#TurksandCaicos, August 20, 2021 –
We should Be Concerned about the Delta Variant
After a year and a half, we are still in the pandemic. It is the survival of the fittest between humans and the coronavirus Variants. We are racing to herd immunity, to get more people vaccinated and to get more effective antiviral medications.
We are seeing people dismiss COVID as a just another common cold, and even worse not wearing masks in public places or social distancing. We are also seeing a lack of compliance to the established COVID-19 protocols. We are seeing most safety protocols being abandoned and persons going back to business as usual pre-COVID. We are seeing persons, some who are vaccinated, travelling to cities with high rates of new COVID-19 cases and returning back home to the Turks and Caicos Islands without knowing their COVID status.
With new cases now emerging daily in the TCI the situation could deteriorate very rapidly. We should not allow the flood gates to be wide open. We as a country cannot ease up our efforts at this time, and should not stop fighting until the virus has been defeated. We have to do whatever it takes to battle this unseen enemy.
Therefore, we should be very concerned about the newer, faster transmitting, Delta Variant (B16172). This Variant seems to be the prevalent strain circulating in the TCI at the moment, and has been seen to be two times more infectious than the original G-Variant. Recent reports from the UK indicate that the Delta Variant is infecting younger people more than the original variant, and that the symptoms are different.
With the original variant infected persons would present with symptoms of high fever, muscle pains, cough, severe chest pain etc., but with the Delta Variant, many infected persons are presenting with symptoms of stuffy or running nose, sneezing, sore throat, and mild headaches. Younger people usually show little or no symptoms, and are less likely to get tested, hence not knowing their COVID status and possible spreading the virus more.
Additionally, scientific data sources are now showing that vaccinated persons with a good immune system may also become infected and show little or mild symptoms, and not get tested, and possibly spread the virus to susceptible individuals.
Viruses have one goal, that is to make more copies of themselves (to multiply), and since they can’t do it on their own, they use us (a host). They infect our body cells and use them to make copies of themselves. They replicate themselves many times, making millions of copies of themselves, but eventually it makes a mistake. The mistake is referred to as a mutation, and it changes the instructions for making the virus. That slightly altered virus is a Variant. Mutations in viruses happen all the time, producing new variants. Most of the time these mutations are insignificant or make the virus weaker, and they naturally disappear. But sometimes a series of mutations makes the virus stronger, and gives it an edge over its host. These advantages include giving the viruses the ability to bind to the human cells better, and the ability to enter the cells easier, making the virus more transmissible, allowing it to become the dominant strain in many places around the world.
It is important to remember that mutations are random errors, but the longer a virus is around, and the more people it infects, the more it will change, and the more those changes accumulate, the more chance the virus has to evolve into a more dangerous variant.
The Delta Variant which is the most recent addition to this list of dangerous Variants, is described as a “Double Mutant”, whose mutations seems to make it more transmissible, as it binds to the cell receptors better than other variants, thus blocking those other variants from binding. Its mutations also made it more easy to infect people who have had COVID-19. This means this Variant has a greater change to evade our body’s natural immune response.
Scientific Data has shown that the immune response we get from vaccines are stronger than what we get from a natural response to the virus. Therefore, we would see some persons who previously contracted COVID-19 becoming re-infected, and there would be persons who have taken the vaccine becoming infected with COVID-19 (breakthrough cases). But the difference being seen is that the effect on vaccinated individuals is less severe with possibly no symptoms and are less likely to be admitted to the hospital.
The virus has evolved, and will continue to produce variants, some which may give it an advantage. So if we want to prevent the possibility of a deadlier, and more transmissible strain from developing, we need to stop the Virus.
The Pandemic is not over, even if it feels that way to some of us. The virus has mutated to become more transmissible. Now is not the time for the Turks and Caicos, nor the rest of the world to let its guard down.
The Delta Variant is now presenting as the prevalent variant in a number of countries, and certainly it is now present in the Turks & Caicos. The more we test the more we pick up on silent cases in our communities.
