South Africa’s health minister said on Friday that the government believed that vaccines and high levels of prior COVID-19 infection were helping to keep disease milder in a wave driven by the Omicron variant.
There have been early anecdotal accounts suggesting that Omicron is causing less severe illness than previous variants in South Africa but scientists say it is too early to draw firm conclusions.
The country reported a record number of daily infections earlier this week.
“We believe that it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but … coverage of vaccination (and) … natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus is also adding to the protection,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news conference. “That’s why we are seeing mild illness.”
South Africa has given 44 per cent of its adult population at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, more than many African countries but well short of the government’s year-end target. But among the over-50s vaccination coverage levels are over 60 per cent.
Addressing the same news conference, Michelle Groome from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said there had been an uptick in COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths.
“Starting to see a slight increase in deaths nationally, but once again this level is very much lower even than the baseline period we were seeing between the second and third waves,” said Groome, who heads the NICD’s division of public health, surveillance and response.
Waasila Jassat, a public health specialist at the NICD, estimated that of the COVID-19 related deaths that had happened in hospitals since mid-November more than half of the people who had died had co-morbidities, or tended to be old, and “a fair proportion of them were admitted for other reasons and died from other causes.”
She said that vaccination data on those who had died were incomplete but it seemed from self-reported information that 93 per cent of the deaths were among either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals. She added that a further 3.5 per cent of those who had died had been vaccinated more than five or six months ago.
Phaahla said early indications were that infections might have peaked in the most populated Gauteng province, where cases initially surged.
He added that in the coming week the health department would report back to the National Coronavirus Command Council on whether COVID-19 restrictions should be adjusted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, is making good progress with his recovery from COVID-19 while continuing to receive treatment for mild symptoms, the presidency said on Friday.
Ramaphosa was given Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine in February.
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Third COVID-19 outbreak declared this month at Cambridge Memorial Hospital – TheRecord.com
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.
Those who had COVID-19 and are vaccinated have best protection, study finds – National | Globalnews.ca – Globalnews.ca
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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
Over 1.2 million people died from drug-resistant infections in 2019 – study
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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