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COVID-19 Health

‘AstraZeneca vaccine increases another rare blood clot risk’

New research from Flinders University and international experts shows that PF4 antibodies in both adenovirus infection-associated VITT and classic adenoviral vector VITT have identical molecular signatures…reports Asian Lite News

British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, made in collaboration with Oxford University has been found to raise the risk of vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) — a rare but fatal blood clotting disorder, claimed researchers on Thursday.

While not new, VITT emerged as a new disease following adenovirus vector-based Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine — sold as Covishield in India and Vaxzevria in Europe — at the height of the Covid pandemic in 2021.

“An unusually dangerous blood autoantibody directed against a protein termed platelet factor 4 (or PF4)” was found as the reason for VITT.

In separate research in 2023, scientists from Canada, North America, Germany and Italy described a virtually identical disorder with the same PF4 antibody that was fatal in some cases after natural adenovirus (common cold) infection.

Now in a new research, Flinders University in Australia and other international experts found that the PF4 antibodies in both adenovirus infection-associated VITT and classic adenoviral vector VITT share identical molecular fingerprints or signatures.

“Indeed, the pathways of lethal antibody production in these disorders must be virtually identical and have similar genetic risk factors,” said Professor Tom Gordon from Flinders

The researcher noted that the “findings have the important clinical implication that lessons learned from VITT are applicable to rare cases of blood clotting after adenovirus (a common cold) infections, as well as having implications for vaccine development”.

The same team had in a 2022 study “cracked the molecular code of the PF4 antibody and identified a genetic risk factor”.

Their new findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also have important implications for improving vaccine safety.

The research comes after AstraZeneca “accepted, in a legal document submitted to the High Court in February, that its Covid vaccine ‘can, in very rare cases, cause Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome (TTS)’.”

TTS is a rare side effect that can cause people to have blood clots and a low blood platelet count. It has been linked to the death of at least 81 people in the UK as well as hundreds of serious injuries.

The company has also voluntarily withdrawn “marketing authorisation” of its Covid vaccine from Europe and other global markets.

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-Top News China COVID-19

‘Chinese Lab Mapped Covid Virus Weeks Prior’


Reports from US HHS documents shared with Congress raise concerns about China’s transparency on the virus, questioning what China knew, when, and the time lost in developing tests and treatments….reports Asian Lite News

A team of Chinese researchers identified and mapped SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the deadly Covid-19 pandemic and continues to infect people worldwide, at least two weeks before the country officially informed the world about the virus, according to media reports.

The reports, based on federal documents from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and shared with a US congressional committee, raise concerns about China’s transparency on the virus — how much China knew about the virus and since when, and the time lost to develop tests and treatment to fight the virus.

The congressional investigators said that a Chinese researcher in Beijing uploaded an incomplete sequence of the virus’s structure to a US government-run database in December 2019 — a period where Chinese officials were publicly describing the disease outbreak in Wuhan as a viral pneumonia “of unknown cause”, the Wall Street Journal reported.

On December 28, 2019, Lili Ren, a virologist at the Institute of Pathogen Biology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, submitted a genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to GenBank — a publicly accessible database of genetic sequences overseen by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Three days later GenBank informed Ren in an email that her submission was incomplete and requested that she provide the complete information, Washington Post reported.

As Ren did not submit the requested annotations, her submission was deleted from GenBank’s processing queue on January 16, 2020.

A “nearly identical” genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was submitted to GenBank by a separate team of Chinese researchers and was published on January 12, 2020, revealed a letter sent by Melanie Anne Egorin, a senior official at the HHS, sent to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders and that was made public on Wednesday.

According to public health experts who reviewed the documents, this was a missed opportunity to learn more about the virus at the beginning of the global health emergency, the Washington Post reported.

The failure to publish the genetic sequence submitted by Ren is “retroactively painful,” Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, was quoted as saying.

Bloom noted that the genetic sequences may have expedited new tests and vaccines to combat the coronavirus.

“That two weeks would have made a tangible difference in quite a few people’s lives,” Bloom said.

