Army Public Health Weekly Update, 31 December 2021

Date Published: 12/31/2021
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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 article​s 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 

    CDC updates and shortens recommended isolation and quarantine period for general population

    27 December- Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others. Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19External Link. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting maskExternal Link at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19. CDCExternal Link

    U.S. MILITARY

    Access to TRICARE online Patient Portal materials just got easier

    20 December- Last month, the Defense Health Agency announced that TRICARE Online Patient Portal (TOL PP) outreach materials will be accessible without login on TOL PP. The portal was expanded to make access of TOL PP outreach materials more accessible for patients and military medical treatment facility (MTF) administrative staff. To access, beneficiaries need to go to the pre-login pageExternal Link, click the menu icon on the top left corner and choose the Patient Portal Outreach option. TOL PP users and stakeholders may then browse information on topics such as adding attachments to a secure message, adding prescriptions without having an account, and logging onto their TOL PP account. "The TOL PP is a wealth of patient resources and I always tell our MTFs to get their patients to TOL PP to learn more about their healthcare and engaged with their providers," explained Regina Julian, DHA chief of clinical business operations and experience. TOL PP is the current secure patient portal that gives registered users access to online health care information and services at MTFs. The TOL PP team has a goal of elevating the Military Health System healthcare experience for patients. TOL PP provides patients with information across systems and initiatives to assist them with their healthcare needs. Patients may securely communicate with their provider, book appointments, fill prescriptions and review their health record data. Additionally, beneficiaries may access COVID-19 information, book COVID-19 related medical appointments and securely communicate with their provider on COVID-19 related matters. They also have access to MHS GENESIS information, and all of this information is available from a laptop or phone. "Only with a strategic view of working collaboratively with our services can we continue to deliver vital information to our patients to make their healthcare experience better," added James Copeland, SDD portfolio manager for TOL PP. Health.milExternal Link

    Behavioral Health team strengthens relationship with local resiliency resources

    2 December- Staff members with Weed Army Community Hospital's Behavioral Health Department toured several Fort Irwin resiliency resources December 2, here. Maj. Darnell Durrah, the chief of the department of behavioral health for Weed ACH, and the installation director of psychological health, arranged the tours. “We had a force multiplier tour where we went to other ready resilient agencies on the installation to learn about their full capabilities to be more equipped to offer those services to our patients," Durrah, a Compton, Calif., native, said. Ensuring the readiness of Soldiers through resources available is a priority for Durrah and his team. “Every medical appointment is a readiness appointment, and sometimes readiness goes far beyond the symptom presentation holistically, so what other resources are needed in order for this Soldier and this family to stay ready," Durrah said. “That's why it's important for medical providers in the military to understand what the resources are because at the end of the day it comes down to readiness." The Weed ACH behavioral health team met with resiliency agencies including the Army Wellness Center, Army Community Service, the post chapel, Military and Family Life Counseling, Army Substance Abuse Program, and the Ready and Resilient (R2) Performance Center. Sharon Ku, a master resilience trainer-performance expert with the R2 Performance Center, explained the purpose of the center to the staff. According to Ku, a Cerritos, Calif. native, the R2 Performance Center serves Soldiers, family members, and Department of the Army civilians by providing mental performance training to enhance and sustain personal readiness and resilience. “We work with the Fort Irwin community by creating personalized training plans and courses which are tailored to the individual and unit needs," she said. “On the performance side, our performance experts help individuals to perform more optimally and more consistently in multiple domains such as academics, athletics, or job performance." Many of the resiliency resources on Fort Irwin incorporate aspects of the Army's Performance Triad, which emphasizes the importance of health behaviors including sleep, activity, and nutrition. Durrah said if a Soldier comes in as a walk in for stress or problems sleeping, he sometimes recommends completing two or three stress classes then returning to see him. “Typically, 90% of the time the Soldiers say, 'You know what sir, I'm good, that's all that I needed'," Durrah said. The partnerships among the different resources is especially important at Fort Irwin due to its remote location in the Mojave Desert. DVIDSExternal Link

