News of COVID-19 cases rising and tallies of positive cases and deaths seem to never end as news continuously broadcast them. No matter how scary the numbers can get, nothing seems real until you know someone personally, afflicted with the same disease being broadcasted on television.
(Photo : Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash) How do you care for a COVID-19 patient at home?
When a loved one gets sick, it would be a no-brainer to ultimately provide as much care and comfort as possible. However, how would this be possible if that loved one is struck by a high-risk virus that would put your own safety at risk if you get too close or let your guard down?
NPR talked to some COVID-19 recoverees and medical professionals and here are some points they shared when giving care to coronavirus patients.
According to Dr. Paul Sax, a clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the first step in providing care is to isolate the infected person. As much as possible, let that family member stay in a separate room where they will eat and sleep.
Additionally, they should also use a different bathroom from the rest of the family. Although it’s alright to enter the patient’s room to drop off food, Dr. Sax advises both the patient and caregiver to wear masks.
Since there isn’t any verified treatment for the virus yet early during its course, Dr. Abraar Karan, a Harvard Medical School physician advises caregivers to focus on relieving the patient from their symptoms.
She adds that over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol for fevers and pain, or anti-cough medications are both options for people who don’t have serious medical conditions.
3. Be Attentive, Supportive, and Present
Check on your loved ones often. You don’t have to be physically present in the room with them to see how they’re doing.
You can knock on their door three to four times a day just to say “hi” or ask how they’re doing. If you’re far away, you can reach them through video call, or better yet, go send them a thoughtful gift.
Because the recovery process is slow and done in isolation, Dr. James Aisenberg says it is important to find moments of human connection with family and friends between the stretches of alone time.
After being diagnosed with the condition himself, Dr. Aisenberg says its important for the patient’s support system to be present, if not physically, then emotionally.
4. Be in Constant Communication with the Patient’s Physician
Dr. Aisenberg also said it was essential to keep the communication flowing between the physician and the caregiver. Keeping meticulous notes on the patient’s condition and recovery progress is also helpful in monitoring the condition.
COVID-19 is a new disease which scientists and medical experts are still trying to work out. It would be reassuring to ask someone knowledgeable about the disease about symptoms they might be experiencing and other matters related to the condition.
Fresh studies give more information about what treatments do or don’t work for COVID-19, with high-quality methods that give reliable results. British researchers on Friday published their research on the only drug shown to improve survival — a cheap steroid called dexamethasone.
Two other studies found that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not help people with only mild symptoms. For months before studies like these, learning what helps or harms has been undermined by “desperation science” as doctors and patients tried therapies on their own or through a host of studies not strong enough to give clear answers.
“For the field to move forward and for patients’ outcomes to improve, there will need to be fewer small or inconclusive studies” and more like the British one, Drs. Anthony Fauci and H. Clifford Lane of the National Institutes of Health wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It’s now time to do more studies comparing treatments and testing combinations, said Dr. Peter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Here are highlights of recent treatment developments: DEXAMETHASONE The British study, led by the University of Oxford, tested a type of steroid widely used to tamp down inflammation, which can become severe and prove fatal in later stages of COVID-19.
About 2,104 patients given the drug were compared to 4,321 patients getting usual care. It reduced deaths by 36% for patients sick enough to need breathing machines: 29% on the drug died versus 41% given usual care. It curbed the risk of death by 18% for patients needing just supplemental oxygen: 23% on the drug died versus 26% of the others.
However, it seemed harmful at earlier stages or milder cases of illness: 18% of those on the drug died versus 14% of those given usual care. The clarity of who does and does not benefit “probably will result in many lives saved,” Fauci and Lane wrote.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE The same Oxford study also tested hydroxychloroquine in a rigorous manner and researchers previously said it did not help hospitalized patients with COVID-19. After 28 days, about 25.7% on hydroxychloroquine had died versus 23.5% given usual care — a difference so small it could have occurred by chance Now, details published on a research site for scientists show that the drug may have done harm. Patients given hydroxychloroquine were less likely to leave the hospital alive within 28 days — 60% on the drug versus 63% given usual care. Those not needing breathing machines when they started treatment also were more likely to end up on one or to die.
