Covid Corner



MatsuShimizu

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Why Pandemics Like COVID-19 Keep Happening - Bloomberg Quicktake

Solution: How to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic? - DW News

Note: The video from DW News above is more than one year old. Some information might be outdated

People Hospitalized for COVID More Likely to Develop Long-term Conditions
From Very Well Health [1]:
A new study shows that hospitalized patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and type 2 diabetes after contracting the virus.
  • In the study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers analyzed aggregated electronic health record data of more than two million children and adults who were tested for COVID-19 between March to December 2020 and had a subsequent medical encounter 31 to 150 days afterward.
  • They found that the prevalence of diagnoses of new symptoms and conditions largely varied depending on COVID-19 test results, age, and whether a patient was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.1
  • The findings of the study can inform healthcare professionals about the symptoms and conditions that can develop after infection and help guide long COVID research.
Long COVID Symptoms
When it comes to post-COVID conditions, researchers initially began understanding the phenomenon through anecdotal reports, which made it difficult to study because the problem was yet to be defined.
  • “It could have been one syndrome, or it could have been multiple syndromes,” Brian Labus, PhD, MPH, REHS, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Verywell.
  • “Different people may have different problems at different ages, so we have to fully describe what is going by disease, age, sex, etc.,” Labus added. “The better we can describe the disease, the better we can study it, and hopefully, find ways to prevent and treat it. This study helps us understand what we mean by long COVID better.”
  • The researchers found that shortness of breath and fatigue were the most prevalent symptoms for people who tested positive for COVID-19 from both age groups. However, changes in bowel habits were more common among individuals younger than 20 years old, while sleep disorders are more common among those who are 20 years old and older.
  • Among all the patients who were hospitalized, nonspecific heart rate abnormalities—such as tachycardia, bradycardia, or palpitations—were also common.
Another recent study published in Nature found that individuals with COVID-19 are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and the risk is evident even among patients who weren’t hospitalized.
  • The study also observed the most prevalent conditions that occurred 31 to 150 days following the COVID-19 test.
  • For patients 20 years old and older who were hospitalized after testing positive, the following conditions were the most prevalent: Type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression, ataxia or trouble walking
  • Among the patients from this age group who were ventilated, new-onset peripheral nerve disorders and myoneural disorders were also common. Meanwhile, for hospitalized patients below 20 years old, anxiety and depression were the most prevalent new conditions.
  • “The very large number of individuals in this study allowed the authors to subdivide the risk of certain conditions related to the severity of disease and age,” Vincent Hsu, MD, executive director of infection control at AdventHealth, told Verywell.
  • “This is important as both healthcare providers and patients will use these data to help predict or anticipate these new symptoms, which are distributed differently based on age group and disease severity.”
What This Means For You
  • Anyone who has had COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions that occur weeks after initial infection.
  • The best way to prevent any new symptoms or conditions is by avoiding getting COVID-19, which can be done by wearing masks and getting your recommended vaccine shots.
Long-term Symptoms Linked to COVID-19 Severity
  • The study’s findings also suggest that long-term symptoms and conditions can be more common for those with increased COVID-19 severity.
  • The researchers observed an increase in symptoms and conditions among those who were hospitalized and/or ventilated compared to those who weren’t.
  • Like many viral diseases, COVID-19 causes inflammation in various organ systems. The more severe or widespread the inflammatory response, the greater the disease severity, Hsu said.
  • “This inflammatory response may then manifest itself in other organ systems in the form of symptoms at a later date or not recognized until later, although there may be other mechanisms that are yet to be identified,” he added.
  • There are other proposed mechanisms that could predict long COVID, such as having a higher viral load during the early phases of COVID-19 or a stronger dysregulated immune response in the immediate post-acute phase of the disease, Anish Mehta, MD, MPP, medical director of care transformation at Eden Health, told Verywell.
  • “This study demonstrates another way in which the virus that causes COVID-19 is more severe than other viruses,” he added.
  • “It’s also important because it helps medical professionals know what type of symptoms and conditions to look out for after someone has had COVID-19 so they can help counsel patients on what to expect.”
Susceptibility to Breakthrough Infections
  • Patients with long COVID are also vulnerable to COVID-19 reinfection. However, we need further research to determine whether they are more susceptible to it.
  • “There are some studies showing that patients with certain long COVID symptoms have lower levels of COVID-19 antibodies, but whether that means they’re more susceptible to reinfection is unclear,” Mehta said.
  • “However, we do know COVID-19 vaccinations are associated with reduced long COVID incidence if someone gets a breakthrough infection.”
  • A recent study that investigated four potential risk factors for long COVID found that the presence of certain autoantibodies may be linked to a higher likelihood of lingering symptoms.
  • They found that as autoantibodies increase, protective COVID-19 antibodies decrease, which can make people with long COVID more susceptible to breakthrough infections.3
More studies are necessary to confirm this.
  • “We are still uncertain whether people with post-COVID-19 conditions are more susceptible to breakthrough infections compared to those without those conditions,” Hsu said.
  • “We are still learning more about the risks, management, and treatment of post-COVID-19 conditions and hope to learn more in subsequent studies.”
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker, fully vaccinated individuals who got their booster or additional dose are significantly less likely to get hospitalized for COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.
  • It’s important for immunocompromised individuals to get their recommended additional dose, and everyone who is fully vaccinated is encouraged to get their booster shot.
  • “The study should also serve as a reminder of the seriousness of this disease and the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations to reduce one’s risk of infection with COVID-19 and its potential complications,” Hsu said.
Babies are protected from hospitalization for Covid if their moms get vaccinated, study suggests
From CNBC [2]:
Mothers who get vaccinated against Covid-19 while pregnant likely protect their babies from hospitalization due to the virus when they are born, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Babies younger than 6 months old were 61% less likely to be hospitalized with Covid if their mothers received Pfizer or Moderna’s two-dose vaccine during pregnancy, a study published Tuesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found.
  • Maternal vaccination later in pregnancy, 21 weeks to 14 days before delivery, was associated with an even higher level of protection, 80%, for the baby against Covid hospitalization.
Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, head of the CDC’s infant outcomes branch, said the study suggests antibodies transferred from the mother to her developing fetus protect the newborn against Covid.
  • “Unfortunately, vaccination of infants younger than 6 months old is not currently on the horizon, highlighting why vaccination during pregnancy is so important for these young infants,” Meaney-Delman told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday.
  • Previous research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, had found the mother’s antibodies from the Covid vaccine are transferred across the placenta to the developing fetus.
The CDC study provides some real-world evidence that the antibodies are protective in newborn infants.
  • The overwhelming majority of infants, 84%, hospitalized with Covid in the study were born to unvaccinated mothers.
  • The study examined 379 infants across 20 children’s hospitals in 17 states from July through January.
  • The infants were split between two groups, 176 who had Covid and 203 who didn’t have it. Sixteen percent of the Covid positive infants’ mothers were fully vaccinated while, 32% of the Covid negative infants’ mothers were fully vaccinated.
The CDC said the study had some limitations.
  • It did not test if the mothers were Covid positive or negative before or during pregnancy, nor did it look at vaccine effectiveness against specific variants.
  • It’s also unclear if other differences in behavior between vaccinated and unvaccinated mothers contributed to the risk of infection for their newborns.
  • The CDC recommends women who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding should get vaccinated against Covid.
  • People who are currently or recently pregnant are at a higher risk of severe illness from Covid, according to the CDC.
How serious is the presence of the Covid virus in deer for humans?
deer18feb202.png

From The Guardian [3]:
Michael Tonkovich spent the week after Thanksgiving at deer processors around Ohio, swabbing the carcasses to test for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that can cause Covid-19.
  • When he explained his goal to hunters, a common reaction was: help yourself. And perhaps you can butcher it too, they joked.
  • Whether or not the hunters saw the utility of a study testing deer for the Covid-causing virus, Tonkovich, deer program administrator for the Ohio department of natural resources division of wildlife, certainly did.
  • White-tailed deer infected with the virus have been found in 15 states, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Scientists working in Staten Island, New York, also recently discovered the highly contagious Omicron variant circulating among the species for the first time.
  • Although Covid-19 itself has not been found in deer, how serious the presence of the virus in deer could be for humans remains unclear.
  • Whether anything could even be done to limit its spread is equally uncertain.
  • “If they are getting it through sewage or garbage or runoff … there is likely nothing we can do about that,” said Tonkovich.
  • Scientists nevertheless think the surveillance is urgent.
  • Deer could act as large reservoirs for the virus, and serve as a source for new variants that could then spill over into humans.
  • If you don’t know where the virus is, they reason, the already difficult task of managing it becomes impossible.
“When you have a population as large and as close as it is to humans” as white-tailed deer that serves as a reservoir for the virus, “it just makes sense to keep an eye on it”, said Tonkovich.
  • The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, illustrates the need for “more targeted surveillance to better understand the circulation of Sars-CoV-2 in wild animals,” said Suresh Kuchipudi, a veterinary microbiologist at Penn State University who led the Staten Island research team.
  • “Before we can conclude whether or not something can be done, we need to define the problem first.”
  • Researchers also recently found that pet hamsters and mink were capable of catching the virus from humans – and spreading it to them.
  • While there is no evidence that deer are capable of infecting humans with the virus, they could infect other animals – and because they are in the wild, rather than in captivity like hamsters and mink, that risk “is much more significant”, said Kuchipudi.
But controlling the spread of a virus among animals is often difficult or impossible, said Sarah Olson, an epidemiologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
  • She points to how Covid-19 has been able to spread among humans despite visits to health providers and tools such as vaccines.
  • She also cited the devastating impact of diseases such as white-nose syndrome, which, despite scientists’ protection efforts, has killed more than 90% of three North America bat species, according to a study in the journal Conservation Biology.
  • As for addressing the spread of the virus among deer, Olson does not think that applying our standard responses to Covid in people – such as trying to vaccinate them – is realistic.
  • Instead, the research is “a call to redouble our efforts, to pay attention to wildlife health, to understand what is going on in these spaces that are currently kind of black boxes”, Olson said.
In the meantime, Kuchipudi said uncertainty about the spread of the virus among deer and other animals means that talk of the end of the pandemic is premature.
  • “The Omicron variant could continue to spill over into animals and evolve, and therefore we can’t let our guard down and must continue to follow the precautions,” such as masking and social distancing, he said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to emphasize that the risk of catching Covid from animals is very low.
  • Jennifer Ramsey, wildlife veterinarian with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, fields calls from hunters about it, whom she urges to wear gloves and use good hygiene when handling carcasses.
  • Indeed, for many hunters, talk of a potential virus in deer is nothing new.
  • The CDC has long urged people hunting in areas with chronic wasting disease (CWD) to test the deer or elk before eating the meat, but there is no evidence of infection in people.
  • The same appears clear with Covid, at least for now.
  • “It doesn’t seem like it’s anything to panic about – but just something to be aware of,” said Ramsey.
Pandemic not over, warns WHO chief scientist - Reuters

Lower testing rates likely reason for falling COVID-19 case reports - WHO
From Reuters [5]: Feb 16 (Reuters)
A drop in COVID-19 testing rates is likely contributing to a decline in reported cases even as deaths are rising, the World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Wednesday.
  • "The bigger concern right now, I think, is the still increasing number of deaths," Van Kerkhove said during a virtual panel discussion livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
  • "In the last week alone, almost 75,000 people died reported to us and we know that that is an underestimate," she said.
The countries claiming that their transmission has dropped from two to six weeks ago have likely seen a drop in testing rates, said WHO's emergencies chief Mike Ryan.
  • The WHO earlier this week urged governments to improve vaccination rates and rapid testing as infections have risen from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, especially in east Europe.
  • Several countries have announced plans to relax COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks if daily infection numbers kept falling.
  • Now is not the time for countries to change isolation requirements for people who test positive in rapid antigen or PCR tests, Ryan added.
Fauci on the uncertain future of COVID-19 amid changing public health guidelines - PBC Newshour