    Immunization experts are central to COVID-19 vaccine program

    20 December- On Dec. 15, 2020, David Cortez, a Defense Health Agency Immunization Health Care Division specialist, made the eight-hour drive from his home-base at Camp Pendleton, California, to the Coast Guard Station in Alameda, California. The Alameda facility was selected as one of the first launch sites for COVID-19 vaccinations across the Military Health System, or MHS. Over the course of a few days, Cortez, a retired Navy hospital corpsman, helped the professionals in Alameda become experts on the new COVID-19 vaccine products. To support the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout last year, the Immunization Healthcare Division, also known as IHD, deployed 17 specialistsExternal Link including Cortez throughout the MHS who provided guidance on procedures for handling the new vaccine products. "IHD's vaccine specialists were able to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations with care, efficiency, and professionalism," said Dr. Margaret Ryan, IHD medical director, Pacific Region Office, in San Diego. Cortez said the mission at the time carried a sense of urgency for the IHD team and others who were involved. "We knew what we were doing was important, not just for the military, but for the world," Cortez said. The work of the IHD has become an epicenter of military readiness over the past year as the Pentagon made vaccination of the active-duty force a top priority. "The world was turned upside-down as COVID-19 illness and deaths mounted, and pandemic lockdowns were imposed," Ryan recalled. "Public health professionals recognized immediately that the way forward must include COVID-19 vaccines." IHD professionals began working with federal partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in early 2020 as planning got under way for COVID-19 vaccines. "It was very intense work," Ryan said. On Dec. 11, 2020, the FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech. A week later, on Dec. 18, FDA granted similar approval for the Moderna vaccine. The military was prepared, Ryan said. "IHD had developed strategies to manage this brand new vaccine. It required storage at unprecedented ultra-cold temperatures and special handling to ensure the fragile product would be delivered to clinics and patients absolutely correctly," she explained. The division not only handles all COVID-19 vaccination matters but also the yearly influenza vaccination campaign and all other vaccination efforts across the MHS. "The division ensures that all military beneficiaries have access to vaccine products that have been preserved and handled appropriately, so their safety and effectiveness is assured," Ryan said. "IHD clinical leaders ensure that all patients – especially those with special needs, special concerns, or adverse events following immunization – receive excellent care." Health.milExternal Link

    Why I serve: 'I want to give every moment'

    22 December- Capt. Dawn D. Sellers knows she can't save the world, but prays she can at least reach a couple of Soldiers during her time here. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner has been deployed here since May working at the 3rd Medical Command's Gaining Resilience in Theater, or GRIT, Clinic here practicing battlefield acupuncture and providing supportive therapy and psychoeducation—therapeutic intervention that provides Soldiers with tools to help them heal. Sellers, a native of Mechanicsville, Virginia, said serving Soldiers in a deployed environment is helping her fulfill a purpose she didn't know she had until her son became a Soldier who needed help. A mother's love knows no bounds Sellers has been a nurse since the 90s. She went into the field right after high school so that she could provide a good life for her son, whom she'd given birth to at age 15. The captain said her son's father died when her son was 12, “right when you get to the age where you need somebody." Sellers' son struggled throughout high school without a father to guide him, and the nurse said she struggled getting him access to community programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters. “I had this bright idea—I'm like, 'you know what, he's struggled, I'm teaching how to be decent but I can't teach him how to be a man—so how about the Army,'" the captain said. “They're plenty of those in there, let's do this." Sellers encouraged her son to enlist in the National Guard so that he could be mentored, but stay close to home, and her son agreed and shipped off for basic training and advanced individual training. DVIDSExternal Link

    Will the Army Combat Fitness Test go live in April as planned?

