What’s Worse Than a Pandemic? A Twindemic

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On the record of issues to fret about within the age of SARS-CoV-2, boring, outdated winter flu most likely doesn’t rank extremely. Particularly not in the course of a summer season warmth wave. And but it ought to.

Humanity has grown so accustomed to annual waves of influenza that it was the baseline comparability when Covid first arrived. (It’ll be simply one other flu, we stated.) The implication was that ranges of influenza illness, hospitalization and loss of life have been acceptable, even inevitable.

I used to be definitely responsible of that considering. Though my employer provides an annual flu shot, I typically didn’t hassle to get it. However the pandemic has uncovered the weak spot of our attitudes and insurance policies towards influenza. We now have a possibility to do issues otherwise. This isn’t an argument for flu-driven lockdowns or a nationwide paranoia about any bug. However we are able to construct higher defenses towards influenza at comparatively little value, and for a acquire in lives and health-care capability.

One purpose to get extra severe about flu is its value, each economically and in human phrases. Annual prices of treating influenza (routinely in extra of $10 billion within the U.S.) are vital, even whenever you simply have a look at hospital outlays for these most severely affected.

Influenza epidemics within the northern hemisphere have an effect on anyplace from 5% to fifteen% of the inhabitants yearly. On common, about 8% of the U.S. inhabitants get sick from flu every season. For many, it’s normally a light, if disagreeable expertise. However for some, it may be lethal.

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management estimates that, on common, 36,000 folks have died of flu every year during the last decade, with 61,000 deaths within the 2017-2018 flu season. Within the U.Okay., the common is about 17,000 annual deaths. Clearly, Covid is a unique order of magnitude, however the prices to the health-care system from flu should not trivial.

The aged are most susceptible to flu, however so are pregnant ladies, very younger youngsters and people with different medical circumstances and weakened immune methods. Some who contract and recuperate from flu find yourself with post-viral signs that drag on. Lengthy Covid has confirmed us simply how debilitating these could be.

What occurs whenever you layer flu on high of Covid-19? We don’t actually know, since final winter noticed an extremely delicate flu season, principally as a consequence of measures equivalent to lockdowns, social distancing and masking. Infections charges for flu have been two-thirds decrease than in the course of the 2011-2012 season, which had file low charges.

We are able to’t depend on a repeat. The low prevalence of flu final 12 months makes it tougher to foretell which strains to incorporate on this winter’s vaccine. We might get fortunate once more, or issues might worsen: Lowered ranges of pure immunity after a couple of low-flu seasons might make it simpler for brand new variants to take maintain.

Britain, with its overstretched nationwide health-care system and gargantuan backlog of surgical procedures and different procedures, can scarcely afford a foul flu season. Consultations for influenza-like diseases take up substantial GP time and hospital capability in a standard 12 months. Excessive charges of flu on high of Covid can be a pressure too far, requiring substantial new authorities sources and leaving many individuals with out remedy.

However it’s not simply the compounded well being burden that ought to make us rethink influenza. The very fact is, we’ve got been far too complacent about flu for too lengthy. Many flu deaths are preventable with jabs and the sorts of behavioral modifications we’ve grown accustomed to from Covid.

Not solely did the social-distancing measures imposed in the course of the pandemic lower the unfold of flu, they’re additionally estimated to have led to a 20% drop within the widespread respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) within the U.S. RSV accounts for five% of the deaths in youngsters below 5 globally. The issue now, nonetheless, is that the current lifting of Covid restrictions has coincided with unseasonably excessive RSV circumstances within the U.S.

Larger ranges of flu vaccination can be a game-changer. Final winter, flu vaccine uptake in Britain reached file ranges, with the Nationwide Well being Service vaccinating greater than 80% of these over 65 — 10% increased than the earlier 12 months and forward of the World Well being Group purpose of 75% for the primary time.

However the vaccination price drops off with the younger. Lower than 45% of these below 65 with a number of underlying danger components will get vaccinated. Though greater than 2.5 million youngsters have been vaccinated by means of college packages, that’s nonetheless properly below half (47.5%) of all children. Uptake additionally varies throughout ethnic teams, with some minorities lagging in getting vaccines. Within the U.S., Black communities (the place vaccine charges are round 41%) had the best flu-related hospitalization price of any ethnicity.