PBS NewsHour is an American evening television news program broadcast on over 350 PBS member stations. It airs seven nights a week and is known for its in-depth coverage of issues and current events. - Wikipedia

Fauci says time to start 'inching' back toward normality
From Reuters [4]: CHICAGO, Feb 16
Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that it is time for the United States to start inching back towards normality, despite remaining risks from COVID-19.
  • In an interview with Reuters, Fauci said U.S. states are facing tough choices in their efforts to balance the need to protect their citizens from infections and the growing fatigue with a pandemic that has dragged into its third year.
  • "There is no perfect solution to this," said Fauci, President Joe Biden's top medical adviser and a member of the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. health officials said they were preparing new COVID-19 guidance on many aspects of the virus response as the Omicron surge in cases declines.
  • That followed announcements by several states including New Jersey, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon that they were lifting mask mandates for schools or other public settings in the coming weeks.
  • "The fact that the world and the United States and particularly certain parts of the United States are just up to here with COVID - they just really need to somehow get their life back," he said.
  • "You don't want to be reckless and throw everything aside, but you've got to start inching towards that."
Even with the positive trends, COVID numbers remain high with some 2,200 Americans dying each day, most of them unvaccinated.
  • The current seven-day daily average of COVID-19 cases is about 147,000, a decrease of some 40% from the previous week, according to government data. Over the same period, hospital admissions fell about 28% to 9,500 per day.
  • Fauci acknowledged that states' revised policies could involve tradeoffs and some unnecessary infections, but hewing too closely to strict prevention policies was also harmful.
  • "Is the impact on mental health, is the impact on development of kids, is the impact on schools - is that balanced against trying to be totally pristine and protecting against infection? I don't have the right answer to that," he said.
More Destructive Variant of HIV Spotted in the Netherlands
From WebMD [6]: Feb. 4, 2022
If the pandemic taught the world nothing else, it's that viruses can mutate, potentially giving rise to new and more harmful variants.
  • Now, new research reveals that's exactly what has happened with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Called VB (for virulent subtype B), the "new" HIV variant actually seems to have emerged more than 30 years ago.
  • But its existence was only recently confirmed by a team of genetic researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Finland.
  • That it has largely flown under the radar may reflect the fact that the VB variant has only been found in 109 HIV-positive patients so far, most of them Dutch.
  • But although not widespread, the concern is that — absent preventive treatment — the variant seems to attack a patient's immune system much more aggressively than more common strains.
Even so, study author Chris Wymant, a senior researcher in statistical genetics and pathogen dynamics with the University of Oxford's Big Data Institute, is adamant that "the public needn't be worried."
  • or one thing, he noted that while there may be more VB-infected patients than is currently known, the number is "unlikely to be dramatically higher than what we found."
    8 The 109 patients already identified arenot, Wymant said, "the tip of the iceberg."
And most critically, existing antiretroviral therapies (ART) remain very effective at keeping the VB variant at bay.
  • So, the real value of this discovery is to re-emphasize "the importance of [the] guidance that was already in place — that individuals at risk of acquiring HIV have access to regular testing to allow early diagnosis, followed by immediate treatment," Wymant explained.
  • "This limits the amount of time HIV can damage an individual's immune system and jeopardize their health," he noted. "It also ensures that HIV is suppressed as quickly as possible, which prevents transmission to other individuals."
  • In the Feb. 4 issue of Science, Wymant and his colleagues described how the new variant was first discovered through the ongoing efforts of the so-called BEEHIVE project.
U.S. Traffic Deaths Surging During Pandemic
From WebMD [7]:
The U.S. is reporting its highest increase in traffic deaths since the 1940s.
  • Deaths from vehicle crashes had been declining since the late 1960s, The New York Times reported, due to vehicle improvements, lower speed limits, and less drunk driving.
  • The annual death rate from crashes was near its lowest level in 2019.
But crashes and deaths began surging in the summer of 2020.
  • Despite a decline in driving at the time, there was an increase in aggressive driving. Crashes continued to grow as people returned to the roads later in the pandemic.
  • “We’re all a bit at the end of our rope on things,” Art Markman, PhD, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, told the newspaper.
  • “When you get angry in the car, it generates energy -- and how do you dissipate that energy?” he said. “Well, one way is to put your foot down a little bit more on the accelerator.”
  • The number of per-capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5% from the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2021, the newspaper reported. That marks the largest 2-year increase since World War II.
In many cases, the vehicle crashes have been linked to erratic or risky behavior, such as speeding, running red lights, not wearing a seat belt, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • The increase in traffic fatalities has disproportionately affected low-income neighborhoods and Native and Black American neighborhoods, according to an analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
  • In 2020, overall U.S. traffic deaths rose about 7%, but among Black Americans, traffic deaths increased 23%.
There are several reasons, including differences in vehicle quality, road conditions, and access to crosswalks, the Times reported.
  • The recent increase in pedestrian deaths has been particularly high.
  • What’s more, essential workers, who couldn’t stay home and work remotely during the pandemic, were affected by higher traffic deaths.
  • “There’s a portion of the population that is incredibly frustrated, enraged, and some of that behavior shows up in their driving,” Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, told the Times.
  • “We, in our vehicles, are given anonymity in this giant metal box around us, and we act out in ways that we wouldn’t face to face,” he said.
COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 17 February
From World Economic Forum [8]:
1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 418 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.85 million. More than 10.42 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
  • Hong Kong SAR's coronavirus battle intensified on Thursday as authorities reported new cases had multiplied by 60 times so far this month. Hospitals are overwhelmed with some patients being treated on beds in the open air.
  • New COVID-19 infections have continued to decline across the Americas region. They were down by 31% in the last week but deaths rose by 5.6%, the Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday. Half of the region's 34,000 deaths were reported in the United States.
  • Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday it is time for the United States to start inching back towards normality, despite remaining risks from COVID-19. Fauci said US states face tough choices in balancing the need to protect citizens and the growing fatigue with the pandemic.
  • Germany will ease COVID-19 restrictions as a wave of infections from the Omicron coronavirus variant seems to have passed its peak, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday, but he warned that the pandemic was not over yet.
  • Switzerland has lifted almost all its coronavirus pandemic restrictions as fears wane that a spike in infections fuelled by the Omicron variant would overwhelm the healthcare system.
  • A drop in COVID-19 testing rates is likely contributing to a decline in reported cases even as deaths are rising, the World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Wednesday. The WHO earlier this week urged governments to improve vaccination rates and rapid testing.
2. BioNTech to ship mRNA vaccine factory kits to Africa
  • Germany's BioNTech has developed a vaccine factory made from shipping containers that it plans to ship to Africa as assembly kits to ease what the World Health Organization has described as huge disparities in global COVID-19 vaccine access.
  • The factory prototype will be instrumental in helping the biotech firm deliver on a pledge made last year to Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal and the African Union to secure mRNA vaccine production on the continent, where inoculation rates are far behind other parts of the world.
  • Work on the first mRNA manufacturing facility in the African Union is due to begin in mid-2022 and the first container module is expected to arrive on the continent in the second half of the year, BioNTech said in a statement.
  • The factory, housed in two groups of six 40-foot-containers, should kick off vaccine production about 12 months after the delivery of the assembly kit.
  • BioNTech on Wednesday presented a prototype of one six-container module to the presidents of Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda, and other dignitaries including the WHO's director general and the German development minister, at its main vaccine production site in Marburg, Germany.
3. WHO must be bolstered to strengthen global health security, says Tedros
  • Efforts to strengthen global health security in a future health crisis will only succeed if the role of the World Health Organization is also enhanced, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
  • Speaking via a video link at a G20 meeting of finance leaders in the Indonesian capital, Tedros was responding to proposals to establish a separate global health fund tasked with delivering emergency funds, vaccines and other medical needs.
  • "It's clear that at the centre of this architecture, the world needs a strong and sustainably financed WHO ... with its unique mandate, unique technical expertise and unique global legitimacy," Tedros told a panel discussion at the meeting.
  • "Any efforts to enhance the governance, systems and financing of global health security can only succeed if they also enhance WHO's role," he said.
Global daily statistics - Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker
reuters-chart19feb2022.png

List of sources
[1] https://www.verywellhealth.com/long-covid-severity-5219126
[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/15/bab...their-moms-get-vaccinated-study-suggests.html
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/14/covid-virus-in-deer
[4] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/fauci-says-time-start-inching-back-toward-normality-2022-02-16/
[5] https://www.reuters.com/business/he...falling-covid-19-case-reports-who-2022-02-16/
[6] https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/news...ive-variant-of-hiv-spotted-in-the-netherlands
[7] https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20220215/traffic-deaths-surge-during-pandemic
[8] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022...bout-the-coronavirus-pandemic-on-17-february/

PS: I will post here again next week, same time as usual. Thanks for reading, everyone.
 

KGIII

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I stopped by the pharmacy and they were giving away masks. I figured they'd just be the cheap ones like I already own and wear - but they are really solid masks, like the kind you should wear while working with noxious fumes. I was pretty impressed.

Anyhow, thanks for catching us up for a new week. Your recaps are awesome and appreciated.
 

MatsuShimizu

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WHO executive director Michael Ryan on COVID-19 and future global health emergencies - DW News

Michael Joseph Ryan (born 1965) is an Irish epidemiologist and former trauma surgeon, specialising in infectious disease and public health. He is executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, leading the team responsible for the international containment and treatment of COVID-19. - Wikipedia

How humans are making pandemics more likely - VOX

'Return to Normal' Leaves Immunocompromised People Behind
From Very Well Health [1]:
COVID fatigue is leading many to push for a “return to normal” despite the ongoing pandemic.
  • These attitudes are influencing government decisions and resulting in the abrupt ending of public health measures.
  • Immunocompromised people still face a very real threat of severe illness or death when it comes to COVID-19, and it’s our communal responsibility to continue to take the necessary steps to protect them, experts said.
The United States is on the verge of reaching a grim milestone: 1 million deaths from COVID-19.
  • But COVID fatigue, or the urge to reopen everything, has dominated media narratives in the past weeks.
  • Two years into the pandemic, Americans seem fed up with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Many are expressing strong desire for a “return to normal,” while states like New York and California have ended indoor mask mandates.
  • But for the millions of immunocompromised U.S. adults,1 complacency is not an option. This group is at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
As a result of the push for normalcy and the lifting of COVID-19 measures, immunocompromised people are being left in the lurch.
  • In a viral tweet, disability blogger and advocate Lisa Marie Walters stated the problem plainly. “Immunocompromised people can’t just live in a vacuum,” she wrote. “They’re a part of society too. They’re your doctors, teachers, bankers, baristas, grocery store clerks etc. Please stop saying that high risk people should just stay home so others can live their lives without inconvenience.”
What Is COVID fatigue?
  • COVID fatigue can be described as “a state of near burnout brought on by months of pandemic-related disruption without a clear end in sight,” according to Robert Amler, MD, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College.
  • Amler, a former chief medical officer of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, where he specialized in infectious diseases, said the combined effects of frustration, isolation, boredom, and feelings of ineffectiveness have taken their toll, leaving people more impatient than ever to see the pandemic come to an end.
The U.S. is not alone to face COVID fatigue.
  • In Canada, a convoy of demonstrators occupied the nation’s capital city for weeks to demand an end to all COVID-related health measures (though it has become clear the occupation was more about white supremacy and aggrieved entitlement than anything else).
  • A number of Canadian provinces have also announced plans to ditch vaccine and mask mandates in the coming weeks and months.
  • According to Amler, the fatigue-related attitude shift in North America is likely part of the reason driving governments to change their approach and abandon safety measures.
  • “All public health measures depend on cooperative behaviors,” he said. “Even restrictions that are officially mandated lose their effect when fatigue causes us to drop our vigilance and let down our guard.”
Legacy media has also contributed to the push for lifting all restrictions.
  • As Scientific American columnist Steven W. Thrasher pointed out in his recent article “There Is Nothing Normal about One Million People Dead from COVID," mainstream publications have “been beating a death knell of a drum for getting ‘back to normal’ for months.
  • The effect is the manufactured consent to normalize mass death and suffering—to subtly suggest to Americans that they want to move on.”
The Virus Still Threatens High-Risk Individuals
  • In reality, however, the virus doesn’t care about what people want, and it will continue—at least for the foreseeable future—to present a significant threat to high-risk individuals no matter how real COVID fatigue may be.
  • “The virus is still around, still virulent, and still can cause deadly infection, especially in those with compromised immunity.
  • Even people without symptoms can spread the virus to them,” Amler said, underscoring the need to continue taking precautions regardless of local public health measures.
He said every eligible person should be vaccinated and boosted at the recommended times, and everyone should continue to wear masks indoors and observe other basic precautions to prevent transmission.
  • We must take careful steps to avoid exposing the immunocompromised and children under the age of five, he added, as they can’t be vaccinated but can become infected and spread the virus to others.
  • He said there are also ways to address COVID fatigue without completely abandoning those whose lives are most at risk.
  • “Take steps to reduce fatigue without reducing the protective measures that will work to stop transmission of the virus and eventually stop the pandemic,” he said.
  • “Seek mental health support if you feel the need. Fight fatigue by being creative with daily routines, maintaining connections with friends and loved ones, learning about the progress made so far, and focusing on hope for a post-pandemic return to greater freedom and enjoyable activities.”
What This Means For You
  • If you’re experiencing pandemic fatigue, you’re far from being alone.
  • Make sure to prioritize your mental health by being creative with your routines and keeping touch with loved ones while also remembering that immunocompromised people need our continued support and protection.
Eating Disorders in Children Increased During the Pandemic
From Very Well Mind [2]:
COVID-19 repercussions have contributed to a national mental health crisis among children, and this includes a a rise in eating disorder (ED) symptoms.
  • While 95% of people who have an ED are between the ages of 12 and 25, the National Eating Disorder Association reported that in the first quarter of 2021, its helpline call volume went up 53%, year over year.23
  • Studies so far have shown a sharp increase in eating disorder diagnoses and behavior among previously diagnosed youth since the start of the pandemic.
  • Parker L. Huston, PhD, pediatric psychologist and owner of Central Ohio Pediatric Behavioral Health, says it's impossible to know each patient's story and how the pandemic impacted them.
  • “In general, eating disorders are seen as a maladaptive way of establishing control in one's life. With so much out of control, many of us turn to things we can control, like our eating and exercise habits,” says Huston.
  • Other possible triggers could include feelings of isolation and changes in structure and routine, which cause stress and anxiety, he adds.
Dr. Yolanda Evans, clinical director of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, agrees. She says referrals to her hospital’s adolescent clinic for concerns of eating disorder more than quadrupled during the pandemic.

