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The Department of Health is reportedly considering scrapping South Africa’s Covid-19 regulations related to mask wearing inside an indoor public place and restrictions on gatherings.
The recommendation was made by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla in a in a leaked memo dated 20 June 2022, according to a News24 report.
The memo apparently notes that there had been a decline in “critical indicators” including the number of reported Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, deaths and the “effective reproductive rate of the virus” in the country.
The Citizen reached out to the minister’s spokesperson, Doctor Tshwale, but he said the document was confidential and meant for consultation between minister and his Cabinet colleagues.
“It is out of consensus with MECs that [the] minister formulates recommendations to National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and Cabinet,” Tshwale said.
On Wednesday President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to host a meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC), which assesses progress and challenges on the implementation of the Covid-19 regulations.
Leaked health department memo shared by professor Shabir Madhi:
Winde supports scraping Covid restrictions
Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde welcomed the calling of PCC meeting and emphasised that all remaining Covid-19 restrictions should be removed.
“Finally we may now see an end to all Covid-19 curbs, as I have consistently called for. But it has to be emphasised, it is disappointing that it has taken so long, said Winde in a statement on Tuesday.
Winde emphasised the great impact the restrictions had on public events like the United Rugby Champion final that took place this past weekend.
He said it would have been greater if the Cape Town Stadium was full with the Stormers and the Bulls fans.
“The reality is that this could have been done earlier. In May and again earlier this month I had written to President Ramaphosa calling for a PCC meeting where the province’s latest health data was to be presented to back up removing remaining curbs.
“We should all expect far greater agility from the National Government if we are to get our economy growing and create the jobs we need to recover,” Winde said.
Additional reporting by Faizel Patel
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The monkeypox virus has spread to 20 U.S. states and the nation’s capital.
Thus far, 113 infections have been reported, with the majority in California, New York, Illinois and Florida.
New Jersey’s Department of Health announced its first probable case on Monday and Missouri officials identified a potential case in a Kansas City resident over the weekend.
Other locations are reporting monkeypox and orthopoxvirus cases in the single digits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
PEDIATRIC HEPATITIS OUTBREAK CASES ARE NOT ABOVE PRE-COVID-19 PANDEMIC LEVELS: CDC
There are now more than 35 countries – where monkeypox is not endemic – that have reported outbreaks of the viral disease, as confirmed cases exceed 2,500.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is convening an emergency meeting this week to determine whether the outbreak should be considered a global health emergency.
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The United Nations (UN) health agency said people with monkeypox could be infectious for up to four weeks and has advised those infected to isolate themselves until they have fully recovered.
Although the majority of new monkeypox cases have been seen in gay or bisexual men, experts caution that anyone is at potential risk.
People normally become infected with the monkeypox virus through contact with the skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans or through contact with materials contaminated with the virus.
The disease is commonly found in parts of central and west Africa.
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Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, has milder symptoms.
Some of those symptoms include fever, chills, rash and aches, before lesions develop.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
New modelling shows one state will be hit with another surge in Covid case numbers as the latest Omicron variant takes off.
South Australia is expected to be hit with record daily Covid-19 case numbers, new modelling has revealed.
The Omicron BA.5 variant will be the driver for the spike, predicted to hit over the next two months.
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the size of the wave was predicted to reach between 4000 to 5000 cases each day.
She said the recent modelling was the most uncertain so far, as the state no longer has international data as a basis, now that international borders are open.
“Hospitalisations have had a smaller wave and that’s what our expectation is, but I can’t say how accurate this estimation is,” Professor Spurrier said.
“There is quite a lot of uncertainty around this model.
“The wave isn’t going to be any worse than what we’ve experienced with previous variants.
“It’s going to put some pressure on the hospital system, but it’s not going to be catastrophic.”
Earlier in the day, Premier Peter Malinauskas alerted South Australians to the expected peak in daily case numbers, which will hit in about six to eight weeks.
But he said the rise “should not be a cause for panic” and did not anticipate restrictions would change.
“In NSW, currently the new BA.5 numbers have gone up quite dramatically, to a lesser extent in Victoria and there is now a presence of the BA.5 variant in South Australia,“ Mr Malinauskas said after Tuesday’s Emergency Management Committee meeting.
“This is what we’re going to see over the course of the months and years ahead – case numbers will go up and cases will go down and we need to be equipped to handle that circumstance.
“Case numbers have come down quite dramatically (in SA). They’re currently around that 2000 number, however hospitalisations have remained about the same.”