A examine on the College of Bristol is presently searching for to find out what negative effects folks get when given the really useful flu vaccine together with both the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Getting a joint Covid-19 booster shot and flu shot might guarantee that there’s extra flu vaccine protection.

In fact, the effectiveness of flu vaccines can range from one season to the following and from individual to individual. They’re usually between 40% and 60% efficient once they match up properly with the variants circulating.

So we’d be properly served to additionally apply our Covid habits to diseases like flu. Which may imply extra hybrid working throughout peak flu months or if there’s an outbreak. Masking at sure occasions, even when not obligatory, makes loads of sense too.

If Covid-19, like flu, goes to be a recurrent seasonal affliction — as appears possible — we might want to higher handle the stress on the well being methods in the course of the winter. Meaning being ready to finance increased ranges of care throughout these crunch intervals or doing extra to cut back the pressure on the system. We’ll most probably by no means remove influenza and different viruses, however we are able to make winters more cost effective and fewer depressing by elevating the bar on an sickness that many people handled too casually.

Source: What’s worse than a pandemic? A twindemic | Asia Post

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Critics:

As public health officials look to fall and winter, the specter of a new surge of Covid-19 gives them chills. But there is a scenario they dread even more: a severe flu season, resulting in a “twindemic.”

Even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already coping with Covid-19 cases. And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to anticipate this year, they are worried large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, increasing the risk of widespread outbreaks.

The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been talking it up, urging corporate leaders to figure out ways to inoculate employees. The C.D.C. usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults but this year ordered an additional 9.3 million doses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been imploring people to get the flu shot, “so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.”

The flu vaccine is rarely mandated in the U.S. except by some health care facilities and nursery schools, but this month the statewide University of California system announced that because of the pandemic, it is requiring all 230,000 employees and 280,000 students to get the flu vaccine by November 1.

According to the C.D.C., flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking from December to February, and so was nearing its end as the pandemic began to flare in the United States in March.

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Hunger is Rising, COVID-19 Will Make it Worse

The economic crisis and food system disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic will worsen the lack of nutrition in women and children, with the potential to cost the world almost $30 billion in future productivity losses. As many as 3 billion people may be unable to afford a healthy diet due to the pandemic, according to a study published in Nature Food journal. This will exacerbate maternal and child under-nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, causing stunting, wasting, mortality and maternal anemia.

Nearly 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, up by almost 60 million since 2014. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are attributable to undernutrition and, regrettably, stunting and wasting still have strong impacts worldwide.

In 2019, 21 per cent of all children under age five (144 million) were stunted and 49.5 million children experienced wasting.The effects of the pandemic will increase child hunger, and an additional 6.7 million children are predicted to be wasted by the end of 2020 due to the pandemic’s impact.

The situation continues to be most alarming in Africa: 19 per cent of its population is under-nourished (more than 250 million people), with the highest prevalence of undernourishment among all global regions. Africa is the only region where the number of stunted children has risen since 2000.

Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of people facing chronic hunger. They are more likely to reduce their meal intake in times of food scarcity and may be pushed to engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as transactional sex and child, early and forced marriage.

Extreme climatic events drove almost 34 million people into food crisis in 25 countries in 2019, 77 per cent of them in Africa. The number of people pushed into food crisis by economic shocks more than doubled to 24 million in eight countries in 2019 (compared to 10 million people in six countries the previous year).

Food insecurity is set to get much worse unless unsustainable global food systems are addressed. Soils around the world are heading for exhaustion and depletion. An estimated 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded, endangering food production and the provision of vital ecosystem services.

Evidence from food security assessments and analysis shows that COVID-19 has had a compounding effect on pre-existing vulnerabilities and stressors in countries with pre-existing food crises. In Sudan, an estimated 9.6 million people (21 per cent of the population) were experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in the third quarter of 2020 and needed urgent action. This is the highest figure ever recorded for Sudan.

Food security needs are set to increase dramatically in 2021 as the pandemic and global response measures seriously affect food systems worldwide. Entire food supply chains have been disrupted, and the cost of a basic food basket increased by more than 10 per cent in 20 countries in the second quarter of 2020.

Delays in the farming season due to disruptions in supply chains and restrictions on labour movement are resulting in below-average harvests across many countries and regions.  This is magnified by pre-existing or seasonal threats and vulnerabilities, such as conflict and violence, looming hurricane and monsoon seasons, and locust infestations. Further climatic changes are expected from La Niña.

