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Coronavirus – Researchers Focus on Genetics After Deaths of Twins and Siblings

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In the middle of the steady stream of stories regarding the deaths of COVID-19, that is significantly high in number. In the past month, however, at least two pairs of twins, and two pairs of brothers had died in Britain, with a gap of a few hours or days. The question that arises is if the deaths point towards genetic factors that increase the likelihood of some to succumb to the disease, more than others.

According to most scientists, genes can indeed play a big role in the response of people to infections. Furthermore, the receptors that the COVID-19 uses to invade human cells are likely to be influenced by a person’s genetic makeup. However, the resilience of a person to infection, their general health, and the reaction of their immune system will all have at least some degree of the genetic component.

Prof Tim Spector, head of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, led a team that reported that the symptoms of COVID-19 seem to be 50% genetic. However, Spector has said that more research will be needed to understand the involvement of specific genes and the difference that they make to the course of the disease.

According to Spector, there is still ambiguity regarding if genes are linked to the receptors or to how the infection presents.

Last month, identical twins Katy and Emma, aged 37, were reported dead at Southampton general hospital. The sisters had underlying health problems and were living together. They had been ill for quite some time before they were infected with the virus.

Another set of twins was Eleanor Andrews and Eileen, aged 66. The sisters died earlier this month, also had underlying health conditions, and lived together.

Another case was of two brothers from Newport, Ghulam Abbas, aged 59, and Raza Abbas, aged 53. They died with a gap of hours of each other, at the Royal Gwent Hospital. Furthermore, another pair of brothers, Olume Ivowi, aged 46, and Isi Ivowi, aged 38, from Luton, died within a gap of days of each other.

According to Spector, these deaths have alerted people regarding the possible genetic factor, especially during a time when people are living together and have a shared environment.

Spector added that the outcome is that twins that live together, are likely to have similar lifestyles and habits, from diet to exercise, and also on how quickly they respond and seek medical care, and are hence not generally less healthy than the remaining population.

Twin deaths gained popularity in headlines before the COVID-19 pandemic, when twins, Julian and Adrian Riester, died on the same day in 2011, in Florida. The cousin of the twins claimed that this was a confirmation of God’s favor over them. However, Spector has seen the statistic and says that twins dying at the same time are a rare occurrence. Furthermore, he added that while the population exists in billions on this planet, only 70 is a twin and one in 200 is an identical twin.

A professor of biological psychiatry at Bristol University, Marcus Munafo, has said that there must be caution in the interpretation of the reports of twin deaths. Munafo added that twin deaths are unusual and rare, which is why they make it to the news, but a distortion of perceptions can be caused by coverage. Munafo continues that the “salience bias” which refers to the fact that people end to notice the information that stands out the most irrespective of relevancy, can be unhealthy and it would be better to be careful when coming across news and realize what we should focus on.

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Coronavirus measures may curb the impact of the flu season

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With the fast approaching flue season, will SOPs be enough to ward off the burden on the healthcare system?

The United States may not necessarily see a ‘double whammy’ this fall, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Despite of fearing a setback to the healthcare system due to the concurrence of the flu season with the novel coronavirus, the scenarios observed in Australia are giving hopes to experts in the United States.

Australia usually experiences its flu season starting from April, with a peak arriving in August. This year however, due to numerous preemptive measures, the country was successful in curbing the impact of the flu season. According to the reports of WHO, flue cases in the country ‘virtually dropped off to baseline or negligible levels’.

CDC officials see vaccines as being mainly responsible for this major decline of flu cases in the country. The demand for flue vaccines in the region was at a record breaking high, resulting in about 18 million vaccinations.

Let’s take a look at what these results could mean for the United States.

Coronavirus and its preventative measures

The SOPs put in place for coronavirus might be also be warding of other diseases in the background. This trend was observed by researchers in March, whereby flu circulations got controlled after widespread social lock-downs. A similar tendency was seen in summers where the flu cases stood at historically low levels in the region.

