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).
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.
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).
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).
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!
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.
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"
Finally some good news for pregnant women who develop a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy (a high-risk situation). According to a recent study, it turns out that in women who had a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy and recovered, their breast milk contains antibodies against the virus. Which get transmitted to the baby during nursing.
This means that the mothers are passing "viral immunity" to their babies, and so the babies are protected from COVID-19. Yay!
Yes, it was a small study of only 15 women, but a second similar study had similar results. As the researchers point out, this discovery has potential benefits to more than the nursing babies. The antibodies in the breastmilk could benefit others.
By the way, so far there is no evidence that a mother can transmit the virus to her baby through breastmilk. The researchers and others have tested breastmilk and have not found any live virus. All these results suggest that donor breastmilk is safe for babies to consume.
Some good news for those with Rh negative blood (whether it is A, B, AB, or O), and also for those with type O blood. A large Canadian study found that both the O and Rh- blood groups are associated with a slightly lower risk of COVID-19 infection and also severe COVID-19 illness and death. In other words, both are somewhat protective from the new coronavirus, especially O-negative blood.
Among 225,556 Canadians who were tested for the virus, the risk for a COVID-19 diagnosis was 12% lower and the risk for severe COVID-19 or death was 13% lower in people with blood group O versus those with A, AB, or B, researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers point out that some other studies had a similar finding regarding type O blood. Interestingly, the O blood group is associated with a decreased risk for venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the veins) - which can be a big complication of COVID-19.
How many people have O negative blood? One study of 3.1 million American blood donors found that O− was seen in 8.0% of White non-Hispanic donors, 3.9% of Hispanic donors, 3.6% of Black non-Hispanic donors, and 0.7% of Asian donors. So not that common in the US.
It is shocking that the same virus can result in the majority of people with COVID-19 having minimal or no symptoms, but others really suffering or even dying from it. We now know that after developing a COVID-19 infection, some people seem to be ill with symptoms for weeks and even months. This has been referred to as "long-COVID" or "long-haul COVID".
How frequently does this occur? The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) is looking into this issue, and currently estimate that: 1) About 1 in 5 respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 5 weeks or longer, and 2) About 1 in 10 persons testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer. (That's a lot!!!)
Using data from the ONS Infection Survey on hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, the report found that during the last week of November 2020 about 186,000 people in England were living with Covid-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks. The most commonly reported symptom was fatigue, followed by a cough, headache, loss of taste, loss of smell, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also discusses "long-term effects of COVID-19" on its web-site. They mention the most common long-term symptoms as: fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, but also list other symptoms such as "brain fog" (difficulty with thinking and concentration), intermittent fevers, headaches, and also less frequent more serious long-term complications (e.g. kidney injury, inflammation of the heart muscle).
Another helpful source of information is Paul Garner, professor of infectious diseases at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He has documented his battle with long-term Covid-19 symptoms in the British Medical Journal blog (also June 23 follow-up), and the need for "pacing" during recovery to prevent relapses. [twitter.com/paulgarnerwoof?lang=en ]
We are still in the early days of understanding COVID-19 and its effects. A year ago we were only aware of an emerging virus in China. And now it's global pandemic.
Holy mackerel! Currently COVID-19 kills someone in the United States every 107 seconds! And the U.S. is reporting more than 70,000 new coronavirus cases each day.
Wear a mask! Wearing a mask protects us from others exhaling the virus, protects us from inhaling the virus, and lowers how much virus we are exposed to (cloth and surgical masks protect us from most virus particles, but not all). There is evidence that wearing masks so lowers the amount of virus a person is exposed to (viral load), that if a person gets the infection, the body can deal with it much better and the infections may be asymptomatic or minor. This is huge - the possibility that up to 95% of infections could be asymptomatic!