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Monkeypox Cases Spread 'Tip Of The Iceberg': WHO

NEW DELHI, May 28: The European Union's disease agency that the number of monkeypox cases has reached 219 outside of countries where the virus usually circulates. The World Health Organisation has warned of more cases in coming days.

Monkeypox, which is a less severe disease than its cousin smallpox, is an endemic in 11 countries in West and Central Africa.

The virus was discovered in 1958 in monkeys kept for research. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970.

The World Health Organization has cautioned that the 200 monkeypox cases found in recent weeks outside of countries where it is an endemic could be just the beginning. "We know that we will have more cases in the coming days," Sylvie Briand, WHO's epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention chief, acknowledged in a briefing to countries on the "unusual" spread of the virus.

Health agencies have said that most of the cases were detected in gay men.
The UK reported its first monkeypox case in early May. Since then, the virus has spread rapidly in the country with the infection count now at 90.

Spain has reported 98 confirmed cases of monkeypox so far.

Portugal has meanwhile registered 74 confirmed cases, health authorities said Friday, adding that all the occurrences are in men, mainly aged below 40.

Fever, muscle ache, lesions, and chills are the common symptoms of monkeypox in humans

The virus has a fatality ratio of three to six percent. Most people recover within three to four weeks.

There's currently no specific treatment for monkeypox. Patients will usually need to stay in a specialist hospital so the infection doesn't spread and general symptoms can be treated.

Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in India: Symptoms, severity

NEW DELHI, May 22: The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) on Sunday confirmed the detection of Omicron's subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of the coronavirus in the country – the first one in Tamil Nadu and the other in Telangana.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week designated the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants as variants of concern (VOC) and said they could fuel increases in infections, with a 12 per cent to 13 per cent growth advantage over the Omicron’s BA.2 sub-lineage.

Both are subvariants of the fast-spreading Omicron variant that had led to a massive spread of the virus in the country earlier this year. New Omicron sublineages, discovered by South African scientists this month, are likely able to evade vaccines and natural immunity from prior infections, the head of gene sequencing units that produced a study on the strains said.

The symptoms of Omicron sublineages:

Both the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron have been associated with the fifth Covid-19 wave in South Africa and recently the US and Europe have also reported.

Tulio de Oliveira, the head of the institutes at the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch the BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages appear to be more infectious than the earlier BA.2 lineage, which itself was more infectious than the original Omicron variant, Bloomberg reported.

Because Omicron has spread swiftly, and has had many opportunities to mutate, it has also acquired specific mutations of its own. These have given rise to several sub-lineages, or sub-variants.

The first two were labelled BA.1 and BA.2. The current list now also includes BA.1.1, BA.3, BA.4 and BA.5.

There is evidence these Omicron subvariants – specifically BA.4 and BA.5 – are particularly effective at reinfecting people with previous infections from BA.1 or other lineages. There is also concern these subvariants may infect people who have been vaccinated.

Where are the variants?

BA.4 and BA.5 have been identified in several countries in addition to South Africa and now India. Reports suggest BA.4 is present in Austria, the UK, the US, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and Botswana.

BA.5 has been identified in Portugal, Germany, the UK, the US, Denmark, France, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Israel, Norway, Pakistan, Spain, and Switzerland.

Over 100 monkeypox cases in Europe, WHO calls for emergency meet: Report

LONDON, May 20: The World Health Organization has called for an emergency meeting to discuss the rapidly growing monkeypox outbreak, British publication Telegraph said Friday hours after France, Germany and Belgium confirmed their first cases.

They join the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Canada, Australia and the United States in reporting a disease endemic to parts of Africa. Monkeypox cases in Europe have now crossed 100, Reuters said. Data collected by an Oxford University academic says that number is closer to 130.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

The French monkeypox patient is from the country's Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris. He had not, however, recently returned from a country where the virus is circulating, France's health authorities said Friday.

In Belgium, Flemish broadcaster VRTNWS said both patients were at the same party in an undisclosed location. The first person was diagnosed in Antwerp (not the place of residence) but is not seriously ill; the individual and their partner have been isolated. The second case is a man from the Flemish Brabant region. He too is not seriously ill, according to Belgian media reports.

The first case from Germany was confirmed by the Institute for Microbiology of the German Armed Forces in Munich. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said: "We will now analyse the virus more closely and examine whether it involves a more contagious variant."

Spanish authorities reported 14 confirmed cases on Friday, taking the total number to 21. There are another 20 suspected cases - 19 in the central region of Madrid and one in the Canary Islands, according to health authorities.

The US' Centers for Disease Control is tracking six more possible monkeypox cases. All were in close contact with a fellow traveller - on a flight from Nigeria to the United Kingdom earlier this month - who has shown symptoms.

The US this week reported its first case in 2022 - a Massachusetts man who recently travelled to Canada in April and returned this month. Last year, Texas and Maryland each reported a case in people who had travelled to Nigeria.

Portugal has 23 cases so far, with at least 10 others tracked. A spokesperson for the country's public health group on monkeypox said "the health authority… is worried" and stressed the need to break transmission chains.

