As Rangers face isolation and stress, Army Chaplain goes to new lengths to reach them
24 May- Army Ranger Chaplain Maj. Jon Knoedler walks across a narrow beam 35 feet above Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia, to offer perspective to soldiers wrestling with the uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. During one of his Midweek Minute videos, he compares the height of the beam to the stress that the virus has injected into the lives of troops and their families. "Whenever you raise something that high off the ground, caution, fear, angst, stress, tension and body shakes can wreak havoc," said the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade chaplain. "Even the toughest person, given abnormal circumstances, can freeze under pressure." But in a steady, guiding voice, Knoedler reminds listeners to remember past tests that have shaped them as soldiers. "Be confident in your abilities; you can do this," he said. "When you get to the point where you are about to break, take a deep breath and take one more step, even a small one." Knoedler has made seven weekly videos so far, each presented in a nonsecular tone designed to relate the challenges of living under the restrictions of the pandemic to mental hurdles that many soldiers have experienced. One is set on a land navigation course to drive home the experience of being lost in the woods, while another features Knoedler with a snake wrapped around his hand as he emphasizes the importance of "taming the tongue" to avoid the temptation to say hurtful things to loved ones during this time of heightened stress. "A lot of my job is just walking around and being with soldiers and being with people. But during this time, it has been harder because there are so many restrictions," he told Military.com this month. "I think this is one way that kind of opens the envelope for more conversations." Knoedler, 48, joined the Army as a chaplain in 2005 after working as a pastor for 10 years in Oregon. Over the past 15 years, he has embraced struggle and grappled with doubt, he said.
More than 1,300 Veterans given hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19
23 May- Roughly 1,300 patients at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities have received hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 since late March, according to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, this week, Wilkie said that, between Feb. 1 and April 23, the VA purchased more than 6.3 million tablets of the antimalarial drug, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late March on an emergency use basis to treat the novel coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and the VA dispenses roughly 1 million pills of it a month for those conditions, according to Wilkie. The secretary said the VA purchased such a vast amount to ensure that it had a sufficient supply for patients with those diseases, as well as those with COVID-19. "During this tracked time period, VA used about 18,000 of the tablets for COVID-19, which equates to .28%," he wrote. Wilkie's letter was a response to Schumer's request May 10 that the VA explain its bulk purchases of the medication and use to treat veterans with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine has been widely touted as a treatment by President Donald Trump, who admitted this week that he has taken it as a prophylaxis to prevent infection. Schumer said he and several veterans groups have concerns about the use of the medication on VA patients, many of whom are older and have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to the drug's most severe side effect, a disruption of regular heart rhythms. "Veterans' groups remain deeply concerned that the VA has made large purchases of this drug and appears to have administered it to veterans despite the well-known, and in some cases, fatal risks," he wrote Wilkie. On Friday, after receiving Wilkie's response, he blasted the VA for not disclosing the outcomes of the 1,300 veterans who took the medication and failing to say where it plans to conduct additional research on hydroxychloroquine.
Push is on to get National Guard troops on coronavirus duty health care help once their missions end
26 May- With less than a month before orders expire for National Guard troops responding to the coronavirus pandemic, advocates are pushing lawmakers to ensure their health care needs are covered even after the missions are over. On Tuesday, officials from the National Guard Association of the United States pressed Congress to act quickly on pending legislation that would provide Guardsmen and their families with six months of Tricare coverage after they leave federal Title 32 active duty. “These soldiers and airmen are on the front lines of our nation's worst public health crisis in more than a century,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of NGAUS, in a statement. “It would be unconscionable to send them home to their families without medical coverage.” Under current law, guardsmen on federal orders for more than 30 days have access to the military’s Tricare medical system while on duty. Their families are also covered while their missions are active. In addition, those troops and dependents receive transitional medical care for six months after an overseas assignments, to help ensure that any post-deployment health issues are handled. But under current law, domestic missions do not enjoy the same six-month extension. "Active-component personnel coming off the same front lines have that coverage, and rightly so," Robinson said. "All we are asking is that we treat Guardsmen the same way." Last week, Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., introduced the Support our National Guard Act in the House, which would provide the six-month extended coverage following the coronavirus deployments.
