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“Omicron: The sound of concern and chaos reaches the USA”

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After circling the globe for two years, Coronavirus has picked up a new identity. This time it has been speculated to have been first identified in South Africa on the 24th November 2021. Omicron, named after a Greek alphabet, and has the phonic of shorter “o”, and has alarmed the world with “an increased risk of reinfection”. World Health Organization has warned the world to continue following the “measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19”, which included social distancing, hygiene, use of masks in crowded places and getting vaccinated, to avoid getting infected. 

Although the virus was first detected in South Africa just a few days back, it has already put various countries around the world in lockdown including the Netherlands. Several countries, including Germany, the UK and the USA have updated their travel restrictions with their focus mainly on limiting travel from African countries. In his press conference, while announcing the travel ban on eight African countries, US President Joe Biden said that these travel restrictions “gives us time to take more action to move quickly to make sure people understand you have to get vaccinated”. He called the newly identified variant as a cause of “concern” and not of “panic”. Later that day, President Biden also brought the attention of the world to have “global vaccinations” by donating vaccinations to the underdeveloped countries of the world to stop the mutations and spread of the virus. 

About 59% of the US population is fully vaccinated while 11% is partly vaccinated against covid. These statistics put President Biden’s “concerns” over Omicron more in perspective. Dr Anthony Fauci has also emphasised the need of getting booster shots to increase the body’s immunity to fight covid: “We know from experience that even with variants that are not specifically directed at by the vaccine, such as the Delta variant if you get the level of antibody high enough, the protection spills over to those other variants.”

While the US expands its search for Omicron cases at the four major International Airports, seven Omicron cases have been reported in its neighbouring country Canada four of which were detected in Ontario. This new variant can be detected through a standard PCR test in a patient experiencing symptoms including “aches and pains” with “cough, a fever and loss of taste or smell” as the main symptoms to look out for.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

New diet, New you! – In Focus

Every year there is a new diet, a new fad. Have you chosen your diet plan for this year? Should you pick a specific type of diet or is there a better way? This week we go In Focus with Toral Shah, Nutritional Scientist & Functional Medicine practitioner. She is the founder of theurbankitchen.co.uk @UrbanKitchen on Twitter. Come learn the best ways to manage your diet and how to make it sustainable and long lasting. We also tackle gut health, vitamins, and your gym membership. Its all here, so keep your eyes peeled!

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Health

Paxlovid: Canada’s new weapon against covid

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The increase in covid cases around the world has countries arming up with new weapons to contain the virus. On Monday, The Canadian health department added Paxlovid as its new weapon which could be used by patients having mild covid symptoms. According to the statement released by Health Canada, the pill is a combination of “the two antiviral drugs”  and “works by stopping the virus from replicating”. The pill is one of a kind as it could be used at home, while earlier all the covid pills were to be taken in a hospital. 

According to Dr Supriya Sharma, the Chief Medical Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Health Canada, Data submitted by Pfizer to Health Canada showed that in adults who were not vaccinated and were covid positive, the pill showed remarkable results against Omicron variant. She said that “treatment with Paxlovid compared with no treatment reduced the risk of Hospitalization and death caused by Covid-19 by 89% when the medication was started within three days of the beginning of the symptoms.” While in the patients who were given the medication within five days of the start of the symptoms, the chances of hospitalisations were reduced to 85%. Theresa Tam, Chief public health officer of Canada, while explaining how everything for the availability of the anti-covid pills is coming together, called the measure good news for Canadians.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in his tweet stated about the availability of the pill that Canada has “secured 1 million treatment courses – more than 30,000 have already arrived”. He also writes that “120,000 more“ will arrive by the end of March 2022. But this supply might be impacted by the drug shortage. More and more countries are approving the anti-covid pills for use, with the USA approving two covid pills last month, the need is getting higher while the production of the antiviral pills takes more time. It would be critical to make a delivery schedule that could meet the needs of Canada for it is already facing issues over the shortage of life-saving drugs. 

While new pills and ways are being introduced to fight the rising cases of covid, it should be noted that these measures would not replete the importance of vaccinations.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

WHO announces that Covid-19 should not be treated like the flu

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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday that it is still too early to treat Covid-19 and its variants like an endemic illness such as the flu. Spain is the first European country to suggest this change. 