    27 December- The Army aims to formally implement the Army Combat Fitness TestExternal Link​ — its biggest overhaul to fitness testing since 1980 — by April 2022, the service's top NCO says. There's one potential hang-up, though. Congress put the brakes on using the ACFT for promotion or career consideration and mandated an independent review of the test in the fiscal 2021 National​ Defense Authorization ActExternal Link​. Lawmakers were concerned that the new test may disadvantage women in their career paths. The RAND Corporation is conducting the review, which will likely be complete before the new year. It's the second independent review of the ACFT; the University of Iowa did one of an earlier version of the test. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said the service believes that the third version of the test, which made the plank event a permanent scored alternative to the leg tuck, will pass the review. Army TimesExternal Link

    GLOBAL

    Between Christmas and New Year's, doctors expect the U.S. Omicron surge to grow

    27 December- Covid-19 numbers keep soaring as Christmas time travelers scatter back across country and Americans prepare for another holiday weekend. The US is now averaging 198,404 new Covid-19 cases each day, according to Sunday data from Johns Hopkins University. That's is 47% higher than a week ago and the highest such number since January 19. "I think we're going to see half a million cases a day -- easy -- sometime over the next week to 10 days," CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN on Sunday. About 71,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. And an average of 1,408 Americans died from Covid-19 each day during the week ending Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins. That's a 17% increase from the prior week. With the highly contagious Omicron variant, "We're certainly going to continue to see a surge (in cases) for a while," Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Monday. Looking ahead to New Year's Eve on Friday, small gatherings of fully vaccinated people will be safe, Fauci said. But he advised people to avoid large parties where they don't know the vaccination status of all guests. "When you are talking about a New Year's Eve party where you have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating, you do not know the status of the vaccination, I would recommend strongly: Stay away from that this year," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "There will be other years to do that. But not this year." CNNExternal Link

    COVID-19 vaccine post-authorization reviews begin

    26 December- The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an articleExternal Link​ that stated, 'when Covid-19 vaccines were first authorized, regulators required post-authorization studies to tackle important uncertainties about efficacy and safety.' 'But these studies may have little practical value unless there is greater engagement and scrutiny from the broader scientific community,' argued Christof Prugger and colleagues on December 23, 2021. There is 'a long history of concerns about the wisdom of shifting clinically significant efficacy and safety assessments from before to after authorization.' The U.S. FDAExternal Link listed important remaining unknowns in its review in December 2020, such as whether Covid-19 vaccines reduce the risk of hospital admission, intensive care unit admission, severe covid-19, and mortality, as well as whether the vaccines are effective in populations at high risk of severe Covid-19.' However, 'evidence on relevant outcomes often remains inconclusive for several years, and post-authorization safety events are seen more frequently for drugs with expedited approval.' Journals also have a role in providing a place for third-party critiques and analyses of post-authorization studies. Both the scientific community and the public increasingly perceive the urgent need for independent evaluation of regulatory requirements. 'Without external scrutiny, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past—with many promises made but little follow-through.' Precision VaccinationsExternal Link

    Movano Ring: Chronic illness data monitoring wearable? FDA clearance yet to come

    28 December- Movano's Ring is a chronic illness data monitoring wearable made by the company to look into one's condition that requires constant checking for both health professionals and a personal setting. The device will soon debut at the CES 2022 and is one of the top health tech seeds of the showcase, also applying for an FDA clearance. A company called "MovanoExternal Link​" is debuting a wearable "Ring" in the CES 2022External Link event this coming January in Las Vegas, and it would bring a monitoring device for chronic illness data. The ring's design is a simple and open one so that it may fit the finger of the bearer, something that aims to be available for all ages, shapes, sizes, and many more considerations. The company will detect chronic illness by putting together data from heart rate, sleep, respiration, heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, steps, calories, and temperature. With this, Movano's app can put together certain conclusions to a person's underlying condition, and it would help advise them on the steps to take afterward. Moreover, the ring will help in giving the user more insight into what chronic illness is most likely to develop with their current health condition. Tech TimesExternal Link

    Omicron: Half of colds will be Covid, warn UK researchers

    24 December- If you have a sore throat, runny nose and a headache there is a good chance it will be Covid, warn UK researchers. The Zoe Covid study team has been tracking the pandemic using feedback from the general public, and estimates half of people with cold-like symptoms actually have Covid. They describe an "explosion" of Covid cases over the last week, driven by the new Omicron variant. About 144,000 people a day are catching it and then feeling unwell. For most, Covid is a mild disease. Some get no symptoms at all. But it can still cause very serious illness in some people, including those who have not been vaccinated. If you have cold-like symptoms, take a Covid test, says lead scientist Prof Tim Spector. "The number of new symptomatic cases has exploded over the last week," he said. "For most people, an Omicron positive case will feel much more like the common cold, starting with a sore throat, runny nose and a headache. You only need to ask a friend who has recently tested positive to find this out. BBCExternal Link