More than three years after the pandemic, the origins of Covid-19 remain unclear. It has been the subject of a political and scientific debate with scientists and politicians globally contending that the source of the coronavirus was exposure to an infected animal or an event at a laboratory.

“I don’t think this submission tells us anything about the origin of SARS-CoV-2,” Bloom said. “What I think this shows … (is) the Chinese government wasn’t immediately transparent about how quickly they learned about the cause of this outbreak.”

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-Top News China COVID-19

China Braces for January Covid-19 Rebound


Mi Feng from the National Health Commission reported a varying decrease in patients at fever clinics nationwide since New Year’s Day….reports Asian Lite News

 China is likely to see a rebound in Covid-19 infections in January, and the highly transmissible JN.1 variant will become the dominant strain, health authorities have said.

At a press briefing on Sunday, Mi Feng, a spokesperson with the National Health Commission, said that since the New Year’s Day, the number of patients received at fever clinics in medical institutions across the country has shown a fluctuating downward trend, Global Times reported.

Currently, the country is majorly seeing influenza cases, while the Covid cases are at a relatively low level.

However, recent data from the multi-channel monitoring system showed the proportion of the JN.1 variant strain having an upward trend, Wang Dayan, director of the China National Influenza Center, National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) was quoted as saying.

Due to continuous importation of the JN.1 variant strain, a gradual decrease in domestic influenza, and a decline in population immunity, the Covid-19 epidemic may rebound in January, with the JN.1 variant highly likely to develop into the dominant variant in China, Wang said.

Wang also noted that southern provinces in China entered the influenza season in early October, followed by northern provinces in late October. Initially, the predominant circulating strain was the H3N2 subtype influenza virus. But, in the past three weeks, the proportion of influenza B virus in southern provinces has increased to 36.8 per cent, and in the past five weeks, the proportion in northern provinces has risen to 57.7 per cent.

In some provinces, the proportion of influenza B virus has exceeded that of influenza A, the report said.

Wang Guiqiang, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Peking University First Hospital, told a news conference on Sunday that since winter is the peak season for respiratory infectious diseases, the immunity established after infection with various pathogens is not long-lasting, so repeated infections may occur.

However, the symptoms of a second infection with the same pathogen are often milder.

Different pathogen infections may worsen the condition, especially after damage to the upper respiratory mucosal barrier, which may lead to secondary bacterial infections. For the elderly and those with underlying diseases, infection with Covid-19 or influenza may worsen their underlying conditions, said Wang, stressing that they should pay more attention to early intervention and diagnosis of respiratory diseases.

Feng added that with the approaching winter vacation and Spring Festival, the large-scale movement and gathering of people may accelerate the spread of respiratory diseases, so it is necessary to strengthen monitoring and early warning, the report said.

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-Top News COVID-19 India News

India Reports 602 New Covid Cases, 511 of JN.1 Series Variant

Over 10 per cent of people with Covid in the UK consistently reported anxiety or excess worrying since early November, revealed the winter Covid report from the ONS…reports Asian Lite News

India has recorded 602 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours, pushing the the total number of active cases to 4,440 on Wednesday.

The country had recorded 865 new cases on May 19.

Five new fatalities — one each from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, two from Kerala — have been reported in the span of 24 hours, according to the ministry’s data.

As of now, the total number of coronavirus cases in India, since the outbreak in January 2020, has reached 4,50,15, 083.

The death toll related to Covid cases in the country has risen to 5,33,371.

The new variant, JN.1 subvariant is descendent of the Omicron subvariant known as BA.2.86 or Pirola, with Kerala being the first state to report a case.

“A total of 511 cases of the JN.1 series variant have been reported from 11 states till January 2. Karnataka has reported 199 cases of the sub-variant. Kerala has reported 148 cases. 47 cases have been reported from Goa, 36 from Gujarat, 32 from Maharashtra,” the health ministry has said.

The overall recovery from Covid has reached over 4.4 crore individuals, reflecting a national recovery rate of 98.81 per cent.

