News Scan for Jan 26, 2022

COVID and risk of readmission, death
H5N1 avian flu in Namibia

COVID patients at high risk of readmission, death after hospital release

A large UK study yesterday in PLOS Medicine finds that COVID-19 patients released from the hospital were more than twice as likely as the general population to be rehospitalized or die within the next 10 months. They were also at nearly five times the risk for death from any cause.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers led the study, which used the electronic health records of 24,673 COVID-19 patients released from the hospital from February to December 2020 and surviving at least 1 week.

The researchers compared the data with those from 123,362 demographically matched controls from the general population in 2019 and 16,058 patients released from the hospital after treatment of flu from 2017 to 2019. All patients were followed up for at least 315 days. The median age of COVID-19 patients was 66 years, 56% were men, and 77% were White.

The risk of hospitalization or death (30,968 events) was greater in COVID-19 patients than among controls (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.22) but somewhat lower than among flu patients (aHR, 0.95). But the odds of death from any cause (7,439 events) was higher among the COVID-19 group than among controls (aHR, 4.82) and the flu group (aHR, 1.74).

Risks for poor cause-specific outcomes were greater in COVID-19 survivors than in controls and about the same or lower than among flu patients, but the COVID-19 group was more likely than the flu group to be rehospitalized or die because of their initial infection or other lower respiratory tract infection (aHR, 1.37). They were also more likely to be readmitted due to mental-health or cognitive-related issues or to die (aHR, 1.37).

COVID-19 survivors with pre-existing dementia had a particularly high risk of rehospitalization relative to the control and flu groups (age- and sex-adjusted HR, 2.47).

Lead author Krishnan Bhaskaran, PhD, said in a PLOS press release that the increased risk of further health problems after hospital release requires attention. "It is important that patients and their doctors are aware of this so that any problems that develop can be treated as early as possible," he said. "Our findings also highlight the importance of getting vaccinated, which is the best tool we have for preventing severe COVID-19 in the first place."
Jan 25 PLOS Med study and press release


H5N1 avian flu strikes sea birds in Namibia

Namibia recently reported its first highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu detections, which involve sea birds that showed clinical symptoms in two areas of the country's southwest coast, according to a notification from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The outbreaks began on Jan 13, one in Erongo region and other on Bird Island, a breeding area off the Namibian Exclusive Economic Zone. Official said most of the illnesses involved cormorants, but a few other species were affected, as well, including pelicans. The report said there were 233 bird deaths.

Other African countries have also reported recent H5N1 detections, mainly involving poultry. The outbreaks are part of widespread global activity involving different H5 strains.
Jan 21 OIE report on H5N1 in Namibia

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