Category Archives: COVID-19

Key Immune System Genes Identified to Explain High COVID Deaths and Spread in Northern Italy Versus Fewer Cases and Deaths in the South

One of my biggest problems in dealing with Covid-19 has been sorting out the information that we are deluged with on a daily basis. I thought this explanation from the Sbarro Health Research Organization was a help.

Not long after the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in China, Italy was hard-hit by the infection and rapidly became one of the countries with the highest mortality rate. The disease was first detected on February 20 in Lombardy, a region in the Northern area, and rapidly spread throughout the country. The Southern regions and the Islands, however, registered much lower infection rates even though a massive migration from the affected regions to the South was recorded before the national lockdown.

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What spared the South of Italy from such a heavy disease burden? Various reasons have been proposed including that milder climate conditions in the South could have helped to prevent viral spreading, but none so far convincingly explained the different incidence rates throughout the country.

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New model connects respiratory droplet physics with spread of Covid-19

Respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze travel farther and last longer in humid, cold climates than in hot, dry ones, according to a study on droplet physics by an international team of engineers. The researchers incorporated this understanding of the impact of environmental factors on droplet spread into a new mathematical model that can be used to predict the early spread of respiratory viruses including COVID-19, and the role of respiratory droplets in that spread.

Photo Abhishek Saha, UC San Diego

The team developed this new model to better understand the role that droplet clouds play in the spread of respiratory viruses. Their model is the first to be based on a fundamental approach taken to study chemical reactions called collision rate theory, which looks at the interaction and collision rates of a droplet cloud exhaled by an infected person with healthy people. Their work connects population-scale human interaction with their micro-scale droplet physics results on how far and fast droplets spread, and how long they last.r

Their results were published June 30 in the journal Physics of Fluids.

“The basic fundamental form of a chemical reaction is two molecules are colliding. How frequently they’re colliding will give you how fast the reaction progresses,” said Abhishek Saha, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California San Diego, and one of the authors of the paper. “It’s exactly the same here; how frequently healthy people are coming in contact with an infected droplet cloud can be a measure of how fast the disease can spread.”

They found that, depending on weather conditions, some respiratory droplets travel between 8 feet and 13 feet away from their source before evaporating, without even accounting for wind. This means that without masks, six feet of social distance may not be enough to keep one person’s exhalated particles from reaching someone else.

“Droplet physics are significantly dependent on weather,” said Saha. “If you’re in a colder, humid climate, droplets from a sneeze or cough are going to last longer and spread farther than if you’re in a hot dry climate, where they’ll get evaporated faster. We incorporated these parameters into our model of infection spread; they aren’t included in existing models as far as we can tell.”

The researchers hope that their more detailed model for rate of infection spread and droplet spread will help inform public health policies at a more local level, and can be used in the future to better understand the role of environmental factors in virus spread.

They found that at 35C (95F) and 40 percent relative humidity, a droplet can travel about 8 feet. However, at 5C (41F) and 80 percent humidity, a droplet can travel up to 12 feet. The team also found that droplets in the range of 14-48 microns possess higher risk as they take longer to evaporate and travel greater distances. Smaller droplets, on the other hand, evaporate within a fraction of a second, while droplets larger than 100 microns quickly settle to the ground due to weight.

This is further evidence of the importance of wearing masks, which would trap particles in this critical range.

The team of engineers from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, University of Toronto and Indian Institute of Science are all experts in the aerodynamics and physics of droplets for applications including propulsion systems, combustion or thermal sprays. They turned their attention and expertise to droplets released when people sneeze, cough or talk when it became clear that COVID-19 is spread through these respiratory droplets. They applied existing models for chemical reactions and physics principles to droplets of a salt water solution–saliva is high in sodium chloride–which they studied in an ultrasonic levitator to determine the size, spread, and lifespan of these particles in various environmental conditions.

Many current pandemic models use fitting parameters to be able to apply the data to an entire population. The new model aims to change that.

“Our model is completely based on “first principles” by connecting physical laws that are well understood, so there is next to no fitting involved,” said Swetaprovo Chaudhuri, professor at University of Toronto and a co-author. “Of course, we make idealized assumptions, and there are variabilities in some parameters, but as we improve each of the submodels with specific experiments and including the present best practices in epidemiology, maybe a first principles pandemic model with high predictive capability could be possible.”

There are limitations to this new model, but the team is already working to increase the model’s versatility.

“Our next step is to relax a few simplifications and to generalize the model by including different modes of transmission,” said Saptarshi Basu, professor at the Indian Institute of Science and a co-author. “A set of experiments are also underway to investigate the respiratory droplets that settle on commonly touched surfaces.”