As states begin to reopen, blood banks brace for surge in demand
22 May- Tanise Martin had not been able to shake a feeling of helplessness since the pandemic began its deadly march through her community, which has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus. So when she learned about a blood bank just a few miles from her apartment in Prince George's County, Martin decided to volunteer. The six hours she spent at the Seat Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department in early May, when Maryland law enforcement officer Kendal Wade and the American Red Cross teamed up to host a blood drive, made Martin feel proud for the first time in months. "I know how important it is to stay at home right now, but I am just so happy I can finally help," said Martin, 27, who has been unable to teach her preschool students online. "Every time someone was able to give blood, I felt like celebrating." While scores of blood drives were canceled amid the initial shock of the novel coronavirus outbreak in March, donation centers have since managed to recruit and sustain a steady flow of donors and volunteers such as Martin. But the capacity to generate donations will be tested in the coming weeks, as elective surgeries resume across the country and demand grows for convalescent plasma — a component of blood from previously infected individuals used in coronavirus treatments. "As surgeries open up, we are putting that cry out to get donors," said Erin Goodhue, executive medical director for the American Red Cross. "We want everyone to know that we have put protocols in place to keep people safe."
The Washington Post
A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic
26 May- A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic. When asked questions normally used to screen patients for mental health problems, 24 percent showed clinically significant symptoms of major depressive disorder and 30 percent showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. The findings suggest a huge jump from before the pandemic. For example, on one question about depressed mood, the percentage reporting such symptoms was double that found in a 2014 national survey. The troubling statistics were released last week in a tranche of data from the Census Bureau. The agency launched an emergency weekly survey of U.S. households at the end of April to measure the pandemic’s effects on employment, housing, finances, education and health. In the most recent data release, 1 million households were contacted between May 7 and 12, and more than 42,000 responded. Buried within that 20-minute survey, U.S. officials included four questions taken nearly word-for-word from a form used by doctors to screen patients for depression and anxiety. Those answers provide a real-time window into the country’s collective mental health after three months of fear, isolation, soaring unemployment and continuing uncertainty. New York, which had the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country, ranked 12th nationwide in terms of share of adults showing symptoms. Nearly half of Mississippians screened positive for anxiety or depression — a staggering number. By contrast, in Iowa, just over a quarter screened positive.
The Washington Post
For in-person college, coronavirus testing will be key
22 May- The coronavirus test wasn't as bad as Celeste Torres imagined. Standing outside a dorm at the University of California, San Diego, Torres stuck a swab up a nostril, scanned a QR code, and went on with the day. "The process itself was about five minutes," Torres says, "I did cry a little bit just because it's, I guess, a natural reaction." Torres hadn't been exhibiting symptoms, and didn't end up testing positive. Rather, they are a data point, part of a mass testing effort at UC San Diego to make sure an in-person fall semester is possible. "We're not trying to test to see if we can detect an outbreak right now," explains Dr. Robert Schooley, a virologist and professor of medicine, who is helping lead the project. "We're trying to make sure that we can scale to be able to do that in the fall." Getting colleges and universities going is the main goal for leaders across the country — and it will remain so over the next several months. The CDC released guidance on reopening higher institutions this week, and almost daily now, colleges are releasing their own plans for how they intend to open with students on-campus come fall. For many schools, part of the plan includes testing for SARS-CoV-2. "We're at the stage when every college and university president is acutely aware that if they open in the fall, they will need a testing regime," says Terry Hartle, of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,700 higher education groups, including colleges. "What they haven't figured out yet is where they'll get the tests, what the regime will look like and what the protocols will be. But those are things that they are thinking about every single day." At UC San Diego, there are about 5,000 students currently living in dorms on campus; many were unable to return home this spring. Starting last week, Schooley and his collaborators are asking students to voluntarily test, so they can see if their modeling and protocol for fall will work. They're hoping to scale up when the campus returns to full capacity — about 30,000 undergrad students — aiming to test about 70 to 75% of the community every month. Along the way they're learning valuable lessons: Wi-Fi at testing spots needs to be strong in order to link students' ID numbers to the code on the sample. Posting up outside a dorm at 7 a.m. isn't a great time to get a lot of students. And students are really freaked out about that swab; they'd much prefer a saliva test.
