Army Public Health Weekly Update- 01 April 2022

Date Published: 4/1/2022
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​​​The Army Public Health Update is a collection of articles taken from public sources to offer awareness of current health issues and the media coverage given to them. The articles do not necessarily represent U.S. Army Medical Command opinions, views, policy, or guidance, and should not be construed or interpreted as being endorsed by the U.S. Army Medical Command.

The Army Public Health Weekly Update does not analyze the information as to its strategic or tactical impact on the U.S. Army and is not a medical intelligence product. Medical intelligence is available from the National Center for Medical Intelligence External Link .

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Table of Contents

    ANNOUNCEMENTS 

    Omicron subvariant BA.2 now the dominant variant in the US, estimates show

    29 March- The highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in the United States, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. As of March 26, BA.2 is projected to account for nearly 55% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., estimates show. The predominance of BA.2 comes as some parts of the country begin to see an uptick in new COVID-19 infections. In particular, in recent weeks, the Northeast has seen an increase in its reported infection rate. In the New York-New Jersey region, where BA.2 is estimated to account for more than 70% of new cases, infections are up by nearly 47% in the last two weeks. Similarly, wastewater surveillance indicates upticks in the New England area, where BA.2 is also projected to account for more than 70% of new cases. The signs of a resurgence come after dozens of states have moved to shutter public testing sites. With more at-home COVID-19 tests now available, most Americans are not reporting their results to officials, and thus, experts said infection totals are likely significantly undercounted. The presence of BA.2 has not only been growing domestically, but also globally. Last week, the World Health Organization reported that worldwide, BA.2 accounted for 86% of sequences from the last four weeks. ABC NewsExternal Link

    U.S. MILITARY

    Army public health experts hope to boost COVID-19 child vaccination rates

    28 March- As the latest COVID-19 Omicron variant wave recedes across the country, it is human nature to begin hoping for a return to a pre-pandemic normal. After all, spring is just around the corner and just about everyone is experiencing pandemic fatigue. If you are a parent of a child aged 5 – 17, there may still be something you can do to help achieve a return to normal: Make sure your child gets the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker, as of mid-March 65.3 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Of which, 75 percent of U.S. adults (225.8 million) 18 and older are fully vaccinated. There are approximately 28 million children ages 5 – 11, and an additional 25 million adolescents ages 12 – 17 in the U.S. population. Achieving the same vaccination rates among children (ages 5 – 11) and adolescents (ages 12 – 17) as the vaccination rate in adults would add an additional 39.8 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In CDC parlance, “fully vaccinated" means a person has received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. For individuals to be “up to date" they also should have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. Currently, the CDC recommends that everyone ages 12+ should get a booster dose at least 5 months after the last dose in their primary series. At this time, the only FDA-authorized vaccine booster for adolescents aged 12–17 is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine booster. Army.milExternal Link

    MEDCoE Expert Field Medical Badge test event takes place at JBSA-Camp Bullis

    26 March- The Expert Field Medical Badge, commonly known as the EFMB, is one of the most rigorous and highly sought-after U.S. Army special skill badges. Of the many Soldiers that compete for the badge, only a few successfully obtain the EFMB. The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, hosted a two-week EFMB event with 110 candidates testing for the badge, which began March 19 at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, to ensure Soldiers are given the opportunity to earn the badge. The EFMB event includes a standardization phase, during which candidates become familiar with the event lanes and tasks, followed by a testing phase, and will end with a graduation ceremony April 1. MEDCoE, the proponent for the Army's EFMB Test Control Office, last hosted an EFMB event of their own in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed MEDCoE's own testing schedule, and this year's event signifies a return to normalcy. The EFMB Test Control Office travels to various test sites across the United States to standardize other unit EFMB test events even during the pandemic, though with less frequency. Command Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, MEDCoE Command Sergeant Major, was very active in reenergizing the MEDCoE EFMB test program, frequently visited the test site during all phases of planning, and continues to oversee the execution of the event. “The Expert Field Medical Badge is the portrait of excellence for field medicine in the Army," Charpentier said. The test includes tactical casualty care, land navigation, a physical fitness assessment and other assessments to determine the candidate's medical and Soldier skill level. “The candidates that prepare themselves physically and mentally, those are the individuals that are generally successful out here in the testing site." JBSA.milExternal Link

