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    Omicron caused spike in breathing condition in babies and toddlers, study finds

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 23:07

Parents look after their son, age 5, who is being treated for croup and asthma in an emergency room at a California hospital March 24, 2010.

Enlarge / Parents look after their son, age 5, who is being treated for croup and asthma in an emergency room at a California hospital March 24, 2010. (credit: Getty | Mark Boster )

The omicron coronavirus variant caused a spike in cases of a potentially severe breathing condition in babies and toddlers, according to a hospital study recently published in the journal Pediatrics .

The study is small, focusing only on COVID-19-associated cases at one large children's hospital in Massachusetts during the pandemic. But, it provides some of the initial data on the subject and backs up anecdotes from health care providers that the latest pandemic variant causes more cases of laryngotracheobronchitis—aka croup —in younger children than earlier variants.

Generally, croup is a common upper-respiratory tract condition in which significant inflammation and swelling develop in the larynx and trachea, imperiling breathing. Some viral infection usually triggers swelling, but allergies and other irritants can also be culprits. Croup can occur at any age but mostly strikes the tiny upper airways of infants and young children, ages 3 months to 5 years.

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    Switch to Moderna booster after Pfizer shots better against omicron in 60+

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 13 May - 21:55

The Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Enlarge / The Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. (credit: Getty | Marcos del Mazo )

People ages 60 and older who were initially vaccinated with two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses were better protected from the omicron coronavirus variant after being boosted with a Moderna vaccine rather than another dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Those results are according to interim data from a small but randomized controlled clinical trial in Singapore and published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study—involving 98 healthy adults—can't determine if the Moderna booster is simply superior to a Pfizer-BioNTech booster for older adults or if a mix-and-match booster strategy is inherently better. It also focused solely on antibody levels, which may or may not translate to significant differences in infection rates and other clinical differences. It also only followed people for 28 days after a booster, so it's unclear if the Moderna booster's edge will hold up over time.

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    North Korea: Six dead, 350,000 “fevers” as coronavirus spreads “explosively”

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 13 May - 14:30

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on June 30, 2019.

Enlarge / North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on June 30, 2019. (credit: Getty | BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI )

At least six people in North Korea have died and more than 350,000 have contracted an unusual fever since late April in an outbreak that "explosively spread nationwide," North Korean state media said Friday.

On Thursday, 18,000 new cases were reported, 187,800 people were in quarantine, and 162,200 had reportedly recovered. The cases are being defined by "a fever whose cause couldn’t be identified," according to The New York Times .

The numbers come just a day after the authoritarian country acknowledged for the first time during the pandemic that the coronavirus was spreading within its borders.

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    Unvaccinated North Korea reports omicron outbreak, raising fears of new variants

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 12 May - 21:14

People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade at the Seoul Railway Station on May 4, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea.

Enlarge / People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade at the Seoul Railway Station on May 4, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea. (credit: Getty | Chung Sung-Jun )

North Korea instituted a nationwide lockdown Thursday after reporting an omicron coronavirus variant outbreak in its capital, Pyongyang. The report marks the first time during the pandemic that the secretive, authoritarian country has acknowledged coronavirus cases within its borders, though outside experts have doubted the country's previous claims of zero infections.

Acknowledging omicron cases in Pyongyang raises questions over whether the admission is a sign of deteriorating public health conditions and/or a signal that the country is willing to accept pandemic aid, including vaccines.

So far, North Korea's government has rejected offers of COVID-19 vaccine supplies from the United Nations' global vaccination effort, COVAX, and China's domestically produced vaccines. North Korea is one of the few countries that has not run a public vaccination effort, and its 26 million people are believed to be largely unvaccinated.

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    COVID cases, hospitalizations, death could surge this winter, White House warns

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 9 May - 19:58 · 1 minute

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha gestures as he speaks at a daily press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha gestures as he speaks at a daily press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Anna Moneymaker )

The US could see a significant surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths this fall and winter unless the country prepares and acts, according to public health experts with the Biden administration.

Last week, administration officials told reporters in a background briefing that some disease models projected that the US could see 100 million coronavirus infections this winter, though there is a wide range of possibilities. The noted forecast assumed that omicron subvariants continued to be dominant in the country, rather than a dramatically different variant potentially worsening the outlook.

In an interview Sunday on ABC's This Week , White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha reiterated the warning of a winter surge, noting that each pandemic winter so far has included large surges, and the conditions will be prime for another this season. Protection from first and even second boosters will wane by this fall. Meanwhile, the virus will continue to evolve new variants and subvariants, and people will huddle indoors during the cold weather and end-of-year holidays.

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    Despite unknowns, FDA officials make the case for annual fall COVID shots

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 4 May - 23:09

Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Pool )

The pandemic coronavirus will likely become a seasonal respiratory virus, much like influenza, requiring annual booster shots each fall, according to three top officials at the US Food and Drug Administration.

In a commentary piece published this week in the medical journal JAMA, the officials make a case for seasonal shots and caution that preparation for this winter's potential surge needs to begin no later than next month.

"The timeframe to determine the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine for the 2022-2023 season, to use alongside the seasonal influenza vaccine for administration in the Northern Hemisphere beginning in about October, is compressed because of the time required for manufacturing the necessary doses," the officials write. "A decision on composition will need to be made in the US by June 2022."

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    Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 now 36.5% of US cases, can evade BA.1 antibodies

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 3 May - 22:05

A medical worker arranges nucleic acid samples at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site on May 3, 2022 in Beijing, China.

Enlarge / A medical worker arranges nucleic acid samples at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site on May 3, 2022 in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Pang Songgang )

The omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is poised to become dominant in the US, currently accounting for an estimated 36.5 percent of all US SARS-CoV-2 cases, according to the latest estimates released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The subvariant's ascent is the latest rapid succession of omicron subvariants, from the sky-scraping peak of cases from the initial omicron subvariant BA.1 in January, to the current bump driven by the subvariant BA.2, which achieved dominance in March. As before, the reason for the viral usurping is that omicron subvariants continue to evolve advantages: BA.2.12.1 has a transmission advantage over BA.2, which had a transmission advantage over BA.1, which had a significant advantage over delta.

The imminent reign of BA.2.12.1 raises concern for yet another wave of infections and poses questions about how effective future omicron-specific vaccines could be against symptomatic infections.

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    Omicron subvariants BA.4, BA.5 evade protection from earlier omicron infection

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 2 May - 22:44 · 1 minute

A COVID-19 testing tent stands in Times Square on April 27, 2022, in New York City.

Enlarge / A COVID-19 testing tent stands in Times Square on April 27, 2022, in New York City. (credit: Getty | Spencer Platt )

Enduring an initial omicron infection may not spare you from omicron's subvariants, according to preliminary data from South Africa.

The country is currently at the start of a new wave of infections, primarily driven by two omicron coronavirus subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. Despite a towering wave of cases from the initial BA.1 omicron variant in December that infected a large chunk of the country, new omicron cases increased 259 percent in the last two weeks, according to data-tracking by The New York Times. Hospitalizations are also up, and deaths have increased by 18 percent.

Preliminary data posted online last week helps explain why cases are once again surging—the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants can evade neutralizing antibodies generated by infections from BA.1. For the study, led by virologist Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute, researchers pitted neutralization antibodies from people infected with BA.1 up against BA.4 and BA.5 in a lab. They had samples from 24 unvaccinated people infected with BA.1 and 15 vaccinated people who had also had a BA.1 infection (eight people were vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and seven had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

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