- The recent coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
- Known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus has resulted in more than 4.4 million infections and 302,000 deaths.
- SARS-CoV-2 infection causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.
- COVID-19 has now been reported on every continent except Antarctica.
- Keep up to date with the latest research and information about COVID-19 here.
05/15/2020 17:42 GMT — MNT video update
05/15/2020 14:23 GMT — Global number of deaths from COVID-19 has passed 300,000
05/15/2020 09:51 GMT — Case study documents the effects of drinking alcohol-based hand disinfectant
This week, the journal Histopathology published the case study of a female who consumed alcohol-based hand disinfectant to protect herself from SARS-CoV-2. The authors document the resulting damage to her esophagus and bowel.
The 41-year-old female consumed 10 milliliters of alcohol-based hand disinfectant every day for 3 weeks. She presented to the emergency department with vomiting and abdominal pain that had persisted for 2 days.
The authors carried out an endoscopy and found “superficial mucosal damage in the oesophagus, slightly increased mucosal redness in the stomach, and severely injured small bowel mucosa.”
The authors conclude: “[R]epetitive sub-lethal intentional ingestion of chemicals in an attempt to ‘disinfect’ from COVID-19 leads to severe corrosive damage of esophageal, gastric, and small intestinal mucosa. This treatment, even when considered by governmental authorities, has not only no proven anti-viral effect, it conversely implies major health risks.”
Read our coronavirus myth busting article here.
05/15/2020 08:38 GMT — Coronavirus bowel imaging study implicates blood clots
The authors of a recent imaging study conclude that, in people with severe cases of COVID-19, blood clots in small arteries may starve bowel tissue of oxygen. This might help explain why people with COVID-19 often experience gastrointestinal symptoms.
The virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2, uses a cell surface receptor protein called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to gain entry to cells. ACE2 is present in high concentrations on cells that line the small intestine and blood vessels.
The researchers carried out CT scans on 42 people with COVID-19 who reported gastrointestinal symptoms. First author Dr. Rajesh Bhayana explains:
“Some findings were typical of bowel ischemia, or dying bowel, and in those who had surgery, we saw small vessel clots beside areas of dead bowel. Patients in [intensive care] can have bowel ischemia for other reasons, but we know COVID-19 can lead to clotting and small vessel injury, so [the] bowel might also be affected by this.”
The authors of the study call for more research to determine whether the virus plays a direct role in damage to the bowel as a result of blood clots.
Read our full coverage of the study here.
05/15/2020 08:13 GMT — Cats can pass on the new coronavirus to other cats
In a letter to the editor published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of researchers from the U.S. and Japan present data indicating that cats are able to pass on the new coronavirus to other cats. None of the cats showed any symptoms.
For this study, the researchers inoculated three cats with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and housed them separately. Then, they introduced a cat that did not have the virus into each of the three cages.
Within 3 days, the team could detect the virus in nasal swabs from the cats who had been inoculated. All three of the uninfected cats had positive nasal swabs within 6 days.
“Given the need to stop the [COVID-19] pandemic through various mechanisms, including breaking transmission chains, a better understanding of the role cats may play in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans is needed,” the authors write.
Read more here.
05/14/2020 10:13 GMT — ‘This virus may never go away’
At a briefing yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) representatives explained that COVID-19 “may never go away,” and may become endemic. They explained that there is still no way to determine how long the virus might circulate and that a “massive effort” is required to tackle it.
At the online briefing, WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan said, “I think it is important we are realistic, and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this, and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”
Currently, there are more than 100 vaccine candidates, which provides some hope. However, Ryan reminds us that other diseases, such as measles, already have a vaccine, but they have not disappeared.
As WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove says, “We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic.”
More about the WHO briefing here.
05/14/2020 09:21 GMT — Antibody test approved for use in the United Kingdom
Last night, Public Health England announced that it had approved an antibody test for use in the U.K. Antibody tests can identify whether an individual has ever had COVID-19. The test was designed by the pharmaceutical company Roche.
According to Roche, the test has a “specificity greater than 99.8%“, which means that it won’t mistake similar coronaviruses for SARS-CoV-2, and a “sensitivity of 100%“, meaning that it will detect any antibodies that are present.
Roche explain that the test can produce results in around 18 minutes and that 300 tests could be processed per hour.
Prof. John Newton, national coordinator of the U.K. coronavirus testing program, explains: “This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection. This, in turn, may indicate some immunity to future infection, although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”
Read more here.
05/14/2020 09:09 GMT — Protein may help predict severity of COVID-19
A new study concludes that high levels of a particular protein in the blood of a person with COVID-19 may predict disease severity. The findings, which appear in the journal Critical Care, might help doctors identify people who are more likely to need intensive care support.
Currently, there is no way to reliably estimate how any given case of COVID-19 will progress. Finding ways to predict severity could help identify those who can safely manage the disease at home, thereby freeing up much-needed hospital beds.
The protein in question is called soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR). The researchers found that COVID-19 patients who had higher levels of suPAR in their blood needed intubation more quickly than those with lower levels.
However, the study only included data from 72 patients, so scientists will need to confirm the research in larger trials.
Read our full coverage of the study here.
05/13/2020 13:15 GMT — Who is most at risk of death from COVID-19?
There is already evidence supporting age and certain underlying health conditions as risk factors. A new study shows that belonging to an ethnic minority or a poorer socioeconomic background can also increase a person’s risk.
The research, which a team from the University of Oxford, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and other institutions in the United Kingdom led, has not yet undergone peer review.
For their study, the investigators looked at the medical records of 17,425,445 people in the U.K., of whom 5,683 died from COVID-19 between February 1 and April 21.
The results indicated that being male, being older, or having uncontrolled diabetes or severe asthma puts a person at greater risk of COVID-19 death than the rest of the population.
Asian and black people, as well as those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, also had a significantly higher risk, which the team could not link to underlying health conditions.
Read our coverage of the research here.
05/13/2020 09:18 GMT — Top infectious disease expert warns against easing restrictions too soon
Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, spoke at a Senate Committee hearing. He outlined the risks of reopening the economy too soon, warning that lifting stay-at-home measures prematurely could “trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”
As some states begin lifting their lockdowns, Fauci told the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions that “even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear.”
He also warned that if social measures are rolled back too quickly, it will cause “some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery.”
Read more about the committee meeting here.
05/13/2020 09:13 GMT — Putin’s spokesman tests positive for SARS-CoV-2
On Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced that he had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. He becomes the fifth senior Russian official to test positive for the virus.
According to Peskov, he last met Putin face-to-face more than 1 month ago. Putin is currently working remotely from his home outside of Moscow.
Russia has reported more than 232,000 cases of COVID-19, which is the second highest after the United States. However, they have one of the lowest mortality rates, with just 2,116 deaths.
Russian officials believe the high number of cases and low mortality rate are due to extensive testing; they claim to have carried out more than 5.8 million tests to date.
Read more about the situation in Russia here.
05/13/2020 09:07 GMT — 3-drug combo shows promise
According to a recent phase II clinical trial, in combination with standard treatment, a three-drug combination helps treat mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19. The encouraging results appear in The Lancet.
The researchers tested a combination of three antiviral drugs: interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin. Compared with individuals who did not receive the three drugs, those who took the combination experienced relief from symptoms and shorter hospital stays.
Lead researcher Prof. Kwok-Yung Yuen from the University of Hong Kong says: “Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body, relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk to healthcare workers by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding (when the virus is detectable and potentially transmissible).”
Find our full coverage of the study here.
05/12/2020 14:32 GMT — MNT video update: How are people coping?
05/12/2020 14:23 GMT — Study concludes that ‘Summer is not going to make this go away’
A recent study investigates how various factors influence the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors found that public health measures significantly slow progress but that increased temperatures do not have an impact.
The scientists took information from 144 geopolitical locations, which included 375,609 cases of COVID-19. They found that restrictions on mass gatherings, school closures, and physical distancing measures slowed the pandemic. Temperature and humidity, however, did not appear to make a significant difference.
One of the authors, Prof. Dionne Gesink, says: “Summer is not going to make this go away. It’s important people know that. On the other hand, the more public health interventions an area had in place, the bigger the impact on slowing the epidemic growth. These public health interventions are really important because they’re the only thing working right now to slow the epidemic.”
Read our full coverage of the study here.
05/12/2020 14:14 GMT — Global number of COVID-19 cases now stands at 4,197,142
05/12/2020 11:29 GMT — WHO director-general speaks about potential vaccines
In a video briefing yesterday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that there are currently seven or eight top candidates for vaccines against COVID-19, out of more than 100 possible options.
He explained that the “WHO has been working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development, from developing animal models to clinical trial designs and everything in between.”
As COVID-19 teaches us “painful lessons,” Dr. Tedros hopes that it will help lay the foundations for a fairer, healthier world in the future:
“The world spends around $7.5 trillion on health each year — almost 10% of global GDP. But the best investments are in promoting health and in preventing disease at the primary healthcare level, which will save lives and save money.”
Read more about the address here.
05/12/2020 10:12 GMT — CRISPR test for SARS-CoV-2 approved for use
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the use of a test for SARS-CoV-2 based on CRISPR technology. The FDA hope that the new kit will boost testing numbers and help reduce the backlog.
The CRISPR-based diagnostic kit can detect genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in swabs from the mouth, throat, or nose. Once detected, a CRISPR enzyme produces a fluorescent glow.
According to the company that developed it — Sherlock Biosciences — the test can return a result within 1 hour.
Find more information on the test here.
05/11/2020 13:49 GMT — MNT readers’ top coping strategies, and why they work
Restrictive measures aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the lives of people all over the world. In a Special Feature, we asked our readers and contributors to share their best coping strategies.
Indoor or outdoor exercise, yoga, meditation, and forms of prayer were some things that people have found helpful, and research supports associations between these types of activities and overall health.
Others told us that spending time outside, playing video or board games, and learning new skills topped their lists.
Perhaps the most challenging restriction has been physical distancing. Almost everyone reaching out to MNT said that they cope by using phone and video calls to stay in touch with family and friends.
Research suggests that long, deep conversations help us feel more connected and can enhance our sense of well-being.
Read the full article here.
05/11/2020 13:31 GMT — Russia now has the third highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases
05/11/2020 09:26 GMT — South Korea braces for second wave
On Sunday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 34 new cases of COVID-19. This is the highest daily count in more than 1 month, and President Moon Jae-in has raised concerns about a second wave. The outbreak centered in nightclubs.
In response, authorities have temporarily closed nightly entertainment venues in the capital, Seoul. The outbreak comes as South Korea has slowly eased some physical distancing measures.
In a televised speech, the president said: “We must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention. We are in a prolonged war. I ask everyone to comply with safety precautions and rules until the situation is over, even after resuming daily lives.”
More on the situation in South Korea here.
05/11/2020 09:02 GMT — Wuhan, China reports new COVID-19 cluster
As China begins to ease restrictions, officials release a report describing a cluster of five new cases in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the affected individuals live in the same residential compound.