Evans points to the following as additional reasons for the increase:
  • Shift in coping strategies due to physical distancing and inability to connect with friends and others who help manage stress
  • Lack of close monitoring of kids from school personnel and parents trying to navigating work
  • Significant increase in screen time and media platforms, which portray harmful messaging and imagery about body size and health claims
Eating Disorder Myths
Eating disorders only affect girls of certain demographics
  • “Eating disorders affect people from all different gender identities, race, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, body shapes and sizes,” says Evans.
Eating disorders don’t affect overweight people
  • If a person has a higher weight body, Evans says they can still have anorexia or restrictive eating disorder.
  • “We definitely see people with severe malnutrition whose body size is still higher than average.”
Eating disorders are a choice
  • EDs are just like other psychiatric conditions.
  • “They are not a choice and can't be changed easily,” Huston says.
  • Eating disorders aren't a big deal, it's just like being on a diet
  • EDs have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of those who experience them, says Huston.
  • “Eating disorders can be fatal if not treated appropriately because of the chronic malnutrition sufferers go through,” he says.
It’s a parents fault when their child has an eating disorder
  • While Evans emphasizes to parents that it’s not their fault their child has an ED, she stresses to them, “Your child is going to need you in order to recover.”
What to Know About Male Eating Disorders
Warning Signs of Eating Disorders. Huston says there are many subtle warning signs, and they differ among the various types of disordered eating. However, the following are some common signs to watch for:
  • Attitudes/discussion about dieting and weight loss becoming a primary topic or concern
  • Frequent stomach complaints to avoid eating
  • Abnormal lab findings indicating malnutrition
  • Skipping meals or eating a lot less than usual
  • Extreme concern with body shape and size
  • Fainting or lack of energy
  • Dental problems from frequent vomiting
  • Being preoccupied with calories/nutrition/fat content
  • Increasingly limited number of foods they will accept
  • Excessive fear of choking or vomiting, which limits their food intake
For Anorexia
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Frequent comments about being "fat" or needing to lose weight
  • Excessive and rigid exercise routine
  • Always feeling cold
For Bulimia
  • Evidence of binge eating, such as lots of wrappers in their room or hidden in the trash
  • Signs of purging, including frequent trips to the bathroom, especially following meals
  • Excessive use of mouthwash/gum/mints
  • Dental erosion
Many types of eating disorders can also impact social connections, says Evans.
  • “For example, [if a youth says], ‘I want to eat healthy, so I’m going to cut out all carbohydrates and if a friend has a birthday party and they’re serving cupcakes I cannot eat that.’”
Treatment for Eating Disorders
Because eating is critical for life, embedded in cultural and ethnic identities, and often the essence of socializing, having an ED is a difficult disease to manage, and treat.
  • “There’s a lot of hope [for recovery], but it is really challenging because of the nature of food.
  • It’s not a quick fix and there’s not a medication that we can give that’s going to make it all better.
  • It’s really time intensive on everyone’s part who cares for the youth and for the youth too,” says Evans.
If you are concerned your child may have an eating disorder, early mitigation is necessary.
  • First, let your child know you are worried about them without judgement.
  • “Parents, siblings and others can say, ‘I notice some things that make me worried about you; do you feel comfortable talking about it?’
  • The biggest thing is not ignoring or being afraid to let your child know you’re worried,” says Evans.
Then reach out to your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider, however, not all medical professionals have training and experience with EDs, so involve a therapist who specializes in the condition.
  • “Eating disorders…almost always require support from both medical and behavioral health professionals,” says Huston.
  • “Much of this treatment is completed in an outpatient setting.”
  • Other professionals who might be part of the team could include a dietician and psychiatrist, if your child lives with additional mental health conditions.
  • “There are often comorbidities where someone with an eating disorder also has depression or anxiety or OCD symptoms.
  • It’s hard to know what came first and what’s related to what because they can all be intertwined,” says Evans.
Family based treatment is a form of treatment often used to treat adolescent eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and more.
  • “For parents and families [family based treatment] has the most evidence behind it.
  • It’s when you work with a therapist who instructs a parent on how to refeed their child in the first phase, and then the autonomy is gradually given back to the youth,” Evans says.
While it may be difficult to seek treatment for your child, the following organizations can offer information, support, and help locating good treatment options for EDs.
  • National Alliance for Eating Disorders
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
What This Means For You: Understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for eating disorders can empower you to find the best help for your child.

Does Your Kid Have a Cold or Omicron? What Omicron Symptoms Look Like in Kids
From Very Well Family [3]:
With Omicron now confirmed as the leading COVID-19 variant in the US1 , it’s natural for parents to worry about how Omicron will affect their little ones.2 For every child who has a sniffle, there’s a parent wondering if their child has COVID-19. While some symptoms of COVID-19 look similar to the common cold, fortunately, there are ways to test and distinguish between the two.

What Omicron Looks Like in Kids
  • So far, most of what we know about Omicron comes from data from infected adults.
  • "[The data] indicates that Omicron is less severe than Delta but still more than 'just a cold' for unvaccinated adults," says Kelly Fradin, MD, pediatrician and author of Parenting in a Pandemic: How to Help Your Family Through COVID-19.
For kids, symptoms of Omicron appear similar to that of other COVID-19 variants.
  • “Omicron tends to attack the upper airways more than the lower airways,” says Eric Ball, MD, a pediatrician with Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, California, and past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • “We are seeing a lot of children present with a very bad sore throat, coughing, nasal congestion, and fever.”
  • In some children, the symptoms of the Omicron variant are similar to cold symptoms, Dr. Ball says, but adds that COVID-19 symptoms are typically more severe than the usual stuffiness, runny nose, cough, and sore throat.
  • "We are seeing high fevers and difficulty breathing due to COVID-19 infection," Dr. Ball says.
  • Many pediatric COVID-19 patients have croup-like symptoms, Dr. Ball adds.
  • “They have swelling of the upper airway, which makes breathing difficult.
    8 Some of these children need to go to the hospital or receive special medication to help them breathe more comfortably.”
Dr. Fradin's pediatric Omicron patients have been more likely to present with a sore throat, croupy cough (barking in nature), and headache.
  • "Notably, we continue to see many asymptomatic children who test positive for Omicron," she adds. "I haven't seen children becoming more sick with Omicron than with prior variants. "
Preventing Omicron in Kids
  • Dr. Fradin encourages parents to test early and often to identify cases early and prevent exposure in the community.
  • The sooner you detect COVID-19, the sooner your child can return to school or daycare as the quarantine period begins when the test is positive, she adds.
  • Dr. Fradin acknowledges that most parents are struggling—tired of living through a pandemic and frustrated with constant negative news and fluctuating guidelines, but urges those who remain unvaccinated to consider full COVID-19 vaccination, including a booster dose if eligible.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine provides robust protection from hospitalization and severe cases of infection, Dr. Fradin says.
  • "We have data that vaccination reduces the risk of COVID-19 complications like MIS-C and it's likely that vaccination also decreases the risk of long COVID and the possibility of COVID-19-triggering autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes," she explains.
  • Although COVID-19 vaccinations haven't been approved for children under the age of 5, there are other options that can help keep your kids safe.
  • "I'd encourage parents to take reasonable precautions to protect their children—following quarantine guidelines, testing, masking, and vaccination.
  • But then try to relax and remember you've done your best," Dr. Fradin says.
  • "Your child may still get sick given how contagious Omicron is, but the likelihood is that they will be OK."
  • The best way to defeat this variant is prevention, through vaccination, mask wearing, and isolation and quarantine of sick and exposed individuals. - Eric Ball, MD
When to See a Pediatrician
  • If you suspect your child might be infected with Omicron, it's best to confirm with a test, either at home or at a doctor's office, says Dr. Ball.
  • "Unless your child is an imminent danger or severely ill, it's best to avoid the emergency department so that people who need it for actual emergencies can have access," he adds.
  • For a mild infection, you can use a fever-reducing medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • If your child is 6 months or older, you can also give them ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).
  • Aside from that, it's all about fluids and rest, says Dr. Ball. If your child tests positive, you'll need to isolate with your child to make sure they don't spread the disease to other people.
  • If you have questions about any symptoms your child may have, call your pediatrician.
What This Means For You
  • Many parents are concerned about the Omicron variant, so if you're feeling anxious, you're not alone.
  • Try to remember that you can take several measures to keep your family safe from COVID-19 infection, such as vaccination, masking, and quarantining when necessary.
  • If you still have concerns, or are worried about your child's health in general, reach out to their pediatrician.
Fauci on Mask Mandates, Antivirals, Fourth Vaccine Dose - Bloomberg Markets and Finance

