COVID-19 pandemic plunges working world into crisis: ILO

GENEVA (Reuters) – Global leaders called for a comprehensive approach to counter the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which International Labor Organization chief Guy Ryder said on Wednesday had plunged the world of work into “unprecedented crisis”.

“Let’s be clear: it’s not a choice between health or jobs and the economy. They are interlinked: we will either win on all fronts or fail on all fronts,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an ILO summit that will be addressed by dozens of heads of state and government via recorded messages.

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the summit the world had a special duty to protect the millions of healthcare workers at the front line of the crisis and suffering increasing cases of infection and death.

“Together we have a duty to protect those who protect us,” he said.

The outlook for the global labor market in the second half of 2020 is “highly uncertain” and the forecast recovery will not be enough for employment to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, the ILO said last week.

The U.N. agency said the fall in global working hours was “significantly worse than previously estimated” in the first half of the year.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Michael Shields; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

‘Like a science experiment’: A New York family learns the limits of coronavirus tests

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After a week or so sick in bed in their New York City apartment in March, members of the Johnson-Baruch family were convinced they had been stricken by the novel coronavirus. Subsequent test results left them with more questions than answers.

Tests both for the virus itself and for the antibodies the immune system produces to fight the infection are becoming more widely available, but they are not perfect. The tests can come back with false positives, false negatives or confoundingly ambiguous results. Doctors cannot always offer definitive explanations.

For Maree Johnson-Baruch, her husband, Jason Baruch, and their two teenage daughters, their experience ran the gamut.

They all became sick around the same time with the same symptoms. But each set of tests they subsequently took, whether for antibodies or the virus, came back with conflicting results among family members – some positive some negative. Eventually, after several weeks and additional tests, they were able to confirm that all four had indeed been infected.

“I feel a little bit like a science experiment,” Johnson-Baruch said. “But no one really knows how this virus is behaving.”

Widespread testing is touted by many policymakers and public health experts as a central tool for reopening closed economies and for tamping down any future outbreaks of the virus. But these public health experts have said that the limitations of tests must be factored in, and that there must be time for more research into the degree that antibodies, for example, confer immunity against future infection.

Johnson-Baruch, an actress, began to feel ill shortly after she finished her final performance in the pivotal supporting role of Madame Giry in the Broadway musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” It was a Thursday matinee on March 12, the day New York City began closing non-essential businesses to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Over the weekend she had occasional aches but thought she was just imagining symptoms. By Monday, she had a fever. One by one, her husband and daughters fell sick over the following week. Johnson-Baruch noticed she could not smell the pine-scented disinfectant she was using to clean the family’s apartment.

The family called the New York State Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline. The federal government had botched the rollout of test kits, which then remained scarce – and limited in New York mostly to only those sick enough to require hospitalization. The family followed the advice to recuperate at home and by April everyone felt recovered.

Soon after, Johnson-Baruch read about a new experimental therapy at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital in which the antibody-rich blood plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, is donated to people hospitalized with the illness.

In late April, she and her husband put on face masks and went to the hospital, where healthcare workers decked in protective gear drew blood.

“The strange thing was I tested positive and Jason tested negative,” Johnson-Baruch said.

Such disparities do not surprise Dr. Ania Wajnberg, who oversees Mount Sinai’s antibody testing efforts.

The antibody test developed at Mount Sinai fails to detect antibodies in about 6% of patients who actually have them. The intensity and recentness of the original infection can also affect whether antibodies are detected, Wajnberg said.

“I do think sometimes the results are surprising to people,” Wajnberg said. “And, more than anything, I get tons of questions about what the results mean, and we don’t know exactly what they mean.”

Although antibodies are thought to be likely to provide at least some immunity for some period of time, it remains the subject of study.

“Overall, everyone understands that this is so new and that they are sort of participating in the learning process,” Wajnberg said.

‘WE WERE SURPRISED’

About six weeks after calling the state health department, Johnson-Baruch heard back from an official saying the family could finally get a test for the actual virus that works by looking for distinctive parts of the pathogen’s genetic material, RNA, in a patient’s sample.

“We were well over a month out of our symptoms by that point, so we were surprised to get the call from them sort of out of the blue,” Johnson-Baruch said.

Johnson-Baruch noticed her eldest daughter particularly squirmed when healthcare workers stuck swabs, one by one, deep into the back of their noses.