One of the new cases is the wife of an individual who recently became the city’s first confirmed case in more than 1 month. In a statement, the Wuhan health authority writes:
“At present, the task of epidemic prevention and control in the city is still very heavy. We must resolutely contain the risk of a rebound.”
Although the number of new cases in China remains low, as venues begin to reopen and people start returning to work, Chinese officials remain cautious.
Read more here.
05/08/2020 19:22 GMT — MNT’s video update
05/07/2020 14:35 GMT — A new antibody stops coronavirus infection in laboratory studies
Researchers in The Netherlands have created an antibody that stops infection with the new coronavirus in a cell culture model. The team built on their previous work with the coronavirus that causes SARS.
Appearing in Nature Communications, the results are the work of a collaboration that involves Utrecht University, the Erasmus Medical Center, and the pharmaceutical company, Harbour BioMed.
Antibodies from convalescent plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 are already under investigation as a treatment.
Read our article about the research here.
05/07/2020 13:00 GMT — New coronavirus may spread through wastewater, scientists warn
Researchers at the University of Stirling, in the United Kingdom, warn that sewage water may be able to transmit the new coronavirus.
Prof. Richard Quilliam and colleagues have published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International. Their study builds on previous evidence that SARS-CoV-2 may spread through a fecal-oral route, in addition to person-to-person transmission.
“It has recently been confirmed that the virus can also be found in human feces — up to 33 days after the patient has tested negative for the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19,” explains Prof. Quilliam.
“It is not yet known whether the virus can be transmitted via the fecal-oral route. However, we know that viral shedding from the digestive system can last longer than shedding from the respiratory tract. Therefore, this could be an important […] pathway for increased exposure.”
As a result, the researchers call for urgent tests. “The risks associated with sewage loading during the remainder of the COVID-19 outbreak need to be rapidly quantified to allow wastewater managers to act quickly and put in place control measures to decrease human exposure to this potentially infectious material,” says Prof. Quilliam.
Read the full story here.
05/07/2020 12:00 GMT — Alcohol and marijuana use on the rise during the pandemic, survey shows
A new survey, carried out by scientists at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, sought to assess the impact of the current pandemic on people’s mental health and well-being.
The results indicated that depression and anxiety were common among the respondents — and that alcohol and marijuana use were on the rise as ways of coping with these issues.
Specifically, 22% of the respondents reported using alcohol more than usual to cope, and 14% said that they used marijuana more.
Read our full coverage of the survey here.
05/06/2020 14:15 GMT — Obesity may put people at a ‘very high risk’ of severe COVID-19
A new review summarizes the current information on the link between obesity and COVID-19 and finds that obesity does have an association with a higher risk of severe symptoms and complications of COVID-19, independent of other underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
The lead author of the review, Dr. Norbert Stefan, told Medical News Today: “We concluded that obesity may put people infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) at a very high risk for a more severe COVID-19 illness and possibly risk of death.”
Read our full coverage of the study here.
05/06/2020 13:00 GMT — UK now has the highest number of deaths in Europe, overtaking Italy
05/06/2020 09:44 GMT — Where does coronavirus misinformation come from?
A study of data from more than 1,000 respondents in the U.S. identified links between a person’s beliefs about the new coronavirus and the source of their news.
Conservative outlets, social media, and online news aggregators are more likely to be the source of misinformation, the researchers found.
In the April 2020 edition of the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, the team reported that 1 in 5 respondents said that taking vitamin C could probably or definitely prevent infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
They also found that more than 1 in 5 participants considered it either probably or definitely true that the Chinese government had developed the new coronavirus as a bioweapon.
Respondents who cited conservative media as their source of news were more likely to hold inaccurate opinions about SARS-CoV-2 and to believe conspiracy theories.
Respondents who relied on social media believed that the threat of the new coronavirus was a politically motivated hoax from the CDC, that the Chinese government had deliberately created the virus, and that vitamin C was the cure.
Participants who used web news aggregators as their main source of information were unconvinced that hand washing had value and that it was worth staying away from individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
Read our article on the study here.
05/06/2020 09:31 GMT — What MNT’s experts want you to know
At the end of March, we asked our medical experts what they wished the public knew about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. The answers were insightful. Now, as we move into May and the pandemic evolves, we ask them again.
Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, an experienced physician assistant, explained that the majority of people who have a SARS-CoV-2 infection have a mild case of COVID-19 or no symptoms at all. Yet she urged against complacency. “Now is not the time to let your guard down. Don’t be afraid, but be smart and be vigilant,” she says.
Dr. Alex Klein, a specialist in psychiatry, suggested that we shift our expectations and go easy on ourselves. He expressed worries about the long-term consequences for mental health.
“I’m concerned there will be a lot of delayed-onset [post-traumatic stress disorder] or PTSD-like symptoms, increased anxiety, and [obsessive-compulsive disorder],” he said.”
Read the full article here.
05/05/2020 18:16 GMT — MNT’s video update
05/05/2020 15:17 GMT — Study finds no link between high blood pressure drugs and COVID-19 risk
The question of whether blood pressure medication raises the risk of COVID-19 or of developing a more severe form of the disease has been preoccupying researchers in recent months.
Now, investigators from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, together with other institutions, have carried out a study to settle the matter.
The scientists looked at angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and thiazide diuretics, and concluded that there was “no association between any single [antihypertensive] medication class and an increased likelihood of a positive [COVID-19] test.”
The study did not find an association with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, either. “Our findings should reassure the medical community and patients,” says lead investigator Dr. Harmony Reynolds.
Read our full coverage here.
05/05/2020 15:15 GMT — Total number of confirmed US cases is now 1,180,634
05/05/2020 12:01 GMT — NIAID director says coronavirus was not made in a lab
As the debate about the origins of the new coronavirus continues, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made his opinion clear: SARS-CoV-2 was not created in a laboratory.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated — the way the mutations have naturally evolved,” Dr. Fauci told National Geographic in an interview. “A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
He also dismissed claims that the researchers found the virus in an animal, then took it to a lab and subsequently released it, whether by accident or deliberately.
“But that means it was in the wild to begin with,” Dr. Fauci explained. “That’s why I don’t get what they’re talking about [and] why I don’t spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.”
Read the full interview here.
05/05/2020 10:59 GMT — ‘COVID toe’ and other skin symptoms
Blisters, rashes, and bumps are the latest symptoms that doctors are describing in people with COVID-19. Writing in the British Journal of Dermatology, a team of dermatologists from Spain collected data on 375 cases from across the country and compiled a list of the five most common skin manifestations.
Skin rashes are, in fact, a common signof viral infections, particularly in children.
The new study lists the following five clinical patterns:
- Small, flat, raised bumps called maculopapules: 47%
- Chilblain-like lesions around the hands and feet, prominent in younger patients, which some people call ‘COVID toe’: 19%
- Rash on the body or hands: 19%
- Small blisters on the trunk and limbs: 9%
- Necrosis: 6%
All of the patients that the team included in the study were in a hospital and had respiratory symptoms.
“It is unusual, from our previous experience with cutaneous manifestations of viral diseases, that a single virus can lead to several different clinical patterns, especially as different patterns do not coexist on the same patient,” the authors comment in the paper.
The researchers note that it is unclear if the new coronavirus causes the skin manifestations or if they are the result of a coinfection with a different virus.
“In terms of arising suspicion of COVID-19, we feel that pseudo-chilblain and [blisters on the trunk or limbs] may be useful as indicators of disease,” they conclude in the paper.
Read more about the study here.
05/04/2020 15:30 GMT — First drug to treat COVID-19 gets emergency approval from the FDA
The FDA issued an emergency authorization for the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat “severe” forms of COVID-19.
According to the FDA, patients with “severe disease” are those with “low blood oxygen levels or needing oxygen therapy or more intensive breathing support, such as a mechanical ventilator.”
Penny Ward, Visiting Professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, U.K., comments on the development, along with other experts.
She explains, “The FDA approved this product on the basis [of its] proven in vitro antiviral effect against SARS-CoV-2, animal data documenting in vivo efficacy against COVID-19 infection, and a clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health in which receipt of remdesivir decreased the time taken to recover from COVID-19 and reduced mortality by ~30%.”
However, experts also caution that the use and effectiveness of remdesivir are limited.
05/04/2020 14:00 GMT — COVID-19 still a ‘public health emergency of international concern,’ Emergency Committee tells WHO
The WHO director-general convened the third meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, April 30.
The committee unanimously agreed that COVID-19 still represents a “public health emergency of international concern” and issued a list of guidelines for the WHO and other parties and states.
The recommendations for the WHO included working with “fragile states and vulnerable countries” that need additional support and liaising with key organizations to find the animal origin of the virus and identify the route of transmission to humans.
The committee also recommended that the WHO focus on supporting countries in an effort to manage the “unintended consequences of public health measures” such as the spike in gender-based violence and child neglect.
Furthermore, the committee advised the WHO to support governments in continuing to provide essential health services throughout the COVID-19 response period, which is likely to extend. These services include, but are not limited to, vaccination, reproductive health care, mental health services, and care for vulnerable populations, such as older adults and children.
Finally, the committee asked the WHO to clarify testing strategies and help countries increase their testing capacities and update their travel and trade recommendations.
05/04/2020 11:54 GMT — What is the best material for homemade face masks?
According to findings published in the journal ACS Nano, the most effective homemade face mask might involve a combination of materials: one sheet of tightly woven cotton plus two sheets of chiffon, made from polyester and spandex.
While this proved the most effective at filtering droplet particles, the scientists did not use the actual SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in their research.
The team, from the University of Chicago and the Argonne National Laboratory, both in Illinois, reported that tightly woven cotton plus natural silk or flannel, and cotton quilt with cotton-polyester batting also worked well.
The caveat, though, is the fit. “The effect of gaps between the contour of the face and the mask, as caused by an improper fit, will affect the efficiency of any face mask,” the authors write.
Masks have to fit very snugly to prevent any gaps.
Read our full coverage here.
05/04/2020 11:12 GMT — COVID-19 reasons for hope: Vaccine trials take center stage
Every 2 weeks, Medical News Today review the latest coronavirus research and highlight the most promising and reassuring findings from scientific studies in a Special Feature article.
In the latest of these, we reported on the U.K.’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial, which saw the first two volunteers receive their injections.
We also highlighted research into another experimental vaccine that uses an inactivated form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and explained how researchers are using a cancer therapy tool to help design new COVID-19 vaccines.
Finally, we summarized how researchers killed the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell cultures using an antiparasitic drug and reported on the latest antibody tests available in the U.S. and Europe.
Read the full article here.
04/30/2020 17:42 GMT — MNT’s video update
04/30/2020 15:14 GMT — Coronavirus antibody test approved in the US and Europe
Pharmaceutical company Abbott have developed a test to detect if person has had COVID-19. The test, they say, has 100% sensitivity and 99.6% specificity.
The test measures immunoglobulin G antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. These are antibodies that the body produces in the later stages of infection. They can persist in the body for several weeks.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the test for use in the United States, and the European Union have approved it in Europe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warn against giving “immunity passports” to those who have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, saying that there is no evidence to show that such antibodies can protect against future infection.
