Why Pandemics Like COVID-19 Keep Happening - Bloomberg Quicktake
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Solution: How to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic? - DW News
People Hospitalized for COVID More Likely to Develop Long-term Conditions
From Very Well Health :
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.
Long COVID Symptoms
- 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.
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.
What This Means For You
- 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.”
- 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 :
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?
From The Guardian :
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 : 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.
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 on the uncertain future of COVID-19 amid changing public health guidelines - PBC Newshour
Fauci says time to start 'inching' back toward normality
From Reuters : 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 : 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 :
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 :
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
PS: I will post here again next week, same time as usual. Thanks for reading, everyone.