Continued strict control measures needed to reduce new COVID-19 strains

Press release:

A group of scientists is calling on governments to consider the continued use of strict control measures as the only way to reduce the evolution and spread of new COVID-19 variants.

The experts in evolution, virology, infectious disease and genomics – at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Earlham Institute and University of Minnesota – warn that while governments are negotiating a “precarious balance” between saving the economy and preventing COVID-19 fatalities, stronger action now is the best way to mitigate against more serious outcomes from such virulent strains later.

While COVID-19 vaccine deployment is now underway, a threat to vaccine effectiveness comes from other emerging strains, both existing – such as the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants – and those yet to come.

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Allergists offer reassurance regarding potential allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines

News Release:

BOSTON – Reports of possible allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both recently approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have raised public concern. A team of experts led by allergists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has now examined all relevant information to offer reassurance that the vaccines can be administered safely even to people with food or medication allergies. The group’s review is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

In response to accounts of potential allergic reactions in some people following COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, that country’s medical regulatory agency advised that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to a medicine or food should avoid COVID-19 vaccination. After closer review of the data related to allergic reactions, however, the FDA recommended that the vaccines be withheld only from individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any component of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that all patients be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination by staff who can identify and manage such reactions. The U.S. agencies do not recommend that people with food or medication allergies avoid vaccination.

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Long-lasting COVID immunity gives real hope for the long-term protection of vaccines

Press release:

Australian researchers have revealed – for the first time – that people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus have immune memory to protect against reinfection for at least eight months.

The research is the strongest evidence for the likelihood that vaccines against the virus, SARS-CoV-2, will work for long periods.  Previously, many studies have shown that the first wave of antibodies to coronavirus wane after the first few months, raising concerns that people may lose immunity quickly.  This new work allays these concerns.

The study is the result of a multi-centre collaboration led by Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, from the Monash University Department of Immunology and Pathology, with the Alfred Research Alliance between Monash University, The Alfred hospital and the Burnet Institute, and published today in the prestigious journal, Science Immunology. The publication reveals the discovery that specific cells within the immune system called memory B cells, “remembers” infection by the virus, and if challenged again, through re-exposure to the virus, triggers a protective immune response through rapid production of protective antibodies.

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Disposable surgical masks best for being heard clearly when speaking, study finds

Masks are an important tool for fighting COVID-19 but wearing one can make it difficult for others to hear us speak. Using a unique laboratory setup, Illinois researcher Ryan Corey tested how different types of masks affect the acoustics of speech.

Press Release:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researcher Ryan Corey recently heard from a friend who teaches at a school where some of the students have hearing loss. The friend wanted to know if he had any ideas to help her communicate with these students while wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. Corey, who also has hearing loss, did not know what to tell her. So, he headed to the Illinois Augmented Listening Laboratory to look for solutions.

Corey, an electrical and computer engineering postdoctoral researcher under professor Andrew Singer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, leads a team that studies audio signal processing, especially for listening devices like hearing aids. The results of the team’s new study evaluating the acoustic effects of face masks on speech are published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

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Physicians say non-contact infrared thermometers fall short as COVID-19 screeners

Physicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical School say a non-contact infrared thermometer, such as the one being used here to check a traveler for fever at the airport, is a poor means of screening for COVID-19 infection.

Press Release:

While a fever is one of the most common symptoms for people who get sick with COVID-19, taking one’s temperature is a poor means of screening who is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease, and more importantly, who might be contagious. That’s the conclusion of a perspective editorial by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine that describes why temperature screening — primarily done with a non-contact infrared thermometer (NCIT) — doesn’t work as an effective strategy for stemming the spread of COVID-19.

The editorial was published Dec. 14, 2020, in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, the online journal of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. The authors are William Wright, D.O., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Philip Mackowiak, M.D., M.B.A., emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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Researchers rank various mask protection, modifications against COVID-19

Medical procedure mask and modifications designed to enhance mask fit or comfort for the wearer. A mask w/ear loops (A) modified by tying the ear loops and tucking in the side pleats (B), attaching ear loops to a 3D-printed “ear guard” (C), fastening ear loops with a 23mm claw-type hair clip placed behind the wearer’s head (D), placing ring of three, ganged, rubber bands over the mask and around the wearer’s ears (E), and sliding a 10-inch segment of nylon hosiery over the fitted mask (F).

Press Release:

CHAPEL HILL, NC – It’s been shown that when two people wearing masks interact, the chance of COVID-19 transmission is drastically reduced. This is why public health officials have pleaded for all people to wear masks: they not only protect the wearer from expelling particles that might carry SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), but masks also protect the wearer from inhaling particles that carry the virus. Some people, though, still refuse to wear a mask. So UNC School of Medicine scientists, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, researched the protectiveness of various kinds of consumer-grade and modified masks, assuming the mask wearer was exposed to the virus, like when we interact with an unmasked infected person.

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