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Nurses and Doctors Sick with COVID Feel Pressured to Get Back to Work

August 12, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Guidance from public health experts has evolved as they have learned more about the coronavirus, but one message has remained consistent: If you feel sick, stay home. Yet hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities have flouted that simple guidance, pressuring workers who contract COVID-19 to return to work sooner than public health standards suggest it’s safe for them, their colleagues or their patients. Some employers have failed to provide adequate paid leave, if any at all, so employees felt they had to return to work — even with coughs and possibly infectious — rather than forfeit the paycheck they need to feed their families.

The Pandemic Appears to Have Spared Africa So Far. Scientist Are Struggling to Explain Why

August 12, 2020

(Science) – Although Africa reported its millionth official COVID-19 case last week, it seems to have weathered the pandemic relatively well so far, with fewer than one confirmed case for every thousand people and just 23,000 deaths so far. Yet several antibody surveys suggest far more Africans have been infected with the coronavirus—a discrepancy that is puzzling scientists around the continent. “We do not have an answer,” says immunologist Sophie Uyoga at the Kenya Medical Research Institute–Wellcome Trust Research Programme. After testing more than 3000 blood donors, Uyoga and colleagues estimated in a preprint last month that one in 20 Kenyans aged 15 to 64—or 1.6 million people—has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, an indication of past infection.

Polio Vaccinations Resume in Pakistan and Afghanistan after Covid-19 Delays

August 12, 2020

(The Guardian) – Polio vaccination campaigns have resumed in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the last two polio-endemic countries in the world – after a “surge” in cases. The pandemic halted campaigns in both countries in March and confirmed cases have now reached 34 in Afghanistan and 63 in Pakistan – where cases are being recorded in areas of the country previously free of the disease.

Moderna Wants to Transform the Body Into a Vaccine-Making Machine

August 12, 2020

(Bloomberg) – The coronavirus vaccines from Moderna Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., and its German rival BioNTech SE propose to immunize people in a radically different way: by harnessing human cells to become miniature vaccine factories in their own right. Instead of virus proteins, the vaccines contain genetic instructions that prompt the body to produce them. Those instructions are carried via messenger RNA, or mRNA.

Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker

August 12, 2020

(New York Times) – The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges modern medicine has ever faced. Doctors and scientists are scrambling to find treatments and drugs that can save the lives of infected people and perhaps even prevent them from getting sick in the first place. Below is an updated list of 20 of the most-talked-about treatments for the coronavirus. While some are accumulating evidence that they’re effective, most are still at early stages of research. We also included a warning about a few that are just bunk.

Russia Approves Coronavirus Vaccine Before Completing Tests

August 11, 2020

(New York Times) – Russia has become the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Tuesday, though global health authorities say the vaccine has yet to complete critical, late-stage clinical trials to determine its safety and effectiveness. Mr. Putin, who told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning that the vaccine “works effectively enough,” said that his own daughter had taken it.

Exclusive: Over 900 Health Workers Have Died of COVID-19. And the Toll Is Rising.

August 11, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – More than 900 front-line health care workers have died of COVID-19, according to an interactive database unveiled Tuesday by The Guardian and KHN. Lost on the Frontline is a partnership between the two newsrooms that aims to count, verify and memorialize every U.S. health care worker who dies during the pandemic. It is the most comprehensive accounting of U.S. health care workers’ deaths in the country.

With Covid-19 Halting Clinical Trials, Wearables Could Be Key–But Data ‘Wild West’ Gets in the Way

August 11, 2020

(STAT News) – The biotech and pharma industries are at a pivotal moment, facing a pandemic that’s caused three out of every four clinical trials worldwide to be suspended or delayed. At the same time that hundreds of companies are racing to move forward with trials for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, thousands more are worrying about how they’ll be able to conduct other trials in the midst of a global lockdown. This is bad for business, and far worse for the patients afflicted by diseases and conditions whose drug trials have been sidelined for months.

Antibody Therapies Could Be a Bridge to a Coronavirus Vaccine–But Will the World Benefit?

August 11, 2020

(Nature) – As the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 rages on, some researchers are focused on a short-term way to treat people with the disease: monoclonal antibodies. Rather than wait for vaccines to coax the body to make its own antibodies, these scientists want to inject designer versions of these molecules to directly disable the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. But mass-produced antibodies, routinely used to treat diseases such as cancer, are complex to manufacture and come with a hefty price tag. That risks placing them beyond the reach of poor countries.

‘A Smoking Gun’: Infectious Coronavirus Retrieved from Hospital Air

August 11, 2020

(New York Times) – Skeptics of the notion that the coronavirus spreads through the air — including many expert advisers to the World Health Organization — have held out for one missing piece of evidence: proof that floating respiratory droplets called aerosols contain live virus, and not just fragments of genetic material. Now a team of virologists and aerosol scientists has produced exactly that: confirmation of infectious virus in the air.