Research finds concerning drop in U.S. colorectal cancer screenings and surgeries
27 May- New diagnoses of one of the deadliest cancers fell by one-third in March and April as U.S. physicians and patients halted appointments and screenings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Research by the health data firm Komodo Health and exclusively shared with Reuters found new colorectal cancer diagnoses declined more than 32%, while the number of performed colonoscopies and biopsies fell by nearly 90% from mid-March to mid-April, compared with the same period last year. Colorectal cancer surgeries were down by 53%. The findings are particularly alarming because colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Screenings have shown to be critical in curbing the disease. Since 1970, screenings helped to reduce death rates by over 50%, according to the Society. If colorectal cancer is found early, the five-year survival rate is near 90%. The drop in surgeries suggests many patients who were newly diagnosed with colon cancer postponed procedures, enhancing their risk that the cancer could progress as the shelter-in-place orders that swept the nation in March shuttered health facilities and as patients avoided in-person appointments due to fear of contracting the virus. Medical facilities are slowly reopening, but wait times to reschedule appointments may extend into the summer and fall.
Skipping medical care amid coronavirus a troubling pandemic byproduct
27 May- Almost half of American adults delayed or skipped medical care amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Since March, hospitals nationwide postponed or canceled non-emergency surgeries and elective procedures. Concerns among medical staff in emergency rooms grew in the last several months as far fewer patients rushed in due to strokes and heart attacks, possibly due to fear of infection. Some primary care practices closed amid the crisis, making it difficult for patients to receive non-coronavirus medical care. Of the 48 percent of adults who skipped medical care, 11 percent reported a worsening in their or a family member’s condition, according to the data. Health care systems in the U.S. are creeping toward reopening of non-emergency procedures however, and among poll participants who deferred care, almost all say they expect to receive the delayed care — with 68 percent reporting to get care within the next three months.
Stay-home orders likely slowed COVID-19 spread, study finds
26 May- After 42 US states and Washington, DC, issued stay-at-home orders in response to the rising death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall community infection rate declined by about 58%, according to a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control. The researchers, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, used state government websites and case counts from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to model the effects of mandatory social isolation on virus mitigation. They found that the community infection rate dropped from 12% more cases each day (indicating that cases were doubling every 5 or 6 days) to 5% (indicating that cases were doubling every 14 days) after the states locked down starting Mar 19 to Apr 7. The logged infection rate—a measure of the slope of the curve and hence of how fast cases are increasing—declined from 0.113 per day (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.110 to 0.115) to 0.047 (95% CI, 0.045 to 0.048) per day. The results were consistent across states. A sensitivity analysis to determine whether the rate of infection would have differed if orders were issued before or after Apr 1 found little difference. Stay-at-home orders were defined as state-level orders that resulted in closure of nonessential businesses and furloughing of most government and commercial employees, prohibited large public events and gatherings, and disallowed travel unless it was for necessities such as food and healthcare. The eight states that haven't issued such orders were excluded from the study.
