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CORONAVIRUS – The world records more than 8 million infected people – World Health Organization

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  • The world needs more therapeutics that can be used to tackle the virus, including those with milder symptoms.
  • We now have good examples of many countries that have shown how to effectively suppress the virus with a combination of testing, tracing, and quarantining patients and caring for those that get sick
  • There have been more than 435,000 deaths and in the Americas, Africa and South Asia; cases are still rapidly rising.
  • Dexamethasone, a common steroid, has been shown to have a beneficial effect on those patients severely ill with COVID-19.
  • In the United Kingdom, counter-reactions on research disclosure that utilization of water closets & flushing ‘can propel viral infection 3ft into air’ – counsels that lids be shut before flushing water closets

 WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19    WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has revealed that the world has now recorded more than 8 million cases of COVID-19. In the first two months, 85,000 cases were reported. But in the past two months 6 million cases have been reported. There have been more than 435,000 deaths and in the Americas, Africa and South Asia; cases are still rapidly rising. However, there are green shoots of hope, which show that together through global solidarity, humanity can overcome this pandemic.

We now have good examples of many countries that have shown how to effectively suppress the virus with a combination of testing, tracing, and quarantining patients and caring for those that get sick. Lab capacity has been dramatically enhanced across the world to boost COVID-19 testing, which is critical for identifying where the virus is and informing government actions. New mega hubs have been established that are now key to the distribution of personal protective equipment, which includes millions of masks, goggles, aprons and gloves; as well as other medical supplies.

Tech companies have developed applications that can assist with the critical task of contact tracing. And there has been an enormous effort to accelerate the science around the pandemic. Early on in the outbreak; on 11 February, WHO convened a Research and Innovation Forum on COVID-19, where hundreds of researchers came together from across the world with the aim of quickly developing quality diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

One of the key priorities identified was for the world to focus on accelerating research around treating patients with COVID-19. Specifically, researchers agreed to investigate existing drugs with potential, including steroids. WHO also developed a core protocol, which has been adapted and used by researchers around the world. And yesterday, there was the welcome news of positive initial results from the RECOVERY trial in the United Kingdom.

Dexamethasone, a common steroid, has been shown to have a beneficial effect on those patients severely ill with COVID-19. According to the early findings shared with WHO, for patients on oxygen alone the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one fifth.

And for patients requiring a ventilator, mortality was reduced by about one third. However, dexamethasone was shown to not have a beneficial effect for those with milder disease, who did not need respiratory support. This is very welcome news for those patients with severe illness, these drugs should only be used under close clinical supervision.

We need more therapeutics that can be used to tackle the virus, including those with milder symptoms. WHO has now started to coordinate a meta-analysis pooling data from several clinical trials to increase our overall understanding of this intervention. And, we will update our clinical guidance to reflect how and when dexamethasone should be used to treat COVID-19. I want to thank the United Kingdom government, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals, researchers, patients and families who have contributed to this scientific breakthrough. WHO will continue to work with all partners to develop other therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19, including through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Over the coming weeks and months, we hope there will be more treatments that improve patient outcomes and save lives. While we are searching for COVID-19 treatments we must continue strong efforts to prevent as many infections as possible by finding, isolating, testing, and caring for every case; and tracing and quarantining every contact. COVID-19 is affecting the whole world but it’s important to remember that for the most vulnerable communities, this is just one of many threats they face. We have consistently stressed the importance of ensuring essential health services continue, including routine vaccination and services for malaria, TB, and HIV.

 Today, I want to touch on Neglected Tropical Diseases, an issue I care deeply about. NTDs are a group of 20 diseases including elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, leprosy, trachoma and intestinal worms that collectively wreak havoc on the poorest and most marginalized communities. These diseases disfigure, disable and can kill, and they strike hardest in places of poverty and in remote areas where access to quality health services is extremely limited.  WHO and partners have developed a new roadmap, which moves away from single disease programmes to integrated approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neglected tropical diseases, as part of an overall movement toward universal health coverage.

The NTD roadmap puts greater ownership on national and local governments to drive action.    Like with COVID-19, it calls for greater collaboration between governments, academia, civil society and the private sector in order to boost innovation and access to health technologies. I have seen first-hand the courage of people who are living with NTDS, which is why I call on countries not to forget about the most vulnerable. Together, we can achieve anything and I am encouraged by progress in tackling the Ebola outbreak in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. If there are no more cases in the next seven days, the Government of DRC will be able to declare the outbreak over.  The lessons learned and experience gained by Congolese health workers are now being applied to inform the Ebola outbreak response in the West of the DRC, as well as broader lessons on testing and contact tracing, which are directly transferable for tackling COVID-19.

I thank you.

CORONAVIRUS — PUBLIC ENLIGHTENMENT Researchers warn on utilization of water closets

Flushing ‘can propel viral infection 3ft into air’ –counsels that lids be shut before flushing water closets

 The BBC reports that flushing the toilet with the lid up creates a cloud of spray that can be breathed in and may spread infection, such as coronavirus, say, researchers. It credits the work to the journal Physics of Fluids.  Physics of Fluids is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering fluid dynamics, established by the American Institute of Physics in 1958, and is published by AIP Publishing.

The report states that: ‘’Chinese scientists calculate that flushing can propel a plume of spray up and out of the toilet bowl, reaching head height and beyond. Droplets can travel up to 3ft – or 91cm – from ground level, according to the computer model used by the scientists from Yangzhou University.

 Shutting the lid would avoid this. Coronavirus is spread through airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes, or objects that are contaminated with them. People who are infected can also have traces of the virus in their faeces, although it is not yet clear whether this might be another way to pass the disease on to others. Scientists around the world are testing sewage and wastewater to determine how some people might have become infected with coronavirus. Other viruses can be spread by poor toilet hygiene, known as faecal-oral transmission

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF  As water pours into the toilet bowl during a flush, it strikes the side, creating turbulence and droplets. The droplets are so small they typically float in the air for more than a minute, according to study author Ji-Xiang Wang and colleagues from Yangzhou University, China. Dr Bryan Bzdek, from the Bristol Aerosol Research Centre at the University of Bristol, said although there was no clear evidence that coronavirus might spread in this way, it made sense to take precautions.

“The study authors suggest that, whenever possible, we should keep the toilet seat down when we flush, clean the toilet seat and any other contact areas frequently, and wash our hands after using the toilet.  “While this study is unable to demonstrate that these measures will reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,  many other viruses are transmitted though the faecal-oral route, so these are good hygiene practices to have anyway.”

 Coronavirus symptoms:  According to the BBC, NHS has listed three main symptoms of coronavirus, that people should be aware of and ready to act upon.

What are the symptoms? A new, continuous cough, where you cough a lot for more than an hour, or have three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

Fever – where your temperature is above 37.8C

Loss of smell or taste

If you, or someone you live with, has any of these symptoms the advice is stay at home to stop the risk of giving coronavirus to others. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of symptoms also includes chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain and sore throat. It takes5 days on average to start showing the symptoms,   but some people will get them much later. The World Health Organization says incubation lasts up to 14 days.