”This type of knowledge will enable scientists to better understand how long these antibodies stay in the body and if they provide immunity,” Abbot say in a statement.”This information can also help public health officials understand how widespread the outbreak is and could help support the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.“
Read more here.
04/30/2020 13:58 GMT — Airborne particles may carry SARS-CoV-2
In a recent study, scientists collected aerosol samples from two hospitals where COVID-19 patients were receiving treatment. They detected genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 in airborne suspensions, known as aerosols. The authors believe that aerosols might represent a new transmission route for the virus.
Currently, scientists believe that transmission of the new coronavirus takes place in one of three ways:
- inhalation of liquid droplets from the coughing or sneezing of a person with the infection
- close contact with a person who has the infection
- contact with surfaces that contain the virus
“Our finding has confirmed the aerosol transmission as an important pathway for surface contamination. We call for extra care and attention on the proper design, use, and disinfection of the toilets in hospitals and in communities to minimize the potential source of the virus-laden aerosol.”
Read our full coverage of the research here.
04/30/2020 13:48 GMT — Number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US passes 1 million
04/30/2020 09:15 GMT — Vietnam says it has contained COVID-19
Vietnam borders China and is home to 96 million people. Despite this, the country has reported just 270 cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths.
According to officials in Vietnam, they succeeded because they responded robustly during the early phases of the outbreak.
The Vietnamese government restricted travel within the country and put tens of thousands of people into quarantine as the epidemic began.
Their testing rate also helped keep the virus in check. In January, there were just three laboratories capable of testing for COVID-19 in Vietnam, but, by April, there were 112. To date, the country has carried out more than 213,000 tests.
According to Matthew Moore, one of the CDC’s officials based in Hanoi, Vietnam, “The steps are easy to describe but difficult to implement, yet they’ve been very successful at implementing them over and over again.”
Although some have questioned the official figures, WHO representative, Kidong Park, advised that there was no evidence of outbreaks aside from those that the government reported.
Read more on the story here.
04/30/2020 09:02 GMT — Loss of smell may suggest milder COVID-19
According to a recent study, loss of smell as a symptom of COVID-19 may indicate a mild case of the disease. This finding may help clinicians identify which COVID-19 patients require treatment in hospital and which may be able to self-treat the disease at home.
To reach their conclusion, the researchers took data from 128 people who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Senior author Dr. Adam S. DeConde explains that “[p]atients who reported loss of smell were 10 times less likely to be admitted for COVID-19 compared to those without loss of smell.”
Read our full coverage of the study here.
04/29/2020 14:35 GMT — The CDC include a further six symptoms as indicative of COVID-19
Until recently, the symptoms to look out in anyone with a suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection were fever, cough, and shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.
Yet there have been many reports of other symptoms, indicating that there is significant variation between how individuals experience COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently updated their symptom criteria. The organization now say that a person may have COVID-19 if they experience cough and shortness of breath or at least two of the following:
- repeated shaking with chills
- muscle pain
- a sore throat
- a new loss of taste and smell
The CDC state that this list is not all inclusive and ask people to consult with their medical advisor.
Emergency warning signs that suggest that immediate medical attention is required remain as before. They include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or an inability to rouse, and a bluish tint to the lips or face.
The CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus information is available here.
04/29/2020 11:23 GMT — First US dog tests positive for coronavirus
Amid reports of cats and tigers developing COVID-19, pet owners may be wondering how likely it is that their animal companions can catch the new coronavirus.
Now, researchers from Duke University in Durham, NC, report the first case of a dog in the U.S. receiving a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2. The pug, called Winston, lives with a family who are taking part in a research project at Duke University, and three of the human family members have previously had a positive test result for the new coronavirus.
Winston’s symptoms were mild and lasted for a few days.
Yet Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, commented on Winston’s case by saying that he thought it more likely that the pug had licked a person or object with viral particles rather than having the infection. “Your pets are not going to catch it from you,” he stated.
None of the family’s other pets have had a positive test result.
Read the full story here.
04/29/2020 10:34 GMT — Who is really on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Physician assistant Kyle Briggs works in the ICU in Atlanta, GA. In an exclusive article for Medical News Today, he shares his dedication to looking after severely sick patients. He also describes his fears of healthcare systems becoming overwhelmed.
Kyle suggests that we reevaluate the term front line and asks each of us to play our part in slowing the pandemic.
“I’m not on the front line,” he explains. “Rather, as a [physician assistant]-intensivist who never leaves the ICU, I’m the last line of defense.”
“Who controls who comes through our doors? You. You are the frontline, and you play a critical role in how this virus spreads,” Kyle urges us.
Read Kyle’s article here.
04/29/2020 09:37 GMT — “It’s really a hard time right now,” says Chicago nurse looking after COVID-19 patients
Medical News Today recently interviewed Joe, a registered nurse, whose regular day job is looking after patients in psychiatric units. Now, he finds himself caring for people with COVID-19.
Joe gave us an insight into his new way of working and explained that the pandemic is already taking its toll on mental health and will likely continue to do so.
He also urged everyone to follow the guidelines of lockdown and physical distancing. “The people who work on the front lines and see these cases up close can vouch for how serious it is,” he told us.
Joe shared a list of resources for accessing support, as well.
Read the full interview here.
04/28/2020 16:52 GMT — More than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases globally
04/28/2020 13:12 GMT — MNT video update
04/28/2020 11:01 GMT — US National Institutes of Health release COVID-19 treatment guidelines
Led by a panel of physicians, statisticians, and experts in related disciplines, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have published a living document called Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Treatment Guidelines.
They will updated this guide as novel clinical data become available.
The document provides healthcare professionals with recommendations on treatment options for symptomatic, mild, and severe cases.
The guide also includes considerations for children and pregnant women, as well as details on what is known about people with COVID-19 who take medication for other reasons.
Read more about the guidelines here.
04/28/2020 10:18 GMT — How does the pandemic affect domestic violence rates?
Several weeks ago, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros, noted that some countries had experienced an increase in domestic violence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As people are asked to stay at home, the risk of intimate partner violence is likely to increase,” he commented.
Indeed, across the globe, calls to domestic abuse hotlines have shot up.
In a Special Feature article, we examine how the current health crisis and accompanying lockdowns have affected people, particularly women, in abusive relationships or living arrangements in the U.S. and around the world.
Read the full article here.
04/28/2020 09:55 GMT — Accidental poisonings on the rise
According to a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental poisonings in the United States are increasing as people attempt to sanitize their homes. Compared with 2019, there have been 20% more calls to their 55 poison helplines.
A surge occurred in March 2020, with an influx of calls regarding exposures to cleaners and disinfectants.
Concerning cleaning products, the largest increase in calls related to bleach; as for disinfectants, the majority related to alcohol-free disinfectants and hand sanitizers.
The report explains that “The timing of these reported exposures corresponded to increased media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfection products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders.”
Read the full report, which includes case studies, here.
04/27/2020 14:59 GMT — Globally, over 2.9 million people have now contracted COVID-19
04/27/2020 11:55 GMT — How is the pandemic affecting people in different countries?
While many countries have adopted some physical distancing measures, they have each followed a unique path in terms of the levels of recommendations or restrictions.
For a Special Feature article, Medical News Today spoke to people from different countries about their experiences.
We heard stories from Japan, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Romania, France, Belgium, Canada, and Australia.
Many of our respondents expressed concern for family members. Some described the toll on their mental health.
When MNT asked about their hopes for a postpandemic world, most said they did not want things to go back to the way they were before. They called for people, communities, and public decision makers to enact wide-reaching changes for the better.
Read the full article here.
04/27/2020 09:18 GMT — Japan tightens borders further
Today, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined increased restrictions on entering the country. Already, individuals from more than 70 countries have been banned from entering Japan; today, 14 countries were added to the list, including Saudi Arabia, Peru, and Russia.
Initially, visa restrictions were set to end on April 30. Now, they have been extended to the end of May. To date, Japan has reported 13,441 cases of COVID-19 and 372 related deaths.
Read more about the global response to COVID-19 here.
04/27/2020 09:13 GMT — Can protective masks be disinfected at home?
A recent study, published in the Journal of the International Society for Respiratory Protection, concluded that homemade protective masks could be successfully disinfected using heat and remain effective.
The scientists found that homemade masks and some medical masks can withstand simple disinfection without significantly reducing their effectiveness.
Although the researchers acknowledge that their study was relatively small, they conclude, “Everything we know so far suggests that wearing almost any kind of mask in public is better than nothing, that a tight fit is best, and that, with certain limits, many types of masks can be reused outside of medical settings.”
Read our full coverage of the study here.
04/24/2020 16:52 GMT — More than 50,000 people have now died in the United States as a result of developing COVID-19
04/24/2020 16:45 GMT — MNT video update: CT use in COVID-19 diagnosis
04/24/2020 09:44 GMT — Scientists identify nose cells that may act as entry point for SARS-CoV-2
A new study that appears in the journal Nature Medicine identifies two cell types that may be the gateway for SARS-CoV-2 — namely, mucus-producing goblet and ciliated cells on the surface of the inside of the nose.
Both of these cell types have high levels of ACE2 and TMPRSS2, proteins that can facilitate SARS-CoV-2 entry.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are expressed in a number of organs. However, first study author Dr. Waradon Sungnak explains, “Goblet cells and ciliated cells in the nose had the highest levels of both these COVID-19 virus proteins, of all cells in the airways. This makes these cells the most likely initial infection route for the virus.”
The researchers believe that this finding could shed light on COVID-19’s rapid infection rates. Another study author, Dr. Martijn Nawijn, explains how the “location of these cells on the surface of the inside of the nose make them highly accessible to the virus and also may assist with transmission to other people.”
Full access to the study is available here.
04/24/2020 09:08 GMT — Number of COVID-19 cases in China may have been four times higher than official counts
A recent analysis, which appears in The Lancet, estimates that the number of COVID-19 cases in China may have been more than 4 times greater than the official figures. This is due to changes in the definition of COVID-19 cases.
During the early phases of the epidemic, officials changed the way they defined a case of COVID-19 a total of seven times.
This is not unusual during an outbreak: Initially, a definition will be narrow, but, as scientists understand more about the disease, the case definition broadens to include milder cases and affected individuals outside of the epicenter of the outbreak, which, in this case, was Wuhan.
The latest study calculates the likely number of reported cases if the fifth definition had been applicable from the start. The authors analyzed data up to the fifth definition because data for the sixth and seventh were not yet available.
Using this data, the authors conclude that by February 20, there may have been about 232,000 cases, rather than the reported 55,508.
Read the full study here.
04/24/2020 09:05 GMT — UK doctors launch legal challenge over PPE
In the United Kingdom, two doctors who have been exposed to patients with COVID-19 are mounting a legal challenge against the government. The doctors claim that the U.K.’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidance does not align with WHO standards.
In a statement that the doctors issued, they explain that “it is the government’s duty to protect its healthcare workers, and there is great anxiety amongst staff with regards to safety protocols that seem to change without rhyme or reason.”
