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Friday, September 24, 2021

A new phase of coronavirus in The Gambia: What do we know about it?

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Protect yourself and your loved ones

Why is this variant causing concern in the Gambia

Three things are coming together that means it is attracting attention:

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o          It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus

o          It has mutations that affect part of the the virus likely to be important

o          Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells

All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily.

However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time –

How far has it spread?

It is thought the variant either emerged in a patient in some countries and Gambia is not an exception or has been imported from a country with a lower ability to monitor coronavirus mutations.

What do we know about the new mutations?

An initial analysis of the new variant has been published and identifies 17 potentially important alterations.

There have been changes to the spike protein – this is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway to our body’s cells.

One mutation called N501Y alters the most important part of the spike, known as the “receptor-binding domain”.

This is where the spike makes the first contact with the surface of our body’s cells. Any changes that make it easier for the virus to get inside are likely to give it an edge.

The other mutation – a H69/V70 deletion, in which a small part of the spike is removed – has emerged several times before, including famously in infected mink.

Work by Prof Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has suggested this mutation increases infectivity two-fold in lab experiments.

Studies suggest the deletion makes antibodies from the blood of survivors less effective at attacking the virus.

It is rapidly increasing, that’s what’s worried the government, we are worried, most scientists are worried.”

Where has it come from?

The variant is unusually highly mutated.

The most likely explanation is the variant that has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus.

Instead, their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate.

Does it make the infection more deadly?

There is no evidence to suggest that it does, although this will need to be monitored.

However, just increasing transmission would be enough to cause problems for hospitals.

If the new variant means more people are infected more quickly, that would in turn lead to more people needing hospital treatment.

Will the vaccines work against the new variant?

Almost certainly yes, or at at least for now. All three leading vaccines develop an immune response against the existing spike, which is why the question comes up.

Vaccines train the immune system to attack several different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still work.

“But if we let it add more mutations, then you start worrying,” said Prof Gupta.

“This virus is potentially on a pathway for vaccine escape, it has taken the first couple of steps towards that.”

Vaccine escape happens when the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine and continues to infect people.

This may be the most concerning element of what is happening with the virus.

This variant is just the latest to show the virus is continuing to adapt as it infects more and more of us.

“The virus will probably be able to generate vaccine escape mutants.”

That would put us in a position similar to flu, where the vaccines need to be regularly updated.

Fortunately, the vaccines we have are very easy to tweak.

How can you protect yourself from the coronavirus?

Until a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine is available, there will continue to be a risk of infection, even as people get back to work, school, and more normal life.

o          Social and physical distancing. Staying at least 6 feet away from anyone not living in your household can help you prevent infection.

o          Handwashing. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day, or using hand sanitizer, is an effective way to avoid getting sick with the coronavirus or other germs.

o          Wearing a face mask protects others from illness if you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it.

o          Practice safe grocery shopping and food handling.

o          Continue to practice mindfulness and stress relief, as you did during stay-at-home orders. Mental and emotional well-being is a key aspect of health.

o          Staying informed about coronavirus can also help you:

o          Know what to do if you think you have the coronavirus: whom to call, where to go.

o          Understand what to expect if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19.

o          Look out for signs of the coronavirus in babies and kids. Although the majority of children who contract COVID-19 have mild symptoms, a small percentage of patients under age 18 have experienced severe disease, including a rare inflammatory condition.

o          Understand who’s more at risk. Older people and those living with heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses have a greater chance of dying from COVID-19.

When will the COVID-19 pandemic be over?

o          If you are wondering when will the coronavirus end, you’re not alone.

o          As communities start to reopen, we will likely see future outbreaks and clusters of viral transmission, which could cause the number of COVID-19 cases to increase again. That’s because the coronavirus is contagious:

o          Each person who catches it infects, on average, about two other people, and some infect many more.

o          Many people infected with the virus do not have symptoms and can unknowingly infect another a person who could become very sick.

That means that, until a vaccine is widely available, even if your location is “open for business,” you still need to take precautions so that employees and customers don’t catch or spread COVID-19. For your safety and the safety of others, continue to follow all safety guidelines described below. 

Until a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine is available, there will continue to be a risk of infection, even as people get back to work, school, and more normal life.

The protective practices you learned and followed in March and April of 2020 can continue to protect you and your family while slowing the spread of the coronavirus:

o          Social and physical distancing. Staying At least 6 feet away from anyone not living in your household can help you prevent infection.

o          Handwashing. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day, or using hand sanitizer is an effective way to avoid getting sick with the coronavirus or other germs.

o          Wearing a face mask protects others from illness if you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it.

o          Practice safe grocery shopping and food handling.

o          Continue to practice mindfulness and stress relief, as you did during stay-at-home orders. Mental and emotional well-being is a key aspect of health.

o          Staying informed about coronavirus can also help you:

o          Know what to do if you think you have the coronavirus: whom to call, where to go.

o          Understand what to expect if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19.

o          Look out for signs of the coronavirus in babies and kids. Although the majority of children who contract COVID-19 have mild symptoms, a small percentage of patients under age 18 have experienced severe disease, including a rare inflammatory condition.

who’s more at risk.

Older people and those living with

heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses have a greater chance of dying from COVID-19.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to know and learn

This is a new virus that causes a respiratory illness in people and animals and can spread from person to person through sneezing and coughing droplets.

This virus has signs and symptoms similar to the common cold but is dangerous and if not reported early and managed by Health Workers it can cause severe illnesses in humans and can lead to death.

There are ongoing studies on the origins of Coronavirus. However, the current outbreak started in a large animal and seafood market in China, in a city called Wuhan.

Coronavirus is spread from human to human when an infected person’s sneeze or cough droplets come into contact with others. It can also spread when a person touches a contaminated surface, e.g., desk, chair, door handle, etc. then touches their eyes, nose, and/or mouth.

Everyone is at risk. However, severe symptoms and death appear more frequently among older people. People with underlying health conditions

such as lung or heart diseases, renal failure, or weak immune systems are noted to be at a higher risk of infection.

Most patients who have been seen so far present with:

o          Fever

o          Cough

o          Sore throat

o          Running nose

o          Difficulty breathing

There are simple everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of the virus:

o          Avoid close contact with people who are visibly sick with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sneezing).

o          Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

o          Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

o          Stay home when you experience these symptoms to avoid spreading illness to others.

o          The sick is encouraged to use a facemask to cover their nose and mouth.

o          Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the dustbin and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water.

o          Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as door handles and phones.

For further information, text DR AZADEH from 3 to 6 pm, on WhatsApp: 002207774469,

Email: [email protected]

Dr Hassan Azadeh, Senior Consultant Physician Lecturer at the University of the Gambia and American International University, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.

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