Once again, the results surprised them. Johnson-Baruch, her husband and their youngest daughter all tested positive. Their eldest daughter tested negative.

What did it mean, the family wondered. Were they still in some sense sick? Could they still infect others?

A health department official who called to relay the results was not much help. “She was quite surprised to hear we were sick six weeks ago,” Johnson-Baruch said.

The tests used by the health department “cannot distinguish between RNA from live or dead virus,” Jonah Bruno, a department spokesman, wrote in an email. “This persistent positive test result can continue long after a person has recovered and does not necessarily indicate that a person continues to be infectious.”

Some 60 different RNA or antibody tests are now available after under emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the makers of those tests must continue to submit accuracy data to the regulatory agency before final approval is given.

Dr. Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, said it was challenging to get the general public to accept the limitations of tests.

“People are way more comfortable with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ than ‘maybe,'” Ompad said. “Unfortunately, that’s where the science has us right now: we just don’t know, and it’s much better to say that we don’t know than to try to make predictions without having the data there because that can be detrimental.”

The Johnson-Baruch family members are not quite done with testing. The daughter who had negative virus results has since tested positive for antibodies for the virus after going to a walk-in clinic. Such facilities made testing more widely available this month.

Jason Baruch, a lawyer for Broadway theaters, is also seeking a second antibody test, this time hoping it comes back positive. A positive test would offer some comfort that he may have some level of immunity.

“No one’s really willing to put themselves on the line and say, ‘Hey, you’re home free, you have antibodies,’ or, ‘You’re still contagious,'” Baruch said. “No one really wants to tell us – definitively – anything.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Additional reporting by Mike Segar and Aleksandra Michalska; Editing by Ross Colvin and Will Dunham)

North Korea media silent on Kim’s whereabouts as speculation on health rages

By Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean state media on Wednesday made no mention of leader Kim Jong Un’s health or whereabouts, a day after intense international speculation over his health was sparked by media reports he was gravely ill after a cardiovascular procedure.

North Korean media presented a business as usual image, carrying routine reporting of Kim’s achievements and publishing some of his older, or undated, comments on issues like the economy.

South Korean and Chinese officials and sources familiar with U.S. intelligence have cast doubt on South Korean and U.S. media reports that he was seriously sick, while the White House said it was closely monitoring the matter.

However, on Wednesday one U.S. government source who had previously played down reports that Kim was seriously ill said it was a possibility that was now being looked at closely.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who held unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 in an attempt to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons, said on Tuesday the reports had not been confirmed and he did not put much credence in them.

“We’ll see how he does,” Trump told a White House news conference. “We don’t know if the reports are true.”

Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

On Wednesday, the main headlines from North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, included pieces on sports equipment, mulberry picking, and a meeting in Bangladesh to study North Korea’s “juche” or self-reliance ideology.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried older or undated remarks attributed to Kim in articles about the economy, the textile industry, city development, and other topics.

As usual Kim’s name was plastered all over the newspaper. But there were no reports on his whereabouts.

Official media has however continued to report the sending of routine diplomatic letters by Kim, and KCNA said he sent a reply on Wednesday to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, thanking him for a message to mark the birthday of the North Korean leader’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said it could not confirm Kim’s whereabouts, or whether he had undergone surgery. It said South Korea had detected no unusual activity in North Korea.

‘EXTENDED SILENCE IS UNUSUAL’

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported late on Monday that Kim, who is believed to be about 36, was hospitalised on April 12, hours before the cardiovascular procedure.

The report’s English-language version carried a correction on Tuesday to say the report was based on a single unnamed source in North Korea, not multiple as it earlier stated.

It said his health had deteriorated since August due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, and he was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang.

“It does look like something is going on, based on the repeated absences of last week,” said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of the Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.

“A health issue seems to be the most logical explanation for all this, but whether or not it’s cardiac-related seems to be too early to tell.”

On Tuesday, CNN reported an unidentified U.S. official saying the United States was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.

However, two South Korean government officials rejected the CNN report. China, North Korea’s only major ally, also dismissed the reports.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told Fox News on Tuesday that the White House was monitoring the reports “very closely”.

“There’s lots of conjecture going around,” a senior Trump administration official said on condition of anonymity late on Tuesday when asked if there was confirmation of the reports.

