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OTTAWA — The world is not ready for the global spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the renowned Canadian epidemiologist who led a team of experts to China to study the virus on behalf of the World Health Organization.
Dr. Bruce Aylward returned from a two-week mission to China, including the city of Wuhan where the spread of the coronavirus began, urging other countries to get ready for a potential outbreak within their own borders as soon as possible.
“This virus will show up,” he warned at a briefing Tuesday.
“This is going to come soon, potentially. You’ve got to be shifting to readiness, rapid-response thinking.”
Aylward led a team of 25 world experts, who operated independently of the WHO and their associated institutions.
There are more than 80,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and 2,700 people are known to have died from it, the vast majority of them in China.
The team found that countries should be looking to China for expertise in how to manage and treat the illness now known as COVID-19, noting that country has taken an aggressive approach to testing, containing and treating people who contract the coronavirus.
China has all but locked down whole cities of millions of people in an attempt to keep COVID-19 from spreading and has instituted door-to-door checks of people’s temperatures to find sick people and order them into mass treatment centres.
Despite the massive outbreak in China, Aylward said China has seen some success repressing the spread of the virus, with the number of new confirmed cases on the decline.
But he warned the spread of the virus to other countries seems inevitable, and they will need to tackle it with the goal of tracing every case and stopping chains of transmission.
He urged all countries to make sure hospitals increase their bed capacities and have enough ventilators for the very sick. He said they should also prepare to quarantine large numbers of people who come into contact with those who have confirmed cases of the disease.
“There’s nothing on that list that countries can’t do,” he said.
Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday that Canada is already ahead of many countries because it has a pandemic plan in place and federal authorities have been co-ordinating with provincial health care providers about the COVID-19 response for months now.
Still, Canada has so far been focused on containing sick people coming in from abroad and must now start to prepare for the possibility of local spread.
“As it appears that containment is less and less likely to be successful globally, we turn our attention to our domestic preparedness,” Hajdu said.
The health minister had a warning of her own, for all Canadians.
“It’s important for Canadians to realize that this may cause disruptions in their lives. It might mean that if someone is ill in their family that people may have to be isolated, that businesses may have to have contingency plans,” she said.
Aylward’s final report, which includes findings about how the disease is transmitted, has not yet been released. It had been submitted to the WHO and Chinese authorities, who will be responsible for releasing it to the public.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020
Study suggests Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine only partially protects against Omicron – Toronto Sun
The Omicron variant can partially evade protection from two doses of Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said on Tuesday.
But the study showed that blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a prior infection was mostly able to neutralize the variant, suggesting that booster doses of the vaccine could help to fend off infection.
The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa last month, has triggered alarms globally of another surge in infections, with more than two dozen countries from Japan to the United States reporting cases.
The World Health Organization classified it on Nov. 26 as a “variant of concern,” but said there was no evidence to support the need for new vaccines specifically designed to tackle the Omicron variant with its many mutations.
Alex Sigal, a professor at the research institute, said on Twitter there was “a very large drop” in neutralization of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier strain of COVID-19.
A separate lab test by virologist Sandra Ciesek of the University Hospital Frankfurt painted a somewhat bleaker picture.
Exposing the blood of vaccinated individuals to different virus variants, she found that the ability to mount an antibody response to Omicron in people who had three shots of BioNTech/Pfizer was up to 37 times lower than the response to Delta.
An antibody response to Omicron half a year after a two-shot regimen of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or a mixed course of AstraZeneca/BioNTech was not even measurable, Ciesek added.
She posted only selected findings on Twitter, not including the number of samples, and the university said the paper had not yet been published.
“The set of data underscores that it makes sense to develop a vaccine that is adapted to Omicron,” Chiesek tweeted, adding that no conclusion could be drawn about protection against severe disease.
WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said a large drop in the antibody response of vaccinated people to Omicron had been expected.
“This does not mean the vaccine will not work – T-cell immunity (is) likely to persist,” she said on Twitter, referring to a cellular immune response that is believed to prevent severe disease as a second line of immune defence.
Researchers including Carsten Watzl of the German Society of Immunology and Penny Ward, visiting professor at King’s College London, said the findings underscored the need to get booster shots because a three-shot course would likely continue to protect against severe disease.
Sigal’s lab tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to a manuscript posted on the website for his lab. The preliminary data in the manuscript has not yet been peer reviewed.
Blood from five out of six people who had been vaccinated as well as previously infected with COVID-19 still neutralized the Omicron variant, the manuscript said.
“These results are better than I expected. The more antibodies you got, the more chance you’ll be protected from Omicron,” Sigal said on Twitter.
