The effects of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 17 million people and claimed the lives of more than 674,000 will be felt far into the future, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Friday.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the organization’s emergency committee, according to Reuters.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of cases and deaths, surpassing 150,000 fatalities on Wednesday and tallying more than 4.4 million infections since the outbreak began. While a recent surge of COVID-19 appears to be leveling off in some of the hardest-hit states, such as Arizona, South Carolina and Idaho, the virus appears to be rising in other parts of the U.S. that appeared at one time to have control of the outbreak.
Global economies have also suffered due to lockdown restrictions and fears of a second wave.
The U.S. economy shrank by a stunning 9.5 percent from April through June, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
WHO officials also warned on Thursday that the coronavirus may cause long-term health problems, citing recent research out of Germany that suggests COVID-19 patients may suffer lingering heart issues after recovering from the disease.
“When we say that the vast majority of people have a mild illness and recover, that is true. But what we cannot say, at the moment, is what are the potential long-term impacts of having had that infection,” Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said during a news briefing.
Tedros on Friday noted that several countries that once got control of the spread are once again seeing worsening outbreaks.
“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths,” Tedros said, according to Reuters.
Anthony Fauci and other top health officials on Friday told a House panel the coronavirus would likely continue for some time.
“I do not believe it would disappear because it is such a highly transmissible virus. It’s unlikely it is going to disappear,” Fauci said during the hearing.