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Covid-19 is primarily airborne: Lancet

(Asian News Hub) – A report in The Lancet journal has dismissed the predominant scientific view that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is not an airborne pathogen.

Areport published in the journal The Lancet has dismissed the predominant scientific view that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is not an airborne pathogen. The authors of the report have listed 10 reasons for their claim that “SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted primarily by the airborne route”.

The paper, written by six experts from the UK, the US and Canada, argues that there are “insufficient grounds for concluding that a pathogen is not airborne” while “the totality of scientific evidence indicates otherwise”. The experts called for urgent modification in the Covid-19 safety protocol.

CORONAVIRUS IS AIRBORNE: 10 REASONS CITED BY THE RESEARCHERS

  1. “Superspreading events account for substantial SARS-CoV-2 transmission; indeed, such events may be the pandemic’s primary drivers,” they said. Detailed analyses of human behaviours and interactions, room sizes, ventilation, and other variables, the authors said, are consistent with airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the same cannot be adequately explained by droplets or fomites.
  2. Long-range transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels, the paper said.
  3. The experts argued that from 33 per cent to 59 per cent of all Covid-19 cases could be attributed to asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people who are not coughing or sneezing. They said this supported a predominantly airborne mode of transmission.
  4. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is higher indoors than outdoors and is substantially reduced by indoor ventilation.
  5. The paper said nosocomial infections (those that originate in a hospital) had been documented even at places where healthcare professionals used personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect against droplet but not aerosol exposure.
  6. The experts said viable SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the air. In laboratory experiments, SARS-CoV-2 stayed infectious in the air for up to 3 hours. They rejected the argument that SARS-CoV-2 was bit cultivated from air arguing that measles and tuberculosis, two primarily airborne diseases, had never been cultivated from room air.
  7. SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in air filters and building ducts in hospitals with COVID-19 patients; such locations could be reached only by aerosols, they said.
  8. The experts cited studies involving infected caged animals that showed transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via an air duct.
  9. Another argument of the experts was that no study to our knowledge provided strong or consistent evidence to refute the hypothesis of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
  10. Their final argument was that there was limited evidence to support other dominant routes of transmission- i.e. respiratory droplet or fomite.

The claim of the experts, if proven and accepted, could have massive implications on counter-Covid-19 strategy across the world. This may require the people to wear mask even inside their homes, and possibly at all times.

The current understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 spreads through smaller aerosols that stay suspended in air or through fomites, the surfaces where the virus gets deposited, and could be picked by a health person. Gravity pulls down heavier droplets reducing the chances of infection considerably.

But if an infectious virus is mainly airborne, an individual could potentially be infected when they inhale aerosols produced when an infected person exhales, speaks, shouts, sings, sneezes, or coughs, the experts said. This changes the way the world should fight coronavirus pandemic.

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COVID-19: Kashmir faces acute shortage of CoviShield vaccine

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths across Jammu and Kashmir, the Kashmir division in the Union Territory (UT) is facing acute shortage of Covishield vaccine.

Sources within the health department told the news agency—KNO that there is a shortage of Covishield vaccine in almost every Tertiary health care facility across Kashmir.

They said those who have taken the first dose of vaccine around two months before are waiting to get the second jab of the vaccine.

People questioned the policy of the government that on one hand they have been requesting to follow covid appropriate behavior and get vaccinated at an earliest but on the other hand there is a dearth of vaccines.

They urged the authorities to make vaccines available at an earliest.

State Immunization Officer, Dr. Shahid Hussain admitted the shortage of Covishield, saying that the vaccine will be available shortly.

Pertinently, as per the data available only 208 persons have been inoculated across Kashmir division during the last two days while around 20,000 people have been vaccinated in Jammu division during the last 48 hours.

