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'All of us have a date with Omicron': Scientists predict what happens next with the new coronavirus variant – Hindustan Times

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The federal health officials in the US have warned of a new surge of Omicron cases in the country by January 2022, especially after holiday gatherings wrap up. The new variant has spread to almost 100 countries since being detected in South Africa last month.

People walk past Christmas decorations at the Orchard road shopping district in Singapore.(AFP Photo)
Published on Dec 21, 2021 06:46 AM IST
By | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Omicron variant has sent fresh shockwaves across the globe, upsetting whatever semblance of normalcy the world had seen in recent months. In the United States, it has already dethroned Delta to become to dominant strain of the coronavirus, accounting for 73 per cent new infections last week.

But how will it behave in the future? What people should expect from the heavily mutated strain? Some health experts in the US have made comments in the last few days which paints a picture of days to come as the world tries to control Omicron.

WATCH: ‘Cancel events NOT life…’: How WHO chief warned against festive fervor amid Omicron spread

“Based on data from South Africa and Europe we can expect a significant increase in case numbers here in the US in the next several weeks,” De Stephen Goldstein, a professor at University of Utah, told Salon. “It is possible to likely that peak cases numbers will exceed last winter’s peak.”

Dr Monica Gandhi, infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, said that Omicron is “more transmissible and will cause a new wave of infection”.

This seems to be coming true. Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90 per cent or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 omicron infections occurred in the US last week.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the new numbers reflect the kind of growth seen in other countries. “These numbers are stark, but they’re not surprising,” she said.

The healthcare authorities in New Zealand said they have found evidence that points to Omicron being the most transmissible Covid-19 variant, but they are still unclear how severe it is. The country has pushed phased border re-opening from January to February due to Omicron.

Singapore found a cluster of three Covid-19 cases in fully vaccinated people and Omicron was confirmed in two patients. The heavily mutated variant is believed to be more resistant to vaccines.

In South Africa, where it was first identified on November 24, and the United Kingdom have already been ravaged by Omicron.

“All of us have a date with Omicron,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to interact with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, Omicron will be something you encounter, and the best way you can encounter this is to be fully vaccinated.”

Many healthcare experts are urging people to take the vaccine shots. US President Joe Biden last week predicted “a winter of severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated.

Coinciding with the US President’s remarks, top federal health officials in the US predicted a new surge of Omicron cases in the country by January 2022, especially after holiday gatherings wrap up.

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Third COVID-19 outbreak declared this month at Cambridge Memorial Hospital – TheRecord.com

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Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH) has declared its third COVID-19 outbreak of the month.

The outbreak was announced on Jan. 18 in medicine B (wing B, level 4) with two patients and one staff member testing positive.

A hospital outbreak is declared when two or more patients and/or staff test positive for a respiratory illness that was acquired in hospital within a time frame that is consistent with the epidemiology of the disease, and when there is a link between the cases.

According to CMH, safety precautions added include: enhanced surveillance by increased swabbing and testing non-infected patients and staff; enhanced cleaning, especially to high touch areas; and visits to inpatients have been paused for the entire hospital as of Jan. 8.

Virtual visits and phone connections for patients and families can be arranged.

The outbreak in medicine B could be declared over on Jan. 28 after 10 consecutive days with no new infections.

The hospital is still in outbreak in two other units, rebab and inpatient surgery.

The rehabilitation unit outbreak was declared Jan. 4.

As of Jan. 19, 12 patients and three staff have been infected, with the last positive test detected on Jan. 16, targeting the earliest possible end date at Jan. 26 if there are no new cases.

The inpatient surgery outbreak was declared Jan. 7 and at this time, seven patients and six staff have been infected. The last positive test was detected on Jan. 15, which targets the outbreak’s end date at Jan. 25 should there be no new cases.

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Those who had COVID-19 and are vaccinated have best protection, study finds – National | Globalnews.ca – Globalnews.ca

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A new study in two states that compares coronavirus protection from prior infection and vaccination concludes getting the shots is still the safest way to prevent COVID-19.

The study examined infections in New York and California last summer and fall and found people who were both vaccinated and had survived a prior bout of COVID-19 had the most protection.

But unvaccinated people with a past infection were a close second. By fall, when the more contagious delta variant had taken over but boosters weren’t yet widespread, that group had a lower case rate than vaccinated people who had no past infection.

