Smoking linked to higher risk of coronavirus, says WHO

Agencies
July 2,2020

London, Jul 2: The World Health Organisation says smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalised patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater those risks might be.

In a scientific brief published this week, the U.N. health agency reviewed 34 published studies on the association between smoking and Covid-19, including the probability of infection, hospitalisation, severity of disease and death.

WHO noted that smokers represent up to 18% of hospitalised coronavirus patients and that there appeared to be a significant link between whether or not patients smoked and the severity of disease they suffered, the type of hospital interventions required and patients' risk of dying.

In April, French researchers released a small study suggesting smokers were at less risk of catching Covid-19 and planned to test nicotine patches on patients and health workers — but their findings were questioned by many scientists at the time who cited the lack of definitive data.

WHO says "the available evidence suggests that smoking is associated with increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized Covid-19 patients. It recommends that smokers quit.

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No return to old normal in foreseeable future: WHO chief

Agencies
July 14,2020

UN, Jul 14: There will be no return to the "old normal" for the foreseeable future as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and too many countries were still headed in the wrong direction, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

"The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this," Xinhua news agency quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at as saying a regular briefing on Monday.

He noted that mixed messages from leaders are undermining trust, which is the most critical ingredient of any response, while the only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.

Things are going to "get worse and worse and worse", he warned, unless governments communicate clearly with their citizens and roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives, while populations follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying home when sick.

COVID-19 has been gaining its momentum lately.

According to Tedros, Sunday saw a record of 230,000 cases reported to WHO, of which almost 80% were from just 10 countries and about half from just two countries.

"But it does not have to be this way," he said, asking every single leader, government and individual "to do their bit to break the chains of COVID-19 transmission and end the collective suffering".

To control the disease and get on with people's lives, Tedros said, three things are required. The first is to focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission; the second is to focus on an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.

And the third is a strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.

"We weren't prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now," he added.

At the WHO briefing on Monday, health experts also said there was evidence to suggest that children under the age of 10 were only very mildly affected by Covid-19, while those over 10 seemed to suffer similar mild symptoms to young adults.

To what extent children can transmit the virus, while it appears to be low, remains unknown.

On Tuesday, the number of global coronavirus cases cross the 13 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases currently stood at 13,070,097, while the fatalities rose to 572,411, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world's highest number of infections and fatalities at 3,363,056 and 135,605, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 1,884,967 infections and 72,833 deaths.

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COVID-19 | Govt warns against use of N-95 masks with valved respirators

Agencies
July 21,2020

New Delhi, Jul 21: The Centre has written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are "detrimental" to the measures adopted for its containment.

The Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said it has been observed that there is "inappropriate use" of N-95 masks, particularly those with valved respirators, by the public other than designated health workers.

The DGHS referred to the advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth available on the website of the Ministry of Health.

"It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks," DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.

The government had in April issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it, particularly when they step out of their residences.

The advisory stressed such face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, as instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.

The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended, it said.

It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

It urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

"Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover," the advisory stated.

India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 11-lakh mark on Monday, while the total number of recovered patients increased to over seven lakh, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll due to the disease rose to 27,497 with 681 fatalities reported in one day.

The ministry data updated at 8 am on Monday showed that a record single-day jump of 40,425 COVID-19 cases had taken the total number of cases to 11,18,043.

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'Children under the age of 5 carry higher levels of Covid-19'

Agencies
August 2,2020

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Washington, Aug 2: Children under the age of five have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of genetic material of the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, a study in JAMA Pediatrics said Thursday.

Its authors wrote this meant that young children might be important drivers of Covid-19 transmission within communities -- a suggestion at odds with the current prevailing narrative.

The paper comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is pushing hard for schools and daycare to reopen in order to kickstart the economy.

Between March 23 and April 27, researchers carried out nasal swab tests on 145 Chicago patients with mild to moderate illness within one week of symptom onset.

The patients were divided into three groups: 46 children younger than five-years-old, 51 children aged five to 17 years, and 48 adults aged 18 to 65 years.

The team, led by Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, observed, "a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children."

15 countries with the highest number of cases, deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic

The authors added that a recent lab study had demonstrated that the more viral genetic material was present, the more infectious virus could be grown.

It has also previously been shown that children with high viral loads of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are more likely to spread the disease.

"Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the authors wrote.

"Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased," they concluded.

The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children -- who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus -- don't spread it much to others either.

However, there has been fairly little research on the topic so far.

One recent study in South Korea found children aged 10 to 19 transmitted Covid-19 within households as much as adults, but children under nine transmitted the virus at lower rates.

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