Forecasters predict a 55 per cent change in climate conditions through the first quarter of 2021, impacting sea temperatures, rainfall patterns and hurricane activity. The ensuing floods and droughts that could result from La Niña will affect farming seasons worldwide, potentially decreasing crop yields and increasing food insecurity levels.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 is still playing out in terms of rising unemployment, shattered livelihoods and increasing hunger. Families are finding it harder to put healthy food on a plate, child malnutrition is threatening millions. The risk of famine is real in places like Burkina Faso, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

COVID-19 has ushered hunger into the lives of more urban communities while placing the vulnerable, such as IDPs, refugees, migrants, older persons, women and girls, people caught in conflict, and those living at the sharp end of climate change at higher risk of starvation. The pandemic hit at a time when the number of acutely food-insecure people in the world had already risen since 2014, largely due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks.

Acute food-insecurity is projected to increase by more than 80 percent – from 149 million pre-COVID-19, to 270 million by the end of 2020 – in 79 of the countries where WFP works. The number of people in crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) almost tripled in Burkina Faso compared to the 2019 peak of the food insecurity situation, with 11,000 people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC/CH Phase 5) in mid-2020.

For populations in IPC3 and above, urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance is required to prevent a deterioration in the hunger situation. It is alarming that in 2020, insufficient funds left food security partners unable to deliver the assistance required. For example, sustained food ration reductions in Yemen have directly contributed to reduced food consumption since March. Today, Yemen is one of four countries at real risk of famine.

Source: https://gho.unocha.org/

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Critics:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food security has been a global concern – in the second quarter of 2020 there were multiple warnings of famine later in the year. According to early predictions, hundreds of thousands of people would likely die and millions more experience hunger without concerted efforts to address issues of food security.

As of October 2020, these efforts were reducing the risk of widespread starvation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Famines were feared as a result of the COVID-19 recession and some of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the 2019–2021 locust infestation, ongoing wars and political turmoil in some nations were also viewed as local causes of hunger.

In September 2020, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, addressed the United Nations Security Council, stating that measures taken by donor countries over the course of the preceding five months, including the provision of $17 trillion in fiscal stimulus and central bank support, the suspension of debt repayments instituted by the IMF and G20 countries for the benefit of poorer countries, and donor support for WFP programmes, had averted impending famine, helping 270 million people at risk of starvation.

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As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It

Kianna Ameni-Melvin’s parents used to tell her that there wasn’t much money to be made in education. But it was easy enough for her to tune them out as she enrolled in an education studies program, with her mind set on teaching high school special education.

Then the coronavirus shut down her campus at Towson University in Maryland, and she sat home watching her twin brother, who has autism, as he struggled through online classes. She began to question how the profession’s low pay could impact the challenges of pandemic teaching.

She asked her classmates whether they, too, were considering other fields. Some of them were. Then she began researching roles with transferable skills, like human resources. “I didn’t want to start despising a career I had a passion for because of the salary,” Ms. Ameni-Melvin, 21, said.

Few professions have been more upended by the pandemic than teaching, as school districts have vacillated between in-person, remote and hybrid models of learning, leaving teachers concerned for their health and scrambling to do their jobs effectively.

For students considering a profession in turmoil, the disruptions have seeded doubts, which can be seen in declining enrollment numbers.

A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19 percent of undergraduate-level and 11 percent of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income schools across the country, said it had received fewer applications for its fall 2021 corps compared with this period last year.

Credit…Rosem Morton for The New York Times

Many program leaders believe enrollment fell because of the perceived hazards posed by in-person teaching and the difficulties of remote learning, combined with longstanding frustrations over low pay compared with professions that require similar levels of education. (The national average for a public-school teacher’s salary is roughly $61,000.) Some are hopeful that enrollment will return to its prepandemic level as vaccines roll out and schools resume in-person learning.

But the challenges in teacher recruitment and retention run deeper: The number of education degrees conferred by American colleges and universities dropped by 22 percent between 2006 and 2019, despite an overall increase in U.S. university graduates, stoking concerns about a future teacher shortage.

For some young people, doubts about entering the teaching work force amid the pandemic are straightforward: They fear that the job now entails increased risk.

