COVID-19 news

Symbolic image of TB bacteria

A new global plan launched to end TB in the next 101 months

Despite the promise by all countries to end TB by 2030 (and India to end TB by 2025), the decline in TB rates, deaths, and the number of new infections, is not steep enough to meet the target. A lot more action (and investment) needs to urgently happen if we are to #endTB in the next 101 months globally (and the next 41 months in India). That is why, the global Stop TB Partnership has unveiled a new costed plan for the world to end TB, the second leading cause of death, after COVID-19, from a single infectious-disease agent. The Global Plan to End TB 2023-2030 emphasises a new global focus on prevention and control of this neglected, and perhaps the oldest, airborne disease that still remains a health threat for every person on this planet earth, infecting 10 million people and killing 1.3 million of them every year. The Plan outlines the priority actions that could save millions of lives through early prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of TB with a total investment of US$ 250 billion between now and 2030. Of this, US$ 157 billion is for TB prevention and care, US$ 53 billion for vaccination once new vaccines are available, and US$ 40 billion to accelerate the development of new TB treatment regimens, diagnostics and a new TB vaccine. As pointed out by Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, the proposed investment of US$ 10 billion in new TB vaccines (as envisaged in this Plan) is 10 times less than what was injected into the research and development for COVID-19 vaccines with a compelling sense of urgency and purpose. So it should be possible to have a TB vaccine by 2025. TB response remains severely under-resourced Even as the global TB response remains severely under-resourced, and people with TB continue to experience some of the highest out-of-pocket expenditures, mobilising US$ 250 billion dollars in the next 7 years will indeed be a daunting task. But as pointed out by Dr Paula Fujiwara, Chair of the Global Plan Task Force, the economic return on…

COVID-19 News

How did COVID-19 spread during short conversations?

New Delhi, June 17: It is known that when people sneeze or cough, they can potentially transmit droplets carrying viruses like SARS-CoV-2 to others in their vicinity. But what happens when someone is talking to an infected person? Do the droplets of the saliva in the speech also carry an increased risk of infection? A research team has carried out computer simulations to answer these questions. The group included researchers from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), along with collaborators from the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (NORDITA) in Stockholm and the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in Bengaluru. The team visualised scenarios in which two maskless people are standing two, four, or six feet apart and talking to each other for about a minute, and then estimated the rate and extent of spread of the saliva droplets from one to another. Their simulations showed that the risk of getting infected was higher when one person acted as a passive listener than when they engaged in a two-way conversation. Reporting their findings in a research paper published in the science journal, Flow, of the Cambridge University Press, the scientists noted that a two-way conversation seemed to significantly reduce the aerosol exposure compared with a relative monologue by one person and the relative silence of the other because of the ‘cancelling’ effect produced by the two interacting speech jets. The unequal conversation is shown to significantly increase the infection risk in the person who talks less. The study has also revealed that factors like the height difference between the people talking appear to play an important role in viral transmission. In the simulations, when the speakers were either of the same height or of drastically different sizes (one tall and another short), the risk of infection was found to be much lower than when the height difference was moderate – the variation looked like a bell curve. Based on their results, the team suggests that just turning their heads away by about nine degrees from each other while maintaining eye contact can considerably…

COVID-19 News

A shot in the arm for traditional system of medicine in India

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by WHO in March 2020 New Delhi, June 05: Since December 2019, the world has been recuperating from a significant unexpected challenge of novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Declared a pandemic by World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2020, it led to unimaginable shocks and imbalances in global health care systems putting humanity in peril. The highly transmissible virus imposed social exigencies and resulted in a catastrophic outbreak with a massive number of morbidity and mortality across the globe. Perhaps, it was this time, in the era of globalization with enhanced global healthcare systems, that the countries were tested for their competence, preparation, and readiness to combat an unforeseen and unprecedented situation like this. Is the SARS-CoV-2 pharmacological curable? Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell showing morphological signs of apoptosis, infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (green), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID/NIH It is remarkable how vaccines were developed in record time by scientists and different manufacturing industries to fight against the infection. However, still, the pharmacological cure for the SARS-CoV-2 is unknown. Scientific communities are working painstakingly on viral pathogenesis to provide more insights into the disease and its possible mutations and unravel the appropriate treatments and cures. What is a shift in healthcare practices? Initially, due to the lack of evidence-based treatment against SARS-CoV-2, there was a considerable dependence on therapeutic and natural product-based treatments and modern medical science. During this time, a significant shift in healthcare practices was noticed. A growing interest in using traditional and herbal medicines to alleviate the COVID-19 symptoms and gain immunity to fight against the virus was widely observed. People were seeking this as an alternative treatment option and as a preventive measure due to its diverse therapeutic, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and immunity enhancing properties. As defined by WHO, Traditional medicine (TM) is “the sum total of the knowledge, skills and practices on the basis of the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures,…

