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More than half of Americans have had COVID-19 infections, U.S. study shows




Following a record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58 percent of the U.S. population overall and more than 75 percent of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.

The study issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.

Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the U.S. population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents, many of whom remain unvaccinated, had the highest rates of infection, while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.

During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2 percent of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2 percent in the prior three-month period. Among those 12-17, 74.2 percent carried antibodies, up from 45.6 percent from September to December.

Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines. Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.

“Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection,” said the CDC’s Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, during a media briefing. “We did not look at whether people had a level of antibodies that provides protection against reinfection or severe disease.”

U.S. COVID-19 infections are on the upswing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during the briefing, rising 22.7 percent in the past week to 44,000 per day. Hospitalizations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6 percent, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.

While deaths fell 13.2 percent, week-over-week, the United States is fast approaching the grim milestone of 1 million total COVID-related deaths.

Walensky said the BA.1 variant, which caused the Omicron wave, now only accounts for 3 percent of U.S. transmission. Increasingly, she said a subvariant first discovered in upstate New York called BA.2.121 makes up nearly 30 percent of U.S. cases, and appears to be 25 percent more transmissible than even the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

In certain counties with high COVID-19 community spread, the CDC now recommends people wear a mask in public indoor settings. It cited upstate New York and the Northeast region as areas where hospitalizations have been rising.

Walensky said the CDC continues to recommend masking in all indoor public transportation settings, and stressed that vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from COVID-19.

More than 66 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 46 percent have had a booster, according to federal data.

The U.S. daily COVID-19 case number is forecast to double from 40,223 cases on April 23 to 80,418 by May 7, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, a magazine. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are expected to decline over the next month, based on an ensemble forecast from 24 modeling groups of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: psmnews


Could Omicron BA.2.75 sub-variant lead to a new global COVID-19 wave?





A new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant known as BA.2.75, which was first detected in India, has raised concerns among health experts, Indian media reported.

BA.2.75, which is said to be a second generation sub-variant of Omicron BA.2, has an 18 percent growth advantage over other Omicron sub-variants currently circulating in India, The Indian Express reported.

Sub-lineages of Omicron have been the dominant strains circulating across the globe, with new mutations continuously evolving.

BA.2.75 could be behind recent COVID-19 surge in India

BA.2.75 has been detected in about 10 states in India, which has been witnessing a surge in new infections in the last month or so, according to Indian media.

In the last 10 days, the number of new cases in the country has been hovering in the 15,000-19,000 range, while the number in the past few months stayed below 3,000.

Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, a microbiologist at Pune’s B J Medical College and head of Maharashtra’s genome sequencing effort, and scientists elsewhere in India, have picked up three sub-variants, BA.2.74, BA.2.75, and BA.2.76, as the possible drivers for the current surge, according to The Indian Express.

The three sub-variants have more than nine changes in the spike protein, and are expected to outnumber the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants, which were the most common until a few weeks ago, according to Karyakarte’s team.

Besides India, the strain has also been reported by several other countries, including Japan, Germany, the UK, Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, according to data from Nextstrain, an open-source platform of global pathogen genome data.

Does it cause more severe disease?

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that the BA.2.75 leads to a more severe form of infection, although scientists are at a very early stage to know about it.

Evidence on its transmissibility and immune evasiveness is also still preliminary and emerging, according to a statement from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

Why are health experts concerned?

While there is not much known about the new strain, health experts have raised concerns about it.

In a series of tweets, Dr. Shay Fleishon from the Central Virology Laboratory at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, said the sub-variant may be “alarming because it may imply a trend to come.”

He explained that in recent months, there has been a trend of second-generation variants based on Omicron sub-lineages BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.

He said until now the second-generation variants have only been found in a few cases within one region. But BA.2.75 has spread to multiple regions, the first of its kind to do so.

The BA.2.75 variant has new mutations in the spike protein, of which G446S and R493Q are of particular concern, as they give the variant the ability to evade several antibodies, reported, citing unnamed experts.

This means it can infect people who have been vaccinated, or have been infected previously, the report said.