The country has administered a total of 220.67 crore doses of Covid vaccines, as per the available data.

Symptoms

Health authorities in the UK have identified anxiety and trouble in sleeping as new symptoms of the latest Covid-19 sub-variant JN.1, according to a report.

JN.1, from the lineage of Omicron, was first detected in August and is currently present in over 40 countries.

It has been classified as a variant of interest (VOI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO), due to its rapid spread.

JN.1 is a descendant lineage of BA.2.86. In comparison with BA.2.86, JN.1 has the additional L455S mutation in the spike protein, making it more transmissible. However, no signs of new or unusual symptoms caused by the virus have been reported yet.

So far, the symptoms reported are mostly restricted to upper respiratory tract infections such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, and runny nose.

But recent data from December 2023 by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) spotted two new symptoms: trouble sleeping and anxiety.

Over 10 per cent of people with Covid in the UK consistently reported anxiety or excess worrying since early November, revealed the winter Covid report from the ONS.

The most common Covid-19 symptoms are runny nose (31.1 per cent), cough (22.9 per cent), headache (20.1 per cent), fatigue (19.6 per cent), muscle pain (15.8 per cent), sore throat (13.2 per cent), trouble sleeping (10.8 per cent), and anxiety (10.5 per cent), the data showed.

Interestingly, the once-common loss of taste and smell is currently reported in only 2-3 per cent of UK cases.

But whether a person will experience some or all of these symptoms, including those that have not previously been commonly reported, largely depends on each individual’s health and immunity to the virus.

The findings come at a time when there is a fresh global rise in Covid infections. As per the WHO, the global number of new Covid-19 cases has increased by 52 per cent during the last one month.

The UN health body also reported an increase in hospital, ICU admissions as well as deaths globally.

Meanwhile, India recorded 573 fresh cases of Covid and two deaths in the last 24 hours, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Tuesday.

The total number of active cases stands at 4,565. The country reportedly also has a total of 197 cases of the JN.1 from 11 states — Kerala, Goa, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, and Delhi.

“Overall cases are mild and severity is seen in only less than 10 per cent of the cases, and only when people are having previous comorbidities, involving lungs and old age,” Dr Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital Mulund told IANS.

“Generally, the fatality rate is less than 2 per cent, deaths are occurring very sparingly and is not a common feature,” she added.

The doctor said there are also “no severe illnesses” seen among patients and “not many people are requiring hospitalisation, because of JN.1. Majority of the patients are getting better at home”.

The doctor advised using masks, maintaining hand hygiene and to avoid public gatherings if one is sick.

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COVID-19 Kerala

Kerala Reports 300 Fresh Covid Cases, Three Deaths

The total number of active cases of Covid-19 in the country stood at 2,669….reports Asian Lite News

Kerala reported 300 new active cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths on December 20, as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The total number of active cases of Covid-19 in the country stood at 2,669.

Amid rising concerns over the emergence of the new variant of the Coronavirus, a Kerala-based health expert said on Wednesday that Covid is like any other communicable disease that cannot be wiped out completely adding that the strike rate of the disease has come down.

“Covid is just like any other communicable disease that cannot be wiped out completely. However, the strike of the disease has come down, and the mortality that means the people who succumbed to the disease is not as high as what it used to be. It is now just like any other influenza or any other common cold,” said Dr Sreejith N Kumar told ANI.

Meanwhile, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting to review the COVID-19 situation in India and the preparedness of the public health system for surveillance, containment and management of COVID-19 given the recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in some states.

During the meeting, Mandaviya emphasised the importance of being alert and prepared against new and emerging strains of the COVID-19 virus.

“It is important to be alert and prepared against new and emerging strains of the COVID-19 virus,” Mandaviya said.

The Union Health Minister urged all the states to remain alert, increase surveillance and ensure an adequate stock of medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and vaccines.

Reiterating the need for joint efforts between the Centre and States to ensure efficient management of COVID-19, Mandaviya said, “Let us undertake mock drills once every three months at both the central and state levels and share best practices.”

