Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: COVID-sniffing dogs, updated booster, llama blood & more

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Ted S. Warren/AP

In the United States, more than 87 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as of Friday, July 1, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In addition, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have died. Worldwide, there have been more than 547 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 3 million cases in the past week. Additionally, over 6.3 million have died from the virus globally.

Roughly 222 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated as of June 30 — about 67% of the population — and 106 million of those have gotten their first booster shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Roughly 80% of the U.S. lives in a location with low or medium COVID-19 Community Level, the agency says as of July 1.

About 20% of Americans reside in an area with a high COVID-19 Community Level. For them, it’s recommended to wear a mask while indoors in public.

The omicron variant’s subvariants — BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 — dominated all positive U.S. cases for the week ending June 25.

Here’s what happened between June 26 and July 1.

An updated COVID booster to target omicron? What to know as subvariants spread

Will the makeup of COVID-19 booster vaccines be modified to target the rapidly evolving omicron variant?

It’s possible as Food and Drug Administration advisers — the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee — recommended adjusting the shots on Tuesday, June 28, for the upcoming fall and winter.

The expert panel discussed how protection offered by the original vaccines wanes with time and is “less robust” when it comes to protecting against coronavirus variants currently spreading. Because of this, an adjustment is likely needed.

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An updated COVID booster to target omicron? What to know as subvariants spread

COVID-sniffing dogs can also smell long-term virus symptoms in patients, study says

While researchers already discovered a trained dog’s nose can identify COVID-19 with its scent-detecting capabilities, dogs have now demonstrated they can also sniff out long-term virus symptoms — often called “long COVID” — in patients, researchers in Germany found.

Dogs are “superior smellers” and are already used to detect what the human nose typically cannot from diseases, such as Parkinson’s, cancer and diabetes, to drugs and explosives in public places, according to the American Lung Association.

In a pilot study, scientists discovered the dogs that had been trained to detect COVID-19 in their prior research could identify long COVID patient samples with a “high sensitivity,” according to the work published June 16 in Frontiers in Medicine.

“These results suggest that the disease-specific odor of acute COVID-19 is still present in the majority of Long COVID samples,” study authors from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, wrote.

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COVID-sniffing dogs can also smell long-term virus symptoms in patients, study says

Llama blood may protect against COVID and its variants, study says. What to know

Llama blood may offer protection against COVID-19 and all of its variants, including the ever-changing omicron variant, a new study found.

The findings also suggest that the potential protection llama’s blood can provide is not limited to COVID-19 — it may extend to 18 related viruses, according to a June 28 news release on the study, which was published in the journal Cell Reports.

The work involved a team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and a llama named Wally.

Llama’s blood contains “super-immunity” particles, or nanobodies, that could be used in future inhalable, COVID-19 antiviral treatments in people, according to the researchers. These particles have neutralizing abilities.

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Llama blood may protect against COVID and its variants, study says. What to know

Tiger dies of COVID days after showing symptoms at Ohio zoo. ‘Jupiter was an icon’

A 14-year-old tiger at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio has died of COVID-19 just days after he began showing symptoms.

Jupiter, who came to the United States in 2015 after being born in Russia, is the first animal at the Columbus Zoo to die of COVID-19, the zoo shared on social media on Wednesday, June 29.

Zoo officials said Jupiter showed signs of acting ill on June 22 when he was not interested in eating, was reluctant to stand and was not interacting with his keepers. He was anesthetized for examination the following day when his symptoms continued.

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Tiger dies of COVID days after showing symptoms at Ohio zoo. ‘Jupiter was an icon’

WHO: COVID-19 cases rising nearly everywhere in the world

The number of new coronavirus cases rose by 18% in the past week, with more than 4.1 million cases reported globally, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.N. health agency said in its latest weekly report on the pandemic that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500. COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

The biggest weekly rise in new COVID-19 cases was seen in the Middle East, where they increased by 47%, according to the report released late Wednesday. Infections rose by about 32% in Europe and Southeast Asia, and by about 14% in the Americas, WHO said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, mostly driven by the omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

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WHO: COVID-19 cases rising nearly everywhere in the world

This report also contains reporting from McClatchy News’ Mike Stunson and the Associated Press.

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