News Scan for Jan 12, 2022

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US COVID vaccination may have saved 240,000 lives in first 6 months

The US COVID-19 vaccination program may have averted 14 million infections, saved more than 240,000 lives, and prevented upwards of 1.1 million hospitalizations in the first half of 2021, according to estimates from a modeling study yesterday in JAMA Network Open.

Led by York University scientists in Toronto, the research team simulated the pandemic trajectory under two scenarios: no vaccinations and a program that reached only half the actual daily vaccination rate. Total infections, hospitalizations, and deaths under each scenario from Dec 12, 2020, to Jun 30, 2021, were compared with simulated trends under US vaccination campaigns.

The researchers didn’t consider waning vaccine immunity or recovery from COVID-19 in their estimations.

Relative to the no-vaccination scenario, the actual US vaccination campaign prevented upwards of 14 million COVID-19 infections, saved an estimated 240,797 lives (95% credible interval [CrI], 200,665 to 281,230), and prevented 1,133,617 hospitalizations (95% CrI, 967,487 to 1,301,881).

COVID-19 vaccination may have also averted a wave of infections driven by the Alpha (B117) variant in April 2021. The wave was projected to have led to 4,409 deaths (95% CrI, 2,865 to 6,312) and 17,979 hospitalizations (95% CrI, 13,191 to 23,219).

Under the scenario of daily vaccination rates of half that of the reported rate, another 77,283 (95% CrI, 48,499 to 104,519) deaths may have occurred, along with 336,000 more hospitalizations (95% CrI, 225,330 to 440,109).

“Our analytical model suggested that the US COVID-19 vaccination program was associated with a reduction in the total hospitalizations and deaths by nearly half during the first 6 months of 2021,” the researchers wrote.

“As new variants of SARS-CoV-2 continue to emerge, a renewed commitment to vaccine access, particularly among underserved groups and in counties with low vaccination coverage, will be crucial to preventing avoidable COVID-19 cases and bringing the pandemic to a close.”
Jan 11 JAMA Netw Open research letter

 

Researchers develop wearable air sampler to detect COVID-19 exposure

Yale University researchers have developed a wearable passive air sampler to monitor personal exposure to COVID-19, they reported yesterday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

The polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based air sampler, the Fresh Air Clip, continually monitors exposure to virus-containing aerosols, which could prove helpful to workers in high-risk settings such as healthcare. While active indoor air sampling devices are available, they are usually large, expensive, and nonportable, and they require electricity, the authors noted. Passive samplers, however, can be small, lightweight, portable, and inexpensive.

The researchers tested the air sampler in a rotating drum containing aerosols laden with a surrogate virus similar to SARS-CoV-2. They found virus in the sampler through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, demonstrating its ability to estimate airborne virus levels.

When 62 volunteers wore the samplers for 5 days, PCR detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 5 (8%) of them, 4 of them worn by restaurant servers and 1 by a homeless shelter worker. The highest viral loads (more than 100 RNA copies per clip) were found in two clips worn by restaurant servers.

While the Fresh Air Clip hasn’t been commercialized, the study authors said it could be used as a semiquantitative screening tool for monitoring personal COVID-19 exposure and as a way to identify high-risk areas for indoor exposure.

“Our findings demonstrate that PDMS-based passive samplers may serve as a useful exposure assessment tool for airborne viral exposure in real-world high-risk settings and provide avenues for early detection of potential cases and guidance on site-specific infection control protocols that preempt community transmission,” they wrote.
Jan 11 Environ Sci Technol Lett study

 

Global flu levels starting to resemble pre-COVID pattern

Global flu activity is still low, but is rising, with numbers at pre–COVID-19 pandemic levels for this time of year in several Northern Hemisphere countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week in its latest global flu update, which covers the middle weeks of December.

Given the increased flu circulation amid brisk COVID-19 activity, the WHO urged countries to enhance surveillance for both diseases and to step up their flu vaccination campaigns.

H3N2 influenza is still the dominant strain in most parts of the world, except for China, where activity is rising with influenza B as the most common strain.

In the Southern Hemisphere, flu activity remained low in much of the temperate region, though some South American countries reported increasing H3N2 detections.

Globally, of respiratory samples that tested positive for flu during the middle of December, 73.6% were influenza A and 26.4% were influenza B. Of subtyped influenza A viruses, 95.6% were H3N2. Of characterized influenza B viruses, nearly all belonged to the Victoria lineage.
Jan 10 WHO global flu update

 

Multistate Salmonella outbreak tied to bearded dragon pets sickens 44

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that it and state partners are investigating a Salmonella Uganda outbreak linked to contact with pet bearded dragons that has sickened 44 people from 25 states since December 2020.

Bearded dragons have been linked to other Salmonella outbreaks in the past, most recently a Salmonella Muenster outbreak in 2020 that made 18 people sick in 11 states.

In the latest outbreak, Oregon officials collected samples in November 2021 from a sick person’s home, with the strain from a bearded dragon matching the strain that made the patient sick. Using PulseNet, the national sequencing database, health investigators identified other cases, with illness onsets from Dec 24, 2020, to Dec 2, 2021.

Eight patients were children younger than 5. Of 37 cases with available information, 15 were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

Of 33 people interviewed about possible exposures, 21 reported owning or touching bearded dragons or their supplies. People bought their bearded dragons from various sources, including locally and online.

Whole-genome sequencing of bacteria from 44 people and 1 bearded dragon demonstrated no antibiotic resistance.
Jan 11 CDC Salmonella outbreak notice
Oct 1, 2020, CIDRAP News
story
Nov 24, 2020, CDC
final outbreak notice



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