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Our ability to focus may falter after eating one meal high in saturated fat

Fatty food may feel like a friend during these troubled times, but new research suggests that eating just one meal high in saturated fat can hinder our ability to concentrate — not great news for people whose diets have gone south while they’re working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study compared how 51 women performed on a test of their attention after they ate either a meal high in saturated fat or the same meal made with sunflower oil, which is high in unsaturated fat.

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Indirect adverse effects of COVID-19 on children and youth’s mental, physical health

Despite reports that children and young people may be less likely to get coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than older adults, there may be substantial indirect adverse effects of the disease on their physical and mental health, according to an analysis in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

“While children and young people seem rarely to be victims of severe COVID-19, we should anticipate that they will experience substantial indirect physical, social and mental health effects related to reduced access to health care and general pandemic control measures,” says Dr. Neil Chanchlani, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

The authors describe a range of potential adverse effects and contributing factors as well as mitigation strategies for health care providers and health systems.

Adverse effects include:

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Robotic Cats ‘Purr-fect’ Companions for Seniors Isolated Due to COVID-19

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it Department.

In the wake of widespread social distancing and isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people who have pets have gained a greater appreciation for the unconditional love and companionship they provide. However, for many older adults, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease and/or related dementias (ADRD), caring for a pet is difficult. Moreover, because of the pandemic, people with ADRD and their caregivers remain alone for extended periods of time.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing provide the   “purr-fect” solution to comfort and engage older adults with ADRD – interactive robotic cats. Designed to respond to motion, touch and sound, these interactive robotic pets offer an alternative to traditional pet therapy. Robotic cats and dogs are usually given to people with ADRD, but data has shown that using these pets to decrease social isolation for older adults is highly successful.

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Responding to challenges of older adults with COVID-19

Older adults with COVID-19 who survive hospitalizations and return to their homes confront substantial health challenges and an unpredictable future. Early evidence suggests that complex and long-term physical, functional, cognitive, and emotional negative health consequences will be the norm for them. However, the trajectories of health care needs of older adults with COVID-19 in the weeks and months following hospital discharge have yet to be identified.

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In an article in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy, three researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) explain how the core components of the Transitional Care Model, along with early findings regarding the unique concerns of those with COVID-19, suggest a path for immediate practice and policy responses to caring for this population as they transition from the hospital back to the community.

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Watch how soap works to protect you from the coronavirus

One picture is worth a thousands words department. In this case, one moving picture in the form of the above video. Watch and learn.

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Study in Chinese Doctors Shows Mental Toll of COVID-19 Caring

They worked in hospitals hundreds of miles from the epicenter of COVID-19. Their city of 24 million people locked down hard enough, and did enough testing, that it only had a few hundred cases of the disease.

But hundreds of young Chinese doctors in a new study still experienced a sharp drop in mood, a  rise in depression and anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of their fear of workplace violence, in just the first month of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new findings, published in JAMA Network Open by an American and Chinese team, show in stark terms the potential mental toll of being a frontline healthcare worker in the time of COVID-19.

The rise in symptoms among 385 first year medical residents in Shanghai contrasts with data from members of the previous year’s crop of residents who took part in the same study from 2018 to 2019.

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Report examines meaning of false-negative COVID-19 tests

As communities across the U.S. have struggled to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have focused on the lack of widespread testing as a major barrier to safely reopening the country. As progress has been made on this front, concern has shifted to testing accuracy, predominantly with antibody tests, which are designed to identify prior infection.

But according to a new Dartmouth-led paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more emphasis should be placed on addressing the inaccuracy of diagnostic tests, which play a key role in containing the pandemic.

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Chapman University national study highlights wide-ranging effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Everyone experiences events in their own unique way. Take the COVID-19 pandemic – please. (With apologies to Henny Youngman). Turns out there is a negative bias to most peoples’ perceptions.

The survey examined the experiences of 4,149 adults living in the United States and how the crisis is impacting their mental health, physical health, romantic relationships, encounters of prejudice.

The Chapman University National COVID-19 and Mental Health Survey provides an in-depth look at the experiences of 4,149 adults living in the United States. The study asked questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting people’s mental health, physical health, romantic relationships and encounters of prejudice and discrimination.

What Are the Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Behaviors?

Conducted at the end of April 2020, survey findings revealed that most people are staying home more than normal (89%), and the majority reported feeling more stressed (61%), nervous, anxious, or on edge (60%), and feeling down, depressed, or hopeless (45%) than normal due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People attributed the changes in their health behaviors to the pandemic, with about one-third reporting eating more because of stress (37%), eating more junk food (41%) and getting less exercise (35%).

