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NIH is recruiting volunteers for testing COVID-19 antibodies

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The federal health officials have been recruiting around ten thousand volunteers countrywide as they probe how pervasive COVID-19 has been so far in the US.

Over 550,000 individuals in the US tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Monday. However, with asymptomatic and moderate cases going undiagnosed, researchers are now inclining towards antibody tests in order to learn the extent of coronavirus spread, as per a media release from NIH (National Institutes of Health).

Moreover, researchers also hope to gain a better understanding of which communities and populations have been impacted the most, said the officials. 

By using the blood samples of around ten thousand volunteers countrywide, the survey will help determine the number of infected adults without a proper confirmed diagnosis, stated the release.

The study, which is being conducted by the researchers from NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and other centers under the NIH, will test the blood samples of the participants for the existence of two kinds of antibodies- anti-SARS-CoV-2 S protein IgM and IgG. This would help determine whether the participants were infected by the virus previously and recovered from it.  

According to the director of NIAID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the study findings will help the researchers measure what impact the public health initiatives have and assist them in planning a response to the virus. 

So far, the majority of coronavirus testing across the US carried out has been utilized to learn about active infections; however, it cannot determine if a person contracted the disease previously. 

By evaluating the antibody test of a participant’s blood, the researchers will be able to determine if he/she has contracted SARS-CoV-2 earlier. 

NIH is not the only agency performing such a study. The researchers from California’s Stanford Medicine had worked on an antibody test previous week on a regional level. 

Such kind of testing could offer an insight into how widely the coronavirus has circulated across California as a few believe that it might have originated in the country earlier than thought initially. 

For the study being conducted by the NIH, participants can belong from any part of the US, provided he/she is in fit and above 18 years. A person who was infected with COVID-19 previously or shows symptoms presently cannot participate in the study. 

Those chosen to participate should have their blood samples drawn at Bethesda’s NIH campus. They can also do that at home with the help of an at-home blood collection facility offered by Neoteryx.

Eric Eldon is a founder, writer and editor who has helped build and lead a variety of online media publications. He's interested in using technology to provide better news, and is currently the managing founder of ELISA Kit News. Eric is an advisor and shareholder in Hoodline, a local news tech company. His wife owns a small number of shares in education company Udacity, and she is currently working at Common Networks, a wireless internet service provider. He typically avoids covering these companies or the industries they exist within, and he discloses whenever there's a relevant potential appearance of conflict. He also owns a small amount of bitcoin for testing purposes. Contact Email: eric@elisakitnews.net Twitter: https://twitter.com/eldon Phone: 720.213.5963

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Coronavirus resurgence is likely in 2024, says a Harvard study

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Social distancing might be needed until the year 2022 to avoid critical healthcare capacities from getting exceeded, says a new study from Harvard University, as more COVID-19 patients get hospitalized in the ICUs.

Even in case of apparent elimination, there is a need to maintain SARS-CoV-2 surveillance as a resurgence might be possible by the year 2024, say the researchers of the study.

There is an urgent need to take appropriate measures to tackle the present pandemic. Pharmaceutical treatments and vaccines might need months or years to create and test, said the researchers with the sole way to combat the disease being non-pharmaceutical developments. 

As per the researchers, SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that is causing the fatal disease, has the power to produce a considerable outbreak regardless of what season it is. 

The findings of the study showed that the outbreaks established during winter-spring, such as the one causing the present coronavirus pandemic, generally have low peaks. Meanwhile, the ones occurring during autumn-winter are more acute, said the researchers. 

It is still being learned whether individuals who once contract the disease would be immune to coronavirus permanently. If the immunity to stay protected from the virus isn’t permanent, it’s likely to enter in the regular circulation, just like the flu pandemic, as per the study.

The COVID-19 mortality rate, as of Wednesday, stands at 6.4 percent, with almost 127,000 deaths of about 2 million confirmed cases. Comparatively, the flu mortality rate in the country stood at 0.096 percent during the 2018-19 seasons, as per the CDC, being almost 67 times lesser than coronavirus. 

A study published by the CDC in the year 2006 estimates mortality of Spanish flu to stand at 10 to 20 percent. Lary Brilliant, an epidemiologist who worked along with the WHO to help eliminate smallpox, said in March that mortality rate was 2 to 10 percent during the 1918-19 pandemic. 

As per the researchers from Harvard, even if the SARS-CoV-2 immunity would last only for 2 years, moderate, 30 percent immunity from the other strands of coronavirus which generally cause cold might eliminate its transfer up till 3 years effectively.  

