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WHO flies Gaza health supplies to Egypt border

DUBAI, Oct 14: A plane carrying 78 cubic metres of health supplies from the UN health agency's logistics hub in Dubai has landed in El Arish airport "to serve the needs of 300,000 people," including pregnant women.

"Every hour these supplies remain on the Egyptian side of the border, more girls and boys, women, and men, especially those vulnerable or disabled, will die while supplies that can save them are less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) away," a statement said.

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza is the only passage in and out of the coastal enclave not controlled by Israel.

Red Cross 'appalled' by human misery of Israel-Hamas war

GENEVA, Oct 14: The Red Cross said Saturday it was "appalled" by the human misery unleashed by the war between Hamas and Israel, saying its volunteers would not abandon those who needed them most.

It called on both sides to abide by international humanitarian law, protect civilians and allow humanitarian organisations to alleviate the growing levels of suffering.

"The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is appalled to see the human misery that has unfolded over the last week in Israel and Gaza," with civilians paying the highest price, a statement said.

Thousands of Palestinians sought refuge Saturday after Israel warned them to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground offensive against Hamas, one week after the deadliest attack in Israel's history.

Elections for key WHO post turns into Nepal vs Bangladesh

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: The upcoming election for the top World Health Organisation (WHO) position in South Asia has generated a high-decibel campaign featuring a public health expert from Nepal and the Bangladesh premier’s daughter, though India has publicly maintained silence on the matter because of its strong ties with both countries.

The two candidates are Shambhu Prasad Acharya, a veteran of the WHO system who is currently a director in the office of Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, and Saima Wazed, the daughter of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is best known for her work in autism.

With a little for than a fortnight to go for the election for the post of regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region, people familiar with the matter said Wazed is widely tipped to win with the backing of a majority of the 11 participating countries, including India.

The election will be decided by a secret ballot to be held at a closed-door session in New Delhi during October 30-November 2. The WHO office for South Asia is one of six regional units and the member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

“The expertise of candidates in public health issues is important, but the reality is that a lot of such elections to multilateral bodies under the UN and WHO are decided partly on geopolitical considerations,” a diplomat from one of the participating countries said on condition of anonymity.

The current regional director is India’s Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the first woman to hold the post. She is in her second five-year term following a unanimous re-election in 2018.

Lobbying for such elections often begins years in advance, with a country seeking support for its candidate in return for backing other nations in voting at some other UN or WHO agency. An early indication of India’s support for the Bangladeshi candidate emerged in a joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in March 2021.

“Bangladesh side thanked the Government of India for confirming support in favour of Bangladesh’s candidate to the post of Director, South East Asian Regional Office of the WHO in 2023,” the statement said.

Since then, Bangladesh has secured the support of a majority of the 11 participating countries, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Wazed accompanied the Bangladeshi premier when she travelled to India for the G20 Summit last month.

The high-pitched campaign for Nepal’s candidate has focused on Wazed’s lack of qualification in medicine or a PhD, but the people pointed out that this isn’t an essential requirement under the WHO’s provisions for such elections. The campaign has also called for reforms of the closed-door process for such elections.

“No one is doubting Prasad’s credentials as he has served in various capacities with the WHO in Geneva since 1999, though some of the personal attacks on the other candidate have come as a surprise,” a second person said.

The people said Bangladesh’s campaign has focused on the need to inject “new blood” into the functioning of WHO’s regional office and pointed to Wazed’s work in updating public health-related rules in Bangladesh and her role in enacting the country’s Mental Health Act of 2018 and National Mental Health Strategic Plan of 2020-25. She was also a member of the WHO expert panel on mental health during 2014-22.

Disease X Could Bring Next Pandemic, Kill 50 Million People, Says Expert

LONDON, Sept 26: A UK health expert has said that Disease X, the name given by World Health Organisation (WHO), can cause another pandemic deadlier than Covid-19.

In an interview to Daily Mail, Kate Bingham, who served as the chair of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, said the new virus could have a similar impact to the devastating Spanish Flu of 1919-1920. According to WHO, Disease X could be a new agent - a virus, a bacterium or fungus - without any known treatments.

