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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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WHO classifies Indian variant as one of global concern
The World Health Organization said on Monday that the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first identified in India last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.

One bright spot is that vaccines may be protective. White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said that preliminary evidence from lab studies suggest Covaxin, a vaccine developed in India, appears capable of neutralizing the variant.

'Black fungus' complication adds to India's Covid woes
The Indian government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis or "black fungus" in Covid-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection. The state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said at the weekend that doctors treating Covid-19 patients, diabetics and those with compromised immune systems should watch for early symptoms including sinus pain or nasal blockage on one side of the face, one-sided headache, swelling or numbness, toothache and loosening of teeth.

The disease, which can lead to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe Covid-19.

Children aged 12-15 could be vaccinated in US from Thurs
U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12 and said they could begin receiving shots as soon as Thursday, widening the country's inoculation program as vaccination rates have slowed significantly. This is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be authorized in the United States for ages 12 to 15.
Vaccinating younger ages is considered an important step for getting children back into schools safely. Students at the State University of New York and the City University of New York must get vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend classes this fall, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

New drug helps Covid-19 patients breathe on their own
When a new monoclonal antibody drug called lenzilumab was added to treatments being given to hospitalized Covid-19 patients who were still breathing on their own, the drug from Humanigen Inc significantly improved their odds of not needing invasive mechanical ventilation, researchers found.

The 540 patients in the randomized trial were already receiving a variety of standard treatments. Half of them also received lenzilumab via three intravenous infusions. In a paper posted on Wednesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review, the research team reported that patients in the lenzilumab group had a 54% better chance of surviving without needing mechanical ventilation. In patients under age 85 whose immune system was in the early stages of triggering a life-threatening inflammatory response, lenzilumab improved the odds of ventilator-free survival by nearly three-fold.

Cow dung not a Covid cure, say Indian doctors
Doctors in India are warning against the practice of using cow dung in the belief it will ward off Covid-19, saying there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading other diseases. In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus.

"There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against Covid-19, it is based entirely on belief," said Dr JA Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association.
(Reuters)

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