Reuters Health News Summary
The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges. Analysis: As Omicron plays havoc with markets, shares of vaccine makers surge The emergence of a worrisome coronavirus variant is benefiting shares of vaccine makers Moderna Inc, BioNTech and Pfizer as investors search for winning bets in markets roiled by uncertainty in recent days.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
The race is on to trace the new COVID-19 variant
Governments around the world are urgently scouring databases for recent cases of COVID-19 infections, screening travellers and decoding the viral genomes of the new variant as they try to measure how far it has spread. The pace of the work highlights the pressure on governments and public health authorities to decide quickly whether they need to take unpopular, economically damaging steps to curb Omicron's spread.
Merck says its COVID-19 drug should be effective against any variant
Merck & Co Inc's experimental COVID-19 drug molnupiravir should have similar activity against any new coronavirus variant, a company executive said on Tuesday. The drug, developed along with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, shows antiviral properties against coronavirus variants such as the Delta variant, Daria Hazuda, vice president of Merck's infectious diseases and vaccines division, said.
Officials offer vaccine reassurance, WHO advises against travel bans
The World Health Organization warned countries on Tuesday not to impose blanket travel bans over the new Omicron coronavirus variant as governments and scientists tried to figure how much protection current vaccines would offer against the strain. Financial markets fell sharply after the head of drugmaker Moderna said existing COVID-19 vaccines would be less effective against the Omicron variant, but they recovered strongly after more reassuring comments from European officials.
On Friday Nov. 19, Raquel Viana, Head of Science at one of South Africa's biggest private testing labs, sequenced the genes on eight coronavirus samples - and got the shock of her life. The samples, tested in the Lancet laboratory, all bore a large number of mutations, especially on the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells.
The Omicron coronavirus variant detected in southern Africa could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant, the director of South Africa's communicable disease institute said on Tuesday. The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges.
Analysis: As Omicron plays havoc with markets, shares of vaccine makers surge
The emergence of a worrisome coronavirus variant is benefiting shares of vaccine makers Moderna Inc, BioNTech and Pfizer as investors search for winning bets in markets roiled by uncertainty in recent days. Moderna shares have jumped 28% since last week when the variant, named Omicron, triggered global alarm. Shares of vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNtech have also climbed over that time, with Pfizer up 6% and U.S. shares of BioNTech jumping 15%, in contrast to a decline in the S&P 500 of 2.5%.
Brazil reports two cases of Omicron variant, first in Latin America
Brazil's health regulator Anvisa said on Tuesday that laboratory analysis had found two Brazilian cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the first reported cases in Latin America. Anvisa said a traveler arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife had both apparently contracted the variant.
New York City opens first U.S. sites for supervised narcotics injection
The first sites in the United States that allow narcotics users to inject drugs under the supervision of trained staff opened in New York City on Tuesday, a move aimed at stemming a surge in overdose deaths. The city's health department said two sites, both located in Upper Manhattan, may begin operations as of Tuesday. They are run by two existing Syringe Service Providers, organizations that offer a range of services including access and disposal of injection equipment.
Germany to act to counter COVID-19 fourth wave
Germany's federal and regional governments agreed on Tuesday to take action to counter a fourth wave of COVID-19, including stepping up the vaccination campaign and restricting contact, especially for unvaccinated people. Facing a surge in cases over the last few weeks and warnings from virologists that exponential growth rates would overload hospitals, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel held video talks with her successor, Olaf Scholz, and regional leaders.
Lisbon hospital shuts children services due to Omicron COVID-19 case
A large hospital near Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, said on Tuesday it has temporarily shut two of its pediatric departments after a health worker, who is also the doctor for a COVID-hit soccer team, tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The Garcia de Orta hospital in Almada, a city on the other side of the River Tagus from Lisbon, said the pediatric emergency and outpatient departments would close from 10 p.m. on Tuesday for a period of 14 days.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)