Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Next Covid surge could be here soon | Citypress

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. Photo : Getty Images

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The next surge in Covid-19 cases could be around the corner, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, just as the world was starting to recover from the northern hemisphere winter-fuelled Omicron variant.

Covid-19 cases in the US are dropping at a slower rate and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that wastewater data from certain parts of the country indicated that an increase in cases could be around the corner.

Wastewater tracking works by using sewage samples to find the virus prevalence within each community.

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Last week, the WHO reported that global coronavirus cases had increased by 8% to 11 million. The biggest jump was found in the western Pacific region, where cases jumped 25% week to week. There was a 14% jump in Africa and a 2% rise in Europe as well.

“These increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said at a news briefing this week , warning that cases would increase more in the coming weeks.

The agency has been more cautious than many other officials during the pandemic, often calling for the continuing use of face masks and lockdown orders even as much of the world ditched these precautions.

The increase in infections has been attributed to the Omicron “stealth” variant – or BA.2, as it is officially known.

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The stealth variant is a lineage of Omicron believed to be 30% more transmissible – but just as mild – as the BA.1 lineage that took over the world at the end of last year.

Cases are rising in much of the world, and European countries, which often trended ahead of the US by a few months during the pandemic, are among those that have experienced worrying spikes in infections.

In the UK, cases jumped 36% in the past week – to 91 000 a day. This comes after weeks of declines.

The US’s situation was positive at the moment, though, with cases still declining and the stealth variant not yet taking hold in the nation.

As of Thursday, the US was averaging 32 168 new cases per day, a 14% drop over the past week and a 96% drop from the peak of 800 000 daily cases reached during the Omicron surge’s mid-January peak.

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The fall in cases had slowed, though, and there were early signs that the trend could soon reverse. After rapid falls since mid-January, the US’s daily case total had settled at about 30 000 per day over the past week with little movement. This was one of the lowest case totals the country had reached since the virus first exploded across the country in early 2020.

The CDC warned this week that the agency was seeing early signs of an increase in cases as well.

Wastewater data from the first 10 days of this month showed cases increasing in one-third of testing sites across the US. Which people were actually testing positive for the virus cannot be determined, and exact case numbers cannot either, but it does give officials a general look at how cases are trending in certain areas.

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The surveillance can be more accurate at judging Covid-19 risk than raw case numbers, since many people – especially in a period where so many are vaccinated and boosted – have asymptomatic infections they will never get tested for and will unknowingly spread without being added to official totals.

Covid-19 appears in human waste before a person feels symptoms, meaning there is a gap between wastewater figures increasing and official figures rising.

Dr Amy Kirby, who leads the CDC’s wastewater surveillance, assured the public that there was still nothing to worry about, but officials were keeping an eye on the situation.

The current case totals in the US are so low, though, that small increases in case numbers should not be devastating nor overwhelm healthcare systems.

The US has a high vaccination rate as well, with nearly 90% of American adults having received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Nearly 100 million Americans have received boosters. ,MailOnline

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Next Covid surge could be here soon | Citypress
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