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Sperm quality and sperm count is diminished for months after an unvaccinated man is infected with COVID-19. Yikes!

A study conducted by a team of Belgian researchers analyzed samples of sperm from 120 unvaccinated men (average age 35 years) in the first two months after they had recovered from COVID-19 infection. They found that in the first month after infection 37% of the men had reduced sperm counts and 60% had reduced sperm motility (how sperm moves). Over time there was improvement, but even after 2 months sperm count was lower in 6% and reduced sperm motility in 28%.

The only good news was that there was no evidence of the virus in the semen - which means that the semen isn't infectious after recovery. By the way, severity of the infection (with symptoms, including fever) did not correlate with the effects on sperm.

The researchers felt that by 3 months the sperm should be back to normal, but they are also doing a follow-up study to confirm this.

Bottom line: The first 2 months after COVID-19 infection is not the time to try to conceive a baby (due to suboptimal sperm). The study results are also a good argument for getting vaccinated!

From Medscape: Sperm Count, Motility May Be Low for Months After COVID-19

Sperm quality is impaired for months in some men after recovery from COVID-19, researchers have found. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Has An Effect On Sperm Quality"

Some good news for women who had a Covid-19 infection during pregnancy - one small study found reassuring results about the growth and development of the babies. The Northwestern University researchers found that at the 6 month checkup the babies overall had normal growth patterns and developmental milestones. This is great, great news!

Yes, it was a small study (33 low-income women and their babies). Three infants (10%) did receive development-related referrals (one had an underlying genetic diagnosis) - but the "referrals not higher" than what the physicians said they normally see. More good news: none of the babies tested positive for COVID-19.

From Science Daily: Normal 6-month outcomes in babies of women with COVID-19 during pregnancy

Babies born to women who had COVID-19 during pregnancy showed reassuring patterns of growth and development at 6-month follow-up, according to a study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern Medicine in partnership with Erie Family Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves a diverse and low-income patient population.  ...continue reading "COVID-19 During Pregnancy and Some Reassuring News About the Baby"

When COVID-19 vaccines first became available to the general public in 2021, women were concerned over whether it was safe to get vaccinated during pregnancy. The answer (from medical studies) is yes, the vaccines are safe and beneficial for both the mother and baby. This is great news!

Also, a recent study found that when women get a mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer or Moderna) during pregnancy, they pass high levels of antibodies to their babies. This means 100% of the babies had protective antibodies to COVID-19 when they were born. The New York University researchers found the highest level of antibodies in the infants when the mothers received the vaccine in the second half of pregnancy.

Current CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is because getting COVID-19 during pregnancy can result in more severe disease, higher risk of preterm birth and  pregnancy outcomes.

BOTTOM LINE: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy protects both the mother and baby. (By the way, studies also find that nursing transfers antibodies to the baby in the breast milk, but it is still unclear if the levels are high enough to fully protect the baby from COVID-19).

From Science Daily: Pregnant women who receive COVID-19 vaccination pass protection from the virus to their newborns

Women who receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy pass high levels of antibodies to their babies, a new study finds.  ...continue reading "The COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy Protects Both Mother and Baby"

Many people somehow think that COVID-19 is just another flu virus and not that bad. Wrong! The deadly flu epidemic of 1918 killed an estimated 675,000 persons in the United States. But COVID-19 has already killed more than 690,000 persons - and these are the confirmed cases! It is now officially the deadliest disease event or pandemic in American history.

Currently more than 1900 persons are still dying daily in the United States - so the numbers are increasing rapidly.

It is thought that actual numbers of deaths are at least 10% higher (e.g., a person dies at home from the virus, but had never taken COVID-19 test when alive). Johns Hopkins University updates case and death numbers daily (see COVID-19 Dashboard), for both the US and the rest of the world.

Very soon the official number of deaths from COVID-19 will surpass 700,000! In just two short years! Some comparisons of events causing large numbers of deaths are: the death toll for Americans in the War Between the States (Civil War) was about 650,000, and about 405,000 for World War II. The HIV/AIDS virus has killed at least 700,000 people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1960s - but this is over the course of 60 years.

Excerpts from Stat News: Covid-19 overtakes 1918 Spanish flu as deadliest disease in American history

The Covid-19 pandemic has become the deadliest disease event in American history, with a death toll surpassing that of the 1918 Spanish flu. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Is Now the Deadliest Pandemic in American History"

Something protective that we all can do! A large study of patients found that getting an annual flu shot appears to provide some protection from severe COVID-19 effects.

The study suggested that the annual flu vaccine reduces the risks of stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in persons with COVID-19. These patients are also less likely to visit the emergency department and to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in persons with COVID-19.

The Univ. of Miami researchers looked at medical records of 74,754 persons throughout the world with COVID-19. Patients either received a flu shot within the 6 months to 2 weeks before receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis, or no flu shot.

Why is this occurring? The researchers propose a number of reasons for the protective effect, including that perhaps the flu vaccine stimulates the activation of natural killer cells (these cells are decreased in moderate and severe COVID-19 cases).

From Science Daily: Flu shot protects against severe effects of COVID-19, study finds

In a newly published study, physician-scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have shown that the flu vaccine may provide vital protection against COVID-19. ...continue reading "Annual Flu Vaccine Reduces Risk of Severe COVID-19 Effects"

Another reason to get more active - a new study finds that being physically inactive (a couch potato) is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and ICU admission for COVID-19, and death from COVID-19. The researchers concluded that being consistently inactive should be viewed as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes, and that it is a "stronger risk factor than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by the CDC except for age and a history of organ transplant". Yikes!

