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B 12/2 4PM -- 'Metabolites' From Food Could Affect Your Stroke Risk

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Levels of some small molecules called metabolites in the body may affect your risk of stroke, a new analysis suggests.

Metabolites come from the food people eat, and they cause chemical processes within the bodies and microbes. An analysis of previously published studies found that the levels of 10 of these are linked to the risk of stroke.

These include lipids, fatty acids, amino acids and carbohydrates. Levels of metabolites can change in response to factors such as disease, genetics or the environment and are indicators of overall health, the researchers noted.

"With stroke being a leading cause of death and serious long-term disability worldwide, researchers are looking for new ways to identify high-risk patients, determine the causes of stroke and develop prevention strategies," said researcher Dr. Dina Vojinovic, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "For our analysis, we examined a large series of metabolites to gain new insights into the metabolic changes that may happen leading up to a stroke."

For the study, Vojinovic's team looked at seven studies, which included nearly 39,000 people. In all, nearly 1,800 people suffered a stroke during the two to 10 years of follow-up.

In the study, published online Dec. 2 in the journal Neurology, the researchers found 10 metabolites were associated with the risk of stroke.

The amino acid histidine was the one most tied to lower stroke risk. Histidine comes from meat, eggs, dairy and grains. It is an essential amino acid that helps maintain life and was tied with a lower risk of stroke.

"Histidine can be converted to histamine, which has been shown to have a strong effect on the dilation of the blood vessels," Vojinovic explained in a journal news release. "It also functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and has been shown in some studies to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, so this finding is not surprising."

With every one standard deviation increase in levels of histidine, people had a 10% lower risk of stroke, the researchers found.

They also found the high-density lipoprotein cholesterols, HDL and HDL2 -- the "good" cholesterols -- were linked with a lower risk of stroke.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides were tied with a higher risk of stroke.

The metabolite pyruvate, which is made when cells break down sugar, also increased the risk of stroke. With every one standard deviation increase in pyruvate, the risk for stroke rose 13%, the researchers found.

"Pyruvate is critical for supplying energy to a cell and has been shown in previous studies to decrease inflammation, while in contrast, to also increase a person's risk for cardiovascular disease, so more research is needed," Vojinovic said. "Our analysis provides new insights into how the risk of stroke may be affected on the molecular level."

More information

For more on stroke, see the American Stroke Association.




SOURCE: Neurology, press release, Dec. 2, 2020

CDC Shrinks COVID Quarantine Time, Advises Against Holiday Travel

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered some good news and some bad news on Wednesday: The recommended length of quarantine after exposure to the new coronavirus has been shortened, but Americans are again being asked to avoid any and all travel during the coming holiday season.

The new quarantine guidelines will allow people who have come in contact with someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they test negative for COVID-19. Until now, a 14-day quarantine period had been recommended in all cases of exposure.

"Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time," said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 Incident Manager.

"In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system and communities, especially when new infections are rapidly rising," Walke said.

As for folks who want to travel far and wide to see family and friends over the holidays, the CDC wants you to reconsider your plans.

"CDC recommends that the best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone travel and stay home," Walke said during a media briefing Wednesday. If you insist on traveling, the CDC recommends that you get tested one to three days before you leave and then again three to five days after you return, he explained.

Walke added that people who travel should reduce nonessential activities for seven days after getting back home. If you don't get tested after traveling, CDC recommends reducing nonessential activities for 10 days. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, follow CDC guidance about what to do if you get sick, he said.

Walke said that the CDC continues to encourage all Americans to wear a mask, maintain social distance, avoid crowds and indoor spaces, and wash your hands often, even as vaccines become available.

"Taking these protective actions is critical until COVID-19 vaccination becomes widely available," he said.

Speaking at the media briefing, Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of the CDC's Travelers' Health Branch, also cautioned against holiday travel.

"The safest thing to do is to postpone travel and stay home," she said. "We know it's a hard decision, and some people need to have time to prepare and have discussions with family and friends and to make these decisions. Our recommendations are trying to help give them the tools they need to make these tough choices," Friedman said.

"I think it's a good thing that people have options to prevent infection and they can take time now before the Christmas holidays to really think about the best option for them and their family, which we think is to postpone travel," Friedman added.