He also urged states to create awareness, manage the epidemic, and ensure the dissemination of factually correct information.

In the wake of the surge in respiratory diseases and the new JN.1 COVID sub-variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the virus is evolving and changing and urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing. (ANI)

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-Top News COVID-19 India News

COVID-19: Big Wave Unlikely Despite JN.1 Surge

JN.1 is a sub-lineage of the BA.2.86 Omicron variant and was first detected in Luxembourg in August, before spreading to other countries….reports Asian Lite News

There is nothing to panic over the rising number cases of Covid-19 in India, likely driven by JN.1 sub-variant of Omiron, as the infections remain mild, said health experts on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, India recorded 2,311 cases with Kerala reporting highest active cases (2,041).

Although significantly less compared to the global scenario, the last two weeks has seen “steep rise in active Covid cases from 115 on Dec 6 to 614”, Union Health Secretary Sudhansh Pant informed during a high-level meeting chaired to review the Covid-19 situation in India on Wednesday.

Pant noted that 92.8 per cent of the cases are home isolated, indicating mild illness.

He added that there is also no increase in hospitalisation rates, and “Covid-19 is an incidental finding” among people hospitalised due to other medical conditions.

JN.1 is a sub-lineage of the BA.2.86 Omicron variant and was first detected in Luxembourg in August, before spreading to other countries.

BA.2.86, also known as the “Pirola” variant, was first detected in Denmark in July.

About 21 cases of JN.1 have reportedly been recorded from the country, majorly from Kerala (1), Maharashtra (1) and Goa (19), raising concerns of a new wave of Covid.

“Yes, there has been a marginal rise in Covid cases since the last few days. We are seeing about 2-3 Covid positives in outpatient clinics every day for two or three days,” Dr. Pramod V. Satya, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospital Millers Road, told IANS.

“But all the Covid cases we’ve seen are very mild. So, I don’t think there will be another big wave, there may be an isolated few cases. At the most, it may be like the Omicron variant where we had quite a large number of cases but they were all very less severe,” the doctor said.

Dr. Satya said that Covid comes as just any other influenza like illness with fever, cough, throat pain, and body pain. It is very difficult to differentiate whether it’s influenza or a Covid, but in most cases, influenza is more severe than Covid.

While the variant is new for India, it is already prominent reportedly in 38 countries.

Due to its rapid spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, classified it as a separate variant of interest (VOI), from the parent lineage BA.2.86. It was previously classified as VOI as part of BA.2.86 sublineages.

The WHO said JN.1 could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries.

“There is nothing to panic as it remains only a Variant of Interest (VoI) and not Variant of Concern (VoC),” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, Consultant in Infectious Diseases Unison Medicare and Research Centre, Mumbai.

“Until it becomes a variant of concern, we need not worry as a public health hazard,” he added.

According to experts, JN.1 contains an extra spike mutation — L455S mutation, which has immune-evasion properties.

“The JN.1 is not merely a generic variant; it represents a distinct sub-variant of the Omicron strain, more specifically identified as BA.2.86. This categorisation indicates that while it shares genetic roots with its predecessors, it has distinct protein mutations that set it apart. One notable consequence of these mutations is a potentially higher level of infectivity,” Dr Rajath Athreya, Senior Consultant and HOD Paediatrics and Neonatology, Sakra World Hospital, Bengaluru, told IANS.

“However, it is essential to note that initial reports from countries like Singapore suggest that, despite its unique genetic makeup, infections caused by JN.1 have not exhibited unusual severity. Most patients are reported to be recovering without significant complications,” he added.

The health experts said there is nothing to panic but recommended the use of masks, isolating in case of cold, cough, sore throat, or fever, and avoiding crowded places. “Currently India is prepared, there is nothing to worry, we have enough oxygen in advance, ICU and ventilators. So, in that way, pandemic preparedness is there but we need to be vigilant,” said Dr Gilada, stressing the need for wastewater surveillance.

India Logs 614 New Covid Cases

The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that 21 cases of the new variant JN.1 have been reported from across the country.