COVID-19 News

WHO’s World Health Statistics 2022 revealed, that health spending has become even more frightening in the last 20 years

Highlights of WHO’s World Health Statistics 2022 New Delhi, 22 May 2022: The World Health Organization has published its latest comprehensive set of World Health Statistics for 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic – which led to an estimated 4.5 million excess deaths in that year. What say World Health Statistics 2022 report? The statistics reveal the extent to which the pandemic has been affecting health systems worldwide, in some cases severely curtailing access to vital services. These disruptions are likely to set back global progress on both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy made in the first 20 years of the century. The World health statistics report is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual compilation of health and health-related indicators for its 194 Member States, which has been published since 2005. What is Global life expectancy at birth? Global life expectancy at birth had increased from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.3 years in 2019, and healthy life expectancy increased from 58.3 years to 63.7 years. This was largely due to gains in maternal and child health and major investments and improvements in communicable disease programmes, such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. But the 2020 data shows how service disruptions contributed to an increase in deaths from tuberculosis and malaria between 2019 and 2020. Prior to the pandemic, there had also been encouraging trends globally in the reduction of child stunting, alcohol consumption and tobacco use, as well as in increased access to safely managed drinking water, safely managed sanitation, basic hygiene, and clean fuels and technologies for cooking. These advances had been partly underpinned by a doubling in global spending on health between 2000 and 2019, reaching 9.8% of global gross domestic product. But approximately 80% of that spending occurred in high-income countries, the bulk of it (about 70%) coming from government budgets. In low-income countries, out-of-pocket spending was the main source of health expenditure (44%), followed by external aid (29%). While service coverage has improved in the last 20 years, catastrophic health expenditure has worsened. With the current global economic recession and health systems struggling…

COVID-19 News

#Breaking: Some 68% of excess deaths associated with the COVID-19 are concentrated in just 10 countries: WHO

14.9 million excess deaths were associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 Geneva, 5 May 2022 – New estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic (described as “excess mortality”) between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million (range 13.3 million to 16.6 million). “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.  “WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.” How is excess mortality calculated? Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years. Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society).  Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic.  The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries. South-East Asia, Europe, and the America top in deaths from COVID-19 Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally. Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively. The global death toll of COVID-19 was higher for men than for women The estimates for a 24-month period (2020 and…

Asthma drug can help fight COVID-19

Asthma drug can help fight COVID-19: Study

Called montelukast, the drug, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been around for more than 20 years and is usually prescribed to reduce inflammation caused by conditions like asthma, hay fever, and hives.

Innate lymphoid cells (green) near and within a small area of inflammation, or granuloma, in a non-human primate infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB)

Will the Himalayan Indian state eliminate tuberculosis by 2023?

Article based on an interview with the head of district TB programme of Kangra in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, India. Will Kangra keep the promise to eliminate TB by 2023? Only 21 months are left to keep the promise, and with alarming numbers of new cases and deaths (and additional adverse impact of COVID), are we on track? Two years before the pandemic had struck us, the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh in India had declared that it will eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2023 – two years before the national #endTB target (2025), and seven years before the global #endTB target (2030). State Chief Minister’s dedicated initiative had further galvanized the efforts towards containing the ancient disease. But are we on track? We must remember that an infectious disease anywhere is an infectious disease everywhere. TB anywhere is TB everywhere. If we are to eliminate TB from our homes and communities, it also must be eliminated from all other home and communities around the world. The same holds true for COVID-19. TB care failed to reach over one-third of TB patients in India in 2020 As per the latest Global TB Report of the World Health Organization (WHO), only 63% of the estimated total number of people with active TB disease were diagnosed and put on treatment in 2020. Over half a million people died of TB in the same year. Even before the pandemic had struck the world, most parts of the world were not on track to end TB by 2030. India was no different, with an appallingly low TB decline rate – year after year – then the required decline necessary to eliminate the disease. TB services too were adversely affected when COVID-19 lockdown was clamped in March 2020. After an initial couple of months of hiccups, Kangra’s dynamic District TB Officer Dr RK Sood led from the front in mobilising his team to rise up to the challenge. Home delivery of TB medicines was an important activity of Dr Sood’s team to help people with TB stay on treatment. Uninterrupted treatment is essential to…

