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Health Experts Prepared to Deal with Coronavirus Epidemic – VOA Learning English



The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the world has nearly 17,400 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus. More than 99 percent of those cases were reported in China.

Compare that to the number of people infected with influenza in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the flu has sickened between 19,000,000 and 26,000,000 people since October 1.

CDC officials also report that up to 25,000 people have died because of an infection during the four-month period. Officials note that, in an average year, the flu kills up to 56,000 people nationwide.

As of Sunday, there were 360 deaths from the coronavirus, mostly in China. There are currently 11 confirmed cases in the United States, but no deaths from the virus.

An aerial view shows the newly completed Huoshenshan Hospital, a dedicated hospital built in 8 days to treat coronavirus patients, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 2, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

Experts are well prepared

Last October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security held an exercise to help prepare health experts for what is happening today. It was called Event 201. Johns Hopkins University worked in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to organize the event.

Event 201 brought together government experts, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The purpose was to talk about how the world would react to a serious epidemic.

Crystal R. Watson, DrPH, Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Crystal R. Watson, DrPH, Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Crystal R. Watson is a doctor and an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She said the event was meant to help leaders prepare for what is happening now.

“The purpose of the exercise…was to raise issues of preparedness and response for those leaders so they could start working on making sure that we can develop medical countermeasures, drugs and vaccines, quickly in a severe outbreak, that we can respond and take care of the people who become sick.”

Life goes on in China and elsewhere

News stories about the coronavirus note some of the steps governments and health officials have planned for many years.

People flying to the United States from China now have to stop at one of seven airports. CDC workers are measuring the temperature of each passenger and looking for signs of breathing problems.

Travelers who are coughing or have other symptoms may be taken to a hospital for more testing.

One person who recently returned from China is Nick Caputo. He works for Sunrise International Education. He directs camps in China for students to learn about debate.

Caputo was hoping to stay in China longer. But when the travel restrictions were announced, his company decided that he should return to the U.S. at once. He said, “That way I would have time to go through a self-quarantine and make sure I wasn’t infected before I ran my program here.”

A cancer patient and her mother coming from Hubei province cross a checkpoint at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 1, 2020.

A cancer patient and her mother coming from Hubei province cross a checkpoint at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 1, 2020.

Schedule change for university life in China

Craig Blacklock teaches English at Wenzhou-Kean University in Wenzhou, China. He says the university has changed the beginning of its spring term from February 9 to March 1. He said the school also is helping its teachers and employees get much-needed supplies and food.

Blacklock told VOA that people around Wenzhou are taking temperatures and following the advice of the government to reduce the spread of the virus.

How to protect yourself and others

While governments are taking steps to limit travel and reduce infections, Crystal Watson thinks there are things private citizens can do.

“The average person should also be just taking general measures to prevent infection with respiratory diseases. We are in the middle of cold and flu season as well and so – just good practices of covering your cough and sneeze, washing your hands very frequently, avoiding people who have a cough – and just trying to stay well in the midst of cold and flu season.”

Officials from Health Department of Bangladesh screen arriving passengers from abroad in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on January 22, 2020

Officials from Health Department of Bangladesh screen arriving passengers from abroad in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on January 22, 2020

Serious cases get the most attention at first

With the novel coronavirus, one that did not affect people until now, doctors often pay more attention to the serious cases.

“We are still learning a lot about this new virus…one thing that happens early on in an outbreak, a novel outbreak like this is that you see there’s a bias toward seeing the more severe cases and death. So we’re seeing those now. But as we go through and gather more…data, we’re going to find that there are many more mild cases that are not being now detected. So we anticipate that that fatality rate will decrease significantly as this continues to spread.”

The world is better prepared now

Crystal Watson says that the world is better prepared now than it was over 15 years ago when faced with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, known as SARS.

“There are definitely very important steps that the world has taken over the last 10 years to get better prepared. We can always do more, but I think people are taking this very seriously and responding in the best way that we can.”

I’m Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins reported on this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

epidemic – n. a large number of cases of an infectious disease in a community

symptom – n. a sign of a disease or disorder

quarantine – n. a period of time in isolation from others to prevent the spread of infection

practice – n. the expected way of doing something

noveladj. new and different from what has been known before

biasn. to have a strong and often unfair influence on (someone or something)

detectv. to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear or taste)

anticipatev. to think of (something that will or might happen in the future)

What do you think of the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Health care experts at the CDC say that there are simple steps you can take at home, school, or work to protect yourself and others against viruses.

