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Kids at 2 Utah day cares easily spread COVID-19 to families

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It’s not clear how COVID-19 outbreaks at three Salt Lake City child day care centers began, but a new report finds that 12 infected youngsters enrolled at two of the facilities easily passed the coronavirus to at least 12 family members.

In one case, an infected child with no symptoms of COVID-19 transmitted the illness to their mother, who became so sick she needed to be hospitalized.

The tale of these day care-linked clusters illustrate how efficient children are as vectors for COVID-19 infection — and what steps can be taken to minimize the risk, experts say.

“While COVID-19 is typically less severe in children compared to adults, children can still play a role in transmission,” noted emergency physician Dr. Robert Glatter, who wasn’t involved in the new report.

“In fact, a previous study noted that children older than 10 can transmit the virus as efficiently as adults,” said Glatter, who works at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Knowing this, it’s vital to take proper precautions to reduce transmission, especially in child care settings.”

The issue is of paramount importance as millions of kids warily return to school this fall.

The new study was led by Cuc Tran, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Response Team. Her group used detailed contact tracing to map out the genesis and spread of outbreaks of coronavirus infection at three separate Salt Lake City day care centers between April 1 and July 10.

Overall, a total of 12 children attending two of the facilities were known to be infected with the new coronavirus, the research found.

And those 12 kids were efficient at transmitting the virus to family back home: According to the study, “transmission likely occurred from children with confirmed COVID-19 in a child care facility to 25% of their non-facility contacts.”

As is typical among children, all of the 12 infected children had either no or very mild symptoms. But infection was passed to 12 people in the home setting nonetheless — among those cases, six mothers became infected as did three siblings, the CDC team said. One mom ended up requiring hospital care for COVID-19.

The exact origin of the outbreaks is unclear, but numerous staff members at the three day cares were found to be infected as well. “Staff members at two of the facilities had a household contact with confirmed or probable COVID-19,” the researchers noted, but these employees “went to work while their household contact was symptomatic.”

That’s a red flag for any child care institution, including schools, Glatter said.

“This highlights the importance that staff members and [facility] attendees quarantine and get tested if their household members are symptomatic,” he said.

And there are other ways that day care centers and other facilities can cut the risk. In accordance with CDC guidelines, “one vital aspect of this approach includes all children over the age of 2 wearing masks,” Glatter said.

The CDC “also recommends the use of face masks, particularly among staff members, especially when children are too young to wear masks,” Tran and her colleagues added. Frequent hand-washing, as well as “frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces” is also recommended, the study group said.

As for kids who are back at school, the Salt Lake City findings show that “reliance on good public health measures is vital to preventing this type of spread and keeping children socially distant from vulnerable family members while in schools,” according to Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena.

“That won’t prevent school-based spread, but it will help mitigate the effects,” said Cioe-Pena, who directs global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The findings were published Sept. 11 in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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‘Green prescriptions’ could cancel mental health benefits for some

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So-called “green prescriptions” may end up being counterproductive for people with mental health conditions, researchers say.

Spending time in nature is believed to benefit mental health, so some doctors are beginning to “prescribe” outdoor time for their patients.

That led researchers to investigate whether being in nature helps actually does help people with issues such as anxiety and depression. They collected data from more than 18,000 people in 18 countries.

The takeaway: Time in nature does provide several benefits for people with mental health conditions, but only if they choose on their own to visit green spaces.

While being advised to spend time outdoors can encourage such activity, it can also undermine the potential emotional benefits, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that people with depression were spending time in nature as often as folks with no mental health issues, and that people with anxiety were doing so much more often.

While in nature, those with depression and anxiety tended to feel happy and reported low anxiety. But those benefits appeared to be undermined when the visits were done at others’ urging, the investigators found.

The more external pressure people with depression and anxiety felt to visit nature, the less motivated they were to do so and the more anxious they felt.

“These findings are consistent with wider research that suggests that urban natural environments provide spaces for people to relax and recover from stress,” said study leader Michelle Tester-Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

But the findings also show that health care practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive about recommending time in nature for people who have mental health issues.