    NICoE hosts virtual program focused on nutrition therapy after brain injury

    28 March- In observance of Brain Injury Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month, both observed during March, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) hosted a virtual program focused on nutrition therapy after brain injury on March 17. Located at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), NICoE is a center of excellence within the Department of Defense because of its diverse capabilities and overarching mission of providing care to service members and families challenged by traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions. Ruth Clark, a dietitian at NICoE, led the discussion regarding nutrition therapy after brain injury. She explained that following an anti-inflammatory diet and increasing anti-oxidant intake has been shown to help mental and physical health. A dietitian serving diverse populations for nearly two decades, Clark said some people who suffer a mild brain injury may experience changes to their eating pattern and develop eating disorders. She stated a mild brain injury can cause a person who may have been active before the injury, to develop a sedentary lifestyle and gain weight, or conversely, exhibit a lack of desire to eat. “I see it on both sides, [and some people] will tell me, 'I lost my appetite,' and they're underweight,'" Clark said. She said these are some of the reasons it may be necessary to refer someone who suffers a mild brain injury to a registered dietitian as herself. Clark explained a registered dietitian can formulate individualized meal plans because everyone is different. Also, a registered dietitian is aware of evidenced-based recommendations “because there is so much misinformation out there," she said. “Service members are very prone to fad diets for quick results, the consequences of which can compound over time and be dangerous," Clark added. “Nutrition assessments can uncover unhealthy habits." Dietary changes may help improve mental and physical health, including have an impact on chronic pain, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, diabetes and fatigue, Clark said. She added people with poor diets are at increased risk of developing not only chronic disease and physical challenges such as diabetes, pain, heart disease and obesity, but poor nutrition also puts a person at risk for mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances. “A main goal of mine when I'm working with individuals who have a history of brain injury is try to get them to move away from the Standard American Diet (SAD)," Clark said. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the SAD is low in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy oils. It's high in red meat, high-fat dairy products, processed and fast foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, salt and calories. “The American food supply is saturated with calorie-dense and nutrient-poor food and beverage choices," Clark added. “We focus a lot on inflammation because after brain injury, oxidative stress and inflammation result in the prolonged effects of the brain injury," she stated. Oxidative stress and inflammation are interactive and play critical roles in ischemia/reperfusion injury in the brain. DVIDSExternal Link

    GLOBAL

    Black cancer patients more likely than Whites to have severe COVID

    29 March- A U.S. study of 3,506 cancer patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in 2020 shows that Black patients were significantly more likely than their White peers to have severe illness, regardless of demographic and clinical risk factors and cancer type, status, and therapy at COVID-19 diagnosis. A Tufts University researcher led the study, which was published yesterday in JAMA Network Open, using electronic health records and data from the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium registry from Mar 17 to Nov 18, 2020. Underlying illnesses such as cancer put COVID-19 patients at higher risk for severe illness and death. Among all patients, 30% were Black, 50% were women, and median age at COVID-19 diagnosis was 65 years for Black patients and 68 for White patients. Black patients had higher rates of underlying illnesses than White patients, including obesity (45% vs 38%), diabetes (38% vs 24%), and kidney disease (23% vs 16%). Most patients had solid tumors, 20% of which were breast cancer. CIDRAPExternal Link

    Climate change may push the U.S. toward the 'Goldilocks Zone' for west nile virus

    28 March- Michael Keasling of Lakewood, Colorado, was an electrician who loved big trucks, fast cars, and Harley-Davidsons. He'd struggled with diabetes since he was a teenager, needing a kidney transplant from his sister to stay alive. He was already quite sick in August when he contracted West Nile virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Keasling spent three months in hospitals and rehab, then died on Nov. 11 at age 57 from complications of West Nile virus and diabetes, according to his mother, Karen Freeman. She said she misses him terribly. “I don't think I can bear this," Freeman said shortly after he died. Spring rain, summer drought, and heat created ideal conditions for mosquitoes to spread the West Nile virus through Colorado last year, experts said. West Nile killed 11 people and caused 101 cases of neuroinvasive infections — those linked to serious illness such as meningitis or encephalitis — in Colorado in 2021, the highest numbers in 18 years. The rise in cases may be a sign of what's to come: As climate change brings more drought and pushes temperatures toward what is termed the “Goldilocks zone" for mosquitoes — not too hot, not too cold — scientists expect West Nile transmission to increase across the country. KHNExternal Link