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Smokers may have more receptors for the new coronavirus

As if smoking weren’t bad enough for you, it seems the new coronavirus likes it, too. The lungs of people who smoke may contain more of the receptors that the new coronavirus uses to invade cells. This could explain why people with the virus who also smoke appear to be particularly vulnerable to severe illness.

The majority of people who acquire SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, experience mild-to-moderate symptoms and will fully recover without hospital treatment.

However, several studies suggest that people who smoke are significantly more likely than people who do not to develop a severe form of the illness.

For example, according to a recent study of COVID-19 cases in hospitals in mainland China, 11.8% of people who smoked had a nonsevere form of the disease, while 16.9% had severe disease.

To break into cells and start replicating itself, the virus latches onto a protein receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is present in the cells’ membranes.

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Heart attacks, heart failure, stroke: COVID-19’s dangerous cardiovascular complications

Like the gift that keeps on giving, COVID-19 is the plague that keeps on taking. It turns out that the affliction can cause complications with other medical conditions.

COVID-19 can cause serious cardiovascular complications including heart failure, heart attacks and blood clots that can lead to strokes, emergency medicine doctors report in a new scientific paper. They also caution that COVID-19 treatments can interact with medicines used to manage patients’ existing cardiovascular conditions.

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The new paper from UVA Health’s William Brady, MD, and colleagues aims to serve as a guide for emergency-medicine doctors treating patients who may have or are known to have COVID-19. The authors note that much attention has been paid to the pulmonary (breathing) complications of COVID-19, but less has been said about the cardiovascular complications that can lead to death or lasting impairment. Continue reading

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Just one meal with saturated fat may cloud mental focus -Study

Fatty food may feel like a friend during these troubled times, but new research suggests that eating just one meal high in saturated fat can hinder our ability to concentrate – not great news for people whose diets have gone south while they’re working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

saturated-fat

The study compared how 51 women performed on a test of their attention after they ate either a meal high in saturated fat or the same meal made with sunflower oil, which is high in unsaturated fat. Continue reading

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Filed under brain, brain function, brain health, concentration, COVID-19, mental focus, saturated fat, saturated fats

How good are face shields? – JAMA

There are a plethora of masks around, homemade as well as store bought. The range of effectiveness is vast. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that face shields may be a worthwhile alternative.

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Face shields come in various forms, but all provide a clear plastic barrier that covers the face. For optimal protection, the shield should extend below the chin anteriorly, to the ears laterally, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield’s headpiece. Face shields require no special materials for fabrication and production lines can be repurposed fairly rapidly. Numerous companies, including Apple, Nike, GM, and John Deere, have all started producing face shields. These shields can be made from materials found in craft or office supply stores. Thus, availability of face shields is currently greater than that of medical masks.

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Heating could be best way to disinfect N95 masks for reuse

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 face masks have been in short supply. Health care workers, in particular, desperately need these masks to protect themselves from the respiratory droplets of infected patients. But because of the shortage, many have to wear the same mask repeatedly. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano, the American Chemical Society publication have tested several methods for disinfecting N95 materials, finding that heating them preserves their filtration efficiency for 50 cycles of disinfection.

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N95 masks contain a layer of “meltblown” polypropylene fibers that form a porous, breathable network. To help capture smaller particles that could slip through the holes, the fibers are electrostatically charged. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended several methods for disinfecting N95 masks, such as heating, ultraviolet (UV) radiation and bleach treatment, but so far they have not been tested extensively, especially for multiple rounds of disinfection. Yi Cui and colleagues wanted to compare five of the methods that could reasonably be used within a hospital setting to see how mask materials hold up to repeated disinfections. Continue reading

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Calming your mind – Mayo Clinic

The coronavirus attacks us on a number of fronts, respiratory system big time. But, living in the shadow of the virus takes a toll on all of us whether we succumb to the disease or not. It has changed our daily lives in many stressful ways. The following is from Dr. Amit Sood , former internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. He was director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and was chair of the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.

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Imagine it is spring 2025

Tucked in your blanket, trying to sleep at night, your mind travels back five years.

You remember the fear — fearing doorknobs, grocery bags, light switches, sneezes, handshakes and hugs.

You remember the sadness — the loss of freedom, time with colleagues, birthday parties, sleepovers, visits to the mall.

You remember the anger — anger at human greed, irrationality, willful ignorance.

You remember the grief — sobbing at the loss of fellow beings who breathed their last breath alone in an ICU to the sound of a ventilator.

But it’s not all negative.

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