To protect yourself

  • Wash your hands often or use hand-cleaning gel
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • Be prepared and informed

To protect others when you have an infection

  • Stay at home when you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes

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WHO resumes hydroxychloroquine trial on Covid-19 patients – ITIJ



On May 25, WHO suspended the trial of the drug, which is usually used to treat malaria patients, after a study published in medical journal The Lancet found that Covid-19 hospitalised patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had a higher risk of death, as well as an increased frequency of irregular heartbeats, than those who weren’t treated with it. 

However, WHO officials have since asserted that there is no evidence that the drug reduces the mortality in these patients, and the study has since been retracted over data concerns. 

“The executive group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of solidarity trial including hydroxychloroquine,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference 3 June, adding that WHO planned to continue to monitor the safety of the therapeutics being tested in trials involving over 3,500 patients spanning over 35 countries. 

“WHO is committed to accelerating the development of effective therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics as part of our commitment to serving the world with science, solutions and solidarity,” Ghebreyesus said. 

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'Truly sorry': Scientists pull panned Lancet study of Trump-touted drug – National Post



NEW YORK/LONDON — An influential study that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients has been withdrawn a week after it led to major trials being halted, adding to confusion about a malaria drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Lancet medical journal pulled the study after three of its authors retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data in it. The World Health Organization (WHO) will resume its hydroxychloroquine trials after pausing them in the wake of the study. Dozens of other trials have resumed or are in process.

The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, chief executive of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction.

The Lancet said it “takes issues of scientific integrity extremely seriously” adding: “There are many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data that were allegedly included in this study.”

Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that used Surgisphere data and shared the same lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, was retracted for the same reason.

The Lancet said reviews of Surgisphere’s research collaborations were urgently needed.

The race to understand and treat the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of research and peer-reviewed scientific journals are go-to sources of information for doctors, policymakers and lay people alike.

Chris Chambers, a professor of psychology and an expert at the UK Center for Open Science, said The Lancet and the NEJM – which he described as “ostensibly two of the world’s most prestigious medical journals” – should investigate how the studies got through peer review and editorial checks.

“The failure to resolve such basic concerns about the data” raises “serious questions about the standard of editing” and about the process of peer review, he said.

The Lancet did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The NEJM could not immediately be reached for comment.


The observational study published in The Lancet on May 22 said it looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.

“I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” the study’s lead author, Professor Mehra, said in a statement. “For that, and for all the disruptions – both directly and indirectly – I am truly sorry.”

Many scientists voiced concern about the study, which had already been corrected last week because some location data was wrong. Nearly 150 doctors signed an open letter to The Lancet calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking to make public the peer review comments that preceded publication.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said the retraction decision was “correct” but still left unanswered the question about whether hydroxychloroquine is effective in COVID-19.

“It remains the case that the results from randomized trials are necessary to draw reliable conclusions,” he said. (Reporting by Michael Erman, Peter Henderson, Kate Kelland and Josephine Mason Editing by Leslie Adler, Tom Brown, Giles Elgood and Carmel Crimmins)

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Possible link between more overdoses and pandemic isolation: Guelph health officials – CTV News



The number of suspect overdose deaths in Guelph since the outbreak of COVID-19 has already surpassed the number of deaths in all of 2019.

Health officials say isolation could be a contributing factor, as staff at the consumption treatment centre have seen about half of the regular users during the time of the pandemic.

“From mid March until just the end of May we’ve seen eight deaths,” said Raechelle Devereaux, executive director of the Guelph Community Health Centre.

In 2018, there were seven overdose deaths in Guelph.

Jade McAfee uses the CTS site and say she’s lost a lot of friends to overdoses.

“It is scary,” she said. “I myself have overdosed 13 times.”

While officials say a toxic supply is to blame for overdoses, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a hurdle when it comes to prevention.

“The same things that are keeping people safe during the pandemic like isolating and staying home are some things that work against us,” said Devereaux.

Registered nurse Danielle Castledine supervises injections and says they would normally see 30 people a day before the pandemic.

“Before we had an intermediate space where people could be before and after,” she said. “So even if they were waiting they were waiting with peer workers and nurses and social workers.”

To help with better spacing, they’ve opened a new booth to decrease wait times and encourage more people to use the services.

“[Before the crisis] you didn’t have to have a mask, get stopped, have your temperature taken when you could blow in and out easily,” said Eric Cunningham, a user of the CTS site.

Staff say the lack of foot traffic at the CTS is a bad sign and worry the alternative is using in isolation, which decreases the likelihood of potentially life-saving intervention.

“It’s better for anybody to not do it alone,” said McAfee.

The health centre says between March 17 and May 30 there were 63 overdoses.

In the same time period last year there were 74, but only one overdose death.

The Guelph Community Health Centre says the team is door knocking at vulnerable apartment and shelters to give more information on harm reduction to help those potential using alone.

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