Warp Speed Chief Softens Aggressive COVID Vaccine Targets

August 11, 2020

(Medscape) – The chief of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, the COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics development effort, said the 300 million vaccine doses the program aims to deliver would likely not fully occur until the middle of 2021. And, said Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the program aims to deliver 300 million courses of therapy, not individual doses, as some vaccines will likely require two doses.

Health Officials Are Quitting or Getting Fired Amid Outbreak

August 10, 2020

(ABC News) – Vilified, threatened with violence and in some cases suffering from burnout, dozens of state and local public health leaders around the U.S. have resigned or have been fired amid the coronavirus outbreak, a testament to how politically combustible masks, lockdowns and infection data have become.

Extreme Poverty Rises and a Generation Sees Future Slip Away

August 10, 2020

(Associated Press) – Then a virus mentioned in none of her textbooks arrived, and dreams faded for families, and entire countries, like theirs. Decades of progress in one of modern history’s greatest achievements, the fight against extreme poverty, are in danger of slipping away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world could see its first increase in extreme poverty in 22 years, further sharpening social inequities. 

AI Invents New ‘Recipes’ for Potential COVID-19 Drugs

August 10, 2020

(Science) – As scientists uncover drugs that can treat coronavirus infections, demand will almost certainly outstrip supplies—as is already happening with the antiviral remdesivir. To prevent shortages, researchers have come up with a new way to design synthetic routes to drugs now being tested in some COVID-19 clinical trials, using artificial intelligence (AI) software. The AI-planned new recipes—for 11 medicines so far—could help manufacturers produce medications whose syntheses are tightly held trade secrets. And because the new methods use cheap, readily available starting materials, licensed drug suppliers could quickly ramp up production of any promising therapies.

Children Can Get Severe COVID-19, CDC Says–Especially Black and Hispanic Children

August 10, 2020

(NPR) – While most children who catch the coronavirus have either no symptoms or mild ones, they are still at risk of developing “severe” symptoms requiring admission to an intensive care unit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report released Friday. Hispanic and Black children in particular were much more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19, with Hispanic children about eight times as likely as white children to be hospitalized, while Black children were five times as likely.

Scientists May Be Using the Wrong Cells to Study Covid-19

August 7, 2020

(Wired) – By now there’s little doubt about hydroxychloroquine: It doesn’t work for treating Covid-19. But there’s a bigger, more important lesson hidden in the story of its failure—a rarely mentioned, but altogether crucial, error baked into the early research. The scientists who ran the first, promising laboratory experiments on the drug had used the wrong kind of cells. Instead of testing its effects on human lung cells, they relied on a supply of mass-produced, standardized cells made from a monkey’s kidney. In the end, that poor decision made their findings more or less irrelevant to human health. Worse, it’s possible that further research into novel Covid-19 cures will end up being compromised by the same mistake.

Beirut Explosion: UN Warns of Lebanon Humanitarian Crisis

August 7, 2020

(BBC) – UN agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in Lebanon after Tuesday’s devastating blast in Beirut. Lebanon was already suffering a major economic downturn before the explosion, which left at least 154 people dead, 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless. The World Food Programme said the damage to Beirut’s port would interrupt food supplies and push prices up. The World Health Organization said the health system was seriously damaged, with three hospitals out of action.

Thousands Volunteer for COVID-19 Vaccines Study

August 7, 2020

(Scientific American) – The Coes’ eagerness to offer up their bodies to science reflects the widespread public interest in participating in the pivotal, late-stage clinical trials of the first two COVID vaccine candidates in the United States. Those trials began rolling out July 27. During the next two months, vaccine makers hope to recruit 60,000 Americans to roll up their sleeves to test the two vaccines, one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, a German company, and the other by biotech startup Moderna. While small tests earlier this year showed the preventives were safe and led to participants developing antibodies against the virus, the final phase 3 testing is designed to prove whether the vaccine reduces the risk of infection.

Covid-19 Patients Not Showing Symptoms May Carry Just as Much Virus as Those Who Do, New Study Finds

August 7, 2020

(CNN) – Covid-19 patients not showing symptoms may have similar amounts of the novel coronavirus in their bodies as those who do show symptoms, according to a new study from South Korea. This would suggest that they could still spread the virus to others. The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Thursday, included data on 303 Covid-19 patients who were in isolation in March at a community treatment center in South Korea. The patients, mostly young adults, had a median age of 25.

COVID-19 in Africa: Dampening the Storm?

August 6, 2020

(Science) – Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly and extensively to most countries in the world, resulting in considerable mortality in Europe and the United States, as well as in numerous upper-middle-income countries in South America and Asia. Experts predicted millions of COVID-19 deaths in Africa because many countries in the continent rank poorly on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. However, more than 4 months after the first cases in Africa were detected, prevalence and mortality are still low. It remains unclear if Africa is really spared from substantial cases and deaths. However, differences between Africa and the most affected countries in reliable reporting and death registration, lockdown stringency, demography, sociocultural aspects, environmental exposures, genetics, and the immune system could help to explain the experience of COVID-19 in Africa.

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