COVID-19 News

Pandemic is not over yet by a long shot: Deaths rose every week in 2022

Global health thought leader Dr Tim France rightly tweeted, “Here is the WHO stating explicitly what most people I know are saying to one another privately: Is not it really risky to lift all COVID-19 related measures now, with the virus still circulating in high levels? Clearly, in these global experts’ minds, the answer is an emphatic yes.” He was referring to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has warned “Some countries are lifting all public health and social measures despite high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.” WHO experts have instead called for a slow approach. While several countries are relaxing COVID-19 prevention and control measures, the weekly number of deaths have been increasing week after week in 2022. As per the latest epidemiological update of WHO, there were more than 75,000 deaths worldwide due to COVID-19 in the second week of February 2022- almost double of the weekly deaths at the start of 2022. According to the WHO, 41000 people had died due to COVID-19 in the first week of January 2022, 43000 in the second week, 45000 in the third week, 50000 in the fourth week, and 59000 by the last week. Over 68000 people died due to COVID-19 in the first week of February 2022, and 75000 in the second week. The number of new weekly deaths in the second week of February 2022 had increased in four out of six WHO geographic regions: 38% increase in Eastern Mediterranean, 27% rise in Western Pacific, 14% rise in Africa, and 5% rise in the Americas. Europe reported a similar number of deaths as the first week of February whereas southeast Asia reported a decline of 9%. Let us also have a look at those countries that recorded the most deaths (over 1000) in the last seven days (in descending order): US, Brazil, Russia, India, Italy, France, Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Germany, Colombia, Japan, UK, Iran, and South Africa. Is it true? Every Life Matters Even one untimely death is a death too many. We have no excuse today after more than a year of vaccination…

COVID-19 News

Will the UN health agency give the green light for using COVID-19 self-tests?

Are self-tests for COVID-19 available? If we get infected with an infectious disease, will we not want to protect our family and others from it? But, unless we know our disease status timely and reliably, how can we help prevent further infection transmission? How will we link up, and benefit from, health and clinical care pathways until we know that we are infected? When self-tests for COVID-19 are available, there is no excuse not to make them affordable and accessible to everyone without any further delay, so that these easy to use tests can complement the confirmatory RT-PCR tests and other diagnostics for those who need them – and serve as an entry point for health and clinical care pathways. Global organizations and experts wrote an open letter to WHO to authorize and recommend the use of COVID-19 rapid antigen detection tests for self-testing That is why more than one hundred global organizations and experts have issued an open letter calling upon the United Nations health agency (World Health Organization – WHO) to authorize and recommend the use of COVID-19 rapid antigen detection tests for self-testing in low- and middle-income nations. People should be able to know their COVID-19 status in a simple, cheap and non-discriminatory manner. Such information will help them to take prompt action to break the chain of onward infection transmission, and rapid linkage to the healthcare pathway will be another important outcome of this, argues this open letter that was issued towards the end of January 2022. Why self-test for COVID-19? More than 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally in a world of over 7 billion people. But more than 3 billion people have yet to receive even their first dose. Vaccine inequity has cost unnecessary human suffering and untimely deaths. Now, inequity in accessing self-tests is a looming danger we cannot, and must not, have to deal with if we are to deliver on the tall promise of health for all where “no one is left behind”. 85% of the global population lives in low- and middle-income nations yet only 40% of…