North Korea experts have cautioned that hard facts about Kim’s condition are elusive but said his unprecedented absence from the celebrations for his grandfather’s birthday signalled that something may have gone awry.

Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to South Korea in 2016, said state media’s extended silence was unusual because it had in the past been quick to dispel questions about the status of its leadership.

“Every time there is controversy about (Kim), North Korea would take action within days to show he is alive and well,” he said in a statement.

His absence from the April 15 anniversary ceremony, in particular, was “unprecedented”, Thae said.

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules North Korea with an iron fist, coming to power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011 from a heart attack.

(Reporting by Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha, and Hyonhee Shin; addtikonal repotrng by Mark Hosenball and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Alistair Bell)

Special Report: How the COVID-19 lockdown will take its own toll on health

By M.B. Pell and Benjamin Lesser

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It’s the most dramatic government intervention into our lives since World War II. To fight the coronavirus outbreak, governments across the globe have closed schools, travel and businesses big and small. Many observers have fretted about the economic costs of throwing millions of people out of work and millions of students out of school.

Now, three weeks after the United States and other countries took sweeping suppression steps that could last months or more, some public health specialists are exploring a different consequence of the mass shutdown: the thousands of deaths likely to arise unrelated to the disease itself.

The longer the suppression lasts, history shows, the worse such outcomes will be. A surge of unemployment in 1982 cut the life spans of Americans by a collective two to three million years, researchers found. During the last recession, from 2007-2009, the bleak job market helped spike suicide rates in the United States and Europe, claiming the lives of 10,000 more people than prior to the downturn. This time, such effects could be even deeper in the weeks, months and years ahead if, as many business and political leaders are warning, the economy crashes and unemployment skyrockets to historic levels.

Already, there are reports that isolation measures are triggering more domestic violence in some areas. Prolonged school closings are preventing special needs children from receiving treatment and could presage a rise in dropouts and delinquency. Public health centers will lose funding, causing a decline in their services and the health of their communities. A surge in unemployment to 20% – a forecast now common in Western economies – could cause an additional 20,000 suicides in Europe and the United States among those out of work or entering a near-empty job market.

None of this is to downplay the chilling death toll COVID-19 threatens, or to suggest governments shouldn’t aggressively respond to the crisis.

A recent report by researchers from Imperial College London helped set the global lockdown in motion, contending that coronavirus could kill 2 million Americans and 500,000 people in Great Britain unless governments rapidly deployed severe social distancing measures. To truly work, the report said, the suppression effort would need to last, perhaps in an on-again, off-again fashion, for up to 18 months.

In the United States, the White House this week said the final toll could rise to 240,000 dead. States have responded to the dire warnings, and the escalating number of cases revealed each day, by extending stay-at-home shutdowns.

The medical battle against COVID-19 is developing so rapidly that no one knows how it will play out or what the final casualty count will be. But researchers say history shows that responses to a deep and long economic shock, coupled with social distancing, will trigger health impacts of their own, over the short, mid and long term.

Here is a look at some.

SHORT TERM CONSEQUENCES

Domestic Violence

Trapped at home with their abusers, some domestic violence victims are already experiencing more frequent and extreme violence, said Katie Ray-Jones, the chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Domestic violence programs across the country have cited increases in calls for help, news accounts reported – from Cincinnati to Nashville, Portland, Salt Lake City and statewide in Virginia and Arizona. The YWCA of Northern New Jersey, in another example, told Reuters its domestic violence calls have risen up to 24%.

“There are special populations that are going to have impacts that go way beyond COVID-19,” said Ray-Jones, citing domestic violence victims as one.

Vulnerable Students

Students, parents and teachers all face challenges adjusting to remote learning, as schools nationwide have been closed and online learning has begun.

Some experts are concerned that students at home, especially those living in unstable environments or poverty, will miss more assignments. High school students who miss at least three days a month are seven times more likely to drop out before graduating and, as a result, live nine years less than their peers, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report.

Among the most vulnerable: the more than 6 million special education students across the United States. Without rigorous schooling and therapy, these students face a lifetime of challenges.

Special needs students “benefit the most from highly structured and customized special education,” said Sharon Vaughn, executive director of the The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the University of Texas. “This means that they are the group that are most likely to be significantly impacted by not attending school both in the short and long term.”

