Obesity triples odds of more severe symptoms with COVID-19
In two cohorts of Chinese adults with COVID-19, those with obesity were at least three times more likely to have a severe case of the disease than those with normal weight, according to two studies published in Diabetes Care.
In addition, increasing obesity was associated with increasing odds of severe COVID-19, and the association between obesity and symptom severity was stronger for men than for women.
Having limited understanding of the mechanisms linking obesity to COVID-19, more investigations are needed for discovering suitable therapeutic targets in these patients. More intensive surveillance is required considering obesity is associated with an altered microenvironment conducive to emergence of potentially pathogenic variants capable of causing greater disease severity. Timelier medical intervention is warranted in response to possible mechanical dysfunction due to severe obesity causing increased severity of lower respiratory tract infection and probability of secondary infection.
For more information: Jun Chen, MD, PhD, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASE STUDY SUGGESTS YOUNG PEOPLE SUSCEPTIBLE TO CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME AFTER COVID-19
With more adolescents and young adults being treated for COVID-19, clinicians are concerned that these people also will start showing post-COVID — or “long haul” — symptoms from their bouts with the virus. A recent Johns Hopkins Medicine review of three case studies provides some of the first evidence that one serious post-COVID problem may be myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), the complex, multisystem disorder previously known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
“In the three patients studied — all of whom had confirmed or highly probable COVID-19 infections early in the pandemic — we observed ME/CFS-like symptoms within the first two weeks of illness,” says Peter Rowe, M.D., director of the Chronic Fatigue Clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “At six months following their illness, all three still met the criteria for being diagnosed with ME/CFS.”
In a recent report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that U.S. hospitals are seeing more adolescents and young adults admitted with COVID-19 as more contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease — spread. The agency believes that the youthful case surge may be the result of those ages 10 to 24 being among the last prioritized to get the coronavirus vaccines, and the fact that many who are eligible have yet to receive their shots. Also, the CDC says, this group is more likely to be involved in high-risk behaviors such as playing close-contact sports and going out to bars.
The three patients evaluated in the recent study were a 19-year-old man and two women, ages 22 and 30, whose COVID-19 symptoms began between April and June 2020, and who were referred to the Chronic Fatigue Clinic between August and October of the same year. Symptoms of orthostatic intolerance — a group of clinical conditions that includes fatigue, lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating, and are linked with greater than 90% of the people with ME/CFS — were prominent in all three from the outset of their COVID-19 illness.
A six-month post-COVID symptom onset examination, including evaluations of movement, neurological function and continued orthostatic intolerance, was conducted on each of the patients to determine if ME/CFS could be diagnosed. All three easily met the criteria.
Interestingly, Rowe says, all three patients had relatively mild COVID-19 respiratory symptoms and none required hospitalization, yet it appears to have translated into the more serious secondary problem of ME/CFS for them all.
“This finding is consistent with previous studies in older patients with COVID-19 who showed persistent fatigue months after infection, regardless of the severity of the initial infection,” he explains. “This raises the question of how many ME/CFS cases before the COVID-19 pandemic might have been due to mild, subclinical or asymptomatic viral infections [such as Epstein-Barr virus or human herpesvirus 6], including cases in adolescents, young adults and older people.”
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
Pandemic-Related Anxiety Associated with Women Drinking More
The jokes and memes about “wine moms” belie a larger, concerning issue: Women are drinking more since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a new study by Susan Stewart, professor of sociology at Iowa State University, nearly two-thirds of female participants reported drinking more since the beginning of the pandemic, including increases in daily drinking, drinking earlier in the day, and binge drinking. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Gynecology and Women’s Health.
Stewart surveyed women in July 2020 to understand changes in their alcohol use during the pandemic – in particular how coronavirus-related anxiety and women’s social and demographic characteristics contributed to any changes.
“I was hearing a lot of things, especially on social media, about women drinking more because of COVID-19,” Stewart said. “There were a lot of memes about women homeschooling and it would show their progression of drinks throughout the day, from mimosas and bloody marys in the morning to wine and shots in the afternoon. There were a lot of jokes like that, but from previous research we know that women’s alcohol use has increased dramatically over the past decade – and that this is no joke.”
Source: Iowa State University
What effects does COVID-19 have on the heart?
