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Teens and young adults driving record Covid cases in US, health officials say | US news



As the US is seeing record numbers of daily coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, public health authorities nationwide have said that teens and younger adults are helping fuel this increase.

The uptick in Covid-19 among the under-50s coincides with a surge in cases among young children – and a troubling increase in pediatric hospitalizations.

The US seven-day average for pediatric hospitalizations increased 58%, to 334, between 21 December and 27 December. The increase in hospitalizations for all age groups was about 19%. Less than 25% of US children are vaccinated, Reuters reported.

In Los Angeles county, adults between 18 and 49 accounted for more than 70% of the coronavirus cases recorded between 22 December and 28 December, according to the Los Angeles Times. The case rate per 100,000 people has surged most quickly in that age range.

The county saw more than 27,000 new cases on 31 December, dramatically surpassing the winter 2021 daily case average of 16,000. About 25% of all coronaviruses tests in Los Angeles county are positive, according to the newspaper.

Broken down further, data show that infection rates in persons from 18 to 29 are more than eight times higher than one month ago. With adults in their 30s and 40s, there are six times as many cases.

“Many of the people in this age group are important members of our labor force … and these are also folks that are very likely to be out and about for recreation,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, was quoted as saying.

“Often this age group doesn’t experience the worst consequences of increased transmission,” Ferrer continued. “And sometimes that’s made it more difficult for individuals to stay attentive to the need to be vigilant about adhering to all of the public health safety measures.”

There are concerns that the US economy and healthcare systems could suffer further in January not because of imposed restrictions such as lockdowns but because there is so much widespread sickness, including relatively mild cases, that staff shortages further hamper commerce and public services.

Meanwhile, the infection rate for children between ages five and 11 has doubled. In nearby Orange county, California, adults from age 18 to 44 are driving Covid infections, according to the Times’ report.

Coronavirus cases are increasing dramatically among teens and younger adults in southern Nevada. Eighteen to 24-year-olds saw 44.7 cases per 100,000 as of 24 December, an 131% increase from one week prior, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

In Dallas county, Texas, coronavirus cases rose by 76% in one week, according to a 28 December report in the Dallas Morning News. Adults between 18 and 29 comprised almost 25% of these cases.

And in the last week of December, one Michigan hospital system reported a 21% increase in coronavirus cases among 21- to 35-year-olds, compared to the preceding week.

Michigan hospitals have also reported seeing more patients in younger age groups in December, many of whom are unvaccinated, according to ABC 12 News.

“This is also not by coincidence, an age group that remains under-vaccinated in a significant number,” Bob Riney, president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer at Henry Ford Health System, told ABC 12 News. “The vast majority of the Covid patients in our hospitals are unvaccinated.”

Chicago-area children’s hospitals saw their greatest increase in coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations this week, according to one report. “We’ve seen our biggest numbers in since the pandemic started actually,” Michael Cappello, vice chairman of Advocate Children’s Hospital, told NBC 5 Chicago.

Allison Bartlett, who teaches about pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago, told the station: “We are seeing twice as many kids in the hospital who are testing positive for Covid than we saw even back in our bad peak in September.”

In New York, the state’s top health official warned of a “striking increase” in pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations.

“The risks of Covid-19 for children are real,” said Dr Mary T Bassett, acting state health commissioner. There was a fourfold increase in pediatric Covid-19 hospital admissions from the week of 5 December through the week of 24 December.

As case counts in younger demographics grow, officials are girding for yet another winter surge, though possibly a briefer one that previous surges.

Columbia University researchers have said that the US could hit its case peak by 9 January, at about 2.5m weekly cases. However, they said, that metric could hit as many as 5.4m, the New York Times reported.

The US has seen 54,747,971 Covid-19 cases, and 825,552 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, since the pandemic hit the US almost two years ago.

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year



In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart


17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus



Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer



Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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