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55% Patients Couldn't Understand Seriousness, Died: AIIMS Study On Heart Attacks

NEW DELHI, May 30: Only a small proportion of patients (10 per cent) with cardiac and stroke emergencies reach health facilities within an hour, which is critical in preventing death, a recent Indian study has shown. The sooner such patients reach a hospital, the better the result of their treatment.

The study, conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and published in the top medical journal The Lancet, sought to address the reasons for delays at multiple levels in reaching the facilities.

"We conducted a social audit of people who died due to heart attacks or strokes in the Ballabgarh block of Haryana's Faridabad," Anand Krishnan, Professor, Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS, said, adding that they wanted to understand if patients reached a hospital in time, what problems they face in accessing urgent care, and what were the reasons for the delay in reaching hospitals.

The study, funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research, was done by three departments of AIIMS -- Cardiology, Neurology, and community medicine.

The study found that around 30 to 40 per cent of people didn't get late because of situations they had control over, Dr Krishnan said, adding that around 55 per cent delayed the hospital visit to understand what had happened -- whether it was a heart attack, stroke, or non-critical pain. They were confused about whether to go to the hospital, he said.

Around 20 to 30 per cent faced issues like a vehicle, or money for treatment, causing the delay. "They wanted to go immediately but faced financial or geographical access issues," Dr Krishnan said.

Approximately 10 per cent of people faced a delay in treatment after reaching the hospital in time, he said, adding that there are issues with emergency response in hospitals.

The study, which included 435 deaths, was conducted over a year. It started before Covid and ended towards the beginning of the pandemic.

"There may be slight changes, but the figures are expected to be similar across the country," Dr Krishnan said.

Similar studies have been conducted in the past, but they were hospital-based, he said. "This is the first study where we went into the community."

"We shouldn't have beginner's suspicion because this is a very deadly disease. All cases of chest pain, especially on the left side, should be immediately examined by a doctor. Not all chest pain is a heart attack, nether all heart attacks begin with chest pain. There's no full-proof way. We should maintain a high degree of suspicion. People at risk, for example, if they have blood pressure issues, should be extra cautious," Dr Krishnan said, and further advised people to rush to only those hospitals that are fully equipped for immediate treatment.

This descriptive study was conducted in two out of three tehsils (Badkhal and Ballabgarh) of the Faridabad district of Haryana with an estimated population of 21 lakh in 2020-21.

The three-delays model was used to qualitatively classify the delays in care seeking -- deciding to seek care, reaching the appropriate health facility (AHF) and initiating definitive treatment.

"We noted level-1 delay in 38.4 per cent (60 per cent due to non-recognition of seriousness); level-2 delay in 20 per cent (40 per cent due to going to inappropriate facility) and level-3 delay in 10.8 per cent (57 per cent due to lack of affordability)," the study stated.

"Lack of timely care is a predictor of poor outcomes in acute cardiovascular emergencies, including stroke. Delayed presentation leads to delay or failure to provide the most beneficial therapies like thrombolysis for myocardial infarction/ischemic stroke leading to poorer disease outcomes. It is estimated that interventions that reduce delays in care in patients with myocardial infarction (MI) could decrease risk of mortality by 30 per cent," the study said.

Next pandemic could be 'deadlier': WHO chief

GENEVA, May 24: World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the world should be ready for the next pandemic, which might be “even deadlier” than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tedros's statement comes days after the WHO said Covid-19 was no longer a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating pandemic that has claimed at least 7 million lives worldwide.

Delivering his report to the 76th World Health Assembly, the UN agency’s decision-making body, Tedros said, “The end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency is not the end of COVID-19 as a global health threat.”

“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains,” he said.

Furthermore, in the face of overlapping and converging crises, “pandemics are far from the only threat we face”, the WHO head added, underscoring the need for effective global mechanisms that address and respond to emergencies of all kinds.

He added that when the next pandemic comes knocking – and “it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively, and equitably”. 

Tedros said Covid-19 had significant implications for health-related targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have a deadline of 2030. The pandemic also affected progress towards the Triple Billion targets, announced at the 2017 World Health Assembly.

