Pandemic gets tougher to track as COVID testing plunges

Workers at the COVID-19 test clinic stand in a tent as they prepare for the PCR coronavirus test, January 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., South of Seattle. The COVID-19 test collapsed worldwide, declining by 70 to 90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of 2022, making it difficult for scientists to follow the path of the disease. and identify new pathogens as they are. come out and spread. Credit: Photo AP / Ted S. Warren, File

The COVID-19 test has collapsed all over the world, making it difficult for scientists to track the disease and identify new strains of the virus as they emerge and spread.

Experts say the test is down 70 to 90 percent worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year — contrary to what they say should be done with new omicron models growing in places like the United States and Africa. of the South.

“We are not testing anywhere near where we might need to,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, who heads the Duke World Health Innovation Center at Duke University. “We need the ability to scale up the test as we see the emergence of new waves or high blood pressure to track what is happening” and respond.

Daily reports in the United States, for example, reached 73,633, up 40% over the past two weeks, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. But this is a big assessment because of the backlog of tests and the fact that the test is being done at home has not been reported to the health department. An influential group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimates that only 13% of cases are reported to health authorities in the United States – meaning more than half a million new infections each day.

The test is a global failure but the overall value is not enough especially in it developing world, Udayakumar said. Number of tests per 1,000 people in it income countries is almost 96 times higher than it is in low-income countries, according to the independent public health center FIND.

What is causing the drop? Experts point out the fatigue of COVID, instability in cases after the first omicron outbreak and the impression among some low-income populations that there is no reason to test for lack of antiretroviral drugs.

At a recent press conference hosted by the World Health Organization, FIND President Dr. Bill Rodriguez called the test “the first damage done in the world of neglecting our security” and said “we are blind to what is happening with the virus.”

Experimentation, listing genes and delving into a larger case can lead to the discovery of new differences. New York State health officials have found the virus highly contagious BA.2.12.1 variant after investigating over the average number of cases in the central part of the state.

Going forward, “we just can’t see the new differences coming out as we have seen the previous differences appear,” Rodriquez told the Associated Press.

Experimentation increases as diseases rise and people develop symptoms – and it falls with a decrease in new cases. Experimentation is rising again in the United States with a recent increase.

But experts are concerned about the magnitude of the fall after the first omicron ride, the low level of testing in the world, and the inability to keep track of events and reliability. While home test suitable, tests sent to laboratories can only be used to identify differences. If fewer tests are performed, and very few of these tests are processed in the laboratories, smaller positive samples are available for queuing.

Also, the results of the local test are not very visible to the monitoring system.

Mara Aspinall, managing director of an Arizona consulting firm that follows the COVID-19 test mode, said there is at least four times the home test than the PCR test, and “we are getting real zero data from the test going on at home.”

This is because there is no way people can report the results to the unemployed health departments. The CDC strongly urges people to tell their doctors, who in most places must report COVID-19 outbreaks to the public. health authorities.

Generally, though, local test results fall under the radar.

Reva Seville, a 36-year-old woman in Los Angeles, tested herself at home this week after beginning to experience symptoms such as sore throat, cough and congestion. After the results came back healthy, she tried again twice to make sure. But her symptoms are mild, so she is not ready to go to the doctor or announce her results to anyone.

Beth Barton of Washington, Missouri, who is a construction worker, said she tested almost 10 homes, either before visiting her parents or when she contracted symptoms she thought might be COVID-19. They all came back bad. She shared the results with people around her but did not know how to report it.

“A full-fledged plan should be developed,” said Barton, 42.

Aspinall says one possible solution is to use technology such as QR code scanning to report locally try secret effect.

One way to diagnose the disease, experts say, is to encourage other types of monitoring, such as water monitoring and clinical data collection. But these have their own drawbacks. Waste monitoring is a patchwork project that does not cover all aspects, and the clinical situation has declined in the past.

Udayakumar said scientists around the world must use all available methods to diagnose the disease, and will need to do so for months or even years.

At the same time, he said, measures must be taken to improve testing in low-income countries. The need for tests will increase if the methods of using the virus are improved in these areas, he said. And one of the best ways to increase testing is to incorporate it into existing health services, said Wadzanayi Muchenje, who leads the Rockefeller Foundation’s health and collaboration program in Africa.

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says there will come a time when the world will stop testing COVID-19 – but the day is not over.

With the outbreak of the virus still unpredictable, “we are not allowed to just worry about a person. health“We have to worry about population.”

Two Omicron variants are driving S. Africa COVID spike: WHO

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