Expressing her concern, Ms Bingham said, "Let me put it this way: the 1918-19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in World War I. Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist."

If the world has to tackle the threat from Disease X, "the world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time", she told the Daily Mail.

The expert further said that scientists have identified 25 virus families, but there could be more than one million undiscovered variants, which may be able to jump from one species to another.

"In a sense, we got lucky with Covid-19, despite the fact that it caused 20 million or more deaths across the world. The point is that the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover... Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola. Somewhere in the world, it's replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick," said Ms Bingham.

Ebola had a fatality rate of around 67 per cent, and she added that others like bird flu and MERS also killed a large number of people. "So we certainly can't bank on the next pandemic being easily contained."

Ms Bingham also explained why the number of pandemics are increasing.

"The increase in outbreaks is the price we're having to pay for living in the modern world. First, it's increasingly connected through globalisation. Second, more and more people are cramming into cities, where they often come into close contact with others," said Ms Bingham.

And viruses are jumping from one species to another because of deforestation, modern agricultural methods and the destruction of wetlands.

WHO first mentioned about Disease X on its website in May.

It said that the term "represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease".

The WHO started using the term in 2018. And a year later, Covid-19 began to spread across the world.

World leaders commit to new targets to end TB

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 22: World leaders at the United Nations General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis have approved a Political Declaration with ambitious new targets for the next five years to advance the global efforts towards ending the TB epidemic.

The targets include reaching 90% of people with TB prevention and care services, using a WHO-recommended rapid test as the first method of diagnosing TB; providing social benefit packages to all people with TB; licensing at least one new TB vaccine; and closing funding gaps for TB implementation and research by 2027.

“For millennia, our ancestors have suffered and died with tuberculosis, without knowing what it was, what caused it, or how to stop it,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Today, we have knowledge and tools they could only have dreamed of. The political declaration countries approved today, and the targets they have set, are a commitment to use those tools, and develop new ones, to write the final chapter in the story of TB.”

Taking stock of progress towards targets set in 2018 for a five-year period, WHO reported that while global efforts to combat TB have saved over 75 million lives since the year 2000, they fell short of reaching the targets, mainly due to severe disruptions to TB services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts. Only 34 million people of the intended 40 million people with TB were reached with treatment between 2018 and 2022.

For TB preventive treatment, the situation was even more grim, with only 15.5 million of the 30 million people targeted to be reached with preventive treatment accessing it.

Funding for TB services in low- and middle-income countries fell from US$ 6.4 billion in 2018 to US$ 5.8 billion in in 2022, representing a 50% financing gap in implementing the required TB programmes. Annual funding for TB research ranged from US$ 0.9 billion to US$ 1.0 billion between 2018 and 2022, which is just half of the target set in 2018.

This has placed an even heavier burden on those affected, especially the most vulnerable. Today, TB remains one of the world’s top infectious killers: annually more than 10 million people fall sick, and over 1 million lose their lives to this preventable and curable disease. Drug-resistant TB continues to be a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance with close to half a million people developing drug-resistant TB every year.

“Uniting around the TB response by world leaders, for a second time, provides an opportunity to accelerate action and strengthen health systems capable of not only addressing the TB epidemic, but also protecting the broader health and well‑being of communities, strengthening pandemic preparedness and building on lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme.

“Averting TB-related financial hardship and preventing the development of the disease in vulnerable groups will help diminish inequities within and between countries, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

TB incidence and deaths have risen between 2020 and 2021 but coordinated efforts by countries, WHO and partners are resulting in a recovery of essential services.

In the lead-up to this historic meeting, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, officially launched the TB vaccine accelerator council to facilitate the development, licensing and use of new TB vaccines. The Council, supported by the WHO secretariat, will be led by a ministerial board, consisting of nine members who will serve on a rotating basis, for a term of two years.

The Council will also have subsidiary bodies to support its interaction and engagement with different sectors and stakeholders broadly, including the private sector, scientists, philanthropy, and civil society.

