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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Japanese flu drug favipiravir 'clearly effective' in treating coronavirus, claims China

An official at China's Science and Technology Ministry said on Wednesaday that a Japanese flu drug to treat new strains of influenza has proved 'clearly effective' in treating coronavirus patients.
Japanese media said that Zhang Xinmin has claimed that favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced good encouraging outcomes in clinical trials conducted on 340 patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen, reported Guardian.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus nearly four days after testing postive for the virus.
The X-rays of these patients also showed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients, while it was 62% on those without the drug.
The drug which is also known as Avigan is developed by uFujifilm Toyama Chemical. The pharma company has preferred not to comment on this matter.
Guardian reported that Avigan is being used by Japanese doctors in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
A Japanese health ministry source, however, said that the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.
Notably, favipiravir was used by the Japanese government in 2016 as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.
It is learnt that Favipiravir would need approval from Japanese government for full-scale use on Covid-19 patients and the drug could be approved as early as May. “But if the results of clinical research are delayed, approval could also be delayed.”

COVID-19: California issues 'stay home' order; US death toll hits 200

 California issued a statewide 'stay at home' order on Thursday for its 40 million residents and Washington warned Americans to return home or stay abroad indefinitely, with the number of coronavirus deaths in the country hitting 200.
Governor Gavin Newsom said modeling has shown that 56 percent of California residents were expected to contract COVID-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide
He said Los Angeles, as the nation`s second-largest city, would likely be "disproportionately impacted" by the pandemic in the coming weeks.
As authorities ramped up measures to keep the virus from spreading, Washington could announce restrictions on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border as soon as Friday, limiting crossings to essential travel, two officials briefed on the matter said. That would follow a similar measure on Wednesday closing the border with Canada.
The fast-spreading respiratory illness has shattered most patterns of American life: shuttering schools and businesses, prompting millions to work from home, forcing many out of jobs and sharply curtailing travel.
The U.S. State Department told citizens that if they travel internationally, "your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe."
With the economy swooning, Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan to provide funds directly to businesses and the American public. President Donald Trump has been eagerly calling for that package.
It would be Congress` third emergency coronavirus bill following a $105 billion-plus plan covering free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending, and an $8.3 billion measure to combat the spread of the highly contagious pathogen and develop vaccines.
The plunging stock market and surging U.S. death toll has caused Trump to sharply change his tone on the disease this week, demanding urgent action after spending weeks downplaying the risks.
Over 13,000 people across the United States have been diagnosed with the illness called COVID-19 and 200 have died, with the largest numbers so far in Washington state and New York. 
Minutes before Newsom announced his statewide order, Los Angeles County officials ordered the closure of all shopping centers and non-essential businesses, and told its 10 million residents to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
"We cannot wait. We have to act now," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "This is not a shelter-in-place order, this is a stay-at-home order."
Two Los Angeles Lakers players have the coronavirus, the NBA franchise said on Thursday, after four players from the Brooklyn Nets tested positive for the disease a day earlier.
The virus has taken the greatest toll in Washington state, which reported eight more deaths on Thursday, bringing the death toll there to 74.
TEST DELAYS
With the United States slow to roll out mass testing for the virus that has infected more than 244,000 people worldwide, officials fear the number of known cases of the respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia lags far behind reality.
New York State tested 8,000 patients overnight. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered three-quarters of state employees to work from home, but has resisted calls for the kind of `stay at home` order that California has now mandated.
"We don`t have the results of the 8,000 tests, but when you do 8,000 tests, the numbers are going to go up exponentially," Cuomo told CNN. There are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, but several options are being tested.
New York City, where many young people last weekend packed local bars and restaurants, has been eerily deserted after nightfall.
"It`s a skater`s dream," said Dyanna Hernandez, 20, who had joined a dozen friends in Manhattan`s Union Square to enjoy the freedom of what she called a "ghost city" after three days stuck at home. "I can`t really be quarantined."
The epidemic, which has killed over 10,000 globally so far, has drawn comparisons with traumatic periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits surged by the most since 2012 to a 2-1/2-year high last week, as companies in the services sector laid off workers with businesses shutting down due to the pandemic.
Katie Vetere, 32, general manager of One 53, a small restaurant near Princeton, New Jersey, applied for benefits for the first time in her life after the restaurant was forced to shut down when state authorities banned table service.
Vetere expects her benefits to be less than half her regular weekly paycheck. "I go from `I`m sad` to `I`m scared` to `I`m angry,`" she said. "Do I consider my job lost? I don`t know."