Two other experiments found that early treatment with the drug did not help outpatients with mild COVID-19. A study of 293 people from Spain published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found no significant differences in reducing the amount of virus patients had, the risk of worsening and needing hospitalization, or the time until recovery.
A similar study by University of Minnesota doctors in Annals of Internal Medicine of 423 mildly ill COVID-19 patients found that hydroxychloroquine did not substantially reduce symptom severity and brought more side effects. “It is time to move on” from treating patients with this drug, Dr. Neil Schluger from New York Medical College wrote in a commentary in the journal.
REMDESIVIR The only other therapy that’s been shown to help COVID-19 patients is remdesivir, an antiviral that shortens hospitalization by about four days on average. “The role of remdesivir in severe COVID is now what we need to figure out,” Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Bach wrote in an email, saying the drug needs to be tested in combination with dexamethasone now.
Details of the government-led remdesivir study have not yet been published, but researchers are eager to see how many patients received other drugs such as steroids and hydroxychloroquine. Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences, the company that makes remdesivir, which is given as an IV now, has started testing an inhaled version that would allow it to be tried in less ill COVID-19 patients to try to keep them from getting sick enough to need hospitalisation.
Gilead also has started testing remdesivir in a small group of children. Supplies are very limited, and the U.S. government is allocating doses to hospitals through September.
Almost daily, President Trump and leaders worldwide say they are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, in perhaps the most urgent mission in the history of medical science. But the repeated assurances of near-miraculous speed are exacerbating a problem that has largely been overlooked and one that public health experts say must be addressed now: persuading people to actually get the shot.
A growing number of polls find so many people saying they would not get a coronavirus vaccine that its potential to shut down the pandemic could be in jeopardy. Distrust of it is particularly pronounced in African-American communities, which have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. But even many staunch supporters of immunization say they are wary of this vaccine.
“The bottom line is I have absolutely no faith in the F.D.A. and in the Trump administration,” said Joanne Barnes, a retired fourth-grade teacher from Fairbanks, Alaska, who said she was otherwise always scrupulously up-to-date on getting her shots, including those for shingles, flu and pneumonia. “I just feel like there’s a rush to get a vaccine out, so I’m very hesitant.”
Mistrust of vaccines has been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years, a sentiment that resists categorization by political party, educational background or socio-economic demographics. It has been fanned by a handful of celebrities. But now, anti-vaccine groups are attracting a new type of clientele altogether.
Jackie Schlegel, founder of Texans for Vaccine Choice, which presses for school vaccine exemptions, said that her group’s membership had skyrocketed since April. “Our phones are ringing off the hook with people who are saying, ‘I’ve gotten every vaccine, but I’m not getting this one,” she said. “‘How do I opt out?’” She said she often has to assure callers, “‘They’re not coming to your home to force-vax you.’”
Earlier this month, a nationwide task force of 23 epidemiologists and vaccine behavior specialists released a detailed report — which itself got little attention — saying that such work was urgent. Operation Warp Speed, the $10 billion public-private partnership that is driving much of the vaccine research, they wrote, “rests upon the compelling yet unfounded presupposition that ‘if we build it, they will come.’”
In fact, wrote the group, led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Texas State University anthropology department: “If poorly designed and executed, a Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the U.S. could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and the public health authorities that recommend them — especially among people most at risk of Covid-19 impacts.”
The researchers noted that although billions of federal dollars were pouring into biomedical research for a vaccine, there seemed to be virtually no funding set aside for social scientists to investigate hesitancy around vaccines. Focus groups to help pinpoint the most effective messaging to counter opposition, the authors said, should get underway immediately.