Factbox: Countries weigh need for COVID-19 booster shots
From Reuters [4]: Feb 21
Many countries are expanding COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes or shortening the gap between shots as governments scramble to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.
  • Some countries are also already deploying a fourth dose amid concerns of waning protection.
  • Studies have shown an initial course of COVID-19 vaccines - typically given in two doses - may not be enough to halt infection from Omicron, but a booster shot may help.
  • The World Health Organization has said in recent months that administering primary doses - rather than boosters - should be the priority, though it has recommended boosters for those with health issues or who received an inactivated vaccine.
Here are some of the options countries and regions are considering:
FOURTH JAB
  • Belgium has authorised a fourth dose for the immunocompromised
  • Cambodia is administering a fourth dose to priority groups
  • Chile is offering a fourth shot to immunocompromised citizens
  • Denmark will offer a fourth coronavirus jab to the most vulnerable
  • Hungary will offer a fourth shot to everybody after a consultation with a doctor
  • Israel is administering fourth doses to people over 60, health workers and immunocompromised patients. It broadened eligibility on Jan. 26 to adults under 60 with underlying medical conditions, their caretakers and others over 18 at significant risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
  • Italy recommends a fourth shot for people with a severely compromised immune system.
  • Poland has authorized a fourth dose for the immunocompromised over 12
  • South Korea began giving out fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines to people in high-risk groups in February.
  • Sweden has started offering a fourth jab for people with a compromised immune system and recommends that people aged 80 or above should receive a second booster shot.
  • UK offers a fourth shot for immunosuppressed and the elderly.
  • U.S. health regulators are considering authorizing a potential fourth dose in the fall, the Wall Street Journal reported.
NORTH AMERICA
  • The U.S. CDC took a stance more cautious than it had previously on Nov. 30 when it said everyone over 18 should get a booster shot. On Jan. 6, it expanded the recommendation to those between 12 and 17.
  • Canada has authorised booster shots for people aged 18 and above, after earlier recommending them to those moderately or severely immunocompromised.
EUROPE
  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Nov. 24 recommended vaccine boosters for all adults, with priority for those over 40.
  • The EU's drugs regulator said on Dec. 9 that data supports getting vaccine boosters after three months.
Coping With Stress And Caring for Mental Health During COVID-19 - Stanford Center for Health Education

COVID raises risk of mental health problems
From Reuters [5]: Feb 23
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Coronavirus infection raises risk of mental health issues
  • Psychological stress from the pandemic may be widespread, but those who have had COVID-19 are at much higher risk for new mental health problems than individuals who have managed to avoid the virus, according to a new study.
  • Researchers compared nearly 154,000 people who survived at least a month after a SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis to more than 5.6 million peers without prior COVID infections.
  • Over the course of one year, infection survivors were at 35% higher risk of new anxiety disorders, 39% higher risk for new depressive disorders, 55% higher risk for new use of antidepressants, 34% higher risk for a new opioid use disorder, and 20% higher risk for a new non-opioid substance use disorder.
  • They were also at 80% higher risk for newly detected neurocognitive decline and 41% higher risk for a new diagnosis of sleep disorders.
  • The risks for these problems "were increased even among people who were not admitted to hospital" but were highest among those who had been hospitalized for COVID-19, the researchers reported in The BMJ.
  • "To all the people who are suffering from one or more of these conditions: you are not alone," said study leader Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University in St. Louis.
  • "Seek help. It is always better to get these things identified and treated early." The problem needs attention from policy makers and governments "before it balloons into a much larger crisis," he said.
Experimental lasers detect virus in saliva with PCR accuracy
  • An inexpensive, compact version of equipment that is usually bulky and costly can find the coronavirus in saliva with the accuracy of a PCR test and the speed of rapid antigen tests, according to Spanish researchers.
  • The experimental device employs flow cytometry, which uses lasers to count and sort cells and particles in liquid as it flows through a very small tube.
  • The saliva is mixed with a solution containing fluorescent antibodies that attach themselves to any coronavirus particles.
  • After about 20 minutes, the liquid gets passed through the tube, where lasers will detect any fluorescence and trigger a positive reading, the researchers explained on Tuesday in Biomedical Optics Express.
  • When they tested saliva samples from 34 people with SARS-CoV-2 infections and 20 uninfected individuals, the device was 91.2% accurate at detecting the virus and 90% accurate at identifying uninfected individuals.
  • It was also able to find the virus at much lower concentrations than can be detected with rapid antigen tests, according to the report.
  • "Given the results, we believe that our (equipment) in conjunction with saliva samples has great potential for becoming a fast, portable, user-friendly point-of-care device, able to perform up to 2000 tests per day," the researchers concluded.
  • "By selecting proper antibodies, this technology could also be adapted for the detection of other viruses, such as ... influenza virus, or even microorganisms in water, such as Legionella and E-coli," coauthor Ewelina Wajs of The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, said in a statement.
COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 24 February
From WE Forum [7]:
1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 429.7 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.91 million.
  • More than 10.65 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
  • Discussions will begin at the World Health Organization (WHO) today on new rules for dealing with pandemics, with a target date of May 2024 for a treaty to be adopted by the WHO's member countries.
  • New Zealand has reported a record number of new daily COVID-19 infections at over 6,000, with 250 hospitalizations. It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was targeted by protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • US health officials say that extending the interval between the first two doses of the country's most widely used COVID-19 vaccines to eight weeks for young men can reduce the rare risk of heart inflammation.
  • The WHO has set up a second hub to help train low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines and therapies.
  • Thailand has reported a record daily increase in new confirmed COVID-19 cases – 23,557.
  • AstraZeneca has signed a deal with Canada for 100,000 doses of its antibody therapy for the prevention of COVID-19 in some high-risk patients.
  • Switzerland will donate up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries by the middle of this year, the government said yesterday.
  • Romania is also set to donate 1.1 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Italian government will end its COVID-19 state of emergency on 31 March, Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced yesterday.
  • Iceland will lift all its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, its health ministry said yesterday.
  • Slovakia is also set to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions over the next month.
  • Cambodia has started vaccinating children as young as three against COVID-19.
2. Caribbean falling behind in COVID-19 fight, warns PAHO
  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that the Caribbean is falling behind in its efforts to tackle COVID-19, with just 63% of the eligible population vaccinated and large regional discrepancies emerging.
  • Of the 13 countries and territories in the Americas that have not yet reached the WHO's goal of 40% coverage, 10 are in the Caribbean, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said.
  • The region registered 2.2 million new COVID cases last week, down 28% compared with the previous week.
  • "And, after six consecutive weeks of increases, we saw deaths fall for the first time since the beginning of the Omicron wave, to 29,000 new deaths reported in our region, a drop of 9%," Etienne said.
  • She cautioned that while cases and deaths are dropping, the improvements have not been uniform across countries and territories in the region.
Global daily statistics - Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker
reuterschart25feb2022.png
List of sources
[1] https://www.verywellhealth.com/return-to-normal-pandemic-immunocompromised-5219689
[2] https://www.verywellmind.com/eating-disorders-in-children-increased-during-pandemic-5219532
[3] https://www.verywellfamily.com/does...at-omicron-symptoms-look-like-in-kids-5215618
[4] https://www.reuters.com/business/he...weigh-need-covid-19-booster-shots-2022-01-18/
[5] https://www.reuters.com/business/he...omicron-version-not-making-people-2022-02-23/
[7] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/02/covid19-top-news-omicron-coronavirus-24-february-2022/

PS: Some parts of the original news articles from [4], [5], [7] were deleted due to forum character limits. Thanks for reading, everyone.
Anyhow, thanks for catching us up for a new week. Your recaps are awesome and appreciated.
You're welcome. I'm getting busy lately. So I will post here again in next 2 weeks, same time as usual.
 

KGIII

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The EU's drugs regulator said on Dec. 9 that data supports getting vaccine boosters after three months.

This one piques my interest. As COVID mutates, so too might the need to alter the vaccine. So too might it require additional defenses as viruses tend to mutate against defenses (as other mutations simply wouldn't survive). So, I'm onboard with boosters and I'm perfectly okay with a new vaccine that's more targeted towards the most recent mutations.

So I will post here again in next 2 weeks, same time as usual.

I shall wait patiently.
 

MatsuShimizu

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WHO’s Science in 5 on COVID-19: Understanding immunity - WHO Youtube Channel

WHO’s Science in 5 on COVID-19: Update on Long COVID - WHO Youtube Channel

Here's what we know about the Omicron sub-variant BA.2
From ABC.NET.AU [1]:
Just as we begin to enjoy our renewed freedoms, a potentially more infectious coronavirus mutation is emerging.
  • New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said cases could "more than double" in six weeks due to new Omicron sub-variant BA.2, as the state recorded 16,288 cases on Thursday, its highest number since January.
  • Across the globe, countries have experienced a surge in cases credited to BA.2, including Denmark, the UK, Norway and Sweden, according to Danish research institute Statens Serum Institut (SSI).
What is BA.2?
  • Omicron has several sub-lineages, with the BA.1 variant accounting for most Omicron cases in NSW and worldwide.
  • But BA.2, also known as Nextstrain clade 21L, has recently become the most dominant strain in NSW, a UNSW study suggests.
  • The two variants differ in genetic sequence, including in amino acids and proteins.
Is BA.2 more transmissible?
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says studies have shown the BA.2 variant appears to be more transmissible than BA.1.
  • UNSW School of Population associate professor James Wood said the new sub-variant was about 25 per cent easier to catch than the original strain.
  • "It first became clear in Denmark it was more transmissible than Omicron," Dr Wood said.
  • "The dominant variant, for about a month, has been BA.2.
  • "We've started to see that pattern in a number of other countries like the UK and now we're getting data that's confirming that's the case in Australia, in particular NSW.
  • "We think by the end of the month it will be [account for more than] 90 per cent of the cases [in NSW]."
  • NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale said for a new strain to become dominant it had to be more transmissible or be able to evade vaccines and the immune response.
  • "What we are seeing is a trend to an increasing rise of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omircon," she said.
Is BA.2 more deadly?
  • Despite being potentially easier to catch, the WHO says infection data from South Africa, the UK and Denmark suggest there is no difference between the severity of Omicron's BA.1 and BA.2.
  • Dr Wood said there was "no real evidence" that it was more serious.
  • "Denmark hasn't experienced a surge in deaths … I'd say it's similar," he said.
  • "We can expect a rise in hospitalisations and intensive care … [but] we have progress in booster coverage — that's the sort of thing that will help keep severe disease down."
  • Dr Gale said the severity of BA.2 compared to its predecessor was still unknown.
  • "Experience overseas has shown us that BA.2 quite rapidly can overtake BA.1 to become the dominant type of Omicron," she said.
  • "Again from overseas, BA.2 has evidence of being more transmissible — it can infect people quicker.
  • "But we don't have evidence that it is any more or less severe clinically."
The new 'variant of concern'
  • Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was concerned by the mergence of BA.2.
  • "It's highly likely … in only another month or six weeks we could be looking at cases more than double what we're currently getting," he said.
  • "People need to understand that while the community has gone to sleep on the virus, the virus hasn't gone to sleep on the community."
  • The WHO released a statement calling it a "variant of concern", but Dr Wood said there was no need to be "overly concerned".
  • "Vaccines seem to work just as well against it," he said.
  • "We expect people who were infected with Omicron recently will have very good protection against it.
  • "So it's not the same kind of level of concern we had in December, when cases shot up quite rapidly and we were concerned with our health system's [ability to cope]."
  • But Dr Wood said a spike in infections was likely.
  • "We can expect cases to rise in the 20-30,000 range," he said.
  • "We're a bit uncertain when and how high that will get, but that's the range, we think.
  • "I don't think we'll see a big rise in numbers in severe illness."
How can we protect ourselves?
  • The risk of catching COVID is going to go up for a couple of months, Dr Wood says.
  • But he said there was no need for drastic measures like hibernating at home.
  • The easiest way to stay protected was to get a jab.
  • "For now, I wouldn't change your behaviour too much, but keep your eye on what's happening," Dr Wood said.
  • "If you're in a risk group and you haven't got a vaccine, I'd consider getting one.
  • "If you haven't had a booster dose, go get a booster dose — particularly if you're an older person or someone with risk factors.
  • "And I'd consider wearing a mask again if you're concerned of catching COVID."
  • Nick Talley from the University of Newcastle said booster shots were crucial to preventing serious illness.
  • "The risk is the people who aren't fully vaccinated could be exposed," Dr Talley said.
  • "I think everyone would want to forget about COVID with the war in Ukraine, the terrible floods.
  • "But we need to protect ourselves."

