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Omicron BA.2 sub-variant more infectious but no more severe – Africa CDC

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The Omicron BA.2 sub-variant of COVID-19 appears to be more infectious than the original BA.1 sub-variant, but does not cause more severe disease, the head of Africa’s top public health body said on Thursday citing data from South Africa.

“South Africa is reporting that it is more transmissible than the BA.1 variant, but interestingly and very encouragingly the severity seems to be the same,” said Dr John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa was one of the first countries to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has since swept around the globe and become dominant in most places.

Although South Africa is well over the peak of its Omicron wave, its daily number of new infections has stabilised around 3,000 per day, a higher level than that seen at the tail end of previous waves of COVID-19 infections.

Nkengasong said the trend may be linked to the BA.2 sub-variant, but did not elaborate.

 

(Reporting by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg Estelle Shirbon in London; Editing by James Macharia Chege)

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How to protect yourself against monkeypox and what to do if you catch it – CNBC

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Test tubes labelled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. 
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

A recent monkeypox outbreak across the U.S., Europe, Australia and the Middle East has baffled health experts and is raising concerns of a wider outbreak.

As of Wednesday, there were 346 confirmed and suspected cases in 22 countries outside of Africa, where the virus is endemic, according to Our World in Data.

It marks the first known community spread of the virus. Prior to this outbreak, cases had been linked to travel to regions where the virus is endemic or imported animals carrying the virus.

The majority of new cases have spread through sex, with a particular concentration among men who have sex with other men. However, the World Health Organization has cautioned that anyone could be at risk of contracting the virus. Children, pregnant woman and the immunocompromised are considered particularly at risk.

“Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk,” a release on the WHO’s website said Wednesday.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, part of the same family as smallpox, although typically less severe. Smallpox vaccinations have proven 85% effective against monkeypox.

The WHO said Monday that it was unlikely mass vaccinations would be required to combat the outbreak. But, given the pace of the outbreak and the lack of clarity around its cause, the public health body urged people to practice good hygiene and safe sex to help control its spread.

Protecting yourself against monkeypox

While health experts agree the risks to the general public are low, there are several precautions you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

Recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.K.’s National Health Service and WHO include:

  • Avoid coming into contact with people recently diagnosed with the virus or those who may have been infected.
  • Wear a face mask if you are in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
  • Use condoms and keep an eye out for symptoms if you have recently changed sexual partners.
  • Avoid coming into contact with animals that could be carrying the virus. This includes sick or dead animals and particularly those with a history of infection, such as monkeys, rodents and prairie dogs.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, especially after coming into contact with infected — or suspected infected —animals or humans. For instance, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients with confirmed or suspected monkeypox infection.
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC via AP

Monkeypox can also be transmitted via surfaces and materials, so it’s wise to avoid coming into contact with materials that have been in contact with a sick human or animal.

“This is a virus that is super stable outside the human host, so it can live on objects like blankets and things like that,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

“Good practice would be to regularly wash clothing and bedsheets at high temperature,” Emmanuel Andre, professor at medicine at Belgium’s Ku Leuven University, told CNBC Wednesday.

However, he said he did not think it would be necessary for the general public to start avoiding public areas, taxis, shopping and hotels.

“The general population don’t need to take many more precautions than we do in usual life,” he said. “If people are in the high-risk population, where they are aware they are in a high risk environment, then they should take extra precautions.”

What to do if you catch monkeypox

If you suspect that you may have contracted monkeypox, you should isolate yourself from physical contact with others and seek medical advice immediately.

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headaches, muscle ache, swelling and backpain. Rashes and lesions then typically emerge on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth or genitals within one to five days. Those rashes turn into raised bumps and then blisters, which may fill with white fluid before breaking and scabbing over.

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient’s hand May 27, 2003.
CDC | Getty Images

Many of the symptoms of the virus can be easily confused with other diseases, such as chickenpox, herpes or syphilis, however, so medical confirmation is important.

If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, you will need to isolate until the virus has passed. The illness is typically mild and most people recover within 2 to 4 weeks.

