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Kids less likely than adults to be asymptomatic COVID-19 spreaders, study finds

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Sept. 14 (UPI) — Adults are nearly 10 times more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 than children, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics.

Just over 1% of children who had no outward signs or symptoms of infection tested positive for the virus after they were admitted to a hospital in Milan for other reasons, the researchers said.

Conversely, just over 9% of asymptomatic adults were found to have COVID-19.

“The data do not support that children may be asymptomatic carriers more than adults,” study co-author Dr. Carlo Agostoni, a pediatrician at the University of Milan, told UPI.

The findings should allow Italian officials to “start the new scholastic year with a less pessimistic view” about the potential risks for spread in schools, he said.

Researchers have estimated that between 50% and 80% of individuals infected with the virus remain asymptomatic.

Meanwhile, symptomatic children may be up to 15% of those carrying COVID-19, according to an analysis from China published early in the pandemic.

The new JAMA Pediatrics findings are based on COVID-19 screening results for 214 patients at the Fondazione Ca’Granda Hospital in Milan. Northern Italy was the site of one of the worst outbreaks of the virus.

All 214 patients — 83 children age 1 to 11 and 131 adults age 57 to 84 — were screened for COVID-19 for precautionary reasons upon admission to the hospital between March 1 and April 30, despite having no symptoms, the researchers said.

One of the 83 asymptomatic children and 12 of the 131 asymptomatic adults tested positive for the virus, and none of them developed symptoms of infection within 48 hours of admission, the data showed.

This equates to an infection rate of 1.2% among asymptomatic children and 9.2% among asymptomatic adults, researchers said.

Eleven of the 12 adults who tested positive for the virus did so on the first test, the analysis said.

The findings indicate that children may not be not at higher risk than adults as asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, meaning that they may not play a significant role as “facilitators of the spread” of the virus, the researchers said.

“We have to be on guard in any case,” Agostoni said. “After summertime, we probably have higher percentages of carriers in Italy, particularly among those around 30 years [of age].”



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Survey reinforces Americans’ apprehension about rushed COVID-19 vaccine

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Oct. 9 (UPI) — Nearly 40% of Americans say they won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 even if a shot becomes available, according to a survey released Friday by consulting firm Children’s Health Defense.

In the survey of more than 1,000 “likely voters,” just over half said they planned to receive the vaccine, while the rest remain undecided.

Just under 30% of respondents said they had concerns regarding the safety of any new vaccine against the coronavirus, with most suggesting the research and development process may have been “rushed” or that the vaccine “needs more testing,” the organization said.

“The growing skepticism about the COVID vaccine is the rational response of a public now paying more attention to how this sausage is getting made,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., founder and chairman of Children’s Health Defense, said in a statement.

Children’s Health Defense, which is known for it’s anti-vaccine activism, commissioned John Zogby Strategies to conduct the survey. The firm specializes in research for private companies, as well as U.S. government agencies.

Trials of several potential vaccines against COVID-19 are ongoing, and Trump administration officials have said they expect initial doses to be available before the end of the year.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said earlier this week that it won’t approve a vaccine until sufficient safety data exists, which may impact that timeline.

The Children’s Health Defense survey included 1,006 respondents, all age 18 years and older and registered voters, the organization said.

The survey was launched hours after President Donald Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for COVID-19 treatment, Kennedy said.

Although 51% of respondents said they planned to get the vaccine after it’s introduced, 36% said they wouldn’t, while the rest were undecided, the data showed.

Although Children’s Health Defense is known primarily for its anti-vaccine stance, other surveys of Americans’ interest in receiving inoculations against COVID-19 have had similar findings.

In August, a Gallup poll found that 35% of Americans would refuse the vaccine, with those who identify as Republicans most skeptical.

Still, more than 65% of respondents in that survey said they would obtain the vaccine, the data showed.

A separate survey conducted earlier this year by the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University found that most Americans believe front-line health workers and other at-risk groups should be given priority when or if a vaccine is made available.



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Study: Kids’ hospitalizations accompany rising unemployment rates

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COVID-19 has led to widespread job loss in the United States. And now a new study reports that when unemployment rates rise, so do hospitalizations of children.