The current political and cultural turbulence, abetted by the Trump administration’s frequent disregard for scientific expertise, is only amplifying the diverse underpinnings of vaccine-skeptic positions. They include the terrible legacy of federal medical experiments on African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups; a distrust of Big Pharma; resistance to government mandates like school immunization requirements; adherence to homeopathy and other “natural” medicines; and a clutch of apocalyptic beliefs and conspiracy theories particularly around Covid-19, sometimes perpetuated by celebrities, most recently Kanye West.
“It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed,” he told Forbes this month. “So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast.”
“The trust issues are just tremendous in the Black community,” said Edith Perry, a member of the Maryland Community Research Advisory Board, which seeks to ensure that the benefits of health research encompass Black and Latino communities.
The solution, she said, is not just to employ the conventional strategy of meeting with Black church congregations, especially if the government and vaccine producers want to reach millennials.
“The pharmaceutical industry would have to convince some of the young people in Black Lives Matter to get on board,” Mrs. Perry said. “Throw up your hands and say: ‘I apologize. I know we did it wrong and I need your help to get it right.’ Because we need a vaccine and we need Black and Hispanic participation.”
The chatter at The Shop Spa, a large barbershop with a Black and Latino clientele in Hyattsville, Md., underscores the challenges. Mike Brown, the manager, whose staff members have been trained to talk up wellness with clients, referred to the notorious Tuskegee experiments, and said, “I hope they don’t sabotage us again.”
His clients and their families are still leery of drug companies, he said. “It’s hard to trust that they’re looking out for our well-being,” he continued. “Me, I’m very skeptical about that shot. I have my popcorn and my soda and I’m just watching it very carefully.”
The new report on vaccine confidence includes input from epidemiologists and experts in health inequities and communication. The overarching recommendation is that public health agencies should listen to community concerns early in the process, rather than issuing them directives from on high after the fact. They should seek out trusted community leaders to convey people’s uncertainties around research transparency, access, allocation and cost. Those representatives could, in turn, become respected purveyors of updates, to combat what the World Health Organization calls the “infodemic” of vaccine misinformation.
The strongest recommendations were about communities of color. The authors urged that vaccines be provided for free and made available at easy access neighborhood locales: churches, pharmacies, barbershops, schools. Noting that the vaccine would be emerging at a time when protests about systemic racism, not least in health care, have been erupting, the researchers cautioned that if accessibility was perceived to be unfair, the vaccine could become a flash point of continuing unrest. And that perception could heighten mistrust of the vaccine.
At a recent Senate hearing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was asked repeatedly about plans to address surging vaccine hesitation. He replied that discussions had been underway for “10 to 12 weeks.” A spokesman for the C.D.C. declined to elaborate after being asked repeatedly by The New York Times to do so.
Emily Brunson, a medical anthropologist at Texas State University, said that the myriad number of reasons people may be skeptical of this vaccine, combined with the vast, unsparing reach of Covid-19 itself, meant that creating a campaign for the vaccine’s acceptance would be far more difficult than one for a more narrowly defined group — shingles vaccine for older people, HPV vaccine for preteens. The researchers said that a national promotional strategy should be in the planning stages as soon as possible.
Over all, the worry that is consistently invoked by those hesitant about this vaccine is haste. When health authorities repeatedly tout the rapidity of development — an idea underscored by the name Operation Warp Speed — they inadvertently aggravate the public’s safety concerns.
“If you’re smart, you’re worried we won’t have a vaccine, and if you’re smart, you’re worried that maybe we’ve moved so fast that we’ll accept a level of risk that we might not ordinarily accept,” said Sandra Crouse Quinn, a professor of public health at the University of Maryland.
Health communication experts say that those trying to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to be immunized should not dismiss them as “anti-vaxxers,” which has become an insult and shuts down conversations.
“You always have to listen to their concerns,” said Dr. Quinn, the senior associate director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, who studies issues around health care trust in communities of color.
Last week, a nonprofit public health initiative, the Public Good Projects, introduced Stronger, a campaign to combat vaccine misinformation, with a plethora of tips, including lists of established scientists to follow on Twitter.