BCG is currently the only licensed TB vaccine. While it provides moderate efficacy in preventing severe forms of TB in infants and young children, it does not adequately protect adolescents and adults, who account for the majority (>90%) of TB transmission globally.

The Council aims to identify innovative sustainable financing, market solutions and partnerships across public, private, and philanthropic sectors. It will leverage platforms like the African Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), BRICS countries (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa), G20, G7 and others to strengthen commitment and actions for novel TB vaccine development and access.

‘Nipah virus mortality rate very high than Covid-19’: ICMR director general

NEW DELHI, Sept 15: Director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Rajeev Bahl on Friday said the mortality rate among those infected with the Nipah virus is much higher compared to that of Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing a press conference, Bahl said while Covid had a mortality rate of two to three percent, Nipah has a death rate of 40 to 70 percent.

Asserting that they are making all efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus in the southern state, the ICMR DG said, “We do not know why the cases keep surfacing. In 2018, we found the outbreak in Kerala was related to bats. We are not sure how the infection passed from bats to humans. The link could not be established. Again we are trying to find out this time. It always happens in the rainy season."

According to the ICMR DG, India will be procuring 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia for the treatment of Nipah virus infection.

“We got some doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia in 2018. Currently, the doses are available for only 10 patients," he said.

“…20 more doses are being procured. However, the medicine needs to be given during the early stage of the infection. Only phase 1 trial to establish the safety of the medicine has been done outside. Efficacy trials have not been done. It can only given as compassionate use medicine,” Bahl said.

While globally the antibody has been successfully given to 14 patients, no one in India has been administered with the doses so far.

A total of six people have tested positive for the deadly Nipah virus, out of which two died due to the infection. In view of this, restrictions have been tightened in the Kozhikode district with the administration shutting all educational institutions, parks, and beaches. Prayer gatherings at religious institutions and other public programs have also been banned.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, 11 samples of suspected cases and their contacts returned as ‘negative’ from the National Institute of Virology in Pune. Subsequently, 15 other samples were collected and sent for testing.

What is Nipah virus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted via animals to humans, and can also be transmitted via contaminated food or directly between people and is caused by fruit bats. The virus is not only fatal for humans, but for animals as well. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers, WHO said.

The symptoms of the Nipah virus are similar to Covid-19 - cough, sore throat, dizziness, drowsiness, muscle pain, tiredness, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, mental confusion, and seizures.

24 Mothers Die Each Day In Afghanistan Due To Pregnancy Complications: WHO

KABUL, Aug 29: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a clear warning about the situation as around 24 mothers lose their lives every day due to preventable maternal causes, The Khaama Press reported on Tuesday.

Khaama Press is an Afghan digital news agency. Khaama Press reported that the lack of necessary health assistance for mothers is the main reason behind the tragic loss of their lives.

Taking to social media platform X, WHO informed, "Estimated 24 mothers die each day of preventable maternal mortality causes under the current funding."

The organization added, "This number is projected to rise dramatically if the current funding shortage continues."

This problem has been further exacerbated by a shortfall in funding, making it imperative to address these challenges promptly.

The recent warning has underscored the grave risks to millions of lives due to food insecurity and malnutrition, amplified by infectious diseases, ongoing outbreaks, and a harsh drought.

According to The Khaama Press, the report reveals a shocking increase in the demand for humanitarian assistance, soaring to 28.8 million people in 2023 from 18.4 million before the Taliban assumed power in August 2021.

Within the health sector, the report indicates that a surprising 14 million individuals (encompassing 7.5 million children and 3.1 million women) are now set aside for health aid.

However, the report highlights a concerning disparity, with only 8.4 million people receiving assistance during the initial half of 2023. This shortfall emphasizes the need for enhanced efforts to bridge the gap and provide vital health support to vulnerable people.

The WHO's funding for 2022-2023 amounts to USD480 million, with USD355 million implemented or available. Yet, a funding gap of USD125 million remains to uphold essential health needs for the remainder of 2023.

