Rising incidence of myopia in kids tied to indoor time during pandemic
A new study based on data from Hong Kong shows a rising incidence of myopia, or short-sightedness, in children during the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly linked to increasing time spent indoors and on screens. The study was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The research was part of the ongoing Hong Kong Children Eye Study (HKCES). A total of 709 children ages 6 to 8 were recruited in December of 2019 and January of 2020 and monitored for 8 months. Their vision was tested against children previously enrolled in the study.
The authors found the 1-year incidence of short-sightedness was 28%, 27%, and 26%, for 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds in the COVID-19 group, compared with 17%, 16%, and 15%, respectively, in the pre-COVID-19 group.
During the study period, participants reported a dramatic jump in screen use: from 2.5 hours per day pre-pandemic to 7 hours per day in 2020. They also reported spending less time outdoors, going from an average of 75 minutes to 24 minutes.
"Our study is one of the first to report myopia progression during this pandemic, showing a myopia incidence of 19.44% over 8-months' follow-up in COVID-19." the authors concluded. "Our results serve as a warning to eye care professionals, policy makers, educators, and parents on the effect of restricted outdoor activities and intensive near work during this quarantine period on myopia progression in school children."
Aug 2 Br J Opthamol study
Ontario's stillbirth and preterm births not affected in pandemic, study says
Ontario hospitals did not see any significant changes in preterm or stillbirth rates after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, according to a study today in CMAJ.
The researchers looked at 2,465,397 pregnancies in Ontario hospitals, including 13,781 stillbirths, from July 2002 to December 2020. During the pandemic era, defined as January to December 2020, both preterm birth rates and stillbirth rates did not see any "special cause variations," or significant and unusual variations, data showed.
The average pandemic preterm birth rate (22 to 36 gestation weeks) was 7.87%, compared with the overall rate of 7.96%. The average stillbirth rate during COVID-19 was 0.53%, compared with 0.56% across the entire period. No special cause variation was found during the pandemic between stillbirth and preterm birth rates between rural and urban regions or neighborhood income quintiles. The researchers note, however, that the absolute number of average Ontario hospital births decreased during the pandemic, from 66,425 to 63,370.
While previous studies have shown inconsistencies on whether the pandemic has affected stillbirth and preterm birth rates, the researchers say their study's strength is in its longer-term, large population cohort.
"Within a jurisdiction, these rates are known to fluctuate between epochs and, thus, it is preferable to evaluate rates over longer periods to establish whether observed variations are usual (common cause variation) or unusual (special cause variation)," the researchers write. "We found no changes in slope or gap between prepandemic and pandemic periods using interrupted time-series analyses."
Aug 3 CMAJ study
Togo reports more H5N1 avian flu in poultry
Togo reported another highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu outbreak in poultry, its second since June, according to a notification yesterday from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The latest event began Jul 27 at a layer farm in Maritime region in the south. The virus killed 129 of 1,590 susceptible birds, and the surviving ones were culled as part of response efforts.
Investigators found that bags used to transport litter had previously been used several times and on other farms, suggesting a lapse in farm biosecurity practices. The affected farm isn't far from the border with Ghana, but officials say the event in Togo doesn't appear to be epidemiologically linked to recent outbreaks in Ghana.
Earlier this summer, Togo reported outbreaks at two layer farms in the same region, the first since 2019. A few other African nations have also reported H5N1 outbreaks over the past few months, including South Africa, Mali, and Niger.
Aug 2 OIE report on H5N1 in Togo