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Infectious Diseases

23 September 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: Covid transmission, stroke scans, and 500 000 people download SA app

Latest science on Covid transmission; stroke scans may reveal coronavirus infection; and more than half a million South Africans have now downloaded the Covid-19 tracing app.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Latest science on Covid transmission puts focus on those infected, but not yet feeling ill

The case for wearing masks and doing everything we can to protect ourselves and others may be less effective than believed, as we might carry – and unknowingly spread – the novel coronavirus before we are even aware of being ill.

According to a new study from the University of Oxford, a large portion of transmissions are from people who carry the virus before symptoms appear, or very shortly after they start experiencing symptoms.

The full study is published on the database MedRvix and is awaiting peer review.

Luca Ferretti and his colleagues, all from the University of Oxford, investigated 191 cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from an infected person to an uninfected person to determine the timing of the initial infection and onset of symptoms, and exactly when infection of the other person occurred.

In their study, they found that as many as 40% of all transmissions occurred before the onset of any symptoms, and 35% occurred on the first or second day of symptom onset.

People with symptoms are easier to identify and can immediately take measures to avoid the spread. However, milder symptoms of Covid-19 can be similar to other respiratory diseases, which makes it difficult for an individual to determine whether they should self-isolate or not.

READ | Stroke scans may reveal Covid-19 infection, latest study shows

New research from King's College London has found that Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, may be diagnosed by the same emergency scans intended to diagnose stroke.

The researchers, from the university’s School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, stated that their findings have important implications for the management of patients presenting with suspected stroke through early identification of Covid-19.

The paper was published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

According to a university news release, study lead author, senior lecturer in neuroimaging and consultant radiologist at King’s College Hospital, Dr Tom Booth, explained that the emergency scans captured images of the top of the lungs of patients where a fluffiness, known as "ground glass opacification", allowed Covid-19 to be diagnosed.

For the study, 225 patients from three London Hyper-Acute Stroke Units were examined.

The emergency stroke scan consisted of a computed tomography (CT) of the head and neck blood vessels.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 663 282.

According to the latest update, 16 118 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 592 904 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.06 million tests have been conducted, with 16 394 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Early on DAY morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 31.4 million, while deaths were more than 967 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 6.88 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 200 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | More than half a million South Africans have now downloaded the Covid-19 tracing app 

More than half a million South Africans have already downloaded the country’s Covid-19 tracing app, the department of health says.

The goal is to get ten million users on the app, Gaurang Tanna, policy co-ordination and integrated planning at the national department of health, told Netwerk24.

COVID Alert SA is a tiny app available for Android and Apple phones. It uses Bluetooth to watch for other phones with the app installed, and keeps an anonymous record of everyone you have been in contact with over two weeks.

If you test positive for Covid-19, you tell the app, and the app tells everyone you had contact with.

You should get an alert if anyone you had contact with reports themselves infected.

The usefulness of the app will depend on how many people install it, whether they keep their Bluetooth radios turned on, and how quickly they report positive test results.

READ | PPE Corruption: Now Gauteng health dept suspends acting supply chain management head 

The Gauteng Department of Health suspended its acting supply chain management head on Friday after an attempted breach of supply chain management processes were uncovered.

"The allegations against the official in question are that he failed to follow proper processes in the procurement of PPE [personal protective equipment]," department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The official is also alleged to have conducted an act of dishonesty in discharging his duties thus bringing the department into disrepute," Kekana added.

The matter is now subject to an internal investigation.

Acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the process of procuring additional PPE stock had to be restarted and it was now on track.

"We are pleased that the early detection of the attempted non-compliance of SCM [supply chain management] processes has not had any material effect on the department."

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | Johnson tells UK to work at home for 6 months as virus spreads

Boris Johnson told Britons to work from home when possible and ordered pubs and restaurants to close early as he sought to stamp out a resurgence of coronavirus in the weeks ahead.

Under the new measures for England, which are likely to last six months, face coverings will become mandatory for passengers traveling in taxis and workers in the hospitality and retail sectors, with tougher fines for people failing to wear masks. Similar steps are being taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“This is the moment when we must act,” Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday. By imposing restrictions now, the government can “shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later on,” he said.

The measures are a reversal of efforts to re-open the economy after the first national lockdown shuttered social and commercial activity in March, sparking the deepest UK recession in more than 100 years.

They also illustrate the difficulty facing the government as it tries to balance the need to protect the economy and stamping down on a pandemic that’s killed more people in Britain than any other European nation. Johnson’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned on Monday that without action, the UK is on track to register 50 000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October.

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants will be ordered to close at 10 p.m. from Thursday with all transactions restricted to table service. Plans to allow business events to resume from October 1 and crowds to return to live sporting venues will be put on hold.

READ | Isolation and closed borders: Here's how ten Pacific Island nations are Covid-19-free

Along with paradisical warm waters and golden sand, 10 Pacific Island nations are still completely Covid-19 free due to closed border and geographical isolation, but it has come at a cost.

Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands, are all Covid-19 free, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

These small island nations — that are also dealing with the daily impacts of climate change — managed to keep the coronavirus out by promptly closing their borders after conceding early on this year that their health systems were under-equipped to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Australia Pacific Security College public health epidemiologist told the Herald six months on the small island nation's decision to close their borders was the right one.

"There is no doubt that the border closures have been critical in preventing Covid-19 taking hold in the Pacific," he said.

There have been drawbacks to the closed borders — a number of these nations rely on tourism that's no longer happening.

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