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May 6, 2024 COVID Health Conditions

COVID

Could Avian Influenza Be the Next COVID? + More

The Defender’s COVID NewsWatch provides a roundup of the latest headlines related to the SARS CoV-2 virus, including its origins and COVID vaccines. The views expressed in the excerpts from other news sources do not necessarily reflect the views of The Defender.

COVID News Watch

Could Avian Influenza Be the Next COVID?

Forbes reported:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the public in early April that an individual in Texas had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu. This person’s only symptom was conjunctivitis — or redness of the eyes — after being exposed to dairy cattle that were presumed to be infected with HPAI. This was the second documented human case of avian influenza in the United States since 2022 and has escalated concerns about a large outbreak — or potentially a pandemic — in the human population.

Since January of 2022, the largest outbreak of avian influenza in recorded history has occurred worldwide. To date, a subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza — known as H5N1 — has been detected in over 9,000 wild birds and has affected greater than 90 million poultry in the United States.

Recently, the virus has been identified in certain mammals, including dairy cattle, prompting concern that it may be adapting for more efficient transmission among mammalian species. Although sequencing studies have not yet demonstrated this to be the case, the recent human case in Texas has some asking, “Could avian influenza result in the next pandemic?”

U.S. Shared ‘Gobsmacking’ COVID Lab Leak File With UK

The Telegraph reported:

The U.S. shared “gobsmacking” evidence with Britain at the height of the COVID pandemic suggesting a “high likelihood” that the virus had leaked from a Chinese lab, The Telegraph can reveal. In January 2021, Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations were convened to discuss the possibility of a lab leak as the U.S. warned that China had covered up research on coronaviruses and military activity at a laboratory in Wuhan.

In a previously unreported phone call that month, Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state, presented evidence that supported the lab leak theory to Dominic Raab, then the Foreign Secretary, and representatives from Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Pompeo presented a summary of classified American intelligence reports collected in the early days of the pandemic and compiled by the State Department. The intelligence reports themselves are understood to have been shared separately with the U.K. via the Five Eyes network between October and December 2020.

In one document, which has since been released by the State Department under Freedom of Information laws, U.S. officials warned of “consistent stonewalling” by China after the virus was first discovered and accused local officials of “gross corruption and ineptitude.”

The research revealed for the first time that Chinese military officials had worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the years leading up to the pandemic, and that some researchers at the lab had become ill shortly before the virus was first recorded nearby. It also showed that Chinese scientists had carried out “gain of function” research at the institute, which has since become a key piece of evidence for the lab leak theory.

Shreyas Talpade Says His Heart Attack Could Be a Side Effect of COVID Vaccine

The Quint reported:

Actor Shreyas Talpade, who suffered a massive heart attack in mid-December 2023, recently shared that it could have been a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In an interview with Lehren Retro, the actor said that he was taking care of his health, and despite that, he suffered a cardiac arrest. He added that he “would not negate the theory” as several people have been facing health-related issues after taking the vaccine.

“I would not negate the theory. It was only after the COVID-19 vaccination that I started experiencing some fatigue and tiredness. There has to be some amount of truth, and we cannot negate the theory. Maybe it is COVID or the vaccine, but there is something associated … It is very unfortunate because we genuinely don’t know what we have taken inside our bodies. We went with the flow and trusted the companies. I never heard of such incidents before COVID-19,” the actor added.

Speaking about how he isn’t sure whether the heart attack was a result of COVID-19 or the vaccine, he further said that he doesn’t have “enough proof, and it is pointless to make any statements.” The actor also said that he wants to “explore what it (the vaccine) has done to our bodies.”

WHO Chief Urges Countries to Finalize Pandemic Accord by Deadline

Reuters reported:

The head of the World Health Organization on Friday urged countries to agree to an accord to help fight future pandemics as negotiations approach a deadline this month. The new pact and a series of updates to existing rules on dealing with pandemics are intended to shore up the world’s defenses against new pathogens after the COVID-19 pandemic killed millions of people.

Countries are due to finalize negotiations on the accord on May 10, with a view to adopting it at the WHO’s annual meeting later this month, but sources involved say that big differences remain.

One of the main points of disagreement between wealthy countries and developing states is the vexed issue of sharing drugs and vaccines fairly to avoid a repeat of COVID-era failures.

Some right-wing politicians in countries like the United States and Australia have also criticized the accord, which would be legally binding, arguing that it cedes too much power to a U.N. agency.

The only time in the organization’s 75-year history that the WHO’s member countries have been able to agree to a legally binding treaty like the pandemic accord was for a tobacco control treaty in 2003.