One path toward increasing the acceptance of the vaccine, Dr. Quinn said, is to appeal to people’s innate altruism: “that getting a vaccine, when it’s available, is not just about you. It’s about protecting your grandmother who has diabetes and Uncle Sean, who is immune-compromised,” she said.
And when people respond by listing their objections to the vaccine, ask them, she said, “If that’s what you think, then how do you protect your community?”
Scientists have determined how the novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, inhibits the synthesis of proteins in infected cells, and have shown that it effectively disarms a part of the immune system, findings that may aid in the development of novel therapeutics against the deadly disease.
The study, published in the journal Science, demonstrated that nonstructural Protein 1 (Nsp1) made by the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 can have a devastating effect on host cells.
According to the researchers, including those from the University of Munich in Germany, Nsp1 is one of the central weapons used by the virus to ensure its own replication and propagation in human hosts.
They said Nsp1 was identified as a disease contributing factor following the outbreak of the related 2002-03 SARS pandemic virus.
Scientists who studied the SARS virus had shown that it inhibited protein synthesis in infected cells.
“Although SARS-CoV-2 features additional inhibitors of host innate immune defences, targeting the interaction of this protein, Nsp1, with the host may be an important therapeutic strategy,” the researchers noted.
Upon infection, they said SARS-CoV-2 suppressed protein production in the host, including that of proteins active in cellular antiviral defence mechanisms.
The virus did this by binding to the cell’s protein production machinery, the ribosome, the study noted.
According to the scientists, targeting the specific part of the ribosome that Nsp1 binds to could be an important potential therapeutic strategy.
In the research, the scientists structurally characterised the Nsp1 of SARS-CoV-2 bound to the ribosome.
They tested the ability of a modified version form of Nsp1, known as mt-Nsp1, to affect protein production related to host immune response.
According to the study, the mutant version did not bind in the same way and did not shut down host cell protein production.
The scientists also demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 Nsp1 almost completely prevented the production of various immune molecules that fight viral infection, such as interferons.
“Our data establish that one of the major immune evasion factors of SARS-CoV-2, Nsp1, efficiently interferes with the cellular translation machinery resulting in a shut-down of host protein production,” the study noted.
According to the scientists, the findings may provide a starting point for rational structure-based drug design, targeting the interaction between Nsp1 and the ribosome.
Apparently disturbed by the decline in routine vaccination among under five children, the children’s rights organisation has called for Nigeria to “reimagine” how it delivers routine immunisation during COVID-19 pandemic.
The call which was contained in a press release made available to newsmen in Bauchi yesterday by the Communication Officer, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Bauchi Field Office,Mr. Samuel Kaalu, said that Nigeria was facing a critical moment of choice, wherein children could either be protected from a host of preventable diseases – or face an uncertain future and possibly dire health prospects.
The call came as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of an alarming decline in global vaccine coverage due to a COVID-19 pandemic that was disrupting the delivery and uptake of immunisation services around the world.
The UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins said “This is a critical moment for Nigeria’s children. We can either seize it – or condemn millions of children to preventable illness or even death.”
Also, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) noted that ,“We are in a strong position here in Nigeria – we have a full stock of routine immunisation vaccines and can use the strong community outreach programmes across the country, not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but to also ensure children receive vaccinations for diseases we can easily prevent. We must seize this moment to be creative and act wisely”.
Global disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to reverse hard-won progress in immunization rates worldwide, according to new data by WHO and UNICEF.
At stake is critical progress made over the last decades in reaching more children and adolescents with a wider range of vaccines, including in Nigeria. However, despite this progress, Nigeria still contributes 30 per cent of the global number of unimmunised children between the ages of 0 and 5.
“We have a long way to go to ensure greater protection for children against disease – and vaccination rates, including against the highly contagious and deadly measles virus, are in danger of lapsing,” said Peter Hawkins. “Let’s seize this moment to reimagine how we bring vaccinations to children, leveraging on existing community structures for COVID-19 prevention, to improve vaccination rates too – and ensure a brighter and healthier future for Nigeria’s children.”
