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First death from Wuhan pneumonia outbreak reported as scientists – STAT

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Health authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Saturday reported the first death from a mysterious spate of pneumonia cases that they have identified as likely caused by a previously unknown virus.

Separately, scientists released the genetic sequence of the virus — a step hailed by experts and global health leaders as vital for learning more about the virus and for distinguishing cases of pneumonia it is causing as opposed to other viruses.

The fatal case involved a 61-year-old man who died on Thursday after he had been admitted to the hospital with respiratory failure and severe pneumonia, according to Wuhan health authorities. He apparently had other health issues, with the statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Committee noting he had abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease.

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Overall, authorities have identified 41 cases of pneumonia tied to the viral infection, they said in another statement. Two patients have been discharged from hospitals, seven people still have severe cases, and the rest are in stable condition, the statement said.

The main symptom has been fever, according to the World Health Organization, with some patients having trouble breathing.

The unexplained pneumonia cases started popping up in Wuhan — a city 700 miles south of Beijing — on Dec. 12. They reminded some experts of the emergence of SARS in 2003, when the virus spread from China to Hong Kong and then on to Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Toronto, Canada, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing nearly 800.

In their statements released Saturday, Wuhan authorities said they have not seen any new infections since Jan. 3.

Earlier this week, Chinese scientists reported they had recovered the virus from an infected person and generated its genetic sequence. They identified it as a coronavirus, a group that also includes SARS and MERS. At the time, experts said that more research was needed to confirm that the novel virus was the cause of the outbreak of the pneumonia cases, but the Saturday statement from the Wuhan health authorities said all 41 people had been infected with the virus.

Coronaviruses, which originate in bats but can infect a number of animals, are famed for being able to jump from animals to people.

The Wuhan outbreak has been tied to a large seafood market that also sells the meat of exotic animals. The market was closed Jan. 1.

The health authorities reiterated Saturday they had not seen any definite evidence of people passing on the virus to other people — meaning that every human case would have come from being exposed to the virus from an animal. But outside experts have noted that it can be difficult to exclude that at this early point in the outbreak. The WHO has said that “from the currently available information, preliminary investigation suggests that there is no significant human-to-human transmission.”

The health authorities said they have been monitoring 739 contacts of people who became sick, including 419 health workers, but none of them appear to have contracted the virus.

Meanwhile, health experts were praising the speed and transparency of the release of the genome sequence of the virus. Having that information available, they said, will allow them to learn more about the virus and come up with specific diagnostic tools.

Such tools are urgently needed during outbreaks. Hong Kong and countries in Southeast Asia, for example, have been isolating people who develop respiratory infections and who have traveled to Wuhan until they can be tested for influenza, rhinoviruses, and other viruses that cause colds and flu — a major investment of resources, particularly during flu season.

“Please feel free to download, share, use, and analyze this data,” wrote Yong-Zhen Zhang of Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and School of Public Health on the page with the sequence. The sequence was released by a group of experts from Chinese and Australian institutions.

Also on Friday, the WHO issued advice for international travelers to Wuhan — essentially, avoid contact with animals and sick people and wash your hands often — and guidance for labs testing patient samples for the virus.

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EOHU recommending flu shots for area residents, as winter approaches – The Review Newspaper

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As the fall and cooler weather arrive, they bring with them the start of flu season. According to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, the flu shot is the best protection against the flu, and with the presence of COVID-19 in the community, getting your flu shot is more important now than ever. The flu shot has been approved for use alongside COVID-19 vaccines and is a key step in keeping healthy this season.

“It’s especially important that people get their flu shot this year,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). “Both COVID and the flu share symptoms and, despite their similarities, being fully vaccinated for COVID won’t protect you from the flu.”

“Getting the flu shot can help you stay healthy and reduce the pressure on health care centres.”

Getting the flu shot could also help reduce the demand on COVID-19 assessment centres. The fewer number of people who develop flu symptoms, the fewer who will need to get tested for COVID-19.

The flu shot is available at various locations throughout the five Eastern Counties and Cornwall, including through some healthcare providers, community health centres, participating pharmacies and by appointment at the EOHU for children ages 6 months to under 5 years, and their immediate family.

Appointments for children at the EOHU will be available as of November 1. Call to book your child’s appointment starting on October 25. Residents must bring a piece of identification to their appointment. To find out more about where you can get the flu shot, visit EOHU.ca.

Certain groups of people are at higher risk of complications from the flu and are strongly encouraged to get immunized. These include:

  • children 6 months to less than 5 years of age
  • people aged 65 and older
  • people with chronic medical conditions

If you live with or provide care to someone who falls under one of the groups listed above, or care for newborn infants and children under 6 months of age, it is also highly recommended that you get immunized. This simple step will help protect you and those around you.

For more information about the flu shot, visit EOHU.ca or call  613-933-1375 or 800-267-7120.

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Facebook, YouTube take down Bolsonaro video over false vaccine claim

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Facebook and YouTube have removed from their platforms a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that COVID-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS.

Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said the video, which was recorded on Thursday, violated their policies.

“Our policies don’t allow claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

YouTube confirmed that it had taken the same step later in the day.

“We removed a video from Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for violating our medical disinformation policy regarding COVID-19 for alleging that vaccines don’t reduce the risk of contracting the disease and that they cause other infectious diseases,” YouTube said in a statement.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), COVID-19 vaccines approved by health regulators are safe for most people, including those living with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS.

Bolsonaro’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment outside normal hours.

In July, YouTube removed videos from Bolsonaro’s official channel in which he recommended using hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin against COVID-19, despite scientific proof that these drugs are not effective in treating the disease.

Since then, Bolsonaro has avoided naming both drugs on his live broadcasts, saying the videos could be removed and advocating “early treatment” in general for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the coronavirus in July last year, had credited his taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, for his mild symptoms. While Bolsonaro himself last January said that he wouldn’t take any COVID-19 vaccine, he did vow to quickly inoculate all Brazilians.

In addition to removing the video, YouTube has suspended Bolsonaro for seven days, national newspapers O Estado de S. Paulo and O Globo reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.

YouTube did not respond to a separate Reuters request for comment regarding the suspension on Monday night.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Exclusive: African Union to buy up to 110 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccines – officials

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The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters.

The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.

“This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email. “We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (U.S. government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines.”

Masiyiwa said the Moderna purchase represented the first time the 55-member AU had secured vaccines that were not fully produced in Africa.

The new shipments of vaccine are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people, who have had far less access to the life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world. Getting access to Moderna vaccines adds diversity to the AU’s vaccine supply with different storage requirements.

The Biden administration is deferring delivery of 33 million doses it had bought from Moderna to give the AU its “spot in line” to make a purchase, according to Natalie Quillian, the White House’s deputy coordinator for COVID-19 response.

“We are grateful to have helped negotiate this encouraging step forward between Moderna and the African Union that will significantly expand access to vaccines on the continent in the near-term,” Quillian said.

The United States, which has seen more than 700,000 people die from COVID-19, is flush with vaccines. The delayed Moderna deliveries will not have an impact on efforts to provide booster shots to already inoculated Americans, Quillian said.

Moderna said it was working to make it possible to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Africa by 2023 and has plans to build a manufacturing plant on the continent.

“This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in a statement, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding to make up to 110 million doses for the AU.

Last month, the AU accused https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-who/update-1-african-union-slams-vaccine-manufacturers-for-restricting-access-idINL8N2QG4CK COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers of denying African countries a fair chance to buy vaccines and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.

 

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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