FILE PHOTO: Two marmots meet at the entrance of their lair in Yushu, west China’s Qinghai province July 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

As the coronavirus continues to spread, several other contagious and deadly diseases are popping up around the globe. Ebola has begun to spread in small pockets of an already plague-stricken Africa, concerning authorities over what they call a “very active outbreak.” The World Health Organization has recorded 48 known cases in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the agency has vaccinated 11,327 people in the past month.

Scientists are also concerned about the coronavirus placing a strain on the medical system’s capacity to manage other deadly diseases. The United Nations AIDS agency and the WHO say that roughly one-third of the world’s countries are at risk of running out of antiretrovirals. With the added strain of COVID-19, countries with fewer resources could face a surge in HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria deaths. According to studies conducted in the U.S., U.K., and Spain, there has not been evidence to suggest that those with HIV will be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or suffering from worse symptoms. One outlier in the study is South Africa, where HIV positive status increased the risk of death from coronavirus. 

In addition, bubonic plague has been found in some rodent species in multiple parts of the world. A teenage boy in Mongolia died from bubonic plague after eating a marmot, a species of giant ground squirrel known for carrying the disease. Local authorities have imposed quarantine restrictions in the Tugrug district of Gobi-Altai province to stop any potential spread. So far, all individuals the boy made known contact with have tested negative. A squirrel, also a known carrier of the disease, has tested positive for bubonic plague in Jefferson County, Colorado. A Jefferson Country Public Health official stated that one resident reported seeing up to 15 dead squirrels in the area, leading experts to believe there may be an outbreak in the population. Health officials have advised caution, as the plague can be spread through house cats if they ingest infected rodents or carry plague-infected fleas into a home. Health officials say that the risk of spreading bubonic plague is low as long as proper precautions are taken, and modern antibiotics are effective in combating the disease.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

The other infectious diseases spreading in the shadow of the pandemic – Vox – 7/14/2020
Even in the US, where we have vanquished many of the most devastating infectious diseases, once-rare illnesses may rebound. As people stay at home and forgo routine medical care, including scheduled vaccinations for children, preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough will have more unprotected people to infect. And that puts not only more people at risk, but also more strain on the healthcare system.

Ebola spreading in western Congo with nearly 50 confirmed cases – Reuters Africa – 7/14/2020
“This is still a very active outbreak, and I would say it is still a great concern,” Ryan told a news briefing. The province includes part of the River Congo, he said, adding that it was a large geographical area where communities were linked and people travelled long distances. “I would caution everyone that while the numbers in this event are low, again in the era of COVID it is very important that we do not take our eyes off these other emerging diseases and we saw in North Kivu and other previous outbreaks of Ebola that these can get out of control very easily,” he said.

Public Health investigating tuberculosis case at Heritage – The Columbian – 7/14/2020
Clark County Public Health is investigating an active case of tuberculosis connected to Heritage High School. The likelihood of the disease spreading is low, according to the department. A local health care provider reported the case June 4, and Public Health confirmed the case two days later. The TB patient spent time in the school prior to it being closed in March. The individual had close contact with 150 students and staff during that time, according to Public Health.

How the covid-19 pandemic is making malaria and HIV more deadly – New Scientist – 7/13/2020
In a worst-case scenario, malaria deaths were projected to rise by 36 per cent over the next five years as malaria net campaigns are affected in the sub-Saharan countries where the disease is most prevalent. Over the same period, deaths from TB could rise by a fifth as new cases go undetected and deaths from HIV by a tenth as access to life-saving drugs is hit. Although the team behind the research doesn’t give absolute figures, such extreme disruption would lead to hundreds of thousands of extra deaths each year.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

The Seattle Times on Twitter, 7/15/2020: Decades of work toward an HIV vaccine are leading to confidence in the search for a coronavirus vaccine — from some of the same researchers who have spent their careers seeking a cure for AIDS.

Kassandra Sepeda on Twitter, 7/15/2020: WHAT. the. A spokesperson for Jefferson Co. Public Health told CBS News that someone reported seeing at least 15 dead squirrels around the town. Officials tested one, and since it was positive for bubonic plague, they expect others are also infected.

CBS 58 News on Twitter, 7/15/2020: The disease has been around for centuries and is responsible for the deadliest pandemic in human history. An estimated 50 million people in Europe died during the Black Death pandemic of the Middle Ages.

Corey Hutchins on Twitter, 7/15/2020: The actual headline for the story is better: “You Do Not Need to Worry About the Bubonic Plague Squirrel in Colorado”

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