WHO Raises Alarm Over Virus Spread in Brazil, Mexico

The World Health Organization says it is very worried about the rapidly growing surge of coronavirus cases in in Brazil and Mexico.WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at his regular briefing in Geneva on Monday, “I think Brazil has to be very, very serious,” in combating the surge there. He echoed the same concern for Mexico, which he said was in “bad shape.””The number of cases doubled, and the number of deaths doubled. … We would like to ask Mexico to be very serious,” he said.Mexico’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll passed 100,000 on November 20, and the country has added more than 5.000 deaths since then.Dressed in protective gear to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, a medical worker attends to a patient at a military hospital set up to take care of COVID-19 patients in Mexico City, November 30, 2020.Brazil has recorded more than 172,000 deaths from COVID-19, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 267,000 deaths.On Monday, Brazil’s most populous state, Sao Paulo, ordered shops, bars and restaurants to limit themselves to 40% capacity to try to control the spread of the pathogen.Meanwhile, drugmaker Moderna said Monday it has requested emergency authorization in the U.S. and Europe to distribute its coronavirus vaccine after tests showed it is 94% effective.The request comes shortly after another drug company, Pfizer-BioNTech, sought the same emergency authorization. If granted, inoculations in the U.S. could begin as soon as mid-December.The Moderna and Pfizer requests for emergency use of their …

France Faces Public Resistance to COVID Vaccine

As French authorities prepare to roll out their COVID immunization strategy this week, they face skepticism in a country where surveys show many people do not trust the vaccine.France was among the nations of Europe taking the heaviest hit from the COVID-19 outbreak as more than 50, 000 people died of the virus.Like the rest of the world, hopes are high that vaccines will defeat the virus and enable people to go back to a normal life. The French immunization campaign is scheduled to start by the end of December with the elderly, people living in nursing homes and medical personnel slated to receive the first doses.In an address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said a scientific committee would supervise the immunization campaign and a citizen group would be created to make sure the population is part of the process. Immunization against COVID-19 must be clear and transparent and information must be shared  on what is known and unknown, insists Macron, who stressed that immunization will not be mandatory in France.The government is worried that millions of French people will refuse coronavirus vaccine shots due as skepticism grows in the country. Fifty-nine percent of French people surveyed say they would not get vaccinated, according to an IFO poll published on Sunday.Prime Minister Jean Castex recently said his fear is that not enough French people will get vaccinated.Jean Paul Stahl, a French doctor of infectious diseases, said the numbers concern him.The professor explains there is a common fear of …

Moderna to Seek Quick Approval of Coronavirus Vaccine in US, Europe

Drugmaker Moderna said Monday it is seeking emergency authorization in the United States and Europe to distribute its coronavirus vaccine after tests showed it is 94% effective.The U.S. biotechnology company’s request could mean that health workers will be able to inoculate patients against the virus as soon as mid-December with either of two coronavirus preventatives — Moderna’s or another equally successful test drug produced by the corporate tandem of Pfizer-BioNTech — if the companies win approval from drug regulators.Moderna said it conducted a 30,000-person clinical trial, and its results were on a par with the best pediatric vaccines.The drugmaker said that of the 196 volunteers who contracted COVID-19, 185 had received a placebo versus 11 who received the vaccine. Moderna reported 30 severe cases — all in the placebo group — including one COVID-19-related death. The Moderna and Pfizer requests for emergency use of their vaccines come as the number of coronavirus cases is surging in the U.S., where tens of thousands of new cases are being recorded daily.Health officials say they are especially worried about an even further spread of the virus because millions of people ignored warnings against traveling for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday and could travel again over the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends.Air travelers line up to go through a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 25, 2020.The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population but nearly a fifth of its recorded coronavirus deaths — more than …

