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Infectious Diseases

Updated 29 September 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: Silent third wave, hospital transmission, and how Covid took hold in SA

The silent third wave might be Parkinson's; how the virus spreads in a hospital setting; and how Covid-19 took hold in South Africa.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | The silent third wave of Covid-19 might be Parkinson's

The neurological effects of Covid-19 have been well documented, but some scientists are raising concerns about its potential influence on the future development of neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease.

This hypothesis was explored in a recent paper published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease, where researchers theorised that Covid-19's neurological symptoms could be a precursor to diseases like Parkinson's.

For example, the coronavirus symptom of losing one's sense of taste and smell also appears in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. This symptom is probably underestimated due to a reliance on self-reporting from patients.

It could mark a "third wave" of the pandemic that healthcare systems around the world should prepare for.

Scientists missed the opportunity to study neurological phenomena during the time of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, where patients presented with encephalitis lethargica – a disease that attacks the brain and causes a zombie-like state.

In the 1920s there was a rise in other similar Parkinsonism conditions, which is any condition that causes tremors, impairs speech and limits movement due to the loss of dopamine-containing brain cells. This happened again in the 1940s.

READ | How the coronavirus spreads in a hospital setting

Hospitals understandably have a high rate of coronavirus infections, with increased exposure of healthcare workers. Understanding how Covid-19 might spread in a hospital setting is vital in implementing measures to stop it.

Research presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Conference on Coronavirus Disease this week showed how the virus spreads through a hospital via asymptomatic workers and certain hot spots like toilets and public areas in two presentations.

The first was a meta-analysis of studies in Embase, Pubmed, LILACS, MedxRiv and Google Scholar databases to assess how prevalent the virus is in a hospital, the risk factors for healthcare workers, symptoms and outcomes of severe cases.

It involved 97 studies from across 24 countries with data from over 230 000 healthcare workers. Out of that total, about 10% tested positive for the virus, while 7% had developed antibodies to the disease.

The Swiss researchers found that in 15 of those studies, 40% of healthcare workers that tested positive for Covid-19 were asymptomatic, indicating a high likelihood of silent transmission between colleagues and to patients.

Almost half who tested positive were nurses, followed by physicians at 25% and other workers at 23%. The most common symptoms were loss of taste and smell, fever and muscle pain.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 671 669.

According to the latest update, 16 586 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 604 478 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.15 million tests have been conducted, with 16 586 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Early on Tuesday morning, positive cases worldwide were close to 33.24 million, while deaths were close to 1 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 7.14 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 205 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | How Covid-19 took hold in South Africa

On March 5, life in South Africa as we know it, drastically changed. A virus brought into the country had the government lock down the country and shut down the economy.

Six months later, the country has almost 670 000 confirmed cases, more than 16 000 people have died and the economy is in dire straits.

In late September, the country finally started to open up again, but life is different. We stay two metres apart from each other, walk with masks and shop with hand sanitiser.

Bhekisisa has partnered with Media Hack to track down how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, has travelled through South Africa.

We take you on this journey with maps, a narrative and visualisations. We also provide you with information about the countries from where South Africa’s importations of the virus came.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | Nearly 280 000 US schoolchildren have had coronavirus: study

Almost 280 000 school-aged children were infected with the novel coronavirus between 1 March and 19 September, according to detailed data released on Monday in a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The figure accounted for roughly four percent of the total US caseload over this period, with children aged 12-17 approximately twice as likely to be infected as those aged 5-11.

The rate of new cases rose steadily during the spring and then shot up over the summer, peaking on 19 July with an average weekly incidence of 37.9 per 100 000.

The new cases then plateaued for several weeks before declining in late August - though it appears they are now rising again towards summer levels.

The authors wrote that the data helped establish a baseline for monitoring trends of Covid-19 infection as some schools return to in-person learning now and in coming months.

READ | UK students are trapped in their dorms, as universities scramble to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks

New university students in the UK say they are being prevented from leaving their dorms and threatened with fines as part of heavy-handed attempts by authorities to prevent Covid-19 spreading on campus.

Outbreaks of varying sizes have been recorded at student accommodations at universities in large UK cities, including Glasgow, Manchester, Belfast, and Edinburgh.

Some have resulted in lockdowns, with students told to stay in theirs rooms until testing is complete.

The pandemic has turned the traditional beginning of university - usually a blur of parties, introductions, and other social activities - into a nightmare.

In several cases, students say they are being kept against their will inside their accommodation, and threatened with expulsion or fines for breaking the rules.

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