Study claims dine-in restaurants are super-spreaders of coronavirus
27 May- A study analyzed nearly a million restaurants, fast-food chains, and hotels in eight U.S. states and found these businesses are super-spreaders of the coronavirus. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Pennsylvania probed on coronavirus transmission in 918,094 businesses in eight states. The study is published by Medrix, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The study covered COVID-19 cases by county between Jan. 22 and May 22 and compared the data with pre-pandemic consumer behavior surveys. Researchers looked at the 2018 American Community Survey from the United States Census Bureau that looked at Americans' frequency of visits to businesses and the average length of stay. The study found that the risk of coronavirus spreading was five times higher in these businesses as they are densely-packed with people who linger for a long period at close range. Although the research is still not yet vetted by other researchers, people in the U.S. dine out for up to four times a week, so the country has become the coronavirus center of the world. New York and California are the two most populated states in the U.S. with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, with 367,000 and 97,000, respectively. Similarly, California has the most restaurants with 87,225, followed by New York with 58,027. Among the 918,094 establishments in 187 counties studied, the researchers identified 156,307 individual businesses as super-spreaders. With these duper-spreading businesses, 116,605 were dine-in restaurants, 26,196 were limited-service restaurants, such as delis, fast food chains, and takeaways, and 13,432 were hotels and motels. A "super-spreader" is an incident in which a COVID-19 patient infects a high number of people. In this case, these restaurants have become the venue for the coronavirus outbreaks in these cities. The study was published as about 38 states have already allowed the reopening of restaurants plans or planning to do so. Most states have only allowed restaurants to operate at 25% to 50% capacity with tables six feet apart. Researchers warned the public of a second wave of the epidemic and more deaths if governments do not apply strict restrictions when these establishments reopen.
The meat industry is trying to get back to normal- Workers are still getting sick and shortages may get worse
25 May- Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the United States, has transformed its facilities across the country since legions of its workers started getting sick from the novel coronavirus. It has set up on-site medical clinics, screened employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, required the use of facial coverings, installed plastic dividers between stations and taken a host of other steps to slow the spread. Despite those efforts, the number of Tyson employees with covid-19 has exploded from under 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today, according to a Washington Post analysis of news reports and public records. What has happened at Tyson — and the meat industry overall — shows how difficult getting the nation back to normal is, even in essential fields such as food processing. Meat companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars — on everything from protective gear to paid leave to ventilation systems — since they were forced to shut dozens of plants that were among the top covid-19 hot spots outside of cities. But the industry has still experienced a surge in cases, and some of the companies say they are limited in just how much they can keep workers separated from one another. Only a portion of the industry's labor force has gone back to work — some workers kept away on purpose — and the nation's meat supply remains deeply strained as barbecue season gets underway. A May report from CoBank, which specializes in serving rural America, warns meat supplies in grocery stores could shrink as much as 35 percent, prices could spike 20 percent and the impact could become even "more acute later this year" as the knock-on effects on the U.S. agriculture supply chain are felt. Grocery stores have been able to partially meet consumer demand thanks to meat already in the supply chain in March, when the pandemic broke out, but the report said those supplies were quickly being used up. The prospect of long-term shortages is giving rise to an intensifying debate about whether the industry should reopen faster or safety should be prioritized, even at the cost of the nation's food supply.
The Washington Post
When can you be around others? CDC updates coronavirus guidance
27 May- People who have been sick with coronavirus infections should stay away from other people until they've gone at least three days with no fever, have seen symptoms improve, and until it's been 10 days since they first noticed symptoms, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidance. The CDC updated guidance on when it's safe to leave quarantine, as well as some consumer-friendly guidance on using public transit and ride shares as states loosen restrictions on opening schools, businesses and leaving home. People who have been infected need to be sure they won't spread the virus, even if they feel better, the CDC advised. "Depending on your healthcare provider's advice and availability of testing, you might get tested to see if you still have Covid-19. If you will be tested, you can be around others when you have no fever, symptoms have improved, and you receive two negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart," the CDC said in the new guidance.
Will suicides rise because of COVID-19?
