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Moral Distress: COVID-19 Shortages Prompt Tough Decisions at Bedside

November 9, 2020

(Medscape) – Choosing which hospitalized COVID-19 patients receive potentially lifesaving care, making urgent calls for ventilators and other equipment, and triaging care based on patient age and comorbidities were among the challenges revealed in new feedback from healthcare leaders and frontline workers. Even though many hospitals have contingency plans for how to allocate resources and triage patient care during crisis capacity, for many providers during the real-world COVID-19 trial of these protocols, they fell short.

UN Urges Resumption of Mass Measles and Polio Vaccinations

November 6, 2020

(The Guardian) – Unicef and the World Health Organization have called for urgent action to prevent millions of avoidable child deaths from measles and polio by resuming mass vaccinations disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. They say that while there is no vaccine against the coronavirus yet, there are very effective immunisations against these two killer diseases, and children should not be left at risk. Measles vaccination prevented 23.2 million deaths between 2000 and 2018, they say, and polio was on the brink of eradication before the pandemic hit, with more than 18 million people walking around who would have been paralysed without a vaccination.

Confused About Covid Brain Fog? Doctors Have Questions Too

November 6, 2020

(Wired) – This mental fuzziness, often referred to as “brain fog,” has become one of a number of reported Covid-19 recovery symptoms. And while patients are often alarmed and frustrated that they can’t resume their normal lives, doctors say it isn’t particularly surprising. “We’ve encountered brain fog and mental fatigue commonly post-infection. We do have experience with this,” says Marie Grill, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic who says it often follows other infections like Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr (better known as “mono”), and other types of herpes viruses. “A lot of us are not surprised at all to be encountering this, because we have seen it so many times,” she says.

Public Health During the Pandemic in India

November 6, 2020

(Science) – In March 2020, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threatening to overwhelm India’s fragile health care ecosystem, the country combined a stringent lockdown of its 1.37 billion population with a program of surveillance and containment of varied effectiveness across states. Testing and data management systems were set up, but the paucity of publicly available data, especially in the initial phase of the pandemic, limited understanding of disease epidemiology and transmission dynamics as well as the effectiveness of control measures. 

COVID-19 Linked to Increased Risk for Parkinson’s

November 6, 2020

(Medscape) – One of the neurologic complications of COVID-19 may be the development of Parkinson’s disease, new data suggest. At least three case reports have been published of relatively young COVID-19 patients who developed clinical parkinsonism, either in isolation or with other neurologic deficits, within 2 to 5 weeks of contracting the disease. A fourth case has not yet been published.

Lung Damage Found in COVID Dead May Shed Light on ‘Long COVID’–Study

November 6, 2020

(Reuters) – A study of the lungs of people who have died from COVID-19 has found persistent and extensive lung damage in most cases and may help doctors understand what is behind a syndrome known as ‘long COVID’, in which patients suffer ongoing symptoms for months. Scientists leading the research said they also found some unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which may explain why it is able to inflict such harm.

Children Produce Weaker Coronavirus Antibodies, Study Finds

November 5, 2020

(The New York Times) – Children infected with the coronavirus produce weaker antibodies and fewer types of them than adults do, suggesting they clear their infection much faster, according to a new study published Thursday. Other studies have suggested that an overly strong immune response may be to blame in people who get severely ill or die from Covid-19. A weaker immune response in children may paradoxically indicate that they vanquish the virus before it has had a chance to wreak havoc in the body, and may help explain why children are mostly spared severe symptoms of Covid, the disease caused by the coronavirus. It may also show why they are less likely to spread the virus to others.

Denmark to Cull 17 Million Mink Amid SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Concerns

November 5, 2020

(The Scientist) – According to government officials in Denmark, mink raised on Danish farms carry a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is less sensitive to antibodies, which they say might thwart vaccine development. Minks readily host and spread the virus and because this strain has now been found in humans, the prime minister announced on November 4 that Denmark would cull the entire stock of its mink farms, which equates to about 17 million animals spread across 1,000 farms. 

‘A Very, Very Bad Look’ for Remdesivir

November 5, 2020

(Science) – Science has learned that both FDA’s decision and the EU deal came about under unusual circumstances that gave the company important advantages. FDA never consulted a group of outside experts that it has at the ready to weigh in on complicated antiviral drug issues. FDA can tap that group, the Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee (AMDAC), to review all available data on experimental treatments and then make recommendations about drug approvals—yet it has not convened once during the pandemic.

Who Should Get a Covid-19 Vaccine First?

November 5, 2020

(New York Times) – But herd immunity is especially difficult to achieve for a brand-new disease like Covid-19. It takes time to make enough vaccine to give it to everyone who would benefit from it, and then it takes even more time to distribute it. And no vaccine completely protects everyone who receives it. Still, even with these limitations, a vaccine can help.

