Maria Van Kerkhove Profile picture
Infectious Disease Epidemiologist; COVID-19 Technical Lead @WHO, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Mother of 2. Opinions are my own
31 May
Today, @WHO announces new, easy-to-say labels for #SARSCoV2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) & Interest (VOIs)

They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion of VOI/VOC

Read more here (will be live soon):…

The labels for VOI/VOC are simple, easy to say & remember & are based on the Greek alphabet, a system that was chosen following wide consultation & a review of several potential systems.

🙏@WHO Virus Evolution Working Group @nextstrain @GISAID Pangolin groups & many others
The labels don’t replace existing scientific names, which convey impt scientific info and will continue to be used in research (& by @nextstrain @GISAID & Pango).

These labels will help with public discussion about VOC/VOI as the numbering system can be difficult to follow.
Read 6 tweets
30 May
Short variant thread ⬇️

We expect that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and as sequencing capacities are enhanced worldwide.

It’s even more critical we drive down and keep down transmission. @WHO #COVID19
As we have said, each variant identified needs to be properly assessed, which is why WHO established the Virus Evolution Working Group in June 2020, and why there is a Global Monitoring and Assessment Framework for #SARSCoV2 variants, coordinated by @WHO.
Re the report of variant from Vietnam: @WHO 🇻🇳 country office & @WHOWPRO are working w MOH 🇻🇳. The variant detected is B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation(s), but more info soon.

Remember: variants are constellations of mutations. Many VOI/VOC have similar mutations
Read 5 tweets
29 May
UPDATED @WHO guidance: Critical preparedness, readiness and response actions for #COVID19

Continue to take all necessary public health & social measures to reduce exposure to #SARSCoV2…
Variants of #SARSCoV2 are circulating, some with increased transmissibility. However, the preparedness, readiness and response actions that are needed remain the same, and should be reinforced.
Countries need access to vaccines and should administer #COVID19 vaccines according to their National Deployment and Vaccination Plans. #COVAX @WHO
Read 9 tweets
28 Apr
If you live in an area where #COVID19 is spreading:

➡️🚫mix w people outside of your household
➡️🚫crowds & gatherings
➡️stay🏠if you can (& open🪟) as many cannot bc of essential work
➡️reconsider travel
➡️💉when you can
➡️seek help when needed

play your part


➡️isolate if a case (& call hotline or medical provider)
➡️quarantine if a contact
➡️help others where you can, but meet outdoors instead of indoors
➡️follow local guidance

Do what you can to help yourself, family and community

Do it for you, do it for them
Be kind
Be safe
Be informed
Be prepared
Be supportive
Be alert
Be ready

Have a plan, reach out for help and give yourself a break

We are in this together, and we will get through this together


Read 4 tweets
2 Mar
1/7 Short🧵 (@WHO has issued a new ventilation roadmap for #COVID19 ... keep reading!)

Transmission of #SARSCoV2 is a function of how, when and where transmission is occurring and the interventions that are in place.

@DrTedros @DrMariaNeira @DrMikeRyan
2/ When assessing potential #COVID19 exposure risk consider: location, proximity, and time

3/ Let's take a closer look at location: studies show that the risk of #SARSCoV2 transmission is higher indoors compared to outdoors, and particularly risky in indoor settings with poor ventilation, especially where people spend long periods of time. #COVID19
Read 7 tweets
15 Dec 20
Household Transmission of #SARSCoV2: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Interesting paper - a few highlights (taken directly from paper) - worth a read 👇…
Meta-analysis of 54 studies with 77 ,758 participants, the estimated mean secondary attack rate (SAR) for household contacts was 16.4% (95% CI, 13.4%-19.6%) & family contacts was 17.4% (95% CI, 12.7%-22.5%)
Household and family SARs were >3 times higher than for close contacts (4.8%; 95% CI, 3.4%-6.5%; P < .001)
Read 8 tweets
10 Dec 20
🤔 Want to know how @WHO guidance is developed?

Here’s a brief explainer and🧵⬇️:

@WHO is an evidence-based organization.

The prevention, detection & control strategies & technical guidance that we develop are based on robust science, generated through extensive, collaborative research, & evaluated by a broad network of experts

@WHO works with scientists, clinical and public health professionals, people affected by public health challenges, across the world

Read 14 tweets
14 Nov 20
1/ Re-sharing this thorough systematic review & meta-analysis of % asymptomatic infection & asymptomatic /presymptomatic/ symptomatic transmission of #SARSCOV2 - @nicolamlow & co…
2/ (Preprint of this has been available for some time, & peer-review paper available in Sept) but re-sharing to make a few points still critical today.

