Health – News Net Daily https://newsnetdaily.com an integrated news site covering all the news from all over the world, with a new vision that covers all the news as it happens from our different sources. Sat, 05 Sep 2020 12:10:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5 400 people per day died in UK’s care homes at peak of Covid crisis https://newsnetdaily.com/400-people-per-day-died-in-uks-care-homes-at-peak-of-covid-crisis/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 12:10:09 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/400-people-per-day-died-in-uks-care-homes-at-peak-of-covid-crisis/

More than 400 care home residents were dying a day from coronavirus at the height of Britain’s crisis, analysis shows.

Fatalities breached this level for 11 days in a row in mid-April after spiking by five-fold at the start of the month.

Analysis of medical records by the PA news agency found care home deaths rose from 93 on April 1 to a record-high of 490 on April 17. 

There were more than 3,000 fatalities involving the disease in a single week leading up to that date.

Separate Office for National Statistics figures shows more than 1,000 care home residents were dying per day from all causes, including Covid. 

Very few care home residents or staff were swabbed for the infection at the time because tests were reserved for the sickest hospital patients and NHS workers. 

It means thousands of cases went undiagnosed as the virus raced through the social care sector. 

Experts said the findings again highlights how care homes were thrown to the wolves during the UK’s Covid response.

More than 400 care home residents were dying a day from coronavirus at the height of Britain’s crisis, analysis shows 

Separate Office for National Statistics figures suggest up to 1,000 care homes residents may have been dying per day in April, when suspected cases were included

Separate Office for National Statistics figures suggest up to 1,000 care homes residents may have been dying per day in April, when suspected cases were included 

PA analysed data from the UK’s statistics agencies to reveal the day-by-day death toll up to the end of July in all four home nations. 

More than 25,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes from mid March without being tested for the disease.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR CARE HOMES? A TIMELINE OF FAILINGS

FEBRUARY – SAGE scientists warned Government ‘very early on’ about the risk to care homes

Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, revealed in April that he and other senior scientists warned politicians ‘very early on’ about the risk COVID-19 posed to care homes.   

He said: ‘So very early on we looked at a number of topics, we looked at nosocomial infection very early on, that’s the spread in hospitals, and we flagged that as something that the NHS needed to think about. 

‘We flagged the fact that we thought care homes would be an important area to look at, and we flagged things like vaccine development and so on. So we try to take a longer term view of things as well as dealing with the urgent and immediate areas.’

The SAGE committee  met for the first time on January 22, suggesting ‘very early on’ in its discussions was likely the end of January or the beginning of February. 

MARCH – Hospital patients discharged to homes without tests

In March and April at least 25,000 people were discharged from NHS hospitals into care homes without getting tested for coronavirus, a report by the National Audit Office found.

This move came at the peak of the outbreak and has been blamed for ‘seeding’ Covid-19 outbreaks in the homes which later became impossible to control.

NHS England issued an order to its hospitals to free up as many beds as they could, and later sent out joint guidance with the Department of Health saying that patients did not need to be tested beforehand. 

Chair of the public accounts committee and a Labour MP in London, Meg Hillier, said: ‘Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.’ 

MARCH – Public Health England advice still did not raise alarm about care home risk and allowed visits

An early key error in the handling of the crisis, social care consultant Melanie Henwood told the Mail on Sunday, was advice issued by Public Health England (PHE) on February 25 that it remained ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes would become infected as there was ‘currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the UK’.

Yet a fortnight earlier the UK Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling committee had concluded: ‘It is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will become established in the coming weeks.’

On March 13, PHE advice for care homes changed ‘asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell’ – but visits were still allowed.

Three days later, Mr Johnson said: ‘Absolutely, we don’t want to see people unnecessarily visiting care homes.’

MARCH/APRIL – Testing not readily available to care home residents

In March and April coronavirus swab tests – to see who currently has the disease – were rationed and not available to all care home residents suspected of having Covid-19.

Government policy dictated that a sample of residents would be tested if one showed symptoms, then an outbreak would be declared and anyone else with symptoms presumed to be infected without a test.

The Department of Health has been in control of who gets Covid-19 tests and when, based on UK testing capacity. 

MARCH/APRIL – Bosses warned homes didn’t have enough PPE 

Care home bosses were furious in March and April – now known to have been the peak of the UK’s epidemic – that their staff didn’t have enough access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and aprons.

A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health saw the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’. 

Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.

It said the situation around PPE, which was by then mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.

A shortage of PPE has been a consistent issue from staff in care homes since the pandemic began, and the union Unison revealed at the beginning of May that it had already received 3,600 reports about inadequate access to PPE from workers in the sector.

APRIL – Care home deaths left out of official fatality count

The Department of Health refused to include people who had died outside of hospitals in its official daily death count until April 29, three weeks after deaths had peaked in the UK. 

It started to include the ‘all settings’ measure from that date and added on 3,811 previously uncounted Covid-19 deaths on the first day.

The error allowed the virus to race through the sector and kill more than 17,000 elderly residents.

There were harrowing reports of staff having to craft their own masks and aprons out of bin bags and old t shirts as workers struggled to access personal protective equipment (PPE).

And ministers and experts didn’t consider care home residents were being put at risk of Covid-19 because of agency staff working across multiple homes, England’s chief medical officer admitted. 

Part-time carers and bank staff who were infected but showed no symptoms were able to move freely between care homes at the start of the crisis without being tested. 

Staff on zero hours contracts also went to work despite feeling ill because they were not guaranteed sick pay, which helped the disease invade the homes.  

Professor Chris Whitty has since apologised for the error and said it seemed glaringly ‘obvious in retrospect’.

Reacting to the findings, Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, said taff movement was of ‘huge’ significance in aiding infection spread in the absence of effective testing.

It wasn’t until April 26 that Public Health England finally told he first UK providers to restrict staff movements. By this point, 9,074 care home deaths had occurred across the UK.

By April 28, when the first UK nation announced testing for all care home staff, regardless of symptoms, 700 more care home residents had died. 

Professor Heneghan said the delays were due to a lack of clinical experience in the Government’s advisory team and an absence of leadership.

Acknowledging care homes faced high levels of staff off-sick or self-isolating, he said: ‘The Government should have advised that agency staff, if used, should be employed in a single care home and not travel between multiple care homes. That advice should have been given in the middle of March.’

This should have been accompanied by funding to increase staffing levels, he added.

He believes this should be applied going into winter, but has seen no ‘sense of urgency’ about protecting care homes.

Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said guidance has been ‘slow to come to fruition’ and addressing this, particularly with regards to visits, is a matter of urgency.

He added: ‘Many care homes locked down before national guidance came into force. Unfortunately patients were discharged from hospital without testing and this, compacted with insufficient PPE, created huge challenges for care homes.

‘Routine testing is absolutely essential in order to establish confidence in the system for residents, staff, relatives and beyond.’

The potential risks of staff movement were first discussed at a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on April 21.

Dr Ian Hall co-authored the paper discussed, which was not made public until June 19.

The University of Manchester academic sid concerns around staff movement should have been made public as soon as possible and that, given capacity issues, he believes staff should have been prioritised for testing over symptomatic residents.

But he said: ‘What we weren’t aware of at the time back in April and May was the complexity of the staffing situation, and so one of the concerns was, I know, ‘if we go too hard on the potential for staff being a vehicle for transmission, then a lot of staff might be absent and that might affect the care needs of the otherwise healthy but vulnerable residents’.

‘So it’s a very delicate balancing act between trying to limit infection introduction and ensuring care is still provided.’

MHA, a UK care home provider, said mistakes must not be repeated and called for more funding, regular tests and ‘no slip ups or delays’.

Chief executive Sam Monaghan said: ‘What this analysis does is confirm that during the peak of the virus the sector, despite following all of the best infection control measures, were not supported with what turned out to be the additional critical tools we needed to manage the spread of the virus.’

Unison senior national officer Gavin Edwards said social care must be treated as an ‘essential public service’ with pay and workforce conditions prioritised, to avoid a repeat of the first wave.

He said: ‘Social care workers are often paid poverty wages, employed on zero hours contracts and given no sick pay. In addition, many have faced a massive drop in income if they follow guidance and self-isolate. This clearly helped to drive infection rates in the sector.’

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected, including testing all residents and staff, provided 200 million items of PPE, ring-fenced £600 million to prevent infections in care homes and made a further £3.7 billion available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic – including in adult social care.

‘As a result of actions taken, almost 60 per cent of England’s care homes have had no outbreak at all and the proportion of coronavirus deaths in care homes is lower in England than many other European countries.’ 

NEED TO RESTRICT STAFF MOVEMENT ‘OBVIOUS’ FROM MARCH, SAY CARE HOMES 

Care homes have said the need to restrict the movement of staff between homes to help limit the spread of coronavirus was ‘obvious’ from March.

Staffing is one of several factors thought to have played a part in the spread of Covid-19 within care homes, including the rapid discharge of thousands of hospital patients, and struggles to access personal protective equipment (PPE) and regular tests.

Aspens, which provides services for people with learning disabilities and autism in 45 locations across Kent and Sussex, limited staff movement between homes on March 16.

Staff carried overnight bags to work in case they needed to move in, while others moved into temporary accommodation away from their families to minimise the chances of spreading infection.

The provider has seen no cases in residents, many of whom are over 60, and just one in a staff member, who self-isolated for more than a week before testing positive.

Chief executive Robert Shanahan said the Government should have provided clear instructions ‘very early on’.

It was not until mid-May that the Westminster Government issued guidance to this effect.

Mr Shanahan said he knows of care homes unable to do this because of high levels of staff self-isolating or off sick, while others had felt they should not go against March guidance suggesting English providers should share workforces.

He said: ‘It’s pretty obvious… if you’ve got a group of vulnerable people due to a variety of health conditions, you’re allowing people to come and go, and in some cases go to a hospital and come back into services without testing, it’s obvious what’s going to happen next.’

Mr Shanahan added: ‘The Government had a responsibility, as our leaders in this country, to issue advice that would have protected more people, would have reduced the risk to their loved ones, and would have reduced the risk to the most vulnerable people in our society.

‘And I think that’s been lost amongst it all – we, as a society, have a responsibility to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and actually the Government failed.’

HC One closed its 329 UK care homes to non-essential visitors, including families, on March 12.

Director of standards Liz Whyte said staff working across homes were offered the same hours in a single home, and within each home cohorted staff to work in particular areas.

She told the PA news agency: ‘That was very early, as soon as it was recognised that that’s where the potential threat was coming from, that reducing the footfall was very important, so it was very early on in the journey.

‘And of course testing wasn’t available at that time, so we had to treat everybody as if they had the virus, because we didn’t know. And what we did know is that there were a number of people asymptomatic.’

Since March, the homes have seen a more than 50% reduction in use of agency care staff, who are block-booked so they cannot work elsewhere.

Ms Whyte added: ‘Some of the things we’ve done have been before the guidance has come out because we’ve known that it’s the right thing to do. We closed the homes down before the Government guidance came out because we could see what was coming and felt we needed to do that.’

Little Wakering House, a 13-bed residential home in Essex for adults with learning disabilities, has seen no deaths or suspected cases.

Its oldest resident is a 65-year-old man who also has dementia.

The home paused all visits from March 16 and stopped using agency staff on March 23, manager Mark Topps said.

He and other staff members covered night or weekend shifts usually staffed by agencies, sometimes working 70-hour weeks to minimise footfall.

Mr Topps told PA: ‘It just seemed like a logical thing to do, but that was way before the guidance came to lock down care homes and to restrict staff movements.’

Another large UK provider, which asked to remain anonymous, said none of its staff moved between more than two homes, but further restrictions would have been difficult due to so many self-isolating.

They added: ‘Regular testing was the game changer, but by the time we had regular access to testing we were past the peak.’

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New White House coronavirus adviser Atlas says he’s a ‘straight shooter’ https://newsnetdaily.com/new-white-house-coronavirus-adviser-atlas-says-hes-a-straight-shooter/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 10:55:05 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/new-white-house-coronavirus-adviser-atlas-says-hes-a-straight-shooter/

Atlas, a neuroradiologist who wrote a book on magnetic resonance imaging, said it doesn’t matter that he has no expertise in epidemiology or infectious diseases; he accused public health experts of ignoring data; said the US was doing better compared to Europe in terms of coronavirus deaths and claimed — incorrectly — that the case fatality rate in the US is down by more than 90%.

Atlas said ongoing restrictions to try to control the coronavirus pandemic are having worse effects than the virus itself.

“The impact of prolonging the lockdown is worse than the impact of the disease,” Atlas told the BBC Radio Newshour.

“There is a worse outcome from prolonging the lockdown and I think everyone knows that,” said Atlas, who is also a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

“We are not advocating – I am not advocating – less mitigation. What I’m advocating is using logic and rational reasoning to understand the harms of locking down,” Atlas said.

Atlas referred to reports showing some cancer patients are skipping chemotherapy, stroke patients are not going to the ER, childhood immunizations are down, and more people have contemplated suicide during lockdown.

“This is because of the lockdown. This is because of the isolation. This is not direct damage from the virus,” he said.

Internal tensions and a resignation to virus' spread govern President Trump's pandemic response

Atlas has been criticized for comments made earlier this year in defense of a herd immunity strategy for handling the pandemic. He has denied this and denied that he argued for letting the pandemic run its course.

“I have never, literally never, advised the President of the United States to pursue a strategy of herd immunity, of opening the doors and letting people get infected. I have never advised that, I have never advocated for that to the task force, I have never told anybody in the White House that that’s what we should be doing,” Atlas said.

He also said that the concept of herd immunity is not controversial.

A herd immunity strategy to fight the pandemic can be 'dangerous,' experts say. Here's why

“It is known to exist, if you don’t understand herd immunity as an immunologist or as a doctor or anyone involved in the discussion about this, there’s something, you know, missing from your knowledge,” Atlas said. “Herd immunity is a phenomenon.”

Herd immunity develops when enough people get an infection and when there is a vaccine, Atlas said.

“That is the whole purpose of generating a vaccine,” he said. “That is the main purpose of giving widespread vaccination.”

Trump adds coronavirus adviser who echoes his unscientific claims

The President talking about herd immunity shows that “he’s fluent with the topic,” according to Atlas. Not that “there’s some kind of an overt strategy of pushing infection, letting it go widespread throughout the population. That is a complete lie.”

“The reality is that the strategy of the President is actually quite reasonable and almost everyone would think it’s reasonable if they weren’t so politicized,” said Atlas.

Some of Atlas’s comments closely mirrored claims made by President Trump.

“We know what’s going on here… We’re doing much better. The case fatality rate is down in the United States by probably 90% at this point,” he said. It is not clear where this assertion comes from — especially since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it does not have precise data on the total number of infections in the US — one of the numbers that would be needed to accurately calculate a fatality rate.

For Trump, false claims go way back

BBC Radio’s Newshour questioned Atlas about how the US ranks first globally in terms of coronavirus cases and deaths. “You know what, that’s a completely incorrect assessment of what’s happening,” Atlas said.

“The only really legitimate way to compare countries, if you really want to get down to it – it’s something that most epidemiologists understand – and that is something called excess mortality. And what that means is comparing deaths this year, during the pandemic compared to your baseline,” he said.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has more Covid-19 cases than any other country — 6.2 million — and more deaths — 187,000.

Trump spinning virus failure as a win again by celebrating 'encouraging' progress

“Europe has done 38% worse than the United States in excess mortality. No one talks about this,” Atlas said.

In fact, it’s a number Trump has mentioned frequently, without explaining it. He mentioned it Friday evening in a news conference. Atlas did not explain where that figure come from, either.

When BBC brought up Johns Hopkins University data that shows the United States has the 4th highest number of deaths per 100,000 people – a calculation meant to account for any country’s total population — Atlas said it’s “simply wrong.”

“I’m not trying to run away from it, but that’s not a valid comparison,” he said. “Excess mortality is the way to compare countries. And that kind of number that they’re using is simply wrong. It’s incorrect,” Atlas said.

Atlas also complained about decisions in many states to keep schools physically closed, with distance learning policies in place.

The US coronavirus death toll is projected to reach 410,000 in the next 4 months if mask use wanes

“There’s nothing that’s more of a slam dunk issue on that, than the schools, because the closing of schools to our children is a heinous abuse of public policy,” he said.

Atlas said there is “very little evidence that children significantly, significantly, transmit to adults. There is overwhelming evidence that they do not.”

He said that this is shown from contact tracing studies with genetic analysis from Iceland and contact tracing studies from the Netherlands and Switzerland. The most recent came from August 2 in Switzerland and determined the source of cases in the country.

“I don’t understand why the data keeps being ignored or unknown, or just simply as if it didn’t exist. That is the science,” Atlas said.

There is, in fact, conflicting evidence about whether children transmit coronavirus to adults. Children are less likely than adults to have symptoms but a number of studies have shown they carry virus and may be able to transmit it.

Atlas said people have questioned whether he is qualified to advise about coronavirus when his expertise is in neuroradiology.

“You know I have to laugh at that because there’s a lot of things I’m not, but that’s not why I was asked to be in here,” Atlas said.

Atlas said “it’s sort of silly” to think “there’s some kind of reason that I would need to be a virologist or an immunologist.”

“The reason I’m asked to be in here is because I have a 25-year history of being in academic medicine at the highest levels, in the best institutions in the United States,” he said.

“In that role in my medical career, I specifically was integrating a lot of information from other medical subspecialists, also at the highest levels in these academic medical centers – that’s what people like me do,” he added.

“They come to me with all of their information, and then I help them decide – using deductive reasoning and the rest of the medical science that we have – what’s going on with the patient, what is the management strategy here,” Atlas told BBC.

“I’m a total straight shooter,” he added. “I say what I say, period. The facts are the facts.”

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Losing weight slashes risk of several chronic health conditions… even if you are still obese https://newsnetdaily.com/losing-weight-slashes-risk-of-several-chronic-health-conditions-even-if-you-are-still-obese/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 09:40:18 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/losing-weight-slashes-risk-of-several-chronic-health-conditions-even-if-you-are-still-obese/

Losing weight slashes the risk of developing several chronic health conditions even if people stay obese, research has found.

A major study of more than half a million overweight British adults found that going on a diet has a series of significant health benefits.

Researchers found that losing 13 per cent of your body weight cuts the chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 42 per cent.

A major study of more than half a million overweight British adults found that going on a diet has a series of significant health benefits (stock image used)

It also reduces the chance of going on to develop high blood pressure or sleep apnoea, where your breathing stops and starts as you sleep, by one quarter.

People who lost weight also reduced their risk of getting hip and knee arthritis and high cholesterol by one fifth.

The huge benefits were seen even when people remained obese, with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, after losing weight.

The study, presented yesterday at the European and International Congress on Obesity, was based on GP surgery data for 550,000 UK adults with an average age of 51 gathered over eight years.

Experts said the findings were a ‘wake-up call’ that proves the benefits of even modest weight loss in preventing devastating diseases. 

It follows an announcement from the NHS on Monday that thousands of type 2 diabetics will be offered a three-month 800 calorie soup and shake daily diet. 

Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Western Europe, with two in three adults overweight or obese.

Professor Jason Halford, president elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity which runs the online conference, said: ‘We ignore obesity at our peril. 

‘Weight management is clearly one of the best ways to control diseases including diabetes. 

‘This study shows the importance of investing in prevention and support to help people lose weight now, rather than waiting for them to turn up in hospital with severe complications ten years down the line.’

The researchers, led by Danish healthcare firm Novo Nordisk, weighed participants four years after their initial measurements were taken, by which time 60,000 had lost at least 10 per cent of their body weight.

The average weight loss in this group was 13 per cent of body weight. Many were still obese, but had lost enough weight for it to have a drastic impact on their health. 

The other 492,000 people had not lost weight.

Scientists compared the risk of developing six obesity-related conditions in the two groups.

Study author Dr Christiane Haase said: ‘The difference in the risk of these conditions is striking and indicates that people with obesity could markedly reduce their disease risk through intentional weight loss.’

The research also looked at the impact on heart attack risk, but found no significant reduction.

Professor Nick Finer of Novo Nordisk said: ‘Health policy has been much happier to treat diabetes when it develops rather than the obesity which causes it to develop.

The huge benefits were seen even when people remained obese, with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, after losing weight (stock image used)

The huge benefits were seen even when people remained obese, with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, after losing weight (stock image used) 

‘That is completely illogical. 

‘Now we have evidence that if you lose weight you can prevent these diseases – which are expensive to treat – from developing. 

‘It should be a wake-up call to healthcare providers and policymakers.’

Diabetes alone is estimated to cost the NHS £10billion a year.

Professor Finer said of the study’s findings: ‘This is a major health gain that has the potential to add years to your life.

‘We know that obesity is a serious chronic disease, if you have a BMI of 35 or above you are probably losing about seven years of life expectancy.’ 

Tracy Parker, from the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘To make the healthy choice the easy choice, the Government must urgently put in place the evidence-based measures outlined in its recent obesity strategy, especially a 9pm watershed on TV and online junk food adverts and mandatory calorie labelling.’

Dr Lucy Chambers of Diabetes UK said: ‘We we know losing weight isn’t easy, which is why getting support is important. 

‘We need Government to urgently review provision of weight management services and take action to address the barriers to accessing them.’

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A Son’s Future, a Father’s Final Down https://newsnetdaily.com/a-sons-future-a-fathers-final-down/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 08:25:03 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/a-sons-future-a-fathers-final-down/

BEFORE THE EVER AFTER
By Jacqueline Woodson

Zachariah Johnson Jr. (ZJ) is living a 12-year-old boy’s dream: His father is a star professional football player, he lives in a comfortable home in the suburbs with a half basketball court upstairs, he has a trio of friends who always show up at the right times and his budding songwriting talent seems destined to take him far.

He is also living a nightmare.

Jacqueline Woodson’s new novel, “Before the Ever After,” is not a work of horror (despite the haunting title), but a creeping, invisible force is upending ZJ’s world and slowly stealing away his father — known as “Zachariah 44,” for his jersey number — before his and his mother’s eyes.

The father’s hands have begun to tremble uncontrollably. He stares vacantly. He forgets basic things, most achingly the name of the son who bears, and at times is burdened by, his name. He’s prone to angry outbursts, to the point that ZJ’s friends no longer want to come by the house.

He is suffering the effects of a degenerative brain disease that, while not named, bears a strong resemblance to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which has been found in scores of former N.F.L. players. Until 2016, the league for years denied any connection between brain trauma on the field and hundreds of players’ crippling neurological ailments and, in many cases, deaths.

“My dad probably holds the Football Hall of Fame record for the most concussions,” ZJ says, relating how his mother has grown bitter about the game. “Even with a helmet on.”

Although you can envision fretful parents handing this book to young boys eager to play, it’s not a stern lecture. It’s an elegiac meditation on loss and longing told, like Woodson’s seminal memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” mostly in verse.

This approach, and Woodson’s evocative language (“the night is so dark, it looks like a black wall”), helps pull us through the foreboding and gives us much to contemplate; leitmotifs such as trees and song deepen the story and provoke reflection on childhood, change and remembrance.

The story is set in 1999-2000, when the cost of brain injury in the sport was just starting to come to light. The uncertainty over what has happened, and what might be coming, bewilders ZJ and his mother.

“Sitting there with my mom and my dad snoring on the couch and the doctors knowing but not knowing,” he says, “I feel like someone’s holding us, keeping us from getting back to where we were before and keeping us from the next place too.”

This is largely a father-son tale, leaving ZJ’s mother in the background, revealed in the occasional tender scene — Zachariah 44 drapes his arms around her in a moment of clarity — but mostly in quiet anguish.

“I think they’re not telling the whole truth,” ZJ overhears his mother telling a friend. “Too many of them —”

ZJ is so disillusioned that he gives away one of his father’s coveted footballs to his friend Everett, in a scene that reminds us of the staying power of the sport: “Everett’s eyes get wide. This is Zachariah 44’s ball? I nod. For real?”

ZJ finds solace in the music, literal and symbolic, that he and his father have made together. “Until the doctors figure out what’s wrong, this is what I have for him,” ZJ says. “My music, our songs.”

Woodson has said she seeks to instill optimism and hope. ZJ’s patient and supportive mother and his group of friends who are always buoying him up serve that purpose here. Yet at times this striving for hope feels strained, given a condition that so often offers no Hail Mary. ZJ may not fully realize it, but we all know what’s coming. The nightmarish, seemingly irreversible decline of the once mighty and strong has broken the hearts and wills of football families. A lyrical portrayal of a player’s fade and a boy coming to terms with it doesn’t change that.

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Stay safe this Labor Day weekend: If you plan to be social, here’s how to lower your risk of Covid-19 infection https://newsnetdaily.com/stay-safe-this-labor-day-weekend-if-you-plan-to-be-social-heres-how-to-lower-your-risk-of-covid-19-infection/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 07:10:08 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/stay-safe-this-labor-day-weekend-if-you-plan-to-be-social-heres-how-to-lower-your-risk-of-covid-19-infection/

In fact, getting outdoors, taking a hike or long bike ride, finding an uncrowded swimming hole or even gardening are safe ways to celebrate a holiday that honors how much we work by taking a break from it.

Covid-19 cases could explode after Labor Day: It's up to us to stop it

If you must gather, here are some of the safest ways to do so, according to epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and other experts:

First, avoiding any family or social gatherings outside the people in your “bubble” of trust over Labor Day is the best course of action. But even if you do extend that bubble over the weekend, there are still actions to take to lower the risk of infection:

  • Gather with other families or family members outside, not inside.
  • Make plans to remain outside if there is bad weather — “or get in your car and go home,” Mokdad said.
  • Wear masks at all times when not eating.
  • Keep the family units separated by at least 6 feet or more.
  • Make sure tables, food, condiments, eating utensils and trash containers are also separated.
  • Have each family bring their own food.
  • If food is shared, separate it in advance into small containers for individual servings.

Of course, the dangerous times are when people go inside to the bathroom, or to the kitchen to prep or replenish food or drinks. Families must plan for those events in advance, Mokdad said, and communicate the safety protocols to all guests.

Planet-friendly activities that are good for your body and pandemic possible

“If you’re bringing food, make sure you bring it in separately,” he said. “Tell your friend or family member, ‘When you come, you wait in the car, I will unload and put it in the pot or on the table. Then you can come into the yard.’

“We can grill, but only one of us is grilling the meat,” Mokdad said, adding these tips:

  • Put the meat in a place where one person can grab it and grill it.
  • Don’t socialize at the grill.
  • Put the grilled meat on separate plates, then move away.
  • Ask people to come and get a plate one at a time.

“The only way I can recommend for you to behave is to assume you are in fact infected,” he added. “Doing it this way sends a clear message to our children, our teenagers. We have to be role models ourselves in order to survive this virus with less damage and keep our economy going.”

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Coronavirus: Obese people’s immune systems put under more strain https://newsnetdaily.com/coronavirus-obese-peoples-immune-systems-put-under-more-strain/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 05:55:06 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/coronavirus-obese-peoples-immune-systems-put-under-more-strain/

Obese people may suffer more from Covid-19 because their weight damages their immune system, according to a study. 

The researchers, from the University of Michigan, found that people who are seriously overweight are more likely to suffer from severe coronavirus symptoms.

And this could be because their excess weight means their immune systems are constantly under strain and running at a higher baseline than people of a healthy weight. High levels of fat and sugar in the blood can trigger swelling inside the blood vessels and organs.

As a result, when someone gets an infection, their already-running immune system is closer to tipping over the edge into over-reaction than a healthy person’s is.

The body’s own overreaction, which can cause sepsis and deadly organ damage, has been seen repeatedly in the sickest patients with Covid-19. 

And it could go some way to explaining why overweight people face a higher risk of dying if they catch the illness, which is borne out in official hospital data around the world. 

Researchers found that obesity causes a long-lasting activation of some parts of the immune system in a way that doesn’t actually help to fight infection (stock image)

Dr Durga Singer of the University of Michigan, who wrote the study, said that macrophages, a type of white blood cell which is found to be more active in obese people, could be what leads to severe suffering from coronavirus. 

She said: ‘Our manuscript focuses on what is already known about the interaction of obesity, macrophages and other infections like influenza. 

‘These findings highlight the importance of understanding how obesity might interact with new drugs or vaccines that are developed for COVID-19.’

Obesity can also cause damage to internal organs which would make it harder for overweight people to fight the virus. 

Dr Singer’s explanation, published in the journal Endocrinology, may go some way to explaining data that shows how much more at risk overweight people are of dying if they catch the coronavirus. 

A study by University College London found that being overweight can raise the risk of severe Covid-19 by 40 per cent, while obese people are 70 per cent more likely to be hospitalised with the disease. 

It found extra weight is linked with ‘higher odds’ of admission to hospital, increasing in line with body mass index (BMI) – a height-to-weight ratio. 

Being too thin also raised the risk compared to someone who was a healthy weight, but by a smaller margin of six per cent.  

The findings are concerning because a massive two in three English adults are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk from coronavirus. 

The authors of the UCL study warned: ‘Since over two-thirds of Westernised society are overweight or obese, this potentially presents a major risk factor for severe Covid-19 infection and may have implications for policy.’ 

Professor Mark Hamer, a clinical professor and honorary consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine, led the research. 

He and colleagues, including from universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, drew on data from the UK Biobank study.

It collected data on 334,329 people from England with an average age of 56 between 2006 and 2010, asking them about their health and lifestyle habits. 

The team compared the data in relation to cases of coronavirus hospital admissions recorded by Public Health England from March 16 up to April 26. 

Through their adjusted models, researchers found ‘there was a linear increase in the risk of Covid-19 with increasing BMI’.

It became evident from modestly elevated weight, as those with a BMI over 25 had a 40 per cent higher risk of hospitalisation after taking into account age and sex – two independent risk factors for Covid-19.

For those in the obese category (BMI 30 to 35), the risk was 70 per cent higher.

And those in the severe obese category (BMI more than 35), the odds of hospitalisation more than doubled.

Underweight people, with a BMI of below 18.5, had a six per cent increased risk of severe Covid-19 compared to those of a healthy weight.  

WHY MIGHT OBESE PEOPLE MORE AT RISK OF BECOMING VERY ILL FROM COVID-19? 

Studies have shown obese people are more likely to suffer serious complications or die from infections, such as the flu. 

Doctors say the immune systems of fat people are constantly ramped up as they try to protect and repair the damage inflammation causes to cells. 

Using all its energy fending off inflammation means the body’s defence system has few resources left to defend against a new infection like Covid-19. 

Dr Dyan Sellayah, a lecturer in cellular and organismal metabolism, University of Reading, said obese people tend to have dysfunctional immune systems.

‘Their fat tissue for example becomes a reservoir for immune cells known as macrophages. While these cells reside in our fat under normal circumstances, in obesity they are at higher frequency and become more troublesome (they start to secrete inflammatory cytokines) and negatively impact on immune and metabolic health.’ 

Obese people might eat a diet with very little fiber and antioxidants – which keep the immune system healthy – such as fruit and vegetables.  

Most patients with a BMI of over 40 suffer from breathing problems that range from simple shortness of breath to a potentially life-threatening condition known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS).

Public Health England (PHE) has previously suggested that obesity leads to fatty tissue around the upper airway, and a heavy chest can directly reduce lung function. 

Excess weight may make it more difficult for the diaphragm and lungs to expand and inhale oxygen. Starved of oxygen, organs will begin to fail.  

But other experts have disagreed with this theory, saying severely ill Covid-19 patients end up on ventilators anyway and still end up with worse outcomes. 

There are several other factors that may increase an obese person’s chance of falling seriously ill with coronavirus, including a lack of exercise.

Studies have shown that physical activity increases the numbers of certain immune cells that help to bolster immune activity.  

Clogged up arteries also make it hard for blood carrying immune cells to pass through and repair cells around the body.  

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Pharma Companies Plan Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety https://newsnetdaily.com/pharma-companies-plan-joint-pledge-on-vaccine-safety/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 04:50:03 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/pharma-companies-plan-joint-pledge-on-vaccine-safety/

A group of drug companies competing with one another to be among the first to develop coronavirus vaccines are planning to pledge early next week that they will not release any vaccines that do not follow rigorous efficacy and safety standards, according to representatives of three of the companies.

The statement, which has not yet been finalized, is meant to reassure the public that the companies will not seek a premature approval of vaccines under political pressure from the Trump administration. President Trump has pushed for a vaccine to be available by October — just before the presidential election — and a growing number of scientists, regulators and public health experts have expressed concern over what they see as a pattern of political arm-twisting by the Trump administration in its efforts to combat the virus.

The companies’ joint statement was planned for early next week, but it may be released before then after its existence was made public on Friday by The Wall Street Journal. The manufacturers that are said to have signed the letter include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi.

The pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones pushing back. Senior regulators at the Food and Drug Administration have been discussing making their own joint public statement about the need to rely on proven science, according to two senior administration officials, a move that would breach their usual reticence as civil servants.

Scientists have been rushing at record speed to develop a vaccine that could end the pandemic, which has taken nearly 190,000 lives and infected more than six million people in the United States. Three companies — Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca — are testing their candidates in late-stage clinical trials.

Pfizer’s chief executive said this week that the company could see results as early as October, but the others have said only that they plan to release a vaccine by the end of the year.

Public health experts have applauded the companies’ rapid development of a vaccine, and early results have been promising. But in recent weeks, they have grown worried as Mr. Trump and his allies have begun talking about a vaccine that could be ready before the election on Nov. 3.

Even as companies are competing to be the first to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market, they must navigate perilous political terrain. If they are among the first to bring a successful vaccine to market, they could earn major profits and help rehabilitate the image of an industry battered by rising drug prices.

But if a vaccine turns out to have dangerous side effects for some people, the fallout could be catastrophic, damaging their corporate reputations, putting their broader portfolio of products at risk and broadly undermining trust in vaccines, one of the great public health advances in human history.

In tweets and public comments, Mr. Trump has explicitly tied his re-election fortunes to a vaccine, an idea detailed last week at the Republican National Convention, where promotional videos featured the administration’s efforts to fund and develop one in its crash program called Operation Warp Speed.

Trump campaign advisers have privately called a pre-election vaccine “the holy grail.”

Also last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent letters to public health agencies around the country asking them to prepare for the possibility that a vaccine could be ready by late October or early November.

And on Friday, even as federal health officials had been tempering expectations about when a vaccine would be ready, Mr. Trump said one would “probably” be ready in October. Even the companies can’t see the results while the trials are underway, but he promised, “You are going to see results that are shockingly good.”

Just the day before, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist on Operation Warp Speed, warned in an interview with National Public Radio that the chance of successful vaccine results by October was “very, very low.”

Scientists within the federal government and outside of it say they are dismayed by what they see as meddling by the Trump administration in the federal pandemic response, from the president’s misguided promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment and his exaggeration of the benefits of convalescent plasma to the C.D.C.’s changing guidance on who should be tested.

Several top health officials have made it explicit in recent weeks that they would rather quit than be co-opted by the White House in approving a vaccine.

Dr. Slaoui told Science magazine on Thursday that he would “immediately resign if there is undue interference in this process,” though he said there had been none so far.

In a conference call last month, Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the F.D.A. division that approves new vaccines and treatments, made the same pledge to members of a vaccine working group at the National Institutes of Health.

“If something is not safe enough and effective enough for my family, there’s no way I’m going to stand by and see it given to the rest of the country,” Dr. Marks said in an interview on Thursday. “It’s not going to happen under my watch.”

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, has repeatedly said his decisions are based on scientific data alone. He has publicly committed to vet any vaccine approval through an advisory committee of outside experts, who typically review clinical trial data before a new vaccine is approved.

Senior F.D.A. officials, including political appointees, have been frustrated by comments Mr. Trump has made in recent weeks about his efforts to speed along approvals, giving the impression the White House is playing a regulatory role.

At his news conference Friday, Mr. Trump said he had just spoken to the head of Pfizer, describing him as a “great guy” whose company is a leader in the race to develop a vaccine.

In a separate appearance on Friday, the president said pharmaceutical companies had told him that “if this was a more typical kind of president, getting these approvals would take two or three years.”

With vaccines, Mr. Trump’s ability to influence the approval process has its limits. While a government agency, such as the C.D.C., can request vaccine approval, requests typically come from the drug makers.

Companies have separately sought to underscore their commitment to rigorous scientific review.

On Monday, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, released a statement acknowledging recent questions about the speed of vaccine development. “I want to reiterate my commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work,” he said. “We are moving quickly but without cutting corners.”

And on Friday, Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, told CNBC that the company was slowing enrollment in its trials to include more people from groups at high risk for Covid-19. “I would rather we have higher diverse participants and take one extra week,” Mr. Bancel said in the interview.

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.



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Oleandrin rejected as a dietary supplement ingredient by FDA https://newsnetdaily.com/oleandrin-rejected-as-a-dietary-supplement-ingredient-by-fda/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 03:35:07 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/oleandrin-rejected-as-a-dietary-supplement-ingredient-by-fda/

Last month, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who recently joined the board of Phoenix Biotechnology and has a financial stake in the company, said he had participated in a July meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump regarding the use of oleandrin as a potential therapeutic for the coronavirus.

The extract comes from the Nerium oleander plant; the raw oleander plant is highly toxic and consuming it can be fatal. There are no peer-reviewed, published studies on the impact of oleandrin on Covid-19, and there’s no public evidence it has been studied in patients with Covid-19.

On June 2, Phoenix Biotechnology submitted oleandrin to the FDA as a new ingredient in dietary supplements, describing the dosage and saying it’s intended only for adults. If a dietary supplement contains a new ingredient, manufacturers must notify the FDA, and the agency will review it for safety — not effectiveness — and determine whether it may be marketed as a dietary supplement.

The FDA’s response letter, dated August 14, was posted by the agency on Wednesday. It said the company had already tested oleandrin as a potential prescription drug and could not at the same time seek permission to sell it as a supplement — a category with almost no oversight.

Even if it hadn’t been excluded from the definition of a dietary supplement under the law, the agency had “significant concerns about the evidence included in your submission as a basis for concluding that a dietary supplement containing ‘Oleandrin’ will reasonably be expected to be safe” if used the way the company described.

Trump 'enthusiastic' over unproven coronavirus therapeutic, MyPillow creator says

The FDA said Phoenix Biotechnology provided evidence of a history of medicinal use of Nerium oleander extracts and some evidence of preclinical and clinical studies, but the safety evidence was not “qualitatively and quantitatively” related to oleandrin as a supplement.

“Studies performed in advanced cancer patients generally cannot establish the safety of your ingredient in its intended population of normal healthy adults, and you did not provide any information to indicate that such extrapolation between different populations would be scientifically valid,” the FDA’s letter said.

The FDA’s letter did not mention using the extract as a treatment for Covid-19.

Lindell, who has no scientific background or medical training, has said previously he was so enthusiastic about the product as a Covid-19 treatment that he had started taking the extract as a prophylactic and has encouraged his friends to do the same.

He had brought his research to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Lindell said in July that Carson was “just amazed,” and thought “it was very exciting seeing all the data.”

After Lindell met with Trump in July, he described the President’s response to the extract as “enthusiastic.” Lindell told CNN in July that Trump wanted the FDA to “do its course.”

When asked about the extract in August, Trump said he had “heard about” oleandrin and said, “We’ll look at it, we’ll look at it, we’re looking at a lot of different things.” It’s unclear if Trump raised the issue with the FDA.

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Are people in Africa being protected from Covid-19 by POVERTY? https://newsnetdaily.com/are-people-in-africa-being-protected-from-covid-19-by-poverty/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 02:20:04 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/are-people-in-africa-being-protected-from-covid-19-by-poverty/

Poor countries may have greater protection against coronavirus because of their harsh living conditions, scientists have suggested.

Experts have been puzzled by why some nations where poverty and disease is rife  are not suffering massive outbreaks, describing the phenomenon as a ‘complete enigma’. 

At the start of the pandemic, it was feared poorer countries, particularly in Africa, could be devastated by the virus because communities are overcrowded and have poor hygiene and lower quality healthcare systems.

But, paradoxically, it is possible these challenging living conditions have actually helped impoverished nations to better cope with the coronavirus.

Public health experts say that, because life expectancy is so low in these countries, there are fewer older people, who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

Younger populations mean fewer people are dying from the disease or falling ill enough to be hospitalised, which has prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed.

For example, South Africa has had more than 600,000 cases – twice the number in the UK – but just 14,000 fatalities, a fraction of Britain’s 40,000-plus. And while the median age in Britain is 40, meaning half the population is older and half is younger, it is just 28 in the African nation, showing that people are on average much younger.

And people living in the poorest places may have actually been exposed to more coronaviruses and flu bugs because they live in such crowded areas where diseases spread rapidly. Science has repeatedly suggested that exposure to other, similar viruses, may afford people an extra layer of protection against Covid-19.

South Africa has recorded twice the number of cases as the UK but just a fraction of the deaths. Experts believe its young population may be the reason

Compared to Western nations, African countries have suffered just a fraction of cases and deaths. The UK's death rate, the number of people who catch Covid-19 and eventually die, is 12 per cent, for comparison

Compared to Western nations, African countries have suffered just a fraction of cases and deaths. The UK’s death rate, the number of people who catch Covid-19 and eventually die, is 12 per cent, for comparison

Africa, which has recorded little over a million cases, has the second lowest death rate in the world. Asia has fared better overall, with impoverished nations like Pakistan and Nepal averting major crises and other countries being better trained to deal with epidemics thanks to previous outbreaks

Africa, which has recorded little over a million cases, has the second lowest death rate in the world. Asia has fared better overall, with impoverished nations like Pakistan and Nepal averting major crises and other countries being better trained to deal with epidemics thanks to previous outbreaks

People, covering their faces as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, visit Entoto Kidane Mehret Church in Ethiopia

People, covering their faces as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, visit Entoto Kidane Mehret Church in Ethiopia 

There have been more than 21,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Africa – 10 times fewer than in Europe and 20 times fewer than in the Americas.

Africa has recorded little over a million cases, whereas that number is 4.2million in Europe and 13.1million in the Americas.

SOUTH AFRICA’S CRISIS LESS DEADLY THAN COMPARABLE OUTBREAKS

Data from the World Health Organization, correct at August 31, shows that the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa has been significantly less deadly than those of comparable size that have taken place in other countries. 

Scientists suggest this could in part be because the country has such a low average age – just 28 compared to 48 in Italy and 40 in the UK (median).

Country

South Africa

USA

Colombia

Germany

Peru

Spain

Mexico

France

UK 

Cases

 622,551

5,855,521

590,520

241,771

629,961

439,286

585,783

256,829

332,756 

 Deaths

13,981

180,689

18,767

9,295

28,471

29,011

63,146

30,465

41,498 

Death rate

2.2%

3.1%

3.2%

3.8%

4.5%

6.6%

10.8%

11.9%

12.5% 

Testing in Africa is nowhere near the scale seen in other continents, which means there could be a huge degree of underreporting when it comes to infections and deaths. But the difference is stark, nevertheless.

Professor Salim Karim, one of South Africa’s top infectious diseases experts, told the BBC: ‘Most African countries don’t have a peak. I don’t understand why. I’m completely at sea. This is an enigma. It’s completely unbelievable.’

And Professor Shabir Madhi, an epidemiologist who has been advising the South African government in its Covid-19 response, added: ‘It seems possible that our struggles, our poor conditions might be working in favour of African countries and our populations.’

Some experts have cited young populations for Africa’s relatively low infection and death rates.

Tim Bromfield, a regional director of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said age was ‘the highest risk factor’ and Africa’s low life expectancy ‘protects it’.

The average age of an African is 19, compared to 40 in the UK and most places in Europe and the US.  

Life expectancy on the impoverished continent is just 64 years, compared to the UK where it is 81.  And data shows that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected elderly people – particularly those in their 70s and 80s.

This disproportionate effect on older people may be one explanation for why third-world countries appear to be faring much better than their wealthy European and American counterparts, where people live longer.

In the Middle East, for example, Afghanistan has a total death rate of 36 per million people, while Yemen’s is 19 and Syria’s is seven. That figure is 561 in the US and 612 in Britain.

Haiti, in the Caribbean, has a death rate of 18.1 per million, while in South Asia Pakistan’s is 29 and Nepal’s is 8.7.

International travel in all of these countries is less  common than in the West, which could explain why cases and deaths did not rocket at the beginning, because it took longer for the virus to arrive in high numbers.

Elsewhere, other third-world countries appear to be faring much better than their wealthy European and American counterparts

Elsewhere, other third-world countries appear to be faring much better than their wealthy European and American counterparts 

Children sit at their desks wearing protective visors, with glass separating each desk to enforce social distancing in Johannesburg, South Africa

Children sit at their desks wearing protective visors, with glass separating each desk to enforce social distancing in Johannesburg, South Africa

But Covid-19 is so infectious that it should have eventually have ramped up to high levels seen elsewhere.

Scientists at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Analytics unit, at Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, have come up with their own theory as to why third world countries have averted major crises.

ARE SOME PEOPLE ALREADY PROTECTED FROM COVID FROM CATCHING COLDS? 

A growing body of research has suggested that people may already have immunity against they have had similar illnesses in the past.

Experts have noticed the infection looks extremely similar to other, milder strains of coronaviruses which cause coughs and colds and circulate regularly.

Those who have had these in the past may have some level of ‘cross-protection’, which means they aren’t seriously harmed by Covid-19.

While it remains unlikely that people will be totally protected from any infection at all, ‘background’ immunity could make their illness less severe and death less likely.

Theories that even exposure to common colds may protect people from the coronavirus have been floating around for months.

There are four other types of coronavirus known to infect humans regularly, which are named NL63, 229E, OC43, and HKU1.

The fifth, known as SARS-CoV-2, is the one that causes Covid-19.

If people have had these in the past, their bodies may have developed some immunity to coronaviruses, an Oxford University study suggested in July. 

The way cross-protection might develop lies in the fact that coronaviruses all have similar structures – that is, they have spike-shaped proteins on the outside.

These spikes may look similar to the body’s immune system and be recognised as a threat even if someone has not been infected with that particular one before.

When the body recognises a protein as a danger it can stoke the immune system into life and immediately send white blood cells and antibodies to destroy the viruses, thereby either preventing illness or making it less severe.

The body stores memories of how to fight viruses it has seen in the past and, if it encounters one that looks a lot like another one it has attacked, it may attack that more quickly than usual, too.

Immune cells are highly specific and only attack the bugs they are designed to, but if coronaviruses are extremely similar there is a chance that immunity developed to one virus may be compatible with another.

While this might not stop infection completely, the fast immune response could make the illness less severe and make it more likely that people will survive.

They believe people living in the toughest conditions have probably been infected by other coronaviruses that cause common colds, which have given them antibodies to be able to fend off Covid-19.

Professor Madhi told the BBC: ‘It’s a hypothesis. Some level of pre-existing cross-protective immunity… might explain why the epidemic didn’t unfold (the way it did in other parts of the world). 

‘The protection might be much more intense in highly populated areas, in African settings. It might explain why the majority (on the continent) have asymptomatic or mild infections. I can’t think of anything else that would explain the numbers.’ 

While colds and flu are common around the world, the theory is that the viruses have infect larger populations in poverty-ridden countries more often, because crowded neighbourhoods make it harder for people to distance for others. 

Sceptics might be quick to point to other developing nations like Brazil, with its its crowded favelas. 

The South American nation has been obliterated by Covid, with 4million cases and 124,600 deaths, second only to the US.

And the outbreak in extremely-densely-populated India is spiralling out of control, with cases closing in on 4million and deaths nearing 70,000.

There are four other types of coronavirus known to infect humans regularly, which are named NL63, 229E, OC43, and HKU1. The fifth, known as SARS-CoV-2, is the one that causes Covid-19.

If people have had these in the past, their bodies may have developed some immunity to coronaviruses.

Previous research, including one study done by Oxford University in July, has thrown weight to the theory of ‘cross immunity’.  

Experts have noticed the infection looks extremely similar to other, milder strains of coronaviruses which cause coughs and colds and circulate regularly.

While it remains unlikely that people will be totally protected from any infection at all, ‘background’ immunity could make their illness less severe and death less likely. 

The way cross-protection might develop lies in the fact that coronaviruses all have similar structures – that is, they have spike-shaped proteins on the outside.

These spikes may look similar to the body’s immune system and be recognised as a threat even if someone has not been infected with that particular one before.

When the body recognises a protein as a danger it can stoke the immune system into life and immediately send white blood cells and antibodies to destroy the viruses, thereby either preventing illness or making it less severe.

The body stores memories of how to fight viruses it has seen in the past and, if it encounters one that looks a lot like another one it has attacked, it may attack that more quickly than usual, too.

Immune cells are highly specific and only attack the bugs they are designed to, but if coronaviruses are extremely similar there is a chance that immunity developed to one virus may be compatible with another.

While this might not stop infection completely, the fast immune response could make the illness less severe and make it more likely that people will survive.

The South African scientists planned to test their cross protection theory by analysing blood samples from an old infleunza vaccine trial in Soweto in 2015.

The samples had been cryogenically frozen for future research projects.

But when they went to retrieve the blood vials, they realised the temperature inside the freezers had been unstable and rendered the samples useless.

They now plan to reach out to universities and labs around the country to find other samples they can use – but the process could take months.

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‘Sudden’ Cardiac Arrests Often Aren’t So Sudden https://newsnetdaily.com/sudden-cardiac-arrests-often-arent-so-sudden/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 01:05:05 +0000 https://newsnetdaily.com/sudden-cardiac-arrests-often-arent-so-sudden/

Most “sudden” cardiac arrests are not sudden, in the sense that most patients have visited a doctor or gone to a hospital during the two weeks before they happen.

Researchers used a Danish registry of 28,955 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests recorded from 2001 to 2014 to track the patients’ interactions with doctors and hospitals in the year preceding the event.

They found that 57 percent of them had contacted either a doctor or a hospital in the two weeks before their arrest. The data was presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

Over the year before the event, patient visits to the hospital increased gradually to 7 percent in the week before the event, from 3 percent a week one year earlier. Contacts with their doctors, either in person or by phone, followed a similar pattern, increasing to 54 percent in the week before the arrest from a relatively constant 26 percent a week the rest of the year. About 14 percent of the general population contacted their doctors over the same period.

The lead author, Nertila Zylyftari, a researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital, said that the study did not have the data to identify specific warning signs of cardiac arrest. Still, she said, “there are these additional health care contacts, and that means there is a chance for focusing more on identifying those at risk in future studies.”

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