Earlier on Sunday, it was reported that the situation of pregnant women in Afghanistan is concerning due to factors like economic challenges, poor nutrition, limited healthcare access, and heightened pressures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report highlights Afghanistan as having Asia's highest maternal mortality rate. Many of these deaths, stemming from preventable causes, underscore the significance of women's access to healthcare centres. This access gap has contributed to Afghanistan's alarming maternal mortality rate.

WHO Names COVID-19's BA.2.86 As 'Variant Under Monitoring' Amid Mutations

GENEVA, Aug 18: World Health Organization (WHO) designated COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 as a 'variant under monitoring' due to the large number of mutations it carries.

The WHO said on Friday that they are tracking 3 variants of interest and 7 variants under monitoring at the moment.

"WHO continues to call for better surveillance, sequencing, and reporting of #COVID19 as this virus continues to circulate and evolve," the WHO said in a tweet.

WHO further stated that it needed more data to understand this COVID19 variant and the extent of its spread, but the number of mutations warrants attention.

Recently, the latest variant, EG.5 (also known as Eris), has grabbed the attention of public health experts around the world and is becoming a dominant strain in countries including the United States and Britain.

The variant is causing about 17 per cent of the new Covid-19 cases in the country compared to 16 per cent for the next most common lineage, XBB.1.16, according to the latest estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN reported.

The new variant is a spinoff of the XBB recombinant strain of the Omicron family.

According to the WHO, all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the virus's properties.

However, some changes may affect the virus's properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.

In June 2020, the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group was established with a specific focus on SARS-CoV-2 variants, their phenotype and their impact on countermeasures.

This later became the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution. In late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted WHO to characterize some as variants of interest (VOIs) and variants of concern (VOCs) to prioritize global monitoring and research and to inform and adjust the COVID-19 response.

From May 2021 onwards, WHO began assigning simple, easy-to-say labels for key variants.

Considerable progress has been made in establishing and strengthening a global system to detect signals of potential VOIs or VOCs and rapidly assess the risk posed by SARS-CoV-2 variants to public health. It remains critical that these systems are maintained, and data are shared, according to good principles and in a timely fashion, as SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate at high levels around the world.

While monitoring the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 globally, it also remains essential to monitor their spread in animal populations and chronically infected individuals, which are crucial aspects of the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations that have negative public health implications.

In March 2023, WHO updated its tracking system and working definitions for variants of concern, variants of interest and variants under monitoring, as per WHO.

COVID-19 Still A Global Health Threat, New Variant Under Scanner: WHO Chief

GANDHINAGAR, Aug 18: Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus on Friday said though COVID-19 is no longer a health emergency for the world, it is still a 'global health threat' and a new variant of coronavirus is already under the scanner.

The chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the G20 Health Ministers' Meeting at Mahatma Mandir Convention centre in Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar.

"Although COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, it remains a global health threat. WHO has recently classified a new variant with a large number of mutations. BA.2.86 variant is under monitoring at present, highlighting once again the need for all countries to maintain surveillance," he said.

On the occasion, he urged all the countries to speed up the process of finalising the 'Pandemic Accord' so that it can be adopted in the World Health Assembly scheduled to be held next year.

"COVID-19 has taught us all an important lesson that when health is at risk everything is at risk. The world is learning the painful lessons of the pandemic," said Dr Ghebreyesus in his address to the G20 member countries.

Beginning with the presidency of Saudi Arabia, he said, discussions led to the establishment of a joint "Finance Health Task Force" under the interim presidency supported by Indonesia and now India under their respective presidencies.

The WHO head said negotiations on the Pandemic Accord and amendments to the international health regulations are making good progress. He said both are essential for creating the legal and operational framework for inclusive, coherent and equitable global health security architecture.

"I seek your commitment for negotiating a comprehensive Pandemic Accord that encompasses all the essence of pandemic so that we never repeat the same mistakes again. Time is the essence here. The accord is scheduled to be considered by the World Health Assembly next year," he said.

On the occasion, the WHO chief praised India for introducing telemedicine at primary healthcare level. He also congratulated India for "its commitment to universal health coverage at home especially through Ayushman Bharat, the world's largest health insurance scheme".