“It could be helpful to encourage them to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting, so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience,” Tester-Jones said in a university news release.

More information

For more on the benefits of green spaces, go to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Nearly half of ‘essential workers’ in U.S. at risk for severe COVID-19

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — Nearly half of those classified as “essential workers” in the United States are at increased risk for severe COVID-19, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

This means that more than 74 million workers and those with whom they live could be at risk for serious illness, based on disease risk guidelines developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers said.

“Many parts of the country face high and rising infection rates, [and] we should not think about work exposure and health risks in isolation, given that workers and persons at increased risk often live in the same households,” study co-author Thomas M. Selden told UPI.

“Insofar as we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, we can reduce the extent to which policymakers have to choose between the economy and keeping the population safe,” said Selden, an economist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States in March, states and cities across the country have instituted lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of the disease.

Many of these measures entailed closing schools and non-essential businesses, with only banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed to provide vital services allowed to stay open.

For this study, Selden and his colleagues analyzed data on the U.S. workforce to examine how many people were in essential jobs, how often they were able to work at home, their risk for severe COVID-19 and the potential health risks for their household members.

Of the more than 157 million workers across the country, 72% are in jobs deemed essential — based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security criteria — and more than three-fourths of all essential workers are unable to work at home, Selden said.

Essential workers include those in the medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics and energy, water and wastewater industries, as well as those in law enforcement and public works, the DHS criteria stipulates.

The study notes that up to 60% of these workers have underlying health issues, placing them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 if they get infected, as defined by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Those with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are considered to be at high risk for serious illness, the CDC says.

Based on these findings, between roughly 57 million and 74 million adults working in on-site essential jobs — and their families — are at increased risk for serious illness, Selden and his colleagues estimated.

“Policymakers face important decisions about how to balance the economic benefits of keeping workers employed and the public health benefits of protecting those with increased risk of severe COVID-19,” Selden said.

“These issues arise in the context of decisions to close segments of the economy and decisions about how to distribute vaccines, which will initially be available only with limited supply, [and] become all the more difficult when the prevalence of infection rises in parts of the country,” he said.



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Study: Hydroxychloroquine no better than placebo for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine showed no signs of significant improvement in “clinical status” compared with those given a placebo, a study published Monday by JAMA found.

Patients given a five-day course of the drug were scored as “category six” based on the World Health Organization’s seven-category COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, the same as those given a placebo, the researchers said.

Also, 28 days after they started treatment, 10.4% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died, just slightly lower than the 10.6% fatality rate in the placebo group.

“The results show that hydroxychloroquine did not help patients recover from COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Wesley H. Self told UPI.

“In the study, patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and those treated with a placebo had nearly identical outcomes, [so] I do not foresee any role for hydroxychloroquine in acutely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Self, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressive and anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat malaria.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was touted by President Donald Trump and others as a potential treatment for the virus, despite the lack of any scientific data supporting its use.

Given its effectiveness helping those sickened with malaria — a mosquito-borne infection — to recover, “there was a strong rationale for why hydroxychloroquine may have been beneficial for patients with COVID-19,” according to Self.

However, in July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against the drug’s use in the treatment of those infected with the new coronavirus, due to potentially serious heart-related side effects.

For this study, Self and his colleagues treated 433 COVID-19 patients at 34 hospitals across the United States with either the drug or a placebo for a period of five days.

Patients assigned to the hydroxychloroquine group received 400 milligrams of the drug in pill form twice a day for the first two doses and then 200 mg. in pill form twice a day for the next eight doses, for a total of 10 doses over the five days.

All of the patients were then assessed based on the WHO’s COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, which categorizes those infected according to disease severity.

Most of the patients in both the hydroxycholorquine group and the placebo group were in “category six,” meaning they were hospitalized and receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or invasive mechanical ventilation to maintain their breathing, the researchers said.

“Our results, especially when combined from other studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, are good evidence that hydroxychloroquine does not provide benefit for patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” Self said.



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