Health News Roundup: Six more U.S. states find Omicron cases, Delta still top U.S. coronavirus threat; S.Korea reports record-high COVID-19 cases, deaths, and more
Federal authorities are sticking with a plan to reopen the economy in the hope that the new variant proves to be milder than previous strains, but some state and territory governments have moved to tighten their domestic border controls. Researcher questions China's population data, says it may be lower China may be downplaying how fast its population is shrinking, and a recent policy to promote three-child families has poor chances to improve birth rates, a fertility expert told the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Six more U.S. states confirmed infections of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on Friday but the Delta strain likely remains a greater threat as winter sets in and Americans gather for the holidays, experts said. New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Utah each reported their first cases of the Omicron variant on Friday. Missouri was awaiting CDC confirmation of a case involving a St. Louis resident who had recently traveled within the United States.
S.Korea reports record-high COVID-19 cases, deaths
South Korea reported a record daily of 5,352 new COVID-19 infections and 70 deaths, while a nationwide total of nine cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday. The government on Friday announced that people visiting restaurants, cinemas, and other public spaces will have to show vaccine passes. It is also reducing the limit on private gatherings to six people in the greater Seoul area, from 10 currently, and to eight from 12 for those residing outside of the capital, starting next Monday.
The U.S. health regulator has added its strictest warning to the labels of drugs from Pfizer, Eli Lilly and AbbVie belonging to a class of anti-inflammatory treatments called JAK inhibitors, citing risk of serious health issues and death in patients 50 and over, the drugmakers said on Friday. The addition of the warning on the labels follows the agency's review of Pfizer's Xeljanz after initial results from a February trial showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in some patients being treated with the drug.
IMF chief says Omicron could dent global economic growth
The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender's chief said at the Reuters Next conference on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic. Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out.
Omicron variant may have picked up a piece of common-cold virus
The Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus - possibly one that causes the common cold - present in the same infected cells, according to researchers. This genetic sequence does not appear in any earlier versions of the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, but is ubiquitous in many other viruses including those that cause the common cold, and also in the human genome, researchers said.
BioNTech CEO says vaccine upgrade on the cards, ready to move quickly
BioNTech should be able to adapt its coronavirus vaccine relatively quickly in response to the Omicron variant, and the next few weeks will show how urgently an upgrade is needed, its CEO Ugur Sahin told the Reuters Next conference on Friday. Sahin said people should continue to seek the establishing shot, developed with Pfizer, as it very likely continues to protect against severe disease.
FDA clears use of Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapy for kids
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the use of Eli Lilly's COVID-19 dual-antibody therapy in treating mild to moderate symptoms in all children, including newborns, who are at risk of severe illness. The therapy, bamlanivimab plus etesevimab, was previously authorized for children aged 12 years and older and weighed at least 88 pounds.
Australia Omicron variant spreads, testing reopening plans
The Omicron coronavirus variant spread in Australia on Saturday, testing plans to reopen the economy as a cluster in Sydney grew to 13 cases and an infection was suspected in the state of Queensland. Federal authorities are sticking with a plan to reopen the economy on the hope that the new variant proves to be milder than previous strains, but some state and territory governments have moved to tighten their domestic border controls.
Researcher questions China's population data, says it may be lower
China may be downplaying how fast its population is shrinking, and a recent policy to promote three-child families has poor chances to improve birth rates, a fertility expert told the Reuters Next conference on Friday. Fuxian Yi, the senior scientist in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Wisconsin, said he estimated that China's 2020 population was 1.28 billion rather than the 1.41 billion census number reported and that fertility rates were lower than reported.
Explainer-Could the Omicron variant bring milder illness?
The Omicron variant, spreading now in southern Africa and detected in over 30 other countries, has prompted fears it could significantly undermine the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19. Yet as scientists race to understand the full consequences of Omicron, some are also asking whether this new version of coronavirus might cause milder illness than its predecessors. While they caution that it is far too early to draw conclusions, here is what is known so far:
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)