Even in the event of the virus appearing to have died down, say the researchers, a resurgence is still likely in the year 2024. As per the researchers, a long-standing immunity, which can be attained by vaccination, can possibly result in the elimination of coronavirus. 

The Harvard study appears in the journal Science.

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New York to begin reporting probable deaths due to coronavirus to CDC

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On Wednesday, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said that the US state would start reporting probable deaths due to coronavirus to the CDC as the country struggles on how to count the increasing mortality rate while there’s still minimal testing. 

In his statement, Cuomo said that New York would rationalize these new reporting guidelines with the local governments as well as get that data out as quickly as possible. 

Besides, the state would get in touch with the nursing facilities and homes as well to learn whether any other individuals lost their lives due to coronavirus, but weren’t in nursing homes or hospitals necessarily at that time, said Cuomo.

Cuomo believes that there might be additional individuals who have died and were not included in the death count as they were not hospitalized, so the new measure will go through that. 

As of Wednesday, there were over 213,000 known coronavirus positive cases in New York, with over 11,500 confirmed death cases. However, that doesn’t include several probable deaths that NYC began reporting during this week. 

On Tuesday, the city reported over 111,400 known positive coronavirus cases, with around 6,840 known death cases and about 4,059 probable death cases. 

Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of NYC on Wednesday, said that he believes reporting the no. of probable coronavirus deaths was significant to showcase the sheer totality and bigger reality of the pandemic. 

The city has also released data that shows there were around 8,184 death cases from 11 March to 13 April, which weren’t known as probable or confirmed cases. 

When asked about the figures on Wednesday, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the NYC Health Department’s commissioner, said the sad reality is there’ve been individuals who have lost lives directly or indirectly due to coronavirus. 

Barbot said it was essential to compare the over 8,000 deaths with the no. of deaths recorded through the same time the previous year. She said that only time could tell what those no. really meant. For instance, a few deaths could have been recorded as being caused due to heart strokes as people hadn’t yet developed the symptoms of coronavirus when they otherwise should’ve been counted as apparent coronavirus victims, said Barbot.

On Tuesday, Barbot, in a statement made to NBC News related to probable death count, said that the state is now focused on making sure that each New York resident who passed away due to coronavirus gets counted. 

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Taste and smell loss is associated with coronavirus, says a new UC San Diego health study

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The loss of taste and smell so far has just anecdotally been associated with coronavirus so far, but a new study reveals the first-ever correlation between the disease and sensory loss. 

The study, conducted by the researchers from UC San Diego Health, shows that individuals who have taste and smell loss had their chances of contracting coronavirus increased by ten times. 

The findings of the study support the need to stay aware of the taste and smell loss as early symptoms of the virus, said the researchers. These conclusions were based upon the patients who weren’t hospitalized for coronavirus. 

Fever continues to remain the first symptom of COVID-19, but the loss of taste and smell, as well as fatigue, also followed as the initial symptoms often. 

As per otolaryngologist, Carol Yan from the UC San Diego Health, majority individuals were experiencing improvements within 2 to 3 weeks, and that is hugely reassuring for every one of those who have taste and smell loss. 

Ken Ramirez from Ranco Penasquitos, who had lost all sense of taste and smell, is recovering steadily from the disease. He says that his experience supports the study findings and that the information is extremely useful for those who are witnessing similar symptoms. If anything like this happens to anyone, they should realize that it is unique to coronavirus, said Ramirez.

For the study, the researchers from UC San Diego Health involved 1,480 patients who had symptoms similar to flu as well as concerns regarding possible coronavirus infection. They underwent testing at the health system starting from 3rd March till 29th March. Of the volunteers who participated, 102 tested positive for coronavirus, while 1,378 participants tested negative.  

As per a media release issued by the UC San Diego Health, the study involved responses from 203 coronavirus negative patients and 59 coronavirus positive patients. It discovered that 68 percent of the 59 patients reported taste loss while 17 percent of the 203 patients reported taste loss and 16 percent reported smell loss. 

The researchers also discovered that the patients who said they had sore throat tested coronavirus negative often. 

Dr. Yan hopes that the study will pose a worldwide impact and will promote further research on taste and smell loss. She is also hopeful that it will raise awareness so that sensory impairment gets included as a regular screening measure. 

The study appears in the medical journal Forum of Allergy and Rhinology. 

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