We are now better equipped to respond to the pandemic, and our ability to test is now so much better. Our hospital capacity is now much better to deal with COVID patients, including the availability of oxygen generation.
The New PNP Government must now do its part and insure that our Health Care System stays adequately staffed with the necessary health professionals to care for our hospitalized individuals, and that the right complement of health workers is employed to respond to Outbreaks and Pandemics, that is, having trained staff to perform Surveillance and Monitoring activities, Compliance activities, Testing and research, quarantining, vaccinating, community work, and School Health.
Additionally, the new PNP Government needs to make the tough, and sometimes unpopular decision to ensure that the right policies and guidelines are put in place for the mitigation of further spread of Variants, and for protecting our country and our people.
We should never just focus on what we are seeing today, but must always try to keep a few steps ahead of the virus, by looking at what future advances and abilities are needed. The Government should be looking at what are the technologies and enhancements we could make based on the lessons we have learned, and making the containment, monitoring, and reduction in spread of COVID Variant, and other new viruses much better the next time around.
Hon. Edwin A. Astwood
Leader of the Opposition
Polio is back; 65 million missed shots in another COVID fall out
By Dana Malcolm
#USA, August 4, 2022 – For the first time in almost a decade a new case of polio was recorded in the United States. The case which ended in paralysis emphasizes the danger the region faces as vaccination levels drop to 30-year lows.
The World Health Organization warned in early July explained that vaccination in the region of the Americas and the rest of world was dropping rapidly because of various spin off effects precipitated by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Over 65 million infants missed out on basic vaccines in the last three years thanks to disruptions in routine healthcare, lockdowns and other circumstances. The effects are already being felt as once eradicated disease like measles and polio are once again emerging.
The Pan American Health Organization announced earlier this year the Americas are now facing another measles outbreak after having been declared free of the disease in 2016.
Dr. Jarvis Barbosa, Assistant director of PAHO said vaccination levels are now as low as they were in 1994 for measles and polio and Brazil has had several outbreaks of measles.
In the case of the United States an unvaccinated young adult developed the disease after contact with another individual vaccinated with a live version of the vaccine.
The breakout polio case in the US sent shockwaves across the country because of the severe nature of the disease. Polio is an extremely dangerous disease with no known cure. It causes paralysis in as many as 1 in 200 infected and that paralysis is permanent.
Normally very few school age children would be at risk in the Americas as the vaccine is required to start school but with the gap in vaccinations many more children are now at risk.
Polio was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century, paralyzing and killing hundreds of thousands, especially children. Thankfully vaccinated individuals are not at risk and as such the WHO is advising that the best way to protect against polio is vaccination.
Photo Caption: Child in Benin takes Polio vaccine, UNSDG
Kansas first to establish Roe v Wade Laws following US Supreme Court decision to remove ABORTION as a right from Constitution
By Dana Malcolm
#Kansas, USA, August 5, 2022 – Voters in the state of Kansas have moved to uphold abortion rights in their state. Kansas legislators will now be prevented from putting restrictions or bans on abortion. In order to do so they would have to call for a constitutional review, a lengthy drawn out process.
“Kansans stood up for fundamental rights today. We rejected divisive legislation that jeopardized our economic future & put women’s health care access at risk,” Laura Kelly, Kansas’ Democratic Governor tweeted on Wednesday.
Kansas is the first state to put the issue on the state ballot since Roe v Wade the case making abortion a constitutional right was overturned at the Supreme Court level and US media
President Biden proclaimed his support for the bill encouraging congress to write Roe v Wade into law.
Roe v Wade was overturned on June 24, nearly 50 years after it was won.