He said the lab had not tested the variant against blood from people who had received a booster dose, because they are not available in South Africa yet.
According to the manuscript, the lab observed a 41-fold decline in levels of neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant.
Sigal said on Twitter that figure is likely to be adjusted after his lab does more experiments.
While neutralizing antibodies are an indicator of the body’s immune response, scientists believe other kinds of cells such as B-cells and T-cells are also stimulated by the vaccines and help protect against the effects of the coronavirus.
The preliminary data does not indicate that the vaccine is less able to prevent severe illness or death. While lab tests are under way, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said last week “we think it’s likely that people will have substantial protection against severe disease caused by Omicron.”
There is not significant data yet on how vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers hold up against the new variant. All the manufacturers, including Pfizer and BioNTech, are expected to release their own data within weeks.
BioNTech’s Sahin told NBC News on Tuesday that the drugmaker has data coming on Wednesday or Thursday.
Seven Omicron variant cases in Simcoe County linked to travellers from Nigeria – BayToday.ca
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says it is investigating a household cluster in Simcoe County with seven confirmed COVID-19 cases that have a strong probability of being the Omicron variant of concern. All the cases are currently isolating at home.
“The cluster is linked to travellers who arrived in Simcoe County from Nigeria in late November,” says a news release.
“Although the health unit is awaiting whole genomic sequencing of the samples which should be available in the next 7 to 14 days, given the travel history and the preliminary laboratory screening results, the likelihood of an Omicron cluster is very high.”
The Unit’s case and contact management team is currently following up with each case to identify close contacts regarding isolation and testing.
“Scientific data about the Omicron variant is still emerging,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health. “Early evidence suggests that the variant might be more transmissible. While we continue to closely monitor this local situation, I urge all residents to remain vigilant about following public health measures, to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek testing immediately if any should develop, and get vaccinated if they have not already done so.”
The rate of COVID-19 infection among the unvaccinated vaccine-eligible Simcoe Muskoka population is seven times higher than it is for the fully vaccinated population and the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations is 15 times higher says Gardner. Getting the vaccine can lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Eating disorder symptoms and self-harm linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic – Medical Xpress
Young adults with previous self-harm or eating disorders reported higher levels of depression and anxiety during the pandemic, even when restrictions had eased, according to new research.
The study, led by the University of Bristol and funded by Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, Medical Research Council and Medical Research Foundation, has been published in the Journal of Eating Disorders. It looked at questionnaire information for 2,657 individuals from world-renowned health study Children of the 90s (also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers analyzed the relationship between previous reports of eating disorder symptoms and self-harm before the pandemic, and mental health problems (symptoms of depression and anxiety) and mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also assessed whether lifestyle changes, such as more sleep, relaxation techniques, or visiting green space, could be linked to mental health and wellbeing in young adults with and without previous eating disorder symptoms or self-harm.
Researchers studied questionnaire data from 2017, when the participants were then aged 25 years, as well as data taken during the pandemic in 2020.
At age 25, 32 percent of the 2,657 young adults reported at least one eating disorder symptom, 9 percent reported self-harm, and 5.5 percent reported both an eating disorder symptom and self-harm in the last year.
During the pandemic, those with previously reported eating disorder symptoms and/or self-harm had more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and worse mental wellbeing, compared to individuals without previous symptoms. This remained the case after adjusting for their pre-pandemic levels of depression, anxiety and mental wellbeing.
Lifestyle changes appeared to have little effect on the increased risk for mental health problems in those with prior eating disorder symptoms or self-harm.
Lead author Dr. Naomi Warne, Senior Research Associate at the University’s Centre for Academic Mental Health, said: “Eating disorders and self-harm are common and troubling mental health problems among young adults. In the UK, approximately 1.25 million people are living with an eating disorder and almost 1 in 15 adults report self-harm.
“Our research has highlighted individuals with prior self-harm and eating disorder symptoms are key risk groups and further longitudinal research is needed to understand their ongoing mental health as well as risk and protective factors.
“Individuals with previous eating disorder symptoms and self-harm should be considered vulnerable to depression and anxiety throughout the pandemic and beyond. Funding for rapid and responsive service provision is essential to reduce the impact of the pandemic on those with mental health problems.”
Naomi Warne et al, Disordered eating and self-harm as risk factors for poorer mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a UK-based birth cohort study, Journal of Eating Disorders (2021). DOI: 10.1186/s40337-021-00510-9
University of Bristol
Eating disorder symptoms and self-harm linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic (2021, December 8)
retrieved 8 December 2021
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