Reports of male impotence after a covid infection may not just be related to pandemic anxiety or stress, as scientists begin to think the virus lingers in cells, causing erectile dysfunction and low sperm counts. Separately: a push to study Paxlovid’s use against long covid, and other covid news.
The New York Times:
Can Covid Lead To Impotence?
For a respiratory disease, Covid-19 causes some peculiar symptoms. It can diminish the senses of smell and taste, leave patients with discolored “Covid toes,” or even cause a swollen, bumpy “Covid tongue.” Now scientists are examining a possible link to an altogether unexpected consequence of Covid: erectile dysfunction. A connection has been reported in hundreds of papers by scientists in Europe and North America, as well as in Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Thailand. (Rabin, 5/5)
In updates on Paxlovid —
Evidence Mounts For Need To Study Pfizer’s Paxlovid For Long COVID, Researchers Say
Additional reports of patients with long COVID who were helped by Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid offer fresh impetus for conducting clinical trials to test the medicine for the debilitating condition, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. Three new case studies follow earlier reports of long COVID patients who experienced relief of their symptoms after taking the treatment, which is currently only authorized for high-risk people early after onset of COVID symptoms. (Steenhuysen, 5/5)
Paxlovid Mouth Is Real—And Gross
More than two years into this pandemic, we finally have an antiviral treatment that works pretty darn well. Paxlovid cuts a vulnerable adult’s chances of hospitalization or death from COVID by nearly 90 percent if taken in the first few days of an infection. For adults without risk-heightening factors, it reduces that likelihood by 70 percent. Also, it might make your mouth taste like absolute garbage the whole time you’re taking the pills. In Pfizer’s clinical trials, about 5.6 percent of patients reported an “altered sense of taste,” called dysgeusia in the medical literature. A Pfizer spokesperson assured me that “most events were mild” and “very few patients discontinued study as a result”; the outer packaging of the drug doesn’t mention it at all, and the patient fact sheet breezes past it. But Paxlovid-takers told me it’s absolutely dysgeusting. (Gutman, 5/5)
And more on the spread of the coronavirus —
A Guide To Help You Keep Up With The Omicron Subvariants
Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans can be forgiven if they’ve lost track of the latest variants circulating nationally and around the world. We’ve heard of the alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and omicron variants, but a new Greek-letter variant hasn’t come onto the scene in almost half a year. Instead, a seemingly endless stream of “subvariants” of omicron, the most recent Greek-letter variant, has emerged in the past few months.
How different are these subvariants from one another? Can infection by one subvariant protect someone from infection by another subvariant? And how well are the existing coronavirus vaccines — which were developed before omicron’s emergence — doing against the subvariants? (Jacobson, 5/6)
COVID-19 Subvariant XE: What To Know
It’s nicknamed Frankenstein, but experts say that shouldn’t scare you. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a preliminary report on the new COVID-19 “Frankenstein” subvariant called XE, which is a mix of the omicron BA.1 variant and the “stealth” variant BA.2, with the agency declaring it’s still part of the omicron variant, but not a variant of interest or concern yet, according to a recent Euronews report. The XE strain was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19, with now over 1,000 cases spreading by community transmission, with the majority in the east of England, London, and South East London, per the report. (Sudhakar, 5/5)
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Workplaces, Schools See Rising Coronavirus Cases
Coronavirus cases are on the rise at Los Angeles County workplaces and schools, underscoring the need to take additional precautions to prevent outbreaks, officials said. The additional infections documented in these settings reflect what’s been a steady, weekslong increase in coronavirus activity countywide. But officials say schools and worksites can be at higher risk of transmission, as both are typically places where people gather indoors in close proximity for hours at a time. (Lin II and Money, 5/5)
Des Moines Register:
Drake University COVID-19 Cases Spike On Campus; Finals To Be Online
Drake University officials are asking students to move out of residential housing as COVID-19 cases at the school continue to rise. The request comes as Drake is dealing with 255 confirmed cases of the virus and 500 pending tests, according to a letter from university President Marty Martin to students. As of Wednesday, 75 of those cases were students living in university housing. The spike in cases comes just two months after the university let its mask mandate expire and days after the Drake Relays ended. Officials hope the move will make room for students who are sick or need to isolate and help limit the spread of the virus. (Hernandez, 5/5)
Detroit Free Press:
Kalamazoo Superintendent Says Mask-Optional Prom Spread COVID
The superintendent of Kalamazoo public schools is blaming a high school prom held last month at the Fetzer Center on the Western Michigan University campus for spreading the coronavirus. “Unfortunately, it ended up being a superspreader event causing multiple seniors to get sick and miss school,” Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri told MLive.com. The Free Press left messages with Loy Norrix High School, which held the prom, and Kalamazoo Public Schools officials. The district’s COVID-19 count showed 20 reported cases among students the week prior to prom. After prom, the district reported 104 new cases in less than two weeks. (Witsil, 5/5)
Carnival Cruise Passengers Complain After Covid-19 Outbreak
Guests aboard a Carnival Corp. ship with an outbreak of Covid-19 say the staff was overwhelmed by the number of cases, showing the cruise industry is continuing to struggle with the illness. Carnival didn’t say how many people were infected on the Carnival Spirit, which docked Tuesday in Seattle and has a capacity of more than 2,000 passengers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into the situation, according to its website. (Wanna, 5/5)
Audit: Urgent Response Lacking In Outbreak At Veterans Home
Sluggishness, poor compliance with existing rules and little help from state public health officials crippled the response by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to a November 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at a northern Illinois veterans home that claimed 36 lives, according to a state audit released Thursday. The review by Auditor General Frank Mautino contends the Illinois Department of Public Health “did not identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak.” For nearly two weeks after the problem was identified Nov. 1 at the LaSalle Veterans Home, IDPH officials failed to visit the site and offered no assistance. LaSalle staff testing for the virus was slow and poorly coordinated, the review said. (O’Connor, 5/5)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.