"I thank India and all the G20 countries for their leadership in developing the global initiative on digital health, which will be launched formally tomorrow. This important initiative will support the WHO global strategy on digital health and amplify other initiatives including the WHO global digital health certification network," he said.

Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya also spoke at the event.

Pfizer's Updated Covid Shot Effective Against New Variant In Mice Study

NEW YORK, Aug 18: Pfizer Inc said on Thursday its updated COVID-19 shot, which is being tested against emerging variants, showed neutralizing activity against the "Eris" subvariant in a study conducted on mice.

Pfizer, along with its German partner BioNTech SE, as well as other COVID-19 vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax have created versions of their shots, which are aimed at the XBB.1.5 subvariant.

EG.5, nicknamed by some as "Eris", is similar to the XBB.1.5 subvariant and a sub-lineage of the still-dominant Omicron variant.

EG.5 accounted for about more than 17% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the latest government data.

In the United States, COVID-19 related hospitalizations are up more than 40% off of recent lows hit in June, but are still more than 90% below peak levels hit during the January 2022 Omicron outbreak.

EG.5 has also been detected in China, South Korea, Japan and Canada, among other countries.

The World Health Organization classified EG.5 as a "variant of interest", indicating that it should be more closely watched than others because of mutations that might make it more contagious or severe.

Scientist Uses Google Cloud To Clone Supercomputer For Heart Disease Study

BOSTON, Aug 16: A scientist at Harvard used Google's cloud platform to clone a supercomputer for a heart disease study, in a novel move that other researchers could follow to get around a shortage of powerful computing resources and speed up their work.

The study simulated a therapy that aims to dissolve blood clots and tumor cells in the human circulatory system that required an enormous amount of computing power that typically can be harnessed with a supercomputer, according to Harvard professor Petros Koumoutsakos.

"The big problem that we had (was) we could run one simulation using a full scale supercomputer," Koumoutsakos said, adding that refining or optimizing the simulation required further access to the supercomputer.

In the U.S., there are only a handful of supercomputers that are capable of running the billions of calculations to accurately mimic the conditions in Koumoutsakos's study.

The small number of machines capable of performing the research has created bottlenecks in the scientific process, according to Citadel Securities research platform head Costas Bekas.

To eliminate the bottlenecks researchers and companies such as Citadel that need an enormous amount of computing resources only found in supercomputers have begun to turn to the public cloud.

But cloud computing operations aren't designed to handle the demands researchers have. They are designed for millions of individual, relatively small computing tasks - things such as streaming video, serving webpages or database access. The cloud is usually built for reliability and resilience.

"Folks are realizing the potential for cloud to solve problems and technical scientific engineering computing to really unlock productivity and get to better answers, better insights, faster," said Bill Magro chief high performance computing technologist at Google Cloud.

Modifying cloud infrastructure to behave like a supercomputer requires changes in the software, networking and physical design of the hardware, Magro said.

Citadel helped sponsor Koumoutsakos's research with Alphabet Inc subsidiary Google.

Walking 4,000 Steps A Day May Reduce Risk Of Early Death: Study

WARSAW, Aug 13: Of late, walking 10,000 steps per day has become a common fitness goal, but a new study shows 4,000 may be enough to stay fit and healthy.

The research, released in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that walking 2337 steps a day cut the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease in half and that walking at least 3967 steps a day started to lower the risk of dying from any cause.

However, a recent review of 226,889 participants from 17 different research conducted all over the world revealed that the health advantages increase with the amount of walking. With every 500 to 1000 more steps you take, your chance of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease is dramatically reduced.

Researchers at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and the Ciccarone Centre for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led by Maciej Banach, found that the health advantages increased even if people took as many as 20,000 steps each day. They haven't yet discovered an upper bound.

“Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better,” said Prof. Banach.

“We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, sub-tropical or sub-polar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates. In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”

Strong data suggests that living a sedentary lifestyle may raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and shorten lifespan. According to studies, more than a quarter of the world's population suffers from inadequate physical exercise.

