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Infectious Diseases

24 September 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: Fatigue common after Covid recovery, and homemade masks are effective

Fatigue is common in people who recover from Covid-19, regardless of severity; and homemade masks are effective, even when we sneeze, study finds.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Fatigue is common in people who recover from Covid-19, regardless of severity

As the Covid-19 outbreak continues, we have learnt that people experience the disease differently. Some require hospitalisation where the outcome may be fatal, while others are able to recover at home.

But according to new research presented at a conference on Covid-19 hosted by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, there is one key factor that many Covid-19 patients, mild and severe alike, experience – persistent fatigue.

As more people recover from Covid-19, some are experiencing post-infection problems, the researchers stated.

"Fatigue is a common symptom in those presenting with symptomatic Covid-19 infection. Whilst the presenting features of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been well-characterised, the medium and long-term consequences of infection remain unexplored,” explained Dr Liam Townsend, lead study author from St James's Hospital and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

"In particular, concern has been raised that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to cause persistent fatigue, even after those infected have recovered from Covid-19. In our study, we investigated whether patients recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection remained fatigued after their physical recovery, and to see whether there was a relationship between severe fatigue and a variety of clinical parameters. We also examined persistence of markers of disease beyond clinical resolution of infection,” Dr Townsend stated.

The researchers used a scale called the Chalder Fatigue Score to investigate fatigue in 128 recovered Covid-19 patients and found that more than half of the patients reported persistent fatigue after their recovery.

READ | Homemade masks are effective, even when we sneeze, study finds

As South Africa moved to Level 1 on 21 September 2020, Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, called upon citizens to remain vigilant and follow guidelines – including wearing a mask in public spaces. 

While there are several studies indicating that homemade fabric masks do help combat the spread of viruses like Covid-19, these studies focused mostly on the transfer of tiny aerosol particles spread through breathing.

Mechanical engineer, professor Taher Saif from the University of Illinois, however, wanted to establish the effectiveness of masks against larger aerosol droplets spread by speaking, coughing and sneezing, as the established research was not comprehensive enough.

According to Saif, aerosol droplets are typically classified as anything less than 5 micrometres and can range from hundreds of nanometres. Larger droplets can be up to 1 millimetre in diameter and are expelled when someone speaks, coughs and sneezes.

These droplets posed a problem because they are able to squeeze through the pores of some fabrics and break into smaller, airborne droplets with momentum.

Saif and his team tested 11 common household fabrics for breathability and droplet-blocking, using a medical mask as a benchmark. The results of this experiment were published in the journal Extreme Mechanic Letters.

READ | Coronavirus: SA scientists look to identify potential of medicinal plants

The potential of medicinal plants to fight SARS-CoV-2 and treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is slowly attracting interest and being studied by scientists around the world.

This week, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the Durban University of Technology (DUT) announced that they are involved in joint research to assess bioactive compounds from South African plants that could potentially be effective in the treatment of the new coronavirus.

The first phase of their research was recently published in The South African Journal of Botany.

According to a news release by UKZN this week, the plant species chosen for the research were selected based on their use in traditional medicine for fighting the common cold, flu, respiratory infections, and malaria, among other ailments and diseases.

For the study, researchers looked at inhibitors extracted from South African medicinal plants that could potentially fight SARS-CoV-2, using molecular modelling approaches.

During the first stage of the study, UKZN’s Professor Mahmoud Soliman, Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences and head of the Molecular Bio-Computation and Drug Design Laboratory, together with his doctoral student and laboratory assistant, Clement Agoni, found 29 compounds in South African indigenous plants used in traditional medicine.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 665 188.

According to the latest update, 16 206 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 594 229 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.08 million tests have been conducted, with 19 640 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Thursday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 31.76 million, while deaths were close to 974 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.94 million as well as the most deaths - close to 202 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | Major vaccine trial moves into next phase, Trump takes aim at China again

AFP reports that US President Donald Trump casts blame for the pandemic on China in an address before the United Nations, whose chief warns against a new "Cold War" between the two world powers.

Trump attacks Beijing and the UN for not stopping the disease and even uses the loaded term "China virus".

China's ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, tells reporters that Trump's tone was "incompatible with the general atmosphere" of the world body.

"If we do have to hold anyone accountable, it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives with their irresponsible behaviour", he says.

In other news, the UK will host clinical trials where volunteers would be deliberately infected with the new coronavirus to assess the effectiveness of experimental vaccines, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people involved in the project.

The government-funded project is expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London, the report said.

READ | Memories of Italy's brutal first wave have caused people to follow protocols and keep Covid-19 cases low

Italy's first wave of coronavirus was so distressing that many in the country are still following protocols six months later, while other European countries, which have been laxer about protocols, now face a second wave.

Cases are rising across Europe, but in the last week, Italy had less than 1 500 new cases on average per day, compared to France's average of about 10 400 new cases, Spain's 10 500 new cases, and the UK's 3 700 new cases.

Italy isn't facing a second wave like Spain and France because people have continued to practice social distancing, wash hands, and wear masks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Italy's brutal first wave involved more than 250 000 infections, and 6 000 new cases per day at its peak in March, The Guardian reported.

The Italian military had to drive bodies from Bergamo, a city in Lombardy, to different provinces when its morgue became full, while oxygen had to be piped into hospitals as they became overrun with patients.

Milan resident Enrica Grazioli told The Journal despite her love of dinner parties she hadn't had a guest over since the pandemic hit.

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images