The source said that 19 cases of the new coronavirus variant has been reported from Goa while one each from Maharashtra and Kerala.

Union Health Secretary Sudhansh Pant briefed the meeting on the global Covid-19 situation and the domestic scenario.

Pant said that while active Covid cases in India are significantly less compared to the global scenario, in the last two weeks, there has been a steep rise in active cases from 115 on December 6 to 614 on date.

It was also noted that 92.8 per cent of the cases are home isolated, indicating mild illness.

Earlier in the day, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya chaired a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in India and preparedness of public health system for its surveillance, containment, and management in view of the recent spike in cases in some states.

The meeting was also attended by Union Ministers of State for Health and Family Welfare, Prof S.P. Singh Baghel and Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, and NITI Aayog’s Member, Health, Dr V.K. Paul, Member.

State Health Ministers Alo Libang (Arunachal Pradesh), Brajesh Pathak (Uttar Pradesh), Dhan Singh Rawat, (Uttarakhand), Dinesh Gundu Rao, (Karnataka), Anil Vij (Haryana), Veena George (Kerala), Vishwajit Pratapsingh Rane (Goa), Keshab Mahanta (Assam), Banna Gupta, (Jharkhand), Dr Balbir Singh (Punjab), Saurabh Bharadwaj (Delhi); Dr. (Col.) Dhani Ram Shandil (retd) (Himachal Pradesh); Prof Dr. Tanajirao Sawant (Maharashtra), Damodar Rajanarasimha (Telangana), Dr Sapam Ranjan (Manipur), and Niranjan Pujari (Odisha) were also present, among others.

During the meeting, Mandaviya underlined the challenge posed by the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in some countries across the world such as China, Brazil, Germany, and the US and noted the importance of being prepared and remaining alert against new and emerging strains of Covid-19, especially in view of the upcoming festive season.

He also reiterated that Covid is not over yet, and requested states to monitor emerging evidences of Covid-19 cases, symptoms and case severity to plan appropriate public health response.

Mandaviya also stressed the need for collective efforts between the Centre and the States to deal with the emerging situation in the spirit of “Whole of Government” approach. He directed for strengthening the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network to ensure timely detection of newer variants, circulating in the country.

“This would facilitate undertaking of appropriate public health measures in a timely manner,” he noted.

“States/UTs have been requested to ramp up testing and refer large number of samples of Covid-19 positive cases and pneumonia-like illness to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis, for sequencing, to track new variants, if any,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Union Health Minister also urged all the states to remain alert, increase surveillance and ensure adequate stock of medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators, and vaccines.

Mandaviya asked officials to undertake mock drills every three months at both the Central and State levels to assess functionality of PSA plants, oxygen concentrators and cylinders, ventilators, etc., and encouraged the sharing of best practices.

He also urged states to create awareness on respiratory hygiene and ensure dissemination of factually correct information and counter fake news to manage infodemic and mitigate any panic.

The Union Health Minister urged States/UTs to share information on cases, tests, positivity etc., in real time on the Covid portal to enable timely monitoring and prompt public health measures. He assured the states of all support from the Centre.

ALSO READ: WHO Declares JN.1 as Standalone Covid Variant

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-Top News COVID-19

WHO Declares JN.1 as Standalone Covid Variant

Though JN.1 is now restricted to its circulation in the US, it is responsible for an estimated 1 in 5 new coronavirus infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…reports Asian Lite News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new Covid-19 variant — JN.1 — as a “standalone variant of interest”.

WHO’s decision was prompted by the variant’s ability to spread fast among the community. It said the decision was due to the strain’s ‘rapidly increasing spread’.

The WHO on Tuesday announced that it is classifying a new Covid-19 strain – JN.1 – as a standalone variant of interest “due to its rapidly increasing spread”, media reports said adding that the new variants’ characteristics and a growth advantage over other strains in circulation prompted the early warning, reports said.

Though WHO assessed the global public health risk of JN.1 as low, it warned that countries approaching winter should be aware that Covid-19 and other pathogens may exacerbate respiratory disease seasons.