    Diabetes drug metformin linked to birth defects in boys

    28 March- The drug metformin, widely used to treat diabetes, may cause genital birth defects such as undescended testicles and urethral problems in the male children of men who take the medication, researchers have found. Taking metformin appeared to affect sperm that developed during a critical time before a male child was conceived. Female children were not affected. Previous studies have linked diabetes with fertility problems in men, but the latest study is the first to show that these problems can result from treatment rather than the disease itself, according to the researchers, whose findings appear in the March 28 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. Since this is the first study to suggest a father's use of metformin may be associated with birth defects in his children, it would be “early" to make any changes based on the data, says Michael Eisenberg, MD, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and one of the researchers who did the study. If other studies confirm the findings, doctors may begin discussing the possibility with patients. Eisenberg added that eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy body weight "can improve a man's health and likely his fertility as well." WebmdExternal Link

    FDA skeptical of benefits from experimental ALS drug

    28 March- Federal health regulators issued a negative review Monday of a closely watched experimental drug for the debilitating illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after months of lobbying by patient advocates urging approval. The drug from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals has become a rallying cause for patients with the deadly neurodegenerative disease ALS, their families and members of Congress who've joined in pushing the Food and Drug Administration to greenlight the drug. But regulators said in a review that the company's small study was “not persuasive," due to missing data, errors in enrolling patients and other problems. On Wednesday, a panel of FDA advisers will take a non-binding vote on whether the drug should be approved. The meeting is being closely watched as an indicator of the FDA's approach to experimental drugs with imperfect data and its ability to withstand outside pressure. AP NewsExternal Link

    Matching drugs to DNA is 'new era of medicine'

    29 March- We have the technology to start a new era in medicine by precisely matching drugs to people's genetic code, a major report says. Some drugs are completely ineffective or become deadly because of subtle differences in how our bodies function. The British Pharmacological Society and the Royal College of Physicians say a genetic test can predict how well drugs work in your body. The tests could be available on the NHS next year. Your genetic code or DNA is an instruction manual for how your body operates. The field of matching drugs to your DNA is known as pharmacogenomics. It would have helped Jane Burns, from Liverpool, who lost two-thirds of her skin when she reacted badly to a new epilepsy drug. She was put on to carbamazepine when she was 19. Two weeks later, she developed a rash and her parents took her to A&E when she had a raging fever and began hallucinating. The skin damage started the next morning. Jane told the BBC: "I remember waking up and I was just covered in blisters, it was like something out of a horror film, it was like I'd been on fire." Her epilepsy medicine caused Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which affects the skin and is far more likely to happen in people who are born with specific mutations in their genetic code. Mrs. Burns says she was "extremely, extremely lucky" and said she supports pharmacogenomic tests. "If it saves your life, then it's a fantastic thing." BBC External Link

    Social media is bad for the mental health of teenagers during puberty and those about to leave home, study says

    29 March- According to a new study, social media use is severely bad for the mental health of teenagers and adolescents during the years of puberty and when they are about to leave home. The teenagers who used social media more frequently in those years scored lower on measures of life satisfaction a year later. Several researchers stated that social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are not entirely bad for all adolescents. However, they are not entirely good either. According to the study posted on Nature, using social media has caused issues with body image among teenagers, but the impact varies. For some teenagers, it might help them socialize and build relationships at some points in time, but for others, at other times, social media might affect their self-esteem. The challenge has been figuring out which teenagers are at risk and when they are at risk so that experts can create strategies to help them, according to The Verge. Tech TimesExternal Link

    U.S. FDA approves UCB's drug for rare childhood epilepsy

    28 March- Belgian biotech firm UCB SA (UCB.BR) said on Monday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its drug to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), a rare form of childhood epilepsy. The drug, branded as Fintepla, already has the U.S. approval to treat another form of childhood-onset epilepsy, Davet Syndrome (DS), in patients aged two years and older. LGS causes cognitive dysfunction and frequent seizures that often lead to injury, and UCB's Zogenix unit estimates that about 30,000 to 50,000 people have the syndrome in the United States. The FDA approval was supported by safety and efficacy data from a Phase 3 clinical trial in 263 patients with LGS, the biotech firm said in a statement. Developed by Zogenix, Fintepla is available only through a restricted drug distribution program in the United States. California-based Zogenix was acquired by UCB in a deal worth about $2 billion, which closed earlier this month. Bernstein analyst Wimal Kapadia forecast worldwide peak sales for Fintepla of about $300 million by 2030 from the LGS indication alone, and of about $800 million in total from both the indications. ReutersExternal Link

