These Are the Health News that Stood Out the Most in 2022
At the end of the year 2022, we can make a count of the health news that stood out the most and that were published in almost all the web portals. Among them, some topics were very relevant, such as the new provisions against the COVID-19 pandemic and the outbreak of monkeypox.
Other epidemics went more unnoticed in the general opinion, but had strong repercussions in specific geographic areas. This is what happened with cholera in Haiti, for example.
In this article, we’ll bring you the health news stories that stood out the most in 2022 and are worth recapping. Do you remember any of them?
1. Omicron, COVID-19 vaccination, and the million deaths
The beginning of 2022 was met with a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, called omicron. This more contagious but less lethal version of the virus spread rapidly in the context of international borders that were beginning to open.
Several countries went back on openness measures during the northern hemisphere winter. On the contrary, the southern hemisphere prioritized a return to normality with the tailwind of warm weather.
In any case, the increase in the registration of new cases and re-infections meant a different scenario than in 2020. Increased vaccination coverage and earlier preparedness of hospital systems underpinned more effective coping.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), had this to say in May:
Is COVID-19 over? No, it is certainly not over. -Ghebreyesus
Statistical data supported this statement by the world’s foremost authority on global health. It was in August that the tragic record of 1 million COVID-19 deaths in 2022 was reached. Although the death curve slowed in the last year, the accumulation is still a regrettable milestone.
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Inequity in vaccination
However, inequality in the arrival of doses to lower-income countries is also a health news item that stood out among others in 2022. Africa has been one of the continents with the lowest arrival of vials.
According to official data, almost 70% of the world’s population received at least one dose. However, if we focus on low-income countries, that number is reduced to 25.1 %.
Chile is the country with the highest rate of population covered with the full initial protocol (2 doses). Ninety percent of Chileans comply with this characteristic. If we compare it with the African continent, we find that only 26 % of this population is in the same situation.
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2. Mpox and a new name for a disease
The outbreak of mpox surprised the world and alarmed several countries that were opening their borders after the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why everything about this viral disease is part of the top health news of 2022.
As of May 2022, there were no official cases of mokeypox reported. It was a disease restricted to Africa and with some known sporadic outbreaks. However, by August of the same year, a peak of infections was reached on the same day, involving distant countries in the Americas and Europe.
Because the original name was “monkeypox”, the WHO commissioned a special commission to rename the virus and the disease. For this, they were to be guided by the World Health Organization’s guidelines for naming diseases, which were published in 2015.
Thus, in November 2022, the following was resolved:
- Mpox will be the official disease designation in English and other languages.
- The use of monkeypox and monkeypox is permitted until November 2023, when these designations will cease to apply and may no longer be used in official documents.
The current situation
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 72 confirmed mpox deaths this year, worldwide. This is out of a total of 83,424 confirmed cases.
Although the lethality seems low, it should be considered that the expansion of infections is historic. Most of the countries reporting cases in 2022 had no previous records of the virus.
The United States leads the report with 29,740 confirmed cases. The second country is Brazil, with 10 375 cases during the year and 14 deaths.
Due to the rapid spread since August, the CDC implemented a vaccination campaign for the U.S. population, based on two risk groups:
- People who were exposed to the virus.
- People who could be exposed to the virus in the near future.
In early December, the Spanish Ministry of Health updated its recommendations for this vaccination, stating that the following groups should be vaccinated:
- Persons at risk because of their sexual practices (men who have sex with men) or occupation.
- Close contact with confirmed patients, who should receive a dose of the vial within 4 days of contact, especially if they have an immunosuppressive disease, are pregnant, or are children.
3. Outbreaks and epidemics
Some epidemics in the world were among the most prominent health news of this 2022. Although they may have gone unnoticed for other reasons, they still caused concern and problems for the countries that suffered them.
Ebola struck Uganda again. It was a variant of the virus that had not been reported for almost 10 years. The outbreak joined the sixth wave of contagions in the last 4 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Overall, statistics report 141 cases and 55 deaths from Ebola so far in 2022.
For Haiti, a new outbreak of cholera has been tragic news. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of accessibility to clean water, including by health facilities.
The history of this disease in the country is erratic and complicated. In October 2010, there was a major epidemic that attacked more than 820 000 people, of whom 9192 died. Then, by January 2019, the cases had disappeared and eradication was declared in February of this year. However, September 2022 marked the resumption of cases and today there are 11 953 cholera patients in Haiti.
4. Climate change and health
The prominent health news stories in 2022 and in previous years have not been able to obviate the catastrophe of climate change. Floods, heat waves, and polar waves promote the spread of diseases at a faster rate.
- Heat wave-related deaths increased by 68% in the last 20 years.
- Climate change in coastal areas increases malaria transmission by 31.3%.
- 98 million more people entered a state of food insecurity due to the reduced availability of commodities caused by extreme heat in 2022.
5. Artificial intelligence is a reality in healthcare
Artificial intelligence applications and programs are gaining ground in the field of healthcare. Increasingly, neural network systems are being developed that contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the implementation of telemedicine and the dissemination of systems prepared to provide rapid responses from technology. At the same time, artificial intelligence developers are increasingly efficient in guiding the learning process of neural networks and deep learning.
Today we already have applications to detect myocardial infarction, non-invasive tracking mechanisms to predict the occurrence of Parkinson’s disease, and algorithms to help in the treatment of colon cancer metastases. How far will we go? Is it possible to replace doctors?
Many ethical questions arise around artificial intelligence in healthcare. Who is responsible for the possible errors of the technology when a human life is involved? Also, 2022 was a year to make room for philosophy and morals in the increasingly automated daily life.
The health data collected by our smart devices deserves a section on security. In addition to counting steps and measuring heart rate, phones record where we go, when we go, and who accompanies us. Is this data part of health or does it result in a breach of confidentiality?
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Top health news in 2022 extends to 2023
Coronavirus, mpox, artificial intelligence, and climate change to follow in 2023. We will continue to hear about these realities in the coming months.
Did you have a memory of these health news highlights? What do you think will be the most relevant healthcare event of the next year?