COVID-19 News

WHO recommended two new drugs to treat COVID-19

The drugs add to an expanding toolbox for COVID-19 treatment COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines: In its latest COVID guidelines, WHO ‘strongly recommends’ the Baricitinib antibody treatment for critical patients. New Delhi/ Geneva 14 January 2021 | The world Health Organization (WHO) has recommended two new drugs for COVID-19, providing yet more options for treating the disease.  The extent to which these medicines will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they will be. WHO ‘Strongly’ Recommends Baricitinib for COVID-19 Patients: What Is It? The first drug, baricitinib, is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19.  It is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system.  WHO recommends that it is given with corticosteroids. Baricitinib dose for COVID Baricitinib is an oral drug, used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  It provides an alternative to other arthritis drugs called Interleukin-6 receptor blockers, recommended by WHO in July 2021. Sotrovimab covid treatment WHO has also conditionally recommended the use of a monoclonal antibody drug, sotrovimab, for treating mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients who are at high risk of hospitalization. This includes patients who are older, immunocompromised, having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and those unvaccinated. Sotrovimab: What to Know About the WHO Recommended COVID Treatment WHO has also clarified that it is not certain about Sotrovimab’s effect on Omicron variant infected COVID patients. Sotrovimab is an alternative to casirivimab-imdevimab, a monoclonal antibody cocktail recommended by WHO in September 2021. WHO has also clarified that studies are ongoing on the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies against Omicron but early laboratory studies show that sotrovimab retains its activity. The panel of experts developing the guidelines also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19: ruxolitinib and tofacitinib.  Given their uncertain effects, WHO made a conditional recommendation against their use. According to WHO, the two newly recommended drugs – baricitinib and sotrovimab – have been invited for WHO Prequalification, which assesses the quality, efficacy and safety of priority health products to increase access in lower income countries….

Union Minister releasing a special postage stamp and a special cover commemorating the platinum Jubilee of CSIR-NPL

Special postage stamp released to commemorate Platinum Jubilee of CSIR-NPL

New Delhi, Jan 11: The Department of Post has come out with a special postage stamp and a special cover commemorating the Platinum Jubilee of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), New Delhi. Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; Minister of State PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, released the stamp and the cover. Know about CSIR-NPL CSIR-NPL is the custodian of national measurement standards through an act of Parliament. It is one of the oldest and premier institutions of CSIR. The foundation stone of the laboratory was laid on the 4th January 1947, shortly before India became independent. The Minister also dedicated to the nation a ‘LED Photometry Laboratory’ set up at the institute, fulfilling Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s vision to develop energy-efficient illumination technology. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Jitendra Singh noted that CSIR-NPL is a monumental illustration of India’s incredible scientific journey in the last 75 years and said that the platinum Jubilee celebration was an occasion to plan for the next 25 years with a conscious realisation that science and technology are going to be the main currency for the inclusive growth of India. The Minister said that PM Modi has a special aptitude for science-driven developments, which has enabled all the scientific programmes to concentrate on applications that are relevant to bring ‘ease of living’ to the common man. He pointed out that all the six science & technology departments including space and atomic energy and the autonomous institutes have contributed hugely to the fight against COVID-19 through the research for the development of vaccines, genome sequencing and other protocols. He recalled that the first DNA vaccine trial was done by the Department of Biotechnology, ISRO provided liquid Oxygen continuously on a large scale to several State governments from their manufacturing facilities or from the existing stock, and the Department of Atomic Energy developed reusable PPE kits and N-99 masks using HEPA filter technology.  Referring to the LED Photometry Laboratory inaugurated on the…

Arvind Kejriwal

#Breaking : Arvind Kejriwal tests Covid-19 positive

New Delhi, Jan 4, 2022: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today announced that he has tested positive for Covid-19, adding that he has “mild symptoms” and was isolated at home. Kejriwal tweeted : “I have tested positive for Covid. Mild symptoms. Have isolated myself at home. Those who came in touch wid me in last few days, kindly isolate urself and get urself tested”. I have tested positive for Covid. Mild symptoms. Have isolated myself at home. Those who came in touch wid me in last few days, kindly isolate urself and get urself tested — Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 4, 2022 Cases of new variant Omicron of Corona are increasing continuously in the country In the last 24 hours, 4099 new cases of the corona were reported in Delhi while one died. With this, the total number of cases has increased to 14,58,220. The corona infection rate has increased to 6.46 per cent, which is the highest in the last seven months. According to the Delhi Health Department, the positivity rate in the city was recorded at 6.89 per cent on May 18. So far, 351 cases of Omicron have been reported in the capital, of which 57 have been discharged from the hospital.