More information

For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Dec. 2, 2020, media briefing with: Henry Walke, MD, COVID-19 Incident Manager, and Cindy Friedman, MD, chief, Travelers' Health Branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Many Hospitalized COVID Patients Will Need Longer-Term Care at Home


WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- When COVID-19 patients go home from the hospital, their recovery is often far from over -- and many might benefit from home health care, a new study suggests.

At a time when U.S. COVID cases are surging and hospitals are running out of room, experts say home health care could serve a critical role by allowing some patients to have shorter hospital stays and be monitored at home.

But until now, little has been known about COVID patients' recovery during home health care.

The new study suggests that, at least in New York City, they do well.

Researchers looked at records from more than 1,400 COVID patients who were discharged from New York hospitals into care from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York -- a large nonprofit home health agency.

"When they entered home care, these patients were very sick," said lead researcher Kathryn Bowles, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Overall, 84% still had trouble breathing with any exertion, while 42% had daily or constant pain. Half reported exhaustion, and just as many had anxiety symptoms. Most patients needed help with basics like bathing, dressing and moving around their home.

But by the time patients were discharged from home care, most were showing substantial improvements in those symptoms. And only 10% ended up in the hospital again.

Nearly all patients -- 94% -- were discharged, after an average of one month of home care. One percent of patients died, while others had to remain in home care for a longer term.

There was no comparison group of patients who did not receive home care. But on the whole, Bowles said, the findings "shine a light on the value of home health care."

In general, home care involves visits from nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers, depending on the patient's needs.

For some, Bowles said, home care might allow a quicker hospital discharge. For others, it might be an alternative to being discharged to a skilled nursing facility or other institution.

But while the study patients mostly fared well in the end, the findings highlight a broader problem: COVID-19 can cause debilitating problems that require weeks to months of recovery.

"Death is not the only bad outcome of this disease," said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, a professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.

"In our clinic, we see young people with heart damage, lung damage and exacerbation of mental health conditions," said Ostrosky, who was not involved with the study.

The point that younger adults can suffer long-term consequences from COVID is an important one, according to Ostrosky.

Many of the patients in Bowles' study were older adults, but 43% were younger than 65.

Ostrosky agreed that home health care can be an important part of hospitalized COVID patients' recovery. At his hospital, he said, patients are considered candidates for home care based on two broad measures -- whether they are ready for it medically, and whether they and their families feel ready.

Ostrosky also agreed that home care can help free up needed hospital beds. But, he stressed, "no hospital will put patients in danger in order to discharge them sooner."

Bowles said it's important for patients and families to understand what home care is. "Sometimes patients say things like, 'I don't need it. My wife will take care of me,'" she said. "But this is skilled care from nurses and therapists."

A limitation of the study is that patients received care from a single home health agency. It's not clear whether the outcomes of COVID patients elsewhere would be the same.

Insurance coverage of home health care varies, too. Most patients in this study were on Medicare or Medicaid, which have their own rules about coverage, while around one-quarter had private insurance.

On the other hand, the study group was diverse; the majority of patients were Black or Hispanic -- two groups hard-hit by the pandemic.

At this point, Bowles said, it's not clear how often U.S. COVID patients are being discharged into home care. Government figures from June put the rate at only 11%.

That suggests home care is being underused, Bowles said.

The study was published online recently in Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information

The Medicare Rights Center has more on home health care.


SOURCES: Kathryn Bowles, PhD, BSN, MSN, professor, van Ameringen chair in nursing excellence, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia; Luis Ostrosky, MD, professor, infectious diseases, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Houston, and fellow, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Arlington, Va.; Annals of Internal Medicine, Nov. 24, 2020, online

Relief for America's Unemployed Could Be Crucial for Health


WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Americans who lost their jobs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic have remained healthier and more secure thanks to expanded unemployment insurance, a new study reports.

Struggling folks who received benefits reported that they were less likely to go hungry, miss a rent or mortgage payment, delay needed medical care, or suffer from anxiety or depression, according to the findings.