Earlier, Tedros said the pandemic had been on a downward trend for more than a year, acknowledging that most countries have already returned to life before Covid-19. He bemoaned the damage that the pandemic had done to the global community, saying the virus had shattered businesses and plunged millions into poverty.

Covid No Longer A Global Health Emergency: WHO

LONDON, May 5: COVID-19 no longer represents a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on Friday, a major step towards the end of the pandemic that has killed more than 6.9 million people, disrupted the global economy and ravaged communities.

The WHO's Emergency Committee met on Thursday and recommended the UN-agency declare an end to the public health emergency of international concern, which has been in place for over three years.

"It is therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding the end of the emergency did not mean COVID was over as a global health threat.

The WHO's emergency committee first declared that COVID represented its highest level of alert more than three years ago, on Jan. 30 2020. The status helps focus international attention on a health threat, as well as bolstering collaboration on vaccines and treatments.

Lifting it is a sign of the progress the world has made in these areas, but COVID-19 is here to stay, the WHO has said, even if it no longer represents an emergency.

"COVID has changed the world, and it has changed us. And that's the way it should be. If we go back to how things were before COVID-19, we will have failed to learn our lessons, and failed our future generations," said Ghebreyesus.

The death rate has slowed from a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021 to just over 3,500 in the week to April 24, 2023, according to WHO data.

The WHO does not declare the beginning or end of pandemics, although it did start using the term for COVID in March 2020.

Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden said the pandemic was over. Like a number of other countries, the world's biggest economy has begun dismantling its domestic state of emergency for COVID, meaning it will stop paying for vaccines among other benefits.

Other regions have taken similar steps. The European Union said in April last year the emergency phase of the pandemic was over, and the WHO's African head, Matshidiso Moeti, said in December it was time to move to routine management of COVID across the continent.

Ending the emergency could mean that international collaboration or funding efforts are also brought to an end or shift in focus, although many have already adapted as the pandemic has receded in different regions.

Scientists Reveal The Reason Why Your Hair Turns Grey As You Age

NEW YORK, April 22: Scientists have discovered the reason why human hair loses its colour and turns grey as we age, reported New York Post. According to a team of scientists, melanocyte stem cells become stuck inside the hair follicle and are unable to produce pigment.

The findings were published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Nature. For the study, scientists spent two years tracking individual cells in the fur of mice in order to determine how hair turns grey and closely examined the melanocyte stem cells known to control hair colour. They used special scans and lab techniques to study the cell-ageing process.

They discovered that the pigment-producing part of a stem cell would change as the mice would mature. "The melanocyte stem cell system fails earlier than other adult stem cell populations, which leads to hair greying in most humans and mice," the study says.

As hair ages, sheds and grows back, melanocyte stem cells get stuck in a part of the hair follicle called the hair follicle bulge. As the stem cells stop roaming around the follicle and become fixed, they fail to mature into fully-fledged melanocytes. The hair then turns grey, white or silver because no pigment is being produced.

Mayumi Ito, the author of the study and dermatology professor at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, said, “This is a really big step forward in understanding why we grey.”

He explained, "It is the loss of chameleon-like function in melanocyte stem cells that may be responsible for greying and loss of hair colour."

The researchers also suggested that if their findings hold true for humans, they could open up a potential way to reverse or prevent grey hair.

The study's lead investigator, Qi Sun, said, ''The newfound mechanisms raise the possibility that the same fixed-positioning of melanocyte stem cells may exist in humans. If so, it presents a potential pathway for reversing or preventing the greying of human hair by helping jammed cells to move again between developing hair follicle compartments.”

China Records World's First Human Death From H3N8 Bird Flu: WHO

BEIJING, April 12: A Chinese woman has become the first person to die from a type of bird flu that is rare in humans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, but the strain does not appear to spread between people.

The 56-year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong was the third person known to have been infected with the H3N8 subtype of avian influenza, the WHO said in a statement late on Tuesday.

All of the cases have been in China, with the first two cases reported last year.

The Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported the third infection late last month but did not provide details of the woman's death.

The patient had multiple underlying conditions, said the WHO, and a history of exposure to live poultry.

