One thing that we’ve heard about for a while is the importance of contact tracing. It’s usually a key element in public health as a means of reducing the spread of a pathogen. It’s been used for diseases like tuberculosis, yellow fever, and Ebola. Other countries throughout the world have successfully implemented it with COVID-19. The goal in the United States is to connect with individuals who have spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person. Once reached, these people are asked to stay home for two weeks and self-monitor for any symptoms, even if they have a negative test.
However, COVID-19 has spread rapidly, especially through asymptomatic transmission, and the delays in testing have made it incredibly challenging to keep up with contact tracing. Another problem is people aren’t cooperating, which is further impeding the process. Due to these issues, many public health experts feel that the financial assets and personnel need for contact tracing would be better employed elsewhere. Instead, they think those resources should be directed to increasing the number of testing sites, educating the public about mask use, and helping prepare schools to reopen. Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, agrees with this insight.
Contact tracing is becoming less helpful, but there was some good news, or so it seemed. This news was that children don’t seem impacted by the virus as bad as adults and less likely to spread it. A new study released in JAMA Pediatrics yesterday contradicts this belief. The study found that not only do children have the same level of the virus in their noses and throats as adults, but children under the age of 5 can have up to 100 times as much.
The researchers behind the study do point out that this information doesn’t necessarily mean children are getting sicker than initially thought or passing the virus to others at a higher rate. The concern is that with schools trying to reopen, the rate of transmission from children to others could rise drastically. This could potentially be harmful to those that come into contact with children who have risk factors that make them more susceptible to the virus.
Another area that has been gaining attention is the influence COVID-19 has on numerous body systems. The obvious ones are respiratory and cardiovascular, but an unclear one is the nervous system. Several studies have pointed out that neurological symptoms, like loss of smell/taste, dizziness, loss of consciousness, weakness, seizures, paralysis, brain inflammation, delirium, nerve damage, and stroke, are present in some individuals who are infected with the virus.
Most people recover from these symptoms without any lasting impacts, but how the virus is causing this to occur isn’t clear. There are several theories, but the most likely culprit is the fact the virus triggers an exaggerated immune system response and this may result in the neurological changes. More information is need before this can be confirmed.