In the opinion of a recent study, “If extensive community mitigation measures continue throughout the fall, influenza activity in the United States might remain low and the season might be blunted or delayed.”

These findings were published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This means that avoiding crowds, wearing masks and frequently washing hands can help take the edge off the flu season.

In addition to this, Dr. Anthony Fauci has also urged Americans to get vaccinated against the flu. This is mainly because the healthcare system is not in a position to deal with any escalations in patient numbers. Healthcare providers are wary of combating an unknown number of flu cases if the virus spirals out of control.

He is seeing the flu season as an opportunity to educate the masses about the importance of vaccines. This is specially important for those individuals who have certain misconceptions about COVID-19. According to a poll conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation, about one in five respondents believed wearing masks could harm them. In addition to this, it was found that 1 in 4 participants believed that hydroxychloroquine is helpful in treating COVID-19. Ironically, this drug has been praised by Donald Trump, who claims to have used it himself. There is no scientific evidence of its efficacy for coronavirus whatsoever.

All of these misconceptions have stressed the need of educating the public about important issues relating to virus protection measures.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The question of whether or not people will get themselves vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine is made available soon is getting mixed responses. According to latest research findings, a majority of Americans now believe that an increased political pressure may rush its approval by the FDA.

The numbers of these dubious individuals has risen from what it was a few months ago. About 54% of respondents of a poll conducted by KFF said that they would not get the vaccine even if it was available for free before the November 3 elections.

“Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence even before a vaccine gets to the starting gate,” says KFF president and CEO Drew Altman.

Anthony Fauci sees a huge risk in this type of mindset. He believes that if a lesser number of people get themselves vaccinated, it is not going to stop the spread of the virus. “If you have a vaccine that is highly effective and not enough people get vaccinated, you’re not going to realize the full, important effect of having a vaccine.”

Cases of outbreaks have still continued to happen during long-weekends or personal gatherings of people. A vaccine for COVID-19 might be the only viable solution, but politicizing it as an opportunity to win big in elections is raising skepticism among the public. This has created an environment where misinformation can be easily created and widely shared.

 

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Russian COVID-19 Antiviral Drug To Be Released Next Week

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The USSR often makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. This may just attribute itself to its controversial leader, aggressive foreign policy and remarkably cold climate. After all, the nation is no stranger to strife, turmoil and resilience in its rich history. However, one thing that Russia often gets overlooked for is its advancements in medicine. More specifically, the fact that it has a COVID-19 antiviral drug on the horizon.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as known by the world, started off as a poorly contained outbreak in Wuhan, China. From there, the situation escalated as the coronavirus spread across the globe. Now, entire global economies lay shattered and decrepit. COVID-19 also incurred hundreds of thousands of casualties. Schools, businesses and social settings remain indefinitely on hold in most parts of the world.

Russia aims to release its new antiviral medication by next week

Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. The Russian company behind the new drug, based in the town of Yaroslavl, claimed to be on shelves as early as next week. R-Pharm, the name of the company, announced its completion of Stage III trial status recently. The Stage III clinical trial refers to the comparison of viability compared to the usual standard drug of choice. In this case, the drug, coronavir, will compare and contrast with dexamethasone. Dexamethasone became the standard drug therapy in the UK recently after clearing Phase IV and works to reduce inflammation.

Coronavir, the drug in question, also gets to share the spotlight with its cousin, avifavir. Both coronavir and avifavir come from the same precursor drug, favipiravir. Favipiravir comes from Japan, where it initially gained approval as an anti-influenza drug. This drug can produce coronavir and afivavir depending on requirements.

 The drug underwent stringent inspections and trials to gain approval

Coronavir, named after the very virus it combats, seems an exceptionally good drug. It, considered tried and tested with good patient outcomes, works well. While originally approved for uses in hospital settings back in July, it quickly gained support for domestic cases. To investigate any side effects or patient distress, a study was conducted to check. This check means to verify the extensive testing on volunteers that federal regulations require.