There are more women than males, and individuals in wealthy nations do less physical exercise than those in developing nations. With 3.2 million deaths annually attributed to physical inactivity, the World Health Organisation lists inadequate physical activity as the fourth most common cause of mortality worldwide. Physical activity levels declined as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic and have not recovered two years later.

Dr Ibadete Bytyçi from the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, Pristina, Kosovo, senior author of the paper, said, “Until now, it's not been clear what is the optimal number of steps, both in terms of the cut-off points over which we can start to see health benefits, and the upper limit, if any, and the role this plays in people's health. However, I should emphasise that there were limited data available on step counts up to 20,000 a day, and so these results need to be confirmed in larger groups of people.”

This meta-analysis is the first not only to assess the effect of walking up to 20,000 steps a day but also to look at whether there are any differences depending on age, sex or where in the world people live.

In people aged 60 years or older, the size of the reduction in risk of death was smaller than that seen in people aged younger than 60 years.

Prof. Banach said, “In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasise that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which was a main hero of our analysis, might be at least as, or even more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.

"We still need good studies to investigate whether these benefits may exist for intensive types of exertion, such as marathon running and iron man challenges, and in different populations of different ages, and with different associated health problems. However, it seems that, as with pharmacological treatments, we should always think about personalising lifestyle changes.”

Long-Term Symptoms Of Covid Can Emerge Months After Infection: Study

New Delhi: Long-term symptoms of COVID-19 can persist for at least a year after the acute illness has passed, or appear months later, according to a study conducted in the US.

The research, published recently in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is the most comprehensive look yet at how symptoms play out over a year. It expands knowledge of post-COVID-19 conditions, describing trends in more detail than previous research and highlighting significant impacts the epidemic has had on health care system.

The study found that for about 16 per cent of the COVID-positive people, symptoms lasted for at least a year, but for others, they appeared for a short time.

The team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and colleagues, assessed symptoms every three months, enabling them to differentiate between symptoms that improve and those that emerge months after the initial infection.

"It was common for symptoms to resolve then re-emerge months later," said study lead author Juan Carlos Montoy, an associate professor at UCSF.

"A lot of prior research has focused on symptoms at one or two points in time, but we were able to describe symptom trajectory with greater clarity and nuance. It suggests that measurements at a single point in time could underestimate or mischaracterises the true burden of disease," Montoy said.

Long COVID involves a range of symptoms that persist or develop about a month after initial infection. These symptoms are associated with significant morbidity or reduced quality of life.

The study involved 1,741 participants - two-thirds of them female - who sought COVID testing at eight major health care systems across the US.

Three-quarters tested positive for COVID, but those who tested negative may also have had an infection of some type, since they were experiencing symptoms. These included fatigue, runny nose, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, diarrhea, forgetfulness and difficulty thinking or concentrating.

COVID positive participants were more likely to have symptoms in each of the symptom categories at baseline, but by the end of the year, there was no difference between those who were COVID positive and negative.

"We were surprised to see how similar the patterns were between the COVID positive and COVID negative groups," said Montoy.

"It shows that the burden after COVID may be high, but it might also be high for other non-COVID illnesses. We have a lot to learn about post-illness processes for COVID and other conditions," the researcher added.

New COVID Variant 'Eris' Spreading Rapidly In UK, Experts Sound Alarm

LONDON, Aug 6: A new variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the United Kingdom, triggering alarm among health officials in the country, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The variant EG.5.1, nicknamed Eris, which has descended from the rapidly spreading Omicron, was first flagged last month in the UK, reported news agency PTI.

EG.5.1 was first raised as a signal in monitoring on 3 July 2023 as part of horizon scanning due to increasing reports internationally, particularly in Asia. It was subsequently raised from a signal in monitoring to a variant V-23JUL-01 on 31 July 2023 due to the increasing number of genomes in UK data, and continued growth internationally. Declaring this lineage as a variant will allow further detailed characterization and analysis," said the UKHSA.

The Eris variant now makes up one in seven new COVID cases, according to UKHSA.

As per the latest report by the UKHSA on August 3, COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. "5.4% of 4,396 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is compared to 3.7% of 4,403 from the previous report," said the agency in its report.