COVID-19 can have effects on many organ systems in the body, including the heart and cardiovascular system. In the short term, it can have a variety of effects on the heart. One manifestation is a weakening of the heart muscle due to either a direct effect of the virus, the body’s own inflammatory response or the stress of critical illness; this can lead to heart failure and even shock. In addition, COVID-19 can result in myocardial infarctions — also known as heart attacks — either by precipitating plaque rupture in the heart arteries or by creating excessive demands on the heart. We are also seeing an increase in heart rhythm disturbances due to COVID-19. Additionally, COVID-19 can cause inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds the heart; this can lead to fluid accumulation around the heart. Finally, COVID-19 can predispose the body to blood clots; these can form in the heart arteries, the brain or other blood vessels.
In the long term, there is evidence that COVID-19 can lead to ongoing inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis, and potentially to fibrosis or scarring of the heart. How common this is, and why this persists in some people, is somewhat controversial and is being actively studied. Some patients after recovery from COVID-19 have also reported ongoing sensations of their heart pounding, or palpitations.
In addition to these problems, we and others are also seeing heart problems that are not due directly to the virus itself, but are due to people delaying treatment for other heart problems, such as heart attacks and heart failure, out of fear of coming to the hospital during the pandemic. This is extremely unfortunate, since treatment at the hospital is safe, but delaying care for these medical emergencies can be deadly.
Why are strokes linked to COVID-19?
COVID-19 seems to cause a hypercoagulable state in the body, which is an increased risk of forming blood clots. There are a variety of manifestations of this COVID-19-induced condition, ranging from asymptomatic to blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, in the lungs, or in arteries of the extremities, to widespread severe clotting. Microscopic clots have also been found when lungs are examined at autopsy. When blood clots form in the arteries of the brain, it leads to a stroke.
The reason for the pro-clotting state in COVID-19 is unclear, but may be related to endothelial cell injury from the virus, prolonged immobilization among patients suffering from COVID-19 infection leading to blood stasis, and virus-induced changes in circulating blood factors, such as clotting factors and activation of platelets.
Study evaluates household transmission of COVID-19
Among household contacts of patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19, approximately one-tenth subsequently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to research published in JAMA Network Open.
“Using the electronic medical record system of a large integrated health system, we were able to measure the risk of household transmission of COVID-19 during the first half of the pandemic,” according to Joshua P. Metlay, MD, PhD, chief of the division of general internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The risk of transmission from an infected index case to a household member was 10% during the study period, which emphasizes the need for prevention measures within households of patients with COVID-19, especially for higher risk patients.”
“Best practice for reducing household transmission remains an area of significant uncertainty,” Metlay said. “However, based on data from hospital settings, we believe that social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing all contribute to risk reduction during the 10 day window of presumed infectivity after diagnosis.”
Will there be a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the US?
Following weeks of good news about diminishing case counts, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, said in a recent White House press briefing that the country had actually recorded an increase in COVID-19 cases for 3 straight days.
Walensky warned that declines in case counts and hospital admissions “may be stalling, potentially leveling off at still a very high number.”
“We at CDC consider this a very concerning shift in the trajectory,” she said.
Former CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, responded to a few questions about the trajectory of the pandemic and the possibility of a fourth wave in the United States.
Is it accurate to refer to it as a “fourth wave”?
Yes, another surge in cases would be called a fourth wave because it would be the fourth time cases have spiked in the U.S. since March 2020. Nearly all of the U.S. is now experiencing a downward trend in cases. This is likely happening because we have passed the huge winter surge that took place while people were traveling for the holidays and meeting indoors. Many states are starting to lift restrictions because of this downward trend, but if the variants spread and people let their guard down, another spike in cases could arrive in the coming weeks — causing a fourth wave.
Will it happen?
Whether or not we have a fourth wave depends on how well we mask up, how much we build immunity, limit the people we share indoor air with and vaccinate. If we do this correctly, there will be no fourth wave.
Learn more about CDC responses.
Heal Your Gut to Heal Your Body & Brain
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Keep these sleep tips in mind to help you get the sleep you need, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Try to sleep the recommended number of hours a night for your age group. The National Sleep Foundation has sleep duration guidelines. NSF recommends 7-9 hours for adults and 7-8 hours for adults over 65.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. It’s important for your body to have a regular sleeping schedule.
- Set a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to calming music, reading a book or taking a warm bath.
- Create a sleep-friendly bedroom. Turn off electronic devices an hour before bed and sleep in a cool, dark room.
- Exercise regularly. A low-impact fitness program, like walking, swimming or yoga, is helpful for improving sleep.
