China has embarked on an “experiment” the likes of which the world has not seen since it reversed its zero-covid policy – and one that could have serious consequences – a healthcare expert says. Newsweek.
Ron Gutman, from Stanford University The associate professor, healthcare entrepreneur and co-founder of Intrivo – a US firm that has developed on/go rapid Covid tests – said China’s secrecy about sharing health information poses a danger to the world.
He calls for the development of more robust global pandemic prediction and surveillance systems that would be able to detect dangerous new pathogens, or virus variants, before they could cause widespread outbreaks.
“The lack of accurate and detailed data-sharing from China, combined with the still fairly limited systematic monitoring of pathogens in the rest of the world – not least sync up between global players in both industry and government – leads to a perpetual risk of widespread outbreaks of infection,” Gutmann said. Newsweek.
After quickly abandoning its strict zero-covid policy in December, China has experienced A massive wave of infection. A senior health official said last week that 80 percent of the country’s people-Equal to about 1.2 billion people—was infected in this wave, although some Western analysts have expressed skepticism about these figures. (Others say this is plausible, given our knowledge of the highly contagious omicron variant.)
It’s hard to get a true picture of what’s really happening in the country, with experts generally wary of Chinese government information. World Health Organization (Queen) has previously urged China to share more information about the spread of the disease in the country, warning that it has understated the true impact of the virus, especially when it comes to deaths.
Before the government announced earlier this month that 60,000 Covid deaths had occurred since early December, it acknowledged only 37 deaths during the pandemic. Western experts, on the other hand, have suggested that tens of thousands or more than a million people have died due to Covid in the country.
The latest data released by Chinese health authorities suggests so The latest wave has already peaked. Officials downplayed concerns that the movement of millions of people during the Lunar New Year period could spread the virus and sow the seeds for another wave, arguing that there is now a high level of immunity.
However, said James Troyer, head of the Epidemiological Modeling Unit at Monash University in Australia The guardian Chinese authorities should not assume that there will not be another wave of infections in the coming weeks and months as the disease has spread widely over the winter.
New cases in China currently top out at more than 4.5 million per day, while modeling by UK health analytics group Airfinity suggests its analysis suggests that social mixing during the Lunar New Year period has further spread the virus. The current wave is now forecast to last at least until March, increasing pressure on hospitals and possibly leading to tens of thousands more deaths, Airfinity said.
Jody McVernon, an epidemiologist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia, said: The guardian Even if the current wave subsides, China may face a cycle of infection spikes in the coming years. “Between having these really big, huge waves, there’s a lot of exposure at once and then a lot of fading at once,” he said.
Some experts have played down concerns that China’s current wave could lead to the emergence of dangerous new strains, as the country lags behind the rest of the world as a result of its zero-covid policy. Known variants currently circulating in the country would not be suitable enough to spread elsewhere because of pre-existing immunity, some researchers said.
But this situation could change rapidly as many people in China acquire some form of immunity from natural infections, potentially pushing the virus to evolve.
In light of this, WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told POLITICO: “We cannot be complacent. We know that widespread infection in less-than-optimal populations with optimal vaccination coverage is a risk factor for the emergence of new forms of concern.”
Kluge reiterated the agency’s call for “virus alerting, testing and sequencing” and, importantly, transparent data sharing, which he said applies to all countries.
Verity Hill of the Yale School of Public Health said many countries are halting variant surveillance efforts, which could increase the risk that a variant originating in China could go undetected for some time. the nature.
Gutmann said: “What is clear is that after three years of the world’s toughest fight against Covid, and then suddenly reversing it in the face of unacceptable economic costs and a growing social blank slate. [protest] movement, China is now embarking on an experiment that none of us could have seen or predicted,” Gutman said.
According to Gutman, the country provides an ideal breeding ground for the spread and development of diseases like COVID, given its aging population and densely populated urban centers.
He said that “1.4 billion people, often living in close proximity to more than 10 million people in one of China’s 10 megacities, where vaccination rates are patchy … are suffering through a Covid winter that takes on something seen globally.”
Gutman continued: “With a lack of transparency and minimal cooperation with the international scientific community, when—if not—[the disease evolves], will the rest of the world notice? The answer seems unlikely. In trying to obfuscate the disease, it creates new risks for all of us. As we have seen, disease certainly does not respect borders.”
The need for a global pandemic surveillance system
Despite the dire consequences of the Covid pandemic, Gutman said that in some ways the world has moved on a bit this time, though lessons must be learned.
“Another epidemic, a variant or a new pathogen, will inevitably occur in the near future. Next time, it could be a much more lethal virus or even a mutation of an existing virus,” he said. “Mutations multiply rapidly—for example, the COVID-19 virus makes 10 billion copies of its DNA with each infection.
“Most of the time, these mutations in a disease will be benign and mild, and so the impact won’t be too bad. But it only takes one strong variant – as we saw in 2020 and 2021 – to result in huge human and economic costs,” he said.
Currently, there is a real lack of sustained health surveillance and communication on infection variants, allowing dangerous new variants to emerge and spread under the radar before we are able to control them, Gutman said.
“I would argue that we are absolutely unprepared for the next pandemic,” he said. “The global system for monitoring and testing is not yet there.”
Nevertheless, Gutman said that we have all the capabilities—technical, scientific, and logistical—to pick up new variants, as well as pathogens, much earlier, enabling us to intervene in time to reduce the spread of infection.
“There are significant changes that can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively for effective pandemic preparedness. Without such infrastructure, we are playing Russian roulette with millions of lives,” he said.
Guttman said governments, the World Health Organization, biotech companies, universities and population health managers must not collectively “chill” on efforts to predict, detect and prevent infectious diseases amid “pandemic fatigue”.
Instead, these institutions should work together to develop and implement advanced global epidemic-surveillance systems using data science and technology to analyze patterns of genomic, biological, environmental, and public health data using data collected from multiple sources worldwide. The aim is to identify potentially dangerous outbreaks at an early stage at local, regional and national levels.
This system will have different aspects. One aspect is to better utilize the expertise of academic institutions that are already investigating viruses on an ongoing basis.
“A lot of these universities are doing the work. We just need to link this data together,” Gutman said. “And we need to make sure that there’s an alert system on the same platform that very quickly brings the data to a central repository that processes it and says, ‘Is it something benign?'”
It is important to detect early signs of potentially dangerous emerging variants or pathogens. And when it comes to known pathogens, implementing better tests on a regular basis to collect more data is an important step.
“It is important to test and track and collect more data on existing, new and emerging variants of existing pathogens such as Covid-19 – which are potentially much more aggressive than those we are familiar with – as well as having proper surveillance systems to detect entirely new pathogens. Instead of doing,” Guttman said.
For new, unknown pathogens, different techniques can be combined to help identify them when they are just beginning to spread. For example, hospitals can send alerts about unusual new activity or scientists can track other indicators, such as sewage in major cities.
“We can get an early signal for an emerging new pathogen and nip it in the bud early,” Gutman said.
With an improved global pathogen surveillance system, the impact of any given outbreak can be significantly mitigated because interventions can be launched at an earlier stage, Gutman said. However, it is unlikely that future epidemics will be completely prevented.
“You can reduce 95 to 98 percent of the impact and that’s huge, right?” she said.
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