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Roundup: 30% Develop ‘Long COVID’ in New Study; How Brisk Walking Can Fight Depression; and More

New Study: At Least 30% of Those Infected Suffered from ‘Long COVID’

New research has found that 30 percent of people treated for COVID-19 developed lingering symptoms, commonly known as “long COVID.”

According to the study from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), published in Springer, patients with a history of hospitalization from COVID, and those with diabetes and higher body mass index (BMI) were most likely to develop long COVID.

“Surprisingly, ethnicity, older age, and socioeconomic status were not associated with the syndrome — even though those characteristics have been linked with severe illness and greater risk of death from COVID-19,” states a news release by UCLA.

Among the 309 people with long COVID that were part of the study, the most persistent symptoms were fatigue and shortness of breath (31 percent and 15 percent, respectively) in hospitalized persons, and loss of sense of smell (16 percent) in outpatients.

Overall, UCLA researchers reviewed data on 1,038 people who were enrolled in the UCLA COVID Ambulatory Program between April 2020 and February 2021. Of those, 309 developed long COVID. A study participant was determined to suffer from long COVID if they reported persistent symptoms on questionnaires 60 or 90 days after infection or hospitalization, UCLA researchers said.

“This study illustrates the need to follow diverse patient populations longitudinally to understand the Long COVID disease trajectory and evaluate how individual factors such as pre-existing co-morbidities, sociodemographic factors, vaccination status and virus variant type affect type and persistence of Long COVID symptoms,” said Sun Yoo, M.D., health sciences assistant clinical professor at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and medical director of the Extensivist Program.

Dr. Yoo added that improvements in diagnosing long COVID are needed to “differentiate it from exacerbations of other emerging or chronic conditions” and “ensure equitable access to outpatient Long COVID care.”

Researchers: Even 1.25 Hours of Brisk Walking Weekly Can Lower Risk of Depression

Even short bouts of physical activity, such as brisk walking, could significantly lower the risk of depression, according to a new analysis of previous studies on the benefits of regular exercise.

The so-called meta-analysis, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, focused on 15 studies involving more than 190,000 individuals to see how much exercise was needed to reduce depression, a serious mental health issue that is common and can negatively affect daily living.

For overall health, the U.S. guidelines for physical activity for adults include: at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking); or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. However, in the case of preventing depression, the levels of physical activity did not need to meet the established guidelines to be effective.

The new analysis found that adults who were involved in activities equivalent to 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18 percent lower risk of depression, compared with those who did not exercise.

“Activity volume equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week (the minimum recommended under U.S. guidelines) was associated with 25 percent lower risk of depression,” the study’s authors said.

Only minor additional benefits were observed at higher activity levels, the researchers said.

The study concluded: “This systematic review and meta-analysis of associations between physical activity and depression suggests significant mental health benefits from being physically active, even at levels below the public health recommendations. Health practitioners should therefore encourage any increase in physical activity to improve mental health.”

Pfizer-BioNTech Plan to Seek Approval for COVID Booster for Kids 5-11

Pfizer-BioNTech plans to submit a request for emergency ese authorization of a booster dose for children ages 5 to 11 after the companies reported that a third dose significantly raised antibody levels in kids within that age group as part of a clinical trial.

The trial of the booster shot included 140 children ages 5 through 11. In 30 kids, Pfizer said. After analyzing antibody levels in a subset of 30 children, researchers measured a 36-fold increase in antibodies against the Omicron variant. The children received a booster dose approximately 6 months after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. There was no evidence of prior COVID-19 infection in all 140 study participants.

The companies said there were no safety issues associated with a booster dose in these small groups of children. A primary series of two 10-µg doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was previously authorized by U.S. regulators for this age group in October 2021.

Booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine are already authorized for those age 12 and older.

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