Sporadic infections in people with bird flu are common in China where avian flu viruses constantly circulate in huge poultry and wild bird populations.

Samples collected from a wet market visited by the woman before she became ill were positive for influenza A(H3), said the WHO, suggesting this may have been the source of infection.

Though rare in people, H3N8 is common in birds in which it causes little to no sign of disease. It has also infected other mammals.

There were no other cases found among close contacts of the infected woman, the WHO said.

"Based on available information, it appears that this virus does not have the ability to spread easily from person to person, and therefore the risk of it spreading among humans at the national, regional, and international levels is considered to be low," the WHO said in the statement.

Monitoring of all avian influenza viruses is considered important given their ability to evolve and cause a pandemic.

Delhi Reports 980 Fresh Covid Cases, Positivity Rate Nearly 26 Percent

NEW DELHI, April 11: Delhi logged 980 fresh COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with a positivity rate of 25.98 per cent, meaning one in every four people tested returned a positive result, according to data shared by the city government's Health department.
The national capital also reported two more Covid deaths, the bulletin said.

However, it added that COVID-19 was not the primary cause of death in one of the fatalities while the case sheet on the other death was awaited.

Delhi logs 699 fresh Covid cases, 4 deaths; positivity rate at 21.15%

NEW DELHI, April 9: A day ago, the city saw as many as 535 fresh infections, and 733 on April 7, the highest in more than seven months.

On Sunday, Delhi's daily Covid tally climbed to 699, reported news agency ANI citing the Delhi government's data, according to which the total number of cases in the national capital was at 2,014,637. Also, in the past 24 hours, the city logged as many as four related fatalities, with the overall death count rising to 26,540, as per the data.

The positivity rate, meanwhile, was recorded at 21.15%, with as many as 3,305 tests conducted in the past 24 hours. In the same period, 467 people recovered from Covid or were discharged, taking the total recovery count to 1,985,637.

The number of active patients, on the other hand, stood at 2,460. Recoveries, deaths and active cases account for 98.56%, 1.32%, and 1.32% of the overall infection tally.

On April 8, Delhi added 535 fresh Covid infections to its tally, and 733 on April 7, in what was the highest single-day rise in months. In fact, in a 7-day period from March 30 to April 6, the city reported more than 3,000 (3,069) infections in total.

In recent days, daily Covid cases have been on the rise across the country. A few states have brought back the mask mandate, and on April 10 and 11, mock drills will be held in hospitals to check their preparedness.

At 26%, Big Jump In Covid Positivity Rate In Delhi, 509 New Cases

NEW DELHI, April 5: Delhi today reported 509 fresh Covid cases, however the positivity rate (confirmed cases every 100 tests) has zoomed to 26 per cent from 15.64% a day before.

The positivity rate is taken as an indicator of how fast the disease is spreading through the community.

With the new cases, the city's infection tally has increased to 20,12,064. The data showed that 1,918 Covid tests were conducted on Tuesday.

Earlier today, city Mayor Shelly Oberoi said all civic-run hospitals are "fully prepared" to deal with the coronavirus situation and appealed to people not to panic.

"The situation is fully under control and people should not panic. Our hospitals, doctors and staff are all equipped to handle the situation," said Ms Oberoi, adding the Delhi government is making arrangements and the MCD too is "fully prepared".

The Delhi government is keeping an eye on the rise in Covid cases in the national capital and is "prepared to face any eventuality", Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said last week.

Delhi has witnessed an increase in the number of fresh Covid cases over the last few days amid a sharp rise in the figure of H3N2 influenza cases in the country.

The number of fresh cases had seen a decline over the last few months in Delhi, and it had dropped to zero on January 16, the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.

A total of 4,435 fresh COVID-19 infections were reported across the country in the last 24 hours, a significant jump from Tuesday's tally of 3038 cases, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday. It is the highest single-day rise in the last nearly six months, the ministry said.

India's active Covid caseload currently stands at 23,091 with a daily positivity rate of 3.38 per cent, the ministry said.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued revised guidelines for Covid in the wake of the surge of cases in the past week across the country.

