Monday, May 24, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

India nears 300,000 Covid deaths and battles deadly fungal infections

Mucormycosis, usually rare, is suddenly a growing problem in India. Separately, the UK said an official study proves Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective against the Indian variant of Covid.

AP: India battles deadly fungal threat with nearly 300,000 virus deaths

Doctors in India are battling a deadly fungal infection affecting COVID-19 patients or those who have recovered from the disease, amid a coronavirus surge that has pushed deaths in the country to nearly 300,000. The life-threatening condition, known as mucormycosis, is relatively rare, but doctors suspect the sudden surge in infection could further complicate India’s fight against the pandemic. India has reported more than 26 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, almost half of which have occurred in the past two months. On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 3,741 new deaths, bringing India’s confirmed deaths to 299,266. (Saaliq, 23.5.)

CNN: ‘Black Fungus’ in India: What We Know About the Disease Affecting Covid Patients

In early May, doctors in India began sounding the alarm about a rise in mucormycosis — a rare and potentially deadly infection also known as black fungus. Many of those infected are coronavirus patients or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus, or who have underlying conditions – particularly diabetes. Thousands of cases of black fungus have been reported across the country in recent weeks, hundreds have been hospitalized and at least 90 have died. Two states have declared it an epidemic, and the central government has made it a reportable disease. Here’s what we know about the black fungus and its distribution in India. (Yeung and Sud, 21.5.)

The Washington Post: Indian-American doctors offer remote help to ease India’s health crisis

Anup Katyal, a Missouri critical care physician, finally got a break from treating hundreds of Covid-19 patients at the hospital where he works. Then disaster struck India, his homeland. Every day since then he has woken up to a barrage of messages from 20 relatives, friends and colleagues in India seeking medical advice. And then, before bed, he zoomed in with a family in New Delhi who contracted the virus and reached out to a doctor 7,700 miles away because local doctors turned off their phones and closed their offices to have. (Nirappil, 24.5.)

AP: UK officials: Vaccines effective against Indian variant

British health officials on Sunday expressed optimism that the coronavirus restrictions remaining in England can be lifted in June, after an official study found vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca offer effective protection against the variant first identified in India. British authorities have raised concerns in recent weeks that rising cases of the Indian variant could jeopardize the UK’s hitherto successful plan to reopen its economy. Figures show more than 2,880 cases of the Indian variant have been recorded in England. The government has said the variant appears to be more easily transferrable, but there was still uncertainty about how worrying this was. (Hui, 23.5.)

The Wall Street Journal: Information about sick staff at Wuhan Lab fuels debate over origin of Covid-19

Three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill they sought hospital treatment in November 2019, according to a previously unreleased US intelligence report, which has amid growing calls for a broader probe into whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped , The laboratory. The details of the coverage go beyond a State Department fact sheet issued in the final days of the Trump administration, which says several researchers at the lab, a center for studying coronaviruses and other pathogens, in the fall of 2019 “had symptoms , which are consistent with both Covid-19 and a common seasonal illness. (Gordon, Strobel and Hinshaw, 23.5.)

AP: Japan opens mass vaccination centers 2 months before games

Japan on Monday mobilized military doctors and nurses to give shots to the elderly in Tokyo and Osaka as the government desperately tries to speed up the rollout of vaccines and curb coronavirus infections just two months before hosting the Olympics. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is determined to hold the Olympics in Tokyo after a year’s delay and has made an ambitious pledge to complete vaccination of the country’s 36 million elderly by the end of July, despite skepticism that it is possible. Concerns about public safety while many Japanese remain unvaccinated have led to growing protests and calls for the Games, which are due to start on July 23, to be cancelled. (Yamaguchi, 05/24)

Reuters: No one is safe anymore: Japanese city of Osaka collapses under COVID-19 onslaught

Hospitals in Japan’s second-biggest city Osaka are collapsing under a huge wave of new coronavirus infections, beds and ventilators are running out while exhausted doctors warn of a “system collapse” and advise against holding the Olympics this summer. The western region of Japan, home to 9 million people, is suffering the hardest from the fourth wave of the pandemic, which accounts for a third of the country’s death toll in May despite making up just 7% of the population. (Takenaka, 24.5.)

Axios: Singapore approves COVID breath test that gives results in a minute

A COVID-19 breath test that aims to provide accurate results within a minute was provisionally approved by Singapore’s health authorities on Monday, according to a statement from the National University of Singapore (NUS). An accurate test like this breathalyzer, developed by NUS startup Breathonix, could play a key role in reviving the pandemic-hit travel industry, according to Bloomberg. (Falconer, 24.5.)

Axios: China flooded Taiwan with COVID disinformation in 2020 – report

Chinese government-sponsored disinformation flooded Taiwan in 2020, fueling pre-Taiwan election discord and spreading COVID-19-related disinformation aimed at delegitimizing Taiwan’s democratic government and boosting Beijing’s image, according to a new report . The Chinese government has developed a sophisticated set of disinformation tools that it uses in liberal democracies. Beijing’s information operations in Taiwan follow a set pattern used elsewhere, suggesting that other governments could emulate Taiwan’s broadly successful response. (Allen-Ebrahimian, 24.5.)

The Hill: Germany bans most travel from UK due to contagious variant concerns

Germany on Friday imposed a travel ban on most trips from the United Kingdom (UK), citing concerns about the spread of more infectious variants, including a new variant found in India, across the country. The restrictions came on the same day that the Robert Koch Institute, the German agency for disease control and prevention, included Britain and Northern Ireland in its list of international problem areas, describing it as a “virus variant area”. (Castronuovo, 22.5.)

Axios: Zimbabwe imposes lockdown in Central City after COVID variant is detected

Zimbabwe’s Health Ministry announced a two-week lockdown in the central town of Kwekwe after detecting the variant coronavirus endemic in India. The lockdown begins on Friday and a 7pm to 6am curfew will be strictly enforced. (Gonzalez, May 21)

Axios: At least 100 COVID-19 cases on Everest, says guide

A Mount Everest climbing expert told AP Saturday that there were at least 100 active coronavirus cases at Base Camp. Lukas Furtenbach’s comments contradict statements by Nepalese officials, who have disputed knowledge of active infections among climbers and supervisors during this season, AP reports. (Gonzalez, 22.5.)

CBS News: Latin America surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths

A total of more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Latin America and the Caribbean as of Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The region, which accounts for 8% of the world’s population, has reported about 29% of all global COVID deaths. “This is a tragic milestone for everyone in the region,” Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Carissa F. Etienne said in a statement on Friday. “This pandemic is far from over and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean hard, affecting our health, our economies and entire societies.” (Powell, 5/23)

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