Research reveals that the R493Q mutation increases the strain’s ability to attach to ACE2, the protein that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter cells, according to the report.

Source: CGTN

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Chinese experts caution against over-disinfection for COVID-19





Chinese health experts have cautioned against inappropriate disinfection practices to curb the spread of COVID-19, and called for minimizing the impact on people’s regular life when conducting necessary disinfection.

“We should avoid blind or excessive disinfection, and make it targeted. Disinfection is only necessary when the virus transmission can be cut off this way,” said Zhang Liubo, chief disinfection specialist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“If we have multiple methods to block the spread of the virus, we can choose the safest, most effective, economical and convenient one. Disinfection is one of the available options,” he added.

For example, items not touched by the infected people in their homes can be sealed off and left unattended for a period of time, instead of getting disinfectant sprayed on them, according to Zhang.

During the battle against the latest Omicron wave in China, there have been media reports and online complaints about some questionable disinfecting approaches, such as workers in protective gear spraying disinfectant all over someone’s home.

Is indoor disinfection necessary?

In accordance with China’s Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, places and items contaminated by infectious disease pathogens should be strictly disinfected, said Lei Zhenglong, deputy head of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at the National Health Commission.

Disinfection of places that may have been contaminated by the coronavirus, such as the living areas of the infected people, has played an important role in ensuring the safety of the environment, he said.

Zhang further explained that after the infected people were relocated to other places, there might still be living virus on the objects or in the environment that have been contaminated, which need to be sanitized.

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether there still exist living virus in the contaminated environment, because how long the virus can survive on the surfaces of objects is associated with a lot of factors, including the characteristics of the virus, the viral load, the temperature, humidity and the intensity of sunlight in the environment, he said.

Previous studies have shown that the novel coronavirus can live for two to three days on environmental surfaces, and even up to 28 days under certain conditions.

It is also possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, both Chinese and foreign health authorities like the U.S. CDC have said.

Terminal disinfection of the contaminated places can ensure that the environment and the objects are free of living virus. Therefore, indoor disinfection of infected people’s homes is one of the effective measures to prevent against the virus transmission among family members.

Safe and effective disinfection stressed

Although proper disinfection of the contaminated environment is necessary, Lei pointed out that there have been problems in the disinfection practices in some places, like inadequate communication with the affected residents and improper operations.

It’s necessary to strengthen the training of proper disinfection procedures, as well as the supervision of the disinfection process, he said.

When organizing indoor disinfection of someone’s home, local health authorities should strictly follow relative technical specifications and procedures, and keep the residents informed about the whole process, so that they can understand and support the disinfection work, he added.

People should choose safe and effective disinfectants and disinfecting methods, Zhang said, adding that different methods should be adopted for different items and materials.

They should also protect the valuables and minimize the damage to the objects inside some’s home when conducting the disinfection work, he noted.


Source: CGTN

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China may have prevented 50,000 COVID-related deaths: WHO data





hina’s COVID-19 control measures may have prevented more than 50,000 people from dying of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The data, released by WHO in May, listed numbers of “global excess deaths” related directly or indirectly to COVID-19 from the start of 2020 to end of 2021, among which China’s accumulated number is below zero, meaning China could have lost more people if the control measures were not taken.

The mean number for accumulated excess deaths in China is minus 52,063, the lowest among all 194 countries listed in the WHO dataset.

Graphics by Zhao Hong

WHO said the numbers were calculated based on the all-cause death number in a region, be it reported or projected, minus the number of deaths that would have been expected if COVID never happened.

The number not only includes deaths caused directly by COVID-19, but also includes indirect deaths resulted from “the wider impact of the pandemic on health systems and society,” said the WHO on its website.

WHO said the number can provide “a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of COVID-19 beyond the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by countries,” and can “reveal a picture of its full impact and burden on countries, health systems and individuals.”

Other countries scored a big minus number include Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka and the DPRK, which also could have prevented thousands from dying of COVID-related social impacts.

Countries with large number of excess deaths include India, Russia, Indonesia, the U.S. and Brazil.

Source: CGTN

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