"These programs are doing what they're meant to do. They're helping to buffer the economic disruption that's coming from the pandemic," said lead researcher Dr. Seth Berkowitz, a professor with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators on Tuesday introduced a $908 billion stimulus proposal that would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for four months, offering additional relief to tens of millions of jobless Americans.

This study shows why extending unemployment benefits would serve as a powerful weapon in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Lynne Richardson. She's system vice chair of emergency medicine and co-director of the Institute for Health Equity Research at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

"This is a policy lever that's available to our legislators to help address this pandemic going forward," Richardson said. "It's a pretty good idea, not only from the point of view of the impact the stimulus will have on the economy, but that it will actually improve the health of people who are suffering from financial strain due to the COVID pandemic," she added.

"It's not only an economic policy intervention. It's actually a health intervention," Richardson concluded.

For the study, Berkowitz and a colleague analyzed data gathered from June 11 to July 21, 2020, as part of the Household Pulse Survey, a U.S. Census poll designed to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected American households.

The investigators reviewed survey responses from nearly 69,000 people who said they'd suffered from household income disruption due to pandemic-related job loss. Of those, about 29,000 said they were receiving unemployment.

The researchers compared the financial and health problems of people receiving unemployment benefits against those of people who lost income from the pandemic but weren't on unemployment.

People receiving benefits were 27% less likely to miss a housing payment and 17% less likely to go hungry, the survey results showed, and they were less apt to worry about affording food and housing in the future.

People on unemployment were less likely to lose their health insurance or skip health care because they couldn't afford it. They also had lower levels of anxiety or depression compared to folks not receiving unemployment benefits.

"It's not surprising, right? Obviously, extra money will have a beneficial impact on a household that's under financial strain," Richardson said. "Financial strains have additional health impacts on people. What this article has highlighted is that unemployment insurance can mitigate those adverse health impacts."

The findings were published online Nov. 30 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

These findings should prompt Congress to find a way to maintain the extension of unemployment insurance created by the CARES Act earlier this year, said Cheryl Fish-Parcham, director of access initiatives at Families USA, a national nonpartisan consumer health care advocacy organization.

It's not just the extra $300 or $600 per week, she said. The act also extended the length of unemployment benefits and broadened eligibility for minimum-wage, self-employed, contract and gig workers.

"We know people need income and they need health coverage. They need both of those things. I think there are things lawmakers can do that would help with both of those things," Fish-Parcham said.

Berkowitz believes these results make a case for permanently reforming America's unemployment programs to provide better and longer-lasting benefits to more people.

"Though the magnitude of the disruption may not be exactly the same, if you lose your job -- not because of a pandemic, but just because it happens from time to time -- you're still likely to suffer the same health consequences that you might suffer now," Berkowitz said.

More information

The American Institute of Stress has more about financial stress and the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCES: Seth Berkowitz, MD, MPH, professor, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Lynne Richardson, MD, system vice chair, emergency medicine, and co-director , Institute for Health Equity Research, Mount Sinai Health System, New York City; Cheryl Fish-Parcham, director, access initiatives, Families USA; JAMA Internal Medicine, Nov. 30, 2020, online

AHA News: The Heart Health Risks of Being a Single Parent

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Nobody needs a study to tell them being a single parent is tough.

"This is a group of people who are kind of carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, right?" said Dr. Natalie Stokes, a cardiology fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "You're taking care of kids. You're trying to provide for your family."

Hoping to shed new light on the toll single parenthood takes on heart health, Stokes and her colleagues recently analyzed a federal health survey of 2,180 parents, which included 462 single parents, a quarter of whom were single men.

Researchers looked at seven heart health indicators – such as blood pressure, obesity, diet and whether the person smoked – and rated the parents on a 14-point scale. The single-parent group scored about half a point lower than the partnered parents. And single mothers scored almost a full point lower than mothers with partners.

The research, which is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented last month at the American Heart Association's virtual Scientific Sessions conference.

Even after adjusting for age, race, existing medical conditions, poverty and more, the single-parent group was 1.31 times more likely to be rated as having below-ideal cardiovascular health.

While her study didn't pry into the reasons behind the discrepancy, Stokes hopes to explore that in future work.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. had 10.4 million single-parent households in 2019. Those numbers, and previous research, make single parenthood a potentially significant public health concern.

