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World News

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) - Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

The COVID-19 response specialist Alexandra Vizcarra prepares to administer a nasal swab test at Public Health Madison & Dane County as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S., October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Beware of false finish line, WHO expert says

Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states by persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantining anyone who comes into contact with infected people, Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) top emergency expert, said on Monday.

Their populations had shown “higher levels of trust” in their governments who had kept up measures longer.

“In other words, they ran through the finish line and beyond and they kept running, because they knew the race wasn’t over, that finish line was false. Too many countries have put an imaginary finishing line and when they cross this may have decelerated some of their activities,” Ryan said.

Long-term health problems from COVID-19

Young, healthy adults with COVID-19 who do not require hospitalisation are still at risk for long-term health problems, Oxford University researchers found. They studied 201 recovering UK patients with an average age of 44, more than 90% of whom did not have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Only 18% had been sick enough to be hospitalised.

At an average of 140 days after their symptoms began, 98% were still fatigued, 92% had heart and lung symptoms, 88% had muscle aches, 87% had breathlessness, 83% headaches, and 73% gastrointestinal symptoms. Organ damage was more common among those who had been hospitalised.

The researchers say their study, posted on Friday on the website medRxiv ahead of peer review, cannot prove the virus caused these later issues. But it does suggest long-term monitoring of organ function will be necessary even in relatively low-risk patients.

Flu shot may help protect against COVID-19

Flu vaccines may help the body defend itself against COVID-19, according to a Dutch study that found hospital workers who got a flu shot last winter were less likely to become infected with the new coronavirus.

In test tube experiments, the researchers saw that last winter’s flu vaccine could prime healthy cells to respond more effectively not just to the flu, but also to the new coronavirus. When they analysed COVID-19 rates among staff at their hospital, they found the number of infections was 39% lower among those who had gotten a flu vaccine.

They posted their report on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review. “We thought it was important to publish these results already because the flu shot is made available to a large group of people,” study leader Mihai Netea of Radboud University Medical Center said in a news release.

Doctors probe whether COVID-19 is causing diabetes

It’s already been well-documented that people with diabetes face much higher risks of severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19. Now, many experts are convinced that COVID-19 can trigger the onset of diabetes - even in some adults and children who do not have the traditional risk factors.

Dr. Francesco Rubino, a diabetes researcher and chair of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London, is leading an international team that is collecting patient cases globally to unravel one of the biggest mysteries of the pandemic. Initially, he said, more than 300 doctors have applied to share cases for review, a number he expects to grow as infections flare up again.

In addition to the global registry, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is financing research into how the coronavirus may cause high blood sugars and diabetes. These cases may take months to surface after exposure to COVID-19, so the full extent of the problem and the long-term ramifications may not be known until well into next year. More intensive research is needed to definitively prove, beyond the mounting anecdotal evidence, that COVID-19 is triggering diabetes on a wide scale.

Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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