India Records 4,435 Covid Cases In 24 Hours, Highest Since September-End

NEW DELHI, April 5: India on Wednesday recorded 4,435 new COVID-19 infections, the biggest single-day jump in 163 days (five months and 13 days), while the number of active cases increased to 23,091, according to Union health ministry data.
A total of 4,777 cases were recorded on September 25 last year.

With the fresh cases, India's COVID-19 tally climbed to 4.47 crore (4,47,33,719). The death count increased to 5,30,916 with 15 deaths, the data updated at 8 am stated.

Four deaths were reported from Maharashtra; one death each was reported from Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Puducherry and Rajasthan; and four were reconciled by Kerala.

At 23,091, the active cases now comprise 0.05 per cent of the total infections. The national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.76 per cent, according to the health ministry website.

The daily positivity rate was recorded at 3.38 per cent and the weekly positivity rate at 2.79 per cent.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,41,79,712, while the case fatality rate stood at 1.19 per cent.

According to the ministry's website, 220.66 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far under the nationwide vaccination drive.

H3N2 Influenza A Virus: Symptoms, Treatment, Dos And Don'ts

NEW DELHI, March 10: The central government sources have said that H3N2, the sub-type of the Influenza A virus, has claimed two lives in the country. While one person died in Haryana, the other fatality was reported from Karnataka. The government sources also said that 90 cases of the flu caused by this virus have been reported across the country.

H3N2 has in the past causes a number of influenza outbreaks in the country. The prevalence of flu symptoms among people is also influenced by the change in weather from extremely cold to warm.

What is H3N2 virus?

It is an influenza virus that causes respiratory infection. The virus can also infect birds and mammals. In bird and other animals, it has mutated into many strains.

H3N2 is a subtype of Influenza A virus, which is an important cause of human influenza, according to Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and World health Organization (WHO).

What are the symptoms?

According to WHO, avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza infections in humans may cause disease ranging from mild upper respiratory infection (fever and cough) to rapid progression to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock and even death. Some of the common symptoms of H3N2 virus are:

Throat ache/sore throat
An ache in muscles and body
In some cases, diarrhoea
Sneezing and runny nose

If a person experiences difficulty in breathing, pain or discomfort in chest, continuous fever and pain in throat while gulping down the food, it is very important to see a doctor.

How does the virus spread?

The extremely contagious H3N2 influenza can be transmitted from one person to another through droplets released when coughing, sneezing, or talking by an infected individual. It can also spread if someone touches their mouth or nose after contacting a surface that has the virus on it. Pregnant women, young children, elderly adults, and persons with underlying medical issues are at a higher risk of flu-related complications.

What are the precautions to be taken?

Since the virus attacks the respiratory tract, it is very important to:

Keep checking the oxygen level continuously with the help of Pulse Oximeter
If the oxygen saturation level is less than 95 per cent, a visit to the doctor is mandatory.
If the oxygen saturation level is less than 90 per cent, then intensive care may be required.
Experts caution against self-medication in such cases

What are the treatment options?

Taking proper rest, drinking lots of fluids and using over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever are all part of the H3N2 influenza treatment regimen. If a patient has severe symptoms or is at a high risk of problems, a doctor may also recommend antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir and zanamivir.

WHO further says that in suspected and confirmed cases, neuraminidase inhibitors should be prescribed as soon as possible (ideally, within 48 hours following symptom onset) to maximize therapeutic benefits.

Dos and Don'ts

The virus can spread rapidly among humans from infected people. So, experts say it is very important to follow some protocols:

Regularly wash your hands with water and soap
Wear face masks and avoid crowded areas
Avoid touching your nose and mouth
Cover your nose and mouth properly while coughing and sneezing
Stay hydrated and consume plenty of fluids
In case of fever and bodyache, take paracetamol

They also say it's better to avoid:

Spitting in public areas
Using contact-based greetings such as shaking hands
Self-medicating and taking antibiotics or any other medications without consulting a doctor
Eating while seated next to other people

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has, meanwhile, urged doctors to not prescribe antibiotics to patients before confirming whether the infection is bacterial, as this can build up a resistance. Most current cases of fever, cough, sore throat, and body ache are cases of influenza, for which antibiotics are not needed.

Flu Cases With Severe Symptoms Rise, India Issues Advisory

NEW DELHI, March 4: Several parts of India have been reporting a high number of influenza cases in the last two months with prolonged illness and lingering cough. After battling two years of Covid pandemic, the rise in flu cases has created a scare among general public.

A high number of cases of fever and flu are being reported across India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that this is due to the Influenza A subtype H3N2 virus.

The H3N2 virus causes more hospitalisations than other subtypes. Experts say that it has been in wide circulation across India for the past two-three months.

The symptoms usually include a persistent cough, accompanied by fever. In the recent cases, a lot of patients are complaining of prolonged symptoms.

"Infection is taking time to get resolved. Symptoms are stronger. Symptoms persist for a prolonged period, even after the recovery of the patient," says Dr Anurag Mehrotra, Siddh Hospital.

Experts say that the H3N2 virus causes more hospitalisations than other influenza subtypes.

Dr Anita Ramesh, a clinical trial specialist, says that the new strain of influenza is not life-threatening. "It is not life-threatening. But some of my patients had to get admitted due to respiratory problems. Some of the symptoms are similar to Covid, but all my patients have tested Covid negative," said Dr Ramesh.

The ICMR has also suggested a list of Dos and Don'ts for people to follow to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), on the other hand, has advised against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics amid rising cases of cough, cold, and nausea across the country.

The association has also asked doctors to prescribe only symptomatic treatment and not antibiotics.

"We have already seen widespread use of Azithromycin and Ivermectin during Covid and this too has led to resistance. It is necessary to diagnose whether the infection is bacterial or not before prescribing antibiotics," the medical body said in a statement.

Study Links Artificial Sweetener To Higher Rates Of Heart Attack And Stroke

WASHINGTON, Feb 28: An artificial sweetener has been linked to increased risk of blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and death in a new study, as reported by CNN. The sugar replacement is known as erythritol and the study about it has been published in journal Nature Medicine.

It further said that people with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood.

Lead author Dr Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, told the outlet, "The degree of risk was not modest."

"If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It's on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes," Dr Hazen added.

Cleveland Clinic said on its website that researchers studied over 4,000 people in the US and Europe for the study. They also tested how erythritol aids in blood clotting. Results revealed that erythritol made platelets easier to activate and form a clot.

"This certainly sounds an alarm. There appears to be a clotting risk from using erythritol. Obviously, more research is needed, but in an abundance of caution, it might make sense to limit erythritol in your diet for now," Dr Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at a hospital in Dever, told CNN. Dr Freeman was not involved in the research.

However, the Calorie Control Council, an industry association, said the study goes against scientific research.

''The results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe, as evidenced by global regulatory permissions for their use in foods and beverages," Robert Rankin, the council's executive director, told CNN.

Artificial sweeteners are common replacements for table sugar. Erythritol is about 70 per cent as sweet as sugar and is produced through fermenting corn.

COVID-19 Likely Spread Through Mishap At Chinese Laboratory: Report

WASHINGTON, Feb 27: New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the novel coronavirus pandemic, reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office.

The conclusion was a change from the department's earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged, reported WSJ.

The update, which is less than five pages, wasn't requested by the Congress. But lawmakers, particularly House and Senate Republicans, are pursuing their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic and are pressing the Biden administration and the intelligence community for more information.

The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau fof Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, reported WSJ.

The Energy Department's conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of US national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.

Energy Department's insights come from its network of national laboratories, some of which conduct biological research, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with "moderate confidence" and still holds this view.

US officials added that while the Energy Department and the FBI each say an unintended lab leak is the most likely cause of the pandemic, they arrived at those conclusions for different reasons.

The updated document underscores how intelligence officials are still putting together the pieces on how Covid-19 emerged. More than one million Americans have died in the pandemic that began more than three years ago, reported WSJ.

However, the conclusion was made with "low confidence," and came as America's intelligence agencies remained divided over the origins of the coronavirus, reported WSJ.

Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still believe that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.

