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      BA.2.86 fears fizzle as other variants drive up hospitalizations, deaths

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 6 September - 23:11

    BA.2.86 fears fizzle as other variants drive up hospitalizations, deaths

    Enlarge (credit: Getty | Justin Sullivan )

    Concern over the highly evolved omicron subvariant BA.2.86 is easing as the first batch of preliminary studies on the virus suggests it may not be as immune evasive or dangerous as its numerous mutations suggest.

    But the good news is tempered by the latest COVID-19 data, which shows increasing rates of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and deaths—all driven by the current gang of circulating omicron subvariants, led in the US by EG.5, FL.1.5.1 and XBB.1.16.6 . No single variant is dominant globally, though EG.5 is on the rise.

    In the US, hospitalizations are up nearly 16 percent since last week, and deaths have risen almost 18 percent in that time. Test positivity is also on a steep incline, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data .

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      New SARS-CoV-2 variant gains dominance in US amid mild summer COVID wave

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 7 August, 2023 - 22:21

    New SARS-CoV-2 variant gains dominance in US amid mild summer COVID wave

    Enlarge (credit: Getty | Thomas Trutschel )

    For a fourth consecutive summer, COVID-19 is on the rise, though this year's warm-weather wave appears milder than those in the emergency period of the pandemic.

    COVID-19 indicators of hospital admissions, emergency department visits, test positivity, and wastewater levels have all been increasing in the past month, with a peak not yet clearly in sight, according to data tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From June 10 to July 29, test positivity rose from 4.1 percent to 8.9 percent. For reference, the most recent winter wave had a peak test positivity of 10.6 percent on December 31, 2022.

    On the brighter side, however, weekly COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths continue to be at their lowest points since the start of the pandemic. For now, deaths do not appear to be rising, though there are lags in data reporting. Weekly new hospital admissions are ticking up only slightly—with admissions rising to about 8,000 in the week of July 22, up from around 6,300 the week of June 24.

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      Pandemic deaths in Ohio and Florida show partisan divide after vaccine rollout

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 25 July, 2023 - 20:48 · 1 minute

    A woman watches white flags on the National Mall on September 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. Over 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

    Enlarge / A woman watches white flags on the National Mall on September 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. Over 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. (credit: Getty | Chen Mengtong )

    Amid the pandemic, Republican voters in Ohio and Florida had a significantly higher rate of excess deaths after the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines compared with those who voted Democratic, according to a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine .

    As the pandemic coronavirus spread between March 2020 and April 1, 2021, people from both parties saw similar surges in excess deaths—that is, deaths above what would be expected had there not been a global health crisis. But after April 1, when all adults in both states were eligible for vaccination, a gap emerged in the rate of excess deaths between Republican and Democratic voters. Republicans had an excess death rate 7.7 percentage points higher than their blue counterparts, amounting to a 43 percent difference in the excess death rates.

    The study is just the latest to find a connection between political party affiliation and deaths during the pandemic . But, it takes the connection a step further, going beyond county-level political leanings and looking at how party affiliation linked to deaths at the individual level. The authors—all researchers at Yale University—focused on Ohio and Florida because those were the only two states with readily available public data on voter registration.

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      A third of US deer have had COVID—and they infected humans at least 3 times

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 13 July, 2023 - 16:23 · 1 minute

    Image of young deer leaping a roadside gulley.

    Enlarge (credit: Raymond Gehman / Getty Images )

    People in the US transmitted the pandemic coronavirus to white-tailed deer at least 109 times, and the animals widely spread the virus among themselves, with a third of the deer tested in a large government-led study showing signs of prior infection. The work also suggests that the ubiquitous ruminants returned the virus to people in kind at least three times.

    The findings, announced this week by the US Department of Agriculture, are in line with previous research, which suggested that white-tailed deer can readily pick up SARS-CoV-2 from humans, spread it to each other , and, based on at least one instance in Canada, transmit the virus back to humans .

    But the new study , led by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), provides a broader picture of deer transmission dynamics in the US and ultimately bolsters concern that white-tailed deer have the potential to be a virus reservoir. That is, populations of deer can acquire and harbor SARS-CoV-2 viral lineages, which can adapt to their new hosts and spill back over to humans, causing new waves of infection. It's conceivable that viruses moving from deer to humans could at some point qualify as new variants, potentially with the ability to dodge our immune protections built up from past infection and vaccination.

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      COVID outbreak at CDC gathering infects 181 disease detectives

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 30 May, 2023 - 17:03

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

    Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg )

    The tally of COVID-19 cases linked to a conference of disease detectives hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April has reached at least 181, the agency reported .

    Roughly 1,800 gathered in person for this year's annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference, which was held on April 24 to 27 in a hotel conference facility in Atlanta where the CDC's headquarters are located. It was the first time the 70-year-old conference had in-person attendees since 2019. The CDC agency estimates an additional 400 attended virtually this year.

    By the last day of the event, a number of in-person attendees had reported testing positive for COVID-19, causing conference organizers to warn attendees and make changes to reduce the chance of further spread. That reportedly included canceling an in-person training and offering to extend the hotel stays of sick attendees who needed to isolate.

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      Pandas in Wuhan market? China’s COVID genetic study is out—it has problems

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 April, 2023 - 20:24 · 1 minute

    Giant panda cub Huanlili plays with a bamboo during her first birthday at the Beauval zoological park in Saint-Aignan, central France, on August 2, 2022.