In New Jersey, Matawan’s Megan Gutierrez has been overwhelmed with teaching and therapy duties for her two nonverbal autistic sons, eight and 10. She’s worried the boys, who normally work with a team of therapists and teachers, will regress. “For me, keeping those communications skills is huge, because if they don’t, that can lead to behavioral issues where they get frustrated because they can’t communicate,” Gutierrez said.

MEDIUM TERM CONSEQUENCES

Soaring Suicides

In Europe and the United States, suicide rates rise about 1% for every one percentage point increase in unemployment, according to research published by lead author Aaron Reeves from Oxford University. During the last recession, when the unemployment in the United States peaked at 10%, the suicide rate jumped, resulting in 4,750 more deaths. If the unemployment rate increases to 20%, the toll could well rise.

“Sadly, I think there is a good chance we could see twice as many suicides over the next 24 months than we saw during the early part of the last recession,” Reeves told Reuters. That would be about 20,000 additional dead by suicide in the United States and Europe.

Less than three weeks after extreme suppression measures began in the United States, unemployment claims rose by nearly 10 million. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned the rate could reach 20% and Federal Reserve economists predicted as high as 32%. Europe faces similarly dire forecasts.

Some researchers caution that suicide rates might not spike so high. The conventional wisdom is that more people will kill themselves amid skyrocketing unemployment, but communities could rally around a national effort to defeat COVID-19 and the rates may not rise, said Anne Case, who researches health economics at Princeton University. “Suicide is hard to predict even in the absence of a crisis of Biblical proportions,” Case said.

This week, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, relaxed its strict social isolation policies after the apparent suicides of two cadet seniors in late March, The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper, reported. While juniors, sophomores and freshmen had been sent home, the college seniors were kept isolated in dorms, and some had complained of a prison-like setting. Now, the seniors will be able to leave campus for drive-thru food and congregate in small groups per state guidelines.

Public Health Crippled

Local health departments run programs that treat chronic diseases such as diabetes. They also help prevent childhood lead poisoning and stem the spread of the flu, tuberculosis and rabies. A severe loss of property and sales tax revenue following a wave of business failures will likely cripple these health departments, said Adriane Casalotti, chief of government affairs with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, a nonprofit focused on public health.

After the 2008 recession, local health departments in the U.S. lost 23,000 positions as more than half experienced budget cuts. While it’s become popular to warn against placing economic concerns over health, Casalotti said that, on the front lines of public health, the two are inexorably linked. “What are you going to do when you have no tax base to pull from?” she asked.

Carol Moehrle, director of a public health department that serves five counties in northern Idaho, said her office lost about 40 of its 90 employees amid the last recession. The department had to cut a family planning program that provided birth control to women below the poverty line and a program that tested for and treated sexually transmitted diseases. She worries a depression will cause more harm.

“I honestly don’t think we could be much leaner and still be viable, which is a scary thing to think about,” Moehrle said.

LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES

Job-loss Mortality

Rises in unemployment during large recessions can set in motion a domino effect of reduced income, additional stress and unhealthy lifestyles. Those setbacks in income and health often mean people die earlier, said Till von Wachter, a University of California Los Angeles professor who researches the impact of job loss. Von Wachter said his research of past surges in unemployment suggests displaced workers could lose, on average, a year and a half of lifespan. If the jobless rate rises to 20%, this could translate into 48 million years of lost human life.

Von Wachter cites measures he believes could mitigate the effects of unemployment. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act approved by the White House last week includes emergency loans to businesses and a short-time compensation program that could encourage employers to keep employees on the payroll.

Young People Suffer

Young adults entering the job market during the coronavirus suppression may pay an especially high price over the long term.

First-time job hunters seeking work during periods of high unemployment live shorter and unhealthier lives, research shows. An extended freeze of the economy could shorten the lifespan of 6.4 million Americans entering the job market by an average of about two years, said Hannes Schwandt, a health economics researcher at Northwestern University, who conducted the study with von Wachter. This would be 12.8 million years of life lost.

Thousands of college graduates will enter a job market at a time global business is frozen. Jason Gustave, a senior at William Paterson University in New Jersey who will be the first in his family to graduate from college, had a job in physical therapy lined up. Now his licensure exam is postponed and the earliest he could start work is September.

“It all depends on where the economy goes,” he said. “Is there a position still available?”

WHAT COMES NEXT

In the weeks ahead, a clearer picture of the disease’s devastation will come into focus, and governments and health specialists will base their fatality estimates on a stronger factual grounding.