Although Spain is the first country to suggest this, many European countries have started to treat the pandemic disease just like a flu, despite backlash from health organisations.  Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez suggested the European Union (EU) about this re-evaluation by stating “the situation is not what we faced a year ago,” adding “I think we have to evaluate the evolution of Covid to an endemic illness, from the pandemic we have faced up until now…at the technical level and at the level of health professionals, but also at the European level,” in a radio interview. He also proposed tracking Covid similarly to the flu where testing is not necessary for every individual presenting with symptoms. 

Although many epidemiologists and virologists believe that Covid will soon turn into an endemic disease, this stage hasn’t been reached yet. As Dr. Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer at WHO Europe stated “endemicity assumes that there’s stable circulation of the virus, at predictable levels and potentially known and predictable waves of epidemic transmission,” further explaining “but what we’re seeing at the moment coming into 2022 is nowhere near that, we still have a huge amount of uncertainty, we still have a virus that’s evolving quite quickly and posing new challenges so we’re certainly not at the point of being able to call it endemic. It might become endemic in due course but pinning that down to 2022 is a bit difficult at this stage.”

Not only that, the UK is another country with high cases of Covid which is not taking it as seriously as it should. The UK health professionals have issued a plea to enact stricter policies regarding the sudden spread of the virus that increased even more due to the new strain, Omicron. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to live with it along with UK’s Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who said “I absolutely think that it would be completely wrong for us to go back into a lockdown.” 

Even if Covid-19 becoming an endemic disease is inevitable, it still has not reached that stage. There are numerous cases of hospitalisation for it to be considered normal flu, not to mention new variants that keep on appearing. Therefore, there should still be a focus on trying to contain the virus and minimising its effect. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Heart Attacks

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As we go through the myriad of holidays in the winter season, it can become easy to forget to eat healthy in the midst of the abundance of sweet and rich foods. However, it is important to remember to eat healthy when possible, as it has numerous benefits, such as maintaining good heart health. 

What is the structure of the heart?

Credits to Mikael Häggström from Wikimedia Commons.

    The human heart is roughly the size of a human fist and is composed of four chambers – right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, and left ventricle. Between the right atrium and right ventricle lies the tricuspid valve, and between the left atrium and the left ventricle lies the mitral valve (bicuspid valve). The tricuspid and bicuspid valves are known as atrioventricular (AV) valves, and are responsible for one-way blood flow from the atrium to the ventricle (on both the right and left sides of the heart). There are two “pipes” that lead out of the right and left ventricles, through the pulmonary and aortic valves, respectively. In addition, there are two valves (known as the semilunar valves) that are between where the aorta and pulmonary artery leave the ventricles, and into the systemic (to the rest of the body) circulations and the pulmonary (within the lungs) circulations, respectively. In between the ventricles lies the interventricular septum, which is composed of a thin membrane portion closer to the top of the heart, and a thick layer of muscle between the ventricles. 

How does the heart work? 

    When the blood enters the heart, it enters into the right atrium first. Then, it enters the right ventricle via the opening of the tricuspid valve. Then, it proceeds through to the pulmonary artery via the opening of pulmonary valve. From the pulmonary artery it splits into two arteries: one going to the left side of the lungs, and one going to the right side of the lungs. The arteries both go through either the left or right side, respectively, and pick up oxygen from the oxygen that was inhaled, and drop off carbon dioxide (CO2)/waste to be exhaled. After picking up oxygen, the blood returns to the left atrium, and then proceeds to the left ventricle via the opening of the bicuspid valve. Afterwards, the blood flows into the aortic artery and is sent off to various parts of the body. 

    The heart’s rhythm is set by the heart’s natural pacemaker – what is known as the “sinoatrial node” (SA node). The SA node resides in the right atrium of the heart and generates an electrical impulse independent of the nervous system. The electrical impulse then goes to the AV node, where there is a delay (in order to allow for more time for the ventricles to fill with blood after the tricuspid valve opens). Then, the signal travels through the bundle of His to the ventricles, and splits into two – the right bundle branch, and the left bundle branch. The aforementioned branches then stimulate the right and left ventricles, respectively. 

What is a heart attack? 