While medical advice currently varies across countries, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that you may need to stay in a specialist hospital to prevent infection spreading to other people.

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Medical Officer of Health gives monkeypox update – North Bay News – BayToday.ca

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The local medical officer of health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is urging calm when it comes to the monkeypox outbreak that has reached Canada.

The multi-country outbreak of monkeypox — a rare disease that comes from the same family of viruses that causes smallpox — has been active since early May.

As of Wednesday, a total of 219 confirmed cases have been reported worldwide. Most of the cases have been detected in young men, who self-identify as men who have sex with men (MSM). Of those, there are 118 confirmed cases reported from 12 EU/EEA Member States.

According to Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton (UK), “Monkeypox, as the name suggests, was first found in laboratory monkeys in the late 1950s. However, scientists aren’t sure if monkeys are the main animal reservoirs (carriers of the virus), so the name may be a bit of a misnomer. The latest thinking is that the main reservoir is probably smaller animals, such as rodents.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) observes this is the first time chains of monkeypox transmission have been reported in Europe without known epidemiological links to West or Central Africa.

There are 16 confirmed cases in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, all in Quebec. 

Although the “risk posed by monkeypox is low, nearly everyone in Canada is susceptible because routine vaccination against smallpox ended decades ago,” PHAC officials said late last week in this CP report stating Canada is considering using a reserve of smallpox vaccine for monkeypox cases.

“Let’s look at the risk and put it into perspective,” says Dr. Jim Chirico following Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting. “The overall risk to the general public is very, very low.”

“Monkeypox (MPX) does not spread easily between people. Human-to-human transmission occurs through close contact with infectious material from skin lesions of an infected person, through respiratory droplets in prolonged face-to-face contact, and through fomites (such as contaminated clothes, towels or furniture). The predominance, in the current outbreak, of diagnosed human MPX cases is among men having sex with men (MSM), and the nature of the presenting lesions in some cases, suggests transmission occurred during sexual intercourse,” according to an ECDC risk assessment

The virus is spread through close contact between people, especially in the same household, including the sexual route, advises ECDC. Based on its epidemiological assessment, “the likelihood of MPX spreading in persons having multiple sexual partners in the EU/EEA is considered high.”

Being aware of the signs and symptoms is the most important part, says Chirico “but most cases are very mild and besides treatment for the symptoms, nothing else is usually required and most people do not end up in the hospital. It’s limited. In two to four weeks, it’s over.”

The monkeypox virus may cause severe disease in certain population groups, such as young children, pregnant women, and immunosuppressed persons.

“Although most cases in current outbreaks have presented with mild disease symptoms,” notes the ECDC risk assessment, “the likelihood of cases with severe morbidity cannot be accurately estimated yet. The overall risk is assessed as moderate for persons having multiple sexual partners (including some groups of MSM) and low for the broader population.”

Chirico advises local residents to “be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox. Initially, they are similar to the flu, where you might have a headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, maybe back pain, and fatigue. You can also experience sweating and the other important thing to note are any lumps and bumps, like lymph nodes that are increasing.”

About one to three days following the onset of symptoms, a rash may appear — and it may appear on the face and go to the rest of the body. In about 75 per cent of the cases, it will be on the hands and feet, he says.

A personal risk assessment of monkeypox infection is also important, says Dr. Chirico. “Sexual contacts, possible exposure to an individual diagnosed with monkeypox or an individual that is symptomatic and awaiting lab confirmation.

“If you have signs and symptoms of monkeypox, immediately isolate and arrange to be tested by your primary health care provider. And, remain in isolation until the result of your test is known. If you do test positive for monkeypox, you do need to isolate until the lesions resolve, meaning the scabs have fallen off and new skin is present.

“If you are a contact of an individual with monkeypox, you can self-monitor for symptoms for 21 days and seek medical care or testing if the symptoms present but you don’t need to quarantine if you don’t have any symptoms as a contact.”

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Montreal sauna suspected origin of Canada’s monkeypox outbreak: doctors – Global News

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Monkeypox cases in Canada are suspected to have originated from a local sauna in Montreal, doctors have told Global News.