    Omicron up to 70% less likely to need hospital care

    24 December- People catching Omicron are 50% to 70% less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, a major analysis says. The UK Health Security Agency says its early findings are "encouraging" but the variant could still lead to large numbers of people in hospital. The health secretary said it was "too early" to determine "next steps". The study also shows the jab's ability to stop people catching Omicron starts to wane 10 weeks after a booster dose. Protection against severe disease is likely to be far more robust. The report comes hot on the heels of data from South Africa, Denmark, England and Scotland which all pointed to reduced severity. The latest analysis is based on all cases of Omicron and Delta in the UK since the beginning of November, including 132 people admitted to hospital with the variant. There have also been 14 deaths in people within 28 days of catching Omicron. BBC External Link

    Pfizer COVID-19 pill may not see approval for 'months' despite 'impressive' data

    19 December- The new Pfizer ​COVID-19 pillExternal Link​ may not see Emergency Use Authorization for another month as healthExternal Linkofficials continue to highlight the promising effects it may bring. Dr. Anthony FauciExternal Link praised the data presented by Pfizer regarding the COVID pillExternal Link​, which someone would take within 48 hours of showing symptoms and continue to take for three to five days. Initial trial data indicates that the pill is up to 90% effective at preventing serious illness and death, which has prompted Pfizer and officials to seek Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Under the authorization, hospitals could administer the pill for treatment in extreme cases. "If you look at that data, the data are really quite impressive," Fauci said on ABC's "This Week." "If you get an antiviral, that up to 90 percent will prevent you from going from clinically recognizable infection to blocking. You're getting to the hospital or dying in a 90 percent chance if you get treated within the first three days of the onset of symptoms." "That is big deal," he stressed, but the timeline for approval may prove frustrating. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine concluded its Phase III trials and released data on Nov. 18, 2020External Link​. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took around one month to review the data and pass the EUA on Dec. 11Fox NewsExternal Link

    INFLUENZA

    CDC: Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

    Key Updates for Week 50, ending December 18, 2021:

    -Influenza activity is increasing, with the eastern and central parts of the country seeing the largest increases and the western part of the country reporting lower levels of influenza virus circulation.

    -The majority of influenza viruses detected are A(H3N2). Most influenza A(H3N2) infections have occurred among children and young adults ages 5-24 years; however, the proportion of infections occurring among adults age 25 years and older has been increasing.

    -While there are little data to date, most of the H3N2 viruses so far are genetically closely related to the vaccine virus, but there are some antigenic differences that have developed as H3N2 viruses have continued to evolve.

    -The percentage of outpatient visits due to respiratory illness is trending upwards and is above the national baseline. Influenza is contributing to levels of respiratory illness, but other respiratory viruses are also circulating. The relative contribution of influenza varies by location.

    -Hospitalizations for influenza are starting to increase. CDCExternal Link

    Pediatric influenza deaths confirmed

    27 December- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportedExternal Link​ today; two influenza-associated pediatric deaths occurred during the 2021 flu season. One death was associated with an influenza A (H3) virus and occurred during week #49 (ending December 11, 2021). The other death was associated with an influenza A virus for which no subtyping was performed and occurred during week #50 (ending December 18, 2021). As of December 27, the CDC did not disclose these children's vaccination status or comorbidities. The majority of influenza viruses detected this season were A(H3N2). And most influenza A(H3N2) infections have occurred among people 5-24 years of age. This news compares with (1) pediatric death last flu season and (199) during the 2019-2020 reporting period. While the CDC encourages annual flu shots for most people over the age of six months, the vaccination rates have been sub-optimal recently. The preliminary estimates indicate that influenza vaccination coverage in children dropped about 4% points to 58.2% during the 2020–2021 flu season. Furthermore, the annual flu shot effectiveness has trended below 50% for the last three years; (39%), (29%), and (38%). During the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of influenza vaccine doses (193 million) were distributed in the U.S. However, only 170 million flu shots have already been distributed this season. The CDC stated 'The flu season is just getting started. There's still time to get vaccinated. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications.' Precision VaccinationsExternal Link

