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A coronavirus outbreak could be devastating for poorer countries – CNN

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The flu-like respiratory illness is highly contagious and the outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it was first identified. Chinese authorities have shut down entire cities, suspended public transport and closed schools, businesses and factories in an effort to contain it.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, when he announced the decision on January 30.
Since then, the number of confirmed cases reported in mainland China has more than quadrupled to more than 44,653. As of Wednesday morning, more than 1,100 people had died from the virus, while 4,740 patients had recovered and been discharged from hospital.
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The virus has spread across Asia and into Europe and the United States, with more than 500 confirmed cases in over two dozen countries and territories, with just two deaths outside mainland China.
While the majority of cases outside of mainland China have so far been connected to travelers from China, or those who have have recently been there, a small but growing number of patients have caught the virus locally.
That’s worrying, because if self-sustaining outbreaks start occurring in nations with poor healthcare systems, the impact could be devastating.
“It’s an enormous concern,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development.
“We still don’t have a clear picture of how likely that is, but given transmissions dynamics in China and the speed with which cases have emerged in other countries, global spread seems highly plausible.”

If China is struggling, how will other nations cope?

China is ranked 51st out of 195 countries globally for its outbreak readiness, according to the Global Health Security Index. That’s not on par with the wealthiest countries in the world, but far higher than many low-income nations.
Authorities in China have suspended public transport and sealed off entire cities at the epicenter of the outbreak, effectively putting 60 million people on lockdown. They’ve built two new hospitals in less than two weeks, and dispatched thousands of medical workers to Wuhan.
Yet despite these unprecedented efforts, the country is struggling to keep the rapidly expanding outbreak under control.
First-hand accounts from medical staff and patients in Wuhan show China’s already overburdened health system is on its knees. Hospitals, overwhelmed with the sick, are running out of beds and supplies. Exhausted doctors and nurses are risking their lives and becoming infected with the virus themselves.
People have spoken of sick family members turned away from hospitals, delays in testing and wards packed with feverish patients and limited screening or quarantine.
“If China is struggling to contain this, weaker countries will have an even harder time. And that suggests that the kind of transmission we’re seeing in China might soon be mirrored elsewhere,” said Konyndyk.

Where are the biggest concerns?

Countries close to China in Southeast and East Asia have borne the brunt of the infections outside of the mainland, with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand seeing local transmissions.
Some of those nations with coronavirus infections and their neighbors are among the poorest and most disaster-prone countries in the world.
Experts have raised fears that the health care infrastructure in these countries could crumble under the weight of an outbreak, and severely damage their economies, cause mass displacement and lead to other non-virus deaths.
What will it take to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world?What will it take to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world?
Natural disasters in the Philippines already cause millions of dollars in damage and displace thousands each year.
Powerful typhoons and a series of earthquakes battered the country in 2019, and this year a volcanic eruption in southern Luzon Island is still posing a threat to nearby residents. A dengue epidemic last summer killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 250,000, demonstrating the strain on its health service.
To date, one person has died in the Philippines from coronavirus — the first death outside mainland China — and three people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila.Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to 60% of the world’s population — many of those countries are low or middle-income nations that are quickly industrializing.
According to the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board’s 2019 report “A World At Risk,” rapid urbanization can hasten the spread of disease during an outbreak.
Population booms and the migration of millions of people from rural areas to overcrowded cities with underdeveloped infrastructure and a lack of sanitation could further aggravate the spread of viruses.
India, with its population of 1.3 billion people, is one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world. By 2050, a United Nations report predicts India will have an additional 416 million urban residents. There have been three confirmed coronavirus cases in India, all three are students who had traveled from Wuhan.
While millions of people have lifted themselves out of poverty in India over the past 20 years, millions of others have been left behind.
Densely-packed city slums where thousands of people live in close proximity to one another in often sub-standard conditions could make it difficult to control a virulent viral outbreak.
Smaller, sparsely populated nations in the Pacific Ocean are also extremely vulnerable to an outbreak, though coronavirus has not been confirmed on any of these territories.
Samoa is still reeling from a measles epidemic that infected 5,707 people and killed 83, many of them children. The Samoan government declared a state of emergency in December and shut schools and government services while launching a mass vaccination campaign.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said recently that “another infectious disease outbreak will have catastrophic effects on the whole of Samoa.”
Some countries have not yet reported any cases, including Indonesia, a nation of 264 million, which typically receives large numbers of Chinese tourists. Likewise, no confirmed cases have been reported in Myanmar, which borders China, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos.
An outbreak in Myanmar, for example, could strain a country that’s still grappling with the legacy of decades of brutal military rule, where one in four people live in poverty, and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis are among the leading causes of death.

Frontline workers risk their lives

One of the biggest concerns of a global spread would be the threat of contagion to frontline health workers, said Konyndyk from the Center for Global Development.
“Infection prevention procedures in the developing world tend to be poorly managed and weakly resourced,” he said.
During the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa in 2014 and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019, health workers were between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected than people in the general population, according to a report by the WHO.
Wuhan coronavirus is already in the US. The strategy for now isn't to stop it, but to slow itWuhan coronavirus is already in the US. The strategy for now isn't to stop it, but to slow it
“Health worker infections are a huge blow, because beyond adding to case counts, they degrade the health system’s capacity to fight the outbreak and they undermine the health system’s work on a range of other health risks as well,” Konyndyk said.
Community distrust of medical workers in some places could be disastrous, potentially leading more deaths and further spreading the virus.
When Ebola struck last year in the DRC, fear, rumors and mistrust of public health authorities and politicians meant people stayed home instead of going for treatment. Despite millions of dollars in funding and an effective experimental vaccine, Ebola spread to new provinces and re-infected areas thought to be rid of the virus.
“Spread of this novel coronavirus to such an area would easily overwhelm their testing and treatment capabilities without international assistance,” said Courtney Kansler, Senior Health Intelligence Analyst with WorldAware.
“Venezuela is another good example, where there is a near-complete lack of basic medical services and healthcare infrastructure nationwide,” she said.
Currently there is no evidence of confirmed coronavirus cases on the African continent or in South America.

World not ready for a pandemic

Medical staff are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan.Medical staff are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan.
The WHO has appealed for a coordinated international response to help stop the outbreak from spreading, and for wealthier countries to support those with weaker health systems.
But as more countries shut their borders to travelers from China, there are concerns the restrictions will hinder sharing of public health data, or disrupt supply chains.
The WHO has not declared a pandemic — which is essentially when there’s a sustained spread of the disease in numerous countries.
But while there have been big advances in transparency, data sharing, and research tools, “the world remains meaningfully unready for a dangerous pandemic,” said Konyndyk.
“Our existing medical and public health systems would be overwhelmed rapidly and there is no clear plan-B scenario for what countries should do once that happens,” he said.

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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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