October 23, 2020 by John Fernandez
COVID-19 Roundup: Why Men Get Sicker; Face Shields Less Effective Than Masks; and New Warning About Sanitizers
Yale Researchers: Here’s Why More Men Than Women Get Sicker from COVID-19
A new study has shed light as to why men are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19, and die from the disease, compared to women.
Investigators from Yale University have found significant differences in how the immune systems of women and men respond to the coronavirus. In a study launched by Women’s Health Research at Yale, and published in Nature, the authors conclude that there are possible biological explanations for why men are hit harder by COVID-19 than women.
Worldwide, men account for about 60 percent of deaths from COVID-19. In their study, Yale researchers found key differences in the immune response to the virus in men and women, especially during the early phases of infection. These differences included higher levels for men of several types of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, which the body deploys as part of its immune reaction.
In contrast, the researchers said female COVID-19 patients had “more robust activation than men of T-cells” — white blood cells of the immune system that can recognize individual invading viruses and eliminate them.
“These findings answer questions about COVID-19 that point the way toward a more effective, targeted response to this disease,” said Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “Researchers racing to develop treatments and vaccines should consider separate strategies for women and men so that everyone can benefit.”
More specifically, the researchers “suggest exploring therapeutic interventions and vaccine strategies that elevate T-cell immune response to the virus in male patients and that dampen innate immune activation during early stages of the disease in female patients.”
Face Shields Less Effective Option Than Face Masks, FAU Researchers Find
Wearing a face shield may be more comfortable than a face mask, but you may want to rethink this option in light of a new study from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton.
FAU researchers used visualizations to test how face shields and masks with valves perform in slowing the spread of aerosol-sized droplets. The result: Although face shields block the initial forward motion of expelled droplets, the droplets move around the visor “with relative ease.”
Visualizations for the face mask equipped with an exhalation port found that a “large number of droplets pass through the exhale valve unfiltered,” significantly reducing its effectiveness as a means of source control.
Siddhartha Verma, Ph.D., lead author and an assistant professor at FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, explains further:
“There is an increasing trend of people substituting regular cloth or surgical masks with clear plastic face shields as well as using masks that are equipped with exhalation valves,” said Ms. Verma. “A driving factor for this increased adoption is better comfort compared to regular masks. However, face shields have noticeable gaps along the bottom and the sides, and masks with exhalation ports include a one-way valve which restricts airflow when breathing in, but allows free outflow of air. The inhaled air gets filtered through the mask material, but the exhaled breath passes through the valve unfiltered.”
FDA: Stay Away from Hand Sanitizers Packaged in Food and Drink Containers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been warning consumers and healthcare professionals for months about stayig away from certain alcohol-based hand sanitizers because of the ingredient methanol, or wood alcohol, a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.
Now the FDA is warning everyone about alcohol-based hand sanitizers packaged in containers that may look like ood or drinks — and that puts consumers at risk of serious injury or death if ingested. The agency states that it has found some hand sanitizers being packaged in beer cans, children’s food pouches, water bottles, juice bottles and vodka bottles.
Additionally, the FDA says there are hand sanitizers that contain food flavors, such as chocolate or raspberry.
“These products could confuse consumers into accidentally ingesting a potentially deadly product,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., in a news release. “It’s dangerous to add scents with food flavors to hand sanitizers which children could think smells like food, eat and get alcohol poisoning.”
Here are two examples of consumer confusion, according to the FDA: A consumer purchased a bottle they thought to be drinking water, but was in fact hand sanitizer; A report from a retailer was received about a hand sanitizer product marketed with cartoons for children that was in a pouch that resembles a snack.
“Drinking only a small amount of hand sanitizer is potentially lethal to a young child, who may be attracted by a pleasant smell or brightly colored bottle of hand sanitizer,” states the FDA.
A list of hand sanitizer products the FDA urges consumers not to use, along with a description for consumers on how to use the list, has been posted to the agency’s website, which is being updated regularly.