Depression and anxiety rise among new moms amidst COVID-19 pandemic

News Network
June 20, 2020

Washington, Jun 20: Pregnant and postpartum women are usually at a high risk of depression and anxiety - one in seven women struggle with symptoms in the perinatal period and the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating those struggles according to a recent study.

The study was published in Frontiers in Global Women's Health, which found that the likelihood of maternal depression and anxiety has substantially increased during the health crisis.

"The social and physical isolation measures that are critically needed to reduce the spread of the virus are taking a toll on the physical and mental health of many of us," said Dr. Margie Davenport of the University of Alberta, Canada, who co-authored the study.

For new moms, those stresses come with side effects.

"We know that experiencing depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period can have detrimental effects on the mental and physical health of both mother and baby that can persist for years," said Davenport.

Such effects can include premature delivery, reduced mother-infant bonding, and developmental delays in infants.

The study surveyed 900 women - 520 of whom were pregnant and 380 of whom had given birth in the past year - and asked about their depression and anxiety symptoms before and during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic began, 29 percent of those women experienced moderate to high anxiety symptoms, and 15 percent experienced depressive symptoms. During the pandemic, those numbers increased - 72 percent experienced anxiety and 41percent experienced depression.

Because lockdown measures have affected daily routines and access to gyms, researchers also asked women whether their exercise habits had changed. Of the women surveyed, 64 percent reduced their physical activity since the pandemic began, while 15 percent increased and 21 percent experienced no change.

Exercise is a known way to ease depression symptoms, so limited physical activity may result in an uptick in depressive symptoms. Indeed, the study found that women who engaged in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week had significantly lower symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The findings are somewhat limited given the fact that researchers could not survey women before the pandemic began (since they could not know a pandemic would occur). The women surveyed could only offer their pre-pandemic symptoms in hindsight.

Also, while the researchers asked women about their symptoms using validated measures, only mental health care professionals can validly diagnose an individual with depression or anxiety.

The study was specifically interested in the impact of COVID-19 on new moms, but Davenport says maternal mental health is a critical issue no matter the time.

"Even when we are not in a global pandemic, many pregnant and postpartum women frequently feel isolated whether due to being hospitalized, not having family or friends around or other reasons," she said.

"It is critical to increase awareness of the impact of social (and physical) isolation on the mental health of pregnant and postpartum women," Davenport added.

Increased awareness makes diagnosis and treatment - the ultimate goal - more likely.

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Agencies
November 26,2020

Geneva, Nov 25: Approximately once every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was infected with HIV last year, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

Prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations, and in 2019, a little less than half of children worldwide did not have access to life-saving treatment, UNICEF said in a new report.

Nearly 3,20,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV and 1,10,000 children died of AIDS last year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before Covid-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

According to UNICEF, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere, and there are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.

"Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic," said Fore.

Data from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), cited in the report, showed the impact of control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment, and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.

Pediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries fell by 50 to 70 per cent, and new treatment initiation by 25 to 50 percent in April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns to control the novel coronavirus.

Health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services by approximately 10 percent.

Though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain, and the world is still far from achieving the global 2020 pediatric HIV targets, said UNICEF.

Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children.

While the Middle East and North Africa region recorded 81 percent pediatric ART coverage, only 46 per cent and 32 per cent were covered in Latin America and the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, respectively.

The South Asia region recorded 76 per cent coverage, Eastern and Southern Africa 58 per cent, and East Asia and the Pacific 50 per cent.

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News Network
December 5,2020

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Boston, Dec 5: Using computer simulations, scientists have analysed the airflow patterns inside a car's passenger cabin, shedding light on the potential ways to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission while sharing rides with others.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, assessed the airflow inside a compact car with various combinations of windows open or closed.

According to the researchers, including those from Brown University in the US, the simulations showed that opening windows created airflow patterns that dramatically reduced the concentration of airborne aerosol particles exchanged between a driver and a single passenger.

However, they said blasting the car's ventilation system didn't circulate air nearly as well as a few open windows.