“Despite this, with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, JN.1 could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries,” it said.

Though JN.1 is now restricted to its circulation in the US, it is responsible for an estimated 1 in 5 new coronavirus infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency expects that JN.1’s prevalence in the US will continue to increase in the winter months.

WHO considers BA.2.86 sub lineages to be variants of interest, but now JN.1 is listed as a variant of interest separate from its parent lineage, also known as pirola.

WHO defines a variant of interest as a strain with genetic mutations, according to US News & World Report.

Covid-19 tests and treatments are expected to work on JN.1. So far, it doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease but it does seem to have advantages over the other strains.

“While there is a rapid increase in JN.1 infections, and likely increase in cases, available limited evidence does not suggest that the associated disease severity is higher as compared to other circulating variants,” WHO said in its risk assessment of the strain.

Coronavirus vaccines are also expected to work on JN.1. “Current vaccines, including those based on ancestral strain as well as the updated monovalent XBB vaccines continue to provide protection against severe disease and death, including against JN.1,” WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove said on social media.

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COVID-19 Health India News

Doctors Urge Caution Amid Surge in Covid Cases

The central government had earlier issued an advisory to the state governments urging them to make adequate health arrangements….reports Asian Lite News

Amid the recent uptick in Covid cases ahead of the festive season and detection of JN.1 subvariant in Kerala, doctors in Delhi have advised people to wear masks, avoid gatherings and maintain a healthy diet.

With Christmas and the New Year approaching, doctors at some hospitals in the city also referred to the detection of the first case of the new JN.1 variant of the coronavirus in the country and asked people to exercise extra caution.

Earlier, the central government has issued an advisory to the state governments urging them to make adequate health arrangements.

“Considering the upcoming festive season, there is a need to put in place requisite public health measures and other arrangements to minimize the risk of increase in transmission of the disease by adherence to the maintenance of respiratory hygiene”, read the advisory.

The centre further directed the states to monitor the occurrence of respiratory diseases district-wise.

“Ensure monitoring and reporting of district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis including in the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) portal, for detecting the early rising trend of cases”, it said.

The central government further directed the state administration to ensure Covid testing as per the set guidelines.

“Ensure a higher number of RT-PCR tests and send the positive samples for genome sequencing to the Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories so as to enable timely detection of new variants, if any,” the advisory read further.

“Promote community awareness to seek their continued support in managing COVID-19, including adherence to respiratory hygiene”, it added.

India’s COVID-19 situation remains under control, with an active caseload of 1,828 as of Monday. However, one death was reported in Kerala, where the JN.1 subvariant of the coronavirus was recently detected.

The Union Ministry of Health is in regular touch with the State Department of Health, Kerala and monitors various points of entry.

Earlier on Saturday, ANI reported first about the Covid-19 subvariant JN.1 detected in Kerala, which is a descendant of BA.2.86.The India SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a network of genomic laboratories, has been actively monitoring the genomic aspects of COVID-19 in India.JN.1 was first detected in September 2023 in the United States.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the surge in respiratory diseases and the new JN.1 COVID sub-variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the virus is evolving and changing and urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing.

The global body also shared a video of its COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, who explained the reason for the recent surges and what precautions can be taken. (with inputs from agencies)

Kerala Has 88.78% Active Covid Cases in India

The number of active Covid cases in Kerala continues to remain at the top with 115 fresh cases getting reported in the past 24 hours, taking the number of active cases in the southern state to 1,749.

According to Centre’s data, India reported 142 fresh cases on Monday, out of which 115 were reported from Kerala.

State Health Minister Veena George is closely monitoring the situation with the health authorities, who are of the opinion that the active caseload is high in Kerala because of increased testing of patients coming to the hospitals with fever and flu.

At a meeting on Tuesday, George pointed out that no harsh restrictions will be put in place, adding that there is no reason to panic as the situation is under control.

Various types of fever, including dengue, leptospirosis and viral fever, have also been reported from across the state.