    WHO examining potential hearing problems linked to Covid vaccines

    28 March- The World Health Organization is examining rare reports of hearing loss and other auditory issues following Covid-19 vaccinations. In a newsletter posted on its website, the international public health agency said that it has been made aware of sudden hearing problems, particularly tinnitus, or ringing of the ears, that may be associated with Covid vaccines. The WHO reported 367 cases of tinnitus and 164 cases of hearing loss globally among people who had received a Covid-19 vaccine, usually within a day of the shot. That's out of more than 11 billion doses of Covid vaccine given worldwide, so the hearing problems seem to be extremely rare. People who reported tinnitus ranged in ages from 19 to 91, and nearly three-quarters were women. The reports came from 27 countries, including Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. More than a third were reported among those working in the health care industry. The reports were identified by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre, an independent, nonprofit organization in Sweden that works with the WHO. Many patients, the report said, recovered. Others have previously told NBC News, at least anecdotally, that the tinnitus they developed post-vaccination has been unrelenting and life-altering for months. The condition has been described as a ringing, buzzing or hissing noise in one or both ears. NBC NewsExternal Link

    INFLUENZA

    CDC:Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

    Key Updates for Week 11, ending March 19, 2022:

    - Influenza activity is increasing in most of the country.

    - The highest levels of influenza percent positivity from clinical labs were seen in states in the central and south-central regions of the country.

    - The majority of influenza viruses detected are A(H3N2). H3N2 viruses identified so far this season are genetically closely related to the vaccine virus. Antigenic data show that the majority of the H3N2 viruses characterized are antigenically different from the vaccine reference viruses. While the number of B/Victoria viruses circulating this season is small, the majority of the B/Victoria viruses characterized are antigenically similar to the vaccine reference virus.

    - The percentage of outpatient visits due to respiratory illness increased slightly this week but is still below baseline. Influenza is contributing to levels of respiratory illness, but other respiratory viruses are also circulating. The relative contribution of influenza varies by location.

    - The number of hospital admissions reported to HHS Protect has increased each week for the past seven weeks.

    - The cumulative hospitalization rate in the FluSurv-NET system is higher than the rate for the entire 2020-2021 season, but lower than the rate seen at this time during the four seasons preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.

    - CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 3.1 million flu illnesses, 31,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths from flu.

    - An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination can prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. CDC continues to recommend that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine as long as flu activity continues.

    - Flu vaccines are available at many different locations, including pharmacies and health departments. Visit www.vaccines.gov to find a flu vaccine near you.

    - There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. CDCExternal Link

    VETERINARY/FOOD SAFETY

    Pacific Rim Shellfish Corporation recalls oysters as norovirus investigation continues

    28 March- Pacific Rim Shellfish Corporation is recalling Pacific Rim Shellfish Corp. brand oysters because of possible norovirus contamination. This recall was triggered by findings of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The recalled products have been sold in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, and Ontario and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories. This recall comes after three similar recalls connected to CFIA's norovirus outbreak investigation. Food Safety NewsExternal Link

    Testing prompts recall after finding undeclared sulfite in sweetened strawberries

    28 March- SunTree Snack Foods LLC, of Phoenix, AZ, is recalling Good & Gather Dried Sweetened Strawberries because the product contains undeclared sulfite.  The recall was initiated after Florida's Department of Agriculture performed a sampling. The results of the sampling indicated the lots contained sulfites that were not declared on the label. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to sulfites run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions if they consume these products. The recalled packages are resalable stand up pouches that were distributed to retail stores nationally. SunTree Snack Foods, LLC is initiating the voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution to protect public health. Food Safety NewsExternal Link

