COVID-19 Roundup: First Case of Re-Infection; Severe Obesity as Risk Factor; and ‘Anxiety’ Searches Hit Record High

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August 28, 2020


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World’s First Case of COVID-19 Re-Infection Showed Immune Response, Experts Say

The first confirmed case of someone being infected twice with COVID-19 was reported this week, but experts are saying there is no need for the public to be alarmed.

Many epidemiologists have anticipated that coronavirus reinfections could be possible. A healthy, 33-year-old man has provided researchers in Hong Kong with likely evidence that people can get the coronavirus twice.

“This is the world’s first documentation of a patient who recovered from COVID-19 but got another episode of COVID-19, afterwards,” researchers from Hong Kong University said in a press release on Monday. They said their reinfection study has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

But this case also indicates that antibodies developed from being infected the first time can provide people with some protection during a second COVID-19 illness. The man in the study had some of the serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 when he first got infected in March. However, he had no coronavirus symptoms during his second bout with the coronavirus.

“I don’t want people to be afraid,” Maria van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for COVID-19, said on Monday when asked about the new Hong Kong report. “We need to ensure that people understand that when they are infected, even when they have a mild infection, that they do develop an immune response.”

The man in the study had a cough, sore throat, headache, and fever when he was first infected in the spring. He was hospitalized for more than two weeks. He was discharged on April 14, when his coronavirus tests came back negative. Four months later, he was feeling fine while traveling home from a trip to Spain. On August 15, he tested positive for the virus a second time.


Severe Obesity Linked to Higher Death Risk From COVID-19, Especially in Men, Study Says

Severe obesity likely increases the risk of dying from COVID-19, especially among men, even more than such risk factors as diabetes or socioeconomic disparities, a new study has found.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California reviewed data on nearly 7,000 COVID-19 patients who were treated between February and May. Almost half were obese. A BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher is considered obese. Those with a BMI of 40 to 44 (considered “severe” or “extreme”) were more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 complications, the study said.

“Obesity plays a profound role in risk for death from COVID-19, particularly in male patients and younger populations,” the study concludes. “Our data highlight the leading role of severe obesity over correlated risk factors, providing a target for early intervention.”

About 42 percent of the U.S. adult population is obese, and 9.2 percent is severely obese, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The risk was most highest, the study states, among men and people under the age of 60. Women of any age who were obese were not a significantly higher risk of death, compared to women who were not obese. Researchers say that women may be at lower risk because they tend to carry weight differently than do men, who tend to have more unhealthy visceral and abdominal fat.

The reason younger people were found to be at higher risk is likely because they are less likely to have other underlying health issues — making obesity the more obvious risk factor for researchers to pinpoint.

Previous studies have found that being overweight or obese can increase a patient’s risk of being hospitalized and developing complications from COVID-19.


Internet Searches About Anxiety Attacks Set Record Highs March-May 2020, Study Finds

Internet searches about “acute anxiety” reached an all-time high between March and May 2020, new research has found.

Researchers examined Google searches within the United States that included the terms “anxiety” or “panic” — in combination with “attack” — between January 2004 and May 2020. “Acute anxiety” is medical terminology for anxiety attacks or panic attacks

The study’s authors said they found an 11 percent linked to these search terms between March 2020, when President Donald Trump first declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, and May 2020. The increase presents about 375,000 more searches than during normal times.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, also found that “the largest spike in acute anxiety queries occurred on March 28, 2020, with 52 percent more queries than expected. Moreover, most excess queries occurred between March 16, 2020, and April 14, 2020, when queries were cumulatively 17 percent” higher.

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