People who have a COVID-19 infection are more likely to develop seizures or epilepsy within the next six months than people who have an influenza infection, according to a study published in the November 16, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The increased risk was more noticeable in children than adults. It was also more noticeable in people who did not need hospitalization for COVID-19 infections.
“While the overall risk of developing seizures or epilepsy was low—less than 1% of all people with COVID-19, given the large number of people who have been infected with COVID-19, this could result in increases in the number of people with seizures and epilepsy,” said study author Arjune Sen, MD, PhD, of the University of Oxford in England. “In addition, the increased risk of seizures and epilepsy in children gives us another reason to try to prevent COVID-19 infections in kids.”
For the study, researchers looked at a health records network for people with COVID-19 infections. They were matched to people who were diagnosed with influenza during the same time period and who were similar in age, sex and other factors, such as other medical conditions. None of the participants had previously been diagnosed with epilepsy or recurrent seizures. The researchers then looked to see whether people developed epilepsy or seizures in the following six months.
There were 152,754 people in each of the COVID-19 and influenza groups.
People who had COVID-19 were 55% more likely to develop epilepsy or seizures over the next six months than people who had influenza. The rate of new cases of epilepsy or seizures was 0.94% in the people who had COVID-19, compared to 0.60% in those who had influenza.
“People should interpret these results cautiously since the overall risk is low,” Sen said. “We do, however, recommend that health care professionals pay particular attention to individuals who may have more subtle features of seizures, such as focal aware seizures, where people are alert and aware of what is going on, especially in the three months following a less severe COVID-19 infection.”
A limitation of the study was that researchers were unable to identify which specific virus variants people were infected with, which could have influenced results.
What are the chances you will contract Covid-19 on a plane flight? A study led by MIT scholars offers a calculation of that for the period from June 2020 through February 2021. While the conditions that applied at that stage of the Covid-19 pandemic differ from those of today, the study offers a method that could be adapted as the pandemic evolves.
The study estimates that from mid-2020 through early 2021, the probability of getting Covid-19 on an airplane surpassed 1 in 1,000 on a totally full flight lasting two hours at the height of the early pandemic, roughly December 2020 and January 2021. It dropped to about 1 in 6,000 on a half-full two-hour flight when the pandemic was at its least severe, in the summer of 2020. The overall risk of transmission from June 2020 through February 2021 was about 1 in 2,000, with a mean of 1 in 1,400 and a median of 1 in 2,250.
To be clear, current conditions differ from the study’s setting. Masks are no longer required for U.S. domestic passengers; in the study’s time period, airlines were commonly leaving middle seats open, which they are no longer doing; and newer Covid-19 variants are more contagious than the virus was during the study period. While those factors may increase the current risk, most people have received Covid-19 vaccinations since February 2021, which could serve to lower today’s risk — though the precise impact of those vaccines against new variants is uncertain.
Still, the study does provide a general estimate about air travel safety with regard to Covid-19 transmission, and a methodology that can be applied to future studies. Some U.S. carriers at the time stated that onboard transmission was “virtually nonexistent” and “nearly nonexistent,” but as the research shows, there was a discernible risk. On the other hand, passengers were not exactly facing coin-flip odds of catching the virus in flight, either.
For a glimpse into the future of SARS-CoV-2 immunity, scientists at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) are investigating how the immune system builds its defenses against common cold coronaviruses (CCCs).
According to a new LJI study, published recently in Cell Host & Microbe, adults have stable memory responses of CCC-fighting antibodies and T cells, presumably derived from multiple exposures to CCCs in childhood. Thanks to this immune cell army, CCC infections in adulthood tend to be infrequent and mild.
These findings may be a clue to how immunity can build up against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the leading researchers think the COVID-19 booster shots available today may be critical for long-term immunity.
COVID-19 was full of surprises early on, causing mild problems in the short term for some people and serious complications for others, according to the American Heart Association.
Long term, it may be just as capricious.
Studies are spotting potential heart and brain problems up to a year after infection with SARS-CoV-2, even in people who had mild COVID-19.
The possible long-term effects include “a myriad of symptoms affecting different organs,” said Dr. José Biller, director of the COVID-19 neurology clinic at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Illinois. “So, it could be the lungs, it could be cardiovascular, it could be the nervous system, it could be mental health or behavioral problems.”
Estimates vary widely on how many people may be affected. Research suggests about 10% to 20% of people experience mid- or long-term issues from COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Months after recovering from mild cases of COVID-19, people still have immune cells in their body pumping out antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Such cells could persist for a lifetime, churning out antibodies all the while.