    VETERINARY/FOOD SAFETY

    Deli recalls raw pet food because of Salmonella; people also at risk

    24 December- Woody's Pet Food Deli of Minneapolis, MN, is recalling Raw Cornish Hen pet food sold with a “With Supplements" sticker because of a Salmonella health risk to people and pets. The product was distributed in the company's retail stores in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Woodbury, MN. Salmonella can affect animals eating the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products. Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian. Two (2) 5lb tubs were sold in the company's St Paul store. Twelve (12) 15oz containers were distributed through its 3 Twin Cities, MN retail stores. Food Safety NewsExternal Link

    Spring onions from Egypt suspected in Danish E. coli outbreak

    29 December- An E. coli outbreak in Denmark that has affected more than 60 people in less than a month has been linked to spring onions from Egypt. Enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC) is usually associated with travel diarrhea but the 68 patients in the outbreak have not traveled abroad. An investigation by the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen), local hospitals and the DTU Food Institute found the probable source of infection was spring onions used in ready-to-eat salads sold in three different retail chains. From Nov. 23 to Dec. 17, 68 infections have been registered including 43 women and 25 men aged 1 to 91 years old sick with a median age of 53. Twenty people have been admitted to hospitals and patients live across the country, except for the Nordjylland region. EIEC has been isolated from more than 20 patients and the remaining are PCR positive for the invasion plasmid antigen H (ipaH) gene, which is specific to Shigella species and EIEC. Food Safety NewsExternal Link

    WELLNESS

    Don't underestimate mother nature: Winter safety tips for cold weather

    23 December- Never forget the power of nature and its effects, especially if exploring outdoors during the coldest months of the year. In wintertime, "hands down, the worst mistake you can make is to underestimate what challenges nature is capable of and overestimate your own abilities," said Army Master Sgt. Daniel Fields. "These are the root causes of the majority of the troubles that I have seen." Two crucial aspects of retaining readiness in winter climates are nutrition and liquids uptakeExternal Link​, he said. The same safety tips apply to hikers, skiers and campers. The field packs that infantry troops carry contain more nutrient-dense foods and snacks, for example. Despite the added nutrients, "soldiers can spiral pretty quickly into hypothermia from the 'shell-core effect,'" Fields said. The shell core effect takes over when soldiers are on the move in the winter. They use up more energy. They sweat in their winter uniforms. If they don't eat or drink, they can become dehydrated, cold and fatigued. "There is decreased blood flow to the extremities," he explained. "A consequence is cold diuresis, where they urinate more and more frequently," thus becoming more and more dehydrated. Diuresis occurs because the body has to filter more blood through the core to keep warm, thus engaging the kidneys in more urine production as they eliminate toxins. A slew of other issues can also happen, such as chilblainsExternal Link and frostbiteExternal Link​, even when soldiers have been educated about the effects of the cold, Fields noted. That's what training is for: "Sometimes it takes a little while to get them to understand until they're experienced and comfortable working in the cold." Health.milExternal Link

    USAFRICOM

    Meningitis epidemic declared over in Tshopo province, DRC

    26 December- The Minister of Health, Hygiene and Prevention, Doctor Jean-Jacques Mbungani, Thursday declared the end of the meningitis epidemic in Banalia, Tshopo province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The epidemic was declared on September 7. The outbreak accounted for 2,662 cases of meningitis including 47 confirmed and 205 deaths, with a case fatality rate of 7.7%. “Considering that there has been no infections for several weeks and the attack rate having fallen below the alert threshold for two consecutive weeks, I am happy to declare the end of the meningitis epidemic in the area. health center in Banalia in Tshopo province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," he said. In addition, he explained that the factors of the major success of the response were linked mainly to the availability of the vaccine (162,518 people aged 1 to 49 vaccinated), specific drugs against meningitis, the bringing together of treatment sites. advanced to the communities, as well as to the contribution of all the technical and financial partners of the government. However, said Dr. Mbungani, the response teams remain vigilant, because the risk of a resurgence of epidemics remains and must, according to him, serve as a warning signal for the epidemiological surveillance system to be strengthened. As a result, the Minister of Health recommended maintaining community-based alert and surveillance mechanisms in order to remain vigilant throughout the post-meningitis epidemic period. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USCENTCOM

