COVID-19 Scan for Nov 16, 2020

News brief

COVID-19 3-month follow-up shows residual lung abnormalities

A 3-month follow-up study of 142 COVID-19 survivors in China showed that 85.9% of patients had abnormalities on computed tomography (CT) chest scans and 52 (36.6%) had chronic and fibrotic changes.

According to the study, published Nov 14 in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, higher CT scores (2.00 vs 0.00) and lower ground-glass opacity (GGO) absorption levels seemed to be associated with more severe COVID-19. Among severe cases of COVID-19, 76.7% displayed higher CT abnormalities vs 37.5% of non-severe cases. GGOs in the lungs were completely absorbed in 77 patients (54.2%) and partially absorbed by 64 (45.1%) in the time from discharge to follow-up. In only one severe case did they increase.

Lung function parameters, on the other hand, did not seem to be affected by the severity of infection. Researchers found abnormal pulmonary function in 6.4% of patients, abnormal small airway function in 6.9%, airway obstruction in 3.5%, and airway restriction.

"The prevalence of pulmonary function abnormality in our study was lower than that in previously [published] studies, which may be attributable to different time of measurement, suggesting that lung function might be continuously improved after discharged [sic] and is unlikely to cause a lifelong impairment," the researchers write, mentioning that improved antiviral treatments could aid with lesion reduction. The researchers also noted a recent study suggesting that COVID-19 survivors with residual chest abnormalities—especially those who were recovering from a severe infection—could progress to pulmonary fibrosis.

Patients were recruited from Jan 11 to Feb 21 from the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen and tracked until Jun 13.
Nov 14 Open Forum Infect Dis study


Only 17.2% of top COVID-19 webpages universally readable, analysis finds

In a survey of the top 240 webpages relating to COVID-19 across Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, only 17.2% were considered to be at a universally readable level, reports a recent study published in BMC Public Health.

Results did not vary by geographic region, but they did across webpage sources: Public health organizations and government organizations had the most readable material, whereas digital media sources such as news outlets were significantly less so, according to a synthesis of Flesch Reading Ease Score, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Score (FKG), the Gunning Fox Index, and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook assessments.

"This poor readability level affects understanding of the health information; resulting in poor adherence to hygiene measures, social-distancing measures, and further public health recommendations," the researchers write.

For instance, the FKG—a 10-point scale emphasizing syllables per word—considers anything less than 8 as universally readable. Government and public health organizations had a median score of 8.7, digital media had 9.4, and scientific and educational institutions had 10.4. The remaining, miscellaneous webpages had a median score of 8.6.

Internet searches were conducted Apr 17 using a Google Chrome browser whose prior search history and caches had been erased. The first 20 results (the first page of Google's search results) for the searches "COVID," "COVID-19," and "coronavirus" were examined for each of the nations, categorized by source, and analyzed by computer.

According to the researchers, Google has been overriding its results algorithm since March 2020 by putting health information from respectable sources such as the World Health Organization higher up in its search result rankings. The researchers posit that this could be partially the reason why 53% of the top results were from government and public health organizations. Of the rest, 29% were from digital or social media webpages, 5% were from scientific and educational institutions, 14% were "other," and 0% were peer-reviewed journals or articles.
Nov 13 BMC Public Health study

News Scan for Nov 16, 2020

News brief

Voluntary CWD testing lower than desired after Minnesota deer opener

While the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hoped that 50% of firearm hunters in the state's five chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones would submit deer for voluntary testing, opening weekend saw well below 30% participation, according to a story last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

To avoid large gatherings of deer hunters and DNR staff, CWD tests were not required in the five zone, which are areas with special regulations due to CWD detection in deer. CWD is a fatal neurologic disease caused by a misfolded prion that has been detected in deer, elk, and moose in 26 US states and three Canadian provinces.

The Minnesota DNR notes that deer permit area 605 in Dakota County is a CWD management zone, but only 105 (15%) of 700 deer were sampled. Low testing rates will make it difficult for researchers to monitor the spread of CWD, but the article notes that hunters still can drop off deer heads into DNR collection bins.

Deer opening weekend in Minnesota saw a low harvest of 59,611 whitetails, which is 16% below the 5-year mean. The results dim the chance that hunters will achieve the DNR's deer-management goals for 2020, because half the overall firearms harvest typically occurs on opening weekend, and 75% to 80% of deer kills are by firearms, the article says.
Nov 12 Star Tribune article


Three countries report more high-path avian flu outbreaks

In the latest highly pathogenic avian flu developments, South Korea reported more H5N8 outbreaks in wild birds, Kazakhstan reported an H5 event in poultry, and Laos reported H5N1 in poultry, apparently in the same area in which a human case was recently found, according to notifications from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

South Korea reported two H5N8 outbreaks in wild birds, one that began on Nov 3 in South Chungcheong province and another that began on Nov 10 in Gyeonggi province. The country has reported a few other recent detections of the same virus in wild birds.

Kazakhstan's H5 outbreak began on Oct 26 at a poultry farm in Almaty region in the southeast, killing 67,957 of 602,784 susceptible birds. The source of the virus is thought to be contact with wild species, and the surviving birds were culled to control the spread of the virus. The country has recently reported sporadic H5N8 outbreaks in poultry.

Finally, Laos reported two H5N1 outbreaks in different villages in Saravane province in the south of the country, which come in the wake of a report earlier this month of an H5N1 infection in a 1-year-old girl from the same part of Laos. The outbreaks in village birds began on Aug 16 and Sep 16, killing 509 of 1,539 birds. The remaining birds were stamped out as part of outbreak control measures. Laos reported its last confirmed H5N1 outbreak in poultry in November 2018.
Nov 16 OIE report on H5N8 in South Korea
Nov 16 OIE report on H5 in Kazakhstan
Nov 14 OIE report on H5N1 in Laos


Rift Valley fever outbreak reported in Mauritania

Mauritania's health ministry recently announced a Rift Valley fever outbreak that has sickened eight animal breeders, seven of them fatally, according to a Nov 13 announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The illnesses were confirmed from Sep 13 to Oct 1 in patients from four districts of three regions: Tagant, Assaba, and Adrar. Patient ages range from 16 to 70 years, and all but one are male. All of the deaths occurred in patients who were hospitalized with hemorrhagic fever symptoms.

Sampling of 214 people over the past 2 months turned up 75 positive cases from 15 regions in the country, with Tagant the main hot spot. Outbreaks in animals have also been reported in six of Mauritania's regions, and animal sampling found the virus in camels, small ruminants, and cattle.

The WHO said the country has reported six earlier major Rift Valley fever outbreaks in the past, most recently in 2015. It notes that the country's arid and semi-arid environment encourages animals to seek water and pasture, posing a risk of disease spread.

People who have direct or indirect contact with infected animals are at risk, but so far, no human-to-human transmission of the virus has been reported. The agency noted that the regional risk of spread is moderate.
Nov 13 WHO statement on Rift Fever in Mauritania

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