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Pregnant women can choose vaccine; lactating women eligible for jabs after delivery: Govt panel

(Asian News Hub) – A government panel has suggested that pregnant women may be offered the choice to take any COVID-19 vaccine and that lactating women can be inoculated any time after delivery.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended that all pregnant women visiting for ANC care may be informed about risks and benefits associated with Covishield and Covaxin.

Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the choice to take any of the COVID 19 vaccine.

An educational tool comprising information on risk of COVID 19 infection during pregnancy, benefits associated with the vaccination and rare complications associated with vaccines like thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (with Covishield) may be developed.

Also, all lactating women are eligible to receive the COVID 19 vaccines any time after delivery, the panel suggested.

According to the current vaccination protocol, pregnant and lactating women should not be administered the shots as they have not been part of any anti-coronavirus vaccine clinical trial so far.

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Scientists race to study variants in India as cases explode

(Asian News Hub) – A potentially worrisome variant of the coronavirus detected in India may spread more easily. But the country is behind in doing the kind of testing needed to track it and understand it better.

World Health Organization designated the new version of the virus a “variant of concern” based on preliminary research, alongside those that were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries.

“We need much more information about this virus variant,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19. “We need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating.”

Viruses mutate constantly, and the surge in infections here has resulted in more opportunities for new versions to emerge.

But India was slow to start the genetic monitoring needed to see if those changes were happening and if they were making the coronavirus more infectious or deadly.

Such variants also need to be monitored to see if mutations help the virus escape the immune system, potentially leading to reinfections or making vaccines less effective. For now, the WHO stressed that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing disease and death in people infected with the variant.

Indian scientists say their work has been hindered by bureaucratic obstacles and the government’s reluctance to share vital data. India is sequencing around 1% of its total cases, and not all of the results are uploaded to the global database of coronavirus genomes.

When there isn’t enough sequencing, there will be blind spots and more worrisome mutations could go undetected until they’re widespread, said Alina Chan, a postdoctoral researcher at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who is tracking global sequencing efforts.

Ravindra Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said: “It has all the hallmarks of the virus that we should be worried about.”

First detected in the coastal Maharashtra state last year, the new variant has now been found in samples in 19 of the 27 states surveyed. Meanwhile a variant first detected in Britain has declined in India in the past 45 days.

Indian health officials have cautioned that it is too soon to attribute the nation’s surge solely to such variants. Experts point out that the spread was catalyzed by government decisions to not pause religious gatherings and crowded election rallies.

Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies microorganisms at Christian Medical College at Vellore in southern India, said researchers need to figure out if the variant is capable of infecting those who previously had COVID-19 and, if so, whether it could result in severe disease.

“I don’t get why people don’t see this as important,” she said.

Sequencing efforts in India have been haphazard. The country uploads 0.49 sequences per 1,000 cases to GISAID, a global data sharing effort, Chan said. The U.S., which had its own troubles with genetic monitoring, uploads about 10 in 1,000, while the U.K. does so for about 82 per 1,000 cases.

Late last year, Indian government institutions were ordered to buy domestic raw materials wherever possible, in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of turning India “self-reliant.” This proved impossible, since all materials for sequencing were imported, resulting in more paperwork, said Anurag Agarwal, the director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. The obstacles were most pronounced between September and December, he said, but his lab was able to find workarounds and continued sequencing.

Other labs didn’t, and scientists said that should have been when India ramped up its sequencing, because cases were declining at the time.

Even after a federal effort started in Jan. 18, bringing together 10 labs that can sequence 7,500 samples weekly, the actual work didn’t start until mid-February due to other logistical issues, said Dr. Shahid Jameel, a virologist who chairs the scientific advisory group advising the consortium.

By then, India’s cases had begun spiking.
Jameel said India has sequenced around 20,000 samples, but only 15,000 were publicly reported because some were missing vital data. Until late last month, a third of the samples sent by states were unusable, he said.

And now, the raging virus has infected many of the staff in the labs doing the work.

“Many of our labs are facing this problem,” he said.

AP

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