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Explainer: Scientists on alert over rising cases caused by Omicron cousin BA.2 – MyRepublica

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CHICAGO, Feb 1: The highly transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – the most common form of which is known as BA.1 – now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus infections globally, although dramatic surges in COVID cases have already peaked in some countries.

Scientists are now tracking a rise in cases caused by a close cousin known as BA.2, which is starting to outcompete BA.1 in parts of Europe and Asia. The following is what we know so far about the new subvariant:

“STEALTH” SUBVARIANT

Globally, BA.1 accounted for 98.8% of sequenced cases submitted to the public virus tracking database GISAID as of Jan. 25. But several countries are reporting recent increases in the subvariant known as BA.2, according to the World Health Organization.

In addition to BA.1 and BA.2, the WHO lists two other subvariants under the Omicron umbrella: BA.1.1.529 and BA.3. All are closely related genetically, but each features mutations that could alter how they behave.

Trevor Bedford, a computational virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who has been tracking the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, wrote on Twitter on Friday that BA.2 represents roughly 82% of cases in Denmark, 9% in the UK and 8% in the United States, based on his analysis of sequencing data from the GISAID database and case counts from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

The BA.1 version of Omicron has been somewhat easier to track than prior variants. That is because BA.1 is missing one of three target genes used in a common PCR test. Cases showing this pattern were assumed by default to be caused by BA.1.

BA.2, sometimes known as a “stealth” subvariant, does not have the same missing target gene. Instead, scientists are monitoring it the same way they have prior variants, including Delta, by tracking the number of virus genomes submitted to public databases such as GISAID.

As with other variants, an infection with BA.2 can be detected by coronavirus home tests kits, though they cannot indicate which variant is responsible, experts said.

MORE TRANSMISSIBLE?

Some early reports indicate that BA.2 may be even more infectious than the already extremely contagious BA.1, but there is no evidence so far that it is more likely to evade vaccine protection.

Danish health officials estimate that BA.2 may be 1.5 times more transmissible than BA.1, based on preliminary data, though it likely does not cause more severe disease. read more

In England, a preliminary analysis of contact tracing from Dec. 27, 2021, through Jan. 11, 2022, by the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) suggests that household transmission is higher among contacts of people infected with BA.2 (13.4%) compared with other Omicron cases (10.3%).

The HSA found no evidence of a difference in vaccine effectiveness, according to the Jan. 28 report.

A critical question is whether people who were infected in the BA.1 wave will be protected from BA.2, said Dr. Egon Ozer, an infectious disease expert at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

That has been a concern in Denmark, where some places that saw high case counts of BA.1 infections were reporting rising cases of BA.2, Ozer said.

If prior BA.1 infection does not protect against BA.2, “this could be sort of a two-humped camel kind of wave,” Ozer said. “It’s too early to know if that will happen.”

The good news, he said, is that vaccines and boosters still “keep people out of the hospital and keep people from dying.”

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DeMille Anticipates Broader Rollout Of 4th Dose Vaccination – Country 105

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The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) is getting ready for the annual flu shot campaign, as well as a broader ask for arms to get the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province expanded the second booster dose eligibility on April 7th to those who are 60 and over as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over.

“At this time, I’m not hearing any indication of the province opening up (eligibility) to the broader population, and I’m not sure really we would have evidence that would be needed at this time,” DeMille told Acadia News Monday. “We are much lower in terms of the amount of COVID-19 (cases) in the province of Ontario. With the summertime, we see overall less spread (of the virus).”

DeMille did mention that the District anticipates the call will get broader in the fall.

As of June 21st, 133,334 people within the TBDHU have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 80,719 have received three doses.

Officials have given fourth doses to 18,687 individuals as of the last update.

DeMille was also asked about a return to school in September, and what that might look like after Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told Federal MPs on June 8th that there is a real threat of the seventh wave of COVID-19.

The Medical Officer says it’s hard to look into the crystal ball and pinpoint what will happen based on the fact that right now a majority of the new infections are the Omicron variant.

“The schools overall did fairly well,” DeMille stated. “We know that a lot of people did get infected, which can cause a lot of disruption because people still need to isolate so that they are not spreading (the virus) to others. Likely a lot of spread happened in the schools when we re-opened in January and through the last few waves.”

DeMille noted that the schools took a lot of measures that helped in previous waves, including improving ventilation.

“I anticipate that (masking) will always be optional, but when the Omicron variant is spreading, it’s always helpful when people are masking in indoor spaces when they are interacting with others,” said DeMille. “(Down the road) we might recommend that people wear masks in schools, but that advice will really depend on what we see circulating, how much it is circulating and what the impact is on schools.”

DeMille mentioned whether it is the school, the workplace, or any other indoor space, the goal is to return to as normal as possible in an eventual post-pandemic world.

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Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, says WHO – Global News

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Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled on Saturday, although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.

“I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,” Tedros said.

The “global emergency” label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the U.N. agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.

Read more:

Canada signs $32.9M contract for smallpox drug with manufacturer Chimerix

There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.

So far this year almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.

It has two clades – the West African strain, which is believed to have a fatality rate of around 1% and which is the strain spreading in Europe and elsewhere, and the Congo Basin strain, which has a fatality rate closer to 10%, according to WHO.


Click to play video: 'More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll'



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More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll


More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll – Jun 17, 2022

There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.

The WHO decision is likely to be met with some criticism from global health experts, who said ahead of the meeting that the outbreak met the criteria to be called an emergency.

However, others pointed out that the WHO is in a difficult position after COVID-19. Its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely ignored by many governments until around six weeks later, when the agency used the word “pandemic” and countries took action.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; additional reporting by Mrinmay Dey; Editing by Sandra Maler)

© 2022 Reuters

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Kingston, Ont., area health officials examining future of local vaccination efforts – Global News

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More than 455,000 people in the Kingston region have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now health officials say they’re using the summer months, with low infection rates, to look ahead to what fall might bring, urging those who are still eligible to get vaccinated do so.

Read more:

Kingston Health Sciences Centre to decommission COVID-19 field site

“Large, mass immunization clinics, mobile clinics, drive-thru clinics and small primary care clinics doing their own vaccine,” said Brian Larkin with KFL&A Public Health.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says those who are still eligible for a third and fourth dose should take advantage and roll up their sleeves during the low-infection summer months.

“Now in 2022, although you still might get COVID, you’re probably not going to be very sick. You are less likely to transmit and ultimately that’s one of the ways we’re going to control the pandemic,” added Evans.

He expects another wave of COVID-19 to hit in late October to early November and that a booster may be made available for those younger than 60 who still aren’t eligible for a fourth dose.

Read more:

Kingston, Ont. COVID assessment centre cuts hours for the summer

“The best case scenario is a few more years of watching rises in cases, getting boosters to control things and ultimately getting out of it with this being just another coronavirus that just tends to cause a respiratory infection and worst-case scenario is a new variant where all the potential possibilities exist to have a big surge in cases and hopefully not a lot more serious illness,” said Evans.

Public Health says they’re still waiting for direction from the province on what’s to come this fall.

“We’re expecting that we would see more age groups and younger age groups be eligible for more doses or boosters but about when those ages start, we have yet to have that confirmed,” said Larkin.

The last 18 months of vaccines paving the way for the new normal could mean a yearly COVID booster alongside the annual flu shot.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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