The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency that officials wouldn't name remain undecided between the lab-leak and natural-transmission theories, the people who have read the classified report said.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan declined to confirm or deny the Journal's reporting in an appearance Sunday on CNN. He said President Biden had repeatedly directed every part of the intelligence community to invest in trying to discern as much as possible about the origins of the pandemic.

"President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are part of the Energy Department, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here," Sullivan said.

The Covid-19 virus first circulated in Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, according to the US 2021 intelligence report. The pandemic's origin has been the subject of vigorous debate among academics, intelligence experts and lawmakers.

The emergence of the pandemic heightened tensions between the US and China, which US officials alleged was withholding information about the outbreak. It also led to a spirited and at times partisan debate in the US about its origin.

China, which has placed limits on investigations by the World Health Organisation, has disputed that the virus could have leaked from one of its labs and has suggested it emerged outside China.

The Chinese government didn't respond to requests for comment about whether there has been any change in its views on the origins of Covid-19.

However, the fact that Wuhan is the center of China's extensive coronavirus research, has led some scientists and US officials to argue that a lab leak is the best explanation for the pandemic's beginning.

Wuhan is home to an array of laboratories, many of which were built or expanded as a result of China's traumatic experience with the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic beginning in 2002.

They include campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, which produces vaccines.

WHO Chief Says China Under-Reports COVID-19 Deaths

GENEVA, Jan 11: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that the organization's data on the number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide is lowered due to the under-reporting of cases by China.

"Last week, almost 11,500 deaths were reported to the WHO: about 40 per cent from the Americas, 30 per cent from Europe and 30 per cent from the Western Pacific region. However, this number is almost certainly an underestimate, given the underreporting of COVID-related deaths in China," Ghebreyesus told a briefing, according to the remarks published on the WHO website.

The WHO chief urged all countries to share true statistics so as to contribute to a more effective fight against the spread of the disease. Last week, Tedros asked China for reliable data on Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the country.

"We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing," Tedros said at a media briefing in Geneva. This comment came after WHO held a high-level meeting with counterparts in China to discuss the surge in cases and hospitalisation.

Back in December, the Chinese government dropped its zero COVID-19 policy toward the pandemic after almost three years, leading to a mammoth rise in cases in a matter of few weeks. Later in January, obligatory PCR testing and centralized isolation for people arriving in China were cancelled.

The sudden spike in the covid tally of China has forced a number of countries, including the United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea, to tighten measures against passengers arriving from the country.

During the media briefing, Tedros said throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped WHO to track the spread and development of new variants.

"But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90 per cent, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third," he said.

The WHO chief noted that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak. However, he added that the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away.

Tedros underlined that sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5. "We urge all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences," he added.

Current Numbers 'Under-Represent True Impact' Of Covid In China: WHO

GENEVA, Jan 4: The World Health Organization criticised Wednesday China's "very narrow" definition of Covid deaths, warning that official statistics were not showing the true impact of the outbreak.

"We still do not have complete data," the WHO's emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters.

"We believe that the current numbers being published from China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, and particularly in terms of deaths."

His comments came amid growing concern over China's steep rise in Covid infections since Beijing last month abruptly lifted years of hardline restrictions, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.

Yet China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such fatalities -- meaning that Beijing's own statistics about the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality.

"We believe that definition is too narrow," Ryan said, pointing out that the definition Beijing is using "requires a respiratory failure" associated with a Covid infection for a fatality to be registered as a Covid death.

"That is a very narrow definition."

He stressed that it was vital to have accurate information about how the virus was spreading and the true impact it was having, and he suggested that individual health professionals could help provide a more accurate picture.

"We do not discourage doctors and nurses reporting these deaths and these cases. We have an open approach to be able to record the actual impact of disease in society."

He recognised that China had stepped up its engagement with the WHO in recent weeks, and said "we look forward to receiving more comprehensive data."

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the organisation's officials had held high-level talks in recent weeks with counterparts in China.

"We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalisation and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing," he said.

"Data remains essential for WHO to carry out regular, rapid, and robust risk assessments of the current situation and adjust our advice and guidance accordingly," he said.

