to an increase in respiratory infections.

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Covars finally fears “an exacerbation of respiratory pathologies” because of… the pollution. “A new carcinogenic mechanism of fine particles at the origin of these cancers has been highlighted,” explains the Committee, fearing an increase in cases of lung cancer. In this context, the structure ultimately calls for strengthening the healthcare system “in order to avoid overflows at the slightest occurrence of a health risk”.

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