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Soaring omicron could lead to more dangerous variants, WHO warns

Soaring omicron cases around the globe could increase the risk of a newer, more dangerous variant emerging, the World Health Organization in Europe warned on Tuesday.

While the variant is spreading like wildfire around the world, it appears to be far less severe than initially feared and has raised hopes that the pandemic could be overcome and life return to more normality.

But WHO senior emergencies officer Catherine Smallwood sounded an ominous note of caution, telling AFP that the soaring infection rates could have the opposite effect.

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“The more omicron spreads, the more it transmits and the more it replicates, the more likely it is to throw out a new variant. Now, omicron is lethal, it can cause death … maybe a little bit less than Delta, but who's to say what the next variant might throw out,” Smallwood told AFP in an interview.

Europe has registered more than 100 million Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, and more than five million new cases in the last week of 2021, “almost dwarfing what we have seen in the past”, Smallwood said.

“We're in a very dangerous phase, we're seeing infection rates rise very significantly in Western Europe, and the full impact of that is not yet clear,” she said.

Smallwood also noted that while “on an individual level there's probably a decreased risk of hospitalization” with the omicron variant compared to delta, overall, omicron could pose a greater threat because of the sheer number of cases.

“When you see the cases rise so significantly, that's likely to generate a lot more people with severe disease, ending up in hospital and possibly going on to die,” she said.

Britain on Tuesday faced warnings of an impending hospital crisis due to staff shortages caused by a wave of omicron infections, as the country's daily Covid caseload breached 200,000 for the first time.

Smallwood said she expected that scenario to play out in other European countries as well.

“Even in well-capacitated, sophisticated health systems there are real struggles that are happening at the moment, and it's likely that these will play out across the region as omicron drives cases upwards.”

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Read more:

Omicron hospitalization risk is far below delta’s in two studies

Omicron multiplies 70 times faster than delta in human airways: Study

Israeli study finds Pfizer COVID-19 booster protects against Omicron

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Healthpoint launches new procedure to help treat sleep apnea after success in 35-year-old patient

  • The new procedure provides same-day results and can help physicians identify and resolve underlying conditions that can cause high blood pressure or cardiac issues
  • It also helps diagnose patients with respiratory issues undetected by traditional screening options

Abu Dhabi, UAE; 06 February 2023: Healthpoint, a Mubadala Health partner, has introduced a new diagnostic procedure in the UAE that helps treat people with obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that impairs breathing and results in poor sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when airflow is blocked during sleep. This causes the patient to stop breathing for a short period of time, which deprives the body and brain of oxygen. This interrupts sleep, causing loud snoring and choking noises, and results in the patient feeling tired, even after sleeping a full six to eight hours. Untreated, it often becomes the silent cause behind other common comorbidities such as hypertension, cardiac diseases, diabetes, and metabolic disorders, as well as strokes or heart attacks.

The patient who had been living in the UAE for five years, suffered from OSA. After trying many different traditional treatment options, including a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, he turned to Healthpoint’s multidisciplinary team, made up of specialists in sleep, anesthesiology, orthodontics and ear, nose and throat (ENT) issues.

Dr. Favas Thaivalappil recommended the newly introduced DISE-PSG procedure to the patient, and the team was able to use the comprehensive 3D evaluation procedure to diagnose and classify his complicated respiratory issue on the same day.

The DISE-PSG procedure involved an evaluation of the patient’s upper airway performed at various sleep stages. This, coupled with a synchronizing polysomnogram, also known as a sleep study, allows physicians to observe the stage of sleep a patient is in as well identify episodes of air flow obstruction, which was not previously possible.

The patient said, “After feeling a bit helpless from not seeing results from the various treatment options, it was a huge relief that after a few short and painless hours, Healthpoint’s multidisciplinary team were able to pinpoint exactly what the issue was and the different treatments options available to me, all in the same day. I literally walked away with a customized and alternative treatment option. From this approach, I am now able to consider different options that we know will work, from oral appliances to a specific type of surgery to treat my OSA. After years of struggling with this condition, I am looking forward to that first night of rested sleep soon.”

Dr. Favas Thaivalappil, Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine Consultant and Head of Sleep Center, Healthpoint said: “We often see a lot of patients affected by sleep-related breathing disorders complaining about a lack of sleep, many of which have underlying conditions that can cause high blood pressure or cardiac issues. We can usually determine the root cause of the issue and treat the conditions effectively. However, in patients who are unable to comply with traditional sleep therapy options, a personalized approach is essential to identify their underlying cause and to plan the treatment accordingly,”

“For this patient, this procedure helped us identify the site of the obstruction in more detail, allowing us to offer customized alternative treatment options of sleep apnea including reconsideration of an oral appliance or surgery. The DISE-PSG procedure is a very useful investigation method for selected patients who have had a bad night’s sleep for far too long. Through Healthpoint, we are now able to bring this new procedure to the region to help detect and diagnose complicated respiratory illnesses and provide modern treatment options to them, and probably of the benefit to their wider family too,” continued Dr. Favas.

Healthpoint specializes in sleep-related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome (RLS), excessive day time sleepiness, disorders related to the circadian rhythm and parasomnia. With a dedicated team of multidisciplinary experts, including sleep physicians, surgeons, dentists, psychologists and qualified sleep therapists, Healthpoint’s Sleep Medicine Center is designed to diagnose and help to treat patients suffering from sleep and respiratory illnesses using precision-based technology.

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WHO launches bid to tackle inequalities behind global breast cancer threat

A UN-led global initiative to tackle breast cancer could save 2.5 million lives by 2040, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, just ahead of World Cancer Day.

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Fake medicines kill almost 500,000 sub-Saharan Africans a year: UNODC report

Trafficked medical products kill almost half a million sub-Saharan Africans every year, and action is needed to stem the flow, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states in its new threat assessment report.

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