Masks have been recommended for all those visiting the hospitals and with Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi recording higher number of cases, extra caution has been advised at these two places.

Authorities have been asked to ensure that all the facilities at the hospitals are kept ready.

Meanwhile, a meeting has been convened by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday, where all his state counterparts are expected to be present.

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Covid-19 hospitalisations up 24% in one week in UK

The concerning numbers come as the highly mutated Pirola reached over 100 cases in the country, according to the Covid variant tracker GISAID….reports Asian Lite News

Covid-19 hospitalisations have increased by 24 per cent in one week in the UK as new variant BA.2.86, dubbed as Pirola, sweeps across the country.

According to data published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) from the last week of September, the number of people testing positive for the virus increased by over 29.4 per cent on the week before, despite a reduced testing infrastructure, reports The Independent.

The concerning numbers come as the highly mutated Pirola reached over 100 cases in the country, according to the Covid variant tracker GISAID.

Pirola is the latest Omicron strain to appear this summer, raising concerns among specialists since it contains 34 additional mutations that could make it easier to avoid immunisations.

As per GISAID, Pirola has so far been detected in 15 countries globally, including France, Japan, Australia and Denmark. According to the report, the number of patients in hospitals has been rising since mid-July in the UK.

In the week up to and including 29 September, 3,819 Covid patients were admitted to hospital, a 24.8 per cent rise over the previous week.

“While this is still very early data and more research is needed before we can be certain, it is encouraging to see an initial indication that BA.2.86 demonstrates similar levels of antibody escape compared to other variants circulating in the UK,” Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA was quoted as saying.

“The available data is too limited to draw conclusions about the severity of the illness it causes, but there is so far no evidence to suggest that it is more likely to make people seriously ill than other Omicron variants in circulation,” she added.

The new strain’s most common symptoms are a runny nose, headache, lethargy, sneezing, and a sore throat.  Three other symptoms that have been regularly reported are — diarrhoea, eye irritation, and rashes.

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

Covid vaccine pioneers awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine

The Nobel Assembly said Karikó and Weissman published their results in a seminal 2005 paper that received little attention at the time but laid the foundation for critically important developments that have served humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic…reports Asian Lite News

Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

“The 2023 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19,” The Nobel Prize posted on X on Monday.

“The findings by 2023 #NobelPrize laureates Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman led to the approval of two highly successful mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020. The vaccines have saved millions of lives and prevented severe disease in many more,” the post added.

The Nobel Assembly said the discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020.

“Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” it said.  

It said the laureates discovered that base-modified mRNA can be used “to block activation of inflammatory reactions and increase protein production when mRNA is delivered to cells”.

The Nobel Assembly said Karikó and Weissman published their results in a seminal 2005 paper that received little attention at the time but laid the foundation for critically important developments that have served humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mRNA vaccine technology against Covid-19, which on Monday received the 2023 Nobel for Medicine was publicly funded and not by pharma giants, said the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of organisations and activists working together towards equitable access to medical technologies that help to prevent and respond to Covid and future pandemics.

Their groundbreaking findings have fundamentally changed the understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the Nobel committee said.

The umbrella group of NGOs hailed public funding, which it said “delivers incredible medical advances”, even as pharma giants refused to share vaccine technology, as well as test kits and other diagnostics to low-income countries during the pandemic.

“The award challenges the claim that it was solely big pharmaceutical companies who saved the world from Covid-19,” said Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Policy Co-Lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, in a statement.

“Just like the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Kariko and Weissman’s groundbreaking work on mRNA vaccines received a huge amount of public funding.”

Kamal-Yanni also advised governments preparing for the next pandemic to prioritise on public funding as drugmakers will not share vaccines with the world.

“Pharmaceutical companies have refused to share mRNA technologies with developers and researchers in developing countries. Fortunately, Weissman is helping a WHO-backed mRNA programme which aims to develop mRNA technology in lower-income countries, even while pharmaceutical companies refuse to share their know-how,” Kamal-Yanni said.

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