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Risk of New Variants as cases explode in China; global spread possible

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

#China, December 26, 2022 – As COVID-19 cases in China continue to balloon spreading swiftly through the most populous nation in the world, a significant risk is beginning to emerge, the possibility of new variants.

Omicron and its sub-variants currently top the globe in terms of infections and scientists have only just figured out how to create specific vaccines that protect against it. The fastest spreading variant ever, during its onset in early 2022, millions were infected and millions died.

Before Omicron came Delta and several others, all different enough from the original strain of Covid that they warranted serious concern. As the virus keeps replicating (as it infects new people and animals) mistakes can be made in its RNA; these mistakes are called mutations. A virus that is spreading more has more opportunities to mutate. Enough mutations can cause a whole new variant.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, geographic separation tends to result in genetically distinct variants.

In addition in China the bulk of the population has never had COVID-19 because of the former strict lockdown protocols.  This means the country has very little natural immunity against any of the variants and any herd immunity will depend on vaccination. 87 percent of the population is vaccinated but less than 60 per cent is boosted, leaving hundreds of millions of people with waning immunity or none at all; nearly ideal conditions for a fast spreading respiratory virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the next variant of concern will spread even faster than Omicron it must in order to overtake it. An outbreak of a variant more infectious than Omicron or its sub variants in the manufacturing capital of the globe; in the middle of a Russian war and a barely recovering supply chain would spell disaster.

The possibility of it spreading to the rest of the globe must also be considered, the outcome of that on the travel industry and supply chain would be astronomical.

India, the second largest country in the world which shares a land border with China, has already begun to randomly test visitors as it keeps a sharp eye out for any new variants.

Health

Dengue Update Peru – Health Emergency Declared

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Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer

#Peru#Dengue, February 28th, 2024 – The Government of Peru in response to the spike in Dengue cases, has declared a health emergency in 20 regions for 90 days. This was announced on February 26th at a press conference, according to a release from the Government. Additionally, to help fight the outbreak, over 160 million Peruvian soles or 42 million US dollars, has been proposed which will be allocated to various health operations.

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Caribbean News

PAHO Calls Americas to Increase Aedes aegypti Mosquito Control

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Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer

 

#PAHO#Dengue#Americas, February 23rd, 2024 – With nearly seven thousand cases of dengue and 102 deaths reported in the Americas as of early February 2024, the Pan American Health Organization is once again calling for stronger measures to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main transmitter of dengue. These numbers indicate a 157 percent increase in cases over the same period in 2023.  In the first five weeks of 2024, Peru, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay reported an increase in cases.

 

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Government

Ministry of Health and Human Services in Collaboration with UK Health Security Agency conducts Migrant Health needs Assessment  

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#TurksandCaicos, February 23, 2024 – The Ministry of Health and Human Services has partnered with a team from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) Public Health Programme to conduct a health needs assessment for communities in informal settlements throughout the TCI.  This project was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and has taken place through a series of consultations and meetings in order to assess health needs and propose recommendations to address gaps in access to health care.

A steering committee supported the preliminary discussions on developing the scope and direction for the assessment and included representation from the TCI from Dr. Dawn O’Sullivan, Dr. Camelia Clarke (Director, Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit), Mrs. Aldora Robinson (Former Director, Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit) and Dr. Nadia Astwood (Chief Medical Officer).

This project culminated in an in-country visit by a team which included: Annabel Grieve (Programme Management Lead), Dr. Amoolya Vusirikala (Public Health Registrar) and Allegra Chatterjee (Epidemiologist) with earlier support provided by Dr. Natalie Wright, Health Protection Lead and Consultant in Global Public Health with the UK Overseas Territories, Global Operations. The visit, which began on January 21st 2024 and concluded this week, saw a number of in-person consultations with key stakeholders across sectors, as well as community focus groups conducted in Providenciales and Grand Turk.

Following the visit, the team paid a courtesy call to the Hon. Minister of Health and Human Services, Shaun D Malcolm and the Executive Team from the Ministry of Health and Human Services, to provide a high level debrief and presentation of the preliminary findings of the assessment. Following further analysis of the findings of the visit, a final report will be submitted to the Ministry of Health and Human Services which will provide a number of conclusions as well as evidence-based recommendations for consideration by the Government.

Commenting on the visit, Hon. Shaun D Malcolm stated that “we welcome this support from UKHSA and FCDO with whom the Ministry of Health has enjoyed a close working relationship and technical support over the years, to formally assess the health needs of this population in order to ensure that the overall health of our population can be addressed in a holistic manner to ensure that universal access to health care is addressed.”

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