    WELLNESS

    You might be using melatonin all wrong- Here's what you should know

    25 March- By the time sleep-starved people come to Jennifer Martin, a psychologist who specializes in insomnia, many have already “tried everything they can possibly buy over-the-counter," she said. Chief among the options: supplements containing melatonin, a hormone that is produced in the body and influences sleep. “What I've noticed about melatonin use is that it is going up, and during the covid pandemic, usage has gone up dramatically," said Martin, president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Researchers have documented an increase in sleep-related problems since the pandemic began, and more than half of American adults surveyed in a Casper-Gallup study in January reported using some kind of sleep aid, with 11 percent turning to nonmedicinal products such as melatonin or tea. But Martin and other sleep experts are concerned that many people are taking melatonin out of the mistaken belief that it will help them fall sleep faster. Instead, the experts say, there's not enough strong evidence that supplemental melatonin is an effective sleep aid for chronic insomnia, and there is some risk that taking it improperly may exacerbate, rather than help, sleep issues. The Washington PostExternal Link

    USAFRICOM

    Low funding, COVID-19 curtail tuberculosis fight in Africa

    24 March- Inadequate investment and funding for tuberculosis (TB) control in Africa is jeopardizing the efforts to meet the global target of ending the disease by 2030, while the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back progress made so far in the continent, an assessment by World Health Organization (WHO) finds. Every year the African region requires at least US$ 1.3 billion for TB prevention and treatment. However, countries contribute 22% of the needed budget while external funding accounts for 34%. The rest of the budget remains unfunded, seriously undermining the efforts to eliminate the disease. This year, World TB Day is being marked under the theme “Invest to end TB. Save Lives." Underfunding for TB programmes has a significant impact on disease detection, for example. Out of an estimated 2.5 million TB cases in 2020 in Africa, only 1.4 million were detected and put on treatment. On average, 56% of cases were detected and enrolled on treatment between 2015 and 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has also slowed progress against TB. Globally, deaths from TB rose for the first time in a decade. Africa reported 549 000 deaths in 2020, an increase of around 2000 over 2019. The number of newly detected TB cases also fell in high burden African countries due to disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic on health services. Gabon reported the steepest decline, with the number of newly detected cases falling by 80% in 2020 from the year before. Botswana reported a 20% decline and Lesotho 35%. Additionally, 28% fewer patients with drug-resistant TB were detected in Africa in 2020 compared with the previous year. In South Africa, which detects the largest number of drug-resistant TB cases in the continent, 48% fewer people with the drug-resistant strain were detected in 2020 compared with 2019. “Tuberculosis is preventable and treatable, and millions of lives have been saved. We must end the chronic underinvestment that keeps the tuberculosis burden high, leaves a huge number of cases undetected and undermines prevention and treatment," said Dr.Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Africa has so far made good progress against tuberculosis and we cannot afford to lose focus on what is needed to ease the burden and save lives." The African region is home to 17 of the 30 high-burden TB countries globally. The estimated 2.5 million cases in the region in 2020 accounted for a quarter of the global burden, with more than half a million African lives sadly lost to this curable and preventable disease. However, African countries have made progress against TB. South Africa, for example, has steadily increased domestic funding to fight tuberculosis, allocating 81% of the financial resources, while Zambia has increased its domestic funding seven-fold since 2015. Under the WHO End TB Strategy, countries should aim to reduce TB cases by 80% and cut deaths by 90% by 2030 compared with 2015. The strategy also sets key milestones that countries should cross by 2020 and 2025 if they are to end the disease. WHOExternal Link

    USCENTCOM

    MERS coronavirus case confirmed in Qatar

    28 March- Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) declared that a case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has been confirmed. The case is a male resident aged 50 years. The patient has been admitted to the hospital to receive the necessary medical care in accordance with the national protocol to deal with confirmed or suspected cases of the disease. He had direct contact with camels. All the contacts of the patient are free of symptoms and will be monitored for 14 days as per the national protocols. Ministry of Public Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, is taking all necessary preventive and precautionary measures to control the disease and prevent it from spreading.MERS is a viral respiratory disease that is caused by one of the coronaviruses (MERS-CoV), but it differs from the novel Coronavirus known as (COVID19). Both viruses differ in terms of the source of infection, mode of transmission, and the disease severity. The Ministry of Public Health calls on all members of public, and especially people with chronic diseases or those with immunodeficiency disorders, to adhere to public hygiene measures. This includes washing the hands regularly with water and soap, using hand sanitizers, as well as avoiding close contact with camels and seeking medical advice when experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at the end of February 2022, a total of 2585 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), including 890 associated deaths (case-fatality ratio of 34.4%) were reported globally. The majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2184 cases) including 812 related deaths (CFR 37.2%). Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USEUCOM