Make sleep a priority in your life as part of your overall health and well-being, including when you take steps to help protect yourself from infection and illness.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
A Healthy Gut Microbiome Will Help Protect Patients Who Survive COVID-19
Post-COVID syndrome — which includes lingering fatigue, joint and chest pain, and ongoing breathing difficulty — is showing up in a large percentage of people who survived the disease. Patients with post-COVID syndrome may also be in danger of developing long-term autoimmune disease.
This post-COVID complication can be prevented by focusing on promoting a healthy gut microbiome.
A less-severe form of post-COVID syndrome affects about 30 percent of the people who had COVID-19. Symptoms of the less-severe form include chronic depression and fatigue. However, 10 percent of people who were infected have the more severe form of post-COVID syndrome, which manifests as difficulty breathing, joint pain, chest pain, and issues affecting brain, memory, and sleep. There may also be ongoing loss of taste and smell. Upwards of 70 percent of COVID survivors have some sort of long-term symptoms.
Source: Heather Zwickey
Loss of smell is the best sign of COVID-19
Two international studies confirm that for the majority of patients with respiratory infections who lose the sense of smell, this is due to COVID-19. The disease also often results in both loss of taste and the other senses in the mouth. A researcher from Aarhus University has contributed to the new results.
If you have had COVID-19, then forget about enjoying the smell of freshly made coffee. At any rate, two major international studies document that there is frequently a loss of smell and that this often lasts for a long time in cases of COVID-19
The study shows that the average loss of the sense of smell was 79.7 on a scale from 0-100 – which indicates a large to complete sensory loss, says the researcher. In addition, the studies show that the loss of smell is very probably the best predictor of COVID-19 among patients with symptoms of respiratory diseases.
“This emphasizes how important it is to be aware of this symptom, as it may be the only symptom of the disease,” says Alexander Wieck Fjaeldstad, who also stresses only around half of patients with a loss of smell have gotten their sense of smell back after forty days.
The study shows that the loss of smell is specific to COVID-19, which is both relevant in relation to recognizing the infection, and because it indicates that the sense of smell is closely linked to how SARS-CoV-2 infects the body.
COVID lockdown loneliness linked to more depressive symptoms in older adults
Loneliness in adults aged 50 and over during the COVID-19 lockdown was linked to worsening depressive and other mental health symptoms, according to a large-scale online study.
Loneliness emerged as a key factor linked to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety in a study of more than 3,000 people aged 50 or over led by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, and funded by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) .
Researchers had access to data going back to 2015 for participants of the PROTECT online study. They also found that a decrease in physical activity since the start of the pandemic was associated with worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety during the pandemic. Other factors included being female and being retired.
Dr Byron Creese, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study, said: “Even before the pandemic, loneliness and physical activity levels were a huge issue in society, particularly among older people. Our study enabled us to compare mental health symptoms before and after COVID-19 in a large group of people aged 50 and over. We found that during lockdown, loneliness and decreased physical activity were associated with more symptoms of poor mental health, especially depression. It’s now crucial that we build on this data to find new ways to mitigate risk of worsening mental health during the pandemic.”
Masks Not Enough to Stop COVID-19’s Spread Without Distancing
Researchers tested how five different types of mask materials used to produce COVID-19 masks that have impacted the spread of droplets that carry the coronavirus when we cough or sneeze. Every material tested dramatically reduced the number of droplets that were spread. But at distances of less than 6 feet, enough droplets to potentially cause illness still made it through several of the materials.
“A mask definitely helps, but if the people are very close to each other, there is still a chance of spreading or contracting the virus,” said Krishna Kota, an associate professor at New Mexico State University and one of the article’s authors. “It’s not just masks that will help. It’s both the masks and distancing.”
Brush Your Teeth.
Why is that so important this year? According to a new study published in the British Dental Journal, poor oral hygiene may be connected to serious COVID-19 complications due to high levels of harmful oral bacteria. The mouth is the gateway to the body, and the study suggests that good oral health practices could help reduce COVID-19 symptoms, such as respiratory infections.
COVID-19 patients at higher risk of death, health problems than those with flu
Almost a year ago, COVID-19 began its global rampage, going on to infect about 69.5 million people and kill about 1.6 million as of early this month. From the beginning, most scientists have said that COVID-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu, while fringe theories have circulated widely, suggesting it is less deadly or flu’s equal.
Evidence is accumulating, however, to show just how much deadlier COVID-19 is compared with the flu and the extent of complications related to the two illnesses.