The Premier said a slight increase in hospitalisations was also possible with the predicted wave.
“It won’t be dramatic, but any increase on the hospital system is something we’re concerned about, given the strain the system is under.”
Mr Malinauskas said the variant was not believed to be more severe than previous strains, but was more transmissible.
According to SA Health data, the latest genome sampling taken between June 1 and 7 found 83.7 per cent were of the BA.2 strain.
Health Minister Chris Picton said the health system was already under “extreme pressure” and all employees were ”working their guts out” with flu and Covid-19 patients.
It comes as the state recorded 11 deaths, including a woman in her 40s, and 2270 new infections over the past 24 hours.
There are currently more than 16,000 active cases across the state.
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It has been over a year since Chris and Laura Didier found their 17-year-old son, Zach, slumped over his desk inside their home near Sacramento, Calif.
Their son “appeared to be asleep, and when I approached him, I knew something was horribly wrong,” dad Chris Didier told Fox News, recalling the moment when he entered his son’s room on Dec. 27, 2020.
“I just felt something dark and something empty — and it haunts me,” he said.
Fearing the worst, Didier did what any father would do — he attempted to bring Zach back to consciousness.
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A former U.S. military service member, Didier used his CPR training to try to revive Zach while shouting out for his other son, Sam, to call 911.
Medics arrived a short while later and took over the rescue efforts.
It was about 10 minutes later when they realized there was nothing more they could do for the teenager. Dad Chris Didier recalled what happened next.
“I didn’t accept that. I said, ‘That’s not acceptable,’” he said. “So, I resumed CPR and I fought as hard as I could to prevent the loss. And sometime later, one of the responders took me away from Zach.”
The stricken father added, “And that’s when it stopped.”
“I know what fentanyl is, but how does that get into my house?”
Chris Didier said coroners arrived at his home to examine Zach’s room over the course of several hours.
“They said, ‘Chris, this is a real mystery,’” he said. “’We — obviously, if someone dies — we want to figure out what happened, if there’s any obvious clues.’”
The investigators told the Didiers there were two possibilities regarding the cause of Zach’s death: natural causes or fentanyl.
“I know what fentanyl is, but how does that get into my house?” Chris Didier asked. “My child is inside my house. He’s not out in the dangers of the world. How does he get it into his room? How does it get into his body?”
What Chris and Laura soon learned was that their son had purchased what he thought was a Percocet pill from someone on Snapchat. Instead, he ended up with a counterfeit pill made up of fentanyl.
“We’d never heard of counterfeit pills,” said Zach’s mother, Laura Didier.
“We never heard about drug dealers preying on young people through social media apps. This was not something we had any knowledge of, nor did our neighbors or our friends or Zach’s classmates. I mean, we were all completely blindsided to learn that all of this was happening.”
“Social media is a very common platform. You can get whatever you want on social media at any age, and I had no idea that [this] was going on.”
Both she and her husband were shocked to learn that their son, Zach, was able to obtain the tainted pill so easily on social media.
“All the other parents that we knew, all of his soccer team, all of those friends — none of us had ever heard of a counterfeit prescription pill that had only fentanyl in it as the acting agent,” Chris Didier told Fox News.
“I also learned that social media is a very common platform. You can get whatever you want on social media at any age, and I had no idea that that was going on.”
OREGON’S DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION EFFORT A ‘TRAGEDY’
Synthetic opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl, have become the primary cause of overdose deaths in the U.S., especially among teens.
Deaths linked to fentanyl among adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 have skyrocketed year over year, representing 77% of adolescent deaths among teens last year alone, according to a study released in April by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“One-time users are most likely to die from it because they have no tolerance, and they don’t have any idea what they were taking,” Dr. Olivia Rae Wright, a family medicine and adolescent addiction specialist in Vancouver, Wash., told Fox News.
It was last November that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a shocking report: It indicated that over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. occurred during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. That’s an increase of almost 30% from the same time a year before.
Overdoses started to rise when heroin started getting laced with fentanyl as a filler to push out more product, said one doctor.
Three out of every four Americans who died during that period were killed by synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl — and those numbers are continuing to rise, driven in part by the number of people like young Zach Didier who never knew what they were taking.
Dr. Wright said overdoses started to rise when heroin started getting laced with fentanyl as a filler to push out more product.
“It was all happening in the Northeast, and the reason was because it started out just being mixed with heroin,” she said. “The heroin on the East Coast tended to come from China, and it was in a white powder form that was really easy to mix [with] fentanyl.”