The global vaccination coverage rate with the third dose of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) has plateaued at 85 per cent since 2010. In Nigeria, numbers show that routine immunizations in the first 6 months of 2020 have dropped compared to the same period in 2019 – indicating a deterioration in important routine vaccination coverage, due to COVID-19.
“No Nigerian child should die from a preventable disease that can be easily prevented with an affordable vaccine that is readily available within our borders. Let us not let COVID-19 distract us from the work we still need to do to ensure that every Nigerian child receives their full routine immunizations,” said Peter Hawkins.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns around the world were or are at risk of being cancelled, which could result in further outbreaks in 2020 and beyond.
“We already knew the challenge of vaccinating every child was daunting, and now we know that COVID-19 has made a challenging situation even worse,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “We must halt a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and reinforce vaccination services before children’s lives are threatened by other outbreaks. We cannot trade one health crisis for another”.
Given stagnating global coverage levels, the likelihood that a child born today will be fully vaccinated with all the globally recommended vaccines by the time she will be 5 years is less than 20 per cent.
The analysis shows that in 2019, nearly 14 million children did not receive any of the life-saving vaccines such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Two-thirds of these children are concentrated in ten countries: Nigeria, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Philippines, Ethiopia, Brazil, Indonesia, Angola and Mexico.
Countries that had recorded significant progress, such as Ethiopia and Pakistan, are now at risk of backsliding if immunization services are not restored as soon as feasible.
“We must reimagine immunisation in Nigeria and build back better, despite the pandemic,” said Peter Hawkins.
“We can do this by building the confidence of caregivers in accessing immunization services, reaching out to people where they are to ensure they understand the importance of these vaccinations for their children’s lives, and protecting healthcare workers so that they can deliver these services safely and effectively.”
An Australian activewear brand has been fined for implying its “anti-virus” leggings and tops were effective at protecting people against the novel coronavirus.
Lorna Jane’s website mentioned COVID-19 alongside a description of a “non-toxic mist” that it claimed creates a “permanent, chemical-free shield” that protects against infectious diseases.
The brand was then fined almost US$28,000 (Aus$40,000) over claims on its website that “anti-virus activewear” protects from infectious diseases and for implying it was effective against COVID-19, the Therapeutic Goods Administration said in a statement on Friday.
The firm has since re-branded the clothing “anti-bacterial” and said in a statement it never meant to claim the garments would fully protect wearers but instead provide “an added protection like hand sanitiser but for the clothes you wear”.
“We are not trying to profiteer in any way on the fear around COVID-19,” the statement said.
Most of Australia’s regions have been successful in tackling the novel coronavirus but an outbreak in the second-biggest city of Melbourne is threatening to derail the recovery, with the city recently returned to lockdown and its outbreak spreading to parts of Sydney.
When Gloria Okwu was diagnosed for breast cancer in 2017, she panicked. She considered funds and fear.
The conventional treatments that come in stages—chemotherapy, radiation, surgery—all have side effects.
“Because of that fear, many people wish they would not undergo those treatments.”
After a recurrence in 2018, she had “no option than to go for the treatment, as I was told,” she says.
She did chemotherapy, went through radiotherapy, finished her treatment course in February and was scheduled for check-ups.
The next month, the coronavirus pandemic hit Nigeria and forced the country into lockdown. Okwu made a drastic decision.
“I was supposed to go for certain check-ups but I declined because I was afraid I would contract Covid-19,” she says.
The outbreak of coronavirus, which has quickly snowballed into a pandemic, shut down vast parts of the world—livelihoods, businesses, services, economy, transport, healthcare.
Healthcare has particularly suffered, says Omolola Salako, in a paper she lead-authored for the journal ecancer.
She is of the department of radiation biology, radiotherapy and radiodiagnosis at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos.
“Evidence from China suggests that cancer patients with COVID-19 infection are a vulnerable group, with a higher risk of severe illness resulting in intensive care unit admissions or death, particularly if they received chemotherapy or surgery,” she says.
It is a major headache—102,000 new cases and 72,000 deaths in Nigeria each year are captured in Nigeria’s four-year cancer control plan.