Out of 168 COVID-19 patients in the study, most responded well to treatment. Thus, if it passes Stage III trials, then Stage IV, coronavir would check all the boxes. Thus, it very well could be able to hit shelves as soon as next week. Research shows that coronavir is most effective in minor or moderately serious cases of COVID-19.

Russia may yet make a reputation for itself as a medically progressive nation

In recent times, the country truly stepped forward to help battle the ongoing coronavirus situation. The upcoming Sputnik-V vaccine, also expected to release soon, garnered praise and skepticism alike. This vaccine holds the potential to be a true game changer. It is easy enough to administer, has few toxic interactions and will not be prohibitively expensive. However, recent lab findings for Sputnik-V  showed that around one in seven of the volunteers developed minor side effects. So while it may not be totally innocuous, the hope will certainly involve ironing out some wrinkles.

Therefore, the advent of coronavir or Sputnik-V simply means that the pandemic may finally die down. There definitely is no need to panic or doubt the system. With any luck, only the most authentic get published.

 

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Trump Claims COVID-19 Vaccine Ready By Next Month

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Trump claims COVID-19 vaccine coming next month

In a surprising new press conference, the POTUS Donald Trump has announced a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be ready by mid-October. The news came as a shock to most, seeing that as of now, no vaccine has even been approved by the FDA. Nonetheless, the President, running for reelection this November, claims that all is running smoothly. The president did not shy from saying that his opposition would not be nearly as capable as his administration in fighting the virus.

It’s hard to take the President at his word. While it seems unlikely that he would make so huge an overstatement so close to the elections, we have reason to doubt him. This is still the same person who offhandedly suggested injecting disinfectants would cure the disease, after all. Let’s take a look at the situation in more depth, to help measure our expectations better.

America leads the world in COVID-19 cases at the moment, under Trump

The US has a huge lead in terms of the number of cases of COVID-19, and the death toll too. The situation is truly dire in many places with hospitals past capacity and things are only going to get worse. The number of uninsured Americans exceeded twenty seven million back in April, and following the large increase in unemployment since then, that number could have tripled. Without healthcare, the average person is already at a disadvantage against COVID-19.

Furthermore, Trump has increased resentment against the wearing of masks and preventative measures against the spread of the coronavirus. Anti-mask sentiment is a large contributor to the high infection rates in the US, and Trump personally ascribes to this mindset. He said so as much in the press conference, mocking Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden for wearing a mask. Trump suggested it had more to do with covering facial features out of shame than it did with stopping the spread of the virus.

Still, vaccines have made tremendous strides in recent months

The POTUS has a point, though. The COVID-19 vaccine that everyone is talking about has made more progress on a rushed schedule than any other vaccine ever. Scientists have pulled overtime to ensure the response to the virus be as quick as possible. And the results are promising, with more than one vaccine already having entered the final test phase. In Russia, a vaccine is already being distributed.

Another partial truth Trump spoke was saying that masks are nowhere near as effective as a vaccine. Which is obviously true, because if they were, why would we bother spending billions on a vaccine? However, to suggest that masks are useless is not logically sound. Mask wearing has led to countries like France and Italy come back from the brink of collapse. Where people are responsible in social distancing, the results speak for themselves.

What will happen in regards to vaccination in the next few months, even after Trump?

It’s most likely that Trump is over promising to farmer votes for the election. The head of the Center for Disease Control stated earlier that in no way would a vaccine program be possible nationally before next year. Yet Trump dismissed his expert advice, with typical Trump swagger.

It won’t be the first time a politician lied to the public to get votes, but the matter is complex. It technically might be possible for a vaccine to be out by October, but without insurance, most Americans likely won’t be able to afford it. And until October rolls around, how many will get sick because Trump supporters refuse to cover up? Wear a mask, stay safe at home.

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