Nicole Blagsvedt, an education major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, felt a jolt of anxiety when she began her classroom training in a local public school that recently brought its students back for full in-person learning. After months of seeing only her roommates, moving around a classroom brimming with fourth and fifth graders was nerve-racking.

Ms. Blagsvedt’s role also encompassed new responsibilities: sanitizing fidget toys, enforcing mask use, coordinating the cleaning of the water bottles that students brought to school because they couldn’t use the water fountains. In her first week, she received a call from an office assistant informing her that one of her students had been exposed to Covid-19, and that she had to help shepherd the students out of the classroom so it could be disinfected.

“This panic crossed my mind,” she said. “I thought: This was what it’s going to be like now.”

Administrators running teacher preparation programs said the new anxieties were most likely scaring away some potential applicants. “People are weighing whether or not it makes sense to go to a classroom when there are alternatives that may seem safer,” said David J. Chard, dean of the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University.

But for many students, the challenges posed by remote teaching can be just as steep. Those training in districts with virtual classes have had to adjust their expectations; while they might have pictured themselves holding students’ hands and forming deep relationships, they’re now finding themselves staring at faces on a Zoom grid instead.

“Being online is draining,” said Oscar Nollette-Patulski, who had started an education degree at the University of Michigan but is now considering swapping majors. “You have to like what you’re doing a lot more for it to translate on a computer. I’m wondering, if I don’t like doing this online that much, should I be getting a degree in it?”

In some instances, remote teaching has deprived education students of training opportunities altogether. At Portland State University in Oregon, some students were not able to get classroom placements while schools were operating remotely. Others were given only restricted access to student documents and academic histories because of privacy concerns.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

At the university’s College of Education there was a decline in applications this year, which the dean, Marvin Lynn, attributed to students in the community hearing about the difficulties in training during the pandemic.

Applications may tick back up as schools return to in-person learning, Dr. Lynn said, but the challenges are likely to outlast this year. Educators have struggled with recruitment to the profession since long before the pandemic. In recent years, about 8 percent of public schoolteachers were leaving the work force annually, through retirement or attrition. National surveys of teachers have pointed to low compensation and poor working conditions as the causes of turnover.

The pandemic is likely to exacerbate attrition and burnout. In a recent national study of teachers by the RAND Corporation, one quarter of respondents said that they were likely to leave the profession before the end of the school year. Nearly half of public schoolteachers who stopped teaching after March 2020 but before their scheduled retirements did so because of Covid-19.

This attrition comes even as many schools are trying to add staff to handle reduced class sizes and to ensure compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols. Miguel A. Cardona, the secretary of education, recently called for financial help to reopen schools safely, which will allow them to bring on more employees so they can make their classes smaller. The Covid-19 relief package approved by President Biden includes $129 billion in funding for K-12 schools, which can be used to increase staff.

Not all teacher preparation programs are experiencing a decrease in interest. California State University in Long Beach saw enrollment climb 15 percent this year, according to the system’s preliminary data. Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, the assistant vice chancellor for the university system, attributes this partly to an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, which temporarily allowed candidates to enter preparation programs without meeting basic skill requirements because of the state’s teacher shortage.

Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City also saw an increase in applications this year, according to a spokesman, who noted that teaching has historically been a “recession-proof profession” that sometimes attracts more young people in times of crisis.

Even some of those with doubts have chosen to stick with their plans. Ms. Ameni-Melvin, the Towson student, said she would continue her education program for now because she felt invested after three years there.

Maria Ízunza Barba also decided to put aside her doubts and started an education studies program at the Wheelock College of Education at Boston University last fall. Earlier in the pandemic, as she watched her parents, both teachers, stumble through the difficulties of preparing for remote class, she wondered: Was it too late to choose law school instead?

Ms. Ízunza Barba, 19, had promised to help her mother with any technical difficulties that arose during her first class, so she crawled under the desk, out of the students’ sight, and showed her mother which buttons to press in order to share her screen.

Then she watched her mother, anxious about holding the students’ attention, perform a Spanish song about economics.

Ms. Ízunza Barba said she realized then that there was no other career path that could prove as meaningful. “Seeing her make her students laugh made me realize how much a teacher can impact someone’s day,” she said. “I was like, whoa, that’s something I want to do.”

Source: As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It – The New York Times

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References

Agrba L (27 March 2020). “How Canadian universities are evaluating students during the coronavirus pandemic”. Maclean’s.