How COVID Antiviral Pills Work and Where to Get Them for Free
From CNET [2]:
President Joe Biden announced the initiative at his State of the Union address last week, referencing Pfizer's Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19 by nearly 90% and received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December.
  • The orders must still be shipped but Pfizer is expected to deliver 1 million pills to drugstores by the end of the month and "more than double that" in April, Biden said in his address, adding "We're leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone's needs as we move forward."
  • Here's what we know about COVID antiviral medications, including how they work and where you can get them.
Who can take COVID antiviral pills?
  • Paxlovid received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December for use on patients 12 and up who weigh at least 88 pounds.
  • On Wednesday, Pfizer said it had begun Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials on Paxlovid in children ages 6 to 17, with the hope of receiving approval to use the treatment on patients under age 12.
  • The White House hasn't announced full details for the Test to Treat program, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said last week, but testing and treatment would be available to individuals for free "all in one stop."
  • It's not clear if patients would be asked to show proof of insurance.
  • Previously, some health care providers were unsure about fulfilling prescriptions for the antivirals, and supplies were extremely limited.
  • "The demand is just outstripping the supply for these oral antivirals right now due to the quickly spreading omicron variant," Dr. Elise Choi, an internist in Somerville, Massachusetts, told the AMA in early February.
  • "Most of the access for these medications are being directed by the state health departments to specific local health departments, pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and physician offices."
  • Choi added that not all doctors could get antivirals on-demand for their patients. "There's a lot of state-to-state variability."
Which pills will be made available?
  • In his address, Biden indicated Pfizer's Paxlovid has been authorized as part of the Test to Treat program.
  • The oral medication has proven 89% effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19 if administered within three days of symptoms, according to the pharmaceutical giant.
  • If given within five days, it still reduced the risk of severe reaction by 88%.
  • Merck's antiviral, molnupiravir, also received emergency authorization from the FDA in November.
  • The White House already purchased 1.7 million courses of the drug in anticipation of that approval, but Biden did not mention it in his remarks.
  • Molnupiravir, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has ultimately proven much less effective than Paxlovid. (It was only narrowly approved by the FDA's advisory committee by 13 to 10.)
  • In clinical trials, it only decreased the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by 30%, down from 50% in early results.
  • "That's not all that good. It's pretty lackluster," Katherine Seley-Radtke, a University of Maryland medicinal chemist, told Nature.
How do antiviral pills work?
  • Several vaccines have proven effective at preventing COVID-19 and lessening the severity of disease for breakthrough cases. But for those already infected, antiviral drugs are needed to actively treat the condition.
  • Paxlovid is actually a combination of two medications: the existing antiviral ritonavir paired with the newer nirmatrelvir.
  • Nirmatrelvir is designed to block the activity of the SARS-CoV-2-3CL protease, an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to replicate. The ritonavir allows the medication to remain active in the body longer and at higher concentrations.
  • The two work together, disrupting the replication of COVID-19 virus in infected patients. Pfizer says the pill has proven effective against more serious delta and the omicron variants of COVID-19.
  • The Paxlovid protocol requires taking two nirmatrelvir tablets and one ritonavir tablet twice daily for five days -- within five days of symptoms appearing. Reported side effects during trials were similar to those of a placebo, according to Pfizer.
  • Molnupiravir's structure actually resembles the chemical-building blocks) used to make COVID's RNA: The drug "sneaks" into the virus' RNA as it's being synthesized and mutates it to the point that the viral proteins it creates can no longer function.
  • Possible side effects of molnupiravir include diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea, according to Yale Medicine.
Where can I get antiviral pills?
  • CVS, Walgreens and Kroger are among the "hundreds of sites" that are offering the medication, a White House official told Axios. Orders have already been submitted this week.
  • Someone will have to prescribe the medications, though, so any pharmacy you go to will need to have a clinic, like CVS' MinuteClinic, where clinicians can screen, diagnose and prescribe.
  • A representative for CVS told CNET the chain's large number of branches make it "uniquely positioned to help support the government's Test to Treat initiative."
  • The medications will also be distributed directly to medical clinics, community health centers, long-term care facilities and veteran health centers, Zients said Wednesday.
When will the medications be available?
  • The White House worked with Pfizer to speed up delivery of the pills, making hundreds of thousands of them available much earlier than expected.
  • Paxlovid is now available to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, but the availability of the drug varies greatly across the country.
  • CVS, which has 1,100 HealthHUBs and MinuteClinics nationwide, "look forward to helping provide expanded access as additional inventory becomes available," a spokesperson told CNET.
  • A Walgreens spokesperson said the company "will provide additional details regarding rollout in our stores as it becomes available."
  • If the rollout follows the precedent of the distribution of free N95 masks, some stores and regions will have access before others.
  • GoodRX has a tracker showing where Paxlovid and molnupiravir are available.
Could widespread use of antivirals lead to drug-resistant COVID?
  • The overuse of some antibiotics has led to drug-resistant strains of diseases like tuberculosis and gonorrhea. But that's unlikely to happen with Paxlovid because the course of treatment is so short -- just five days.
  • "It won't put selective pressure on the virus to evolve," Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNET earlier.
Will making the pills available cause vaccination rates to decline?
  • "During this pandemic, we've done everything in our power to get people to take the vaccine -- we've incentivized, cajoled, mandated," Gandhi said.
  • "At this point, a year since the first vaccine was announced, I don't think we're going to change someone's mind."

COVID-19: How Omicron overtook Delta in three charts​
Charts from Nature.com [5]
comparingvariantsnature1.png

naturechart2.png

naturechart3.png

Variant that combines Delta and Omicron identified; dogs sniff out virus with high accuracy
From Reuters [6]: March 9 (Reuters)
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

"Deltacron" with genes of Delta and Omicron found
  • Hybrid versions of the coronavirus that combine genes from the Delta and Omicron variants - dubbed "Deltacron" - have been identified in at least 17 patients in the United States and Europe, researchers said.
  • Because there have been so few confirmed cases, it is too soon to know whether Deltacron infections will be very transmissible or cause severe disease, said Philippe Colson of IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, France, lead author of a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
  • His team described three patients in France infected with a version of SARS-CoV-2 that combines the spike protein from an Omicron variant with the "body" of a Delta variant.
  • Another two unrelated Deltacron infections have been identified in the United States, according to an unpublished report by genetics research company Helix that has been submitted to medRxiv and seen by Reuters.
  • On virus research bulletin boards, other teams have reported an additional 12 Deltacron infections in Europe since January - all with an Omicron spike and a Delta body.
  • Genetic recombinations of human coronaviruses have been known to happen when two variants infect the same host cell.
  • "During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, two or more variants have co-circulated during same periods of time and in same geographical areas... This created opportunities for recombination between these two variants," said Colson, adding that his team has designed a PCR test that "can quickly test positive samples for the presence of this... virus."
Dogs sniff out coronavirus with high accuracy
  • New research adds to evidence that trained dogs could help screen crowds to identify people infected with the coronavirus.
  • At two community screening centers in Paris, 335 volunteers getting traditional PCR tests also provided sweat samples.
  • Overall, 78 people with symptoms and 31 people without symptoms tested positive by PCR.
  • Given the sweat samples to smell, the dogs were 97% accurate at detecting the infected patients, and 100% accurate at detecting infection in the asymptomatic patients, according to a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
  • They also were 91% accurate at identifying volunteers who were not infected, and 94% accurate at ruling out the infection in people without symptoms.
  • "Canine testing is non-invasive and provides immediate and reliable results," the authors said.
  • "Further studies will be focused on direct sniffing by dogs to evaluate sniffer dogs for mass pre-test in airports, harbors, railways stations, cultural activities or sporting events."
Future variants-of-concern likely lurk in today's patients
  • The many coronavirus particles inside an infected person likely include some mutated ones that may turn out to be early examples of important variants, new findings suggest.
  • Closely analyzing virus particles obtained from 10 people with infections attributed to the Alpha variant in Spain in April 2021, researchers identified some mutated particles resembling the Omicron variant, which was not formally identified until seven months later.
  • They also found mutations characteristic of a form of Delta and Iota, according to a report published on Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
  • While identifying an individual patient's dominant variant may be sufficient for diagnostic purposes, the "ultra deep" genetic sequencing used in this study could help scientists track mutations in SARS-CoV-2 particles that might evolve into variants of concern, the researchers said.
  • "The virus that replicates in each infected patient is in reality a mixture of slightly different SARS-CoV-2 viruses," and these different viruses account for varying proportions of the full "ensemble," said coauthor Celia Perales of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.
  • Minority variants in one infected individual can become dominant in someone else, either by chance, or due to a selective advantage related to the presence or absence of drugs, vaccines, or other factors, she said.

WHO Says COVID Boosters Needed, Reversing Previous Advice
From WebMD [8]: March 9, 2022
A World Health Organization advisory group said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, especially for people who face high risks for severe disease.
  • The recommendation reverses previous statements from the WHO that stressed worldwide vaccine equity for first doses over booster distribution in rich countries.
  • On Tuesday, the WHO pulled back on its earlier statements by saying boosters were recommended once countries had enough supplies and could protect their most vulnerable citizens, according to The Associated Press.
  • The WHO group concluded that COVID-19 vaccines provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death as the contagious Omicron variant continues to spread around the world.
  • Although the variant has decreased in some countries, such as the U.S., several countries in the WHO’s Western Pacific region are facing high cases and deaths.
  • “While global cases are declining, there are reduced testing resources and capacities in some areas,” the WHO said. “
  • The epidemiological situation remains heterogeneous, with a number of regions and countries reporting increases in new weekly cases, while others are now reporting declines.”
The updated recommendations came from the WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition, which is made up of 18 experts who focus on how well vaccines work and variants of concern, such as the Delta and Omicron variants.
  • The WHO said it continues to monitor the global spread of Omicron, as well as the subvariant BA.2, which has reinfected some people after they had a case of Omicron and has become the dominant lineage of Omicron in several countries.
  • Vaccines appear to be effective against Omicron and BA.2, the WHO said. Several studies have pointed to evidence that booster doses restore waning immunity and protect against serious COVID-19.
  • Booster programs in countries such as the U.S., U.K., and Canada have prevented the surge in Omicron infections from leading to hospitalizations and deaths, the AP reported.
  • The WHO said new variants will likely emerge, and new vaccines will likely be needed since the current authorized vaccines are based on the first coronavirus strain that circulated at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • “Since then, there has been continuous and substantial virus evolution, and it is likely that this evolution will continue, resulting in emergence of new variants,” the WHO said.
  • “The composition of current COVID-19 vaccines may therefore need to be updated.”