The Missing Factor in Explanations of China’s Economic Distress: COVID (Part 1: The Cover-Up)

Forbes reported:

The Chinese growth engine seems to have stalled. What happened? The Chinese economy is suffering from the continuing impact of COVID-19.

What is becoming clear is that the scope of COVID’s impact on the Chinese economy has been much more severe than the official data describe. At first reflexively, then as a matter of proactive design, the Chinese government set out to conceal the reality of the pandemic from its own citizens and from the outside world. The motive (I think) was an instinctive need to defend the Communist Party’s reputation for competency, upon which its practical legitimacy is based. In the end, they deceived themselves as well.

The epidemiological data was compromised from the beginning. Medical scientists and public health authorities around the world ran up against gaps and deficits in the availability, completeness, and integrity of COVID information.

Some of these problems were the natural consequence of the confusion created by an unforeseen and fast-moving crisis. The first months of the pandemic everywhere were characterized by severe uncertainty and frantic improvisation. Some of the most important early data was never properly collected or retained.

But the worst data deficiencies arose from active policies of information suppression in China, where the disease originated. Some of the most critical data was withheld, or intentionally altered, even destroyed. These policies have continued to this day.

Scientists Developing Vaccine Against Present and Future COVID Viruses

U.S. News & World Report reported:

Scientists are busy working on a vaccine that might fight strains of the COVID virus SARS-CoV-2 that haven’t even emerged yet.

The effort from a British team at the University of Cambridge is already showing promise in mouse studies. Of course, mouse studies don’t always pan out in humans, but study first author Rory Hills is optimistic.

“Our focus is to create a vaccine that will protect us against the next coronavirus pandemic, and have it ready before the pandemic has even started,” Hills, a graduate pharmacology researcher at Cambridge, said in a university news release.

Hills’ team relied on a relatively new approach to vaccine development, called “proactive vaccinology”– trying to design a shot that shields against viral strains that aren’t here yet, but are likely to emerge.

BioNTech Plots First Wave of Cancer Launches in 2026 as COVID Vaccine Sales Continue to Disappoint

Fierce Pharma reported:

As BioNTech continues to endure a sharp decline in COVID-19 vaccine sales, the German mRNA specialist is looking ahead to the next leg of its commercial journey.

With plans to have at least 10 potentially registrational trials underway by the end of 2024, BioNTech is plotting the first wave of its market debut in oncology from 2026 onward, the company said in a presentation Monday. By 2030, the company expects to have garnered 10 approved indications in cancer.

Following the sensational success and subsequent decline of its Pfizer-partnered COVID shot, BioNTech has positioned itself as a next-generation immunotherapy company with a heavy emphasis on cancer. In this field, it’s testing therapeutic approaches ranging from off-the-shelf mRNA candidates to bispecifics, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and small molecules.

Though BioNTech is confident in the market potential of its experimental assets, the company — like every COVID-19 vaccine player — has watched its sales slip dramatically from the highs seen during the peak of the pandemic.

2 New COVID Variants Called ‘FLiRT’ Are Spreading in the U.S. What Are the Symptoms?

TODAY reported:

Respiratory virus season may be ending in the United States, but a new group of COVID-19 variants are circulating, sparking concerns about a potential summer wave.

The family of variants, nicknamed “FLiRT,” after their mutations, include KP.2, which is now the dominant variant in the United States. In recent weeks, KP.2 quickly overtook JN.1, the Omicron subvariant that drove a surge in COVID cases this past winter.

Currently, KP.2 accounts for one in four infections nationwide, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another FLiRT variant, called KP.1.1, is also circulating in the U.S., but is less widespread than KP.2. It currently accounts for about 7.5% of infections nationwide, per the CDC.

Common Diabetes Drug Lowers SARS-CoV-2 Levels, Clinical Trial Finds

CIDRAP reported:

Today, researchers from the University of Minnesota published evidence that the common diabetes drug metformin decreases the amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the body and helps reduce the risk of rebound symptoms if given early in the course of non-severe illness.

The study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests metformin may also help prevent long COVID.

The researchers tested metformin against a placebo in 999 adults infected with COVID-19. More than 50% of the study enrollees were vaccinated, and treatment took place when the Omicron variant was the most dominant strain in the United States.

The mean SARS-CoV-2 viral load was reduced 3.6-fold with metformin relative to placebo by day 10, the authors found, and those who received metformin were less likely to have a detectable viral load than placebo at days 5 or 10 (odds ratio [OR], 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.55 to 0.94).

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