22 May- When the pandemic seized New York, Dr. Lorna Breen, a 49-year-old emergency room doctor who worked at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, found herself in the trenches alongside physicians toiling through 18-hour days and sleeping in hospital hallways. When Breen contracted COVID-19 herself, she took a week and a half off, only to suffer from exhaustion once she went back to work. Her family brought her to stay with them in Virginia, where Breen seemed detached, according to her father. She was also deeply disturbed, he said, after witnessing so much death and suffering of patients. On the last Sunday in April, Breen was rushed to the hospital with self-inflicted injuries, and later pronounced dead. "Make sure she's praised as a hero, because she was," her father, Dr. Philip Breen, told The New York Times. "She's a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died." COVID-19 has been associated with other suicides that drew widespread media attention, including a German state finance minister who appears to have taken his own life while worried about economic disaster, a British teenager distressed by social distancing measures, and an Italian nurse who feared spreading the virus to other people. One county in Washington state reported a surge in deaths by suicide, mostly of men in their 30s and 40s, since the outbreak began. Researchers fear the phenomenon could become more widespread: In a commentary published last month in medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry, an international group of suicide experts advocated "urgent consideration" to prevent a rise in suicide rates, especially as COVID-19 – and its devastating economic impact – drag on for months. "These are unprecedented times," the authors wrote. "The pandemic will cause distress and leave many people vulnerable to mental health problems and suicidal behavior."
CDC: Flu View - Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report
Key Updates for Week 20, ending May 16, 2020: Laboratory confirmed flu activity as reported by clinical laboratories remains low. Influenza-like illness activity continues to decrease and is below the national baseline. The percent of deaths due to pneumonia or influenza (P&I) is decreasing but remains elevated, primarily due to COVID-19, not influenza. Reported pediatric flu deaths for the season are high at 176.
WHO: Influenza Update
11 May 2020 - Update number 367, based on data up to 26 April 2020:
-The current influenza surveillance data should be interpreted with caution as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might have influenced to varying extents health seeking behaviors, staffing/routines in sentinel sites, as well as testing priorities and capacities in Member States. The various hygiene and physical distancing measures implemented by Member States to reduce SARS-CoV2 virus transmission might also have played a role in interrupting influenza virus transmission.
-Globally, influenza activity appeared to be at lower levels than expected for this time of the year. In the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere a sharp decline of influenza activity was observed in recent weeks while in the temperate zones of the southern hemisphere, the influenza season has not started yet.
-In the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, influenza activity was low overall. A marked overall increase in excess all-cause mortality was seen across the countries of the EuroMOMO network.
-In the Caribbean and Central American countries, severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) activity continued to be reported though decreased in most of the countries. Influenza virus detections remained low.
-In tropical South American countries, influenza detections were low.
-In tropical Africa, there were no or low influenza detections across most reporting countries.
-In Southern Asia, influenza like illness (ILI) and SARI activity decreased in Bhutan and Nepal.
-In South East Asia, low influenza detections were reported in Thailand.
-In the temperate zones of the southern hemisphere, influenza activity remained at inter-seasonal levels overall.
-Worldwide, seasonal influenza A viruses accounted for the majority of detections.
Continuing consumer complaints spur Conagra to recall more Healthy Choice meals
23 May- Conagra Brands is recalling more than 270,000 pounds of Healthy Choice brand chicken and turkey bowl products because of consumer complaints about rocks in the products. The recall follows an initial recall on April 20 when Conagra recalled more than 130,000 pounds of similar products that have different date and production codes. As of the posting of the recall notice Friday night no illnesses or injuries had been confirmed in relation to the implicated products. “The problem was discovered when the firm received additional consumer complaints about rocks being in the products and the firm then notified FSIS of the issue,” according to the recall posted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.” The scope of the April 20 recall is being expanded to include products produced at two different plants. Conagra reported the items were shipped to retail locations nationwide in the United States and exported to Canada. The recall now includes Healthy Choice Power Bowls Chicken Feta & Farro Bowls, Healthy Choice Power Bowls Unwrapped Burrito Scramble Power Bowls, and Healthy Choice Power Bowls Turkey Sausage & Egg Scramble Power Bowls produced on various dates.