For the study, researchers analyzed 12 years of data — 2002 to 2014 — from 14 states. They found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was a 2% increase in child hospitalizations for all causes, among them diabetes and poisonings.

Specifically, every 1% bump in unemployment was associated with a 5% increase in hospitalizations for substance abuse and a 4% jump for diabetes. The researchers also found a 2% increase for poisoning and burns, and a 2% rise for children with medical complexity — a high need for prescriptions, medical equipment or services.

For children with diabetes and other forms of medical complexity, reduced family income could mean they’re less likely to receive medical services. This could raise their risk of hospitalizations, the study authors suggested.

It’s also possible that poor housing conditions brought on by slimmer wallets could increase children’s risk of poisonings and burns. And higher household stress due to unemployment might increase alcohol and drug use.

Further research is needed to understand how to prevent declining health in children during economic downturns, said study author Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and his colleagues.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study was published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

The study relied on data from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on children’s health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Researchers confirm coronavirus can infect the eye

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COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, but experts have suspected the virus can also infiltrate the eyes. Now, scientists have more direct evidence of it.

The findings are based on a patient in China who developed an acute glaucoma attack soon after recovering from COVID-19. Her doctors had to perform surgery to treat the condition, and tests of her eye tissue showed evidence of the coronavirus.

The case offers proof that “[the coronavirus] can also infect ocular tissues in addition to the respiratory system,” the doctors reported in the Oct. 8 online edition of the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

“It’s been suspected that the eyes can be a source of both ‘in’ and ‘out'” for the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

That’s why health care workers protect their eyes with goggles or face shields, he noted.

It’s not possible to say whether the patient in this case contracted the coronavirus via her eyes, according to Glatt. But that is a possibility — whether through viral particles in the air or by touching her eyes with a virus-contaminated hand, he said.

Another big unknown is whether any lingering virus in patients’ eye tissue will cause problems.

According to Dr. Grace Richter, an ophthalmologist at the University of Southern California’s Roski Eye Institute in Los Angeles, “It’s too early to know what having this virus floating around in the eye means for ocular health.”

At this point, Richter said, limited eye problems have been seen with COVID-19: A small number of patients develop conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” where the white part of the eye and inside of the eyelid become swollen, red and itchy.

The patient in this case suffered acute angle-closure glaucoma — a serious condition in which pressure in the eyes suddenly rises due to fluid buildup. It requires prompt treatment to relieve the pressure, sometimes with surgery to restore the eye’s normal fluid movement.

Richter was doubtful the coronavirus directly caused the eye complication. In general, certain anatomical features of the eye make some people vulnerable to acute angle-closure glaucoma, and it can be triggered by medications, she explained.

Richter speculated that since the patient was hospitalized and likely received various drugs, that might have been the cause.

That is possible, agreed Dr. Sonal Tuli, a clinical spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and chairwoman of ophthalmology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in Gainesville.

Tuli said the patient’s case is “interesting,” but leaves open a number of questions. One is whether the virus present in the eye tissue is actually infectious.

The patient was a 64-year-old woman who was hospitalized for COVID-19 on Jan. 31. Eighteen days later, her symptoms had fully resolved, and throat swabs turned up negative for the coronavirus.

About a week later, though, she developed pain and vision loss in one eye, and then in her other eye a few days afterward, according to the report by Dr. Ying Yan and colleagues at the General Hospital of the Central Theater Command in Wuhan, China.

The patient landed in the hospital again, where she was diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma and cataract. Medication failed to bring down her eye pressure, so her doctors performed surgery — taking tissue samples in the process.

Tests of those samples turned up evidence that the coronavirus had invaded the eye tissues, Yan’s team reported.

While it’s not clear how the virus got into the patient’s eyes, the experts agreed the case underscores the importance of eye protection. For health care providers, that means goggles and face shields for the average person, it’s regular hand-washing and keeping the hands away from the eyes.

“I think people don’t realize how often they touch their eyes,” Tuli said.

That advice will reduce the chance of any virus, including cold and flu bugs, from coming into contact with the eyes, she noted.

While that may be enough in most cases, people caring for someone with COVID-19 at home may want to be extra cautious, Tuli suggested. Wearing eye protection in addition to a mask is a “good idea,” she said.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more on coronavirus and eye health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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