The doctors are particularly concerned with last week’s change to guidance, which states that they can use plastic aprons instead of protective gowns in certain situations. They plan to seek a judicial review of the U.K.’s PPE guidance.
Read more about the legal action here.
04/24/2020 09:02 GMT — The role of blood clotting in COVID-19
A recent review, which appears in the journal Physiological Reviews, notes that hemorrhage or bleeding disorders are often the cause of death for people with COVID-19. The authors argue that an overactive anticlotting system may be what causes excessive bleeding in COVID-19.
This overactivity of the body’s attempts to remove blood clots is known as hyperfibrinolysis. The authors of the study conclude:
“Targeting hyperfibrinolysis with a broad spectrum or specific anti-plasmin compounds may prove to be a promising strategy for improving the clinical outcome of patients with comorbid conditions.”
Read MNT‘s full coverage of the study here.
04/23/2020 09:49 GMT — Scientists conclude COVID-19 is not sexually transmitted
According to a recent study that appears in the journal Fertility and Sterility, SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to be transmitted in semen. The scientists reached this conclusion after testing semen from 34 men who had tested positive for the virus.
The findings are important; as co-author Dr. James M. Hotaling explains, “If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable, that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man’s long-term reproductive health.”
The authors explain that SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in the participants’ semen 1 month after their COVID-19 diagnoses.
However, the study was small, and scientists will need to carry out larger trials to confirm the findings. The authors also acknowledge that “The long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on male reproductive function remain unknown.”
Read the abstract here.
04/23/2020 09:11 GMT — Study confirms that WHO-recommended hand sanitizers inactivate SARS-CoV-2
A recent study tests two alcohol-based hand sanitizers against SARS-CoV-2. Although the WHO recommend the formulations, little research has tested their effectiveness. Researcher Prof. Stephanie Pfänder writes, “We showed that both WHO-recommended formulations sufficiently inactivate the virus after 30 seconds.”
As stocks of hand sanitizers run low, this study gives pharmacies the green light to make their own sanitizers using the WHO formulations. The authors conclude that their “findings are crucial to minimize viral transmission and maximize virus inactivation in the current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.”
Read our coverage of the study here.
04/23/2020 09:08 GMT — Scientists plan to test nicotine patches
French scientists are planning to test nicotine patches on frontline workers. Although the researchers stress that smoking has severe health consequences, there is some evidence that nicotine might protect against infection.
The study is based on snippets of evidence from several earlier studies. For instance, a Chinese study collated data from 1,099 individuals with COVID-19. Of this group, 12.9% were smokers; in the general population in China, 28% are smokers.
These and other studies infer that a component of cigarettes, most likely nicotine, might have a protective effect.
However, the scientists stress that because COVID-19 affects the lungs, smokers who develop the condition are likely to experience more severe symptoms.
Read more about the upcoming study here.
04/23/2020 09:04 GMT — Two cats test positive for SARS-CoV-2
Two cats in New York have become the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. The animals developed a mild respiratory illness, but experts expect them to recover. However, no members of the household have developed COVID-19.
In a media statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that “there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.”
Read more about COVID-19 and pets here.
04/22/2020 13:37 GMT — Is Sweden’s strategy working?
Sweden has been the odd one out, when it comes to lockdown measures in European countries.
Schools for students under 16 and many businesses, restaurants, and bars have stayed open. Rather than imposing strict lockdown measures, the government has asked citizens to voluntarily follow advice about limiting social contact, washing their hands frequently, working from home when possible, and avoiding nonessential travel.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said in a statement on April 6: “Our government agencies and our healthcare system are doing everything they can. But every person in Sweden needs to take individual responsibility. If everyone takes responsibility, we can keep the spread of the virus in check. Follow the authorities’ advice: If you have even the slightest symptoms, do not go to work and refrain from meeting other people.”
As of today, Sweden has reported 15,322 cases of COVID-19 and 1,765 deaths.
While these numbers are lower than those of other European countries, they are significantly higher than those of neighbors Finland and Norway.
Amid calls from critics, leading epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, of the country’s public health agency, spoke to Nature about why he thinks Sweden’s strategy is working.
He explains that Sweden lacks the laws to impose lockdowns and acknowledges the issue of deaths in care homes for seniors.
“Most problems that we have right now are not because of the disease, but because of the measures that in some environments have not been applied properly: The deaths among older people is a huge problem, and we are fighting hard,” Tegnell says.
Overall, he says that he is satisfied with Sweden’s strategy.
Read the full interview here.
04/22/2020 09:26 GMT — Researchers identify another 30 drug candidates for COVID-19
Working with the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, scientists have identified 30 existing drugs that appear to stop the virus from replicating. Many of these drug candidates have not yet undergone testing against COVID-19.
According to senior author Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., “We believe this is one of the first comprehensive drug screens using the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, and our hope is that one or more of these drugs will save lives while we wait for a vaccine for COVID-19.”
Of the 30 drugs that the scientists identified, six were effective at concentrations likely to be tolerable in humans.
As the authors explain, because doctors already use these drugs in the clinic, this “will accelerate their preclinical and clinical evaluation for COVID-19 treatment.”
Read the full study here.
04/22/2020 09:04 GMT — Antiparasitic drug shows promise
A recent study using cell cultures concludes that ivermectin, an existing antiparasitic drug, can eliminate SARS-CoV-2 within 48 hours. However, whether this approach is safe and effective in human beings remains to be seen.
According to lead researcher Kylie Wagstaff, Ph.D., they “found that even a single dose could essentially remove all viral RNA by 48 hours and that even at 24 hours, there was a really significant reduction in it.”
However, there are still hurdles to overcome. Wagstaff explains that they need to find out “whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective.”
Read our coverage of the study here.
04/22/2020 09:00 GMT — More children affected than first thought
The authors of a new study conclude that more children in the United States required hospitalization with COVID-19 than officials previously estimated. The paper, which appears in the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, used data from pediatric intensive care units in the U.S. and China.
Their projections suggest that, in some scenarios, U.S. pediatric healthcare services might become overwhelmed by the number of sick children who need care.
Study co-author Jason Salemi, Ph.D. explains that, “Although the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is lower in pediatric cases than adults, hospitals should be prepared and have the proper equipment and staffing levels to deal with a potential influx of younger patients.”
Read more about the new analysis here.
04/21/2020 15:05 GMT — Almost 2.5 million people have now contracted COVID-19
04/21/2020 11:43 GMT — 5G towers torched by conspiracy theorists
Across Europe, conspiracy theorists have set fire to dozens of 5G towers. Despite the lack of evidence, these individuals believe that 5G is helping the virus spread. At a time when communication is more important than ever, officials in Europe and the United States are monitoring the situation closely.
To date, around 50 cell towers and telecommunication installations have fallen victim to these individuals in the United Kingdom. Similar attacks have appeared in the Netherlands, Iceland, Belgium, and Cyprus.
In the U.K., one attack focused on a tower supplying voice and data traffic to a field hospital in Birmingham. Nick Jeffery, CEO Vodafone U.K. wrote:
“It’s heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill. It’s even more upsetting that even the small solace of a phone or video call may now be denied them because of the selfish actions of a few deluded conspiracy theorists.”
Read the facts about 5G and health in this feature.
04/21/2020 10:42 GMT — New Zealand aims to eliminate SARS-CoV-2
Partially due to New Zealand’s remote geography and relatively sparsely distributed population, the country has experienced comparatively few cases of COVID-19. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern believes that they may be in a position to eliminate the virus entirely.
Last week, Ardern said, “We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus. But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.”
The country went into lockdown in late March, after registering just 100 cases. According to Ardern, her motto was “Go hard, go early.” Next week, the country will ease some of the current restrictions, but it will only ease the lockdown gradually.
More about New Zealand’s situation here.
04/21/2020 09:46 GMT — Lifting lockdowns must be gradual, says WHO
At a press conference yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned against easing lockdown measures too quickly.
He explained that “Easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country” and that individuals, communities, and governments will need to continue their efforts to control COVID-19.
“So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic, but they cannot end it alone,” he continued. “Countries must now ensure they can detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact.”
View the full transcript here.
04/21/2020 09:36 GMT — Facebook takes down anti-quarantine protest events
According to Facebook Inc., they have removed anti-quarantine protest events in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska. However, the company explained that they would only remove events that defied government guidelines.
A spokesperson for Facebook, Andy Stone, said, “Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”
On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg told ABC News that Facebook would remove content suggesting that physical distancing does not reduce the virus’ spread.
Read more about Facebook’s response here.
04/21/2020 08:01 GMT — MNT video update
04/20/2020 14:00 GMT — Germany begins to ease lockdown
Germany has been under lockdown since March 22. Now, as the number of new infections slows, they are beginning to ease lockdown. Some small stores, car dealerships, and bike shops are reopening, although physical distancing measures are still in place.
However, for most businesses, the lockdown will continue until May 3.
Across the country, the government has recommended that people wear masks in public; in the state of Saxony, this is mandatory. Schools are still closed, except for students who are sitting their leaving exams.
Germany has experienced lower COVID-19 mortality rates than neighboring countries. Officials believe that this is partly due to the detailed tracing of people who have contracted the infection and large-scale testing.
To date, Germany has registered 145,743 infections and 4,642 deaths.
Read more about the situation in Germany here.
04/20/2020 10:48 GMT — Could pollution affect COVID-19 lethality?
A study in the journal Environmental Pollution found a correlation between air pollution and death rates from COVID-19 in Italy. In Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, which both have high levels of pollution, the lethality rate was 12%. In the rest of the country, the rate was around 4.5%.
When discussing why this relationship might appear, the authors explain that “[a]ir pollution represents one of the most well-known causes of prolonged inflammation, eventually leading to an innate immune system hyper-activation.”
However, they note that there may be other ways to explain these differences. For instance, it may be due to the way each region records deaths and infections or because Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna have relatively older populations.
Read our coverage of the study here.
04/20/2020 10:42 GMT — Study looks at relationship between obesity and COVID-19 severity
A recent study, published in the journal Obesity, identified “a high frequency of obesity among patients admitted in intensive care for [COVID-19].” The authors also note that individuals with a higher BMI tended to experience more severe symptoms.
The researchers collated information on 124 individuals admitted to intensive care units for COVID-19. They classified more than three-quarters of these patients as having either obesity or severe obesity.
Overall, they conclude, “Obesity is a risk factor for SARS‐CoV‐2 severity, requiring increased attention to preventive measures in susceptible individuals.”
Read the full study here.
04/20/2020 09:12 GMT — 60% of people infected by SARS-CoV-2 on the Theodore Roosevelt displayed no symptoms
After one crew member tested positive for COVID-19 on a United States aircraft carrier, 94% of the 4,800 crew members were tested. More than 600 tested positive, yet the majority experienced no symptoms.
In total, 60% of those aboard the Theodore Roosevelt who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 reported no symptoms.
It is worth noting that the individuals aboard this ship were all young adults and, therefore, not indicative of the U.S. population; also, some of the 60% may go on to develop symptoms. However, 60% is significantly higher than other estimates, which range from 25–50%.
