COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Has New Coronavirus Outbreak
Three sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that was the center of a contentious outbreak last spring, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Navy officials.

The sailors, who tested positive on Sunday, were not experiencing any symptoms and were placed in isolation on the ship, which remained “fully operational,” the Navy said in a statement on Monday.

“The ship is following an aggressive mitigation strategy in accordance with Navy and C.D.C. guidelines to include mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, and proper hygiene and sanitation practices,” the statement said.

Last March, the Theodore Roosevelt docked at the naval base in Guam, an American territory in the Pacific, as it contended with a fast-spreading outbreak among its crew of 4,800. For weeks the warship battled the virus that infected at least 585 crew members, including one who died of complications stemming from the coronavirus.
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Two tiger cubs probably died of covid-19, reports Pakistani zoo
At first it seemed a case of the fairly common feline panleukopenia virus had stricken the two 11-week-old white tiger cubs late last month in the Lahore Zoo.

Four days later, on Jan. 30, they died of what appeared to be a respiratory virus. But after subsequent autopsies found their lungs ravaged by severe infection, pathologists at the Pakistani zoo concluded the cubs had more likely been covid-19 victims, the coronavirus passed to them through the zoo’s staff, Reuters reported.

“After their death, the zoo administration conducted tests of all officials, and six were tested positive, including one official who handled the cubs,” the zoo’s deputy director, Kiran Saleem, told Reuters, adding that the cubs themselves were not specifically posthumously given PCR tests. “It strengthens the findings of the autopsy. The cubs probably caught the virus from the person handling and feeding them.”

... Zoos have additionally sparked major concerns because of the distancing issues posed by keeping animals in closed quarters and in frequent contact with their handlers. Animals in captivity are considered at greater risk for increased health issues because they are removed from their natural environments.

Pakistan’s zoos are particularly notorious for cases of unfit conditions for animals and have been a frequent target of animal rights campaigns. Last year, a judge ordered a zoo in the city of Islamabad to close, calling it a “dungeon for animals.”

In recent years, the Lahore Zoo has also had cases of chimpanzees, Bengal tigers and black bears dying of diseases, while other animals there have reportedly shown signs of severe psychological illness.
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Seoul offered free coronavirus tests for pets and soon found its first case in a lethargic, vomiting cat
Officials in Seoul said they found their first case of covid-19 in a cat on Monday shortly after offering free tests to pets in the South Korean capital.

Experts say there’s no evidence cats or dogs can transmit the coronavirus to humans, but they have nevertheless placed the cat in isolation for 14 days. The animal was tested after having symptoms of vomiting and decreased activity, and after the family it lives with were all found to have contracted covid-19, officials said.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced last week it would offer free coronavirus tests to symptomatic dogs and cats, shortly after a kitten at a religious facility in the southeast of the country was found to have contracted the virus.

... “There is no evidence that viruses can spread to people or other animals from a pet’s skin, fur or hair,” the CDC says.

Seoul’s government said it would provide tests only to animals that showed symptoms, such as fever or breathing difficulties, after coming into contact with infected humans.

The kitten found positive last month was placed in isolation at a nearby animal shelter but did not show any symptoms and so after 14 days was released, local health authorities said.

In an online briefing last week, disease control official Park Yoo-mi reminded people to keep their pets “at least two meters away from people and other animals when walking them.”

Research has shown that cats can spread the disease to other cats in a laboratory setting.
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North Korea has tried to hack its way to a vaccine, a lawmaker in the South says.
North Korea has tried to steal Covid-19 vaccine and treatment technology by attempting to hack the computer systems of international pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, a South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday after a briefing by government intelligence officials.

The North, which has a decrepit public health system, claims officially to be free of Covid-19. It sealed its borders early last year.

The South Korean lawmaker, Ha Tae-keung, who is affiliated with the opposition People Power Party, spoke to reporters after he and other lawmakers were briefed by senior officials from the National Intelligence Service in a closed-door session on Tuesday.

Mr. Ha provided no further details, and the service declined to corroborate his remarks, citing a policy of not confirming information from such briefings. Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Western officials have long accused North Korea of stealing technology and cash from the outside world through hacking. Last week, the Reuters news agency reported that a preliminary United Nations inquiry into the theft of $281 million worth of assets from a cryptocurrency exchange last September “strongly suggests” links to North Korea.
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New York Sues Amazon, Saying It Inadequately Protected Workers From Covid-19
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, sued Amazon on Tuesday evening, arguing that the company provided inadequate safety protection for workers in New York City during the pandemic and retaliated against employees who raised concerns over the conditions.

The case focuses on two Amazon facilities: a large warehouse on Staten Island and a delivery depot in Queens. Ms. James argues that Amazon failed to properly clean its buildings, conducted inadequate contact tracing for known Covid-19 cases, and “took swift retaliatory action” to silence complaints from workers.

“Amazon’s extreme profits and exponential growth rate came at the expense of the lives, health and safety of its frontline workers,” Ms. James argued in the complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said the company cared “deeply about the health and safety” of its workers.

“We don’t believe the attorney general’s filing presents an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” Ms. Nantel said.

Last week, Amazon preemptively sued Ms. James in federal court in an attempt to stop her from bringing the charges. The company argued that workplace safety was a matter of federal, not state, law.
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Scientists to C.D.C.: Set Air Standards for Workplaces Now
Nearly a year after scientists showed that the coronavirus can be inhaled in tiny droplets called aerosols that linger indoors in stagnant air, more than a dozen experts are calling on the Biden administration to take immediate action to limit airborne transmission of the virus in high-risk settings like meatpacking plants and prisons.

The 13 experts — including several who advised President Biden during the transition — urged the administration to mandate a combination of masks and environmental measures, like better ventilation, to blunt the risks in various workplaces.

... In a letter to the administration, scientists detailed evidence supporting airborne transmission of the virus. It has become even more urgent for the administration to take action now, the experts said, because of the slow vaccine rollout, the threat of more contagious variants of the virus already circulating in the United States, and the high rate of Covid-19 infections and deaths, despite a recent drop in cases.

“It’s time to stop pussyfooting around the fact that the virus is transmitted mostly through the air,” said Linsey Marr, an expert on aerosols at Virginia Tech.

“If we properly acknowledge this, and get the right recommendations and guidance into place, this is our chance to end the pandemic in the next six months,” she added. “If we don’t do this, it could very well drag on.”

... The letter urged the C.D.C. to recommend the use of high-quality masks, such as N95 respirators, to protect workers at high risk of infection. At present, health care workers mostly rely on surgical masks, which are not as effective against aerosol transmission of the virus.
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia