COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within about 6 feet). People who are infected but do not show symptoms can also spread the virus to others. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.
COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person
How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary. The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread more efficiently than influenza but not as efficiently as measles, which is among the most contagious viruses known to affect people.
The opposite of a gift that keeps on giving is an affliction that keeps on taking away. Latest research seems to indicate that is exactly that case with obesity in relation to COVID-19. Fat chance.
The probability that an obese person will develop severe COVID-19 is high regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, and the presence of co-morbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart or lung disease, according to a study by Brazilian researchers published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice.
The systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant data in the scientific literature focus on nine clinical studies, which in aggregate reported the evolution of 6,577 COVID-19 patients in five countries. The authors conclude that obesity is itself a factor that favors rapid progression to critical illness requiring intensive care and significantly increases the risk of death. The associated research project was supported by São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP .
A new study provides evidence that the seasonal colds you’ve had in the past could protect you from COVID-19. The study also suggests that immunity to COVID-19 is likely to last a long time — maybe even a lifetime.
Seasonal colds are by all accounts no fun, but new research suggests the colds you’ve had in the past may provide some protection from COVID-19. The study, authored by infectious disease experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center, also suggests that immunity to COVID-19 is likely to last a long time — maybe even a lifetime.
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.
It’s fair to say that the novel coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people shop—and also the items they shop for. There has been a shortage of things one might expect: toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and thermometers. But, there are other—more surprising—items like yoga mats, yeast, and, more recently, pulse oximeters.
So, what, exactly, is a pulse oximeter?
It’s an electronic device that clips onto a patient’s finger to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation in his or her red blood cells—the device is useful in assessing patients with lung disease. Pulse oximeters started to fly off store (and online) shelves when people learned that low oxygen saturation levels can be a sign of COVID-19, according to Yale Medicine.
The pulse oximeter pictured here is a neat little gadget that Costco is selling. As you can see from the picture, it monitors your Heart Rate (pulse), Oxygen Level and your Blood Flow. In sum, very useful information provided in a matter of seconds with no penetration of your flesh. There is even a cool graph of your heart beat on the screen. In this period of wearables, the Pulse Oximeter is reminiscent of the first cell phones. But, you can feel like a camp counselor and wear it around your neck using the attached lanyard.
Before I go into explanations and specifications, I want to disclose that I bought one of these and have been using it for a week now. Love it! It is particularly useful when I am stair climbing. I like to get a handle on how my heart rate accelerates on…
I have written about the vulnerability to various maladies from obesity more times than I can remember. Now, it seems, obesity can result in negative implications attached to COVID-19.
Conditions related to obesity, including inflammation and leaky gut, leave the lungs of obese patients more susceptible to COVID-19 and may explain why they are more likely to die from the disease, UTSW scientists say in a new article published online in eLife. They suggest that drugs used to lower inflammation in the lungs could prove beneficial to obese patients with the disease.
COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, varies widely in clinical severity: Some patients are asymptomatic while others have devastating forms that have led to more than 905,000 deaths worldwide.
Several pre-existing conditions have been shown to increase the risk of COVID-19 severity, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes – two conditions that often go hand-in-hand, says Philipp Scherer, Ph.D., director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research and a professor of internal medicine and cell biology at UT Southwestern.
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.
A growing number of studies suggest many COVID-19 survivors experience some type of heart damage, even if they didn’t have underlying heart disease and weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized. This latest twist has health care experts worried about a potential increase in heart failure, according to a report in the American Heart Association News.
“Very early into the pandemic, it was clear that many patients who were hospitalized were showing evidence of cardiac injury,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, chief of the division of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “More recently, there is recognition that even some of those COVID-19 patients not hospitalized are experiencing cardiac injury. This raises concerns that there may be individuals who get through the initial infection, but are left with cardiovascular damage and complications.”
The 3.5% of patients who arrived at the hospital with both kinds of infection were more likely to die. But the study suggests that faster testing and understanding of infection risk factors could help hospital teams figure out who those patients are – and spare the rest of their COVID-19 patients the risks that come with the overuse of antibiotics.
Few people who have undergone nasopharyngeal swabs for coronavirus testing would describe it as a pleasant experience. The procedure involves sticking a long swab up the nose to collect a sample from the back of the nose and throat, which is then analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by the reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have developed a prototype device that non-invasively detected COVID-19 in the exhaled breath of infected patients.
In addition to being uncomfortable, the current gold standard for COVID-19 testing requires RT-PCR, a time-consuming laboratory procedure. Because of backlogs, obtaining a result can take several days. To reduce transmission and mortality rates, healthcare systems need quick, inexpensive and easy-to-use tests. Hossam Haick, Hu Liu, Yueyin Pan and colleagues wanted to develop a nanomaterial-based sensor that could detect COVID-19 in exhaled breath, similar to a breathalyzer test for alcohol intoxication. Previous studies have shown that viruses and the cells they infect emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be exhaled in the breath.
The researchers made an array of gold nanoparticles linked to molecules that are sensitive to various VOCs. When VOCs interact with the molecules on a nanoparticle, the electrical resistance changes. The researchers trained the sensor to detect COVID-19 by using machine learning to compare the pattern of electrical resistance signals obtained from the breath of 49 confirmed COVID-19 patients with those from 58 healthy controls and 33 non-COVID lung infection patients in Wuhan, China. Each study participant blew into the device for 2-3 seconds from a distance of 1–2 cm. Once machine learning identified a potential COVID-19 signature, the team tested the accuracy of the device on a subset of participants. In the test set, the device showed 76% accuracy in distinguishing COVID-19 cases from controls and 95% accuracy in discriminating COVID-19 cases from lung infections. The sensor could also distinguish, with 88% accuracy, between sick and recovered COVID-19 patients. Although the test needs to be validated in more patients, it could be useful for screening large populations to determine which individuals need further testing, the researchers say.
Influenza viruses can spread through the air on dust, fibers and other microscopic particles, according to new research from the University of California, Davis, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The findings, with obvious implications for coronavirus transmission as well as influenza, are published Aug. 18 in Nature Communications.
“It’s really shocking to most virologists and epidemiologists that airborne dust, rather than expiratory droplets, can carry influenza virus capable of infecting animals,” said Professor William Ristenpart of the UC Davis Department of Chemical Engineering, who helped lead the research. “The implicit assumption is always that airborne transmission occurs because of respiratory droplets emitted by coughing, sneezing or talking. Transmission via dust opens up whole new areas of investigation and has profound implications for how we interpret laboratory experiments as well as epidemiological investigations of outbreaks.”
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.”
New Yorkers continue to report much higher than normal rates of depression and anxiety, but much less than at their peak in mid-April. As they witness the surge in COVID-19 cases in states that re-opened early, New Yorkers have also grown significantly more hesitant about resuming normal activities than they reported in May. Employment and housing worries remain a serious concern for many. These are the major findings of the 13th city and statewide tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), June 26-28.
As May 2020 began, 65% of New Yorkers said they would see their doctor for a routine visit beginning at the start of the next month. In June, that number dropped to 33%. In early May, 46% said they would go for a haircut starting June 1, but by the end of June, only 33% said they would do so as of July 1. The number who thought they would go to a restaurant after the first of the following month dropped from 31% to 20%. Moreover, a far greater number of respondents now say they plan to wait for a safe and effective vaccine to be widely available before they take part in many routine activities. In May, for example, 31% said they would wait for a vaccine before going to an outdoor concert; in June, nearly twice that number (60%) said they would wait for a vaccine.