The Lambda Coronavirus Variant Has Arrived In Australia Here’s What We Know So Far

We’ve seen the Alpha, Kappa and Delta variants cross our borders, but it turns out another strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has reached our shores.

The variant, named Lambda by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month, was detected in an overseas traveller who was in hotel quarantine in New South Wales in April, according to national genomics database AusTrakka.

Some reports suggest the new variant could be fast spreading and difficult to tackle with vaccines. So what sets this variant apart from others and should we be concerned?

Here’s what we know so far.

Where did it originate?

Previously known as C.37, Lambda was first detected in Peru in December 2020. Since then, it’s spread to 29 countries, seven of which are in South America.

In April and May this year, Lambda accounted for over 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Peru, with a high proportion of cases also in Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador.

On 14 June, Lambda was listed as a ‘variant of interest’ by the World Health Organization due to its vast spread in South America.

Variants of interest are listed as such because they have the potential to be more infectious and severe, but haven’t yet had the devastating impact of those listed as variants of concern.

On 23 June, Public Health England classified it as a ‘variant under investigation’, after six cases were detected in the UK to date, which were all linked to overseas travel.

What makes it different from other variants?

There are now 11 official SARS-CoV-2 variants listed by the WHO.

All SARS-CoV-2 variants are distinguished from one another by mutations in their spike proteins — the components of the virus that allow it to invade human cells.

For instance, the Delta variant first detected in India has two key spike protein mutations — T478K and L452R  — that allow it to infect cells more easily and evade the body’s immune response.

According to research published last week but yet to be peer reviewed,  Lambda has seven unique spike protein mutations.

A Chilean team of scientists analysed blood samples from health workers in Santiago who had received two doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech in China.

They found  the Lambda variant has a mutation called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation seen in the Delta and Epsilon variants.

As the L452R mutation is thought to make Delta and Epsilon more infectious and resilient against vaccination, the team concluded that Lambda’s L452Q mutation might also help it spread far and wide.

While it’s possible that Lambda is indeed more infectious than other variants, it’s too early to know for sure, said Kirsty Short, a virologist at the University of Queensland.

“It’s very preliminary,” said Dr Short, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s a good starting point, but I certainly wouldn’t infer anything from that into the clinic.”

Are vaccines still effective against the Lambda variant?

The study also found signs that Lambda’s unique spike mutations could help it slip past the body’s immune response.

The results of the study suggested that the CoronaVac vaccine produces fewer neutralising antibodies — proteins that defend cells against infections — in response to the Lambda variant.

But according to Paul Griffin, who specialises in infectious diseases and vaccines at the University of Queensland, it’s important to remember that these antibodies are just one aspect of immunity.

“We know that [neutralizing antibodies] only tell a part of the story,” said Dr Griffin, who was not involved in the study.

“If that further immunity remains intact, then even with a reduction in neutralizing antibodies, sometimes that protection can still be enough.”

It’s also worth remembering that different vaccines work in different ways to respond to the virus and its variants.

“You can’t really extrapolate from one vaccine,” Dr Short said.

CoronaVac uses inactive versions of SARS-CoV-2 to kick the immune system into gear.

On the other hand, Pfizer contains a single strand of the genetic code that builds the virus’s spike proteins, while AstraZeneca contains a double-strand.

Dr Griffin said that more traditional inactivated vaccines like CoronaVac have proven to be less effective overall than others.

“As a broad category, the inactivated ones have been a little bit underwhelming, particularly compared to others that have such high rates of efficacy,” said Dr Griffin, who was not involved in the study.

While not much is known about how effective the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are against Lambda, their response to the Delta variant can offer clues.

A recent study from the UK found that two doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca are over 90 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation due to the Delta variant.

Should Australia be worried?

While there has only been one case of Lambda recorded in hotel quarantine in Australia so far, it’s worth keeping an eye on the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants around the world, Dr Short said.

“There’s a reason why it’s a variant that we’re watching and looking into more, but it’s certainly not at a point of panic or anything like that.”

Dr Griffin added that Lambda would need to out-compete Delta to become a major concern. “That’s certainly not what we’re seeing,” he said.  But as more people get infected, the more chance the virus has to evolve into new variants, Dr Short said.

The best way to tackle this is to focus on getting more people vaccinated, not just in Australia, but globally. “What this should emphasise to everyone is that we need global effort in the vaccination campaign,” Dr Short said.