Scientists in China detect two main coronavirus strains affecting humans

Scientists in China studying the coronavirus outbreak said they had found two main types of the disease could be causing infections.
The researchers, from Peking University`s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cautioned that their analysis examined a limited range of data, and said follow-up studies of larger data sets are needed to better understand the virus`s evolution.
The preliminary study found that a more aggressive type of the new coronavirus associated with the disease outbreak in Wuhan accounted for about 70% of analysed strains, while 30% was linked to a less aggressive type.
The prevalence of the more aggressive virus decreased after early January 2020, they said.
"These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," they wrote.
Their findings were published on Tuesday in the National Science Review, the journal of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Also on Wednesday, one of China`s top medical associations confirmed that the median incubation period of the coronavirus is five to seven days and the maximum 14 days.
The remarks by Du Bin, chairman of the critical care medical branch of the Chinese Medical Association, mark the most conclusive assessment of the virus` incubation period by a government-affiliated medical organization to date.
The revelations came amid a fall in new coronavirus cases following crippling restrictions imposed on the world`s second largest economy to stop its spread, including transport suspensions and the extension of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Air pollution's tiny particles may give heart attacks

Researchers have found that even a few hours' exposure to ambient Ultrafine particles (UFP) common in air pollution may potentially trigger a non-fatal heart attack.
Myocardial infarction is a major form of cardiovascular disease worldwide. Ultrafine particles are 100 nanometres or smaller in size. In urban areas, automobile emissions are the primary source of UFP.
For the study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers investigated the effects of UFP exposure and heart attacks using the number of particles and the particle length and surface area concentrations at hourly intervals of exposure.
"This study confirms something that has long been suspected - air pollution's tiny particles can play a role in serious heart disease. This is particularly true within the first few hours of exposure," said the study's first author Kai Chen, Assistant Professor at Yale University in the US.
UFP constitute a health risk due to their small size, large surface areas per unit of mass, and their ability to penetrate the cells and get into the blood system, the study said. 
The researchers were interested in whether transient UFP exposure could trigger heart attacks and whether alternative metrics such as particle length and surface area concentrations could improve the investigation of UFP-related health effects.
The research team examined data from a registry of all non-fatal MI cases in Augsburg, Germany.
The study looked at more than 5,898 non-fatal heart attack patients between 2005 and 2015.
The individual heart attacks were compared against air pollution UFP data on the hour of the heart attack and adjusted for a range of additional factors, such as the day of the week, long-term time trend and socio-economic status.
"This represents an important step toward understanding the appropriate indicator of ultrafine particles exposure in determining the short-term health effects, as the effects of particle length and surface concentrations were stronger than the ones of particle number concentration and remained similar after adjustment for other air pollutants," said Chen.
"Our future analyses will examine the combined hourly exposures to both air pollution and extreme temperature. We will also identify vulnerable subpopulations regarding pre-existing diseases and medication intake," Chen added.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Coronavirus scare: South Korea reports 169 new cases, including first US soldier

South Korea reported 169 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including a US soldier, as health authorities readied an ambitious plan to test more than 200,000 members of a church hit hardest by the country`s outbreak.
The new cases pushed the total tally to 1,146, with the numbers expected to rise as the government widens its testing.
Of the new cases, 134 were from Daegu city, where a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has been linked to outbreaks, is located, the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) said.
The US military reported its first case of the coronavirus on Wednesday, in a 23-year-old soldier based in Camp Carroll, about 20 km (12.4 miles) from Daegu. The camp is also near a disability centre that has had its own outbreak of the virus.
A twelfth death from the virus was reported on Wednesday, according to the Joongang Ilbo newspaper.
Around 80 percent of the country`s cases - including at the disability centre - are linked to the 
Daegu church, and to a hospital in nearby Cheongdo County, which some members are believed to have visited.
The church said it had agreed to provide the government with contact details for all of its members and people in trainee programmes, on the understanding that the information would not be made public.
"We have obtained a list of 212,000 number of the Shincheonji believers from the church last night," vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said at a briefing on Wednesday.
"We will pass the list to local governments," he said. "Local governments will check whether the believers have respiratory or fever related symptoms and visit their homes to test them."
The coronavirus is believed to have originated in China before spreading to dozens of other countries and territories.

World's oldest man Chitetsu Watanabe dies days after Guinness record

Japan`s Chitetsu Watanabe, recognized at 112 years as the oldest man in the world, has passed away 11 days after he received the Guinness World Record certificate, his family said on Tuesday.
Watanabe died on Sunday night, Efe news reported. He received the official certificate on February 12 at a nursing home in Joetsu in Niigata prefecture, where he resided.
Soon after being certified as the oldest man, he began to experience a lack of appetite and respiratory problems, the wife of his eldest son told public broadcaster NHK.
Born on March 5, 1907 in a family of farmers, Watanabe moved at the age of 20 to Taiwan, where he worked at a sugar refinery for 18 years before returning to Japan after the end of World War II.
A fan of calligraphy, custard and ice cream, Watanabe told the Guinness team that the key to his long life was laughter.
He was recognized as the oldest male in the world following the deaths in 2019 of German Gustav Gerneth (in October), aged 114 years, and Japan`s Masazo Nonaka (in January), at the age of 113, three months older than the German.
It remains to be seen who will be recognized after the death of Watanabe, the only male on the list drawn up by the Gerontology Research Group of the 30 oldest people in the world.
Japan has among the highest life expectancy in the world and the number of centenarians in the country has crossed 71,000, according to the latest government figures.
Since 2000, the number of centenarians censored has quintupled, raising concern for the economic outlook and future workforce of the country - where the birthrate is on a downward trend.
Out of these, 88 per cent are women.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Wholesome doctor goes the extra mile to make kids surgeries less terrifying (24 Photos)