CARPHA Supports Breastfeeding as a Long-Term Strategy for a More Productive and Healthier Region
August 5, 2022 – Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months benefits the infant, mother, family, community, country and environment,” states Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). “Therefore, breastfeeding is recognised as an effective strategy in achieving regional and global goals on health, nutrition, food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within 1 hour of birth, continued exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and that nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods be introduced at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Early initiation of breastfeeding is critical to newborn survival, reducing their risk of morbidity and mortality. Breastmilk provides optimal nutrition for infants for their physical and mental growth and development, along with antibodies to prevent and mitigate childhood illnesses.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of over-nutrition (overweight and obesity) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for both mother and child. Infants that are breastfed longer, have 13% lower risk of overweight and obesity and 35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Women who breastfeed have reduced risks of postpartum overweight and obesity, 32% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, 37% lower risk of ovarian cancer and 26% lower risk of breast cancer4.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, many infants and young children do not meet the WHO and UNICEF recommendations for breastfeeding and ultimately lose out on its many benefits. Only 54% of infants initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth; 37% breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life which is below the global rate (44%); and between 31%-55% of children continue to receive breastmilk up to 2 years of age2.
Breastfeeding, more so when occurring exclusively, allows for healthier mothers and children who can in turn contribute meaningfully to the community and society at large. There is a reduced tax burden on communities and governments to ensure children are properly fed. Additionally, more funding is made available for community and national development. Reports indicate that the total global economic losses of not breastfeeding are estimated to be US$341.3 billion.
Breastfeeding is a naturally renewable resource that is environmentally sustainable as it does not require the use of natural resources (not even water!), provides no waste for accumulation in landfills (no packaging or disposal), and it does not pollute the environment.
Breastfeeding also contributes to infant and household food security. Infants who are breastfed exclusively, require no other source of nutrition and are less likely to get sick thereby lessening the financial burden on the family. This allows for nutritious foods to be bought for other members of the family. This is especially important during times of economic crises, such as those experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many households face unemployment and loss of income. The pandemic has proven to be a global threat to breastfeeding. Two recent studies in Western countries reported a decline in early initiation, exclusive and continued breastfeeding rates due to the pandemic, with one major contributing factor being a loss in support for mothers,.
Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by transferring antibodies from the mother to the child. Mother to child transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through breastmilk has not been found to occur. The WHO and UNICEF recommendations on initiation and continuation of breastfeeding infants and young children also apply to mothers with suspected or confirmed coronavirus disease as the benefits far outweigh any potential risks. Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are encouraged to practice respiratory hygiene (wearing a mask when breastfeeding), hand hygiene (frequent hand washing, including before and after touching the baby), and routinely clean and disinfect surfaces. If the mother is too unwell to breastfeed, she can be supported to feed expressed breastmilk or to relactate (re-introduce breastfeeding after a period of cessation).
This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week “Step up for Breastfeeding – Educate and Support” is aligned with thematic area 1 of the WBW-Sustainable Development Goals 2030 campaign which highlights the links between breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security and reduction of inequalities. It will focus on strengthening the capacity of actors that have to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society.
We all form part of the warm chain of support of breastfeeding – whether we are from or represent governments, health systems, workplaces or communities – and have a shared responsibility to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Let us all inform, anchor, engage and galvanise action to protect and support breastfeeding. A whole-of-society approach is needed to facilitate the development and implementation of regional breastfeeding policies and creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment.
This is in keeping with the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) life course approach for the prevention of NCDs of which breastfeeding is a key factor. CARPHA supports breastfeeding as a long-term strategy for a more productive and healthier Region and encourages mothers and families to see breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for infants.
CARPHA has led training in the WHO/UNICEF 40 Hour Breastfeeding Counselling Course; and training of Health Professionals in the 20-Hour Course for Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative as well as implementation and certification. The Agency has also supported Member States with the development of National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policies, Hospital Breastfeeding Policies and developed guidelines for anyone involved in the care and management of newborns, and pregnant or lactating women suspected of or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus.
CARPHA calls upon its member states to take a whole of society approach and implement and reinforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. By protecting and supporting breastfeeding, we are also protecting human rights and taking important steps towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind in the post pandemic world.
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