An international study in 2016 found that being a lone working mother predicted a higher risk of heart disease and stroke among women in the United States. In the early 2000s, researchers who tracked Swedish women for up to 20 years found that single mothers had greater odds of dying during the study period than women who had partners. And a Canadian study in 2016 found single fathers were three times more likely to die during the study's decade-long follow-up than single mothers or partnered fathers.

But Stokes emphasized her work should not be viewed as pointing to a problem caused by single parents. She'd rather focus on using it to make society more responsive to their needs.

Dr. Gina Lundberg, clinical director of the Emory Women's Heart Center in Atlanta, agreed.

"It takes a village to raise a kid, right? Well, your village is already really small if you're a single parent," Lundberg said. She was not involved in the new research but offered firsthand knowledge of life in a single-parent household.

"I think the study supports what we suspected all along: It's very stressful to be a single parent. Single parents have less time for their own health because there's no one to offload the sharing of responsibilities to. So, they tend to do more for their kids and neglect themselves.

"That's certainly what I witnessed," she said. "My father died when I was 14." Her mother raised her and her sister.

Before her father died, Lundberg remembers her mother making regular medical appointments. After his death, "I can't remember her going to the doctor at all. And I think there just wasn't time."

Lundberg, who also is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, had several ideas for how health care providers could be more accommodating.

"I think we've got to have some options to make things more flexible for these parents," she said.

Family care providers, for example, might offer appointments where parents and children could get their checkups at the same time. "Maybe on Saturday morning, when the kids aren't in school." And OB-GYNs could offer appointments for women to have bloodwork, blood pressure, breast and general physical exams done during a single visit.

Stokes said although her study's findings were just a starting point for understanding what single parents need, physicians could use the information as a prompt to consider their patients' life situation in deciding their care.

Doctors need to be allies with their patients in overcoming barriers to care, she said.

"The onus shouldn't be on the individuals," Stokes said. But patients can help by being open about their struggles, and by speaking up when necessary. "Maybe more aggressively early on saying … 'I was made aware that this might put me at increased risk. What types of things should I be doing?'"

Lundberg also said society needs to stop stigmatizing single parents.

They come from all kinds of income levels, education levels and ethnic backgrounds. It's mothers as well as fathers. And whether they started out as single parents or became one because of the death of a spouse, they deserve support, she said.

"I think we need to be doing more to realize they're stressed, it's affecting their health, and they need our help."

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

By Michael Merschel

Britain Approves Emergency Use of Pfizer's COVID Vaccine

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Britain became the first Western country to allow emergency use of a coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, after approving Pfizer's candidate in the race to inoculate millions of people around the globe.

"Help is on its way with this vaccine -- and we can now say that with certainty, rather than with all the caveats," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday.

Having beat the United States to emergency approval of a coronavirus vaccine may pressure American regulators, who are already taking heat for not moving faster to get doses to people, The New York Times reported. And it has stirred up a global debate on how to balance the dire need for a vaccine against the importance of looking for clear signs that a vaccine is safe.

Though Britain has an early jump on distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, it will have no effect on the distribution of the hundreds of millions of doses that other wealthy countries like the United States have bought in prepaid contracts, the Times said.

But there are daunting obstacles to the vaccine's delivery to the masses.

The Pfizer vaccine, developed with the German firm BioNTech, must be kept at the very cold temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit until shortly before shots are given. However, Pfizer said in a statement released Wednesday that it has developed special shipping containers that use dry ice to keep the vaccine cold. GPS sensors will allow the company to track each shipment and ensure it stays cold, the company added.

"Pfizer has vast experience and expertise in cold-chain shipping and has an established infrastructure to supply the vaccine worldwide, including distribution hubs that can store vaccine doses for up to six months," the company said.

Still, the temperature requirement could dictate who will be vaccinated first in Britain: While nursing home residents were supposed to be the top priority under an advisory committee's plans, efforts to limit transportation of the vaccine may mean that National Health Service staff will receive the shots first, the Times reported. The British government said Wednesday that 800,000 doses would be available by next week for health workers to begin administering.

