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New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.

Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week.  Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.

New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers.  The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.

Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27.  However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.

New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.

 

 

 

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Health

MOSQUITO PREVENTION

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#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2022 – Due to the recent rainfall throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Environmental Health Department (EHD) hereby advises residents, home owners, apartment owners and businesses to remove all debris & refuse/garbage from their premises and dispose appropriately at the public landfill/solid waste disposal sites on your respective island. The removal of debris & refuse/garbage from your premises will reduce mosquito breeding and prevent mosquito borne and other vector borne diseases such as Dengue fever.

As the Vector Control Unit of the Environmental Health Department continues to monitor and treat mosquito breeding sites, home owners, apartment owners and business owners are advised to treat standing water on their premises by using cooking oil or any other environmentally friendly oils to prevent mosquito breeding.

It is anticipated that mosquito populations and activities will increase over the coming weeks and it is important to remind residents that mosquito control is a shared responsibility. Residents and businesses can help reduce the growth and reproduction of mosquitoes in and around their homes, businesses and communities by taking the following precautionary measures:

  • Check around buildings for anything that could hold water, inspect your home and yard weekly
  • Turn containers over or cover them
  • Get rid of or cover old tires
  • Properly dispose of all garbage/refuse
  • Cover boats, children’s pools, etc.
  • Clean rain gutters and make sure they are flowing properly
  • Check screens for holes
  • Tightly cover water drums and rain barrels

For further information, contact the Environmental Health Department via telephone numbers 649-338-2143/44

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Health

[Excerpt] from an Mental Health & Well Being Open Consultation; United Kingdom

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May 19, 2022 – “Approximately 1 in 6 people aged 16 and over in England were identified as having a common mental health condition in 2014, according to survey data.  In 2020 to 2021, there were around half a million people with more severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. We have seen worrying trends for children and young people, with rates of probable mental health disorders in 6 to 16-year-olds rising from 11.6% in 2017 to 17.4% in 2021. More people than ever are receiving support for a mental health crisis and, tragically, the numbers of those ending their life through suicide have broadly increased over the past decade. We know that two-thirds of people who end their life by suicide are not in contact with NHS mental health services.

For many of us, the experience of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – and its wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, society and the economy – have brought these issues into sharper focus. Around 1 in 5 adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of 2021, over double pre-pandemic figures.

These problems aren’t felt equally by all of us. We know there is an uneven distribution of mental ill-health across society. People facing social and economic disadvantage are at a much higher risk of developing mental health conditions. They are also more likely to receive care and support much later as their conditions escalate to crisis point. In 2020 to 2021, people living in the most deprived areas of England were twice as likely to be in contact with mental health services than those living in the least deprived areas.

There are also disparities by ethnicity, age, sexuality, and sex, and for people with learning disabilities, neurodiversity, and long-term physical health conditions. Risks of mental ill-health are also higher for people who are unemployed, people in problem debt, people who have experienced displacement, including refugees and asylum seekers, people who have experienced trauma as the result of violence or abuse, children in care and care leavers, people in contact with the criminal justice system (both victims and offenders), people who sleep rough or are homeless, people with substance misuse or gambling problems, people who live alone, and unpaid carers. People may belong to several disadvantaged groups at once, which is likely to compound the risk of experiencing mental ill-health. Addressing these disparities is critical to deliver the government’s ambition to level up the country and tackle disparities in health. We will set out more detail on our plans to reduce the gap in health outcomes between different places and communities across the country in our forthcoming health disparities white paper. See Annex A below on mental health disparities for more detail, which can be used as a point of reference when responding to our questions.

The impacts of mental ill-health on individuals, communities, society and the economy are substantial. Children and young people’s mental health conditions incur annual short-term costs estimated at £1.58 billion and annual long-term costs estimated at £2.35 billion.

Around 50% of mental health conditions are established by the time a child reaches the age of 14, and 75% by age 24.

Adults with mental health conditions are much more likely to be out of work, to have lower incomes, increased problems with their physical health, and increased involvement in the criminal justice system, both as victims and perpetrators.

The total annual cost of mental ill-health in the workplace to government has been estimated at between £24 billion and £27 billion. The overall annual loss to the economy has been estimated at between £70 billion and £100 billion. Losses are greater in places and among groups that experience mental health disparities.

Health is essential to a stable and functioning economy.

Our strong economic foundation going into the pandemic and the support provided throughout means we have made good economic progress.

However, we must continue to build back better as we begin to rebuild the economy. By improving mental health across the country, we can improve lives and livelihoods whilst reducing the demand on the NHS and pressure on other public services, and at the same time supporting economic growth.

A healthier and happier population is also more likely to access employment opportunities, which will reduce inactivity and improve productivity.

Reducing disparities in mental health between local areas is therefore critical to ensuring more equal access to opportunities and supporting the government’s Levelling Up agenda.”

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Africa

Natural Immunity less powerful against new Omicron strains in South Africa as Fifth Wave looms

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, May 19, 2022 – South Africa is undergoing a massive covid surge with cases jumping by 50 percent in just 24 hours on May 5th. 9,757 new cases were reported on the 5th, 3,587 more positive results than the 6,170 recorded the day before.  For context, on April 5th, a month earlier 1538 new infections were recorded.

Since that 50 percent increase on May 5th daily new infections have consistently been above 2,900 reaching as high as 10,017 on May 11th. South Africa recorded over 86,000 new cases and over 550 deaths between May 5th and 16th in a time frame of less than 2 weeks.

Vaccine uptake in South Africa is below slightly above 50 percent with only 35 million fully vaccinated individuals in a population of more than 59 million.

Shabir Mahdi, a scientist leading vaccine trials in the country had suggested that natural immunity was what was helping with lower hospitalizations when omicron initially appeared in the country.

This latest increase however, is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which may be more adept at evading natural immunity.

In a study carried out by the Africa Health Research Institute blood samples from people infected with omicron but unvaccinated, when tested against BA.4 and BA.5, neutralizing antibodies which fight Covid were eight times lower. In people who contracted omicron and were vaccinated it was three times lower.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,”

“This may indicate that… BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new infection wave.”

That study was carried out back in January when the variants were first detected.

When the Omicron fueled fourth wave hit South Africa in 2021 cases in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe quickly followed. BA.4 and .5 have been detected in the US, Canada, China and parts of Europe.

On May 12th the BA.4 and.5 variants were both upgraded to variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control.

The ECDC says variants of concern are ones for which, “clear evidence is available indicating a significant impact on transmissibility, severity and/or immunity that is likely to have an impact on the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA.”

The possible spike in cases comes one year and five months since the first COVID jabs in the world were administered in the UK and the US,  one year and four months since the first vaccine was administered in the Turks and Caicos.

Though boosters have been available in many countries worldwide booster campaigns have not been as effective as initial vaccination campaigns. Without the stretched protection of boosters many more people may remain vulnerable to this building wave of BA.4 or BA.5 vaccines.

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