    German health minister urges EU to clear 2nd booster for elderly

    29 March- Germany's health minister said on Tuesday he would urge the European Union to back a fourth COVID-19 shot for people over the age of 60 years to boost immunity in the absence of vaccines that specifically protect against the Omicron variant. Pointing to data from Israel, minister Karl Lauterbach said a recommendation was "urgently necessary" to reduce the risk of death from an infection and that he would raise the issue at a meeting of health ministers in Brussels on Tuesday. EU regulator the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on March 17 that there was not yet enough data to support a recommendation on the need for a second booster shot in the general population, while acknowledging that some member states had started such a campaign targeting the elderly. EMA added at the time that it was hoping for more data to guide a review later in the spring. A study from Israel showed on Sunday that senior citizens who received a second booster of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination had a 78% lower mortality rate from the disease than those who had only one. ReutersExternal Link

    USINDOPACOM

    South Korea's omicron surge has likely peaked, officials say

    28 March- South Korea's daily average of new COVID-19 cases declined last week for the first time in more than two months, but the number of critically ill patients and deaths will likely continue to rise amid the omicron-driven outbreak, officials said Monday. South Korea reported an average of about 350,000 new cases last week, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday. It was the first drop in the weekly average in 11 weeks, KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said. The current outbreak has likely peaked and is expected to trend downward, Jeong said citing expert studies. But new cases in South Korea will likely drop slowly because of relaxed social distancing rules, an expansion of in-person school classes and rising infections due to the coronavirus mutant widely known as “stealth omicron," she said. The number of virus patients in serious or critical condition and fatalities are also expected to keep rising for now, Jeong said. Experts say these counts often trail about two weeks behind the evolution of case counts. Ap NewsExternal Link

    USNORTHCOM

    U.S.: Avian flu expands to Minnesota poultry, flocks in other states

    28 March- Minnesota reported its first highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks, affecting flocks in three counties, as three more states—Colorado, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania—reported their first detections in waterfowl. Also, four earlier affected states reported more outbreaks in poultry, part of activity involving the Eurasian H5N1 strain. The development in Minnesota lifts the number of states reporting poultry outbreaks in 2022 to 18. So far, the outbreaks have led to the loss of about 14.4 million birds. In a Mar 26 announcement, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said one Minnesota outbreak occurred at a commercial turkey farm in Meeker County, located about 67 miles west of Minneapolis. The second outbreak struck a backyard flock in Mower County, located in southeastern Minnesota on the Iowa border. In addition, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) reported a third outbreak at a turkey farm in Stearns County, which neighbors Meeker County to the north. So far, the outbreaks have affected 313,017 birds, of which 289,000 were at the Meeker County farm. The outbreaks are Minnesota's first highly pathogenic events since 2015. Minnesota officials said that, in the Meeker County outbreak, farm operators noticed an increase in turkey deaths and depression symptoms. They added that the Mower County farmer also notice an increase in deaths in the backyard flock, which included chickens, ducks, and geese. CIDRAPExternal Link

    USSOUTHCOM

    El Salvador: State of emergency after 62 gang killings in a day

    28 March- El Salvador's parliament has approved a state of emergency after the Central American country recorded dozens of gang-related murders in a single day. Police said there had been 62 murders on Saturday, making it the most violent 24-hour period since the end of the civil war in 1992. New laws restrict the right to gather, allow arrests without a warrant and the monitoring of communications. Last year, the gang-plagued nation recorded 1,140 murders - a 30-year low. However, that still equates to 18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In November, another spate of violence led to more than 40 people being killed within three days. Hours before MPs voted on the new powers, which will remain in place for 30 days, police said four leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang had been arrested over the spate of killings. President Nayib Bukele, elected in 2019 on promises to fight organized crime and improve security, said: "We have had a new spike in homicides, something that we had worked so hard to reduce. "While we fight criminals in the streets, we must try to figure out what is happening and who is financing this." BBCExternal Link​​