Levels of disruption
“Beyond the risks that direct acquisition of the virus may carry for patients with cancer, delayed diagnosis and the provision of suboptimal care may have a larger impact for the wider population of patients with cancer,” researchers reported in the journal Nature in March, as countries battened down shutters and spiralled into lockdown.
Among how Covid-19 has impacted cancer care, one group stopped going to hospitals to continue treatment because doctors wouldn’t treat them, as concerns over personal protective equipment for healthcare became a major issue.
Hospitals scaled-down services, pared off routine services and focused on emergencies.
Another group was classified as “very important”, especially in line for radiotherapy, and efforts were made to ensure they got treatment despite Covid-19. That designation left many more patients out in the cold, says Okwu, a member of the Network of Persons Affected by Cancer.
“Those who were deemed not critical didn’t receive treatment because doctors were only taking emergency cases.
“Some couldn’t even get surgery. It happened a lot. People who were booked for surgery didn’t get it.”
Well before the virus entered Nigeria, the World Health Organisation published a report on its joint mission with China on Covid-19, stating overall fatality rate for coronavirus disease at 3.8%, and patients without any pre-existing condition had a fatality rate of 1.4%. But cancer patients had a fatality rate of 7.6%–that’s nearly eight in 100 people with cancer who also got Covid-19 could die.
The Network for People Affected by Cancer has been awash with stories of difficulties members have faced as Covid-19 disrupted health services.
Among them, a woman who was booked for tests at National Hospital. With the disruptions, the test couldn’t proceed.
She went to a private facility and the test cost nearly six times more than she would have paid at a public hospital. But the money wasn’t the only setback.
The test required some specimen. A mastectomy was done to remove breast tissue but the specimen was not preserved.
“It should have been preserved for histopathology, to ascertain what other treatments she would need,” Okwu explains of the mistake.
“You rarely hear of this kind of thing in general hospitals; they are very meticulous with specimen. But this is a small facility; they took a lot of things for granted.”
Covid-19 rips into psychology
Living with and treating cancer is emotionally draining. The toll of Covid-19 on mental health has been a serious concern since the start of the pandemic.
But, in addition to patients, the medical oncologists treating them—as with any other terminal disease—are also at risk.
Researchers this June published studies showing how Covid-19 has exacerbated mental health risks brought on by isolation and exhaustion.
They showed how oncologists in the Philippines used psychological support materials, initiated psychological intervention programmes and established peer support programmes to help oncologists cope.
Covid-19 ripped both emotional and financial support for patients. Support groups which provided meeting grounds for individuals living and dealing with cancer stopped meeting as coronavirus pandemic induced physical distancing.
“There are people ordinarily you would have raced to their house, sit with them, talk them through their issues with treatment and diagnosis, but because of the lockdown, you can’t see them physically,” says Okwu.
“You are stuck in your house; they are in their houses and you can’t be there for them physically.”
Support groups also connect member patients to funding sources. Medications in cancer therapy are hugely expensive.
Early in the year, as the world marked the annual Cancer Day, Medicaid Cancer Foundation connected 10 patients to funds, a total N2 million to aid their treatment.
Several members of support groups have been linked to non-government organisations like Medicaid before the pandemic raged into the country and forced a lockdown.
“None of them got any financial support all through this period. Most of the funders are channelling their resources to Covid-19,” says Okwu.
“I know that is what it will be; the attention is on COVID-29 but then other illnesses are suffering right now.”
One of the greatest disruptions in Nigeria was to the fight against cervical cancer a disease which affects more than 14,000 women each year—and is predominant in countries of sub-Saharan Africa, south-east Asia and South America.
“These are the countries that we have a high level of poverty; they are countries in the lower-income cadre, so cervical cancer is now seen as a disease showing how poor people are,” says Olumuyiwa Ojo, of the World Health Organisation, at a cervical cancer stakeholders forum this June.
