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A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders: study

(Asian News Hub) – One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said.

Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.

Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.

“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who co-led the work.

Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them”.

Health experts are increasingly concerned by evidence of higher risks of brain and mental health disorders among COVID-19 survivors.

A previous study by the same researchers found last year that 20% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.

The new findings, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysed health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States, and found 34% had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric illnesses within six months.

The disorders were significantly more common in COVID-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting COVID-19 had a specific impact.

Anxiety, at 17%, and mood disorders, at 14%, were the most common, and did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s COVID-19 infection had been.

Among those who had been admitted to intensive care with severe COVID-19 however, 7% had a stroke within six months, and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia.

Independent experts said the findings were worrying.

“This is a very important paper. It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure,” said Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London.

“The impact COVID-19 is having on individuals’ mental health can be severe,” said Lea Milligan, chief executive of the MQ Mental Health research charity. “This is contributing to the already rising levels of mental illness and requires further, urgent research.”

Reuters

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AstraZeneca could have COVID-19 vaccine against variant by end of 2021

(Asian News Hub) – A modified version of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine tailored to combat a coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa could be ready by the end of 2021, an AstraZeneca official in Austria said in an interview published on Sunday.

Sarah Walters, AstraZeneca’s Austria country manager, told the Kurier newspaper that studies, so far, indicating the existing AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the more infectious variant first documented in South Africa were “too small to draw final conclusions”.

“In the meantime, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have started on modifications to the vaccine for the South African variant and we expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed,” Walters told the Kurier.

Walters blamed challenges – including delivery delays for the AstraZeneca shot in the European Union – on the “complex process” of producing a vaccine, coupled with the extremely high demand arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to work without keeping a supply in reserve. As a result, we couldn’t make up for unexpected events,” she said. “We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year.”

The Kurier interview did not directly address ongoing investigations into health concerns over the AstraZeneca shot. The EU has put a warning label on the vaccine over its possible linkage to extremely rare blood clots, Denmark has completely halted use of the vaccine and Britain has advised people under 30 to get another brand of vaccine.

Asked about “thousands” of people in Austria who are cancelling their appointments for AstraZeneca shots, Walters said the company’s plan was “to continue to transparently provide information about efficacy and safety to doctors, so that they can adequately inform people” of benefits and risks.

British and European Union medicine regulators have said that the overall benefits of using the vaccine outweigh any risks of rare clotting.

Reuters

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N95 masks are a must as COVID-19 spreads via airborne transmission too: AIIMS Chief

(Asian News Hub) – AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria said on Sunday that the fact that coronavirus can be transmitted through aerosols makes it more contagious since these are much smaller and lighter particles than droplets.

Because of their small size, aerosols can hang in the air and travel a distance of even up to 10 metres. He emphasised the need to use N95 masks for staying safe from the deadly disease.

Until now the emphasis has been that coronavirus is transmitted predominantly through droplets while coughing or sneezing. However, a study published in the reputed British medical journal The Lancet this week concludes that coronavirus spreads predominantly through airborne transmission.

Since the disease is airborne a social distance of 3 metres is not enough to keep you safe and you can get infected even after a person has left the immediate vicinity as the virus could be lingering in the air.

Speaking on NDTV, Dr Guleria said the debate of droplets versus aerosols has been going on for the last eight or nine months but the fact that the disease can be transmitted through aerosols which can travel through longer distances in the air makes the disease more contagious.

He said the virus from an infected person can linger in the air for much longer when it is carried in aerosols as these are much smaller particles than droplets which drop to the ground in the immediate vicinity.
Thus while a social distance of 3 metres is enough in the case of droplets, when it comes to aerosols the distance which the virus can travel could go up to 10 metres.

He said it is essential, therefore, to keep all rooms well ventilated so that aerosols are not left hanging in the air. The doors and windows of a room should be kept open, he added.

Guleria also said that meetings should not be held in closed rooms as if there is an infected person he can leave aerosols in the air. These are left floating in the air even after the person has left.

The AIIMS chief said it was also important to wear N95 masks as these can effectively stop the virus. But he emphasised that the mask should be worn properly so that it completely seals the nose and mouth. One must ensure that no air enters from the sides of the mask. N95 masks are a must.

He also said that in the case of a surgical mask or cloth masks, which are not as effective as N95 masks, wearing two masks helps as this provides a double layer of protection.

But if it is an N95 mask worn properly, then one mask is enough, he added.

AGENCY

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Covid-19 is primarily airborne: Lancet

(Asian News Hub) – A report in The Lancet journal has dismissed the predominant scientific view that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is not an airborne pathogen.

Areport published in the journal The Lancet has dismissed the predominant scientific view that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is not an airborne pathogen. The authors of the report have listed 10 reasons for their claim that “SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted primarily by the airborne route”.

The paper, written by six experts from the UK, the US and Canada, argues that there are “insufficient grounds for concluding that a pathogen is not airborne” while “the totality of scientific evidence indicates otherwise”. The experts called for urgent modification in the Covid-19 safety protocol.

CORONAVIRUS IS AIRBORNE: 10 REASONS CITED BY THE RESEARCHERS

  1. “Superspreading events account for substantial SARS-CoV-2 transmission; indeed, such events may be the pandemic’s primary drivers,” they said. Detailed analyses of human behaviours and interactions, room sizes, ventilation, and other variables, the authors said, are consistent with airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the same cannot be adequately explained by droplets or fomites.
  2. Long-range transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels, the paper said.
  3. The experts argued that from 33 per cent to 59 per cent of all Covid-19 cases could be attributed to asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people who are not coughing or sneezing. They said this supported a predominantly airborne mode of transmission.
  4. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is higher indoors than outdoors and is substantially reduced by indoor ventilation.
  5. The paper said nosocomial infections (those that originate in a hospital) had been documented even at places where healthcare professionals used personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect against droplet but not aerosol exposure.
  6. The experts said viable SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the air. In laboratory experiments, SARS-CoV-2 stayed infectious in the air for up to 3 hours. They rejected the argument that SARS-CoV-2 was bit cultivated from air arguing that measles and tuberculosis, two primarily airborne diseases, had never been cultivated from room air.
  7. SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in air filters and building ducts in hospitals with COVID-19 patients; such locations could be reached only by aerosols, they said.
  8. The experts cited studies involving infected caged animals that showed transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via an air duct.
  9. Another argument of the experts was that no study to our knowledge provided strong or consistent evidence to refute the hypothesis of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
  10. Their final argument was that there was limited evidence to support other dominant routes of transmission- i.e. respiratory droplet or fomite.

The claim of the experts, if proven and accepted, could have massive implications on counter-Covid-19 strategy across the world. This may require the people to wear mask even inside their homes, and possibly at all times.

The current understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 spreads through smaller aerosols that stay suspended in air or through fomites, the surfaces where the virus gets deposited, and could be picked by a health person. Gravity pulls down heavier droplets reducing the chances of infection considerably.

But if an infectious virus is mainly airborne, an individual could potentially be infected when they inhale aerosols produced when an infected person exhales, speaks, shouts, sings, sneezes, or coughs, the experts said. This changes the way the world should fight coronavirus pandemic.

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