He reiterated that the UN health agency understood why a number of countries were introducing fresh Covid curbs on visitors from China.

"With circulation in China so high and comprehensive data not forthcoming... it is understandable that some countries are taking steps they believe will protect their own citizens," he said.

70 Per Cent Of Shanghai May Have Been Infected With Covid: Top Doctor

SHANGHAI, Jan 3: A senior doctor at one of Shanghai's top hospitals has said 70 per cent of the megacity's population may have been infected with Covid-19 during China's huge surge in cases, state media reported Tuesday.

The steep rise in infections came after years of hardline restrictions were abruptly loosened last month with little warning or preparation, and quickly overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums.

Chen Erzhen, vice president at Ruijin Hospital and a member of Shanghai's Covid expert advisory panel, estimated that the majority of the city's 25 million people may have been infected.

"Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70 per cent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than (in April and May)," he told Dajiangdong Studio, owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.

Shanghai suffered a gruelling two-month lockdown in April, during which over 600,000 residents were infected and many were hauled to mass quarantine centres.

But now, the Omicron variant is spreading rampantly across the city and experts predict infections there will peak in early 2023.

In other major cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing and Guangzhou, Chinese health officials have suggested that the wave has already peaked.

Chen added that his Shanghai hospital was seeing 1,600 emergency admissions daily -- double the number prior to restrictions being lifted -- with 80 per cent of them Covid patients.

"More than 100 ambulances arrive at the hospital every day," he was quoted as saying, adding that around half of emergency admissions were vulnerable people aged over 65.

At Tongren Hospital in downtown Shanghai, AFP reporters saw patients receiving emergency medical attention outside the entrance of the overcrowded facility on Tuesday.

Chinese officials are bracing for a virus wave to hit China's underresourced rural interior, as millions of people prepare to travel back to their hometowns for the week-long Lunar New Year public holiday beginning January 21.

In an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Monday, National Health Commission (NHC) official Jiao Yahui admitted that dealing with the expected peak in rural areas would be an "enormous challenge".

"What we are most worried about is in the past three years nobody has returned home for Lunar New Year but they finally can this year," said Jiao.

"As a result, there may be a retaliatory surge of urban residents into the countryside to visit their relatives, so we are even more worried about the rural epidemic."

She also acknowledged the pressure on hospital emergency departments and promised that authorities would coordinate medical resources to ensure the treatment of patients in underfunded areas.

Meanwhile, over a dozen countries have imposed Covid testing restrictions on passengers from China after Beijing announced its borders would reopen from January 8.

Countries including the United States have also cited Beijing's lack of transparency around infection data and the risk of new variants as a reason to restrict travellers.

China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December, and dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths early in the month.

But Jiao told reporters on Thursday that China had always published data "on Covid-19 deaths and severe cases in the spirit of openness and transparency".

"China has always been committed to the scientific criteria for judging Covid-19 deaths, from beginning to end, which are in line with the international criteria," Jiao said.

Share Specific, Real-Time Info On Covid Situation, WHO Tells China

GENEVA, Jan 3: The World Health Organization on Friday once again urged China's health officials to regularly share specific and real-time information on the COVID-19 situation in the country, as it continues to assess the latest surge in infections.

The agency has asked Chinese officials to share more genetic sequencing data, as well as data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.

Official figures from China have become an unreliable guide as less testing is being done across the country following the recent easing of the strict "zero-COVID" policy.

WHO has previously said that China may be struggling to keep a tally of COVID-19 infections.

The agency has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at its meeting of a technical advisory group scheduled for Jan. 3.

COVID infections have risen across China this month after Beijing dismantled its zero-COVID policies including regular PCR testing on its population. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have all imposed COVID tests for travellers from China in response.

The United States has also attributed the recent change in its policy to the lack of information on COVID variants and concerns that the increased cases in China could result in the development of new variants of the virus.

Senior Chinese health officials exchanged views with the WHO on the new coronavirus via a video conference, China's National Health Commission said in a statement earlier on Friday.

Both sides exchanged views on the current epidemic situation, medical treatment, vaccination and other technical matters, the Chinese health authority said, adding that more technical exchanges would be held.


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