The ways in which this virus might move through a young, otherwise healthy population have implications for U.S. policymakers looking at reopening the economy.
Read the full story here.
04/17/2020 17:01 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/17/2020 15:21 GMT — More than 2,170,000 people have now contracted COVID-19
04/17/2020 09:25 GMT — China increases Wuhan death toll by 50%
The official death toll for COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, was 2,579. Yesterday, officials in China readjusted the tally to 3,869, an increase of about 50%. They explained that their initial figures were incorrect because while the healthcare system was overwhelmed, communication broke down.
The officials also revised the total number of cases in Wuhan, increasing it by 325 to 50,333. A Chinese official whom the Xinhua News Agency quoted explains why the initial figures were incorrect:
“Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients. As a result, belated, missed, and mistaken reporting occurred.”
Read more on the story here.
04/17/2020 09:19 GMT — As stocks run low, researchers investigate ways to extend the life of N95 respirators
N95 respirators protect healthcare workers from airborne infectious agents. Manufacturers design them for single use, and stocks are running low. A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) tested ways to decontaminate single-use N95 respirators so that people could reuse them.
As global supplies of personal protective equipment run short, scientists are looking for ways to make stocks last longer. The study, which is yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal, tested four commonly used decontamination methods: UV light, 70% ethanol, temperature treatment at 70ºC (158ºF), and vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP).
They investigated which methods inactivated SARS-CoV-2 and, importantly, assessed how each method impacted the functioning of the masks, which need to maintain a proper fit and tight seal around the face.
The authors conclude that people could reuse UV and heat treated respirators twice and those treated with VHP three times. Because VHP decontamination only takes 10 minutes, the authors believe that this might be the most viable option.
Read more about the study here.
04/17/2020 09:12 GMT — WHO address myths associated with alcohol and COVID-19
In response to a spike in myths surrounding alcohol and COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) have published a news release and a fact sheet. They remind people that “drinking alcohol does not protect them from COVID-19.”
The news release explains how “[f]ear and misinformation have generated a dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the COVID-19 virus. It does not. Consuming any alcohol poses health risks, but consuming high strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol), particularly if it has been adulterated with methanol, can result in severe health consequences, including death.”
Rather than fighting COVID-19, the WHO explain how alcohol is associated with a range of diseases and can, therefore, “make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Although alcohol can disinfect skin, the WHO warn people that it “has no such effect within your system when ingested” and that it does not “stimulate immunity and virus resistance.” The fact sheet explains further: “Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases.”
A recent MNT feature addresses some of the other myths that surround COVID-19.
04/17/2020 09:00 GMT — How long will COVID-19 last?
Medical News Today recently published a feature that asks how long COVID-19 is likely to last. In the article, the author collates comments from a variety of experts, including WHO advisor Prof. David Heymann. Although no one can provide a definitive answer, the article offers valuable insight.
Finding a vaccine may help bring this pandemic to a close, and some believe that this might be available by fall. Others, however, are less optimistic. The article also asks what might happen once the pandemic slows and we begin returning to a relatively normal life.
Prof. Paul Kellam, an infectious disease specialist and professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom believes that SARS-CoV-2 may become a seasonal human pathogen, like the coronaviruses that cause seasonal colds. “In that sense,” he explains, “humans will be with this virus forever.”
Read the full feature here.
04/16/2020 18:54 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/16/2020 14:55 GMT — More than 30,000 people in the US have now died from COVID-19
04/16/2020 10:20 GMT — “Cough chamber” study underlines importance of physical distancing
A recent study at the University of Western Ontario in Canada examined the movement of droplets produced by a cough. Using a “cough chamber,” the researchers found that 2 meters (6 feet) is not necessarily enough distance to prevent droplets from reaching another person.
As study co-author Prof. Eric Savory explains: “If you’re a couple meters away from someone who coughs unobstructively, then within about 3 seconds or so, their cough has reached you — and is still moving. Even when you’re 2.5 meters away, the airflow in the cough can still be moving at 200 millimeters per second.”
The study also showed that around 10% of the droplets are still in the air 4 seconds after the cough. The research is yet to be published, but the journal Indoor Air has accepted it for publication.
Prof. Savory says: “There is no real logical reason for saying that 2 meters is somehow safe, but it’s much better than 1 meter or closer. We’re not saying you’re going to get infected; we’re just saying there is a risk there. Obviously, it decreases the further you are away.”
Read more about the study and future research here.
04/16/2020 09:05 GMT — Preliminary study into remdesivir yields encouraging results
A recent study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry explored whether an experimental Ebola drug called remdesivir might help treat COVID-19. Although the research took place in the laboratory, the results are encouraging.
Earlier studies showed that remdesivir was effective against some coronaviruses, and there are reports that the drug may have helped some patients seeking treatment for COVID-19.
The drug blocks an enzyme called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which SARS-CoV-2 needs to replicate.
The authors of the study explain that although the results are promising, they cannot confirm that the drug would be safe in humans or effective in treating COVID-19. They will need to wait for the results of clinical trials.
Prof. Matthias Götte, who contributed to the study, explains, “We are desperate [to find an effective treatment for COVID-19], but we still have to keep the bar high for anything that we put into clinical trials.”
Read more about the study here.
04/16/2020 09:02 GMT — Hospitalizations in New York down for second day
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, explained on Monday that the worst stage of the outbreak was over for the state. Yesterday, in a media briefing, he advised that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 had fallen for 2 days in a row.
Cuomo held the media briefing with Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, and Ned Lamont, the governor of Connecticut. They outlined plans to restart the economy. However, they explained that even once businesses start to reopen, people should continue to wear masks and maintain physical distancing.
“We need to build a bridge toward a reopening of the economy,” said Cuomo. “We are going to a different place — a new normal.”
Cuomo advised that the crisis will not be over until scientists have designed a vaccine, which could be 12–18 months away.
Find more information from the media briefing here.
04/15/2020 17:58 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/15/2020 15:45 GMT — Global number of confirmed cases passes 2 million
04/15/2020 14:06 GMT — How does sex relate to COVID-19?
A Special Feature article explores the pandemic’s infection and mortality rates broken down by sex. In it, we ask why men are more likely to die and why women might be at greater risk.
Drawing on a number of studies, we discuss differences between the immune systems of women and men, sex and lifestyle factors, and the need for sex-disaggregated data in clinical research.
04/15/2020 13:37 GMT — School closure may only have minor effect on the COVID-19 pandemic
A team of researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia reviewed 16 studies to see whether closing schools could slow down the COVID-19 pandemic. They conclude that the effects are only marginal.
Writing in the The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, the scientists warn that the economic, educational, social, and health-related costs may outweigh any benefits, as the impact that school closure may have will likely be smaller than that of other public health interventions.
Read the full story here.
04/15/2020 10:10 GMT — 1 in 5 deaths in England and Wales related to COVID-19
According to the Office for National Statistics, during the week ending on April 3, 2020, COVID-19 appeared on 3,475 death certificates in England and Wales. This equates to around 1 in 5 deaths.
At this time of year, there are normally around 10,000 deaths each week in these countries, collectively. In the week ending April 3, there were 16,000 deaths — the highest figure since the Office for National Statistics started collating this data in 2005.
Previously, the highest number of deaths in a week had occurred during a flu outbreak in 2015.
To date, the United Kingdom has registered almost 95,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 12,000 deaths.
More detail is available here.
04/15/2020 09:18 GMT — Studying coronaviruses and heart health
A recent paper, published in JAMA Cardiology, investigates the relationship between cardiovascular health and coronaviruses. The authors combine data from studies on a number of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
They suggest that existing cardiovascular disease might increase the chance of developing COVID-19, increase the mortality risk, or both.
In the paper, the authors write that, “Lessons from the previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can trigger acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and development or exacerbation of heart failure.”
They also explain that COVID-19 “may either induce new cardiac pathologies and/or exacerbate underlying cardiovascular diseases.” However, the authors note that, at this time, there is a scarcity of data on the cardiovascular effects of SARS-CoV-2, specifically.
Read more about the review article here.
04/15/2020 09:01 GMT — President Trump stops WHO’s funding
Over recent days, United States president, Donald Trump, has grown increasingly hostile toward the World Health Organization (WHO). Yesterday, he announced he would stop providing financial support to the organization. Historically, the U.S. has provided 15% of the WHO’s total budget.
President Trump claims that the organization promoted “disinformation” from China. He believes that the WHO’s actions allowed the outbreak to become worse than it could have been.
In a press conference yesterday, Trump claimed that, “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death.”
In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.”
Editor-in-chief of the Lancet journal, Richard Horton, wrote in a tweet that the funding hold was “a crime against humanity. Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.”
More on this story here.
04/14/2020 19:40 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/14/2020 11:57 GMT — China moves to prevent imported cases
Last week, officials lifted the 76-day lockdown imposed on Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, officials are increasingly concerned about imported cases crossing the Russian border in the north of the country.
Heilongjiang province, thousands of kilometers from Wuhan, is experiencing a rising number of cases. Although its border with Russia is less traveled than China’s major cities, many people who live or work in Russia do use this route.
The land border is already closed, and travelers arriving by air must spend 1 month in quarantine. In the past few days, emergency medical units and a field hospital have appeared in the border city of Suifenhe. The city, home to 70,000 people, has now experienced an estimated 1,000 cases of COVID-19.
Read the full story here.
04/14/2020 11:27 GMT — Researchers investigate treating two patients with one ventilator
With ventilators in short supply, a group of researchers in Australia conducted a study to investigate whether splitting a single ventilator between two patients might be a viable option. They concluded that ventilator splitting could work but that it is far from ideal.
Modifying the ventilators using only basic hospital equipment, the researchers tested ventilator splitting in a simulated environment. They concluded that the method could work, but they also called for caution.
One of the authors, Dr. Shaun Gregory from Monash University, Australia, explained, “While the discovery is promising, the use of this method in the clinical context has not been validated, and we don’t recommend its wider use without further trials.”
He continues: “Despite our advances in the practical application of ventilator splitting, the practice is unregulated and undertested. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, some countries, like the U.S., may consider ventilator splitting on compassionate grounds. The United States of America Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has passed emergency use authorization for the splitting of ventilators.”
Read the full study here.
04/14/2020 11:03 GMT — What factors did people who died from COVID-19 have in common?
In a recent study, researchers analyzed the health records of 85 individuals who died from COVID-19 in Wuhan, China and identified factors that the people shared.
Among these individuals, 72.9% were male, the median age was 65.8 years, and underlying chronic conditions were common.
The researchers write, “We hope that this study conveys the seriousness of COVID-19 and emphasizes the risk groups of males over 50 with chronic comorbid conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, and diabetes.”
They also identify that “While respiratory symptoms may not develop until a week after presentation, once they do, there can be a rapid decline, as indicated by the short duration between time of admission and death (6.35 days on average) in our study.”
The authors acknowledge that this data was collected in the early phase of the outbreak and from just one region. The findings may not apply more generally because “Genetics may play a role in the response to the infection, and the course of the pandemic may change as the virus mutates.”
Find out more about the analysis here.