The UK Health Security Agency said Friday it had detected 11 new infections taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 20. The UKHSA has warned gay and bisexual men, after the World Health Organization this week said: "We are seeing transmission among men having sex with men."

Canada has two confirmed cases so far. However, authorities in Quebec province are investigating 17 suspected cases. Sweden has one case while Italy reported two more Friday to take its total to three.

Australian has two confirmed monkeypox cases - one in Sydney and another in Melbourne. Like the vast majority of other cases, both patients are male.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is usually a mild viral infection with symptoms that include fever, headaches and skin rashes. It originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and then spreads to people.

There are two main variants - the Congo strain, which has up to 10 per cent mortality, and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate of 1 per cent.

The virus belongs to the same family as the smallpox.

Is there a vaccine?

There is not, as yet, a specific vaccine against the monkeypox virus. However, the UKHSA has said that because it is of the same family as the smallpox virus, a vaccine for that disease does offer some protection.

Scientists 'reverse death', bring dead eyes back to life

WASHINGTON, May 16: Scientists in the US have brought back to life dead eyes from organ donors in a breakthrough which hints that brain death could be reversible.

The discovery that eyes taken from organ donors five hours after death responded to light “raises the question of whether brain death, as it is currently defined, is truly irreversible," the researchers said in a study published in Nature.

Brain death is a condition when someone is no longer able to survive without life support and is unable to breathe on their own. It is considered irreversible and the person is declared dead.

According to the scientists, their study proved that photosensitive cells in the retina can respond to light and sending signals “resembling those recorded from living subjects” to each other even five hours after death.

“We were able to wake up photoreceptor cells in the human macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for our central vision and our ability to see fine detail and colour," lead researcher Dr Fatima Abbas from University of Utah told The Telegraph.

“In eyes obtained up to five hours after an organ donor’s death, these cells responded to bright light, coloured lights and even very dim flashes of light.”

Dr Frans Vinberg, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Utah, said, "We were able to make the retinal cells talk to each other, the way they do in the living eye."

"Past studies have restored very limited electrical activity in organ donor eyes, but this has never been achieved in the macula, and never to the extent we have now demonstrated," he told The Telegraph.

Adding to this, Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in near-death experiences, said, “This fascinating study clearly demonstrates that by contrast to social and historical convention, whereby death is considered permanent and irreversible, from a biological perspective, death remains reversible well into the post-mortem period."

The researchers are hopeful the breakthrough will speed up new therapies for loss of vision and improve the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.

“The scientific community can now study human vision in ways that just aren’t possible with laboratory animals,” said Dr Vinberg. “We hope this will motivate organ donor societies, organ donors, and eye banks by helping them understand the exciting new possibilities this type of research offers.”

4.7 million excess deaths in India in 2020-21: WHO releases new estimate

NEW DELHI, MAY 5: India reported 4.7 million excess deaths between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, releasing new estimates on the death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic, which it said claimed more than three times the number of lives than officially recorded worldwide – a total of approximately 14.9 million fatalities.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general in a statement.

During the period, for which India was estimated by WHO as having recorded 4.7 million deaths due to Covid-19, directly or indirectly, the country recorded an official death toll of roughly 520,000.

The WHO data showed that till August 2020, a period when the country had mostly been under lockdown that began in late March, there were approximately 62,000 fewer deaths. Deaths began to rise from September, coinciding with the first waves in many states. More than half of the excess deaths, at 2.7 million, took place during the peak of the second nationwide wave in the months of April, May and June last year.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes,” Ghebreyesus said.

Excess mortality, WHO said, is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.

Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally, the world health body said.

Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively.

India has contested the numbers and released death numbers from its Civil Registration System earlier this week. Those numbers, which are in sync with India’s stated death toll, are of actual deaths, the Planning Commission’s Dr VK Paul, one of the people in charge of India’s response to Covid-19 said, adding that there’s no need to resort to models to arrive at the death toll when actual numbers are available.

In a statement, the Union government rejected the WHO estimates, saying that it objected to the “process, methodology and outcome” of the “modelling exercise”. “…WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns,” a statement by the government said.

Referring to WHO’s use of models for the projection, it said: “India had also informed WHO that in view of the availability of authentic data published through Civil Registration System (CRS) by Registrar General of India (RGI), mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality numbers for India.”

India Reports 3,324 New COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours

NEW DELHI, May 1: India reported 3,324 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total tally of infections in the country since the pandemic started to 4,30,79,188. According to the Union Health Ministry, the active cases increased to 19,092.

The country also reported 40 Covid-related deaths on Sunday, bringing the total number of Covid fatalities to 5,23,843.

On Saturday, the country reported 3,688 new Covid cases and 50 related deaths.

Delhi reported 1,485 fresh COVID-19 cases and zero fatality due to the viral disease on Sunday, while the positivity rate was recorded at 4.89 per cent, according to data shared by the city health department.

The new cases pushed the coronavirus infection tally in the national capital to 18,84,560, while the death toll stood at 26,175.


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