    Omicron: Iran reports 1st case in individual who came from UAE and lives in Tehran

    19 December- The Iran Ministry of Health and ​Medical Education reported Sunday on the first Omicron variant case in the country.  The individual is identified as an Iranian middle-aged man who entered the country from the UAE and lives in Tehran. Necessary measures have been taken to quarantine this person and those around him. One or two other suspected cases are being examined, officials note. “Since the last three weeks when this was reported in the world, we have greatly strengthened the situation of border care so that anyone who wants to enter the country In addition to being required to have a vaccination card and negative PCR test, he should be retested immediately if he is in poor physical condition", The Deputy Minister of Health explained. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USEUCOM

    Norway: Half of COVID-19 cases in Oslo are Omicron

    27 December- The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) reports that since Christmas Eve, the proportion of omicron variants in the screened, positive COVID-19 samples from Oslo and Viken has exceeded 50 percent. This is in line with what we have expected, says Preben Aavitsland, chief physician at the National Institute of Public Health. – We know that the virus variant is more contagious than the delta variant, it has increased in incidence since it was first detected at the end of November, and we expect that it will be the dominant virus variant in the whole country in a short time, he says. There is some uncertainty about how representative the sample of samples for screening during the holidays is, but it seems that about half of the positive samples that are screened to find the virus variant in the Oslo region are now omicron. Updated, more complete figures for the new year will be able to tell more about how dominant omikron is about to become. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USINDOPACOM

    Australia: NSW reports 1st Omicron death in elderly western Sydney man

    27 December- NSW Health reported today the first known death in NSW linked to the Omicron variant of concern. Health officials report the patient, a man in his 80s from western Sydney died at Westmead Hospital. He was a resident of the Uniting Lilian Wells aged care facility in North Parramatta, where he acquired his infection. He had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and had underlying health conditions. NSW has reported 136,822 total confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 654 deaths. as of Thursday, 23 December 2021 across NSW, 95 per cent of people aged 16 and over have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 93.5 per cent have received two doses. Of the people aged 12 to 15, 81.6 per cent have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 78.3 per cent have received two doses. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USNORTHCOM

    U.S.: Ohio- COVID-19 infection detected in deer in six locations

    26 December- Scientists have detected infection by at least three variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in free-ranging white-tailed deer in six northeast Ohio locations, the research team has reported. Previous researchExternal Link​ led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture had shown evidence of antibodies in wild deer. This study, published today (Dec. 23, 2021) in NatureExternal Link, details the first report of active COVID-19 infection in white-tailed deer supported by the growth of viral isolates in the lab, indicating researchers had recovered viable samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and not only its genetic traces. Based on genomic sequencing of the samples collected between January and March 2021, researchers determined that variants infecting wild deer matched strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that had been prevalent in Ohio COVID-19 patients at the time. Sample collection occurred before the Delta variant was widespread, and that variant was not detected in these deer. The team is testing more samples to check for new variants as well as older variants, whose continued presence would suggest the virus can set up shop and survive in this species. The fact that wild deer can become infected “leads toward the idea that we might actually have established a new maintenance host outside humans," said Andrew Bowman, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University and senior author of the paper. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link

    USSOUTHCOM

    Costa Rica COVID-19: Slight increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline; More Omicron reported

    25 December- The Costa Rica Ministry of Health report a slight increase in COVID-19 cases (1.8%) the week ending December 18 compared to the week ending Dec. 11. At the same time, health authorities have reported a 15.2% decrease in hospitalizations and a 61% drop in fatalities week over week. On Friday, The Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (INCIENSA) today identified three new cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in our country, reaching a total of four cases nationwide. None of the three new cases is related to the minor who became Ómicron's first find in Costa Rica. The new cases are a foreigner with a history of travel to Africa and two Costa Ricans with a history of travel to the United States and Europe. All the people are stable and have not required hospitalization. Outbreak News TodayExternal Link