First Possible Case of Deer-to-Human COVID Transmission Identified
From WebMD [9]: March 1, 2022
A team of Canadian scientists may have discovered the first case of deer spreading the coronavirus to humans, according a new preprint study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
  • Typically, humans spread the virus to deer, and then deer spread it to other deer.
  • But new evidence suggests that the virus could spill over from deer into humans.
  • The researchers identified a COVID-19 case in someone from Ontario who had recently been in contact with deer.
“This particular case, while raising a red flag, doesn’t seem to be hugely alarming,” Finlay Maguire, PhD, one of the study authors and an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University, told CBC News.
  • “While we haven’t seen [transmission from deer to humans] happen directly, we sampled from the human case around the same time we sampled from the deer, and we sampled from around the same location,” he said.
  • “There is also a plausible link by which it could have happened, in that the individual involved is known to have had considerable contact with deer.”
  • Maguire and colleagues have been monitoring the spread of the coronavirus among animals.
  • They analyzed nasal swabs and lymph node samples taken from hundreds of deer that were killed by hunters in fall 2021 in southwestern and eastern Ontario.
  • Among 298 sampled deer, 17 tested positive -- all from southwestern Ontario.
During the analysis, they found a “highly divergent” coronavirus lineage, which means a cluster of samples with many mutations. Around the same time, they found a genetically similar version in a person from the same region.
  • The study points to the need for better surveillance of the coronavirus, Maguire told CBC News, including in humans, animals, plants, and the broader environment.
  • Researchers aren’t quite sure how deer contract the virus from humans, but it could happen through contaminated water, direct contact, food, farming, or other animals such as mink.
  • The coronavirus lineage identified in the study is different from what’s circulating among humans now, and it’s not related to the Delta or Omicron variants.
  • The closest genetic relative came from samples taken from humans and mink in Michigan in 2020, which means the divergent lineage mutated and evolved over time.
“It’s reassuring that we found no evidence of further transmission, during a time when we were doing a lot of sampling and a lot of sequencing,” Samira Mubareka, MD, one of the study authors and a virologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, told CBC News.
  • “If we continue to do this surveillance, we’ll get a much better sense of what the actual risk is,” she said.
  • So far, the coronavirus has been found in wild white-tailed deer in the northeastern U.S. and central Canadian provinces.
  • Other known cases of transmission from animals to humans have been identified in farmed mink and potentially hamsters, the news outlet reported.
  • But for the most part, humans transmit the virus to animals and are most likely to catch the virus from other people.
  • At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada has issued guidance for hunters, trappers, and those who handle wild deer.
  • People should wear gloves, goggles, and a mask when they could be exposed to respiratory tissues and fluids, especially indoors.
  • Coronaviruses are killed by normal cooking temperatures, the agency said, and there has been no evidence that cooked venison can spread the virus.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now
From Reuters [7]:
COVID vaccine supply for global programme outstrips demand for first time
  • The global project to share COVID-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.
  • Last year, wealthy nations snapped up most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70% in richer nations.
  • As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain shortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks, public health officials told Reuters.
Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore cases hit record
  • Hong Kong reported a record 8,674 new infections on Wednesday, as the city prepares for compulsory testing of its residents after authorities extended the toughest social restrictions imposed since the pandemic began.
  • Health authorities reported 24 deaths compared with Tuesday’s 32, as they step up measures, with assistance from their mainland counterparts, to contain the outbreak. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 6,211 new cases.
  • South Korea’s prime minister on Wednesday called on people not to panic about a major increase in infections as new daily cases surged past 170,000 for the first time.
  • Serious cases and deaths are at manageable levels despite record cases caused by the highly infectious Omicron variant, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a pandemic response meeting.
  • Singapore’s health ministry reported a record 26,032 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday and said it may take a few weeks before the current transmission wave peaks and subsides.
Beijing finds most daily local cases in nearly a month
  • Beijing reported on Wednesday the highest number of daily local COVID-19 cases since late January, less than two weeks before the opening of China’s annual parliamentary meeting in the capital on March 5.
  • The city of Beijing detected 10 domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, data from the National Health Commission showed on Wednesday.
  • That marks the highest daily count for Beijing since Jan. 29.
Cambodia vaccinates children aged three to five
  • Cambodia started vaccinating children as young as three against COVID-19 on Wednesday, becoming one of the first countries to cover the age group of those below five.
  • The Southeast Asian nation has vaccinated more than 90% of its population of 16 million, for one of the highest rates in the region, official data show. In January, it started rolling out a fourth dose for high-risk groups.
World should send 60 million vaccines to North Korea, U.N. investigator says
  • The international community should form a strategy to provide North Korea with at least 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to head off humanitarian disaster, an independent U.N. human rights investigator said on Wednesday.
  • The vaccines could be a way to persuade the country to ease lockdowns that have left some of its 26 million people on the verge of starvation, Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, told a briefing in Seoul.

Global daily statistics - Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker
reuterschart.png
List of sources
[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-10/what-we-know-about-covid-omicron-sub-variant-ba2/100899980
[2] https://www.cnet.com/health/medical...-pills-who-is-eligible-and-where-to-get-them/
[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00632-3
[6] https://www.reuters.com/business/he...ed-dogs-sniff-out-virus-with-high-2022-03-09/
[7] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-...s-right-now-idUKKCN24U0JD?edition-redirect=uk
[8] https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20220309/who-says-covid-boosters-needed
[9] https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20220301/deer-to-human-covid-transmission-first-possible-case

Nature is a British weekly scientific journal founded and based in London, England. As a multidisciplinary publication, Nature features peer-reviewed research from a variety of academic disciplines, mainly in science and technology. - Wikipedia

PS: I will post here again in next 2 weeks, same time as usual. Thanks for reading, everyone.
 

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The explainer/infographic in the first link....world map is very accurate in showing what percentage of populations are vaccinated etc, all over the world. Some of the counbtries are tiny, and hence a bit difficult to hover on with the mouse...eg, Philippines.
 
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Condobloke

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This article was written in Australia

Makes sense for any other countries about to enter the Winter season

 
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As much as this article was written in/for AUSTRALIA, the very same principles apply WORLD WIDE.

Common Sense is in abundance here

 

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WHO’s Science in 5 on COVID 19 : Tracking variants - WHO Youtube Channel

Long COVID and Post-infection Syndromes: What We Know So Far - Sci Show

SciShow is a series of science-related videos on YouTube. The program is mainly hosted by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers and Michael Aranda. SciShow was launched as an original channel. - Wikipedia.

COVID-19 VS FLU show down - WHO Youtube Channel

What happens when COVID-19 variants combine? - WHO Youtube Channel

After several weeks of declines, reported cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing globally - WHO Youtube Channel, Mar 18, 2022

Do I Need a 4th COVID Shot?
From CNet [1], March 24, 2022:
Last week, Pfizer and Moderna petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize an additional COVID-19 booster shot.
  • Pfizer's request was for adults 65 and older, a particularly vulnerable population, while Moderna seeks approval for all adults.
  • Because vaccine potency is known to wane over time, a fourth vaccine dose has long been a topic of study among researchers.
  • "It is necessary for a 4th booster," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CBS' Face the Nation earlier this month. The current three-shot protocol is "actually quite good against hospitalizations and deaths," he added, "but it doesn't last very long."
  • One report from Israel's Sheba Medical Center found that a fourth dose of either the Moderna's or Pfizer's mRNA vaccine increased COVID antibodies by a factor of nine to 10 in the weeks after it was administered.
Who is eligible for a fourth COVID shot right now?
  • If the FDA approves Pfizer's request, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the recommendation, Americans 65 and over could soon line up for their next booster.
  • If Moderna got the green light, anyone over 18 could get another dose.
  • Currently, though, the CDC has only approved the fourth shot for individuals who are immunocompromised or have other specific health issues, including people undergoing chemotherapy, organ and stem-cell transplant recipients, and those with HIV.
  • Individuals who meet the criteria need to receive a third primary dose at least 28 days after their most recent vaccination. Five months after that, they're eligible for another booster.
  • According to the CDC's recommendations, you don't need to show proof you are immunocompromised.
  • The agency spoke with major pharmacy chains to ensure eligible Americans receive their fourth shot, but immunocompromised people have reported being turned away by some pharmacies, Kaiser Health News reported.
When will the US approve another booster for everyone?
  • Numerous studies indicate the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines decreases over time, and health officials continue to move toward recommending a second booster shot for the general population.
  • "The potential future requirement for an additional boost a fourth shot for mRNA, or a third shot for Johnson & Johnson is being very carefully monitored in real-time," White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a February press briefing.
  • Israel, Germany, the UK, Sweden and Chile have already approved a fourth booster for older people or individuals with underlying health issues.
  • The FDA is potentially preparing to authorize another dose of mRNA vaccine in the fall, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Do you really need a fourth shot?
  • Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 appear to be waning: While there were more than 12 million new cases last week, according to the World Health Organization, there was a 23% decline in mortality.
  • Still, that's 33,000 deaths in one week. Pfizer's Bourla told CNBC's Squawk Box that "in an environment of omicron" another booster shot is "clearly" needed for everyone.
  • In a conversation hosted by CVS Heath Corporation last April, Bourla said one dose is enough for some vaccines, like for polio. But others, like the flu shot, have to be updated seasonally.
  • "The COVID-19 virus looks more like the influenza virus than the poliovirus," he added.
  • But Moderna said it requested approval for all adults 18 and up more "to provide flexibility" to the CDC and health care providers in deciding who needs another booster.
  • The company's president, Stephen Hoge, told Business Insider last week he thought a fourth dose was probably necessary only for seniors and immunocompromised people. Others could make their own choice.
"Is it necessary? I think that's a strong word," Hoge said. "I think it will provide a benefit to anyone who gets it."
  • There's also a question of when to get the shot: If the vaccine's protection lasts only a few months, should you make an appointment right away?
  • Or wait, under the assumption that another "variant of interest" like omicron won't come around for some time?
  • "It would be great if we knew exactly when the next wave was going to be so we could vaccinate people beforehand," Amy Sherman, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told The New York Times.
  • Further complicating the equation is the cost: The Biden administration made the original series of shots available for free, but "right now, we don't have enough money for fourth doses, if they're called for," White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said on the podcast In The Bubble, The Washington Post first reported.
  • There are funds to cover the cost for seniors to get a fourth booster.
  • But for everyone to get another jab, the government would have to purchase close to 750 million doses of vaccine.
How long do COVID-19 vaccines remain effective?
  • Messenger RNA vaccines, like the ones offered by Pfizer and Moderna, offer good protection against serious COVID-19 complications especially after a booster but their potency wanes over time.
  • In a February advisory, the CDC reported that protection against hospitalization from mRNA vaccines dropped noticeably after just four months, even with a booster: When the delta variant was predominant, protection against hospitalization was 96% within two months of a third mRNA shot, but sank to 76% within four months.
  • During the omicron wave, protection from hospitalization fell from 91% within two months of an mRNA booster to 78% after four months.
A February metastudy in The Lancet determined mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer's and Moderna's, decreased in their ability to fight off infection by from 20% to 30% six months after a third shot.
  • Their protection against "severe" disease and hospitalization remained high in the same time frame, however.
  • For symptomatic COVID-19 disease, vaccine effectiveness decreased by roughly 25% across the board at the six-month mark, and by 32% in people age 50 and older.
  • A CDC study found vaccines' protection against hospitalization when omicron was dominant dropped from a high of 91% within two months of a booster to 78% after four months.
COVID-19 is surging again in Europe thanks to the BA.2 subvariant and is likely to spread to the US soon
From Business Insider [2], March 21, 2022:
COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Europe after a slump over the Christmas holiday period, and experts are raising the alarm about another wave coming to the US.
  • COVID-19 waves in Europe have tended to precede a rise in cases in the US, and experts have suggested this could be the case here as well.
  • The rise in cases, shown below, is thought to be the result of a combination of the spread of a more contagious subvariant of Omicron called BA.2 and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in many European countries in recent weeks, Eric Topol, a cardiologist and the director of the Scripps Institute, wrote in The Guardian.
As of March 21, BA.2 made up 82% of sequenced cases of COVID-19 in the UK, 54% in Germany, 48% in France, and 48% in Italy, the variant-tracking website CoVariants.org said.
  • COVID-19 hospitalization rates are also on the rise in France and the UK, though both governments said that more people were being admitted for other reasons and testing positive for COVID-19 while in the hospital.
  • These "incidental" COVID-19 cases in hospitals made up more than half of UK hospitalizations, The Sunday Times reported.
BA.2 cases rising in the US:
  • The proportion of BA.2 cases has also been rising in the US.
  • The subvariant made up an estimated 23% of cases in the week of March 12, up from 13.7% the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
  • States in the northeast have the heaviest burden, with the BA.2 subvariant making up almost 40% of cases there.
The charts below are from from Business Insider [2]
businessinsiderchart2.png

businessinsiderchart1.png
New reported COVID-19 cases in the US dropped to about a 28,000 seven-day average on March 18 — the lowest level since July 13 last year.
  • But it is possible that the actual number of COVID-19 cases is higher than the figures show, Myoung Cha, an executive from Carbon Health, said in a Twitter thread.
  • That's because more people are testing at home and not seeking care, he said. Some US states are also starting to close testing sites.
  • Wastewater surveillance suggests there may be more COVID-19 cases than are being reported.
  • Some sites in the US reported over a 1,000% increase in the levels of genetic material from the coronavirus detected in sewage compared with 15 days earlier, as shown below.
The chart below is from from Business Insider [2]
businessinsiderchart3.png
The US could get a worse wave
  • Some experts warn that the US could get a worse BA.2 wave than Europe, with unboosted vulnerable and older people at more risk than those in Europe.
  • The uptake of booster vaccines has been poorer in the US: As of March 13, only one in three in the US population had received a third shot, compared to about 60% in the UK, Germany, and Denmark.
  • "This is a critical issue, because there is a substantial dropdown of protection, from 90-95% with a third shot to 75-80% without a booster, versus Omicron hospitalization and death," Topol, the cardiologist, said in The Guardian.
  • On Sunday, he tweeted a graphic of a new variant, writing: "Don't be surprised. Plan for it. Prepare against it."

