A summary of important health news from the past week
By: Elizabeth Cohen
While there are few studies available regarding COVID-19, “the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” says Dr. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences. This means that coronavirus is not only spread through coughs and sneezes but can also be spread by talking and breathing. Thus, Dr. Fineberg said he would start wearing either a bandana or a balaclava to protect himself, but will leave the surgical masks for the clinicians. However, how long the virus will stay in the air depends on various factors including the circulation in the air and how much virus an infected person releases when talking or breathing. Lastly, Dr. Fineberg said, “if you generate an aerosol of the virus with no circulation in a room, it’s conceivable that if you walk through later, you could inhale the virus. “But if you’re outside, the breeze will likely disperse it.”
By: Brian Resnick
The growing number of Covid-19 cases in the United States is straining our healthcare system. Many Americans are practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the virus and limit the number of cases. However, after weeks of staying indoors many people are eager to return back to their normal lives. But experts warn that lifting the social distancing restrictions too soon could be dangerous. Without the necessary technology and infrastructure to support widespread testing, the “transmission would start again with the same intensity”, according to a professor at John Hopkins Center for Health Security. So before we lift the social distancing restrictions, we need to establish supply chains for widespread testing and ramp up production of personal protective equipment. And with an effective vaccine potentially taking up to 18 months to develop, patience is our greatest power during this ongoing health crisis.
By: Sarah Handzel
Hives are itchy, red welts on the skin that may develop as an allergic reaction. Chronic hives—also known as chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU)— are those that don’t go away on their own after 6 weeks and frequent reoccur. While doctors are unsure of what causes CIU, it is known they are a response to a trigger. In addition to allergies, they may develop in response to insect bites, certain medications, infections, or even stress. Generally, daily antihistamines are a good treatment for CIU.
By: Denise Grady and Andrea Kannapell
President Trump has endorsed the use of a drug called hydroxychloroquine in the fight against COVID-19, despite a lack of data of the drug’s safety and efficacy. Some researchers have theorized that the drug–which is already used to treat malaria, lupus, and some autoimmune diseases–could help relieve dangerous levels of inflammation, and may even block the virus from entering healthy cells. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts caution that there is no definitive evidence that the drug works against coronavirus, and that more research is needed before widespread use. Meanwhile, the rush on hydroxychloroquine has left many lupus patients wondering if they will have access to their medication.
By: Leah Campbell
Social distancing is difficult for everyone — but may be especially for children and teens. As children become older, their social life outside of the family becomes the more important aspect of their daily interactions. Experts say that even though the worries of a parent is warranted, it is likely that kids will bounce back quickly after a few months of isolation. Experts agree that long term isolation has a negative impact on a child’s social development, therefore it is critical to see how the situation pans out in the next few weeks.
By: Chauncey Alcorn
Doctors, nurses, and other people on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are in need of faceshields. Faceshields are transparent headgear that “protects medical professionals from infection while they’re treating patients suffering from the deadly and highly-contagious disease”. Faceshields are needed for medical staff who must support coronavirus patients with severe symptoms who cough and gag during important procedures like intubation. This equipment is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus but it is scarce. Dr. Kranti Achanta argues that the shortage of N95 masks, latex gloves, and medical gowns have been receiving a lot of national attention, but little focus has been given to the faceshield shortage. Since the coronavirus began spreading throughout the United States, Carbon, Prusa Research, and other 3D printing companies, have been adapting 3D printers to mass-produce face shields.