Food Safety News
Food poisoning in Hong Kong linked to unlicensed producer
25 May- Authorities in Hong Kong have linked cases of food poisoning to a suspected unlicensed food factory in the country. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reported 27 people were sick and five needed hospital treatment after eating sandwiches bought from the same shop. Initially, two suspected food poisoning clusters affecting seven people were reported. The first cluster involved four females aged 6 to 54. They developed gastroenteritis symptoms including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and fever about eight to 12 hours after consuming sandwiches purchased from a shop in Tsuen Wan on the same day. The second cluster was three females aged 5 to 34, who developed similar symptoms about seven to 14 hours after eating sandwiches of the same brand. All those affected sought medical consultation but none required hospitalization and they are now in a stable condition. CHP later identified nine more clusters of suspected food poisoning related to the sandwiches. They involved five males and 15 females aged 1 to 68. People developed gastroenteritis symptoms about four to 43 hours after consuming the sandwiches between May 18 and 21. A total of 16 people sought medical consultation and five required hospitalization but are now in a stable condition. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) urged the public not to consume the sandwiches concerned, regardless of batches and types. Trade was also told to stop using or selling the products if they have it in their possession.
Food Safety News
Radhuni Curry Powder recalled due to Salmonella risk, distributed in NYC
24 May- Maspeth, NY company, New Hoque and Sons, Inc., announced Thursday they were recalling Radhuni Curry Powder, contained in 400g plastic bottles, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Radhuni Curry Powder was distributed in New York City, New York, including grocery stores in Jamaica, Jackson Heights, and the Bronx. The product was distributed to grocery stores between 4/17/2020 and 4/21/2020. They were then physically removed from the stores on 5/14/2020. The product is labeled "Radhuni Curry Powder". The product is contained in 400g clear, plastic bottles, with an expiration date of 01/02/2022, which can be found printed on the side of the container. No illnesses have been reported to date.
Outbreak News Today
The health benefits of yerba mate
26 May- Mate is a traditional South American beverage drink that is brewed from the leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant, a tree that belongs to the holly family. It’s widely consumed in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, where the mate tree is indigenous. You’ll also find mate as an ingredient in energy drinks or in the herbal tea section of your local health food store. There are many impressive health benefits attributed to drinking yerba mate (or mate, for short), including:
-Enhanced sports performance
But before you get too excited about this new miracle brew, most of the benefits attributed to mate are available from any caffeinated beverage. There’s no question that caffeine stimulates the nervous system, resulting in great alertness and reduced fatigue. The impact of mate on weight and fat loss is likely to be relatively minor—especially compared to the impact of your food and movement choices. Similarly, expect only incremental effects on your athletic performance. It might help you go a little longer or move a little faster, but mate will not turn a weekend jogger into an Olympic runner.
Ethiopia: Reports 7 suspected Guinea worm cases
27 May- In a follow-up on a post from April, officials in Ethiopia are reporting at least seven suspected human cases of dracunculiasis, or Guinea worm infections, in recent weeks. The cases come from Duli village, Gog district in the Gambella region. The last cases in Ethiopia were reported in December 2017. Worm specimens from all the suspected cases have been collected and are ready for shipment to the US Centers for Disease Control laboratory for confirmation. Morphologically, all specimens are consistent with Dracunculus medinensis.
Outbreak News Today
South Africa: COVID-19 update- Mponeng gold mine closed, don't neglect malaria
24 May- South African health officials reported an additional 1240 COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the country total to 22,583- the most cases in Africa. Western Cape province has reported 2/3s of the cases with 14,470, followed by Gauteng (2773) and Eastern Cape (2690). 22 additional death were also recorded, giving South Africa a total death toll of 429- less than both Algeria and Egypt.
Mponeng gold mine closed: The BBC reports, the world's deepest gold mine, the Mponeng gold mine, has been closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19. At least 164 cases were detected there since reopening last month after a national lockdown in March. AngloGold Ashanti, the mine's owners, said that 650 workers had been tested after a first case was detected last week. Most of those who tested positive were not showing any symptoms. They have all been put into isolation.
