Govt revises dosage of anti-viral drug remdesivir to be administered to coronavirus patients

Agencies
July 4,2020

The Union health ministry on Friday revised the dosage of anti-viral drug remdesivir to be administered to coronavirus patients in the moderate stage of illness from the earlier six days to five days as it issued an updated 'Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19'.

The drug, administered in the form of injection, should be given at a dose of 200 mg on day one followed by 100 mg daily for four days (total five days), the new treatment protocols stated.

The Health Ministry on June 13 had allowed the use of remdesivir for restricted emergency use in moderate cases under "investigational therapies".

"Under emergency use authorisation, remdesivir may be considered for patients in moderate stage requiring oxygen support," the document stated.

It is not recommended for those with severe renal impairment and high level of liver enzymes, pregnant and lactating women, and those below 12 years, it said.

The ministry also okayed off-label application of tocilizumab, a drug that modifies the immune system or its functioning, and convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients in the moderate stage of illness as "investigational therapies".

It also recommended hydroxychloroquine for patients during the early course of the disease and not for critically-ill patients.

On June 27, the ministry had included an inexpensive, widely used steroid dexamethasone in treatment protocols for COVID-19 patients in the moderate to severe stages of their illness among other therapeutic measures.

The ministry advised use of dexamethasone, which is already used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects, as an alternative choice to methylprednisolone for managing moderate to severe cases of coronavirus infection.

India's COVID-19 cases soared by over 20,000 in a day for the first time taking the country's total tally to 6,25,544 on Friday while the death toll climbed to 18,213 with 379 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated at 8 am.

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Biryani tops the list of most ordered dishes in India even during lockdown

Agencies
July 25,2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown saw many people turning chefs overnight, but those who could not turned to online delivery of food. And not just any food, as per a new report, Indians "craved the most for Biryani" during the lockdown.

The "StatEATistics report: The Quarantine Edition" from food delivery platform Swiggy found that Indians ordered biryani over "5.5 lakh times" from their favourite restaurants.

The new normal might have opened a pandora's box of behavioral changes, but some old habits die hard like the love for Biryani, which took the top spot for overall orders. It was followed by butter naan and masala dosa at 3,35,185 and 3,31,423, respectively.

Biryani has topped the list of most ordered dishes for the fourth year in a row, the food delivery platform noted.

Indians didn't forget to indulge their sweet tooth in the uncertain months of lockdown. Their favourite comfort food during the lockdown period was the moist and decadent Choco Lava cake, ordered around 1,29,000 times.

"The humble Gulab Jamun (84,558) and chic Butterscotch Mousse cake (27,317) followed suit," said the report derived from Swiggy's order analysis in the past few months across cities that it is present in.

Also, as birthday parties moved to video calls, and virtual cake cutting sessions, according to the food delivery platform, it delivered nearly "1,20,000 cakes" to complete these celebrations.

According to the report, on average, "65,000 meal orders" were placed by 8 pm each day to make sure food arrived in time for dinner.

"It was the busiest hour for Swiggy delivery partners and restaurants. On average, they (customers) chose to tip Rs.23.65, with one particularly generous customer tipping Rs. 2500!," it added.

For those who only relied on home-made food during the quarantine, Swiggy delivered a whooping 323 million kgs of onions and 56 million kgs of bananas through its grocery section and hence ensured that its consumers were all stocked up.

That said, it also took care of the 'quick-fix meal' tribe -- consumers who resort to the evergreen college hacks of living on instant noodles.

"Around 3,50,000 packets of this ideal easy to cook meal were ordered during the lockdown," it said.

In all, Swiggy delivered 40 million orders across food, groceries, medicines and other household items during India's lockdowns. It also delivered over 73,000 bottles of sanitizers and hand wash along with 47,000 face masks as the definition of essentials' changed during these uncertain times.

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Is coronavirus spreading through air?

Agencies
July 30,2020

covid.jpg

New York, Jul 30: Can the coronavirus spread through the air? Yes, it's possible.

The World Health Organisation recently acknowledged the possibility that Covid-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.

Recent Covid-19 outbreaks in crowded indoor settings — restaurants, nightclubs and choir practices — suggest the virus can hang around in the air long enough to potentially infect others if social distancing measures are not strictly enforced.

Experts say the lack of ventilation in these situations is thought to have contributed to spread, and might have allowed the virus to linger in the air longer than normal.

In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes.

The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator.

Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures.

Scientists maintain it's far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of Covid-19 transmission.

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First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing

Agencies
July 15,2020

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the US revved up people's immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday -- as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

No matter how you slice this, this is good news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci's colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream -- molecules key to blocking infection -- at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection, said Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.

There's no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year -- record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart.

There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren't uncommon with other vaccines -- fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. For three participants given the highest dose, those reactions were more severe; that dose isn't being pursued.

Some of those reactions are similar to coronavirus symptoms but they're temporary, lasting about a day and occur right after vaccination, researchers noted.

Small price to pay for protection against COVID, said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a vaccine expert who wasn't involved with the study.

He called the early results a good first step, and is optimistic that final testing could deliver answers about whether it's really safe and effective by the beginning of next year.

It would be wonderful. But that assumes everything's working right on schedule, Schaffner cautioned.

Moderna's share price jumped nearly 15 percent in trading after US markets closed. Shares of the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have nearly quadrupled this year.

Tuesday's results only included younger adults. The first-step testing later was expanded to include dozens of older adults, the age group most at risk from COVID-19.

Those results aren't public yet but regulators are evaluating them. Fauci said final testing will include older adults, as well as people with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus and Black and Latino populations likewise affected.

Nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world. Candidates from China and Britain's Oxford University also are entering final testing stages.

The 30,000-person study will mark the world's largest study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine so far. And the NIH-developed shot isn't the only one set for such massive U.S. testing, crucial to spot rare side effects. The government plans similar large studies of the Oxford candidate and another by Johnson & Johnson; separately, Pfizer Inc. is planning its own huge study.

Already, people can start signing up to volunteer for the different studies.

People think this is a race for one winner. Me, I'm cheering every one of them on, said Fauci, who directs NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country. Around the world, governments are investing in stockpiles of hundreds of millions of doses of the different candidates, in hopes of speedily starting inoculations if any are proven to work.

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