(Asian News Hub) – When the pandemic began last year, scientists went looking for the origins of the coronavirus. Right away, they made a huge discovery. It looked like the virus jumped from a bat into humans.
Now, scientists are worried that another coronavirus will strike again, from either a bat or some other animal. So they’ve gone hunting for potential sources — and the news is a bit concerning.
“Coronaviruses are under our feet in rodents. They are above our heads in bats. We live in a kind of coronavirus world,” says virologist Edward Holmes at the University of Sydney.
This past year, Holmes and his colleagues trapped several hundred bats in a tiny section of the Yunnan province in southern China — an area about the size of Los Angeles International Airport. They took samples of the bats’ saliva, urine and feces. Then they looked for coronavirus genes inside the samples.
What they found surprised him.
“So in this very small area that we sampled, about 1,100 hectare, there’s an amazing number of bat viruses,” says Holmes, who reported the findings online last week.
Holmes and his team found that the bats harbored 24 new coronaviruses, including four closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, and three viruses closely related to SARS-CoV, which caused a smaller outbreak back in 2003.
On top of that, Holmes says, the bat species carrying these viruses are common across most of Southeast Asia. “So imagine if you ran our experiment across the whole of Southeast Asia. You’d find an amazing diversity of coronaviruses,” Holmes says. “And there’s just an enormous number of them.”
And depending on how you define a virus species, Holmes says, there are likely thousands of different coronaviruses all around the world.
“We’re only just starting to scratch the surface,” he says. “The virusphere of coronaviruses is just immense.”
And these pathogens aren’t just hanging out in bats. Many types of animals carry these viruses, including dogs, cats, birds, chickens, pigs and rodents.
Now the two big questions are: How often do these viruses jump from animals into people and how often do they make people sick?
Back in 2018, scientists at the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance tried to answer that question in communities from southern China, including villages in the same province where Holmes trapped the bats. The team drew blood from about 400 people and looked for signs of coronavirus antibodies in their blood.
In one area, they found that nearly 3% of people had been infected with an unknown coronavirus in the past few years. “That’s pretty high,” says Peter Daszak, who helped to lead the study.
If you expand those findings to all parts of Southeast Asia where people are exposed to these bats, Daszak estimates that more than a million people are infected with unknown coronaviruses each year.
In other words, new coronaviruses are constantly jumping from bats and other animals into people — a process scientists call “spillover.”
“It’s happening every day,” Daszak says. “I look at the spillover event a bit like rain or snow. These viruses are getting into and trickling across our populations.”
The vast majority of these spillover events do very little, he says. But each one gives the virus the opportunity to adapt and spread more easily from person to person. Every once in a while, a contagious virus infects a person who finds their way to a dense city, such as Wuhan.
Both Daszak and Edward Holmes agree: The next coronavirus outbreak could be right around the corner.
“I think we need to face reality here,” Holmes says. “Coronavirus pandemics are not a once in a hundred year event. “The next one could come at any time. It could come in 50 years or in 10 years. Or it could be next year.”
COVID19 vaccines effective enough, no need for third booster jab: Lancet
(Asian News Hub) – Vaccines are effective enough at preventing severe cases of Covid-19 that there is no current need for the general population to be given third doses, according to a report in The Lancet published Monday.
Some countries have started offering extra doses over fears about the much more contagious Delta variant, causing the World Health Organization to call for a moratorium on third jabs amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first jab.
The new report by scientists, including from the WHO, concluded that even with the threat of Delta, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic”.
The authors, who reviewed observational studies and clinical trials, found that vaccines remain highly effective against severe symptoms of Covid-19, across all the main virus variants including Delta, although they had lower success in preventing asymptomatic cases of the disease.
“Taken as a whole, the currently available studies do not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, which is the primary goal of vaccination,” said lead author Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, of the WHO.
She said vaccine doses should be prioritised to people around the world still waiting for a jab.
“If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants,” she added.
COVID-19: Samba becomes first district to complete vaccination for all above 18 years
Instead of waiting for people to come, we reached out to them: DC Samba; LG congratulates for achieving milestone
(Asian News Hub) – Amid the ongoing Covid vaccination drive in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, Samba has become the first district in giving the first dose of Covid vaccine to all above 18 years of age.
A top health official told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that there are around 241,000 persons in the district in between 18-44 age group and all of them have already got their first dose of Covid vaccine.
He said that around 78,000 (33 percent) people have also got second dose of Covid vaccine and the process of vaccinating more and more people is going on. “It was possible only due to the efforts of health workers and front line workers who have worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone,” the official said.
District Magistrate Samba Anuradha Gupta said that since the beginning Samba district started the vaccination process strategically and Samba was among first few districts which completed vaccination process of all above 45 years of age.
“Instead of waiting for people to come to us, we went to them. We had constituted mobile teams to reach everyone. We were vaccinating above 45 age group the positivity and mortality rate started declining and people understood the importance of vaccination,” Gupta said.
She said that then people above 18 years came on their own without need of any mobilisation and “our efforts are on complete second dose process at an earliest.”
Meanwhile LG Manoj Sinha has congratulated the Covid management team of Samba and health care workers for their tireless efforts in completing 100 percent vaccination of above 18 years of age. He hoped that other districts will catch up soon and complete this process as well.
“Congratulations to Covid mgmt team of Samba & health care workers for their tireless effort to ensure 100% vaccination of above 18 yrs of age.Samba becomes first distt. of J&K to achieve this milestone & I am sure other districts will catch up soon,” Office of LG tweeted.
DAK urges flu vaccination for children ahead of third Covid wave
(Asian News Hub) – Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Wednesday urged parents to get their children vaccinated against flu ahead of third Covid wave which is predicted to happen sometime in the fall of this year and is expected to affect kids the most.
“Receiving a flu shot could make it easier to tell if your child has Covid-19 in the event he/she gets sick as both illnesses have similar symptoms,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
“This year’s flu season will likely coincide with the predicted third Covid wave. Administering flu vaccine would reduce the number of unnecessary Covid-19 tests that would limit the burden on hospitals and healthcare workers,” he added.
Quoting a recent study conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine Columbia, Dr Hassan said flu vaccination may offer some protection against Covid-19 in the pediatric population.
“The study found that those Covid-19 positive patients who had been administered the flu vaccine in the 2020 flu season had reduced odds of experiencing symptoms, respiratory complications and severe disease,” he said.
The DAK President said we would be facing a double whammy of flu and Covid this fall.
“You can catch the flu and Covid at the same time which could increase your risk of ending up in ICU or on a ventilator. That makes this season’s flu vaccine vitally important,” he said.
“Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine before the start of flu season which begins in October and can last late into May. Since it takes 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, it is best to get the vaccine in September,” said Dr Nisar.
“This season’s flu vaccine has been updated to better match currently circulating viruses. This year a quadrivalent influenza vaccine containing H1N1, H3N2 and two B viruses – Victoria and Yamagata is recommended,” he said.
“While the vaccine is recommended for all, it is especially needed in young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions.
Vaccination to expectant mothers is critically important to protect their new born babies’ upto 6 months who are too young to receive the vaccine,” he added.
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