COVID-19 is a global health emergency facing many countries around the world. Sex workers in Africa are among one of the vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent. Sex workers are excluded from African government safety net, and this may force some sex workers back to sex work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the nature of sex work, physical distancing and other precautionary measures are impossible to observe, further compromising COVID-19 response. Sex workers in Africa have been known to face high levels of stigma and discrimination, including limited access to healthcare services. Disruption in HIV care and prevention services due to the pandemic among this key population may have negative impacts on the hard-won achievements in HIV response in Africa. In addition, stigma and discrimination toward sex workers could also make contact tracing challenging and limit access to COVID-19 testing among this vulnerable group. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for the UN Development Program, UN member states all pledged to ensure “no one will be left behind” and to “endeavor to reach the furthest behind first.” This could not be more important than now as sex workers as a part of the population are left behind in COVID-19 response in Africa. It is important that the African government should ensure collective and inclusive response in the fight against COVID-19. Sex workers should not be forgotten in Africa’s COVID-19 response because no one is safe, until all are safe.
Infodemics, often including rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories, have been common during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monitoring social media data has been identified as the best method for tracking rumors in real time and as a possible way to dispel misinformation and reduce stigma. However, the detection, assessment, and response to rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories in real time are a challenge. Therefore, we followed and examined COVID-19–related rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories circulating on online platforms, including fact-checking agency websites, Facebook, Twitter, and online newspapers, and their impacts on public health. Information was extracted between December 31, 2019 and April 5, 2020, and descriptively analyzed. We performed a content analysis of the news articles to compare and contrast data collected from other sources. We identified 2,311 reports of rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories in 25 languages from 87 countries. Claims were related to illness, transmission and mortality (24%), control measures (21%), treatment and cure (19%), cause of disease including the origin (15%), violence (1%), and miscellaneous (20%). Of the 2,276 reports for which text ratings were available, 1,856 claims were false (82%). Misinformation fueled by rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories can have potentially serious implications on the individual and community if prioritized over evidence-based guidelines. Health agencies must track misinformation associated with the COVID-19 in real time, and engage local communities and government stakeholders to debunk misinformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is among the deadliest infectious diseases to have emerged in recent history. As with all past pandemics, the specific mechanism of its emergence in humans remains unknown. Nevertheless, a large body of virologic, epidemiologic, veterinary, and ecologic data establishes that the new virus, SARS-CoV-2, evolved directly or indirectly from a β-coronavirus in the sarbecovirus (SARS-like virus) group that naturally infect bats and pangolins in Asia and Southeast Asia. Scientists have warned for decades that such sarbecoviruses are poised to emerge again and again, identified risk factors, and argued for enhanced pandemic prevention and control efforts. Unfortunately, few such preventive actions were taken resulting in the latest coronavirus emergence detected in late 2019 which quickly spread pandemically. The risk of similar coronavirus outbreaks in the future remains high. In addition to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, we must undertake vigorous scientific, public health, and societal actions, including significantly increased funding for basic and applied research addressing disease emergence, to prevent this tragic history from repeating itself.
We studied sources of variation between countries in per-capita mortality from COVID-19 (caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus). Potential predictors of per-capita coronavirus-related mortality in 200 countries by May 9, 2020 were examined, including age, gender, obesity prevalence, temperature, urbanization, smoking, duration of the outbreak, lockdowns, viral testing, contact-tracing policies, and public mask-wearing norms and policies. Multivariable linear regression analysis was performed. In univariate analysis, the prevalence of smoking, per-capita gross domestic product, urbanization, and colder average country temperature were positively associated with coronavirus-related mortality. In a multivariable analysis of 196 countries, the duration of the outbreak in the country, and the proportion of the population aged 60 years or older were positively associated with per-capita mortality, whereas duration of mask-wearing by the public was negatively associated with mortality (all P < 0.001). Obesity and less stringent international travel restrictions were independently associated with mortality in a model which controlled for testing policy. Viral testing policies and levels were not associated with mortality. Internal lockdown was associated with a nonsignificant 2.4% reduction in mortality each week (P = 0.83). The association of contact-tracing policy with mortality was not statistically significant (P = 0.06). In countries with cultural norms or government policies supporting public mask-wearing, per-capita coronavirus mortality increased on average by just 16.2% each week, as compared with 61.9% each week in remaining countries. Societal norms and government policies supporting the wearing of masks by the public, as well as international travel controls, are independently associated with lower per-capita mortality from COVID-19.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the trend of reported case fatality rate (rCFR) of COVID-19 over time, using globally reported COVID-19 cases and mortality data. We collected daily COVID-19 diagnoses and mortality data from the WHO’s daily situation reports dated January 1 to December 31, 2020. We performed three time-series models [simple exponential smoothing, auto-regressive integrated moving average, and automatic forecasting time-series (Prophet)] to identify the global trend of rCFR for COVID-19. We used beta regression models to investigate the association between the rCFR and potential predictors of each country and reported incidence rate ratios (IRRs) of each variable. The weekly global cumulative COVID-19 rCFR reached a peak at 7.23% during the 17th week (April 22–28, 2020). We found a positive and increasing trend for global daily rCFR values of COVID-19 until the 17th week (pre-peak period) and then a strong declining trend up until the 53rd week (post-peak period) toward 2.2% (December 29–31, 2020). In pre-peak of rCFR, the percentage of people aged 65 and above and the prevalence of obesity were significantly associated with the COVID-19 rCFR. The declining trend of global COVID-19 rCFR was not merely because of increased COVID-19 testing, because COVID-19 tests per 1,000 population had poor predictive value. Decreasing rCFR could be explained by an increased rate of infection in younger people or by the improvement of health care management, shielding from infection, and/or repurposing of several drugs that had shown a beneficial effect on reducing fatality because of COVID-19.
