COVID-19 Roundup: Higher Risk of Mental Disorders; CDC on ‘Universal Masking’; and Update on Airborne Droplets

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November 13, 2020

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COVID-19 Patients at Higher Risk of Anxiety, Depression & Insomnia, Major Study Finds

Patients who have recovered from the physical symptoms of COVID-19 are likely to be at a higher risk of developing mental illness, according to a large study which found that 20 percent of coronavirus patients are subsequently diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

Anxiety, depression and insomnia were the most common disorders diagnosed among COVID-19 patients within 90 days of their coronavirus recovery. Researchers from Britain’s Oxford University also detected higher risks of dementia, the potential loss of thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University, and the lead author of the study.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, examined electronic health records of 69 million people in the U.S., including more than 62,000 cases of COVID-19.

The researchers tracked the 62,000 people COVID-19 patients for three months after diagnosis. They compared them with thousands of people with other conditions, such as flu, kidney stones and broken bones. The proportions diagnosed with a psychiatric illness were:

  • 18% of those with COVID-19
  • 13% of those with flu
  • 12.7% of those with a fracture

Doctors and scientists need to investigate the causes and identify new treatments for mental illness after COVID-19, Harrison said.

Study: Droplets from Coughing Persons Can Travel Beyond 6 Feet, Put Kids at Higher Risk

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a focus on airborne droplet transmission, especially when an infected person coughs.

A new study that simulated a coughing person’s dispersed droplets found that the airborne particles travelled well beyond six feet, and that anyone shorter than the person coughing — such as children — might be at a greater risk of infection. That’s because the shorter person is more likely to catch the trajectory of those cough droplets.

Scientists are studying the dispersal of droplets to determine if the social-distancing standard of six feet is sufficient to protect a person from infection who is near a coughing individual. The new study, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, evaluates the risk of spreading the virus through cough droplets in the air under different tropical outdoor environments.

“Young children may be at greater risk compared to adults based on the typical downward cough trajectory,” the study states. “Teenagers and short adults are advised to maintain a social distance greater than 2 meters (6.5 feet) from taller persons. Surgical masks are known to be effective at trapping large droplets and therefore recommended for use as necessary.”

The study’s simulations involved different droplet sizes, air temperatures, relative humidity, wind speed and varying distances between the cougher and the other person. The study indicates that at wind speeds of 2 meters per second — or about 4 miles per hour — the travel distance of different-sized droplets can reach a range between 4 feet and 21.6 feet at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Droplet deposition on skin and clothes may not directly lead to infection,” researchers said. “However, secondary transmission modes, including face, mouth, or nose touching, need to be avoided. Hygiene measures such as washing of hands and exposed surfaces are highly recommended.”

CDC: Universal Masking Found to Protect All Wearers in Numerous Studies

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a stronger position on its mask-wearing recommendation, stressing that they protect the people wearing the masks — instead of just protecting others around an infected person with a mask.

The agency’s updated guidance focuses on numerous studies that have demonstrated the benefits of “universal masking” policies.

“Each analysis demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly,” the CDC concluded.

The CDC referenced in detail seven studies that confirmed the “benefit of universal masking.” Those studies covered a “unified hospital system, a German city, a U.S. state, a panel of 15 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as both Canada and the U.S. nationally,” the CDC said.

COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, especially when people are coughing, sneezing, talking or even breathing. The CDC report estimated that more than 50 percent of transmissions originate from asymptomatic people, or those who have been infected but have not yet developed symptoms.

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