In the United States, an advisory panel on Tuesday approved a vaccine distribution plan that recommends health care workers and nursing home residents and staff be the first to receive any approved coronavirus vaccine. The recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP), if heeded, will steer the initial short supply of vaccines to about 21 million health care personnel and 3 million Americans working or living in long-term care facilities.

At the same time, the White House summoned FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn for a meeting on Tuesday to discuss concerns that Britain would approve a coronavirus vaccine first. An FDA advisory panel is set to meet on Dec. 10 to decide whether the agency should grant emergency authorization to the Pfizer vaccine, the Times reported.

The global race to develop a vaccine has been stunningly fast. Around the world, researchers are testing 57 vaccines in clinical trials, and nearly 100 others are being tested in animals or cells. China and Russia have both approved vaccines without waiting for the results of late-stage trials, which experts say raises safety concerns.

Hospitalizations reach record high

Yet another record for COVID-19 hospitalizations was set on Tuesday, with more than 98,600 patients battling severe cases of the virus.

Counts of new coronavirus infections and fatalities have been down in the past few days, a common occurrence over holidays and weekends due to delays in testing and reporting, the Washington Post reported. But the number of hospitalizations rose by more than 12 percent over the past week, the newspaper added.

Nineteen states — Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, Rhode Island, Alaska, Virginia, Nevada, Minnesota, Kentucky and Indiana — reported record numbers of hospitalizations on Monday, the Post reported. Meanwhile, California, New York and Arizona each reported more than a 25 percent increase in the average number of hospitalizations.

On Monday, Rhode Island became the latest state to begin sending patients to a temporary field hospital due to rising demand for beds while New York told hospitals to start emergency measures that include identifying retired staff who can return to work and figuring out ways to expand their bed capacity by 50 percent. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that the state's intensive care units were already two-thirds full and could reach 112 percent capacity by mid-December, the Post reported.

As health officials brace for another surge in cases following Thanksgiving gatherings across the country, Americans returning from Thanksgiving break faced strict new coronavirus containment measures on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Los Angeles County imposed a stay-at-home order for its 10 million residents, and Santa Clara County, in the heart of Silicon Valley, banned high school, college and professional sports and decreed a quarantine for those who have traveled more than 150 miles outside the county, the AP said.

The order will last three weeks, starting Monday and ending December 20, CNN reported.

All 10 million residents have been asked to stay home as much as possible and wear face masks when outside -- even when exercising at the beach and parks. The order also reduces the maximum occupancy for essential businesses to 35%, and for non-essential businesses, personal care services, and libraries to 20%. The directive incudes a controversial new ban on outdoor dining on Los Angeles County, CNN reported.

"The red flags are flying in terms of the trajectory in our projections of growth," California Gov. Gavin Newsom told residents. "If these trends continue, we're going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic, action."

In Hawaii, the mayor of Hawaii County said travelers arriving without a negative COVID-19 test must quarantine for 14 days, and even those who have tested virus-free may be randomly selected for another test upon arrival, the AP reported. New Jersey is suspending all youth sports.

Health experts had pleaded with Americans to stay home over Thanksgiving and not gather with anyone who didn't live with them. Still, almost 1.2 million people passed through U.S. airports on Sunday, the most since the pandemic gripped the country in March, while others took to the highways to be with family and friends, the AP reported.

Moderna to request emergency approval for its vaccine

Meanwhile, Moderna applied on Monday for emergency use authorization of its coronavirus vaccine and the first shots could be given as early as Dec. 21, the Times reported.

Moderna's application is based on data showing that its vaccine is 94.1 percent effective, and that its study of 30,000 people has met the scientific criteria needed to determine whether the vaccine works. The finding from the complete set of data is in line with earlier data that found the vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective, the Times said.

Not only that, the vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing severe disease from the coronavirus, Moderna officials said. The product was developed in collaboration with government researchers from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The company is "on track" to produce 20 million doses by the end of December, and 500 million to a billion in 2021, the newspaper reported. Each person requires two doses, administered a month apart, so 20 million doses will be enough for 10 million people.

Earlier this month, Pfizer asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the same emergency use approval. Pfizer has said it can produce up to 50 million doses this year, with about half going to the United States, the Times reported. Its vaccine also requires two doses per person.