 By: ABC Health & Wellbeing Gemma Conroy

Source: The Lambda coronavirus variant has arrived in Australia. Here’s what we know so far – ABC News

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Morrisons Shares Surge As Investors Bet On Low U.K. Supermarket Valuations

Morrisons, CD&R. Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda

Shares in U.K. publicly-listed supermarket chain Morrisons surged by almost a third in morning trading today, after Britain’s fourth biggest grocer rebuffed a $7.6 billion takeover from U.S. private equity giant Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.

The huge spike in its valuation was prompted by emerging news over the weekend that Morrisons had become a takeover target for CD&R, potentially sparking a bidding war for the grocer.

The news prompted shares to rise across the grocery sector, as investors bet that other supermarket groups could become targets for private equity investors or that a bidding battle could erupt, with online giant Amazon AMZN -0.9% – which has an online delivery deal with Morrisons – one possible bidder for its partner.

American private equity firms Lone Star and Apollo Global Management APO +1.9% have also been mentioned as possible suitors for Morrisons, which has been battling with a declining market share, now down at 10%, from 10.6% five years ago. There is a sense that the U.K. supermarket sector could be ripe for more potential takeovers. The share price performance of the entire sector is seen as under-performing compared with U.S. grocers, for example, despite being profitable and achieving typical dividend yields of around 4%.

CD&R has history, having previously made investments in the discount U.K. store chain B&M, from which it made more than $1.4 billion.

Morrisons Rebuffs Bid But More Could Follow

Morrisons first announced on Saturday that it had turned down a preliminary bid by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, which is believed to have been made on or around 14 June. The Bradford-based company said that its board had “unanimously concluded that the conditional proposal significantly undervalued Morrisons and its future prospects”.

CD&R had offered to pay nearly 320c a share in cash, while Morrisons’ share price closed at 247c on Friday, before its surge today as trading reopened for the first time since the announcement.

The New York-headquartered private equity firm has until 17 July to make a firm offer and to persuade a reluctant Morrisons management team to recommend that shareholders agree to the deal.

Sir Terry Leahy, a former Tesco chief executive, is a senior adviser for CD&R and, like its market-leading rival Tesco, Morrisons’ shares have been trading below their pre-pandemic levels as higher costs due to operating throughout the pandemic have taken their toll despite booming sales at essential stores across the U.K.

Morrisons currently employs 121,000 people and made a pre-pandemic profit of $565.5 million in 2019, which plunged to $278.6 million in 2020. It owns the freehold for 85% of its 497 stores. One-quarter of what it sells comes from its own supply chain of fresh food manufacturers, bakeries and farms.

CD&R has so far declined to comment on whether it will return with a higher bid, but analysts believe its approach is probably just the first salvo.

Previously, former Walmart WMT +0.9%-owned Asda was snapped up by the U.K.’s forecourt billionaire Issa brothers along with private equity firm TDR Capital in a debt-based $9.4 billion buyout. Likewise, CD&R could adopt a similar model and combine Morrisons, which has just a handful of convenience stores after a number of limited trials of smaller store formats, with its Motor Fuel Group of 900 gas stations.

There are also wider political concerns that it could emulate the Issas by saddling Morrisons with debt and selling off its real estate assets and CD&R is understood to be weighing political reaction before determining whether or not to come back with a higher bid.

Supermarket Takeovers More Likely Than Mergers

For tightly-regulated U.K. competition reasons, takeovers or mergers between supermarket groups appear increasingly complex. The competition watchdog blocked a proposed $9.7 billion takeover by Sainsbury’s for rival Asda two years ago, determining that the deal threatened to increase prices and reduce choice and quality.

However, comparatively relaxed rules on private equity bids mean few such restrictions apply to takeovers. Private equity firms have acquired more U.K. firms over the past 18 months than at any time since the financial crisis, according to data from Dealogic, and Czech business mogul Daniel Křetínský has established a 10% stake in Sainsbury’s, the U.K.’s second biggest supermarket chain. Having failed in an attempt to take over Germany’s Metro Group last year, he could yet make an offer for a British grocer.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould added in an investor note this morning that Morrisons’ balance sheet looks highly attractive, in particular to a private equity firm looking to sell business assets to release cash.

“Morrisons’ balance sheet has plenty of asset backing and the valuation was relatively depressed before news of private equity interest,” he said. “The market value of the business had weakened so much that it clearly triggered some alerts in the private equity space to say the value on offer was looking much more attractive.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am a global retail and real estate expert who looks behind the headlines to figure out what makes consumers tick. I work as editor-in-chief for MAPIC and editor for World Retail Congress, two of the biggest annual international retail business events.  I also organise, speak at, and chair conferences all over the world, with a focus on how people are changing and what that means for the retail, food & beverage, and leisure industries. And it’s complicated! Forget the tired mantra that online killed the store and remember instead that retail has always been dog-eat-dog: star names rise and fall fast, and only retailers that embrace the madness will survive. Don’t think it’s not important, your pension funds own those malls!