Wright added that it wasn’t a problem on the West Coast until the past 10 years, when production of a particular type of heroin known as China White slowed down.
“China got a lot of pressure from the U.S. about this when it first started becoming a problem,” she said.
“They quit making it as much. But what they do is, they send the precursors [base chemical compounds] to Mexico, and so now it’s … distributed in the United States, and made its way to the West Coast.”
FEDS SEIZE 478,000 COUNTERFEIT PILLS, CHARGE 26 WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING AND OTHER CRIMES
The addiction specialist also pointed out, “Once prescription opioids weren’t as available, then they [the drug dealers] were looking for other things to keep people hooked and found that fentanyl was a great way to do it.”
She continued, “It started feeding into the supply, being mixed with other drugs, and then just on its own now, and mostly in pill form.”
Trying to help others
Since Zach’s death, Laura and Chris Didier have used their experience to inform other parents of the dangers of the counterfeit pills and the open drug markets on social media.
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“If we had known about this problem — if we had seen a news report about this or seen a program in our school about this … we could have had this specific conversation,” Laura Didier said.
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She added, “If we’d been able to also tell our beautiful, vibrant child, ‘If you ever see something on social media, don’t believe the deception. What they’re selling is not what they’re telling you.'”
Concluded this mom, “I just wish we would have known that that had to be a conversation.”
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In response to the current pediatric hepatitis outbreak possibly linked to adenovirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found current data do not suggest an increase in pediatric hepatitis cases or adenovirus types 40/41 from the time the outbreak began compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“Data from four large administrative databases were analyzed to assess trends in pediatric hepatitis and percentage of stool specimens positive for adenovirus type 40/41,” the CDC said.
“Although this ecologic analysis cannot conclusively confirm or refute a potential association between pediatric hepatitis and adenovirus, it provides useful context for the ongoing investigation.”
The CDC compared data during the current hepatitis outbreak period from October 2021–March 2022 with a pre-COVID-19 pandemic baseline, because health care-seeking behavior may have changed during 2020-21 in response to the pandemic.
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After pediatric cases of hepatitis starting being identified in the United States and the United Kingdom that did not have a clear etiology, CDC issued a healthy advisory in April 2022 to report additional cases.
They found many of the reported cases also had tests results positive for adenovirus type 41, a virus known to cause gastroenteritis, but not known to cause hepatitis in children with an intact immune system, per the agency.
“Because neither acute hepatitis of unknown etiology nor adenovirus type 41 is reportable in the United States, it is unclear whether either has recently increased above historical levels,” the CDC said.
So the agency analyzed data from four sources: the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP), the Premier Healthcare Database Special Release (PHD-SR), the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN), and Labcorp.
NSSP collects electronic health information from emergency departments across every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, representing 71% of nonfederal emergency rooms in the United States.
PHD-SR included records from approximately 1,000 hospitals while pediatric liver transplant data was obtained from the national registry, which is managed by OPTN.
Labcorp data included results for stool specimens tested for adenovirus types 40/41 but could not distinguish if the type was type 40 or 41, but the CDC noted approximately 90% of all adenovirus cases detected in the U.S. with gastroenteritis are type 41.
There was no significant difference in hospitalizations associated with hepatitis or pediatric emergency department visits during the period of the outbreak during October 2021through March 2022 compared before the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also no significant increase in number of monthly liver transplants or increase in the percentage of specimens positive for adenovirus types 40/41 during October 2021–March 2022 compared with pre-pandemic levels.
But the United Kingdom did report an increase in the number of stool specimens positive for adenovirus among children 1 to 4 years old compared with pre-pandemic levels, but the agency noted data on total specimens tested in the U.K. is unavailable so true percentage of the specimens positive for adenovirus is unknown.
The CDC reports the data has limitations because the analysis assessed trends of hepatitis indirectly through electronic health data because the hepatitis cases without a clear cause are not reportable in the United States, so an exact baseline is unknown currently.
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They also note because even though liver transplants are “well documented,” there is a two to three month delay period of reporting, so March 2022 data might be underreported.
Additionally, because the COVID-19 pandemic likely altered health seeking behavior, the pre-pandemic data are limited to 2017-2019, and it’s unknown if this data is an accurate baseline.
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The CDC also noted the small sample size may make it difficult to determine small changes in incidence because the hepatitis cases are rare.
“Finally, these results are intended to provide an overview of trends in pediatric acute hepatitis of unspecified etiology and adenovirus types 40/41 in the United States and cannot be used to infer or disprove a causal link between these two illnesses.”