Don't neglect malaria: Jaishree Raman, with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases warns that the fight againsy malaria should not take a backseat to COVID-19. Efforts to achieve the elimination of malaria has been weakened by governments shifting resources from malaria control and elimination initiatives to the fight against COVID-19 and now things have got worse. Catharina Boehme is the chief executive of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO). She reported that financial incentives have encouraged many companies to dramatically downscale – or even stop – the production of tests for a number of infectious diseases, including malaria. Instead, they are now focusing on the mass production of novel tests for COVID-19.
Outbreak News Today
Qatar: Makes COVID-19 app mandatory, experts question efficiency
26 May- Qatar is turning to technology to help contain the coronavirus. Although the country has only seen 23 confirmed deaths to date, its infection rate remains stubbornly high, with more than 40,000 people infected amid a population of roughly 2.8 million. The new Ehteraz app is seen by government officials as the latest salvo in its attempts to curb the transmission of the virus. Starting late last week, citizens and residents have been required to have the Ehteraz contact-tracing app installed on mobile devices when leaving their homes, allowing the government to track if the user has been in touch with an infected person. Not having the app installed could lead to a maximum fine of $55,000 or three years in prison. But the announcement, days before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, led users to raise privacy concerns as the app requires access to files on the phone and permanent use of its GPS and Bluetooth for location tracking. In response, a government spokesperson told Al Jazeera that user data would be safe and accessible only to health professionals. The government has asserted that other agencies, such as law enforcement, cannot access personal data on the app, and any data collected would be deleted after two months.
Russia: COVID-19 update, 1st case reported in a cat
26 May- The Russian Ministry of Health has reported through May 26, 362,342 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 3,807 deaths. Some 131,000 people have recovered from their illness. More than 9 million tests for the virus have been performed. The city of Moscow has reported 169,303 cases, followed by the Moscow region (35,163) and St. Petersburg (14,076). The Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Murashko addressed the 73rd World Health Assembly recently saying, “The set of measures being implemented by the Russian Federation prevented the explosive spread of COVID-19 within the country. “For this, broad anti-epidemic measures were taken – a day-off regime lasting one and a half months was introduced and large-scale population testing was organized – more than 150 thousand tests are carried out daily and they increase daily. A mass information campaign has been organized.“ To provide timely medical care, over 1.4 million specialists were quickly retrained, more than 130 thousand specialized medical beds were deployed, including those with intensive care, medical personnel are provided with personal protective equipment, although at the initial stage we experienced difficulties. “The measures taken allowed to achieve one of the lowest mortality rates. “Test systems are being produced in Russia, there are more than 20 of them today. Full-cycle drugs are being developed that are already available for clinical practice. Intensive work is underway on vaccines for the immunoprophylaxis of the disease, a clinical trial is scheduled to begin in a month. Dr. Nikolay Vlasov, Deputy Head, Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, Ministry of Agriculture in Moscow reported a case of SARS-CoV-2 in a cat, the first such documented case in Russia.
Outbreak News Today
Ukrain: Botulism reported in couple, linked to smoked fish
25 May- The Ukrainian Information Service reports two cases of foodborne botulism in the Podolsky district of the Odessa region. According to the report, five people had the meal of smoked fish, home-cooked silver carp, in which a husband and wife couple contracted the intoxication. The status of the patients is not reported. Laboratory diagnosis was confirmed by the Odessa Regional Laboratory Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. Food borne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food. Food borne botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the toxin. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known. Outbreak News Today
Australia: Victoria hepatitis A, Melbourne café salmonella outbreak
26 May- Victoria Health Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr. Angie Bone issued a health advisory Friday due to an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Victoria affecting predominantly people who use drugs, as well as people experiencing homelessness. As of 6 May 2020, there have been 56 confirmed cases and 6 possible cases of hepatitis A associated with the outbreak since July 2019. To control the outbreak in Victoria, a hepatitis A vaccination program targeting people who use drugs as well as people experiencing homelessness is available until 31 August 2020. As both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are highly prevalent among people who inject drugs, hepatitis B vaccine should also be offered and screening for both conditions considered. People who positive for hepatitis B, C should be encouraged to commence treatment. All adults who use drugs (especially people who inject drugs) or are experiencing homelessness are strongly encouraged to get a free single-dose hepatitis A vaccination from their GP clinic that provides specialized services to people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness or from the mobile outreach service. People who use drugs are advised not to share or re-use consumption equipment. For people who inject drugs this included needles, spoons, swabs, water, or any other injecting equipment. Sterile injecting equipment is available for free across Victoria.