The findings, published May 24 in the journal Nature, suggest that mild cases of COVID-19 leave those infected with lasting antibody protection and that repeated bouts of illness are likely to be uncommon.
“Last fall, there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “But that’s a misinterpretation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.
The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.
Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.
“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”
Patients with dementia were at a significantly increased risk for COVID-19 — and the risk was higher still for African Americans with dementia, according to a study led by Case Western Reserve University researchers.
Reviewing electronic health records of 61.9 million adults in the United States, researchers found the risk of contracting COVID-19 was twice as high for patients with dementia than for those without it — while among those with dementia, African Americans had close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as Caucasians did.
In addition, patients with dementia who contracted COVID-19 had significantly worse outcomes in terms of hospitalizations and deaths than those who had COVID-19 but not dementia.
The study was published Feb. 9 by the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and highlights the need to protect people with dementia — particularly African Americans — as part of the strategy to control the pandemic.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have proven that the coronavirus can be killed efficiently, quickly, and cheaply using ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs). They believe that the UV-LED technology will soon be available for private and commercial use.
This is the first study conducted on the disinfection efficiency of UV-LED irradiation at different wavelengths or frequencies on a virus from the family of coronaviruses. The study was led by Professor Hadas Mamane, Head of the Environmental Engineering Program at TAU’s School of Mechnical Engineering, Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering. The article was published in November 2020 issue of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.
“The entire world is currently looking for effective solutions to disinfect the coronavirus,” said Professor Mamane. “The problem is that in order to disinfect a bus, train, sports hall, or plane by chemical spraying, you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface. Disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room.
“We discovered that it is quite simple to kill the coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light,” she explained. “We killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs. Our research has commercial and societal implications, given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely and quickly.”
I have to confess that as much as I enjoy riding my bike everyday, the fact that I live on the Chicago Lakefront and have beautiful Lake Michigan is no small consideration. There are also trees and various wildlife available, too.
A study published in Ecological Applications suggests that nature around one’s home may help mitigate some of the negative mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An online questionnaire survey completed by 3,000 adults in in Tokyo, Japan, quantified the link between five mental-health outcomes (depression, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, self-esteem, and loneliness) and two measures of nature experiences (frequency of green space use and green view through windows from home).
More frequent green space use and the existence of green window views from the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness, as well as decreased levels of depression and loneliness.
“Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,” said lead author Masashi Soga, PhD, of The University of Tokyo. “Protecting natural environments in urban areas is important not only for the conservation of biodiversity, but also for the protection of human health.”
I have been writing this blog since March 2010. There are approximately 4000 posts in here. Without a doubt, one of the most incendiary topics in that entire time is … flu shots. I get one every year. My doctor tells me to. I listen to her and I got one on Friday. I think you should, too. In view of the pandemic it is even more important.
As the flu season approaches in the United States, health experts are warning that the addition of another respiratory illness on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could overburden the health care system, strain testing capacity, and increase the risk of catching both diseases at once, according to the University of California San Francisco.
In a bad flu season, which peaks from December to February, 40 million to 50 million Americans may catch the flu, with some 800,000 requiring hospitalization, according to Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco.
“So the worry is that with the onset of the flu season, you’re going to get peaks of flu and COVID-19 cases at the same time,” he said. “Even with a mild flu season, the convergence with a COVID surge could very rapidly overwhelm our hospital system.”
Unlike COVID-19, however, the flu is a familiar foe, and a safe and effective vaccine is available every year.
Studies indicate that homemade masks help combat the spread of viruses like COVID-19 when combined with frequent hand-washing and physical distancing. Many of these studies focus on the transfer of tiny aerosol particles; however, researchers say that speaking, coughing and sneezing generates larger droplets that carry virus particles. Because of this, mechanical engineer Taher Saif said the established knowledge may not be enough to determine the effectiveness of some fabrics used in homemade masks.
Saif, a mechanical science and engineering professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, led a study that examined the effectiveness of common household fabrics in blocking droplets. The findings are published in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters.
Collateral damage from the coronavirus continues to mount. Researchers have identified specific sub-populations of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex, a key part of the brain that regulates social behavior, that are required for normal sociability in adulthood and are profoundly vulnerable to juvenile social isolation in mice.
Loneliness is recognized as a serious threat to mental health. Even as our world becomes increasingly connected over digital platforms, young people in our society are feeling a growing sense of isolation. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many countries to implement social distancing and school closures, magnifies the need for understanding the mental health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. While research has shown that social isolation during childhood, in particular, is detrimental to adult brain function and behavior across mammalian species, the underlying neural circuit mechanisms have remained poorly understood.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.