Defining "Hospitalized For or With COVID", and Lions and Pumas, Oh My

Covid Update

Public health officials churn out a lot of statistics related to COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Still, it can often be challenging to determine just how accurate they are because they lack granularity or there are just so many unreported test results. Massachusetts implemented a new reporting system for COVID-19 hospitalizations that clarified who is being hospitalized and why. For that and more, continue reading.

A Distinction Between Hospitalized FOR COVID-19 and Hospitalized WITH COVID-19

Because everyone entering a hospital for other procedures is automatically tested for COVID-19, there has been difficulty determining exactly how many people hospitalized and reported as having COVID-19 are specifically there because of the infection. Data has not tended to break out the difference. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health differentiated between patients hospitalized with “primary” COVID-19 and “incidental” COVID-19. They found that 49% of the state’s 3,187 patients hospitalized on January 18 were there for some other procedure or disease and were diagnosed with COVID-19 once they were admitted.

Healthcare officials cautioned that they were not making light of the “incidental” cases. These patients still require special care. But they said they hope this reflects the virus’s impact on the community better.

Dr. Shira Doron, an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, who worked on the new reporting system, said that the vaccines were doing their job. “At Tufts Medical Center, half of them are vaccinated, and you don’t want to be calling them a vaccine breakthrough hospitalization when they aren’t,” she said.

Vaccine Doesn’t Affect fertility, but COVID-19 Might

A study from Boston University of more than 2,000 couples found no difference in the probability of pregnancy if either partner was vaccinated or unvaccinated against COVID-19. However, the odds of conceiving decreased slightly if the male partner was infected with COVID-19 60 days or less before the female partner’s menstrual cycle. This is an indication of decreased male fertility. The investigators theorize that COVID-19 causes a fever, which reduces sperm counts. However, males in the study who tested positive more than 60 days before the cycle appeared to have the same level of fertility as uninfected males. The couples where the male was infected within 60 days were 18% less likely to conceive.

“The findings provide reassurance that vaccination for couples seeking pregnancy does not appear to impair fertility,” said Dr. Diana Bianchi, director of the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the funders of the study. “They also provide information for physicians who counsel patients hoping to conceive.”

Lions and Pumas in South Africa Caught COVID-19 From Zoo Handlers

In a zoo in Pretoria, South Africa, lions and pumas were accidentally infected with COVID-19 from asymptomatic zoo handlers. This raises additional concerns about animal reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2, which has been identified in white-tail deer in the U.S. Another concern of animal reservoirs is that new variants could rise out of those populations. A 2020 study of two pumas at the zoo who had diarrhea, nasal discharge and anorexia demonstrated they had COVID-19. Both animals recovered completely after 23 days. Then, a year later, as the Delta variant swept the country, three lions tested positive. One had pneumonia. The researchers suggest that mask-wearing and infection control, as well as more barriers so visitors can’t get too close to the animals, is advisable.

“This is to protect endangered species from getting sick and dying,” stated Dr. Marietjie Venter and Dr. Katja Koeppel, two professors at the University of Pretoria. “These measures are also important because of the risk of new variants emerging if the virus establishes itself in other animal reservoirs; these variants could be transmitted back to humans.”

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, warned in a separate article that one reason it’s going to be difficult to get rid of COVID-19 completely is the virus’ ability to infect different animals. Rasmussen told Yahoo Finance Live, “I don’t think that elimination is going to be possible with this virus. This virus infects a number of different animal species … and even if every human being on the planet [were] vaccinated, there are still potentially susceptible hosts in the form of other animals that this virus could get into.”

Dr. Mike Ryan, director of Emergency Program at WHO, recently said at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos event, “We won’t end the virus this year, we may never end the virus. These pandemic viruses end up becoming part of the ecosystem. People talk about pandemic versus endemic. This word ‘endemic.’ Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people, endemic HIV, endemic violence in our inner cities. ‘Endemic’ in itself does not mean good. ‘Endemic’ just means it is here forever.”

Extracellular Vesicles from Convalescent Plasma Appear to Block COVID-19

Researchers with Northwestern University searched through the serum of patients who recovered from COVID-19 to identify potential immune components that might be used therapeutically to prevent or treat the disease. They identified extracellular vesicles (EVs) that appeared to block ACE2+ receptors. They found that engineered ACE2+ EVs inhibit COVID-19 infection by blocking the viral spike protein binding with the cellular receptor ACE2 in host cells.

Omicron May Have Been in the U.S. as early as November 2021

Analysis of wastewater for evidence of COVID-19 has turned out to be an early warning system of infection, as it tends to be a leading indicator. It also can suggest trends, such as when levels of a specific variant drop in the samples. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data from wastewater surveillance, suggesting that the Omicron variant was present in the U.S. as early as November 21, 2021. The first case in the U.S. was officially detected on December 1. The National Wastewater Surveillance System comprises 43 health departments funded by the CDC.

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