04/14/2020 10:46 GMT — WHO statement on collaboration to develop a vaccine
According to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday, they have activated a “Research and Development Blueprint” that promises to “accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics for this novel coronavirus.”
The WHO are helping coordinate “a group of experts with diverse backgrounds” who are all working towards a vaccine for COVID-19.
The latest statement includes a declaration, which these scientists, doctors, funders, and manufacturers have signed, having “come together as part of an international collaboration, coordinated by the WHO, to help speed the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19.”
Although the signatories understand that developing this vaccine will take time, they explain that it could be “instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic.”
Read the full statement here.
04/09/2020 16:52 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/09/2020 15:04 GMT — The number of deaths in New York City now stands at over 4,500
04/09/2020 14:43 GMT — Rapid review of 29 studies concludes that quarantine is effective
A Cochrane rapid review by researchers from Danube University Krems, in Austria, has assessed evidence concerning quarantine measures during coronavirus outbreaks.
The team looked at 29 studies, of which 15 modeled data from the SARS and MERS outbreaks, four were observational, and 10 used COVID-19 models.
The review, which the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned, specifically investigated the effects of quarantine measures — either on their own or in combination with other interventions — among people who had contact with individuals who had confirmed COVID-19, people who had travelled to countries with declared COVID-19 outbreaks, or people living in areas with high transmission rates.
“Findings consistently indicate that quarantine is important in reducing incidence and mortality during the COVID‐19 pandemic,” the authors conclude. “Early implementation of quarantine and combining quarantine with other public health measures is important to ensure effectiveness.”
04/09/2020 09:23 GMT — Federal stocks of protective equipment running low
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Strategic National Stockpile is running out of essential equipment for frontline healthcare staff; this includes N95 respirators, surgical masks, gowns, and face shields.
A statement from the HHS confirms that around 90% of the personal protective equipment has now been distributed to state and local governments.
In a statement, Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, says, “Now that the national stockpile has been depleted of critical equipment, it appears that the administration is leaving states to fend for themselves, to scour the open market for these scarce supplies, and to compete with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic, free-for-all bidding war.”
Read more here.
04/09/2020 09:09 GMT — How to tackle the ventilator crisis
A new Special Feature published on Medical News Today discusses the challenging topic of ventilator allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to some estimates, the United States will need an additional 75,000 ventilators to tackle this crisis.
As the author of the article writes, “Due to the lack of critical care resources, healthcare professionals, patients, and families around the world must live with the consequences of withdrawing life support from one person for the benefit of another.”
The Feature explores the topic using explanations and recommendations from doctors and bioethicists.
Read the full piece here.
04/09/2020 08:45 GMT — New study suggests sewage could help track COVID-19
The authors of a recent study featuring in the journal Environmental Science & Technology believe that testing for SARS-CoV-2 in raw sewage might help track its spread among communities.
The researchers involved in the recent study previously designed a paper-based test that can detect malaria. The tests are cost effective and do not require skilled laboratory technicians.
The team believes that similar technology could be effective in detecting the coronavirus. Lead author Zhugen Yang, Ph.D., explains how this could help:
“If COVID-19 can be monitored in a community at an early stage through [wastewater-based epidemiology], effective intervention can be taken as early as possible to restrict the movements of that local population, working to minimize the pathogen spread and threat to public health.”
Read more about the research here.
04/08/2020 18:57 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/08/2020 14:50 GMT — US set to have more than 400,000 confirmed cases
04/08/2020 11:36 GMT — Surgical masks are effective but should not be used by the general public, researchers advise
A recent study in the journal Nature found that surgical masks are effective in reducing viral shedding of seasonal coronavirus particles.
A team from the University of Maryland and the University of Hong Kong, in China, compared how well surgical masks prevent the spread of viral particles. The researchers tested people who had the flu or seasonal colds caused by either rhinoviruses or seasonal coronaviruses.
They found that surgical masks were able to reduce viral particle shedding through coughing, sneezing, and breathing in volunteers with seasonal coronavirus infections.
This research did not include people who had COVID-19.
However, one senior study author comments, “The ability of surgical masks to reduce seasonal coronavirus in respiratory droplets and aerosols implies that such masks can contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 when worn by infected people.”
Importantly, the authors note that these masks are not a first line of defense for the general public. They suggest adopting other approaches, including ventilation and UV lighting, in public spaces instead.
Read the full story here.
04/08/2020 10:24 GMT — Amazon test disinfectant fog at NY warehouse
Following worker protests over infection risks at Amazon.com Inc.’s Staten Island warehouse, the company are trialing disinfectant fog. This type of intervention is used in hospitals and airlines to sanitize facilities.
The decision comes after some officials and staff have called for the facility’s closure.
In a statement, Amazon wrote, “We continue to explore even more preventative measures to support the health and safety of employees, who are providing a critical service in our communities.”
At the New York warehouse, known as JFK8, a number of staff have walked out in protest over fears of infection. As the number of cases of COVID-19 in New York continues to rise, the facility is likely to receive continued attention.
More about Amazon’s disinfectant fog here.
04/08/2020 08:57 GMT — New York registers deadliest day
On Monday, New York reported 656 new hospitalizations and 731 deaths from COVID-19, up from 599 deaths on Sunday. Governor Andrew Cuomo remains positive, explaining that even with this apparent spike, the 3-day averages show that there is still a downward trend in case numbers.
Governor Cuomo also confirmed that social distancing, alongside business and school closures, was having the intended effect. “Our behavior affects the number of cases,” explains Cuomo. “They are not descending on us from heaven.”
At a briefing yesterday, Cuomo explained that he was currently in talks with governors in New Jersey and Connecticut; they are already developing plans to restart life once the pandemic subsides.
More on the situation in New York here.
04/08/2020 08:33 GMT — Wuhan eases lockdown, Heilongjiang increases restrictions
Officials in Wuhan, China, the region where COVID-19 first appeared, are easing restrictions as the number of new cases drops to just three in 21 days. However, Heilongjiang province in northern China is experiencing a surge in cases and has started restricting movement.
Heilongjiang shares a border with Russia; the spike in cases appears to be due to travelers bringing the virus in from Russia. The city of Suifenhe in Heilongjiang, which lies directly on the Russian border, has restricted the movement of residents.
Residents of Heilongjiang must stay in their compounds, and only one member of each household can leave once every 3 days to purchase necessities.
Further information about the situation in China here.
04/07/2020 17:35 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/07/2020 15:45 GMT — UK prime minister hospitalized
Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, has been admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital, in London. Last week, the 55-year-old announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19; his symptoms worsened over the weekend.
Johnson is the first head of government to have fallen ill with COVID-19. He is currently receiving oxygen, but he is not on a ventilator. In his absence, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is running the country.
According to a tweet from the prime minister, he is in “good spirits.”
Read more here.
07/04/2020 11:20 GMT — WHO concerned as coronavirus accelerates in Africa
In a recent news release, the WHO raise concerns about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Africa. The continent’s health systems are already fragile, and if the number of cases continues to accelerate, they will be overrun.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa outlines the advance of COVID-19 in Africa:
“It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in [Africa] to reach 100 cases. It took a further 10 days to reach the first thousand. Three days after this, there were 2,000 cases, and 2 days later, we were at 3,000.”
Some countries, such as Kenya, Uganda, and the Republic of the Congo, have already implemented countrywide lockdowns. However, because many people in these countries live in crowded areas and work in the “informal sector,” it is important that they still have access to essential services.
To address this, the press release states, “governments must use these measures in a considered, evidence-based manner, and make sure that people can continue to access basic necessities.”
According to the WHO, they are already “pursuing innovative solutions to the region’s pressing public health problems.”
Read the full news release here.
04/07/2020 11:09 GMT — Glucocorticoids may increase COVID-19 risk
People who take glucocorticoids may be more likely to contract SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, and develop severe symptoms of COVID-19, suggest members of the editorial board of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Glucocorticoids are an effective treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions because they reduce inflammation. Yet, by suppressing the immune system, the drugs also increase the likelihood of contracting viral infections.
The authors recommend that doctors consider all individuals who take glucocorticoids to be at high risk of COVID-19.
However, they caution that it is not clear if the drugs themselves are to blame, or whetherincreased susceptibility to COVID-19 is due to a person’s underlying immune condition, or any other drugs that they make take in combination with glucocorticoids.
Read more here.
04/07/2020 10:05 GMT — Researchers recommend app-based contact tracing
A team from Oxford University, in the United Kingdom, proposes that a mobile app could rapidly speed up the tracing of points of contact among people who develop COVID-19.
The researchers suggest that this could help areas transition from lockdown to what they call “intelligent physical distancing.”
“The mobile app concept we’ve mathematically modeled is simple and doesn’t need to track your location; it uses a low energy version of Bluetooth to log a memory of all the app users with whom you have come into close proximity over the last few days,” explains Dr. David Bonsall, one of the paper’s authors.
“If you then become infected, these people are alerted instantly and anonymously and advised to go home and self-isolate.”
The team discusses the ethical implications that such an app might pose and sets out a number of principles that would ensure trustworthiness.
Read the full story here.
04/06/2020 18:53 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/06/2020 15:20 GMT — Antimalarial drug may not work in severe COVID-19 cases
Specifically, the new trial looks at the drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. The new study builds on previous research, such as a French study by Gautret et al., which reported a 100% viral clearance in patients who took the combination.
However, as some experts have pointed out, this previous study applied the drug combination in people with mild symptoms. So, the new trial wanted to test the efficacy of the combination in people with severe symptoms.
To find out, Jean Michel Molina, from the Infectious Diseases Department at the Saint Louis Hospital, in Paris, France, tested the drug combination in 11 patients, aged 58.7 years on average. Eight of the patients had underlying conditions that placed them at risk of a poor outcome.
Molina and colleagues summarize their findings, saying, “[W]e found no evidence of a strong antiviral activity or clinical benefit of the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for the treatment of our hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19.”
They call for more randomized clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of this drug combination.
The full study can be accessed here.
04/06/2020 13:30 GMT — Globally, the number of deaths has surpassed 70,000, and over 270,000 people have recovered
04/06/2020 12:15 GMT — 5 countries have now had more confirmed cases than China
04/06/2020 10:55 GMT — ‘Urgent plea’ for COVID-19 convalescent plasma
Transferring antibodies from the plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 into critically ill patients may increase their chances of recovery.
The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project have recently launched a website, where they call for individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma.
Although doctors have used this technique for more than 100 years, scientists need to run large trials using convalescent plasma to assess whether it is a viable treatment for COVID-19. Although the FDA are making efforts to facilitate trials, convalescent plasma is in short supply.
Prof. Nigel Paneth, from Michigan State University, explains that “As of April 1, more than 1,100 plasma donors have registered, but we need more. We are developing a coordination plan with Red Cross and other agencies to collect and distribute plasma. We also are working directly with the FDA to obtain clearance to use convalescent plasma in trials and, in certain situations, outside of a trial framework.”
Read more here.
