WHO Reveals New Committee To Probe Covid Origins

The new World Health Organization advisory board will have 26 scientists on it, and it’s intended they will study the origins of the disease. Separately, the WHO says 6 out of every 7 covid cases in Africa have gone undetected, meaning the impact of covid on the continent is likely much worse than had been thought.

WHO Launches New Advisory Committee To Investigate COVID Origins 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday named 26 scientists to a new advisory board that will study the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a shift in attitude from Beijing, the new panel isn’t likely to succeed in determining how this pandemic began. But it should be in a position to create a clearer picture of how to identify where new diseases like COVID-19 come from. (Walsh, 10/13)

In other global news about covid —

WHO Says Six Out Of Seven African Covid Infections Undetected

Six out of seven Covid-19 infections go undetected in Africa, showing that the impact of the disease on the world’s least vaccinated continent is likely underestimated, according to the World Health Organization. To date 8.4 million cases have been confirmed in Africa, or 3.5% of the global total, even though the continent accounts for about a sixth of the world’s population. The WHO will later on Thursday announce a plan to step up testing in Africa. (Sguazzin, 10/14)

Covid-19 Infections ‘High And Rising’ Among Children In England

Coronavirus infections among school-aged children in England are “high and rising,” according to a major study that is likely to exacerbate concerns about the pace of the vaccine rollout. Prevalence of Covid-19 is growing among those aged 17 and younger, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. The reproduction rate in that age group was 1.18, meaning that on average every 10 young people infected is passing it on to about 12 others. That has driven up the national infection rate, even though prevalence is falling in the 18-54 age group. (Ashton, 10/14)

‘Marginalized’: Women Trail Men In Some Vaccine Efforts

As coronavirus vaccines trickle into some of the poorest countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, data suggest some women are consistently missing out, in another illustration of how the doses are being unevenly distributed around the world. Experts fear women in Africa may be the least vaccinated population globally, thanks in large part to widespread misinformation and vaccine skepticism across the continent. But vaccine access issues and gender inequality reach far beyond Africa, with women in impoverished communities worldwide facing obstacles including cultural prejudices, lack of technology, and vaccine prioritization lists that didn’t include them. And while global data by gender in vaccine distribution is lacking in many places, officials agree that women are clearly being left behind men in some places, and that the issue must be addressed for the world to move past the pandemic. (Cheng, 10/14)

The Washington Post:
WHO To Honor Henrietta Lacks, Whose Cells Led To Vital Medical Research On Polio, Covid

Henrietta Lacks is set to be honored Wednesday by the World Health Organization in Geneva for her enduring contribution to medical science, more than 70 years after her cells were taken without her consent during a 1951 hospital visit in Baltimore. Descendants of Lacks, a Black American, will meet with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Switzerland to acknowledge her legacy and “contribution to revolutionary advancements in medical science,” the global health body said in a statement. (Suliman, 10/13)

In other news from around the world —

The Washington Post:
Canadian City To Get 21,000 Gallons Of Water By Air Amid Suspected Contamination Crisis

Public health officials have told residents of Canada’s northernmost capital not to use tap water for drinking and cooking due to suspected fuel contamination in the city’s water supply. The city council of Iqaluit declared a state of emergency Monday and later urged its 7,000-plus residents not to swallow water when taking a shower. Municipal authorities said they were investigating “infiltration into underground chambers” at a city water treatment plant as the potential source of contamination but have not ruled other other possibilities. (Cheng, 10/14)

UN Starts Vaccinating People Against Ebola In Congo

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that officials have begun vaccinating people in eastern Congo against Ebola, after it was confirmed last week that the disease killed a toddler. The U.N. health agency said in a statement that people at high risk of catching the disease, including the young boy’s family members and health workers, would receive first doses of the vaccine made by Merck. (Cheng, 10/13)

NBC News:
‘Seized By Some Invisible Hand’: What It Feels Like To Have Havana Syndrome

In March 2017, Tina Onufer, a career foreign service officer stationed in Havana, was standing at her kitchen window, washing dishes, when it hit her.“I felt like I was being struck with something,” she said. “Pain that I have never felt before in my life … mostly in my head and in my eyes. … It was as if I had been seized by some invisible hand and I couldn’t move.” Onufer didn’t know it then, but she was among the first victims of a still-unexplained phenomenon that has come to be known as Havana Syndrome. (Mitchell, Dilanian and Breslauer, 10/13)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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