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic

From WEForum [3], 21 Mar 2022:
1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 470.8 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.07 million.
  • More than 11 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
  • China's financial hub of Shanghai reported a record daily surge in local COVID-19 infections on Monday as authorities scrambled to test residents and rein in the Omicron variant.
  • Shanghai reported 24 new domestically transmitted COVID cases with confirmed symptoms for Sunday and 734 local asymptomatic infections.
  • The Chinese city of Shenzhen said it would allow offices and factories to restart operations from Monday and that public transport would also resume, after residents in the city completed three rounds of COVID-19 testing, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
  • South Korea has reached a deal to buy 10 million doses of the country's first experimental coronavirus vaccine, developed by SK Bioscience, authorities said on Monday.
  • Hong Kong SAR, China, plans to relax some anti-COVID measures next month, lifting a ban on flights from nine countries, reducing quarantine and reopening schools, after a backlash from business and residents.
  • France reported an average of close to 90,000 new daily coronavirus infections over the last seven days, a 36% rise from a week earlier when most COVID-19 health protocol measures were lifted by the government just ahead of the country's elections.
  • The Italian government plans to phase out coronavirus restrictions more than two years after the disease first swept the country.
  • The cabinet said COVID-19 health certificates – proving vaccination or recent recovery from coronavirus – would no longer be needed to access restaurants, gyms and public transport, from 1 May.
  • Pharmaceutical company Moderna said on Monday it has signed a new agreement with Switzerland for the supply of another 7 million doses of its COVID-19 booster vaccine for delivery in 2023.
  • The agreement also includes an option of 7 million doses for delivery in 2023 and 2024.
The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.07 million. Below is a chart from who.int [4]
coviddeathwhomarch262022.png

2. AstraZeneca COVID drug neutralizes Omicron sub-variants in lab study
  • AstraZeneca said on Monday that its antibody-based cocktail to prevent and treat COVID-19 retained neutralizing activity against Omicron coronavirus variants, including the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant, in an independent lab study.
  • This is the first data looking at the impact of AstraZeneca's Evusheld treatment on "cousins" of the Omicron variant following a recent global spike in cases.
  • The Anglo-Swedish firm said in December that another lab study found that Evusheld retained neutralizing activity against Omicron.
  • Data from the latest study by Washington University in the United States showed the therapy reduced the amount of virus detected in samples – viral load – of all tested Omicron sub-variants in mice lungs, AstraZeneca said.
  • The study has yet to be peer reviewed.
  • Evusheld was tested against the BA.1, BA.1.1, and BA.2 sub-variants of Omicron and was also shown in the study to limit inflammation in the lungs – a critical symptom in severe COVID-19 infections.
  • "The findings further support Evusheld as a potential important option to help protect vulnerable patients such as the immunocompromised who could face poor outcomes if they were to become infected with COVID-19," said John Perez, Head of Late Development, Vaccines and Immune Therapies at AstraZeneca.
3. WHO: COVID-19 pandemic is 'far from over'
  • A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson has said that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is a long way off, citing a rise in cases in its latest weekly data.
  • The UN health agency has previously said that the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year, but it would depend on how quickly the target to vaccinate 70% of the population in each country is met, among other factors.
  • Asked by a journalist at a Geneva media briefing about the timing of the pandemic's end, Margaret Harris said it is "far from over", adding that "we are definitely in the middle of the pandemic".
  • After more than a month of decline, COVID cases started to increase around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China's Jilin province battling to contain an outbreak.
  • A combination of factors is causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its cousin the BA.2 sub-variant, as well as the lifting of public health and social measures, the WHO said.
List of sources
[1] https://www.cnet.com/health/medical/do-i-need-a-fourth-covid-shot/
[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/omicron-europe-surge-ba2-us-wave-likely-coming-2022-3
[3] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022...w-about-the-coronavirus-pandemic-on-21-march/
[4] https://covid19.who.int/

Global daily statistics - Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker
reuterschartmarch252022.png

PS: I already covered some about B.A 2 variant in my post here 2 weeks ago. Please check my post 2 weeks ago here for details. I will post here again in next 2 weeks, same time as usual. Thanks for reading, everyone.
 

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Global daily statistics - Reuters COVID-19 Global Tracker

I note that this "global Tracker" does not include Australia....which obviously means that the measures being used here are working ?

Australian Numbers...Daily

1648259473142.png


1648259577827.png
 

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A 9-year-old boy is being denied a life-saving kidney transplant because his father is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now that's a real thinker... On one hand, they'd not do the transplant if the father drank or (probably) smoked - as the health of both parties is the primary concern.

On the other hand, who doesn't get a vaccine when it'd save their child's life?!?

I'd offer 'em a kidney, but ain't nobody wanting my organs for anything. Heck, I don't even want 'em half the time.

Anyhow, it makes a bit of an ethics bubblegum for the brain.
 

MatsuShimizu

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Top 20 Worst Epidemics in History - Watch Mojo​

Top 10 Worst Epidemics in History - Watch Mojo​

The videos above are ranked on Youtube for the keyword "top worst pandemic in history".
WatchMojo is a Canadian based privately held video producer, publisher, and syndicator. - Wikipedia.

The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the death of 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. - Black Death, Wikipedia.

A chart from Wikipedia [1]
listofpandemics-wikiedia.png

BA.2 Symptoms, Protection and More: What We Know as Omicron Subvariant Grows
Note: NBC Chicago is ranked on Google for the keyword "ba.2 variant symptoms". I had to remove some parts from the link [2] article due to the forum character limit. Please check link [2] for full details. Thanks.

From NBC Chicago [2]:
How contagious is BA.2?
According to several health experts, BA.2 appears to be more transmissible than omicron.
  • "There's four unique mutations in the spike protein that are distinct in BA.2, and different from BA.1. ... It seems that these mutations will propel the transmissibility to about a 30% to 50% higher degree of contagiousness than the BA.1 variant," said Dr. Gregory Huhn, an infectious disease physician and the COVID-19 vaccine coordinator for Cook County Health.
  • White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said BA.2 is about 50% to 60% more transmissible than omicron, but it does not appear to be more severe.
  • "It does have increased transmission capability," Fauci said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "However, when you look at the cases, they do not appear to be any more severe and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccines or prior infections."
  • Northwestern's Dr. Michael Angarone, an associate professor of medicine in infectious diseases, said the increased transmissibility could be particularly strong in close contacts of those infected, but it's still too early to tell.
  • "We're still trying to figure out why are we seeing this rising number of cases in some of these countries in Europe and that is because there's something markedly different about the virus," he said.
  • "So is it more transmissible? Are more people going to become infected from one infected individual? There might be some markers of that."
What are the symptoms of BA.2?
According to Angarone, the symptoms for BA.2 are similar to those seen in many COVID infections.
  • "So this is the same virus, so SARS Coronavirus 2, so we're seeing the same symptoms," he said.
  • Huhn noted that while omicron led to more upper respiratory symptoms, it remains too early to tell if BA.2 will continue that trend.
  • "I don't know if we, right now, know the particular features that are distinct for BA.2 versus BA.1.
  • I mean, for BA.1, we knew that it was mostly an upper respiratory-type infection rather than the lower respiratory infections that can lead toward pneumonia and further and greater complications," he said.
Still, NBC News reported symptoms associated with BA.2 seem to largely mirror a small number of symptoms commonly reported in omicron infections. Those include:
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Runny Nose
Anecdotal reports have suggested that dizziness could be a possible symptom, but they are so far unfounded.
  • "We will have to wait and see what exactly that means," said Dr. Rachael Lee, an associate professor of infectious disease and a health care epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • Infections in general can cause dizziness if people become dehydrated, she said.
  • "When we are sick and our body is taking care of the infection, we can get things like fever," Lee said.
  • "If you have fever, in particular, and if you're sweating a lot, you're losing a lot of fluid."
For some people, coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple weeks.
  • For others, it may cause no symptoms at all. For some, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
  • Most vaccinated people either have no symptoms or exhibit very mild symptoms, according to health officials, and the virus rarely results in hospitalization or death for those individuals.
Still, omicron presented a shift in common symptoms for many.
  • Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News in January that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant.
  • But unlike the delta variant, many patients were not losing their taste or smell.
  • She noted that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.
The symptoms COVID infections, according to the CDC, include:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Here’s What We Know About Omicron XE — The New Covid Variant Found In The U.K.
From Forbes [3]:

Topline
A new Covid-19 variant that combines two different omicron strains has been identified in the United Kingdom, and it could be the fastest-spreading Covid variant yet, according to early data from British public health officials and the World Health Organization, though experts warn it is too soon to determine if or how much of a threat the variant might be.

Key Facts
The variant, called XE, was first detected in England in mid-January, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and has been confirmed in more than 600 cases in England since, less than 1% of virus samples analyzed during that time.
  • As of March 22, 763 samples of XE had been identified in the U.K., and a very limited number of cases have reportedly been found in China and Thailand.
  • XE is a recombinant virus—effectively a combination of genetic material from two or more different viruses—containing elements of the original omicron strain, BA.1, and the more infectious BA.2 subvariant, also known as “stealth omicron.”
  • Early data from the UKHSA and WHO suggests the XE variant could be around 10% more transmissible than the BA.2 omicron subvariant, already the most contagious Covid variant and one of the most contagious diseases in human history.
  • Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, said more data will be needed to confirm whether XE has a “true growth advantage,” as it has shown a “variable growth rate” so far over the time it has been monitored.
  • There is also insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion on transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness, Hopkins said, adding that the UKHSA will continue to monitor the situation “closely.”
Key Background
  • It is normal and expected that viruses will change over time.
  • Many of these changes are the result of genetic mutation but some major changes can come about when a person is infected with more than one type of virus.
  • When this happens, viruses can exchange and swap parts of their genetic makeup as they replicate inside our cells, effectively creating a hybrid with elements of both “parents.”
  • Recombinant viruses are “not an unusual occurrence,” Hopkins said, “particularly when there are several variants in circulation.”
  • A number of Covid recombinants have been identified during the pandemic, she noted, and most “die off relatively quickly” as with other variants.
What We Don’t Know
  • How a new variant will affect Covid treatments.
  • New variants can possibly evade existing vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.
  • Omicron is better able to avoid the protection offered by vaccination and previous infection, for example, and both BA.1 and BA.2 are resistant to most monoclonal antibody treatments.
  • AstraZeneca’s treatment, Evusheld, still appears to work against the variants, as do antiviral drugs paxlovid and molnupiravir.
  • There is no data yet on whether XE is able to evade these treatments.
What To Watch For
  • A new named variant. The WHO assigns Greek letter names like alpha, delta and omicron to variants of particular concern or interest.
  • It does so based on significant behavioral differences between variants, not just genetic differences.
  • Two omicron subvariants—BA.1 and BA.2—are still classified as omicron despite being about as genetically distinct as earlier variants alpha, beta and gamma were from one another.
  • The WHO said it will classify XE under the omicron umbrella until “significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be reported.”
  • These differences have not been reported so far.
Tangent
  • The UKHSA said it is also monitoring two other Covid recombinants: XD and XF.
  • Both variants are a genetic mix of delta and omicron BA.1.
  • Only 38 cases of XF have been identified in the U.K. since mid-February and no cases of XD.
  • Just 49 cases of XD have been reported to global databases, the UKHSA said.
  • The majority of these were found in France.
Surprising Fact
  • Coronaviruses have been known to recombine with other types of virus, including influenza and rotaviruses.
  • While potentially unlikely due to the rarity of successful recombinants, it’s plausible a variant could emerge from a combination of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid, and another virus.
  • Such a recombinant could have new and unexpected properties.

