Brazil has surpassed Russia to become the second country in the world with the highest case of the Coronavirus novel, second only to the US, after reporting more than 33,000 infections, a record high, on Saturday.
According to Reuters, Brazil’s health ministry said the country on Saturday registered 33,274 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 4.98,440. The death toll also rose to 28,834, with 956 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. Despite the sharp increase in cases, some states plan to ease locking, ignoring health experts’ warnings that the worst is yet to come, Reuters reported.
‘The US suffered 1L death early May’ Meanwhile, an analysis of overall deaths during the pandemic shows that the US probably reached 1.00,000 milestones three weeks ago. The country said that the number of people reported to have died of COVID-19 infection surpassed 1,000,000 this week.
Between March 1 and May 9, the country recorded about 1,01,600 excess deaths, or deaths beyond the normally estimated number for the year, according to an analysis conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health. That figure reflects about 26,000 more deaths than those attributed to COVID-19 on death certificates during that period, according to federal data.
1.05,500 ‘excessive death’ 26,000 deaths were not always caused directly by the virus. They can also include people who have died from epidemics but not from the disease itself, such as those who are afraid of seeking medical help for unrelated diseases. Adding or reducing other categories of death, such as motor vehicle accidents, also affects the calculation.
The “excess deaths” analysis is a standard tool used by epidemiologists to measure the exact number of deaths from infectious diseases and other widespread disasters. The researchers estimate that the number of excess deaths between March 1 and May 9 is most likely between 97,500 and 105,500. “It is clear that the burden is a little higher than the total amount reported,” said Daniel Weinberger, professor of epidemiology from the same university who led the analysis.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that deaths from malaria could double this year to nearly 8 lakhs in sub-Saharan Africa if the antimalarial campaign is suspended, and the supply of drugs is disrupted due to COVID-19 and related locking.
Even today, malaria continues to claim 4.3 lakhs of life throughout the world each year, with amounts well above 20 crores. India, despite remarkable progress so far, still sees nearly 10,000 deaths from malaria each year, according to the 2019 World Malaria Report.
When the global health community celebrates World Malaria Day on April 25, it serves as a concrete reminder from the UN health agency to avoid repeating past mistakes. In spite of the new coronavirus pandemic, WHO recommends that countries with a malaria burden have to act now to maintain the progress made so far.
The multiplication projections for malaria-related deaths are based on the worst-case scenario from the analysis of a new model released earlier this week. This analysis was carried out by WHO in close collaboration with partners, including PATH, the Atlas Malaria Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This projection reflects the death rate from malaria that was last seen 20 years ago.
During 2014-15, a deadly Ebola spell erupted in West Africa, forcing all government health care machines to shift their focus from malaria. A decade of fighting against malaria is lost in a few months, when routine health services collapse, anti-malarial drugs are still in storage, and health workers are stopped from carrying out regular malaria inspections.
In a short time, progress against malaria was stalled, and thousands of additional malaria-related deaths were estimated in small countries in West Africa such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in one year. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for around 94% of global malaria deaths with more than four lakhs dying each year. More than two-thirds of deaths are among children under the age of five.
This time, as the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly gripped many countries, the entire global health care system seemed to focus on new coronaviruses. However, disruptions to other health services can undo progress for decades, WHO warned.
The season before the rainy season (March to May) is very important in malaria prevention campaigns in India, and many African countries because the number of cases has increased sharply during the rainy months. Therefore, despite the pandemic, an ongoing focus on anti-malaria campaigns is very important, experts say.
During the summer months, the Social Health Activist Accreditation (ASHA) reaches the most remote parts of India and provides early detection and critical care at the community level. However, this year’s lockdown has limited their movements too, threatening to thwart this year’s malaria prevention campaign. If left untreated, malaria can become severe, often requiring hospitalization and causing death.
“Because of the lockout, the movement of health workers and ASHA in most rural and tribal areas has stopped, resulting in active surveillance and direct interaction with families at risk,” said Dr. Sanjeev Gaikwad, Country Director of Malaria No More India. Malaria No More is a non-profit organization working to support India’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2030.
Furthermore, antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine continue to gain popularity as a potential treatment option for reducing the symptoms of COVID-19. Although there are unreliable results and known side effects, alarming trends from the stockpiling of these drugs have been observed worldwide. Experts warn that this could seriously jeopardize the supply of drugs, which were initially used to treat malaria, over the next few months or maybe years. Also, experts warn that such disturbances can lead to sub-standard proliferation of antimalarial drugs on the market.
Early-stage false hypotheses show that corona virus cases and mortality rates are relatively lower in Asian and African countries that have a higher malaria burden. Some experts have repeatedly denied this claim, with WHO even pointing out the possibility of the patient having both diseases simultaneously, which can cause severe health complications.
What’s more, when locking extends to more than a month in many parts of the world, the production and supply of essential malaria commodities such as durable insecticide nets, rapid diagnostic tests, and antimalarial drugs, have been hit. The coordinated effort among all stakeholders is more important than ever before to manage existing supplies and safely continue the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria without disruption.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic must utilize and strengthen infrastructure that has helped health programs to deal with malaria and other infectious diseases throughout the world … However, if the system and staff are not properly involved, however, the benefits derived from saving lives from malaria and other diseases over the past 20 years may disappear, “said the WHO, in its report entitled ‘Adjusting malaria interventions in COVID-19 responses’.
There is hope! In the most vulnerable countries such as Odisha, the malaria program is ready to restart after the lockdown is revoked. “Mosquito nets treated with insecticides have been distributed, and all preparations for pre-season intensification of antimalarial activities in countries such as Odisha are already in place. If these activities can begin immediately after the lock is removed and before monsoon rains arrive in early June, India’s progress against malaria can be maintained, “said Dr. Gaikwad.
Overall, experts believe that with adequate planning, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic can save lives, strengthen the health care system to better deal with malaria and other infectious diseases and reduce the burden on the health care system that has been challenged.