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From ‘Zero’ to Surge

For a lot of the pandemic, Hong Kong and New Zealand have been fashions of success within the conflict in opposition to the coronavirus. Their cautious “zero Covid” approaches saved instances and deaths low, and every day life has continued in a comparatively regular means.

Now, with the Omicron variant walloping a lot of Asia, each locations are experiencing scary surges — however in strikingly divergent methods. The primary distinction, in keeping with my colleague Alexandra Stevenson, is that Hong Kong didn’t see Omicron coming.

Alexandra, who relies there, instructed me that till a couple of weeks in the past, she knew only one particular person within the metropolis who had contracted Covid. “It might have been outstanding to come back throughout somebody right here who had Covid,” she mentioned. “It was so uncommon.” The identical could possibly be mentioned for New Zealand, an island nation that instituted strict journey restrictions and lockdowns.

A part of the reason being low vaccination charges — significantly amongst older adults, who in lots of instances have fallen prey to misinformation. Amongst individuals above 80, for instance, solely 30 p.c are vaccinated.

“There’s this concept right here that it’s worthwhile to be wholesome sufficient to be vaccinated, so when you have continual well being issues it is best to speak to your physician first,” Alexandra mentioned.

In New Zealand, against this, the explosion of cases got here after the federal government carried out an especially efficient vaccination marketing campaign. By the point Omicron arrived, the nation was effectively protected, even after the federal government loosened restrictions. Ninety-five p.c of New Zealanders over 12 have been vaccinated, and 57 p.c have obtained a booster shot.

Nonetheless, the nation is experiencing a jolt after spending many of the pandemic remoted from the virus: Covid is spreading there at what stands out as the quickest charge on the planet, and consultants consider that half the inhabitants could possibly be contaminated inside three months.

The federal government is making an attempt to arrange the general public for the psychological shift. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mentioned final week that “very quickly we are going to all know individuals who have Covid-19 or we are going to doubtlessly get it ourselves.”

It’s an analogous shift that can be required throughout the area, Alexandra mentioned.

“Quite a few Asian nations spent the pandemic being very cautious, making an attempt to making an attempt to maintain outbreaks at bay,” she mentioned. “Whereas now numerous Asian nations are getting way more snug with the concept that is endemic — it’s going to be right here for a very long time and we’ve to loosen up.”

A pair of research performed on animals contaminated with the coronavirus are giving us new insights into two signs of lengthy Covid: anosmia, or the lack of scent, and erectile dysfunction.

Let’s begin with anosmia. A brand new research examined golden hamsters that had been infected with the coronavirus and tracked the harm to their olfactory techniques over time.

(How might if golden hamsters might scent? Researchers didn’t feed them for a number of hours after which buried Cocoa Puffs of their bedding to see if they might discover the cereal.)

The analysis, which additionally examined tissue specimens from contaminated people, appears to have settled the controversy over whether or not the coronavirus infects the nerve cells that detect odors: It doesn’t.

However the researchers discovered that the virus did assault different supporting cells that line the nasal cavity. Immune cells then flood the area to battle the virus. The following irritation wreaks havoc on scent receptors, basically short-circuiting them, the researchers reported.

The paper considerably advances the understanding of how cells crucial to the sense of scent are affected by the virus, even though they aren’t straight contaminated.

And now onto genitals: A bunch of researchers in Louisiana who have been scanning the our bodies of three contaminated rhesus macaque monkeys were surprised to find the virus within the male genital tract.

The researchers found that the virus contaminated the prostate, penis, testicles and surrounding blood vessels within the monkeys. The discovering means that signs like erectile dysfunction — reported by about 10 to twenty p.c of males with Covid — could also be triggered straight by the virus, not by irritation or fever.

Males contaminated with the virus are three to 6 instances as probably as others to develop erectile dysfunction, which is believed to be an indicator of lengthy Covid. Sufferers have additionally reported signs similar to testicular ache, lowered sperm counts and decreased fertility.

The paper’s senior creator mentioned he subsequent deliberate to find out whether or not the testicles have been a reservoir for the coronavirus, as had been hypothesized by some scientists. He can even have a look at whether or not the virus infects tissue within the feminine reproductive system.

I haven’t seen my grandmother in over two years. I stay in Oregon and she or he’s in California. She turned 98 in February and per week later fell at dwelling and wanted hip surgical procedure. She was discharged to a rehab facility, however is now again within the hospital with an an infection. I’m devastated. There have been many instances throughout the pandemic after I thought, perhaps I ought to simply drive down and see her, however I used to be all the time so fearful about getting her sick. Now, I do know it’s too late. I’m indignant and unhappy concerning the two years I misplaced together with her, and figuring out that now I’d lose her with out getting the prospect to say goodbye.

— Kelsey Ferreira, Portland, Ore.

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