Source: Morrisons Shares Surge As Investors Bet On Low U.K. Supermarket Valuations

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Critics:

Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc (Morrisons) (LSEMRW) is the fourth biggest supermarket in the United Kingdom. Its main offices are in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England.The company is usually called Morrisons. In 2008, Sir Ken Morrison left the company. Dalton Philips is the current head. The old CEO was Marc Bolland, who left to become CEO of Marks & Spencer.

As of September 2009, Morrisons has 455 shops in the United Kingdom. On 15 March 2007, Morrisons said that it would stop its old branding and go for a more modern brand image. Their lower price brand, Bettabuy, was also changed to a more modern brand called the Morrisons Value. This brand was then changed again in 2012 as Morrisons started their low price option brand called M Savers.

In 2005 Morrisons bought part of the old Rathbones Bakeries for £15.5 million which make Rathbones and Morrisons bread. In 2011, Morrisons opened a new 767,500 square/foot centre in Bridgwater for a £11 million redevelopment project. This project also made 200 new jobs.

References:

  1. “Morrisons Distribution Centre Preview”. Bridgwater Mercury. Retrieved 6 July 2012. This short article about the United Kingdom can be made longer. You can help Wikipedia by adding to it.

Hot Tub Health Kick: Why a Long Bath is Almost As Good For You As a Long Run

A soak in a hot tub could be just the thing to relax you after a long day. The warm, bubbly water also eases aches and pains from conditions like arthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.

But hot tubs might not be safe for some people, including pregnant women and those with heart disease. And when they aren’t cleaned well, they pose risks to even healthy people.

Before you buy a hot tub for your backyard or step into those warm waters at the spa or gym, make sure you know a bit about their safety.

Health Benefits

Warm water soothes your body for a few reasons. The heat widens blood vessels, which sends nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. Warm water also brings down swelling and loosens tight muscles. And the water’s buoyancy takes weight off painful joints.

A dip in the hot tub might also help your mental state. Research shows they can promote relaxation and ease stress.

Hot Tub Risks

These warm water whirlpools can pose some risks if you’re not careful.

Infections

Between 2000 and 2014, outbreaks from treated pools and hot tubs were linked to more than 27,000 infections and eight deaths in the United States. When hot tubs aren’t cleaned well, their moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Pseudomonas, one type of bacteria that thrives in hot tubs, causes infections of the hair follicles and skin. Symptoms include red, itchy bumps on the belly and areas covered by your bathing suit. These bumps can pop up anywhere from a few hours to a few days after you take a dip. The same bacteria cause an infection known as swimmer’s ear.

Other germs that live in hot tubs can also make you sick. Cryptosporidium causes GI infections with diarrhea. Legionella causes a severe type of pneumonia, or lung disease.

Hot Tub Use in Pregnancy

Hot tubs might not be safe for pregnant women because they increase body temperature. Research finds that pregnant women who use a hot tub more than once or for long periods of time are more likely to have babies with neural tube birth defects like spina bifida or anencephaly.

Avoid hot tubs if you can during those 9 months. If you do use a hot tub, turn down the temperature and limit your time in the water to less than 10 minutes.

Heart Risks

Be cautious when using a hot tub if you have heart disease. When you soak in hot water, your body can’t sweat. Your blood vessels instead need to widen to cool you off. This makes your blood pressure drop. In response to falling blood pressure, your heart rate speeds up.

This isn’t a problem for healthy people, but if you have heart disease, it can strain your heart.

Hot Tub Safety Tips

To stay safe, follow these tips:

Ask your doctor. If you’re pregnant or you have a health condition like heart disease, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to get into a hot tub.

Check the cleanliness. Ask the hotel or gym how often they clean their hot tub, and whether they keep the pH and chlorine concentrations at levels the CDC recommends (a pH of 7.2-7.8, and a free chlorine concentration of at least 3 parts per million). If the water looks murky or slimy, don’t get in.

Avoid crowds. Stay away when a hot tub is full. More people equals more germs. About half of people say they don’t shower before they swim.

Turn down the heat. A temperature of 100 F should be safe for healthy adults. Anything over 104 could be dangerous. Turn it down another couple of degrees if you have a medical condition.