Read more:

Vaccination may lower risk of ‘long COVID’ studies say — but experts aren’t so sure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the study Wednesday, noted several caveats to the research. And some outside experts were cautious of the findings and wary of how they might be interpreted.

“The bottom line message is that from symptomatic COVID infection you do generate some immunity,” said immunologist E. John Wherry of the University of Pennsylvania. “But it’s still much safer to get your immunity from vaccination than from infection.”

Vaccination has long been urged even after a prior case of COVID-19 because both kinds of protection eventually wane — and there are too many unknowns to rely only on a past infection, especially a long-ago one, added immunologist Ali Ellebedy at Washington University in St. Louis.

“There are so many variables you cannot control that you just cannot use it as a way to say, `Oh, I’m infected then I am protected,”’ Ellebedy said.


Click to play video: 'Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country'



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Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country


Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country

The research does fall in line with a small cluster of studies that found unvaccinated people with a previous infection had lower risks of COVID-19 diagnosis or illness than vaccinated people who were never before infected.

The new study’s findings do make sense, said Christine Petersen, a University of Iowa epidemiologist. She said a vaccine developed against an earlier form of the coronavirus is likely to become less and less effective against newer, mutated versions.

However, experts said, there are a number of possible other factors at play, including whether the vaccine’s effectiveness simply faded over time in many people and to what extent mask wearing and other behaviors played a part in what happened.

Another thing to consider: The “staunchly unvaccinated” aren’t likely to get tested and the study only included lab-confirmed cases, Wherry said.

“It may be that we’re not picking up as many reinfections in the unvaccinated group,” he said.

Read more:

4,132 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID, 589 in intensive care

CDC officials noted other limitations. The study was done before the omicron variant took over and before many Americans received booster doses, which have been shown to dramatically amplify protection by raising levels of virus-fighting antibodies. The analysis also did not include information on the severity of past infections, or address the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

The study authors concluded vaccination “remains the safest strategy” to prevent infections and “all eligible persons should be up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.”

The researchers looked at infections in California and New York, which together account for about 18 per cent of the U.S. population. They also looked at COVID-19 hospitalizations in California.

Overall, about 70 per cent of the adults in each state were vaccinated; another five per cent were vaccinated and had a previous infection. A little under 20 per cent weren’t vaccinated; and roughly five per cent were unvaccinated but had a past infection.


Click to play video: 'Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater'



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Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater


Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater

The researchers looked at COVID-19 cases from the end of last May until mid-November, and calculated how often new infections happened in each group. As time went on, vaccine-only protection looked less and less impressive.

By early October, compared with unvaccinated people who didn’t have a prior infection, case rates were:

— Six-fold lower in California and 4.5-fold lower in New York in those who were vaccinated but not previously infected.

— 29-fold lower in California and 15-fold lower in New York in those who had been infected but never vaccinated.

— 32.5-fold lower in California and 20-fold lower in New York in those who had been infected and vaccinated.

But the difference in the rates between those last two groups was not statistically significant, the researchers found.

Hospitalization data, only from California, followed a similar pattern.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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Over 1.2 million people died from drug-resistant infections in 2019 – study

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More than 1.2 million people died in 2019 from infections caused by bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria, according to a new report published on Thursday.

Global health officials have repeatedly warned about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and other microbes due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages microorganisms to evolve into “superbugs”.

The new Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance report, published in The Lancet, revealed that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million deaths and associated with about 4.95 million deaths. The study analysed data from 204 countries and territories.

“These new data reveal the true scale of antimicrobial resistance worldwide… Previous estimates had predicted 10 million annual deaths from AMR by 2050, but we now know for certain that we are already far closer to that figure than we thought,” said Chris Murray, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Washington.

Last year, the World Health Organization warned that none of the 43 antibiotics in development or recently approved medicines were enough to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Cornelius Clancy, professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said one of the ways to tackle AMR is to look at a new treatment model.

“The traditional antibiotic model that we’ve had for past number of decades since penicillin. I think it is tapped out.”

Most of 2019’s deaths were caused by drug resistance in lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia, followed by bloodstream infections and intra-abdominal infections.

AMR’s impact is now most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while around one in five deaths is in children aged under five years.

There was limited availability of data for some regions, particularly many low and middle-income countries, which may restrict the accuracy of the study’s estimates.

Clancy said the focus has been on COVID-19 for the past two years, but AMR is a “long-term kind of challenge”.

 

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Devika Syamnath)

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