On the other hand, being physically active at least 150 minutes per week, and this includes brisk walking, is linked to lower rates of all of the above. Some activity (but under 150 minutes per week) is also better than none, but 150 minutes or more is better. The researchers state that besides vaccinations, social distancing, and mask wearing - being physically active is the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.

The 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of physical activity per week are the recommended US Physical Activity Guidelines for adults, and include moderate and vigorous physical activity. It includes brisk walking. This can be achieved in less than 1/2 hour per day!

The researchers point out that health benefits of regular physical activity include: improved immune function, lower incidence of viral infections, as well as lower intensity and cases of death from viral infections, lowers the risk of chronic inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, muscle strength, and improves mental health. Which is why it is not surprising that persons getting a good amount of physical activity each week also generally have fewer problems with COVID-19 infections.

From CNN: Reduce risk of severe Covid with regular activity, study says. Here's how to get in 22 minutes of exercise daily

Some excerpts from the study at British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM): Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48,440 adult patients

Abstract: Objectives To compare hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and mortality for patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive, doing some activity or consistently meeting physical activity guidelines.  ...continue reading "Reduce Your Risk of Severe COVID-19 Infection By Being Physically Active"

Covid-19 infections are linked to many long-term health problems, but now a surprising one - an increased risk for erectile dysfunction in sexually active men. University of Rome researchers found that the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) increased six-fold after a COVID-19 infection. They also found that a person who already has erectile dysfunction is at five times higher risk for a COVID-19 infection.

They thought that erectile dysfunction after COVID-19 could be either a short or long-term effect  - meaning it might or might not go away over time.

Why would a coronavirus infection lead to erectile dysfunction? Evidence is finding that even "silent" asymptomatic COVID-19 infections may have an effect on small blood vessels so that there is endothelial dysfunction, which is impaired functioning of the inner lining of blood vessels. This means that arteries and arterioles are unable to dilate fully, and so blood supply to the penis can be blocked or narrowed.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been often considered a sign (a hallmark) of endothelial dysfunction. Higher rates of erectile dysfunction occur among men suffering from hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The University of Rome researchers summed it up as get vaccinated or "Mask up to keep it up."

A related finding: Last year a study (conducted in China) that autopsied 12 persons who had died of COVID-19 found that they had damage in the testicles - with inflammation, fluid accumulation, and reduced numbers of Leydig cells (which normally produce testosterone).

Excerpts from Medscape: Risk for Erectile Dysfunction Sixfold Higher in Men With COVID-19

COVID-19 increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) by nearly sixfold, according to data from the first study to investigate the association between ED and COVID-19 in young men in a real-life setting. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Infection Linked to Increased Risk of Erectile Dysfunction"

Syringe. Credit: Wikipedia

Some people get a large red rash on their arm after the first Moderna vaccine dose, and it is being called "COVID arm". It generally appears a few days after the shot, generally occurs in the arm that received the shot, and it goes away in less than a week. It occurs rarely - in under 1% of the people getting the first dose, and even less frequently (0.2%) after the second dose.

It is considered harmless - a hypersensitivity rash. Someone getting the rash after the first dose should get the second dose. In other words - everything is OK, and you can definitely proceed with the second vaccine shot.

You can take antihistamines if needed (if the rash is itchy).

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a letter and photos about this rash - Delayed Large Local Reactions to mRNA-1273 Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Some patient photos of the rash:

Credit: New England Journal of Medicine

From the CDC page: If you get a rash where you got the shot

CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where they got the shot. These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after the first shot and are sometimes quite large. These rashes are also known as “COVID arm.” If you experience “COVID arm” after getting the first shot, you should still get the second shot at the recommended interval if the vaccine you got needs a second shot. Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after the first shot. Your vaccination provider may recommend that you get the second shot in the opposite arm.

If the rash is itchy, you can take an antihistamine. If it is painful, you can take a pain medication like acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

It's official! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by food or packaging. This means that the last holdouts can stop washing and disinfecting their food (remember those scary instructional videos last spring?). Whew!

This opinion has international consensus. For example: the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF)External Link Disclaimer, stated: “Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19."

The FDA stresses that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person through the air - through droplets or aerosol transmission.

From the medical site Medscape: FDA: COVID-19 Not Transmitted by Food or Packaging

There is no evidence you can catch coronavirus through food or food packaging, the FDA and other government agencies said Thursday.  ...continue reading "COVID-19 Is Not Transmitted By Food Or Packaging"

There is much debate over whether pregnant women should get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because studies of pregnant women receiving vaccinations have not been done, and so risks and possible harms (if any) are unknown. But what is known is that pregnant women are at higher risk for pregnancy complications if they get COVID-19 (e.g. increased risk of preterm labor and stillbirth).

Pregnant women getting the vaccine are essentially part of an experiment looking at the vaccine's safety for both the pregnancy and the developing baby. But finally a case study (one woman!) has been published.

The good news is that results look promising. Antibodies from the vaccinated mother crossed the placenta and reached the baby. The pregnant woman had received the Moderna vaccine at 36 weeks, she delivered the healthy baby at 39 weeks, and antibodies against the virus were found in the umbilical cord blood - which meant they had been transferred from the mother to the baby.

A related study (see below) also gives hope that it may be beneficial for pregnant women to get vaccinated - at least 17 days before the birth so that antibodies can build up.

Excerpts from The Scientist: COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant Moms May Protect Newborns

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness and death compared to people with COVID-19 who are not pregnant, and they experience preterm birth and pregnancy loss more frequently than do expecting moms who don’t catch the virus. In spite of these risks, there is no clear guidance available yet for vaccinating pregnant women against COVID-19. But there is now some evidence that immunization could protect their newborns. For the first time, doctors report that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from a vaccinated mother can cross the placenta, pointing to a likely benefit for her fetus.  ...continue reading "Pregnant Women and COVID-19 Vaccines"