Limit your time. Don’t stay in the hot tub for longer than 10 minutes. If you feel dizzy, overheated, or unwell, get out right away.

Watch where you sit. Don’t sit too close to the heat source. Keep your head, arms, and upper chest out of the water to avoid overheating, especially if you’re pregnant.

Stay hydrated. Drink water while in the hot tub to cool off your body. Avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you.

Don’t go from hot to cold. Don’t jump straight from the hot tub into the pool to cool off. The cold water could shock your system and spike your blood pressure.

Wash off afterward. Take off your bathing suit and shower with warm water and soap as soon as you finish.

By  Carol DerSarkissian, MD

Source:https://www.webmd.com

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Safety

Sitting in water above normal body temperatures can cause drowsiness which may lead to unconsciousness and subsequently result in drowning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that water temperatures never exceed 40 degrees Celsius. A temperature of 37 degrees is considered safe for a healthy adult. Soaking in water above 39 degrees Celsius can cause fetal damage during the first three months of pregnancy.

It is also recommended to install residual-current devices for protection against electrocution. The greater danger associated with electrical shock in the water is that the person may be rendered immobile and unable to rescue themselves or to call for help and then drown.

Hot tubs and spas are equipped with drains that can create powerful suction and between 1980 and 1996, the CPSC had reports of more than 700 deaths in spas and hot tubs, about one-third of which were drownings to children under age five. In the same period 18 incidents were reported to the CPSC involving body part entrapment.

To reduce the risk of entrapment, US safety standards require that each spa have two drains for each pump, reducing the amount of suction. From 1999 to 2007 there were 26 reports to the CPSC concerning circulation entrapments hot tubs and spas, including three deaths.

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References

 

Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

The number of people who have injured their necks or heads while using using cell phones has spiked over the past two decades, with a sharp increase following the release of the iPhone, research has revealed.

Most people got hurt because they were distracted by their cell phones, and while in the home according, to the study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database on emergency room visits from approximately 100 U.S. hospitals to carry out the study.

Of the 2,501 incidents occurring between January 1998 and December 2017, 37.6 percent involved patients aged between 13 to 29-years-old, with pre-teens most at risk. Of the total, 55 percent were female, 38.8 percent white.

The majority of patients hurt their head, followed by the face, including the eye and nose area, and lastly the neck. Lacerations were the most common injury, followed by contusions or abrasions and internal organ injuries—mostly traumatic brain injuries. For instance, some were hit in the face, or were harmed when batteries exploded. Some suffered concussion.

Head and neck injuries related to phones were relatively rare up until 2007, when rates shot up following the release of the Apple iPhone, followed by a much steeper rise to a peak in 2016, the researchers found.

Based on the 2,501 cases, the team estimated a total of 76,043 such injuries likely occurred across the U.S. between 1998 and 2017. Of those, an estimated 14,150 involved people who were distracted. That included 90 playing Pokémon Go.

A further 7,240 people were driving, 1,022 texting, and 5,080 patients were walking and using a smartphone.

Around 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to the researchers.

Despina Stavrinos, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who did not work on the study told Newsweek she wasn’t surprised by the findings “given how pervasive cell phones are in our everyday lives.”

She said as the numbers were taken from a database on medical settings, the findings could be an underestimate of the problem.

“A significant portion of the injuries were to children and adolescents, suggesting parents play an important role in educating their children on safe phone practices. Policy and behavioral interventions should continue to consider ways to prevent cell phone use in transportation settings,” said Stavrinos.

“Most of the injuries in this study occurred at home; however, a smaller yet significant portion occurred in traffic environments. Distracted walking, bicycling, and driving are common and extremely dangerous activities among youth that increases their risk of injury,” said Stavrinos, who co-authored a paper on that topic.

“Cell phones offer many advantages, but also pose risks if they are not used properly. This is definitely the case when it comes to using phones while driving or walking.”

By

Source: Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

1.47M subscribers
Bending and staring down at our phones for several hours, increases the stress on our neck and spine, leading to neck and back pain. Experts refer to this condition as text neck and it can eventually lead to serious consequences. Also, at night, when we stare at our smartphones, the light emitted from their screens makes our brain think that it is still daytime. So, our brain does not produce the sleep hormone melatonin, causing us to stay awake for long hours and thus, disturbing our circadian rhythm which regulates our every day bodily functions. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. An interesting fact is that smartphone addiction has given rise to a new phobia called Nomophobia, short for no mobile phone phobia. It is basically the fear or anxiety of being without our phone.
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