We have a long way to go, but we can #ControlCOVID

hear me out 👇
3/ Review addressed 3 questions:

1️⃣what proportion of cases never experience symptoms at all during their infection?

Findings: Estimate 20% (95%CI 17–25)
Read 13 tweets
11 Nov 20
1/ Wonderful news: 2021 is the International Year of International Year of Health & Care Workers

Let’s take a min and talk health & care workers...
2/ Health & care workers carry out amazing work all over the 🌎

They are dedicated, strong, smart, compassionate, hard working people selflessly caring for others

We owe it to them to do everything we can to support their work
3/ & protect them from infection from #COVID19

Infection can be prevented and even 1️⃣ case is 1️⃣ case too many

From day 1, @WHO has worked to protect health workers with IPC guidance first issued in early January, <2 weeks after @WHO learned about the cluster in Wuhan, 🇨🇳
Read 6 tweets
18 Oct 20
1/All are so impt but we cannot stress enough the importance of:

1) isolation of all cases, preferably in medical facility for care. But can be done at home w/ right precautions

2) quarantine of contacts, preferably outside of the home. If not, can be with precautions at home
2/ without isolation of cases AND quarantine of contacts, the virus will spread.

➡️😷alone cannot prevent spread
➡️Testing alone cannot spread
➡️👋hygiene alone cannot prevent spread
➡️Good ventilation alone cannot prevent spread
➡️physical distancing alone cannot prevent spread
3/ We cannot & should not become over reliant on any one measure.

It will not work.

All countries have tools right now and they must be used.

All countries have highly motivated people who want to protect themselves & others.

We can do this together.

We must.

We will.
Read 4 tweets
10 Oct 20
Even if local areas can only focus on identifying symptomatic cases & isolate & care for them; trace & quarantine close contacts; you can eventually catch up on finding mild & asymptomatic cases because they will already be in quarantine.

This is how #ContactTracing works...
2/ This will break chains of transmission.

I described this at the @WHO Live Q&A this past Wednesday - see around min 57…
3/ Remember cases have highest viral loads (appear to be most infectious) -2 days before & up to 5-7 days after symptom onset for mild/moderate patients.

Severe/critical patients (who should be cared for in hospital) can be infectious for up to three weeks & possibly longer.
Read 5 tweets
25 Sep 20
1/ Interesting published paper in @Lancet y'day…

Highlighting the importance of:
➡️Knowledge of infection status
➡️Community engagement
➡️Adequate public health capacity
➡️Adequate health system capacity
➡️Border controls

Nice work by @devisridhar et al
2/ This is in line w/@WHO's guidance pub Apr 2020

@WHO's criteria to consider before adjusting Public Health & Social Measures

👉COVID-19 transmission is controlled

👉Sufficient public health workforce & health system capacities are in place
3/ 👉Outbreak risks in high-vulnerability settings are

👉Preventive measures are established in workplaces

👉Manage the risk of exporting and importing cases from communities w/ high risks of transmission

👉Communities are fully engaged

@WHO has previously issued...
Read 4 tweets
19 Sep 20
1/"This virus is controllable" in the US - @CNN

#COVID19 in the 🇺🇸 can be “overturned," Dr @mvankerkhove, technical lead for the @WHO's coronavirus response, told @CNN’s @drsanjaygupta on Friday.…
2/“I think it's important that we express concern when there's concern, but I do think it's also important to express some hope, because with this particular pandemic and this virus – this virus is controllable,” Van Kerkhove said.
3/ ...
Van Kerkhove said she knows there is frustration about how long it takes to defeat the virus, and that some places aren’t seeing case numbers go down – but that it is important to keep perspective that it can change.
Read 6 tweets
15 Sep 20
1/ See full press conference 👇 w/ @WHO @UNICEF & @UNESCO on the importance of reopening schools safely

There is no zero risk, but there are ways that we can bring kids back to school

Together we can control transmission =govts, communities, individuals all have a role to play
2/ See full @WHO @UNICEF @UNESCO #COVID19 School reopening guidance here:…
3/ Within this guidance, we include important information on:

👉School readiness and capacity to implement and maintain COVID-19 prevention and control measures

👉Comprehensive, multi-layered measures to prevent introduction and spread of SARS-COV-2 in educational
Read 6 tweets
30 Aug 20
We also have tools that can save lives. Right now.