China discovers a new omicron subvariant
From Quartz [4]:

On Monday (April 4), China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it had sequenced a new subvariant of the omicron variant, according to the state-run Global Times.
  • The subvariant, labeled BA.1.1., does not match other coronavirus types sequenced in China or reported to the global variant database, and was found in a mild covid case in Suzhou, a city next to Shanghai.
  • China is experiencing its largest wave of covid infections since the start of the pandemic, with Shanghai, a city of 25 million, currently under a citywide lockdown.
  • On Sunday, China reported more than 13,000 new cases. Local authorities have said omicron subvariant BA.2 is behind the new outbreaks.
  • The UK has likewise identified a new subvariant of omicron it has called XE.
  • According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), hundreds of people in the UK have so far been found to be infected with XE, a small fraction of total covid infections in the country.
  • It is too early to tell if XE is more transmissible than other subvariants of omicron, though it has been detected beyond the UK, in Thailand.
Covid surveillance is waning globally
The announcements of new omicron subvariants highlight the ongoing potential that another dangerous covid variant may yet emerge.
  • However, as much of the world unwinds its pandemic restrictions, some covid gene sequencing and monitoring systems are being dismantled along with them.
  • Even as the UK’s world-leading covid surveillance system turned out new information about omicron’s subvariants, the government pushed ahead on Friday (April 1) to shut down two virus surveys and scaled down a third, according to The New York Times.
  • Testing has dropped dramatically in Israel, which earlier had gathered important information on the effectiveness of vaccines against variants that informed governments around the world.
  • Denmark, which had an ambitious gene sequencing program at the height of the pandemic, stopped requiring testing for most people, shifting instead to monitoring wastewater as an indicator for spikes of covid cases.
  • The drop in global covid data may make it more difficult to predict surges and understand new variants, and restarting surveillance programs may prove difficult should a new variant require it.
  • South Africa, which was the first to name the highly transmissible omicron variant, and the US, are continuing their gene sequencing programs, as is China, which is pursuing a covid-zero policy at odds with global trends.
  • According to the Global Times, Suzhou city, where the new subtype was discovered, conducts gene sequencing for each new covid case.
U.S. road rage shootings soared during pandemic, gun control group says
From Reuters [5]: April 6

One person was shot on the road in the United States every 17 hours in 2021, according to a new tally of road rage violence.
  • In all, 131 people were killed and 391 wounded by gunfire for a total of 522 road rage casualties in 2021, the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety said in a report released this week.
  • That represents a significant jump from 73 dead and 166 wounded in 2016, a spike that the report's authors suspect was linked to stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The number of shootings for 2021 works out to one person shot in a road rage confrontation every 17 hours, more than twice the rate of one person every 37 hours in 2016.
Everytown, which is funded largely by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, cited its database, compiled from 7,500 sources, mostly law enforcement agencies.
  • The gun control group said more research was needed to determine the reasons for the surge in shootings, but that increased road rage gun casualties correlated with other trends seen during the pandemic, such as rising gun sales and shootings.
  • The gun rights group Gun Owners of America (GOA) accused Everytown of highlighting the actions of criminals to infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners.
  • "Plain and simple - it's illegal to threaten someone or use deadly force with a firearm to settle a road rage dispute.
  • This story is merely a distraction and an excuse for gun grabbers to once again claim that if we remove guns from the hands of good people, criminals will stop breaking the law," Erich Pratt, senior vice president of GOA, said in a statement.
Other groups, including the Automobile Association of America, have documented rising road rage.
  • The American Psychological Association says young males are the most likely to display aggressive or angry behavior toward other drivers.
  • "From 2016 to 2019, roughly one-third of road rage incidents involving a gun resulted in injury or death. By 2021, nearly two-thirds did," Everytown said.

Explainer: Omicron 'stealth' COVID variant BA.2 now dominant globally
From Reuters [8]: March 29

A sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron version of coronavirus known as BA.2 is now dominant worldwide, prompting surges in many countries in Europe and Asia and raising concern over the potential for a new wave in the United States. Below is a summary of what is known about BA.2.

MORE TRANSMISSIBLE
  • BA.2 now represents nearly 86% of all sequenced cases, according to the World Health Organization.
  • It is even more transmissible than its highly contagious Omicron siblings, BA.1 and BA.1.1, however the evidence so far suggests that it is no more likely to cause severe disease.
  • As with the other variants in the Omicron family, vaccines are less effective against BA.2 than against previous variants like Alpha or the original strain of coronavirus, and protection declines over time.
  • However, according to UK Health Security Agency data, protection is restored by a booster jab, particularly for preventing hospitalisation and death.
GLOBAL PICTURE
  • The rise of BA.2 has been blamed for recent surges in China as well as record infections in European countries like Germany and the UK. Yet some European countries are now seeing a slower uptick in new cases, or even a decline.
  • BA.2 has been called the "stealth variant" because it is slightly harder to track.
  • A missing gene in BA.1 allowed it to be tracked by default through a common PCR test. BA.2 and another sibling, BA.3, which is also increasing in prevalence but is currently at low levels, can only be found by genomic sequencing, which some countries do more of than others.
REINFECTIONS
  • A key concern about BA.2 was whether it could re-infect people who had already had BA.1, particularly as a number of countries seemed to be experiencing "double peaks" in infection rates surprisingly close together.
  • But data from both the UK and Denmark have shown that while Omicron can reinfect people who had other variants, such as Delta, only a handful of BA.2 reinfections in people who had BA.1 have been found so far among tens of thousands of cases.
  • Scientists say a possible explanation for the recent rise in BA.2 could be that the global uptick happened at the same time that many countries lifted public health interventions.
  • "In some ways, it could just be that BA.2 was the variant that was circulating when all these people stopped wearing masks," said Dr Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
  • As such, other U.S. experts such as Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, said it was "a little too early" to call whether the U.S. too would see a significant BA.2 wave.
  • But whatever the reason for BA.2's rise, scientists said it was a reminder that the virus continues to cause harm, particularly among unvaccinated, under-vaccinated and vulnerable populations.
  • "It is still a huge public health problem and it is going to continue to be," said Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh.

U.S. Pulls COVID Drug as Omicron Subvariant Spreads
From WebMD [7]:

April 6, 2022 – Federal regulators announced Tuesday that GlaxoSmithKline’s COVID-19 drug should no longer be used because it’s likely ineffective against BA.2, the Omicron subvariant that now accounts for most new cases in the U.S., The Associated Press reports.
  • The FDA announced that the antibody drug sotrovimab is no longer authorized to treat patients in U.S. states or territories.
  • The decision was expected, as the FDA restricted the drug’s use across the country throughout March as BA.2 became dominant in certain regions, the AP reported.
The BA.2 subvariant now accounts for 72% of new COVID-19 cases sequenced by health authorities, according to the latest CDC data updated Tuesday.
  • The FDA cited the CDC data in its reason for pulling back on the authorization of the drug.
  • The GlaxoSmithKline drug is the latest antibody medication to be pulled due to coronavirus mutations.
  • In January, the FDA halted the use of antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly because they didn’t work against the Omicron variant.
The FDA’s decision means that one antibody drug is still authorized for use against routine COVID-19 cases, the AP reported.
  • A different Eli Lilly drug – bebtelovimab – still appears to work against BA.2.
  • Doctors can also prescribe antiviral pills, which typically affect the coronavirus spike protein and aren’t affected by mutations, to treat mild to moderate COVID-19, the AP reported.
  • The authorized pills from Pfizer and Merck – Paxlovid and Lagevrio – have been shipped to pharmacy chains and medical clinics in hopes of getting them to patients early enough to work.
The federal government purchased nearly $2 billion worth of the GlaxoSmithKline drug and shipped more than 900,000 doses to states last fall, the AP reported.
  • In March, the company announced that it was studying a higher dose that could be effective against BA.2, which would require FDA approval before resuming use in the U.S.
  • The antibody drugs mimic the virus-blocking proteins found in the human body, the AP reported. They’re designed to attack a specific virus and need to be updated as the coronavirus mutates.

Compilation: COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic
From World Economic Forum [6]:

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 491.4 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.15 million.
  • More than 11.29 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
  • Brazil has eased restrictions for incoming international travellers.
  • Vaccinated Brazilians and foreigners are now exempt from providing proof of a COVID-19 test with a negative or non-detectable result.
  • Rates of COVID-19 among people in England rose to their highest since the pandemic began, data from Britain's Office for National Statistics showed on 1 April.
  • Also on 1 April, Italy began to phase out its COVID-19 restrictions, ending a state of emergency declared more than two years ago.
South Korea is set to further ease its social distancing rules this week and could scrap most pandemic-related restrictions later in April.
  • Germany plans to end mandatory quarantine for most people who catch COVID-19, the health ministry proposed last week.
  • Under existing rules, people with COVID-19 must quarantine for at least seven days. This would change to a voluntary five-day period.
  • Switzerland also lifted the last of its COVID-19 restrictions from 1 April, including the requirement to self-isolate for five days after a positive test.
Children aged 5-11 who received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were 68% less likely to be hospitalized during the Omicron wave in the United States than unvaccinated children, according to a new study.
  • While people who recover from COVID-19 usually gain some immune defences against reinfection, they still get additional protection from vaccines, especially against severe disease, according to two studies published on 31 March in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
  • More than a third of high-school students surveyed in the United States experienced stress, anxiety or depression during the pandemic, and nearly a fifth said they seriously considered suicide, researchers reported on 31 March.
2. WHO outlines plans to end emergency phase of COVID-19 pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) outlined an updated plan for COVID-19 on 30 March.
  • It laid out key strategies that, if implemented, would allow the world to end the emergency phase of the pandemic this year.
  • The WHO is calling on countries to increase or continue virus surveillance capabilities and to improve detection of long COVID.
  • It also continues to promote a goal of vaccinating 70% of the world against COVID-19 – among other strategies.
  • The plan includes three possible scenarios for how the virus might evolve in the coming year.
  • "Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
3. China sends military, doctors to Shanghai to test 26 million residents for COVID-19
China has sent the military and thousands of healthcare workers to Shanghai to help carry out COVID-19 tests for all of its 26 million residents.
  • More than 10,000 healthcare workers from other areas have arrived in Shanghai, according to state media reports.
  • An armed forces newspaper said the People's Liberation Army dispatched more than 2,000 medical personnel to Shanghai from across the army, navy and joint logistics support forces.
  • Shanghai began a two-stage lockdown on 28 March that has been expanded to confine practically all residents to their homes.
  • The city reported 8,581 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and 425 symptomatic COVID cases for 3 April.

Reuters Weekly Chart
reuterscovidchart.png
List of sources
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics#By_death_toll
[2] https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/cor...-we-know-as-omicron-subvariant-grows/2795368/
[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/robert...ovid-variant-found-in-the-uk/?sh=741846e02a8c
[4] https://qz.com/2150110/new-omicron-subtypes-found-in-china-and-the-uk/
[5] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us...g-pandemic-gun-control-group-says-2022-04-07/
[6] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/04/covid19-coronavirus-pandemic-news-4-april-2022/
[7] https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20220406/us-pulls-covid-drug-as-omicron-subvariant-spreads
[8] https://www.reuters.com/business/he...variant-ba2-now-dominant-globally-2022-03-29/

Quartz is a business-focused, privately held English-language international news organization. - Wikipedia.

WMAQ-TV (channel 5) is a television station in Chicago, Illinois, United States, airing programming from the NBC network. It is owned and operated by the network's NBC Owned Television Stations division alongside Telemundo outlet WSNS-TV (channel 44); it is also sister to regional sports network NBC Sports Chicago. - Wikipedia

PS: I will post here again in the next 15 days (Saturday, US time), same time as usual. Thanks for reading, everyone.
 

MatsuShimizu

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I note that this "global Tracker" does not include Australia....which obviously means that the measures being used here are working ?
Reuters statistics are not accurate but more an estimate. Most of these online charts are just estimates and not accurate, including the one from WHO.INT here.
However, they try as best as they can. You can read the Reuters methodology here.

The screenshot below is a quote from the Reuters link above.

reuters-methodology.png
 
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