04/06/2020 10:15 GMT — Tiger tests positive for COVID-19
This weekend, a tiger at a New York City zoo tested positive for COVID-19. The 4-year-old tiger, called Nadia, is thought to be the animal with the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States.
In all, seven big cats developed a dry cough. All animals are under veterinary care and doing well. Zoo officials believe that the cats were infected by an asymptomatic member of staff.
In a statement, the United States Department of Agriculture write, “Anyone sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with animals, out of an abundance of caution, including pets, during their illness, just as they would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If a sick person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction.”
Read more on the story here.
04/06/2020 09:02 GMT — CDC: New recommendations regarding facial coverings
The CDC recommend that people wear cloth face coverings in public, particularly in areas with high levels of community-based transmission. However, they stress that surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for medical staff. Read their guide on how to make cloth face coverings here.
In their recent update, the CDC explain that because a proportion of people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection show no symptoms, wearing cloth masks might reduce the chances of these individuals transmitting the virus to others.
They write: “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. […] Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
Read more from the CDC here.
04/03/2020 17:51 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/03/2020 12:45 GMT — US makes up nearly a quarter of global confirmed cases
04/03/2020 11:45 GMT — China’s early travel ban may have prevented 700,000 new cases
A new study estimates that the social distancing measures implemented in China prevented more than 700,000 COVID-19 cases from developing outside of Wuhan between January 23 — when Chinese officials imposed a nationwide travel ban — and February 19.
Prof. Christopher Dye, from the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, and colleagues have used large sets of data from millions of people to track their movements within China.
The researchers accessed public health records and accounted for COVID-19 cases since the start of the outbreak in their analysis.
“Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response, there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan by [February 19],” says Prof. Dye.
“China’s control measures appear to have worked by successfully breaking the chain of transmission — preventing contact between infectious and susceptible people,” Prof. Dye concludes.
Read the full story here.
04/03/2020 09:23 GMT — Research coalition to help low- and middle-income countries
A new coalition of experts from 70 institutions in 30 countries plans to accelerate COVID-19 research in low- and middle-income countries. Of an estimated 536 planned and current trials into COVID-19, only a small percentage are based in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, or Central and South America.
In a commentary published in The Lancet, the members of the coalition explain that although these regions have only registered small numbers of cases, few people have been tested. Moreover, numbers are expected to rise, and the countries’ health systems are unlikely to be able to cope with the expected surge in patients.
The WHO’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says, “We welcome the launch of this coalition, which takes advantage of existing multinational and multidisciplinary expertise in running clinical trials in resource-poor settings.”
She continues, “Although the epicenter is today elsewhere, we must prepare now for the consequences of this pandemic in more resource-constrained settings, or we stand to lose many more lives.”
Read the coalition’s press release here.
04/03/2020 09:15 GMT — Global cases surpass 1 million
As of Thursday, the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 1 million. This includes more than 53,000 deaths and 211,000 recoveries. The countries that have registered the most cases are the United States (over 245,000), Italy (over 115,000), Spain (over 112,000), Germany (over 84,000), and China (over 82,000).
To date, Italy has reported the most deaths (nearly 14,000), followed by Spain (over 10,000), and France (more than 5,300).
Read the latest coronavirus news here.
04/02/2020 18:18 GMT — MNT’s daily video update
04/02/2020 15:00 GMT — More than 200,000 people have now recovered globally
04/02/2020 11:23 GMT — Researchers report significant drop in social contacts after UK lockdown
A team of scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and King’s College London, both in the United Kingdom, compared the number of direct contacts before and after the introduction of the lockdown measures in the U.K. The 1,356 adults taking part in the study self-reported data.
The data have not yet been through the peer review process.
“We found a 73% reduction in the average daily number of contacts observed per participant (from 10.8 to 2.9),” the authors write.
The researchers also estimated the virus reproduction number, or R0, which is the number of people that one person with the virus can pass it on to.
“This would be sufficient to reduce R0 from 2.6 prior to lockdown to 0.62 after the lockdown, based on all types of contact and 0.37 for physical contacts only.”
Prof Brendan Wren, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, commented on the findings:
“The preliminary study based on a large cohort of 1,356 UK adults suggests that the reproduction number can be decreased from 2.6 to approximately 0.62 through social distancing. This is encouraging and suggests that social distancing and hygiene measures can, in time, cut off the number of people that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect. The study is based on behavioral change, which is a “quick and easy way” of estimating the SARS-CoV-2 virus reproduction number, which is very useful, but would need to be validated by independent traditional methods like community testing.”
Read the full study here.
04/02/2020 10:28 GMT — CDC report investigates COVID-19 and the role of underlying conditions
A new report investigates the prevalence of underlying health conditions among individuals with COVID-19. The report shows that 78% of people who required admission to the intensive care unit had underlying health conditions.
The data, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published this week, confirm earlier findings from Italy and China.
The researchers had access to data from 7,162 people in the United States with COVID-19. Around 38% of these people had one or more underlying conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or a chronic lung condition.
The authors write that “persons with underlying health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease appear to be at higher risk for severe COVID-19–associated disease than persons without these conditions.”
The full CDC report is here.
04/02/2020 10:15 GMT — SARS-CoV-2: Viral shedding is most effective early on when symptoms are mild
A new study, appearing in the journal Nature, suggests that shedding of the new coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract is most efficient in the early stages of the disease, when symptoms are still mild.
The researchers examined viral shedding — that is, the ability to expel or excrete the virus — in nine COVID-19 patients from a hospital in Munich, Germany.
The patients were young-to-middle-aged and otherwise healthy. They received treatment for mild upper respiratory tract symptoms. The scientists examined samples from the patients’ throat and lungs, as well as stool, blood, and urine samples. They also analyzed mucus from their respiratory tract.
Results showed high levels of SARS-CoV-2 replication in the upper respiratory tract in the first week of symptoms for all patients. Two of the patients continued to show high viral levels until the 10th or 11th day.
More studies, in larger samples, are necessary.
04/02/2020 09:15 GMT — Chinese city bans eating cats and dogs
Today, the city of Shenzhen announced a ban on consuming cats and dogs; the ban will come into effect on May 1. This decision arrives alongside a larger crackdown on the sale and consumption of wildlife.
The first cases of COVID-19 occurred in people who had visited a wildlife market in Wuhan. Scientists also believe that the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic of 2003 started in animals.
Teresa M. Telecky, Vice President of the wildlife department of Humane Society International, said, “Shenzhen is the first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic.”
More information here.
04/01/2020 12:15 GMT — US now makes up 22% of the global number of cases
04/01/2020 11:59 GMT — UK scientists suggest that loss of smell and taste are symptoms of COVID-19
A team of scientists from King’s College London, in the United Kingdom, have developed an app that allows individuals to self-report COVID-19 symptoms, or lack of symptoms, on a daily basis.
After analyzing data from 1.5 million users between March 24 and 29, the team found that 59% of people who had received a COVID-19 diagnosis experienced a loss of smell and taste.
Among those who had tested negative for COVID-19, only 18% reported a loss of smell and taste.
“When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be 3 times more likely to have contracted COVID-19, according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for 7 days to reduce the spread of the disease,” says Prof. Tim Spector, the senior author of the research.
Commenting on the findings, Prof. Trish Greenhalgh, from the University of Oxford, in the U.K., notes:
“This is an important study because it is the first to demonstrate scientifically and in a large population sample that loss of smell is a characteristic feature of COVID. The researchers also showed that loss of smell occasionally occurs in people who do not have COVID, and that not everyone with COVID loses their sense of smell.”
The findings echo calls by UK ENT, the professional body representing ear, nose, and throat surgery in the U.K., which issued a notice on March 23 suggesting that anosmia, or a loss of smell, could be a sign of COVID-19 in people who may otherwise have no symptoms.
Read more about the research here.
04/01/2020 10:54 GMT — White House predicts 100,000 to 240,000 COVID-19 deaths in the coming months
At a press briefing yesterday, White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx presented modeling data for the next few months. She warned that the number of deaths would likely lie in the range of 100,000 to 240,000, with a peak in cases forecast to occur around the middle of April.
This figure is based on the general population sticking to the containment measures, which are to stay in place until April 30.
Brix also explained that without these measures, as many as 2.2 million people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19.
“There’s no magic bullet,” Birx said. “There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors: each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days.”
Read more here.
04/01/2020 08:50 GMT — China begins reporting asymptomatic cases
As of today, China will include asymptomatic cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in their official reports.
As China returns to comparative normality, concerns of a second wave are ever present. Officials hope that this change in reporting will help minimize public fears.
Although China is still restricting travel to reduce the threat of imported cases, some officials are worried that asymptomatic individuals might spark a second wave. Currently, it is unclear how many people become infected with SARS-CoV-2 but display no symptoms.
Scientists estimate that around 1–3% of SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic, but, at this stage, it is not clear what role these individuals might play in the pandemic. Because asymptomatic carriers do not cough or sneeze, they are, perhaps, less likely to transmit the virus than carriers with symptoms. China’s change in reporting will help experts draw a clearer picture.
The full story here.
04/01/2020 08:28 GMT — FDA authorizes 2-minute COVID-19 test
Yesterday, the U.S. FDA approved another coronavirus test for use in emergencies. The test, designed by Bodysphere Inc., can return a diagnosis in just 2–10 minutes. The FDA have now authorized 22 versions of the COVID-19 test.
The latest test, called the COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid test, will only be available to medical staff. It can detect antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 in human whole blood, serum, or plasma.
According to the FDA, they are “providing unprecedented flexibility” to allow laboratories and manufacturers the ability to test and bring their products to the professionals who need them.
More details here.
03/31/2020 15:07 GMT Infectious disease expert calls for a ‘tremendous effort from everyone’
MNT recently spoke with Prof. Paul Kellam, a professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom.
Prof. Kellam told us about the lessons he learned from his work on SARS and explained how he is collaborating with other researchers to develop a new coronavirus vaccine.
He urged those with COVID-19 symptoms to heed their government’s advice to stay at home. Prof. Kellam also told us how long he thinks the pandemic will last.
Read the interview here.
03/31/2020 14:30 GMT — Global COVID-19 cases exceed 800,000
According to the latest figures, there have been 801,400 cases of COVID-19, globally. This estimate includes 38,743 deaths and 172,657 recoveries.
The United States and Italy are the only two countries to have registered more than 100,000 cases — with 164,610 and 101,739 cases, respectively.
View more statistics here.
03/31/2020 11:41 GMT — Study estimates the rate of death from COVID-19 at 1.38% for confirmed cases
A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases models the case fatality ratio, or rate of death, from COVID-19.
Looking at data from China and overseas, the team — led by Prof. Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom — estimates the rate of death to be 1.38% for confirmed cases of COVID-19.
When the team added unconfirmed cases into the dataset, the infection death rate stood at 0.66%.
However, age played a deciding factor. For those under the age of 60, the infection death rate was 0.15%, while for those over 60, it was significantly higher, at 3.3%.
03/31/2020 09:57 GMT — US reports more than 3,000 deaths
The United States has now recorded more than 164,000 cases of COVID-19, which is more than Italy, Spain, or China. The U.S. has also registered over 3,000 deaths.