COVID-19 News

Coronavirus genomic surveillance mechanism intensified

Coronavirus genomic surveillance mechanism in India New Delhi, Dec 07: A consortium of national laboratories based in four cities – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune – is continuously conducting genomic surveillance of coronavirus, which has helped to sequence more and more samples of the virus. The focus of the consortium The consortium is focused on upscaling genomic surveillance as part of national efforts led by the INSACOG – Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the effort will aid in a rapid response to contain the spread of variants of concern. Institutions involved in the consortium Apart from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the consortium includes CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi; Pune Knowledge Cluster, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune; and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune. The first two cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were recently confirmed in Bangalore by the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS). NCBS is part of a consortium of national laboratories performing genomic surveillance across four city clusters – Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Pune. The consortium was established four months ago with support from The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute and is led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. The consortium intensified its sequencing efforts after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Omicron as a Variant of Concern. Such an intensified effort enabled the Bangalore team at the NCBS, a member laboratory of INSACOG, in collaboration with Strand Life Sciences and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to detect, rapidly sequence, and verify the existence of the omicron variant in samples from two COVID-19 infected individuals. The information was quickly passed on to the local and national authorities, and the government of India issued a statement on 2nd December 2021 afternoon, all within four days of receiving the samples. Both SARS-CoV-2 genomes have also been uploaded to the global repository for SARS-CoV-2 sequences, GISAID so that they can be made readily available to…

COVID-19 News

Know everything about the ‘Omicron’ coronavirus reported from South Africa

What we know about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 so far Update on Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant New Delhi, 29th November 2021. On 26 November 2021, the world health organization (WHO) designated variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).  This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known about Omicron (B.1.1.529). This information has been released by the World Health Organization about Omicron (B.1.1.529) Current knowledge about Omicron (B.1.1.529) Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available. Transmissibility of Omicron (B.1.1.529): It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors. The severity of disease of Omicron (B.1.1.529): It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.  Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of a specific infection with Omicron.  There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.  Initially reported infections were among university studies—younger individuals who tend to have the more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.  All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the…

COVID-19 News

WHO issues guidelines on the treatment of children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19

What are WHO guidelines on the treatment of children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19? How to manage multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children associated with COVID-19 (MIS-C)? WHO issues new guidelines. Geneva, 23 November 2021 | WHO today issued updated guidelines on the management of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children associated with COVID-19 (MIS-C). What is a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)? MIS-C is a rare but serious condition where children with COVID-19 develop inflammation affecting different organs of the body. Children with this condition need specialized care and may need to be admitted to intensive care. Although MIS-C is a serious condition, with the right medical care, children with this condition recover. WHO’s updated guidelines recommend the use of corticosteroids in hospitalized children (aged 0-18 years) with this condition, in addition to supportive treatment and care. This recommendation comes following the availability of three observational studies, pooling data from 885 patients in total. WHO first described this condition in May 2020, and provided a preliminary clinical definition. Overall, children remain at low risk of developing severe or critical COVID-19, but similar to adults, certain underlying conditions make children more susceptible to severe disease. The most commonly reported of these conditions are obesity, chronic lung disease (including asthma), cardiovascular disease and immunosuppression.


Zika Virus Disease in India

Disease Outbreak News – Zika Virus Disease – India First Zika virus disease case in Kerala. New Delhi/Geneva 15 October 2021: On 8 July 2021, a Zika virus (ZIKV) infection was laboratory-confirmed in a resident of Kerala state, south-west India. This represents the first Zika virus disease case ever reported from Kerala. ZIKV viral RNA was detected through RT-PCR testing at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune, in a blood sample collected from the patient, a 24-year-old pregnant woman in her third trimester of pregnancy resident in Trivandrum district. On 28 June 2021, she was admitted to a private hospital with arbovirus like symptoms of fever, headache and general rash. Laboratory results were negative for dengue virus (DENV) and chikungunya virus (CHIKV). The woman was delivered on 7 July, she was reportedly in good health and there were no apparent birth defects in the newborn. In the three months before delivery, she had resided in Trivandrum district not having travelled during that period. Among her close contacts, her mother reported having fever and similar symptoms one week before ZIKV confirmation in her daughter. Retrospective testing was conducted among 19 hospital staff and patients at the same private hospital who had previously presented with fever, myalgia, arthralgia and petechial lesions in May 2021. Blood samples collected from these 19 ZIKV suspected cases were sent to NIV Pune, and on 10 July the laboratory results confirmed that 13 of the 19 samples tested positive for ZIKV by RT-PCR, indicating cryptic transmission of ZIKV in Kerala state since May 2021. During the period from 8 to 26 July 2021, 590 blood samples were collected in Kerala state through active case finding and passive surveillance. Of them, 70 (11.9%) tested positive for ZIKV by RT-PCR at NIV Pune, including four additional pregnant women. All these cases were from Trivandrum district, except two cases reported from Ernakulam and Kottayam districts, who both had recent travel history to Trivandrum district. On 31 July 2021, Maharashtra state also reported its first Zika laboratory-confirmed case from Belsar, a village of 3500 inhabitants located in Purandar Taluka administrative…