How US Military Invented America’s Favorite Snacks 

From instant coffee to Cheetos, packaged cookies and energy bars, the U.S. military helped invent many of the snacks Americans love to eat.    The effort accelerated during World War II, when military scientists needed to develop compact yet nutritional ways to feed the troops.   “There was a tremendous need for the military to develop modern rations, and it ended up not only inventing a bunch of new food processing techniques but putting in place a food science research system that exists to this day,” says food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat”. “Out of that came a lot of new techniques and food, and after the war, those were incorporated into snack and convenience foods.” Those new techniques include high pressure processing, which makes uncooked food safe to eat. The process is routinely used in packaged foods like guacamole, salsa and hummus. Cheetos, one of America’s favorite cheesy, crunchy snacks, are made possible by the dehydration process the military worked on to remove the water from cheese. That gave cheese both a longer shelf life and made it lighter to transport to troops overseas. Energy bars are a snack food that resulted from a long period of development to produce a small and nutritionally dense emergency ration.Military scientists discovered that pet food companies were working on a way to make the water level low enough to prevent bacteria and fungi from being produced, making the food safe. “Once they figured that out, they …

Australia Develops ‘Revolutionary’ Electric Air Ambulance

An electric “aero-ambulance” that is estimated to be faster, safer and quieter than a helicopter has been developed by researchers in Australia.  The aero ambulance is called Vertiia. It is an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft designed to get patients to the hospital quicker and more safely.   It is set for commercial release in 2023, and developers say it will be the world’s most efficient aircraft of its type for passenger and “aeromedical transport.”   The transfer of patients in remote parts of Australia can be slow. Often, they must be driven to an airport by ambulance, transferred onto a plane, and then back into another ambulance for delivery to the hospital. Vertiia aims to take them from door to door. It is built to cruise at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour and travel 250 kilometers powered by electric batteries before needing to recharge. It is also designed to travel nonstop for more than 800 kilometers using hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The project is a collaboration between the University of Sydney, the startup company AMSL Aero and the charity CareFlight. Associate Professor Dries Verstraete is an aerospace engineer from the University of Sydney.   His team is working to increase the aircraft’s efficiency through its aerodynamic and structural design and reduce its operating costs.  “Aero ambulances work by taking off vertically and tilting the wing to horizontal, to tilt it back before they land,” he said. “The advantage of this concept is that they are flying efficiently like an aircraft, but they can …

WHO: Coronavirus Threatens to Reverse Gains Made in Malaria Control

On World Malaria Day, the World Health Organization is calling on countries to step up the fight against malaria, saying the coronavirus pandemic threatens to reverse important gains made in efforts to control this deadly disease. Since 2000, the U.N.’s World Health Organization reports 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million deaths have been averted globally. Some of the greatest achievements were made in sub-Saharan Africa, which bears the brunt of this deadly disease spread by mosquitos. Additionally, the director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, said 21 countries have eliminated malaria over the last two decades. Of these, he says 10 have been officially certified as malaria-free by the WHO. “That means that more than half of all the world’s endemic countries are within reach of elimination,” Alonso said. “In the beginning of the century, three countries had less than 10 cases per year. Now, we have 24 countries, which are literally one step away from elimination.”  Despite remarkable progress, however, the World Health Organization reports global gains have leveled off in recent years. This is because of insufficient funding and a lack of access to proven malaria control tools, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and preventive medicines for children. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic is now posing an additional challenge to the malaria response. WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the gains made in Africa over many years against poverty and disease risk being reversed by the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease. “Already, malaria causes a 1.3 …

US Health Experts: Coronavirus Vaccines on the Way, but Precautions Still Paramount   

Two top U.S. coronavirus experts assured Americans Sunday that vaccines against the pandemic would soon become available but warned that not taking precautions against the spread of the virus before then could prove disastrous. “We should have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize 20 million Americans and we have to immunize for impact,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the White House virus testing chief, told CNN. “But the American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed.” FILE – Adm. Brett Giroir, director of the U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, testifies at a Senate committee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 30, 2020.Giroir described two prospective vaccines, which are now under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as “lifesaving,” saying, “This puts an end to the pandemic.” But until then, he said, “The American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed, wear a mask, avoid indoor crowded spaces, all the things you know.”   Giroir said he believes there will be a “smooth, professional transition” in handling the vaccine distribution from the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump to that of President-elect Joe Biden when he is set to be inaugurated on January 20. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, speaking to ABC’s “This Week” show, said, “Help is on the way,” and that the initial supply of vaccines might be available by mid-December. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious …

UN Agency: Physical Activity Can Save Up to 5 Million Lives a Year 

The World Health Organization is urging people to get moving and keep moving for better health.  The U.N. health agency says physical activity can avert the deaths of up to 5 million people annually.  WHO statistics show 1 in 4 adults and 80% of adolescents do not do enough physical activity, and women and girls generally do less than men and boys.  This, the agency says, hurts both human health and the health of world economies.     The agency reports physical activity can help prevent heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer; as well reduce cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease.  It says physical inactivity also can put societies into an economic hole.  The global cost of direct health care is estimated at $54 billion, with an additional cost of $14 billion in lost productivity.      WHO Director for Health Promotion Ruediger Krech says it is never too late to begin moving.  He says any type of physical activity, including walking, cycling, dancing, household tasks and gardening can counteract the harm from sitting too long.     “WHO urges everyone to continue to stay active through the COVID-19 pandemic.  If we do not remain active, we run the risk of creating another pandemic of ill health as a result of sedentary behavior,”  he said.New WHO guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, and an average of 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents.   For the first time, WHO’s unit head for physical activity, …

In Santa’s Mailbag, a Peek into Children’s Pandemic Worries

Jim, from Taiwan, slipped a face mask inside the greeting card he sent to Santa and marked “I (heart) u.” Alina, 5, asked in her Santa letter written with an adult’s help that he please use the front door when he drops in, because the back door is reserved for Grandma and Grandpa to minimize their risk of contamination.And spilling out her heavy little heart to “Dear Father Christmas,” 10-year-old Lola wrote that she is wishing “that my aunt never has cancer again and that this virus no longer exists.”“My mother is a care-giver and sometimes I am scared for her,” Lola explained, signing off her handwritten letter with, “Take care of yourself Father Christmas, and of the Elves.”The emotional toll wrought by the pandemic is jumping off pages in the deluge of “Dear Santa” letters now pouring into a post office in southwest France that sorts and responds to his mail from around the world.Postal workers who call themselves ‘Elves’ open envelopes addressed ‘Pere Noel’ — Father Christmas in French – – decorated with love hearts, stickers and glitter, in Libourne, southwest France, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.Arriving by the tens of thousands, the letters, notes and cards — some mere scribbles, other elaborate labors of love in colored pens — are revealing windows into the tender minds of their young authors, and of adult Santa fans also asking for respite and happiness, at the tail end of a year of sickness and tumult.Like this letter from young Zoe, who …

Britain’s Johnson Asks Lawmakers to Back a Tougher Lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is asking lawmakers to support new, tiered restrictions to keep the nation’s hospitals from becoming overwhelmed before a vaccine for the coronavirus can be approved and distributed.The new measures would put 99% of the country under the two highest restriction levels when the current rules end Tuesday. The new restrictions would last about a month.An increasing number of members of Johnson’s own Conservative Party are opposed. And on Saturday, London police broke up anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protests, arresting more than 150 people in the process.The government hopes that a vaccine, the first doses of which could be in British hospitals by December 7, and mass testing could end the need for restrictions. Britain has suffered the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, with more than 57,000 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.Parliament is to vote on Johnson’s new restrictions Tuesday.FILE – President-elect Joe Biden walks from his motorcade to speak to reporters in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 23, 2020.In the U.S., President-elect Joe Biden added three members to his COVID-19 advisory board.QualificationsBiden added Jane Hopkins, Jill Jim and David Michaels to “strengthen the board’s work and help ensure that our COVID-19 planning will address inequities in health outcomes and the workforce,” he said.Hopkins is a registered nurse specializing in mental health and also serves on Washington state’s COVID-19 task force.Jim is a member of the Navajo Nation and the executive director of its Department of Health. She has focused …