With initial setbacks in testing, the U.S. has now tested around 1 million people, or just 3% of the population. According to the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have almost doubled in the past 4 days.
In New York City, officials have appealed for volunteer health workers as cases of COVID-19 fill their hospitals. U.S. health officials continue to urge people to stay indoors.
The story continues here.
03/30/2020 14:15 GMT — New York state deaths pass 1,000
Yesterday, coronavirus-related deaths in New York state passed 1,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city will run out of medical supplies “within weeks.”
In an interview for TIME magazine, de Blasio spoke about the city’s emergency medical system (EMS) being overwhelmed.
The system currently responds to about 6,000 calls per day, which is over 50% more than the standard average.
“This is unprecedented,” de Blasio told TIME. “We have never seen our EMS system get this many calls — ever.”
Read full story here.
03/30/2020 12:15 GMT — Intensive care units in the UK may soon run out of hospital beds
A live model predicts that demand for beds in intensive care units (ICUs) will quickly surpass supply in two regions of the United Kingdom.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge, U.K., have devised the mathematical model, which predicts that ICUs in London and the Midlands will run out of beds by around April 6, 2020.
However, the paper has not undergone peer review yet. Furthermore, its authors acknowledge that they used a number of assumptions to inform their model, which may turn out to be incorrect and bias the results.
To prevent this, the researchers are updating the model regularly, as more information becomes available.
Read more here.
03/30/2020 11:46 GMT — Is the anti-flu drug Avigan an effective treatment?
In recent weeks, an abundance of news stories have circulated about the effectiveness of an anti-flu drug called favipiravir (Avigan) in treating COVID-19. Medical News Today take a critical look at one of the two trials that examined its benefits.
The authors of the trial — which took place in Shenzhen, China — report that favipiravir cleared the virus in an average of 4 days compared with 11 days in the control group.
However, the small trial sample, the fact that it was not randomized, and the various differences between the two groups of patients cast doubt on the findings.
Read more here.
03/30/2020 10:49 GMT — Plasma transfusion shows potential in small trial
Transferring plasma from people who are recovering from COVID-19 to those with severe symptoms might be a viable treatment option, according to a small, recently published trial.
For this study, researchers transferred so-called convalescent plasma into five critically ill people with severe pneumonia who required mechanical ventilation.
Within 3 days, body temperature returned to normal in 4 out of 5 individuals, and their viral loads dropped significantly. Three have now been discharged, and two are in a stable condition.
The study authors explain, “The results highlight the possibility that antibodies from convalescent plasma may have contributed to the clearance of the virus and also the improvement of symptoms.”
They also note that this was a small, uncontrolled study, and that all five patients received antiviral agents, which could have helped reduce their viral loads.
Read the full study here.
03/30/2020 08:52 GMT — No new cases in Wuhan for 6 days
China has seen a steady drop in the number of new cases for 4 days in a row. On Sunday, there were 31 new cases in China, down from 45 on Saturday. In Wuhan, officials have reported no new cases for 6 days.
The government is now turning its attention to the economic damage that the outbreak has caused. Businesses are reopening, and people are beginning to recapture normality. The Chinese government is urging factories to reopen and has extended business loans.
Travel into the country is still heavily restricted, as officials are concerned about a potential second wave of infections.
More information on the situation in China here.
03/27/2020 14:12 GMT — UK’s prime minister and health secretary test positive for COVID-19
Over the last 24 hours, Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, developed fever and a cough. Today, a test confirmed that he has COVID-19. Following Johnson’s announcement, the health secretary Matt Hancock released a statement saying that he, too, had tested positive.
In a video posted to Twitter, Johnson said he plans to “continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. […] I want to thank everybody involved and, of course, our amazing [National Health Service] staff.”
Both Hancock and Johnson report that their symptoms are mild and that they are self-isolating.
Click here for more detail.
03/27/2020 10:34 GMT — WHO launch large-scale trial to test a range of coronavirus treatments.
The WHO recently launched SOLIDARITY, a multipronged study trialing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, both new and old. The treatments they are testing include remdesivir, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir plus ritonavir, and lopinavir plus ritonavir and interferon-beta.
Medical researchers designed all of the treatments above for other conditions, but all have shown some promise against SARS-CoV-2.
Scientists originally trialed Remdesivir as a treatment for Ebola; chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are antimalarial drugs; doctors use lopinavir and ritonavir to treat HIV infections, and interferon-beta treats multiple sclerosis.
Read more about SOLIDARITY here.
03/27/2020 09:30 GMT — Study supports the theory that pangolins are the link between bats and humans
Earlier studies suggested that SARS-CoV-2 started in bats before moving into pangolins, and then, finally, into humans. Later studies concluded that snakes might be the missing link. However, the latest paper refutes this theory, adding more evidence that pangolins are the link.
Most scientists agree that bats are a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2. They also agree that to reach humans, the virus needs an intermediate host.
This was the case in earlier outbreaks. For instance, experts believe that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) first moved from bats to civet cats before infecting humans.
Using larger datasets, the authors of the recent paper identified errors in the earlier analyses and concluded that “the pangolin [is] a missing link in the transmission of [SARS-CoV-2] from bats to human.” However, the authors also explain that we cannot yet rule out other intermediate hosts.
Read more about COVID-19 research here.
03/27/2020 09:03 GMT — Number of US cases surpasses China
As of yesterday, the United States have registered more cases of COVID-19 than China. At the time of writing, the U.S. have reported 85,991 cases, compared with China’s 81,782.
Officials in the most affected areas of the U.S. are increasingly concerned about the lack of medical equipment and hospital beds. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference, “Any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare system.”
Find out more about the situation in the U.S. here.
03/26/2020 14:38 GMT — MNT interviews WHO advisor Prof. David Heymann
Medical News Today recently spoke with WHO advisor Prof. David Heymann. We asked about his past experiences with SARS and MERS, what individuals can do to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and how long he thinks the pandemic might last.
We also asked whether he thought that the general public has a good understanding of the implications of the pandemic; he said:
“People need to understand that they can prevent themselves from getting infected by washing hands and by maintaining a physical distance from each other and that they can protect others by wearing a mask if they’re coughing and sneezing.”
Read the full interview here.
03/26/2020 13:05 GMT — CDC report community spread of the virus in 41 US states and one territory
03/26/2020 12:30 GMT — COVID-19 cases worldwide rise to over 487,000
03/26/2020 08:55 GMT — Number of deaths in Spain surpasses that of China
To date, Spain has registered more than 49,500 COVID-19 cases and over 3,600 related deaths, compared with China’s 81,700 cases and almost 3,300 deaths. This morning, Spain’s parliament voted to extend emergency measures.
This decision, which came after the country registered 738 deaths in a single day, will extend the country’s lockdown for another 15 days. The country has experienced a 10-fold increase in coronavirus cases since it declared a state of emergency on March 14, 2020.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “It is not easy to extend the state of emergency. I am convinced the only efficient option against the virus is social isolation.”
Read more about the situation in Spain here.
03/26/2020 08:41 GMT — The WHO’s director general calls for action
In a press conference yesterday, the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recommended six key actions to defeat the pandemic.
He believes that although we may have missed our first opportunity, we can still stop the pandemic.
He says that legislation designed to keep people isolated will not defeat the virus alone. He explains: “We call on all countries who have introduced so-called ‘lockdown’ measures to use this time to attack the virus. You have created a second window of opportunity. The question is, how will you use it?”
Ghebreyesus recommends six key actions:
- Expand, train, and deploy the healthcare and public health workforce.
- Implement a system to detect every suspected case of COVID-19.
- Increase the production, capacity, and availability of testing.
- Identify, adapt, and equip facilities to treat and isolate patients.
- Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts.
- Refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling the virus.
Read the full transcript here.
03/25/2020 16:15 GMT — COVID-19 is taking its toll on the mental health of frontline healthcare professionals
A recent study, involving nearly 1,300 healthcare workers from 34 hospitals across China, found that frontline staff were 52% more likely to have symptoms of depression than those not on the frontline.
This group was also 57% more likely to show symptoms of anxiety, 60% more likely to experience distress, and nearly three times more likely to have insomnia.
Read the full article here.
03/25/2020 12:05 GMT — COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpass 55,000
03/25/2020 09:46 GMT — Study confirms the importance of social distancing
A recent study underlines how COVID-19’s progress can be slowed by social distancing measures. The authors conclude that 90% of infections in Hubei province, China, were prevented in the period after social distancing began.
The study, which is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, used data from Hubei and statistical modeling. The scientists were particularly interested in individuals who showed no symptoms and were, therefore, interacting as usual. Lead author Prof. Wu Tangchun summarizes their findings:
“By our most conservative estimate, at least 59% of the infected individuals were out and about, without being tested and potentially infecting others. This may explain why the virus spread so quickly in Hubei and is now circulating around the world.”
Read more here.
03/25/2020 08:52 GMT — New York experiences another rise in cases
Yesterday, New York state experienced another swift increase in COVID-19 cases. New York City, with more than 8.5 million densely packed residents, has now reported 192 deaths.
The White House has advised anyone who has recently traveled to or from New York to self-isolate. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told a press conference yesterday:
“Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina, or out to far reaches of Long Island.”
Further information here.
03/24/2020 15:07 GMT — Tokyo Olympics postponed due to coronavirus
Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that they will postpone this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics until 2021. The move was backed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The event was due to begin on July 24 but, according to the IOC’s president Thomas Bach, it will now take place “no later than summer 2021.” The organizers of Tokyo 2020 and the IOC write, in a statement:
“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC president and the prime minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled […] to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games, and the international community.”
More information on the postponement here.
03/24/2020 14:54 GMT — US has potential to become new COVID-19 epicenter
According to Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, the U.S. might soon become the new epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
She says: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet, but it does have that potential.”
At the time of writing, the U.S. have reported 46,485 cases of COVID-19. As Harris says, the U.S. has “a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity.”
More detail here.
03/24/2020 13:24 GMT — United Kingdom begins its first day of extended lockdown measures
After an announcement from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday, the U.K. has stepped up social distancing efforts with three new measures.
The measures involve: stopping public gatherings of more than two people who are not from the same household, closing all nonessential shops and community spaces, such as libraries and playgrounds, and directing everyone to stay at home as much as possible.
The only reasons to leave the house, according to the announcement, are to shop for basics, such as food and medicine, to receive or provide medical care, and to travel to or from work if working from home is not possible. Each day, one outing for exercise is permitted, either alone or with members of the same household.
See the full guidelines here.
03/24/2020 10:44 GMT — The number of deaths in Italy is starting to fall
Yesterday, the Italian civil protection agency reported the smallest increase in new deaths from COVID-19 for four days in a row and the smallest increase in new cases for five days in a row.
The number of new cases stood at 4,789 and the number of new deaths at 602.
“Today is perhaps the first positive day we have had in this hard, very tough month,” Giulio Gallera, the senior health official in Lombardy, the region in Northern Italy with the greatest case load, was cited as saying.
Read more here.
Previous COVID-19 updates available here: