News Scan for Nov 03, 2021

News brief

Depression, anxiety plagued many European physicians amid pandemic

Spanish, Italian, and UK physicians reported high levels of depression and anxiety during the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, finds a study yesterday in PLOS One.

In the first international analysis of doctors' mental well-being during the pandemic, a team of international researchers surveyed a random sample of 5,275 physicians of all types about their mental health in June and November/December 2020.

The highest rates of depression and anxiety were reported in Italy (24.6% and 20.1%, respectively), followed by Catalonia, Spain (15.9% and 17.4%), while the lowest rates were in the United Kingdom (11.7% and 13.7%).

Women, physicians younger than 60 years, those feeling unsafe at work, those who had worked more than 40 hours the previous week, and those with normal or below-normal health (below 3 on a scale of 1 to 5) were most at risk of depression and anxiety in all countries. In fact, relative to their male counterparts, female Italian doctors had a 60% higher likelihood of experiencing depression and anxiety. Similarly, female UK physicians had 54% higher odds of those conditions.

About half of Italian physicians said they disagreed with the statement, "My workplace is providing me with the necessary [personal protective equipment]" in June; by December, that figure had decreased to 30%. Italy was hit hard early in 2020 by COVID-19.

There were no systematic differences in mental health measures between June and November/December. "Hence we cannot discard that the mental health repercussions of the pandemic are persistent," the authors wrote.

The study, according to the researchers, can inform how doctors' mental health can be preserved in this and future pandemics. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been classified as a traumatic event, with healthcare workers arguably having the most direct and longest exposure to this disease," they said, adding that, because of the similarity in patterns, the findings may be applicable to other European countries. "The results of this study suggest that institutional support for healthcare workers, and in particular doctors, is important in protecting and promoting their mental health in the current and in future pandemics."
Nov 2 PLOS One study


Study: Widespread SARS-CoV-2 RNA detected in Iowa deer

A new study published on the non-peer-reviewed preprint site bioRxiv showed SARS-CoV-2 RNA was widely detected in Iowa deer, and genomic sequencing done on the animals suggests the deer were infected with human virus lineages.

To conduct the study, researchers from Penn State University and elsewhere tested 283 retropharyngeal lymph node (RPLN) samples collected from wild and captive deer in Iowa from April 2020 through January 2021. In total, 94 of the 283 RPLN samples (33.2%; 95% confidence interval, 28.0% to  38.9%) were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

Ninety-one percent of the positive samples were collected during September and December 2020, which coincides with the deer hunting season in Iowa. Genetic sequencing from all 94 deer RPLN positive for the virus showed human lineages of the virus, but the authors cautioned against over interpretation of the findings because of the small sample sizes.

"SARS-CoV-2 infection of an animal host could result in it becoming a reservoir that drives the emergence of new variants with risk of spillback to humans," the authors wrote.

This summer the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a study showing 40% of free-living white-tailed deer in four states had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2—indicating exposure but not necessarily infection. The virus has also been detected in dogs, cats, and mink, among other animals.

"Our study is the first to provide evidence of widespread dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 into any free-living species, in this case white tailed deer," the authors concluded. "Our results suggest that deer have the potential to emerge as a major reservoir host for SARS-CoV-2, a finding that has important implications for the virus genomic diversity and future trajectory of the pandemic."
Nov 1 bioRxiv


H5 avian flu outbreaks strike poultry in 4 European nations

Four European nations reported highly pathogenic H5 avian flu outbreaks in poultry, with Germany, Russia, and Wales reporting the H5N1 strain and Denmark identifying H5, according to the latest official notifications.

The spate of outbreaks come in the wake of a late October risk assessment from the United Kingdom that warned that the spread of H5N1 along migration routes could signal wider spread in the months ahead.

Germany's outbreak began on Oct 28 at a farm housing geese, chickens, and ducks in Brandenburg state, killing 73 of 224 birds, according to an update from the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE). Russia's latest event began on Oct 26 at a poultry facility in Kirov oblast, the first outbreak of its kind in the area, according to a separate OIE report. The virus killed 800 of 422,015 susceptible chickens.

In Wales, the rural affairs ministry reported that H5N1 was confirmed in a small backyard flock in the town in Chirk in Wrexham.

Finally, Denmark's H5 outbreak began on Oct 29 at a turkey farm on Zealand island, killing 300 of 27,600 birds, the OIE noted.
Nov 1 OIE report on H5N1 in Germany
Nov 2 OIE report on H5N1 in Russia
Nov 3 Welsh government statement
Nov 1 OIE report on H5 in Denmark
Oct 27 CIDRAP News scan on earlier European outbreaks

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