    Enlarge / Giant panda cub Huanlili plays with a bamboo during her first birthday at the Beauval zoological park in Saint-Aignan, central France, on August 2, 2022. (credit: Getty | GUILLAUME SOUVANT )

    Chinese scientists have published their long-awaited genetic analysis of the samples and swabs they collected in early 2020 from the Huanan Seafood Market, the initial epicenter of the pandemic.

    In the study , published Wednesday in Nature, the authors acknowledge for the first time that wildlife susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection—including raccoon dogs —were present in the market amid the plethora of genetic traces from SARS-CoV-2 and humans. But, the overall analysis is flawed, indicating the presence of animals that were almost certainly not at the market, including giant pandas, chimpanzees, and Atlantic grey seals. The authors continued to downplay the potential that a virus spillover from wildlife to humans in the crowded market was the spark that ignited the pandemic. Instead, they repeatedly put forward, without evidence, hypotheses favored by Chinese officials, namely that the virus was carried into the market via humans or frozen foods, and the bustling venue became an amplifier site for infection.

    Still, the publication of the data is momentous—and a long time coming. Though the samples were collected from January 1 to March 30 of 2020, a draft of the study and some of the data were only first released in a preprint two years later, in February 2022. The preprint reported that SARS-CoV-2 was abundant amid human genetic material from the samples, indicating that the virus was prevalent among people at the market before it was shuttered on the morning of January 1. The authors, led by scientists at China's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), noted that they had also tested some animals in the market—mostly rabbits, stray cats, and snakes—but all were negative for SARS-CoV-2.

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      Missouri House advances bill to limit nonexistent vaccine microchips—just in case

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 23 March, 2023 - 19:54 · 1 minute

    A person wearing a tinfoil hat on September 20, 2019.

    Enlarge / A person wearing a tinfoil hat on September 20, 2019. (credit: Getty | Bridget Bennett )

    In the latest efforts by Republican lawmakers to enshrine into law Americans' right to freely spread deadly infectious diseases to each other, the Missouri House this week advanced a bill that would bar governments, schools, and employers from mandating certain vaccines—as well as things like vaccine microchips, which do not exist.

    The bill, HB 700 ( PDF ), was sponsored by Rep. Bill Hardwick, a Republican from Waynesville. Hardwick told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he believed people " lost their minds " during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that legally barring officials and employers from requiring life-saving vaccination, even among health care workers, feels "like it's the right thing to do."

    The bill specifically bars requirements for people to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But it doesn't stop there. It also bars any requirements for people to receive "a dose of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)," thus barring requirements for any future mRNA-based vaccines, should they be needed in upcoming pandemics or outbreaks. It also bars requirements for "any treatment or procedure intended or designed to edit or alter human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or the human genome," and "any mechanical or electronic device" that would be placed "under the skin."

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      Here’s the full analysis of newly uncovered genetic data on COVID’s origins

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 21 March, 2023 - 21:28 · 1 minute

    Security guards stand in front of the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province, on January 11, 2020, where the Wuhan health commission said that the man who died from a respiratory illness had purchased goods.

    Enlarge / Security guards stand in front of the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province, on January 11, 2020, where the Wuhan health commission said that the man who died from a respiratory illness had purchased goods. (credit: Getty | NOEL CELIS )

    A group of independent, international researchers has released its full analysis of newly uncovered metagenomic data collected by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January and February of 2020. The data closely links SARS-CoV-2 to the genetic tracks of wild animals, particularly raccoon dogs , sold at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group's analysis says.

    The full analysis provides additional, compelling evidence that the pandemic coronavirus made its leap to humans through a natural spillover, with a wild animal at the market acting as an intermediate host between the virus' natural reservoir in horseshoe bats and humans. It was authored by 19 scientists, led by Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona; Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in California; and Florence Débarre, a theoretician who specializes in evolutionary biology at France's national research agency, CNRS.

    Prior to the release of the full analysis late Monday, information on the findings was only made public through media reports and statements from the World Health Organization, which was briefed on the analysis last week. But, the raw metagenomic data behind the analysis is still not publicly available. It was briefly posted on a public genetic database called the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) as recently as earlier this month, and the international researchers were able to download it during that window of availability. But, administrators for the database quickly removed the data after its discovery, saying the removal was at the request of the submitter, a researcher at China CDC.

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      Deadly drug-resistant yeast gained ground, more drug resistance amid COVID

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 20 March, 2023 - 22:04

    The director of Germany's National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungal Infections holds a petri dish containing the yeast <em>Candida auris</em> in a laboratory at Wuerzburg University.

    Enlarge / The director of Germany's National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungal Infections holds a petri dish containing the yeast Candida auris in a laboratory at Wuerzburg University. (credit: Getty | Nicolas Armer )

    A deadly, drug-resistant fungus emerging in the US gained ground faster and picked up yet more drug resistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.

    The yeast Candida auris has been considered an "urgent threat"—the CDC's highest level of concern—since it was first reported in the US in 2016. The yeast lurks in health care settings and preys upon vulnerable patients, causing invasive infections with a fatality rate of between 30 to 60 percent.

    In 2019, before the pandemic began, 17 states and Washington, DC, reported a total of 476 clinical cases. But in 2020, eight additional states reported cases for the first time, with the national clinical case count jumping 59 percent to 756. In 2021, 28 states were affected, with the clinical case count nearly doubling to 1,471. Asymptomatic cases detected through patient screening also jumped amid the pandemic, tripling from 1,310 cases in 2020 to 4,041 cases in 2021. The data appeared Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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