The new research — a deep dive into federal data by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System — reveals a clearer distinction between the two contagious viruses: Among hospitalized patients, COVID-19 was associated with an increased need for ventilators, more admissions into intensive care units (ICUs), longer hospital stays and nearly five times the risk of death than faced by those with the flu.
And although both illnesses attack the lungs, the analysis showed COVID-19 also can damage other organs. It revealed that COVID-19 was associated with a higher risk of complications such as acute kidney and liver damage, as well as heart disorders, stroke, severe septic shock, low blood pressure, excessive blood clotting and new-onset diabetes.
The findings are published online in the journal The BMJ.
How COVID-19 is Negatively Impacting Those Who are not Infected
COVID-19 has acutely impacted the agriculture industry and many farmers have been forced to make drastic changes to their business proceedings and their daily lives. Margaret Beetstra, MPA, Ohio State University, evaluated farmer experiences during the pandemic to determine what they are doing to mitigate their risk, how their short- and long-term goals have changed, and the extent to which they feel in control at this time.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected workers in our nation’s meat-packing plants disproportionately, especially in the early months. In April 2020, meatpacking facilities were deemed an essential business and forced to remain open, but many meatpacking workers have fallen ill from COVID-19 as a result of hours spent in high-risk facilities, leading to plant closures that have caused economic problems for livestock producers, meat processors, grocery stores, and consumers.
Office workers, educators and students have had to grapple with the shift from face-to-face communication to web interactions, predominantly through the Zoom platform. After several months of ‘Zooming,’ and no end in sight, people are reporting a sense of exhaustion with this type of communication, now being referred to as ‘Zoom fatigue.’ David M. Berube, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, has been studying the underlying complaints behind Zoom fatigue to better understand the impacts they have on our ability to communicate during this pandemic, and how we may communicate moving forward.
Hw have you been impacted by the pandemic?
CBD to Treat COVID-19 – Does it Work?
Exciting new research provides evidence that a strain of high CBD cannabis may be able to suppress inflammation to a great enough degree that it inhibits infection with Covid-19.
Source: Dr. Jon Kaiser
Is CBD effective in treating COVID-19
Cannabidiol, or CBD, may help reduce the cytokine storm and excessive lung inflammation that is killing many patients with COVID-19, researchers say.
While more work, including clinical trials to determine optimal dosage and timing, is needed before CBD becomes part of the treatment for COVID-19, researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia have early evidence it could help patients showing signs of respiratory distress avoid extreme interventions like mechanical ventilation as well as death from acute respiratory distress syndrome.
At least one way CBD is thought to calm the immune response is because it looks similar to endocannabinoids, a natural cell signaling system in our bodies believed to be involved in a wide variety of functions from sleep to reproduction to inflammation and immune response. CB1 and CB2, the main receptors for this system, are found extensively throughout the body including the brain and respiratory system, where we breathe in humanmade and natural irritants in the air — as well as viruses and bacteria — that might inflame. The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.
Keep your eyes healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, people should guard their eyes with glasses or face shields to protect their eyes from virus infection. People also need to know, even though there are many concerns about COVID-19, common-sense precautions can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
- Wash hands frequently
- Follow good contact lens hygiene
- Avoid rubbing or touching our mouth, nose, and especially our eyes.
For people over 60, it’s better to stay home and do telehealth over the phone or video consultation until the pandemic flattens.
Source: Dr. Daniel Laroche, Director of Glaucoma Services and President of Advanced Eyecare of New York
Can coronavirus be transmitted by food or food packaging?
The good news is that it’s safe to eat food. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) states on its website that, “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the coronavirus.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization are in agreement, saying that food is not a known way for coronavirus to be spread. Likewise, there’s no evidence that food packaging transmits the virus.
What do I do with my purchases once I get home?
Great job! You made it safely through your shopping trip. But you’re not done yet. You need to get your purchases inside and put away.
Wash your hands.
Once you get home, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Don’t forget to clean off areas that you’ve touched when you get home, such as door handles, the doorbell, light switches, counter tops, faucets and refrigerator handles.
Wipe down your items?
Maybe. A recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine featured a somewhat disturbing study that looked at the stability of the coronavirus on different types of surfaces. Researchers found that the virus remained active on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. But health experts believe that risk of packages having coronavirus on them is pretty low, as most virus particles will degrade quickly once on a surface. If you’re worried, you can certainly wipe down cans, jars and plastic containers with a disinfecting wipe.