A meeting at the World Health Assembly in May was to ratify strategies for eliminating cervical cancer but it went virtual and short-lived on account of Covid-19. So did the stakeholders’ forum, which had participants from all over the country hooked on Zoom for more than three hours.
Forty million women aged 15 and older are at risk of cervical cancer and more than 40,000 are diagnosed each year. Eight in 10 present at an advanced stage, and late presentation means one in four of them could die.
“In order to reverse this trend, we have made efforts to increase our national capacity for prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of precancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix in Nigeria,” health minister Osagie Ehanire said at the forum.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency is on a “final stretch of the road” to roll out vaccination against human papilloma virus by the first quarter of 2021.
“What bears interrogation is why a primary prevention route as HPV vaccine that’s been around for over 10 years is not in use,” says Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the agency.
Cervical cancer is ranked fourth most common worldwide, but receives little attention from international Oncology societies and scientific research studies, experts say.
People living with it could benefit from secondary prevention programmes starting in the states of Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna. The progamme was billed as a collaboration between the federal health ministry and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. It was meant to start in May but has stalled on account of Covid-19.
One study claims people with Type A blood may be at a higher risk of catching coronavirus and of showing severe symptoms while people with Type O blood may be less vulnerable. Previous papers show that specific blood types may influence the person’s risk of contracting other diseases, including cancer. Laure Segurel, a human evolutionary geneticist and a researcher at the National Museum of Natural History in France, said: “I think it’s fascinating, the evolutionary history, even though I don’t think we have the answer of why we have different blood types.”
But it is not just humans who have blood types.At least 17 different kinds of primates including chimpanzees and gorillas were found to have different blood types.
Evolutionary biologists found that blood types date back 20 million years to a distant ancestor humans had in common with primates.
Ms Segurel said. ”A lot of primate species … also have the differences of being A, being B, being AB.”
Whether it’s a great ape or a new world monkey, it’s quite intriguing that the differences have been found or maintained in so many different species.”
Coronavirus breakthrough: One study claims people with Type A blood may be at a higher risk (Image: GETTY)
Ms Segurel explained that blood types give humans some kind of evolutionary advantage.
She added that the ABO blood type is present in a range of tissues and organs such as the digestive or respiratory system.
Ms Segurel said: ”The evolutionary interest of maintaining these (blood) types might not be related to their function in the blood but likely to their function in respiratory or digestive tissues.
“They are the two places where you have most contact with viruses and bacteria — the places where you inhale the air and the digestive tissue.”
Coronavirus news: Blood types give humans some kind of evolutionary advantage (Image: GETTY)
If you imagine a cocktail of pathogens … there could be a cycle of sometimes B being advantageous, sometimes it’s A.“
Cycling through those different preferences and you end up with a population with different blood types.”
While various studies have shown a connection between blood types and coronavirus, most were only carried out on a small group of people and some were not peer reviewed.
A team of European researchers who published their report in the New England Journal of Medicine in June found people with Type A blood had a 45 percent higher vulnerability to catching the virus than people with other blood types.
Coronavirus is a disease that affects your lungs and airways (Image: EXPRESS)
The researchers observed more than 1,900 severely ill Covid-19 patients in Spain and Italy, and contrasted them with 2,300 people who were healthy.
Dr Anahita Dua of Mass General, who led the study team, said: “We showed through a multi-institutional study that there is no reason to believe being a certain ABO blood type will lead to increased disease severity, which we defined as requiring intubation or leading to death.”
There are two theories about the connection between blood groups and coronavirus, according to Jacques Le Pendu, research director at Inserm, a French medical research body.
One is that people with type O are less at risk of coagulation problems and clotting has been found to have considerable influence on the severity of the disease.
Coronavirus: People with Type O blood were just 65 percent as likely to contract the virus (Image: GETTY)
He said it could also be due to the likelihood that the pathogen will carry the infected person’s blood group antigen.
As such, the antibodies generated by a person with blood group O might disable the virus when transmitted from a person with blood group A.
But he said: “However, this protection mechanism would not work in all situations.
“A blood group O person could infect another blood group O person for example.”