As they do, some public health experts say, the government should weigh the costs of the suppression measures taken and consider recalibrating, if necessary.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who researches health policy at Stanford University, said he worries governments worldwide have not yet fully considered the long term health impacts of the impending economic calamity. The coronavirus can kill, he said, but a global depression will, as well. Bhattacharya is among those urging government leaders to carefully consider the complete shutdown of businesses and schools.

“Depressions are deadly for people, poor people especially,” he said.

(Reporting in New York by M.B. Pell and Benjamin Lesser. Data editing by Janet Roberts. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

PTL Shop and The Jim Bakker Show now on ZLiving!

Zliving.com

By Kami Klein

PTL Television Network is thrilled to announce our partnership with the ZLiving Network!   ZLiving is your guide to natural living and wellness, providing healthy recipes, motivating fitness tips, alternative remedies, and clean beauty advice. As a leading media brand, ZLiving is devoted to showcasing the best healthy lifestyle and wellness programming and content across multiple media platforms, including TV, web, and on-demand streaming services. There are so many incredible programs to watch and now ZLiving is offering PTL Shop and The Jim Bakker Show!    

ZLiving is about getting the most out of every day and we think that PTL Shop and The Jim Bakker Show will fit right in with their amazing programming.  Beginning Monday, July 29th you can tune in to watch PTL Shop, Monday thru Friday at 5 am ET and at 5:30 am ET. The Jim Bakker Show will air every Monday thru Friday at 7 am ET!  Here is where you can tune in:

ZLiving Ways to Watch

ZLiving Ways to Watch

Healthy living if for your body, mind and soul!  We hope you will tune in to ZLiving and check out more life tips! Begin your wellness journey and watch PTL Shop and The Jim Bakker Show, starting July 29th, 2019 on ZLiving! 

Medicare hospital fund reserves likely to be exhausted in 2026: U.S. report

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Seema Verma (C) is joined by Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance (L) at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

(Reuters) – Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, as previously forecast, and Social Security program costs are likely to exceed total income in 2020 for the first time since 1982, according to a government report released on Monday.

The report from the board of trustees for Social Security and Medicare also projected that Social Security funds could be depleted by 2035, leading to potential reductions in expected payouts to retirees and other beneficiaries.

U.S. healthcare costs are expected to be a hot topic during the 2020 presidential campaign, with uncertainty around possible cost-cutting solutions already weighing on healthcare stocks this year.

Senator Bernie Sanders, among a large field of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, has unveiled a “Medicare-for-All” plan that would eliminate private insurance and shift all Americans to a public healthcare plan.

However, Republicans have denounced the proposal as impractical and too expensive.

“At a time when some are calling for a complete government takeover of the American health care system, the Medicare Trustees have delivered a dose of reality in reminding us that the program’s main trust fund for hospital services can only pay full benefits for seven more years,” Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said.

The report said costs associated with the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) trust fund, which covers drug costs in Part B and D in the program for seniors, are likely to grow steadily from 2.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2018 to about 3.7 percent of GDP in 2038, given the aging U.S. population and rising costs.

Cost projections for Part D drug spending, which covers prescription medicines obtained at the pharmacy, are lower than in last year’s report because of slower price growth and a trend of increasing manufacturer rebates, CMS said.

Part B primarily involves specialty drugs administered on an in-patient basis.

Trustees project that the SMI fund for Part B and Part D will remain adequately financed into the indefinite future because current law provides financing from general revenues and beneficiary premiums each year to meet the next year’s expected costs.

The Trump administration in January proposed a rule that would overhaul the use of rebates in government-run healthcare plans, potentially ending a decades-long system under which drugmakers provide large discounts off the list price of their medicines to benefits managers and insurers rather than to consumers.

(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Philippines says anti-dengue vaccine may be connected to three deaths

Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo (R), Undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH), with Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), answer questions during a news conference at the DOH headquarter in metro Manila, Philippines February 2, 2018.

By Manuel Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said on Friday the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may be connected to three deaths in the country, according to a government-ordered inquiry, and that the drug is not ready for mass immunisation.

French drug maker Sanofi said in November that Dengvaxia – the world’s first dengue vaccine – might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus.

The news prompted an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated in 2016.