    A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is caused by a reduction in the flow of blood to the heart. Although there are different causes possible, it is usually caused by a blockage in an artery/arteries. The blockage tends to be due to the buildup of plaque – a substance that can build up on the inside of the arteries. The plaque can then break open and a blood clot could get stuck within the opening; if the blood clot is large enough, it can block the artery and lead to reduced blood flow to the heart. ~5% of heart attacks are due to other causes (not including having a blockage in the artery), such as, but not limited to: trauma (such as the artery being ruptured due to another condition or procedure), eating disorders (eating unhealthy food for an extended period of time can damage the heart and result in a heart attack), and certain medical conditions (that can cause the blood vessels to narrow more than they should). Another possible cause can be due to an electrolyte imbalance (either having too much or too little of critical nutrients). 

What are the risk factors, symptoms, and effects of a heart attack?

    Risk factors for having a heart attack include: being at 45 years old or older (for men), being at 50 years old or older (for women), smoking, lack of exercise, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure (hypertension). Symptoms of a heart attack include, but are not limited to: tiredness, a sudden onset of dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, indigestion, abdominal pain, and pain in the chest. It is important to note, however, that symptoms and their severities do vary amongst individuals depending on different factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and family history, to name a few factors. The effects of a heart attack can include complications such as heart failure or irregular heart rhythms (also known as arrhythmias). 

How can I decrease my risk of a heart attack?

    There are many different ways to decrease the risk of having a heart attack. For instance, getting regular exercise everyday can help strengthen the heart muscle and help the heart pump more blood. In addition, it helps keep blood vessels flexible – thus ensuring good blood flow. In fact, a research study found that in 15 controlled trials, exercise improved the peak cardiac output by greater than 20%. Another way is by managing stress – lowering stress levels helps to lower blood pressure, thereby decreasing the risk of getting a heart attack. In addition, it is important to not smoke and maintain a healthy weight. 

    Although there are many different risk factors for having a heart attack, there are different ways to reduce the risk of having a heart attack, and are important to follow. The aforementioned recommendations help with decreasing the risk of other conditions as well, such as illness. With these recommendations in mind, the holiday season can be both enjoyable and healthy. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Covid-19 pummels into 2022 with numbers reaching a million cases a day

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Studio Incendo, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many countries have once again recorded high numbers of Covid-19 cases in the UK, USA, and China. Moreover, in the USA the daily cases reached one million on Monday, a grim milestone. 

China has put another city by the name of Yuzhou in complete lockdown due to the rise in the cases. This is the third city that has gone into complete lockdown, although the numbers are still rising. In China with every new Covid-19 case popping up, the authorities responsible for the jurisdiction where the case was found are punished which has led to them taking some extreme measures. People are deprived of basic necessities like food and menstruation pads. A Chinese journalist, Jiang Xue wrote an essay that gained a lot of attention this week. In a sentence, the essay states “we must be willing to make any sacrifice [to stop the virus]. This line is true enough, but each person should consider: are we the ‘we’ in this statement, or are we the ‘sacrifice’?” According to the authorities, this lockdown will not be removed until there are zero reported cases. 

The UK is also seeing a rise in cases and has now introduced pre-department Covid tests which have to be taken two days before departing and an additional PCR test two days after arriving. However, these new restrictions were not supported by the travel industry. The main reason for the opposition is the negative impact upon the economy placing jobs at risk. So far, due to the increased rate of infection the hospitals in the UK face a shortage of staff along with the hospitals in the USA and China. 

The number of Covid cases in the USA is nearly double compared to the peak reached last winter. This has led to an increased demand for testing which is, unfortunately, not being met. Furthermore, the number of patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 has also increased by 50 percent in the past week which is bad news for the healthcare system if it is not ready to handle the rising cases. Even though the new strain Omicron is milder it is still affecting almost all countries in the world. Therefore, many countries have also started administering booster shots to further increase the protection against this strain of virus to try to control it. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Business

2021 In Focus

A look back at some of our best moments from 2021. As we explored topics ranging from Remote working, HGV Driver Shortages, Climate Change, Cryptocurrency, the COVID pandemic, Rebranding, though to Development through Play and much much more. So grab a snack and relive 2021 In Focus!

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