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WHO: COVID End ‘in Sight,’ Deaths at Lowest Since March 2020
The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide last week was the lowest reported in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak.
At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world has never been in a better position to stop COVID-19.
“We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said, comparing the effort to that made by a marathon runner nearing the finish line. “Now is the worst time to stop running,” he said. “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap all the rewards of our hard work.”
The WHO reported that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 continues to dominate globally and comprised nearly 90% of virus samples shared with the world’s biggest public database. In recent weeks, regulatory authorities in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere have cleared tweaked vaccines that target both the original coronavirus and later variants including BA.5.
What Is Centaurus? New COVID Subvariant Found in Florida, Europe
COVID-19 subvariants are still being discovered more than two-and-a-half years after lockdowns took place. BA.2.75, a recent coronavirus subvariant of the Omicron variant, has increased COVID-19 cases, specifically in Florida and Europe.
Also known as Centaurus, BA.2.75 was first discovered in India early this spring and was christened by a Twitter user who decided to name the subvariant after a constellation. While the name is becoming popular, the WHO has not yet adopted the name.
While, according to Medical News Today, Omicron is still the most prominent variant in the U.S., the BA.2.75 subvariant, reports show, when it was discovered, was spreading faster than other Omicron subvariants.
The World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t designated BA.2.75 as a variant of concern, but it is monitoring the strain. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke at the Member State Information Session in July in which he first announced the organization was closely tracking the subvariant.
Why We Need to Be Talking About Vaccines That Offer ‘Mucosal Immunity’
Next-generation nasal or oral vaccines could quickly boost the immune response in the very airways where COVID-19 enters the body and ultimately break our reliance on the constant development of reformulated shots to target new variants of concern. But the U.S. isn’t putting money into such products, which experts say could augment current vaccines on the market.
Mucosal immunity is a key compartment in our immune system, different from the antibody response in the blood that’s stimulated by vaccine shots, said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and chief scientific officer for at-home testing company eMed.
Got COVID? Flushing out Nasal Passages Could Cut Severity
Battling COVID and eager to do anything that will limit you to a mild infection? Grab a neti pot, a new study advises. Flushing your sinus cavity twice daily with a mild saline solution can significantly reduce a COVID patient’s risk of hospitalization and death, researchers report.
“We found an 8.5-fold reduction in hospitalizations and no fatalities compared to our controls,” said senior author Dr. Richard Schwartz. He’s chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Both of those are pretty significant endpoints,” Schwartz said in a college news release.
For the study, 79 COVID patients self-administered nasal irrigation using saline water mixed with either povidone-iodine (the brown antiseptic used in surgery) or baking soda. They started doing this within 24 hours of testing positive.
The researchers suspect that saline — salt water — inhibits the COVID virus’ ability to infect cells in the nasal cavity, mouth and lungs. Saline irrigation also appears to help limit the severity of patients’ symptoms. Patients who more diligently stuck to the twice-daily schedule reported quicker resolution of symptoms, the researchers said.
Take Whatever COVID Booster You Can Get, Says Head of EU Drugs Watchdog
People in Europe should take whatever COVID-19 booster is available to them in the coming months, Emer Cooke, Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said in a Reuters Next Newsmaker interview ahead of an expected autumn rise in infections.
Apart from the original COVID vaccines, the EMA has endorsed a number of Omicron-adapted vaccines in recent weeks.
In an interview with the weekly WirtschaftsWoche on Friday, the head of the German association of family doctors, Ulrich Weigeldt, criticized the approval of two different types of variant-adapted vaccines.
“Patients are confused and have a lot of questions about the new vaccines,” he was quoted as saying.
Israel to Roll out Adapted COVID Booster This Month, Official Says
Israel will offer the updated COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) designed to combat the Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants by the end of September, a senior health official said on Wednesday.
Israel’s coronavirus task force chief Salman Zarka urged those in risk groups to take the booster along with a flu shot, though anyone above the age of 12 and at least three months from a previous shot or COVID-19 illness would be eligible.
Pfizer/BioNtech’s so-called bivalent vaccine targets the currently circulating BA.4/5 as well as the strain of the virus that originally emerged in China in December 2019.
U.S. Now Among Countries Confirmed With Circulating Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus: CDC
The U.S. is now among the countries confirmed to have circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). Authorities are urging people to get immunized to prevent the “debilitating” disease.
The confirmation comes amid the detection of polioviruses in New York, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in a statement Tuesday. According to the agency, the case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County, as well as the detection of the virus in wastewater in several other counties, suggests continued transmission.
These two factors also meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) criteria for cVDPV. This means that the U.S. is now on the list of about 30 countries with cVDPV.
As the agency explained, the vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain related to the weakened version of the virus that’s in the oral polio vaccine.
Pfizer Starts Late-Stage Trial of mRNA-Based Flu Vaccine
The company said that the first participants had been dosed with the vaccine, which is based on the same technology used in its widely-used COVID-19 shot developed in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE).
Messenger RNA technology allows changing the vaccine strains relatively faster, and Pfizer expects this flexibility and its rapid manufacturing to potentially allow better strain matches in future years.
Early-stage data from Moderna Inc.’s (MRNA.O) flu vaccine last year disappointed investors after it showed the company’s mRNA-based flu vaccine was no better than the already approved shots in the market. Moderna, though, also started a late-stage trial of its flu vaccine in June this year.
CDC Warns of Increase in Respiratory Illness Among Children That Could Lead to Polio-Like Muscle Weakness
Doctors across the U.S. have seen an increase among children of a respiratory virus that can cause polio-like muscle weakness.
In most cases, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) causes a respiratory illness with mild symptoms. It can, however, result in a condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) which can cause inflammation of the spinal cord. Those suffering from AFM can have trouble moving their arms while others experience muscle weakness. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure or life-threatening neurologic complications.
According to an alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, pediatric hospitalizations are on the rise among patients with severe respiratory illness who tested positive for rhinovirus (RV) and/or enterovirus (EV). Some of the patients have also tested positive for EV-D68 — and hospital sites are reporting a higher proportion of EV-D68 patients compared to previous years.
Monkeypox Infections Reported by Colleges Raise Concerns of Campus Spread
Several U.S. colleges have confirmed cases of the virus, raising concerns as students return to campus for the fall semester. That’s especially so as many students, like 22-year-old Ribaudo, saw earlier school years cut short or moved online due to COVID-19.