A global scourge

By Wednesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 13.7 million while the death toll passed 270,000, according to a Times tally. According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Wednesday were: Texas and California with just over 1.2 million cases each; Florida with just over 1 million cases; Illinois with more than 740,000; and New York with over 660,000.

Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.

Many European countries are tightening restrictions, the Associated Press reported. France has entered a nationwide lockdown, and Germany and Austria have started partial lockdowns as government officials across the continent scramble to slow a sharp rise in infections that threatens to overwhelm their health care systems.

England has followed suit, while Italy, Greece and Kosovo also announced new measures, the AP reported.

Things are no better in India, where the coronavirus case count has passed 9.4 million on Wednesday, a Johns Hopkins University tally showed. More than 138,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India's younger and leaner population. Still, the country's public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the Times said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Brazil passed 6.3 million cases and had nearly 174,000 deaths as of Wednesday, the Hopkins tally showed.

Worldwide, the number of reported infections neared 64 million on Wednesday, with nearly 1.5 million deaths recorded, according to the Hopkins tally.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.


SOURCES: The New York Times; Washington Post; Associated Press; CNN

Health Highlights, Dec. 2, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the Healthday staff:


CDC To Shorten Recommended Quarantine Period

The number of days that close contacts should quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be cut by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead of the currently recommended 14 days, the new guidelines will suggest quarantining for seven to 10 days after exposure, two senior White House officials told CNN.

Close contacts can end their quarantine after seven days if they test negative for the new coronavirus, or 10 days if they don't get tested.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Tuesday that the new guidelines will be issued soon, CNN reported.


Coronavirus Infections Much Earlier Than Thought

A small number of people in the United States may have been infected with the new coronavirus as early as Dec. 13, 2019, which is more than a month earlier than previously thought.

That's the conclusion of researchers who analyzed samples of American Red Cross blood donations, The New York Times reported.

They found coronavirus antibodies in blood donations from nine states that were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The antibodies suggest exposure to the new coronavirus or one very similar to it.

It's not known if these infections were in people who caught the virus in other countries, or whether the infections led to wider community transmission, said the authors of the study that has been accepted for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The previous earliest documented coronavirus infection in the United States was reported on Jan. 19 in a person who'd traveled to China, The Times reported.

One expert on the new coronavirus has concerns about the findings. In a series of tweets, Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, said the study could have identified people with antibodies to other coronaviruses that cause common colds.

However, he didn't rule out that the study may have identified some cases of travelers infected in other countries, the Times reported.

Menopause Can Make Workplace Tougher for Women: Study

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Menopause symptoms can interfere with women's jobs, Japanese researchers report.

For the study, the investigators looked at nearly 600 working women, aged 45 to 65, in Japan. Of those, 61% were postmenopausal.

Women with a higher number of menopause symptoms had poorer work performance, according to the authors of the study published online recently in Menopause, journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

But having a job with lower amounts of stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle helped reduce women's menopause symptoms, the researchers found. And, women with numerous menopause symptoms were more likely to be inactive, and to have chronic health conditions and job-related stress, they noted.

The findings provide insight into how to help maintain postmenopausal women's productivity at work, according to Keiko Hashimoto of Tohoku University, in Miyagi, and colleagues.

For example, employers could improve working conditions for women with hot flashes by lowering room temperatures and adapting dress codes to permit lighter-weight, short-sleeved clothing.

Another idea is for employers to offer stress management classes that would benefit all employees, including women struggling with mood changes due to fluctuating levels of estrogen.

The study authors noted that women are often reluctant to discuss menopause symptoms with their supervisors, so employers may be less likely to make such workplace changes.

"This study highlights a link between menopause symptom burden and lower work performance. Notably, women in this study who had more menopause-related symptoms also tended to be caregivers and to have chronic diseases," said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of NAMS.

"Although workplace modifications are one potential tactic to address this issue, appropriate treatment of menopause-related symptoms and counseling regarding caregiver stress may lead to improved overall health as well as improved work performance," Faubion said in a society news release.

This study isn't the only one to assess how menopause symptoms affect job performance, but it is the first to specifically examine the number of menopause symptoms and their effect on productivity.

More information

There's more on menopause at the U.S. Office on Women's Health.