"Driving around with the windows up and the air conditioning or heat on is definitely the worst scenario, according to our computer simulations," said Asimanshu Das, co-lead author of the research from Brown University.

"The best scenario we found was having all four windows open, but even having one or two open was far better than having them all closed," Das said.

While there's no way to eliminate risk completely, and current guidelines recommend postponing travel, the scientists said the goal of the study was simply to assess how changes in airflow inside a car may worsen or reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission.

In the research, the computer models simulated a car, loosely based on a Toyota Prius, with two people inside -- a driver, and a passenger sitting in the back seat on the opposite side from the driver.

The scientists said they chose this seating arrangement since it maximised the physical distance between the two people.

Since the novel coronavirus is thought to spread via tiny aerosol particles that can linger in the air for extended periods of time, the researchers simulated airflow around and inside a car moving at 50 miles per hour.

Part of the reason opening windows is better in terms of aerosol transmission is because it increases the number of air changes per hour (ACH) inside the car that reduces the overall concentration of aerosols, the study noted.

The scientists showed that different combinations of open windows created different air currents inside the car that could either increase or decrease exposure to remaining aerosols.

Since the occupants in the simulations were sitting on opposite sides of the cabin, they said very few particles ended up being transferred between the two.

According to the research, the driver was at slightly higher risk than the passenger since the average airflow in the car goes from back to front, but added that both occupants experience a dramatically lower transfer of particles.

When some -- but not all -- windows were down, the study yielded counterintuitive results.

Citing an example of one such instance, the scientists said opening the windows next to each occupant carried a higher exposure risk, compared to putting down the window opposite each occupant.

"When the windows opposite the occupants are open, you get a flow that enters the car behind the driver, sweeps across the cabin behind the passenger and then goes out the passenger-side front window," said Kenny Breuer, a professor of engineering at Brown University and a senior author of the research.

"That pattern helps to reduce cross-contamination between the driver and passenger," Breuer said.

The scientists said airflow adjustments are no substitute for mask-wearing by both occupants when inside a car, adding that the findings are limited to potential exposure to lingering aerosols that may contain pathogens.

Citing another limitation of the study, the scientists said it did not model larger respiratory droplets or the risk of actually becoming infected by the virus.

However, they said the findings provide valuable new insights into air circulation patterns inside a car's passenger compartment.

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Agencies
November 25,2020

In view of the winter season and COVID-19, health experts on Wednesday said that many people are taking pneumonia and influenza vaccines as a precaution to save themselves from respiratory infections.

Experts have warned that it is highly possible that people may contract both influenza and the COVID-19 infection in winter, leading to devastating consequences.

Dr Avi Kumar, Consultant - Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi said, "What we are generally following is that in post COVID patients we are giving flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine."

"Because right now we are at the start of winter and this is generally the beginning of flu season as well as coronavirus. Both are RnA viruses so the vaccine which is available against influenza is known to be very helpful in reducing hospitalization," Kumar explained.

International researchers have recently found that receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person's risk of contracting COVID-19 or worsen associated morbidity or mortality.

Published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, the study shows the flu vaccine is the single most important intervention to help in staying healthy this fall and winter.

"More studies need to be done to confirm the same, only a few studies cannot confirm it," Kumar said.

"However, what is available with us right now is prevention of other respiratory infections in the form of flu as well as pneumonia so that hospitals are not overburdened with other respiratory illnesses as well as Covid patients," he added.

"Hence, we prefer tetravalent inactivated flu vaccine which has been given to every patient in post Covid status.

"In addition we have been giving them vaccines for pneumonia, conjugate vaccine is been given to the age group of above 65 years, this vaccine is given only once in a lifetime. We are also giving a polyvalent vaccine which is to be repeated once in every five years," Kumar said.

According to Dr Akshay Budhraja, Consultant Department of Pulmonology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, in the absence of a vaccine specific to the Covid-19 virus right now, they are checking the vaccination history of the patient.

"We give one shot of flu vaccine every year and pneumococcal vaccine is given once in five years. As of now, we have not faced any shortage," Budhraja told IANS.

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