COVID-19 News

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed racial and ethnic disparities in the United States: NCI study

NCI study highlights pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino adults The global COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino individuals in the United States, causing more deaths by population size, both directly and indirectly, in these groups compared with white or Asian individuals. The findings, from a large surveillance study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appeared on October 5, 2021, in Annals of Internal Medicine. “Focusing on COVID-19 deaths alone without examining total excess deaths—that is, deaths due to non-COVID-19 causes as well as to COVID-19—may underestimate the true impact of the pandemic,” said Meredith S. Shiels, PhD, M.H.S., senior investigator in the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who led the study. “These data highlight the profound impact of long-standing inequities.” Scientists at NCI have a long history of tracking mortality trends in the United States, mainly focusing on cancer death rates. More recently, these investigators have been applying their expertise in analyzing national surveillance data to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on excess deaths by racial and ethnic groups. In this new study, scientists from NCI, NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation used provisional death certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, to compare excess deaths by race/ethnicity, sex, age group, and cause of death during March to December 2020 with data for the same months in 2019. Excess deaths are the number of deaths in a specific period of time over what would have been expected to occur based on deaths in the same months in previous years, after adjustment for population changes. Dr Shiels noted that because the study period did not include a full year of data, the investigators could not present the number of excess deaths as a rate. Instead, they calculated the number of excess deaths in each…

World Health Organization

WHO takes steps to address the glaring shortage of quality palliative care services

Geneva 5 October 2021 – Worldwide, it is estimated only 1 in 10 people who need palliative care are receiving it and global demand for care for people with life-threatening illnesses will continue to grow as populations age and the burden of non-communicable diseases rises. By 2060, the need for palliative care is expected to nearly double. The world, therefore, needs urgent and concerted action to scale up access to quality palliative care services. To address this need, the WHO is releasing two new resources to support countries in assessing the development of palliative care and improving the quality of palliative care services. The two resources are being released in advance of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on 9 October 2021. They include a WHO technical report providing a globally applicable and robust set of palliative care indicators for countries. These indicators can be used to assess and monitor the provision of palliative care services in countries worldwide. The report aims to create a global consensus on indicators to measure palliative care development and its use will provide reliable data to support decision-making by informing health priorities and resource allocation. The second resource is a technical brief on quality health services and palliative care, looking at practical approaches and resources to support policy, strategy, and practice.  The brief will guide action at the national, district and point of care to improve the quality of palliative care services. To date, monitoring the existence and maturity of palliative care services has been most often done by assessing the consumption of opioid analgesics. Although opioids are vital for pain relief, they are only one component required for the development of optimal palliative care services. At a global level, harmonizing data across countries provides a clearer picture of global needs and challenges in palliative care, such as inequity. Measurement is also a starting point for identifying success stories and learning from countries to design effective improvement strategies for application in other settings. The indicators will assist all those working in palliative care to identify tangible steps that can be considered by countries to…

COVID-19 News

New CDC Advisory: COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant People

COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future: CDC New Delhi, 05th October 2021: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued an urgent health advisory last week strongly recommending COVID-19 vaccination before or during pregnancy to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. More than 125,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in pregnant people through September 27th with more than 22,000 hospitalized and 161 deaths in the US. Twenty-two deaths of pregnant people occurred in the month of August alone. Pregnant people with COVID-19 are also at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, stillbirth, and admission into the ICU of a newborn also infected with COVID-19. Given only 31 per cent of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity, CDC recommended urgent action to help protect pregnant people and their babies/infants. CDC Statement on Pregnancy Health Advisory is as follows : CDC issued an urgent health advisory to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The CDC health advisory strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks. Additionally, the advisory calls on health departments and clinicians to educate pregnant people on the benefits of vaccination and the safety of recommended vaccines. According to CDC data, only 31 per cent of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity. Vaccination coverage is highest among Asian people who are pregnant (45.7 per cent), but lower among Hispanic or Latino pregnant people (25 per cent), and lowest among Black pregnant people (15.6 per cent). Through September 27th, there were more than 125,000 confirmed…