“We sympathise with all the families who have suffered the loss of a child. Sanofi Pasteur’s mission is to reduce or eliminate suffering for millions around the world through vaccination, including in the Philippines,” a spokesman for Sanofi said in an emailed statement.

“Dengue fever is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the Philippines today. Sanofi Pasteur remains committed to working with the Philippines government and all organisations to address this urgent public health challenge.”

The Philippine Health Ministry halted Dengvaxia immunisations in November. It formed a 10-member panel of experts to determine if the drug was directly connected to the deaths of 14 children after they were given the vaccine.

It found it may have been connected to the deaths of three.

“Three cases were found to have causal association. They died of dengue even (though) they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo told a news conference.

“These findings strengthen the decision of the Department of Health to stop the vaccine. It has failed in some children. Dengvaxia is not ready for mass vaccinations and we would need three to five more years to watch and monitor if there would be other adverse reactions from the vaccine.”

Mosquito-borne dengue is the world’s fastest-growing infectious disease, afflicting up to 100 million people worldwide, causing half a million life-threatening infections and killing about 20,000 people, mostly children, each year.

Domingo said the panel’s findings would be shared with the justice department, which is considering cases against those responsible for the mass immunisation programme.

Paediatrician and panel member Juliet Sio-Aguilar, from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said the team was recommending further studies as it was difficult to directly connect the three deaths to Dengvaxia.

No vaccine has a 100 percent success rate, she said. The dengue death rate in the Philippines was 60 times higher than global rate, Sio-Aguilar said.

The Philippines spent 3.5 billion pesos ($68 million) on the Dengvaxia programme to reduce the 200,000 dengue cases reported every year.

The Philippines has already fined Sanofi a symbolic $2,000, citing violations in product registration and marketing.

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirshler in London, Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Evans)

Flu Spreading Rapidly across the Country, CDC reports increase since Christmas

Weekly report of widespread flu cases throughout the US from the CDC

By Kami Klein

Flu season is upon us and this year according to the CDC, reports do not look good. In states like California, pharmacies are running out of flu medicine, emergency rooms are packed with patients, and the death toll is three times higher now than this time last year.  So far, in that state alone 27 people under the age of 65 have died since October.  And the cases have now spread across the country.   

The flu outbreak covers the entire United States with many hospitals filling to capacity.  Although it has not been called an epidemic yet, this year’s flu season has already spread faster and further than it did last year at this time. The CDC has also reported that during the week of Christmas the flu virus has increased sharply across the nation.  

The Los Angeles Times reported that UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica are seeing over 200 patients a day in emergency rooms.  Dr. Wally Ghurabi, the ER medical director remarked on what they are seeing daily, “The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients.”  

Methodist Dallas Medical Center’s emergency room is so overrun with flu cases that it is asking people with non-emergency symptoms to go to urgent care centers or see a primary care physician. And many hospitals have gone into diversion mode having to send ambulances to other hospitals and not accepting flu patients.  

The most prevalent strain of flu that is being reported by public health laboratories is influenza A(H3).  Symptoms come on suddenly and can begin with any of these symptoms; Body Aches, Fever, Headache, Sore Throat, Cough, Exhaustion, Cold like symptoms of Congestion and more frequently in children can include Vomiting and Diarrhea.

According to the CDC, most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus.

It is vital to note that people with the flu can spread it to others from up to about 6 feet away when those infected cough, sneeze or talk and the droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or are inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

If you have been exposed to the flu, being aware of the risk of spreading is vital to slowing down this virus. Encourage family, friends and co-workers to frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand rub. Frequently touched surfaces such as telephones, computer keyboards, desks, doorknobs, light switches, should be cleaned and disinfected especially if someone ill has been around them.  

Anyone who is sick should stay home! By going to work or school you are only putting others who come into contact with you and their families at risk. Those who are the most vulnerable for this virus to become fatal are the very young, the elderly, and those that have other medical conditions. But there have been reports of healthy adults who are succumbing to this virus.  

Nobody is immune to the flu virus.  Health officials say that it is not too late for a flu shot even though at this time the current vaccine is only 10% effective in avoiding this strain of flu, but are also stating that while the flu shot may not protect you from the getting the flu it can absolutely help in your recovery if you are exposed to it.  

 

NOTE:  Morningside hopes you are taking good care of yourself. For many health items we use here at the ministry that can help you stay at your healthiest, please visit our store!