Health Highlights: April 8, 2020

CDC Removes Prescribing Guidelines for Antimalarial Drugs Trump Has Touted for COVID-19Ferrets a Good Model for Testing Coronavirus Drugs, VaccinesSinger John Prine Dies of COVID-19 ComplicationsCourt Upholds Texas Ban on Abortions During Coronavirus PandemicCoronavirus Killing Two Times More Men Than Women in NYC

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

CDC Removes Prescribing Guidelines for Antimalarial Drugs Trump Has Touted for COVID-19

Guidelines for doctors on how to prescribe two antimalarial drugs that some believe may treat COVID-19 are no longer available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

U.S. President Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as potential treatments for the illness (COVID-19) caused by the new coronavirus and has pushed federal health officials to make the drugs more widely available, even though there's little proof that they're effective against COVID-19, CNN reported.

The updated CDC guidance on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine that was published Tuesday is now shorter than the previous version and no longer provides dosage information about the drugs.

The drugs have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, but on Saturday the FDA issued an emergency use authorization to distribute the two drugs from the national stockpile to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients, CNN reported.

Clinical trials are being conducted to assess the drugs as treatments for COVID-19, according to the CDC.

"Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients," according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statement issued Sunday, CNN reported.

However, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have warned the Trump administration that the drugs are unproven and that it's risky to promote them before they're proven to be effective against COVID-19.


Ferrets a Good Model for Testing Coronavirus Drugs, Vaccines

The new coronavirus replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks, but it does seem to replicate well in cats and ferrets. That means that ferrets, especially, could be a good model for research into vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat COVID-19, say a team of Chinese scientists.

Reporting April 8 in the journal Science, they say that as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, one big question for researchers is "which animal(s) can be used most precisely to model the efficacy of control measures in humans."

To find out, the investigators followed animal welfare protocols and introduced the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the nasal passages of cats, dogs, chickens and ducks, and into the throats of ferrets.

They found poor viral replication rates in nearby tissues for all the animals except cats and ferrets.

"In ferrets and older cats, it replicates in the upper respiratory tract, not the lung. In studies of airborne transmission, they found SARS-CoV-2 was poorly transmissible in ferrets, but it transmitted via air in cats, particularly in juvenile cats," according to a journal news release.

In recent days, isolated cases of coronavirus infection in domestic cats and tigers have been reported, although the likelihood of cats transmitting COVID-19 to human owners is thought to remain low.

"The bottom line is that there is no evidence that any cat, large or small, can transmit the virus back to humans," veterinarian Dr. Sarah Caddy, a clinical research fellow at the University of Cambridge, U.K., told CNN.

Ferrets have long been used in research into another highly transmissible virus, influenza.

"The fact that SARS-CoV-2 replicates efficiently in the upper respiratory tract of ferrets makes them a candidate for evaluating antiviral drugs or vaccine candidates," the news release said.


Singer John Prine Dies of COVID-19 Complications

Legendary U.S. country-folk singer John Prine died Tuesday from COVID-19 complications, his family says.

Prine, 73, died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., The New York Times reported.

In 1998, Prine had surgery to remove squamous cell cancer in his neck, which damaged his vocal cords. In 2013, he had part of a lung removed due to lung cancer.

Prine rose to fame in the 1970s and was a favorite of peers such as Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan, The Times reported.


Court Upholds Texas Ban on Abortions During Coronavirus Pandemic

Texas can ban most abortions while the state is under a coronavirus pandemic-related emergency order that limits non-essential surgeries, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned last week's lower court ruling against the ban, and the new ruling means the ban can be maintained pending further legal arguments, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered hospitals to cancel "non-essential" surgeries to ensure adequate hospital space and supplies to fight the coronavirus.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the order banned any abortions except for those necessary to protect the health and safety of the mother. The ban was challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups, the AP reported.


Coronavirus Killing Two Times More Men Than Women in NYC

The coronavirus death rate in New York City is two times higher among men than among women, and men also have higher rates of infection and hospitalization, new data show.

There have been 43 COVID-19 deaths for every 100,000 men, compared with 23 per 100,000 women, according to city health department figures, The New York Times reported.

The case rates are 932 per 100,000 among men and 712 per 100,000 among women, and hospitalization rates are 228.7 per 100,000 among men and 140.3 per 100,000 among women.

Similar gender differences have been seen in China and Italy.

"I'm in the emergency room, and it's remarkable -- I'd estimate that 80% of the patients being brought in are men," Dr. Hani Sbitany, a reconstructive surgeon at Mount Sinai Health Systems who has been treating COVID-19 patients in Brooklyn, told The Times. "It's four out of five patients."

Experts say there are a number of possible explanations for the male/female disparity, including differences in behavior. For example, in much of the world, men have higher smoking rates than women.

Biological differences may be another factor. Some scientists have noted that women have stronger immune systems that give them an advantage in combating infections, the Times reported.

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