- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the continuing evolution of COVID variants and what this means for your business. Read more below.
- The CDC has put out more information on long-COVID and Post-COVID conditions. The CDC currently discusses Post-COVID conditions by: “Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID. People call post-COVID conditions by many names, including: long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID.” Things that they want everyone to know:
- Post-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems; these conditions can last weeks, months, or years.
- Post-COVID conditions are found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions, even people who had mild illness or no symptoms from COVID-19.
- People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may also be at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.
- There is no single test for post-COVID conditions. While most people with post-COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.
- CDC and partners are working to understand more about who experiences post-COVID conditions and why, including whether groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are at higher risk.
- A recent news release through the European Association for the Study of Obesity has found that within the first half year of the COVID-19 pandemic, “the proportion of overweight or obese children and teens from low-income families in Ohio climbed from 38% to 45%”, basically 18%! The study continues to find that, “the early months of school closures, bans on social gatherings, disruptions to sleep and lack of exercise, increased screen time and snacking, as well as heightened stress and anxiety created the perfect storm for having issues with weight gain.” (CIDRAP).
- While lockdowns in China continue (with Shanghai city official tightening restrictions) and Beijing also finding districts coming into lockdown (CIDRAP), Taiwan is moving away from the “zero-COVID” policy (NYT).
- In South Africa, COVID-19 cases continue to rise dramatically with cases fueled by Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. (CIDRAP/Bloomberg)
- On May 20th, Israel will be removing mandatory COVID-19 airport testing.
- Seasonal flu cases and activities continue to rise across the U.S. However, cases are variable globally. In Canada and Peru, cases are rising. Additionally, Australia is also warning of the upcoming flu season.
- The H5N1 avian flu continues to spread, now with more than two thirds of US states affected (34 states). New outbreaks are happening in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. In Washington and Oregon, outbreaks are occurring in backyard flocks. (CIDRAP).
- There have been a few human cases of avian flu; however, given the current illnesses, the WHO concluded that, “Currently, limited available epidemiologic and virologic information suggests that this avian influenza A(H3N8) virus has not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans. Therefore, the risk at the national, regional and international level of disease spread is assessed as low.”
Public Health & Food Safety:
- A monkeypox case has been reported in the U.K. (CIDRAP).
- Regarding the current hepatitis cases of unknown origin, “Cases were reported from four of the six regions into which the WHO divides the world; many other countries have reported incidences, including Argentina, Indonesia, and Panama.” The current hypothesis around this is more so that “[c]hildren’s immune systems have been weakened by keeping their distance and other corona measures and were therefore exposed to fewer viruses due to any contact restrictions. This resulted in their being unable to develop corresponding antibodies” with the potential that “[a]s with the SARS-CoV-2 variants, a more aggressive and contagious adenovirus variant could have emerged.”
Recommendations for Industry
Variants Continue to Evolve. What Does it Mean for Your Business?
You may be seeing some news about new BA.4/BA.5 variants “sweeping” South Africa. While the variants have been confirmed by the WHO as the cause of the surge there, we are not, thus far, hearing of more than a few cases in the UK – whose lead the U.S. tends to follow. So, while we want to keep these variants on our radar, at this point we don’t see them as a concern, but will keep a watch on them.
Some of TAG’s clients have, however, seen some increased evidence of workplace transmission of other variants. Again, it is not of significant concern, but is an indicator that businesses need to continue to be vigilant in wellness checks, be aware of symptoms, tell workers to stay home when ill – all of which are key to managing transmission. While we are not recommending a return to masking, we do recommend that businesses allow those who wish to mask to do so.
On the positive side, while the variants are seeming to evolve in a way that they become more and more transmissible, they also are attenuating over time in terms of severity, with increased immunity – either through vaccination or having had the virus – among populations.
In Case You Missed It:
- In last Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the slight increase in cases around the U.S. Read more here.
- The FDA is warning consumers of counterfeit over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostics (at-home) tests. Find out more about the tests that are now considered counterfeit.
- As consumers also have been wondering about the shelf-life/expiration of their at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests, the FDA has just updated its guidances and provided expiration dates for the different types of OTC COVID-19 tests.
- Although the mask mandate in public transportation spaces has been struck down and not reinstated, the CDC “has reissued a recommendation for wearing face coverings on public transit and in transportation hubs like airports” (CIDRAP).
- Globally, the WHO reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of almost 15 million individuals (New Scientist). While COVID-19 cases are declining globally, the Americas and Africa cases are rising. “In Africa, 12 countries last week saw cases rise by more than 20%, but most of the new infections were reported by South Africa, which saw a 67% increase compared with the previous week.” (CIDRAP). As we’d discussed on Tuesday, BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants may be driving this 5th surge. In fact, WHO emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan believes it is still too “soon to tell if COVID-19 was entering a seasonal pattern and warned against countries dropping all of their restrictions too quickly” (ABC).
- In the U.S., due to rising community transmission moving NYC’s COVID alert from low to medium, NYC may bring back mask mandates and vaccine checks if hospitalizations continue to rise to high risk (CNBC). Additionally, as Puerto Rico has lifted its COVID-19 restrictions, it is seeing an average of 4,000 reported cases daily (NYT). On Wednesday, the COVID-19 death toll had reached 1 million deaths; this is “equivalent to the population of San Jose, CA, the 10th largest city in the U.S.” (NBC News).
Public Health & Food Safety:
- This year’s White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health will focus on “end[ing] hunger and increas[ing] healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.” Find out more about this conference from Health.gov.
- It is tick season, everyone! The first human case of Powassan virus has been detected in Connecticut (WFSB).
- Australia’s Nutricia infant formula tests positive for Cronobacter (FSN).
- BusinessWire has put together a new trend report, specifically focusing on, “North America Insect Protein Markets Size, Shares, Industry Trends, & Analysis Report 2021-2022 & 2027.”