Outbreak News Today
Japan: COVID-19- Plans to fully lift the state of emergency in Tokyo
24 May- As of Sunday, 16,550 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Japan, including 820 deaths. Last Thursday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the partial lifting of the state of emergency in much of Japan. "Based upon the assessment by the experts on the current situation such as the epidemiological situation and medical treatment structure in accordance with the formulated criteria, we have decided to lift the declaration of the state of emergency in the prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo in the Kansai region."
Outbreak News Today
Mexico City: COVID-19 death toll nears 2,000
25 May- Mexico health officials reported an additional 2,764 COVID-19 cases on Sunday and a record 3,329 additional cases on Saturday, bringing the total cases in the country to 68,620. More than 400 COVID-19 related deaths were reported over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 7,394. Almost 70% of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Mexico since the start of the pandemic have now recovered, about 20% currently have the disease and 10.8% died. Mexico City has seen the most deaths reporting 1,963. This is followed by the State of Mexico and Baja California. Despite the rising numbers, Mexico's goverment said on Friday it had the coronavirus outbreak under control.
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U.S.: Texas- Vesicular stomatitis confirmed on more Texas premises
24 May- Texas animal health officials reported receiving four new reports of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) in equine and cattle– Hudspeth County, Kerr County, McMullen County and Zapata County. The VSV-infected animals have been isolated on their individual premises and are being monitored by their veterinarians. The four premises will remain under Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) quarantine until 14 days from the onset of lesions in the last affected animal on each premises. The United States 2020 VSV outbreak began on April 13, 2020, when NVSL confirmed the first VSV-positive premises in New Mexico. Since that time, VSV has been confirmed in Arizona and Texas. The first case of VSV in Texas was confirmed in an El Paso County horse. Since that time, the virus has been confirmed in Kerr, Hudspeth, McMullen, Starr, and Zapata counties. VSV is a viral disease which primarily affects horses, but can also affect cattle, sheep, goats, swine, llamas and alpacas. The disease is characterized by fever and the formation of blister-like lesions in the mouth and on the dental pad, tongue, lips, nostrils, ears, hooves and teats. Infected animals may refuse to eat and drink, which can lead to weight loss. Vesicular stomatitis can be painful for infected animals and costly to their owners. Humans can also become infected with the disease when handling affected animals, and can develop flu-like symptoms. The primary way the virus is transmitted is from biting insects like black flies, sand flies and midges. Owners should institute aggressive measures to reduce flies and other insects where animals are housed. VSV can also be spread by nose-to-nose contact between animals. The virus itself usually runs its course in five to seven days, and it can take up to an additional seven days for the infected animal to recover from the symptoms. Premises with animals diagnosed with VSV are quarantined until at least 14 days after the last affected animal is diagnosed. There are no USDA-approved vaccines for VSV.
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Brazil: COVID-19- 2nd most cases in the world, Trump's travel ban
25 May- Brazil's Ministry of Health is now reporting 363,211 COVID-19 cases through Sunday evening, securing the country the spot as nation with the second most cases globally. Officials say nearly 150,000 cases have recovered and death toll has risen to 22,666 (6.2% CFR). The health ministry says despite their "ranking" globally as far as cases, when considering the population parameter, per million inhabitants, among countries around the world, Brazil ranks 55th in relation to confirmed cases and 28th in terms of the number of deaths. On Sunday, US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation restricting and suspending the entry of on foreign nationals who have been to Brazil in the last 14 days into the United States.
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