The vaccine candidate being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca resumes after being paused for a week. The recommendation to restart came from an independent safety review committee and the United Kingdom health regulator. The study was halted after a participant became ill.
The University issued a statement, “Globally some 18,000 individuals have received study vaccines as part of the trial. In large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.” Public health experts feel that the temporary hold of a trial due to the illness of a single person means that the systems to protect patient safety are working.
While the race to a vaccine remains, those who’ve been infected by the novel coronavirus are still experiencing issues. It’s estimated that about three-quarters of people hospitalized for COVID-19 could have chronic problems. For all people who were infected, not just those requiring hospitalization, the number could be around 10%.
One study from the Academic Respiratory Unit of the North Bristol NHS Trust in the UK looked at 110 patients hospitalized for a median of five days between March 30th and June 3rd. Once they were out of the hospital for 12 weeks, 74% of the patients were still reporting symptoms, such as breathlessness and excessive fatigue. Despite experiencing these, the majority of them had normal basic blood work. Only 12% has an abnormal chest X-ray and 10% showed restrictive lung function via spirometry tests.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) issued new guidelines last month on how to take care of patients dealing with these complications. In their advice, they detailed “weak or absent antibody response, relapse or reinfection, inflammatory and other immune reactions, deconditioning, and mental factors such as post-traumatic stress” as contributing to longer-term symptoms. The BMJ also indicated that there were similar scenarios in patients who had SARS and MERS.
The primary condition affecting these individuals is called dysautonomia, which is when there’s a disconnect between the autonomic nervous system and the rest of the body. Since the autonomic nervous system controls body functions, like breathing, sleep, and digestion, issues with it can result in various symptoms. This can make treating it incredibly difficult.
As doctors are taking care of those recovering, some areas are trying to return to “normal” by opening restaurants and bars. However, this appears to come with some risks. Data from SafeGraph, a company that collects cellphone location information across the nation, discovered a statistically meaningful relationship between traffic to bars one week after reopening to an increase in COVID-10 cases three weeks later. When it comes to restaurants reopening, the data doesn’t indicate as strong of a relationship between it and a rise in cases, but there is one. In a different study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they found that those who tested positive for the disease were more than twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the two weeks prior to getting sick than those who were uninfected.
In either scenario, experts point out that individuals spend more time in the company of others when in a restaurant or bar than they do when going grocery shopping or other similar activities. In addition, experts highlight that people are less likely to be wearing masks when in either of these environments since they’re eating and drinking. These two elements create a perfect setting for the virus to spread easily.
To help combat the possibility of virus transmission, many places are now checking the temperatures of employees and patrons before allowing them to enter. Yet, unlike masks and social distancing, experts say this only offers the illusion of safety. Since the virus can be spread by individuals who don’t have any symptoms, including a fever (anything above 100.4°F per the CDC), temperature checks are pointless. If someone does have a fever, they probably also have other symptoms and don’t feel well, so they’re likely to choose not to go out anyway.
Another concern regarding temperature checks is the accuracy of the infrared thermometers. The pandemic has increased the demand for them significantly. Many companies are rapidly producing them, which brings into question the reliability of the products.