The five most common symptoms of Eris, a strain of Omicron, are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat, as per Independent.

It appears to be spreading quickly and could be one reason why there has been a recent rise in cases and hospitalizations.

“We continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases in this week's report. We have also seen a small rise in hospital admission rates in most age groups, particularly among the elderly. Overall levels of admission still remain extremely low and we are not currently seeing a similar increase in ICU admission,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA's Head of Immunisation.

Officials say they are "closely" monitoring the situation as COVID case rates continue to rise.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said though people are better protected by vaccines and prior infection, countries should not let down their guard.

"WHO continues to advise people at high risk to wear a mask in crowded places, to get boosters when recommended, and to ensure adequate ventilation indoors, And we urge governments to maintain and not dismantle the systems they built for COVID-19," Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying by Sky News.

'Eris' is now the second most prevalent variant in the UK, after Arcturus XBB.1.16 variant.

Cats Test Positive for Bird Flu In Poland In 'High Numbers', Says WHO

GENEVA, July 17: Poland is the first country to report "high numbers" of cats infected with bird flu across a large area, the WHO said Monday, adding that the risk of human infection remained low.

The World Health Organization said that since Polish health authorities informed it last month of unusual cat deaths across the country, 29 cats had tested positive for H5N1 bird flu.

They were among 46 cats and one captive caracal tested for the virus, it said, adding that 14 of the infected animals were reported to have been euthanised, while another 11 had died.

The last death was reported on June 30.

"The source of the exposure of cats to the virus is currently unknown and epizootic investigations are ongoing," WHO said in a statement.

Since late 2021, Europe has had its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu, while North and South America have also experienced severe outbreaks.

This has led to the culling of tens of millions of poultry worldwide, many with the H5N1 strain of the virus, which first emerged in 1996.

There has recently been a worrying spike in infections in mammals.

The UN health agency pointed out that sporadic infection of cats with H5N1 had previously been reported.

"But this is the first report of a high numbers of infected cats over a wide geographical area within a country," it said.

As of July 12, no human contacts of infected cats had reported symptoms, the WHO said, adding that the surveillance period for all contacts had been completed.

It stressed that the risk of human infections following exposure to infected cats had been assessed as low for the general population in Poland.

The risk for cat owners, veterinarians and others who might be exposed more regularly to H5N1-infected cats without using personal protective equipment was meanwhile seen as low to moderate, it said.

Bird flu infections in humans are rare, but when they occur can cause severe disease with a high mortality rate.

Human H5N1 cases are usually the result of direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments.

Since 2020, the WHO said it had received 12 reports of human H5N1 cases worldwide. Four of them were severe cases, while eight were mild or asymptomatic.

Sri Lankan Army Doctors Remove World's Largest Kidney Stone, Set World Record

COLOMBO, June 14: A group of Sri Lankan Army doctors have set a Guinness World Record by removing the world's largest kidney stone, surpassing the previous record registered by Indian doctors in 2004. The stone, removed early this month at the Colombo Army Hospital, is 13.372 centimetres long and weighs 801 grams, a statement by the Army said on Tuesday.

According to the existing Guinness World Records, the erstwhile largest kidney stone in the world, around 13 centimetres, was found in India in 2004, while the heaviest kidney stone, weighing 620 grams, was reported in Pakistan in 2008.

Confirming the record, the Guinness World Record said, "The largest kidney stone is 13.372 cm (5.264 in), and was removed from Canistus Coonghe (Sri Lanka) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 1, 2023." It added that the previous record of 13 cm had not been surpassed since 2004.

Consultant Urologist Lieutenant Colonel (Dr) K. Sutharshan, Head of Genito Urinary Unit at the hospital, led the surgery together with Captain (Dr) W.P.S.C Pathirathna and Dr Thamasha Premathilaka.

Colonel (Dr) U.A.L.D Perera and Colonel (Dr) C.S Abeysinghe also contributed during the surgery as Consultant Anaesthetists, the Sri Lanka Army statement said.


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