By Ahmed Rahma
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its weekly report said it has been notified by Japan about new variant of the COVID-19 in travellers from Brazil.
According to the agency, it was notified on January 9 of the new variant detected in four travellers arriving from Brazil. The strain was found in two adults and two children.
The report stated that the variant has 12 mutations to the spike protein, including three mutations of concern in common with VOC 202012/01 and 501Y.V2 which may impact transmissibility and host immune response.
WHO said researchers in Brazil had additionally reported the emergence of a similar variant, which had likely evolved independently of the variant detected in Japan.
“The extent and public health significance of these new variants require further investigation,” the report said.
At a meeting of 1,750 international scientists held by the agency on Tuesday to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants, WHO’s research and development chief, Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, said, “Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts.”
WHO said the new variants showed the importance of increasing diagnostic capacity and systematic sequencing of the virus.
“Research is ongoing to determine the impact of new variants on transmission, disease severity as well as any potential impacts on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,” the organisation said.
The agency also said the variant first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20 countries, adding that the wider the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 diseases, the more the variants should be expected.
Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, 2020, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency said.
“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge.
“Test results showed the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain.
“The South African-identified variant 501Y.V2, first reported on December 18, has now been detected in 20 countries, territories and areas.
“From preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously.
“Moreover, while this new variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the observed rapid increases in case numbers have placed health systems under pressure,” stated the report.
According to the organisation, the geographical spread of both variants is likely underestimated, given a bias towards detection in countries with virus sequencing capacity.
COVID-19: Nigeria to Start Vaccination of Children
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
In a few months’ time, Nigeria will commence administering vaccines to children under 12 years to protect them against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
This vaccination of children against the virus would be done in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The UNICEF Health Specialist and Officer in charge of Enugu Field Office, Mr Olusoji Akinleye, said during a recent media executive meeting in the state that it had taken so long for this to be implemented because of the cluttered processes involved before any drug would be administered to children.
Speaking at the event, which was in collaboration with Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), Umuahia, on Child Rights-influenced Reporting on COVID-19, the specialist said that a lot of children had died due to the COVID-19, adding that, “In the next few months, Nigeria will start administering the vaccine on children under 12 years of age.”
He said, “We recognize the partnership in promoting and highlighting the right of every child to life. The very first right that every human being is supposed to have is the right to life; we recognise that the media have always supported the effort of government and partners, including UNICEF, in promoting the right to health.”
Noting the challenges faced by the health sector regarding public hesitancy, unwillingness, and misconceptions against the COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Akinleye encouraged parents to ensure that their children were protected by obeying the safety protocols that have been put in place.
In addition to this, he said, “UNICEF looks forward to more robust collaboration with the media and an expected upward trend in the promotion of health and hygiene practices by the media in Nigeria by daily communication to the public of protocols enforced by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Lagos to Host Conference on Biosecurity, One Health
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
The Lagos State Government has announced the plan to hold the seventh Annual African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity as part of efforts to ensure that the Africa continent braces up for the challenges posed by emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threats.
The conference is in partnership with Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET) and is scheduled to hold both virtually and physically at the Civic Centre at Lagos from Wednesday, October 27 to Friday, October 29, 2021, with the theme Universal Approach to Addressing Biosecurity Threats – Genomic Intelligence and Vaccines.
Interested participants have been advised to visit the GET website to register and attend the hybrid conference.
According to the state Commissioner for Health, Mr Akin Abayomi, the conference is seventh in the series of conferences organised by GET, in partnership with governments around West Africa and the African continent, to help develop a biosecurity road map and to increase resilience in dealing with pathogens of high consequence.
Mr Abayomi expressed the need to continually focus on the key importance of the African response in combating emerging infectious diseases.
He stated that the need for various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats necessitated the need for the conference.
“Lagos has teamed up once again this year with GET to organise the seventh African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity. We have a very important thematic initiative this year to address the universal approach to biosecurity threats using genomic intelligence and vaccine,” the commissioner noted.
He further explained that genomic intelligence is the ability to sequence a pathogen that is causing an outbreak, adding that COVID-19 is the focus of attention for the conference.
As stated by him, genomic intelligence should be vigorous, with significant measures taken to mitigate the potency of current and future epidemics as well as keeping up with effective vaccine production.
Mr Abayomi further explained that the conference’s thematic areas cover Vaccine Strategy, Genome Research, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity and Bio-threat, Biobanking Infrastructure, Climate change and Cultural Anthropological Social and Economic Impact of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He also advocated various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats as he stated the key importance of the African response in combating Emerging Infectious Diseases,
He stated that Lagos is prepared to welcome participants, policymakers, researchers, scientists and other interested persons to the conference, adding that the concept of One Health is necessary for ensuring biosecurity and all-around health.
In his remarks, the Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, Mr Ayodotun Bobadoye, noted that participants at the conference will include policymakers, scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, experts in infectious disease management, professionals from one health field, development partners, community and opinion leaders amongst others from within and outside the continent.
Mr Bobadoye further noted that resolutions at the conference will help chart a positive course for strategic response against Biosecurity threats in Africa and by extension the world.
NCS Honours LASUTH for Excellence in Cardiovascular Care
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) has been announced as the winner of the Excellence in Cardiovascular Care Award.
This award was given to LAUSTH on the premises the hospital is renowned for its contribution to the growth and development of cardiovascular medicine and surgery in the country.
The respected health institution grabbed this award at the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Cardiac Society (NCS) held in Lagos recently.
LASUTH is one of the two tertiary hospitals carrying out open-heart surgery in Nigeria. It has continued to make giant strides in improving the lives of the citizens of Lagos State and its environs.
The soon to be quaternary hospital has over the years provided high-quality healthcare to Lagosians using state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge technology to solve common and emerging health problems.
LASUTH heart surgeons have performed some of the most advanced procedures in the medical field. The hospital has experienced professionals who specialize in open-heart surgeries that effectively treat heart conditions while minimizing patients’ recovery time and maximizing the best possible outcomes.
This made the NCS during the recently concluded Scientific Conference honour the hospital for her feats and outstanding achievement in tackling cardiovascular diseases through a consistent open-heart surgery with great success.
It was learned that these surgical feats would not have been possible without the expertise of the medical professionals at the LASUTH Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Unit (CTSU) led by Dr Bode Falase, a cardiac surgeon and ably supported by the management of the hospital, under the leadership of the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo.
In a few weeks, LASUTH will be the only government-owned hospital with a cardiac catheterization laboratory (Cathlab). This is a laboratory with special imaging equipment used for the visualization of the arteries and checking blood flow to and from the heart.
LASUTH said one of the advantages of using its facility for cardiovascular issues is that patients would be exceptionally cared for at a reduced cost while also reducing medical tourism.
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