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Next Pandemic: Scientists Fear Another Coronavirus Could Jump From Animals To Humans

(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.”

With Agencies

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COVID-19 affects youngsters badly, situation alarming: Dr Saleem Khan

(Asian News Hub) – Dr Saleem Khan, Nodal Officer for COVID-19 and HoD Social and Preventive Medicine, GMC Srinagar, Monday said the situation has turned alarming as the younger generation has been badly affected by COVID-19 in Kashmir.

Dr Khan said Jammu and Kashmir woud become Delhi in case people do not follow SOPs like wearing face masks, avoid social gatherings and maintain distance in letter and spirit.

He said viruses can never be stable as they keep on changing and might turn aggressive sometimes and sometimes become less effective.

DR Saleem said new strains of COVID-19 circulating in India are aggressive and virulent and increase its transmission manifold. He also claimed that the situation has turned alarming to the extent; COVID-19 has affected the young generation badly.

“It’s unfortunate that our young generation is worst hit by COVID-19. We seriously need to implement SOPs as the situation cannot be taken for granted. Its effect was very causal last year but the general population got badly affected this year,” Dr Saleem told the media.

He also warned people to be cautious and follow COVID-19 guidelines in letter and spirit so as to save themselves from falling prey to deadly virus.

He also advised people to get themselves vaccinated, COVID-19 cannot be taken lightly give its aggressive behavior since its outbreak in 2019.

KNO

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High time to take all precautions, we shouldn’t allow situation go out of control: Dr Naveed Nazir

Says over 100 beds available with oxygen facility at CD hospital almost full, have ventilators as backup, one more oxygen plant coming up this month; Covid vaccine prevents severity among patients

(Asian News Hub) – Kashmir’s top medico and the frontline Covid warrior Dr Naveed Nazir Monday said that it’s high time for the people to take all precautions to prevent the spread of Covid=19 pandemic and that the situation shouldn’t be allowed to go out of control.

Head of Department at Chest Diseases Hospital Dalgate, Srinagar, Dr Naveed said that the situation shouldn’t be allowed to go out of control and people should take all precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We had been stating that Covid is here and it has not gone away. One thing that needs to be hailed is that people have started following SoPs. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t wear a mask. This is a good sign,” he said, adding that “we must strictly follow SoPs and contain the situation.”

About the present position at CD hospital, one of the premier hospitals dealing with the Covid positive patients, Dr Naveed said that there are over 100 beds available for the virus affected patients and almost there is 90 per cent occupancy. “We are not admitting patients with mild symptoms and they are asked to go for home isolation. At present all our beds are almost full. We have oxygen facility at all the beds and have ventilators as a backup as well. We also have 50 more beds available as a backup at a nursing home,” the leading medico said. He said that all the cases admitted at CD hospital are severe cases who need oxygen and injectable.

Dr Naveed was speaking after attending a meeting convened by the SMC Mayor Junaid Matoo to take stock of the preparations to deal with the situation that has arisen after a huge spike in Covid positive cases in Kashmir. Over 1500 positive cases were reported in J&K UT on Sunday, highest in the past six months. He said that there is no shortage of oxygen in Srinagar and one more oxygen plant is coming up in the city this month.

Dr Naveed, who is a frontline Covid warrior, said that SMHS and other hospitals have also been designated as Covid hospitals “but people shouldn’t allow the situation to go out of control and stick to Covid protocols strictly.”

About the Covid vaccine, he said that there are some cases who have tested positive even after taking the Covid vaccine, but that is obvious as the vaccine takes at least three weeks to adjust in the body. “Its efficacy too isn’t 100 percent but it has surely helped to prevent the severity in the patients who test positive, which is significant. People must take Covid vaccines as it helps to prevent mortality,” he said.

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AstraZeneca could have COVID-19 vaccine against variant by end of 2021

(Asian News Hub) – A modified version of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine tailored to combat a coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa could be ready by the end of 2021, an AstraZeneca official in Austria said in an interview published on Sunday.

Sarah Walters, AstraZeneca’s Austria country manager, told the Kurier newspaper that studies, so far, indicating the existing AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the more infectious variant first documented in South Africa were “too small to draw final conclusions”.

“In the meantime, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have started on modifications to the vaccine for the South African variant and we expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed,” Walters told the Kurier.

Walters blamed challenges – including delivery delays for the AstraZeneca shot in the European Union – on the “complex process” of producing a vaccine, coupled with the extremely high demand arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to work without keeping a supply in reserve. As a result, we couldn’t make up for unexpected events,” she said. “We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year.”

The Kurier interview did not directly address ongoing investigations into health concerns over the AstraZeneca shot. The EU has put a warning label on the vaccine over its possible linkage to extremely rare blood clots, Denmark has completely halted use of the vaccine and Britain has advised people under 30 to get another brand of vaccine.

Asked about “thousands” of people in Austria who are cancelling their appointments for AstraZeneca shots, Walters said the company’s plan was “to continue to transparently provide information about efficacy and safety to doctors, so that they can adequately inform people” of benefits and risks.

British and European Union medicine regulators have said that the overall benefits of using the vaccine outweigh any risks of rare clotting.

Reuters

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