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COVID Cases Spike in Americas, South America Worst Hit: PAHO

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – COVID-19 cases in the Americas rose about 14% last week from the previous one, with 1.3 million new cases and 4,158 new deaths reported, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

South America was the worst affected, with an increased COVID death rate up 32.8% from previous week, according to PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne.

“In South America, there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 incidence, with almost half a million new COVID-19 cases reported during the last week – a 24.6% increase compared to the previous week,” Etienne said in a press briefing.

The largest rise in infections were reported in Bolivia followed by Peru.

North America saw an increase of 7.7% compared to the previous week despite a drop in cases in Canada, as the United States and Mexico are trending in the opposite direction, PAHO said.

“In the context of evolving patterns of transmission, countries should not lower their guard,” Etienne said.

She stressed that more attention needs to be paid to prepare the Americas’ health systems for the long-term effects of post COVID-19 conditions, often referred to as long COVID, for which symptoms can be “extremely debilitating.”

The most common symptom is severe and persistent fatigue, Etienne said, adding that people may also experience shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell.

“All of this can impact a person’s mental health and influence important aspects of their personal and professional lives,” she said.

Dozens of other symptoms associated with long COVID have been reported, including brain fog, chronic pain and rapid heartbeat that can last for months after the initial infection.

“Just imagine how disruptive this can be for a mother who cannot smell her baby, an athletic person who is now tired all the time, or a professional who cannot concentrate on the tasks they were trained to do,” Etienne said.

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