WHO’s Director of Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Sylvie Brion, provided important insight into how the organization tracks viruses around the world, during a TV interview conducted by Vismta Gupta.
During the interview, which was translated by the Institute for Family Health Care, King Hussein Foundation, she spoke about the increase in viral infection and increase in respiratory disease during the winter season, and showed how the vaccine fights viruses and the process of determining the composition of the vaccine.
** Today we are talking about the flu. How does the vaccine fight the flu virus, how is the composition of the vaccine determined and how does the WHO track the flu virus around the world.
The first question: Before talking about the flu, tell us about this resurgence of respiratory diseases that we are seeing and its causes.
Answer: In fact, we are seeing an increase in respiratory viruses of all kinds such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and Covid-19 virus, and that is no surprise as we are still seeing an increase in respiratory illnesses in winter. in the northern hemisphere.
Why? First, because most of the 175 types of circulating respiratory viruses prefer cool, moist weather, most of them produce mild illness, but some like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and COVID-19 can cause mild illness. serious illness resulting in hospitalization and death.
Second, in cold or humid weather, people tend to congregate indoors in places that are less ventilated and therefore more susceptible to infection.
But this year is a bit special, as we are seeing more respiratory illnesses than usual. We believe that this increase is due to at least two factors: for the past three years, people have implemented personal protective measures such as washing hands, wearing masks and reducing gatherings, but this year in many countries, most of these preventive measures are no longer applied.
Additionally, people may have lost some immunity to respiratory viruses in general since respiratory virus cases have declined in recent years due to preventive measures.
Question 2: Sylvie, tell us about the flu virus and how does the vaccine fight it?
Answer: There are many circulating influenza viruses. We know of at least three major type families (AH1, 1AH3, B). It is important to know that these viruses are constantly evolving, as they multiply in human cells and then give rise to many descendants.
The flu vaccine is like an image of the virus and an image of the foreign body or enemy that appears to our internal defenses (antibodies).
When the antibodies see the virus, they can recognize it. So when the virus appears, the antibody can repel it, which is how the flu vaccine works.
But due to the continuing evolution of the virus, we need to regularly update the formulation of the flu vaccine so that the picture of the enemy that emerges for antibodies is not the picture of the parent virus that has been circulating. last year, but the image of the eldest grandchild viruses circulating this year.
Question 3: Sylvie tells us about how the World Health Organization tracks the flu virus around the world and how the composition of the vaccine was determined.
Answer: There are laboratories in 137 countries that collect and monitor influenza viruses throughout the year, and then nationally collected viruses are regularly sent to WHO Collaborating Centers for global assessment.
Experts meet regularly to monitor the virus in circulation to assess which ones are prevalent and then decide which ones to consider for a vaccine, so that the enemy picture is the best it can be to train our antibodies to fight the virus.
It’s a huge job but many countries around the world are involved in these efforts because influenza is a major public health problem and kills between 200,000 and 600,000 people each year, or about 8,000 deaths per week on average. .
Therefore, the influenza vaccine is very safe and effective in protecting against serious illness, hospitalization and death and is strongly recommended for people at high risk of serious illness such as the elderly, those with illnesses under -lying and comorbidities such as diabetes, respiratory diseases. and heart disease, etc.
The flu vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women and young children. We also encourage caregivers to get vaccinated as they are more exposed to the virus in their professional practice and less likely to become infected when vaccinated.
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