COVID-19 Scan for Jan 26, 2021

News brief

High COVID antibodies noted in public service, especially in jail staff, EMTs

While 10.1% of first responders and public service personnel in New York City reported positive COVID test results, 22.5% had COVID-19–specific antibodies in their blood, with even higher rates in prison staff and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), according to an Emerging Infectious Diseases study yesterday.

The study ran from May 18 through Jul 2, 2020, and included 22,647 participants from correctional facilities, emergency medical services, childcare settings, fire and police departments, and the medical examiner's office. A prior estimate from the same period found that 19.5% of New York City residents tested seropositive, meaning their blood contained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The researchers found that correctional staff and EMTs had the highest rates of seroprevalence at 39.2% and 38.3%, respectively, while laboratory technicians and medicolegal death investigators had the lowest rates, at 10.1% and 10.8%, respectively.

First responders and public safety workers made up 87.9% of the study cohort, and a closer analysis showed that 31.6% of those who performed at least 25 aerosol-generating procedures per shift tested seropositive, compared with the 20.7% who didn't perform any of those procedures. Workers who wore personal protective equipment (PPE) all the time also had higher seropositivity rates, although the researchers say this could be due to higher exposure risks on the job, improper PPE use, insufficient training, or a perceived shortage of supplies.

"These populations face unique challenges when working in congregate or uncontrolled settings and would be a critical population for vaccination and other public health efforts to reduce SARS-CoV-2 infection," the researchers write.

Some individual factors were also associated with antibody likelihood, such as household exposure to someone who had COVID (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 3.52), black ethnicity (aOR, 1.50), or severe obesity (aOR, 1.31). Location mattered, as well: Borough seroprevalence ranged from 17.4% (Staten Island) to 28.8% (the Bronx).
Jan 25 Emerg Infect Dis study


Cumulative smoking especially associated with more severe COVID-19

People who have smoked for more than 30 pack-years—a unit for cumulative smoking—are about twice as likely to be hospitalized and to die after testing positive for COVID-19 as nonsmokers, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers looked at health records from 7,102 patients who were in Cleveland Clinic's COVID-19 registry from Mar 8 through Aug 25, 2020. Of those, 84.8% had never smoked, 2.4% were current smokers, and 12.8% formerly smoked.

The investigators found that people who had smoked for more than 30 pack-years were 2.25 times more likely to be hospitalized after a positive COVID-19 test (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.76 to 2.88) and 1.89 times more likely to die following diagnosis compared with nonsmokers (95% CI, 1.29 to 1.76).

Those who smoked from 0 to 10 pack-years and 10 to 30 pack-years also showed some increased likelihood of adverse COVID outcomes. Using the same multivariable logistic regression model, which adjusted for age, race, and gender, the researchers found that the odds ratio for hospitalization was 0.99 and 1.41, respectively, and that odds ratio for death was 1.66 and 1.47, respectively.

"We have demonstrated in this single central registry of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 that increased cumulative smoking was associated with a higher risk of hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19 in a dose-dependent manner," the researchers write, adding, "The association between cumulative smoking and adverse COVID-19 outcomes is likely mediated in part by comorbidities."
Jan 25 JAMA Intern Med study

News Scan for Jan 26, 2021

News brief

Rift Valley fever outbreak reported in Kenya

A Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreak in Kenya that began in the middle of November has led to 21 infections, 9 of them fatal, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said yesterday in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report.

All of the patients are male cattle herders between ages 13 and 70 years old. Of the 21 cases, 4 are lab confirmed and 17 are listed as suspected. Two neighboring counties in the east central part of the country are affected, Isiolo and Garissa.

Outbreaks in animals have occurred at the same time, and tests on sheep and one camel were positive for RVF. Livestock movement controls have been established in the affected area, and animal vaccination is planned. Efforts are under way to assess the extent of the outbreak in humans and to teach health workers and veterinarians about the disease.

The virus that causes RVF is spread by mosquitoes and mainly affects livestock, though it can cause severe infections in people. The WHO noted that heavy rains and flooding contributed to the latest outbreak by increasing the number of vectors. Kenya reported its last RVF outbreaks in 2014 and 2018.
Jan 25 WHO African regional office weekly report


H5N8 avian flu hits more poultry in 5 countries

Countries in Europe and the Middle East reported more highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu outbreaks in poultry, according to the latest notifications from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In Europe, the Czech Republic reported that the virus struck backyard birds in South Bohemian region in the southern part of the country. The outbreak started on Jan 20, killing 15 of 32 birds, and marks the first reappearance of the virus in about a year.

Denmark reported an outbreak at a mallard and pheasant breeding farm in the city of Viborg in the central part of the country. The event began on Dec 31, and all 9,415 birds were culled to curb the spread of the virus. Denmark's last H5N8 outbreak in poultry occurred at the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, Germany reported more H5N8 outbreaks in poultry in two states, affecting a farm in Brandenburg in the north and a broiler farm in Lower Saxony state in the northwest. The outbreaks began on Jan 22 and Jan 23, respectively, and taken together, the virus killed 84 of 79,961 birds.

In the Middle East, Kuwait reported an outbreak in backyard-raised pheasants and geese in Al Jahra governorate in the east central part of the country. The event began on Nov 4, killing 8 of 112 birds. Kuwait reported its last H5N8 outbreak in December 2016.

Also, Iran reported six outbreaks in South Khorasan province in the east. The events began from Jan 1 to Jan 12, affecting layer farms, a broiler farm, and a turkey farm. Combined, the virus killed 1,480 of 269,419 birds. Iran reported an outbreak in the same province at the end of December 2020.
Jan 25 OIE report on H5N8 in the Czech Republic
Jan 26 OIE report on H5N8 in Denmark
Jan 25 OIE report on H5N8 in Germany's Brandenburg state
Jan 25 OIE report on H5N8 in Germany's Lower Saxony state
Jan 21 OIE report on H5N8 in Kuwait
Jan 26 OIE report on H5N8 in Iran

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