Study: COVID More Contagious Than Thought

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A number of studies reveal it’s twice as contagious as thought, that young people are driving the spread of the virus and obesity’s role is made clearer.

Fresno Bee:
COVID-19 Twice As Contagious Than Thought Early In Pandemic 

During the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization estimated that each sick individual was infecting an average of two others. This “basic reproductive number” — or (R0) and pronounced “R naught” — reveals how contagious a disease is. Now, new research from Duke University says the number was likely twice as big, with one infected individual bringing down an average of 4 to 5 people with them, according to a study published Sept. 24 in the journal PLOS One. (Camero, 9/28)

As Young Adults Get Infected With Coronavirus, Older Adults At Risk Of COVID-19 

Young adults are driving coronavirus infections in the U.S. and are likely spreading the virus to older, more vulnerable populations, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults were more likely to get infected, but when researchers analyzed cases from June to August, they found that people in their 20s accounted for the largest share of confirmed cases compared to other age groups. And public health experts say this is a worrying trend. (Stone, 9/29)

The New York Times:
Studies Begin To Untangle Obesity’s Role In Covid-19

In early April, Edna McCloud woke up to find her hands tied to her hospital bed. She had spent the past four days on a ventilator in a hospital in St. Louis County, Mo., thrashing and kicking under sedation as she battled a severe case of Covid-19.“They told me, ‘You were a real fighter down there,’” recalled Ms. McCloud, a 68-year-old African-American retiree with a history of diabetes and heart problems. She weighed close to 300 pounds when she caught the coronavirus, which ravaged her lungs and kidneys. Nearly six months later, she feels proud to have pulled through the worst. “They said people with the conditions I have, normally, this goes the other way,” she said. (Wu, 9/29)

Kaiser Health News and PolitiFact:
What We Know About The Airborne Spread Of The Coronavirus

The federal government did a quick pivot on the threat of the coronavirus spreading through the air, changing a key piece of guidance over the weekend. On Sept. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that tiny airborne particles, not just the bigger water droplets from a sneeze or cough, could infect others. It cited growing “evidence.” By Sept. 21, that warning was gone from its website, with a note saying it had been posted in error and the CDC was in the process of updating its recommendations. (Greenberg, 9/30)

In other science and research news —

Kansas City Star:
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment In Clinical Trial Prolongs Life 

On Sept. 10, 2019, Maria de Armas’ life changed forever. She had been dealing with digestive problems for a while, but they were getting worse. It wasn’t until her daughter noticed a pamphlet sitting on a doctors’ office waiting room table that 74-year-old de Armas asked for a more thorough examination. One CT scan later, on her 53rd wedding anniversary, de Armas was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. According to the statistics, she had less than a year to live. (Camero, 9/29)

New Research Shows Older Adults Are Still Often Excluded From Clinical Trials

For years, researchers have called out a glaring gap in many clinical trials: Despite having far higher rates of many diseases, older adults are largely excluded from studies testing new therapies that might help them. For how extensively experts have studied the issue of age disparities, though, it remains a significant problem — and one that has grown all the more pressing during the Covid-19 pandemic, given that the virus has hit older adults particularly hard. (Gopalakrishna, 9/30)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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