The country’s first two cases were reported by Quebec public health officials on May 19.

Dr. Robert Pilarski, a general physician in Montreal, who treated one of those patients last week, said the individual likely got the virus from a sauna he recently visited.

“He actually got it from G.I. Joe. So this is the suspected epicentre of the epidemic,” Pilarski told Global News.

Read more:

Quebec to start vaccinating monkeypox contacts, confirms 25 cases

Another doctor, who did not wish to be identified, also said the source of Montreal’s monkeypox outbreak was Sauna G.I. Joe.

Government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin of monkeypox in Canada due to concerns of privacy and stigmatization.

“As it was the case with COVID-19, we never confirm publicly outbreaks for both privacy and identification matters,” Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal public health, told Global News in an emailed response.

“Rest assured that we always intervene directly with businesses or settings where an outbreak occurs or where our investigation could lead us,” Aube added.


Click to play video: 'Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine'



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Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine


Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine

Despite multiple attempts and inquiries from Global News about health regulations and tracing measures, there was no response from Sauna G.I. Joe by the time of publication.

Recent cases of monkeypox around the world have researchers scrambling to find out how the virus is spreading in countries that typically don’t see it.

Monkeypox, a rare zoonotic infectious disease, is usually found in certain parts of Africa, where it is endemic.

Read more:

More monkeypox surveillance needed, WHO tells member countries

What started out as a small cluster of cases in Quebec is now being called a “serious outbreak” of the virus by provincial health officials.

As of Thursday, 25 cases have been confirmed in the province and about 20 to 30 suspected cases are under investigation.

The majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied to men aged between 20 and 30 years, who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection, but the virus can survive on surfaces such as bedding and is transmitted through prolonged close contact.

“It’s not sexual activity as such that transmits it. It’s skin-to-skin contact that transmits it as far as we know at this moment,” said Dr. Michael Libman, a tropical disease expert and professor of medicine and infectious disease at McGill University.


Click to play video: 'Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada'



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Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada


Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada

Stigmatization and transparency

Cases of monkeypox started emerging in Europe earlier this month.

Montreal public health said it had alerted physicians about a week before the first cases were confirmed. It also contacted “local actors” and communicated advice on hand hygiene and environmental cleaning procedures, Aubé said.

According to social media posts, Sauna G.I. Joe hosted a sex party on May 19, the same day Canada confirmed its first cases of monkeypox.

Read more:

Monkeypox likely spread through sex at 2 raves in Europe, expert suggests

During a press conference on Thursday, Quebec public health officials said they do not think it’s necessary to single out locations over fears of “stigmatization,” adding that there are now measures in place.

“The enemy is the virus, not the people affected,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health.

However, experts stress that there should be greater transparency and omitting key public health information can be problematic.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says'



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Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says


Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says

David Brennan, research chair in gay and bisexual men’s health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), believes not disclosing information can have a negative impact on the community.

Hiding information could be interpreted as “men having sex with men is bad,” said Brennan.

There needs to be a culture shift and harm-reduction approach as has been the case in the past with sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, added Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, Alta.

“I think it really does speak to this broader culture where we’re uncomfortable with the idea of sex and we’re uncomfortable talking about sex,” he said.


Click to play video: 'What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?'



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What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?


What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Outside of Quebec, only one other case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Toronto.

On Saturday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified two locations connected to possible cases of monkeypox: Axis Club and Woody’s bar.

Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said these details matter, especially when it comes to higher risk settings.

“I would argue it is important to identify where it is coming from because if you don’t then people are not in a position to protect themselves,” he said.

Read more:

Physical distancing recommended amid monkeypox spread in Canada, Njoo says

However, disclosing that information comes with the “added responsibility” of not feeding into any prejudice, Bowman added.

Federal public health officials are working to finalize and release guidance on case identification, contact tracing, isolation as well as infection prevention and control.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says this updated guidance will be released in the next few days.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday mass vaccinations are not yet needed, but people can avoid infection by maintaining physical distance, masking and hand hygiene.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing'



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Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing


Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing

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

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