SOURCE: North American Menopause Society, news release, Nov. 30, 2020

Gay, Lesbian Adults Often Miss Out on Cholesterol Meds

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults are less likely to take cholesterol-lowering statins to prevent heart disease than heterosexual adults, even though they have a higher heart disease risk, according to a new study.

Researchers conducted an online survey of more than 1,500 Facebook users, aged 40 and older, and found that nearly one-third were taking statins.

Of the 12% of respondents who identified as LGB, less than 21% were taking statins for primary prevention, compared with nearly 44% of non-LGB adults.

Primary prevention is when a person takes statins to prevent heart disease.

There were no significant differences between LGB and non-LGB adults in the use of statins for secondary prevention (the use of statins by someone with heart disease), according to the study published Dec. 2 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"There could be many reasons for the difference we observed," said study author Yi Guo, assistant professor of health outcomes and biomedical informatics at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

"LGB individuals may not go to the doctor as often, which leads to lower chances of being recommended statins for cardiovascular disease prevention," he said in a journal news release.

It's also possible that LGB adults may be less aware of their increased heart disease risk -- in part because they're more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs and be obese -- and the protective effect of statins.

"We were surprised to see such a big difference in primary prevention, with less than half of the rate as the non-LGB population. This highlights the urgent need for tailored interventions and campaigns that promote the awareness of statin use and cardiovascular health in the LGB population,' Guo said.

"Health care providers should address their own biases and understand the complexities of LGB patients, making sure to provide guideline-directed recommendations in a culturally competent way," said study co-author Jiang Bian, associate professor of health outcomes and biomedical informatics at the UF College of Medicine.

"What we have found is very much in line with the American Heart Association's statement for LBGTQ adults," Bian said in the release.

"First, more research is needed to better understand the cardiovascular disease health risks and outcomes in the LGB population. Second, educational programs are needed to educate health professionals on these unique health risks and outcomes in the LGB population and the appropriate way to communicate with LGB people," he said.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on statins.


SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, news release, Dec. 2, 2020

Take Care of Your Mental Health During Pandemic

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- It's crucial that you look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

"Historically, we know that pandemics and other public health crises, much like natural disasters, have a lasting impact," said Dr. Itai Danovitch, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Traumatic experiences have been associated with increased rates of substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, so Danovitch and his colleagues are trying to determine if such issues are occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that "national surveys are beginning to show what we expected, which is that there are increased prevalence rates of stress and depression."

They're "also seeing reduced initiation of treatment for patients with substance use disorders, and a reversal of last year's reduction in overdose death," Danovitch added in a hospital news release.

Along with other challenges, families with school-age children have the additional burden of adapting to online or hybrid learning, according to Suzanne Silverstein, founding director of the Psychological Trauma Center and Share and Care program at Cedars-Sinai.

She's especially concerned about the long-term effects on families dealing with instability, and those with children who have behavioral issues or other special needs.

"Everyone is struggling right now, but for these families, the loss of structure and routine can be especially daunting," said Silverstein, an expert in psychological trauma.

Families should create a daily schedule to keep children on task, and find new ways to have fun together at home, like scavenger hunts and virtual dance parties with friends and family, she suggested.

It's important to establish and maintain a consistent routine, according to Danovitch.

"Make sure that you are exercising, getting good sleep and getting good nutrition," he said. "Make sure you're not spending too much time on screens, that you're not getting overloaded with information that you can't do anything about, but that you're getting information from reliable resources."

Connect with loved ones and find ways to be of service, Danovitch added.

"Having a sense of purpose is enormous. It allows people to cope with a lot of adversity," he said. "But if you are finding yourself having persistent anxiety or feeling so down that you're not able to function, ask for help. Reach out to your physician and get some support."

One positive aspect of the pandemic is that it's given many people's an opportunity to slow down, spend time with family, refocus on what's important, and connect with one another in new ways, according to the two experts.

"The other side of this coin is that events like this can be associated with post-traumatic growth," Danovitch said. "People develop resilience. They learn how to deal with mental health challenges, and they find resources, internal and external, that they didn't know existed."

More information

To learn more about mental health and coping during the pandemic, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai, news release, Nov. 25, 2020

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