Month: November 2021

Blog article

New omicron variant stokes world fears, triggers travel bans

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world Friday as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown.

A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant. The WHO suggested the variant could pose greater risks than delta, which is the world’s most prevalent variant and has fueled relentless waves of infection on every continent.

Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.

In response, the United States and Canada joined the European Union and several other countries in instituting travel restrictions on visitors from southern

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Health News

US, Canada restrict travel from southern Africa as new variant sparks concern

Germany used a military plane to transfer intensive-care Covid-19 patients to less afflicted regions.

The United States, Brazil, Canada, and Saudi Arabia became the latest countries Friday to restrict travel from southern Africa, where a new COVID strain labelled a “variant of concern” has been discovered in a potentially heavy blow to the world’s efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organization said the new is more infectious than the dominant, highly transmissible Delta strain, and renamed this B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 as Omicron.

It has reached Europe with one confirmed case in Belgium after being found in South Africa, Botswana and then in Hong Kong.

Anxious tourists in Johannesburg rushed to the airport to catch a last flight out as nations across the globe started shutting their doors, while many worried the new variant could be more resistant to vaccines.

Markets around the world plunged as

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Merck COVID pill effective, experts will review safety

Federal health regulators say an experimental COVID-19 pill from Merck is effective against the virus, but they will seek input from outside experts on risks of birth defects and other potential problems during pregnancy.

The Food and Drug Administration posted its analysis of the pill ahead of a public meeting next week where academic and other experts will weigh in on its safety and effectiveness. The agency isn’t required to follow the group’s advice.

The FDA scientists said their review identified several potential risks, including possible toxicity and birth defects. Given those risks the FDA will ask its advisers whether the drug should never be given during pregnancy or whether it could be made available in certain cases.

Under that scenario, the FDA said the drug would carry warnings about risks during pregnancy, but doctors would still have the option to prescribe it in certain cases where its benefits could

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Health News

COVID death data can be shared to make it look like vaccines don’t work, or worse – but that’s not the whole picture

Social media posts commenting on data from the UK, Israel and South Africa, among others, claim deaths from COVID (or all deaths) are now higher in vaccinated than unvaccinated citizens. Others make the more moderate claim vaccines do nothing to prevent death from COVID.

These reports appear intimidating, because they usually utilise real data or statistics. Many of the raw numbers presented are indeed correct, though not complete.

But people—including Clive Palmer who said this week vaccines don’t work and Craig Kelly who spread vaccine misinformation via text message—should ask whether they have understood the context, analysed the data properly and interpreted the results accurately.

What counts as ‘vaccinated’?

When comparing studies or statistics, a lot hinges on how data providers define “vaccinated”.

Some vaccines are single-dose, others are double-dose regimens. Most jurisdictions define “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after the last required dose, but some

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Supreme Court to hear 340B case that could impact all hospitals

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case seeking to reverse cuts to the 340B Drug Program next week, and the outcome could have consequences for all providers, even those who don’t access the discounted medicines.

Plaintiffs including the American Hospital Association and providers that participate in the program are asking the high court to reverse a nearly 30% cut in 340B reimbursements the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initiated during President Donald Trump’s administration and continued under President Joe Biden. Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 30.

“If CMS’s final rule is allowed to stand, 340B providers will be forced to eliminate or dramatically curtail some crucial programs that treat a wide range of medical conditions, from cancer to mental health disorders and opioid addiction,” 37 state and regional hospital associations wrote in a brief to the court in September.

The decision’s repercussions could reach further than

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Neural stem cells may hold key to combatting newborn brain injury

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Neural stem cells have strong potential to be effective in reducing brain injury in newborn babies, in the most extensive review of research on the topic.

Injury to the brain during pregnancy, or around the time of birth, can have life-long impact on the offspring including and epilepsy, but there are no treatments to regenerate the injured newborn brain.

Neural stem cells (NSCs) are the building blocks of the brain and research is under way to determine how they might be used to boost recovery in injured parts of the brain.

In a review published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, Hudson Institute researchers led by Madeleine Smith analyzed all published pre- and found that NSCs can reduce brain injury and improve physical function following brain injury.

New consensus on neural stem cells

“Neural stem cells are specific to the brain and

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