Gene Therapy for Autism-Linked Condition Weakened Legs, Robbing Two People of Ability to Walk

November 5, 2020

(Science) – A small clinical trial of a gene therapy for Angelman syndrome—a rare genetic condition related to autism—is on hold after two participants temporarily lost the ability to walk. The safety issue is important to resolve, experts say, given that the therapy otherwise appears to be effective, and the trial could guide treatment strategies for similar brain conditions.

SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load Predicts Need for Ventilator, Death Risk

November 4, 2020

(Medscape) – When COVID-19 patients are admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, their risk of intubation or death can be estimated based on their viral load, a new study suggests. “This risk can be predicted regardless of how sick they are when they are admitted, what other comorbidities they may have, their age or how many days they had symptoms,” coauthor Dr. Ioannis Zacharioudakis of NYU School of Medicine told Reuters.

‘Is This Worth My Life?’: Traveling Health Workers Decry COVID Care Conditions

November 4, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – As COVID-19 surges across the country, health care systems continue to suffer critical shortages, especially among non-physician staff such as nurses, X-ray technicians and respiratory therapists. To replenish their ranks, facilities have relied on “travelers” like Perea. Staff agencies have deployed tens of thousands nationally since March outbreaks in the Northeast. Now the virus is tearing through rural areas — particularly in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states — stressing the limited medical infrastructure.

More Than 61,000 Children Got COVID-19 Last Week, a Record

November 3, 2020

(Yahoo! News) – More than 61,000 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week — more than in any other week during the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported Monday. In all, 853,635 children have been diagnosed with the virus this year, representing 11.1% of all U.S. cases. The percentage of pediatric cases has risen steadily since mid-April, when children accounted for just 2% of COVID-19 cases in the country.

A Boy’s Passing Came Too Soon, But Not Before His Life Led to Crucial Medical Discoveries

November 3, 2020

(STAT News) – “What he did with NGLY1 alone was pretty powerful,” said Matt Might, referring to the gene involved in his son’s disease. After years of research, it was the discovery of a double mutation in Bertrand’s NGLY1 gene, and the constellation of symptoms linked to it, that explained the cause of the illness and built a worldwide community around it. “There are 70 families on the patient mailing list right now for a disease that eight years ago didn’t exist,” Might said. Bertrand also inspired a quest by his father, an artificial intelligence expert and computer programmer, to employ precision medicine on a wider scale, using genetic data to help tailor treatments to patients with rare and hard-to-treat diseases like his son’s.

Winning Trust for a Vaccine Means Confronting Medical Racism

November 3, 2020

(Wired) – Polls already show rising suspicion of the vaccine, even though, at this point, none of the candidates have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and no final data about safety or efficacy has been released. Several national polls taken since the summer show that up to two-thirds of people plan to wait at least several months after a formula becomes available, to see whether adverse reactions occur. One-quarter to one-third of poll respondents said they plan to never take the vaccine. As the US government scrambles to protect its residents from Covid-19, it is simultaneously having to confront and try to unwind decades of justified distrust.

Tiny Variants in Genes May Dictate Severity of Coronavirus

November 3, 2020

(The Guardian) – Unknown factors are clearly leaving some people vulnerable to the pandemic’s worst effects even though some of them are young, are not overweight and do not suffer from other obvious health problems. Scientists think that tiny genetic differences are causing some to be struck down while many others are spared. And these differences in DNA are now being tracked by researchers who believe they offer a route to developing new drugs that could halt many of the worst consequences of suffering from Covid-19.

Pregnant Women Face Increased Risks from Covid-19

November 2, 2020

(The New York Times) – Federal health officials on Monday added pregnancy to the list of conditions that put people with Covid-19 at increased risk of developing severe illness, including a heightened risk of death. While most pregnant women infected with the coronavirus have not become severely ill, the new caution is based on a large study that looked at tens of thousands of pregnant women who had Covid-19 symptoms.

Hospitals Competing for Nurses as US Coronavirus Cases Surge

November 2, 2020

(Associated Press) – As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the nation and infections and hospitalizations rise, medical administrators are scrambling to find enough nursing help — especially in rural areas and at small hospitals. Nurses are being trained to provide care in fields where they have limited experience. Hospitals are scaling back services to ensure enough staff to handle critically ill patients. And health systems are turning to short-term travel nurses to help fill the gaps.

A Rapid Virus Test Falters in People Without Symptoms, Study Finds

November 2, 2020

(The New York Times) – In a head-to-head comparison, researchers at the University of Arizona found that, in symptomatic people, a rapid test made by Quidel could detect more than 80 percent of coronavirus infections found by a slower, lab-based P.C.R. test. But when the rapid test was used instead to randomly screen students and staff members who did not feel sick, it detected only 32 percent of the positive cases identified by the P.C.R. test.

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