Immediately after declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic, numerous wild conspiracy theories sprouted through social media. Pakistan is quite vulnerable to such conspiracy narratives and has experienced failures of polio vaccination programs because of such claims. Recently, two well-known political figures raised conspiracy theories against COVID-19 vaccines in Pakistan, stating that COVID-19 is a grand illusion and a conspiracy against Muslim countries. This theory is much discussed in the local community, supporting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. We urge healthcare authorities in Pakistan to take necessary measures against such claims before they penetrate to the general community. Anti-vaccine movements could undermine efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that ethical and responsible behavior of mass media, a careful advisory from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, stern measures from healthcare authorities, effective maneuvers to increase public awareness on COVID-19, vigorous analysis of information by data or communications scientists, and publication of counter opinions from health professionals against such theories will go a long way in neutralizing such misleading claims. Because Pakistan is experiencing a large burden of disease, with a sharp rise in confirmed cases, immediate action is of paramount importance to eradicate any potential barriers to a future COVID-19 vaccination program.
There is no proven prognostic marker for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 14, 2020 to June 17, 2020, at São Paulo Hospital, in São Paulo, Brazil. SARS-CoV-2 viral load was assessed using the cycle threshold (Ct) values obtained from a reverse transcription–PCR assay applied to the nasopharyngeal swab samples. The reactions were performed following the CDC U.S. protocol targeting the N1 and N2 sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein gene and human ribonuclease P gene serving as an endogenous control. Disease severity and patient outcomes were compared. Among 875 patients, 50.1% (439/875) were categorized as having mild disease (nonhospitalized patients), 30.4% (266/875) moderate (hospitalized in the ward), and 19.5% (170/875) severe disease (admitted to the intensive care unit). A Ct value of < 25 (472/875) indicated a high viral load, which was independently associated with mortality (odds ratio [OR]: 2.93; 95% CI: 1.87–4.60; P < 0.0001). We concluded that admission SARS-CoV-2 viral load was independently associated with mortality among patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic is showing an exponential growth, mandating an urgent need to develop an effective treatment. Indeed, to date, a well-established therapy is still lacking. We aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) added to standard care in patients with COVID-19. This was a multicenter, randomized controlled trial conducted at three major university hospitals in Egypt. One hundred ninety-four patients with confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 were included in the study after signing informed consent. They were equally randomized into two arms: 97 patients administrated HCQ plus standard care (HCQ group) and 97 patients administered only standard care as a control arm (control group). The primary endpoints were recovery within 28 days, need for mechanical ventilation, or death. The two groups were matched for age and gender. There was no significant difference between them regarding any of the baseline characteristics or laboratory parameters. Four patients (4.1%) in the HCQ group and 5 (5.2%) patients in the control group needed mechanical ventilation (P = 0.75). The overall mortality did not differ between the two groups, as six patients (6.2%) died in the HCQ group and 5 (5.2%) died in the control group (P = 0.77). Univariate logistic regression analysis showed that HCQ treatment was not significantly associated with decreased mortality in COVID-19 patients. So, adding HCQ to standard care did not add significant benefit, did not decrease the need for ventilation, and did not reduce mortality rates in COVID-19 patients.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Journal Affiliation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is the official scientific journal of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). The Society is a nonprofit, professional organization whose mission is to promote world health by the prevention and control of tropical disease through research and education.