1) This starts w/ preventing as many #COVID19 cases as we can(see previous thread), especially among vulnerable pop & preventing outbreaks in long term living facilities……
1/n @WHO
2) Providing early diagnosis & appropriate clinical care for all patients

by trained, protected, supported (& brave) health workers

while removing barriers for people to access care…
3) Equip medical facilities to care for patients

👉Build/repurpose medical &/or community facilities for patients with different requirements
👉Provide PPE, O2, respiratory supplies
👉Teach safe care at home for mild patients w/out risk factors…

Read 4 tweets
22 Aug 20
In the N hemisphere (& 🌍) it’s incredibly impt we use all available tools to ⬇️ transmission now

Especially impt as the new school year begins. Schools are part of communities where #COVID19 can be controlled

The hard work & sacrifices we make now will save lives

Read 6 tweets
24 Jun 20
Arguably one of the most important @WHO guidance documents for #COVID19 has been updated and published today.

We have tools NOW to suppress transmission & save lives.…

For each transmission scenario,

👉 No cases
👉 Sporadic cases
👉 Clusters of cases
👉 Community transmission

& for the following priority areas, we outline key actions & provide hyperlinks to full @WHO guidance for each.

Priority areas:
➡️ Emergency response mechanisms

➡️ Risk Communication and community engagement
➡️ Surveillance
➡️ Contact tracing and management
➡️ Public health measures
➡️ Infection prevention and control in health care settings
➡️ Actions for the general public
➡️ Laboratory testing
➡️ Case management strategies

Read 5 tweets
22 Jun 20
Good questions today!

👉⬆️cases/resurgence/“waves” in ROK, the Americas, the Balkans, Germany, Africa & other “hot spots” ...

👉Long term effects among people who have recovered from #COVID19

👉#COVID19 RNA in wastewater & different types of surveillance

👉Opening up safely for travel & tourism

👉The importance of testing in surveillance

👉Increases in cases in young people

👉Preventing small clusters from becoming larger outbreaks

👉Potency of the virus

👉Outbreaks in meat packaging plants

👉Outbreaks in minks

👉Breaking down the epi to the lowest admin level to better know how to tackle the outbreak & break chains of transmission

& more ...

Grateful for @WHO & our global partners working to #TackleCOVID19: caring for patients, conducting research & sharing this w/ the world

Read 4 tweets
8 Jul 19
@WHO, @UniofOxford, @MRC_Outbreak & @institutpasteur estimate that, since 2016, 1465 cases of #MERS-CoV & between 300-500 deaths may have been averted due to accelerated global efforts to detect infections early & reduce transmission. In EID today! 1/4 Image
WHO:… “We believe that affected countries are reducing the global threat of #MERS through addressing knowledge gaps w/ regards to transmission, enhancing surveillance, and strengthening the ability to detect cases early & contain hospital outbreaks.” 2/4
"Although global efforts seem to have prevented hundreds of #MERS infections & deaths, vigilance must be maintained by all countries. More needs to be done to limit spillover infections from dromedaries, which requires stronger surveillance of dromedary populations and ... 3/4
Read 4 tweets
15 May 19
Our analysis of 11 healthcare associated #MERS outbreaks in #KSA and #RepublicofKorea found that the R0 ranged from 1.3-5.7 and it took between 2-6 weeks to bring the outbreaks under control.

Read the full paper here ⬇️… Image
"Health care professionals (HCP) & hospitals currently have tools to limit the extent & impact of outbreaks, which include early identification & isolation of suspect patients & strict adherence to standard IPC measures. These are the hallmark of effective #MERS-CoV control."
"A combination of interventions including the efficient triage of patients with res-piratory symptoms at hospital entry; limiting wait times and overcrowding in waiting areas; isolation of suspected and confirmed cases; appropriate use of droplet personal protection equipment..."
Read 4 tweets
14 Feb 19
Infected dromedaries play an important role in #MERS-CoV transmission; prevention is key! If you have underlying medical conditions, avoid unprotected contact with dromedaries when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating...
...General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before & after touching animals & avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to. #MERS @WHO @WHOEMRO
... Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked. #MERS @WHO @WHOEMRO
Read 5 tweets