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Covid-19

Are Temperature Checks an Ineffective Testing Method for COVID-19?

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Temperature checks are commonly used during the COVID-19 pandemic in public spaces like LAX, or retail stores using “non-contact infrared thermometers” to identify people who might have and could spread infectious disease. Since many people infected with the virus are asymptomatic, temperature checks could prove to be an ineffective response to the pandemic. 

A growing body of science suggests that smell tests could be a more useful way to detect the virus. The Transportation Security Administration told reporters that temperature checks do not guarantee that passengers who don’t have an elevated temperature do not have COVID-19, and vice versa.

The loss of the sense of smell, also known as anosmia, could work well as an add-on to temperature checks. The smell test could significantly increase the ability to identify infected people by screening in airports, workplaces, and other public places. 

Andrew Badly is a physician who oversees a virus lab at the Mayo Clinic stated that anosmia is an early symptom of COVID-19. Anosmia is relative to fever, and some infected individuals can have anosmia with no other visible symptoms. 

A recent study conducted by Badley and colleagues discovered that Covid-19 patients were 27 times more likely than others to have lost their sense of smell. COVID-19 patients were only 2.6 times more likely to experience fever or chills, suggesting that anosmia produces a more precise signal and could be a better COVID-catching net than fever.

As experts have searched for other screening tools, some have zeroed in on smell tests, which could be as simple as asking people to identify a particular scent from a scratch-and-sniff card. Loss of sense of smell is one of the earliest signs of COVID-19. Support cells in the olfactory epithelium, the tissue that lines the nasal cavities, are coated with the receptors that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter cells. They become infected early on in the disease development, usually before the body has mounted the immune response that causes fever.

In an evaluation of 24 individual studies, with records from 8,438 confirmed COVID-19 patients from thirteen countries, 41% reported they had lost their sense of smell partially or entirely, according to researchers’ data reported in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Though in studies that used objective measurements of smell rather than asking patients, the chances of anosmia was 2.3 times higher.

A Monell analysis of 47 studies finds that nearly 80% of COVID-19 patients have lost their sense of smell as determined by scratch-and-sniff tests. Approximately 50% include that in self-reported symptoms meaning people don’t realize they had partially or entirely lost their sense of smell. This could be because they’re suffering more severe symptoms, causing them to miss this sign, or because the smell isn’t something they focus on.

In a recent study of 1,480 patients led by otolaryngologist Carol Yan of UC San Diego Health, someone with anosmia was “more than ten times more likely to have Covid-19 than other causes of infection,” she said. Nasal inflammation from cold, flu and other viruses can cause it, she said, but especially during the summer, when those infections are not as common the possibility that anosmia is the result of Covid-19 increases.

In contrast, a fever has multiple possible causes. Therefore, temperature checks will flag people as potentially infected with COVID-19. The likelihood that anosmia indicates someone will test positive for COVID-19 the predictive value increases

UC San Diego Health is currently doing that by asking about the loss of smell (and taste) when screening visitors and staff before allowing them to enter its buildings. Since many people are unaware of their anosmia, testing would be better rather than asking.

The gold-standard test is the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, called UPSIT. It uses 40 microencapsulated scents — including dill pickle, turpentine, banana, soap, licorice, and cedar that are released by scratching it with a pencil. The tester has a choice of four answers for each, and the entire test takes 10 to 15 minutes.

A screening test for anosmia to detect those who could potentially be infected with COVID-19 could be much simpler instead of relying solely on temperature checks that could be inaccurately detecting the virus according to experts.  

Sources: 

  1. https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/02/smell-tests-temperature-checks-covid19/
  2. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/penn-physician-blog/2020/june/upsit-article
  3. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/24/coronavirus-how-do-we-flatten-the-curve/
  4. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/02/key-questions-surrounding-the-coronavirus/

Covid-19

Health Officials in Orange County Warn Residents of Flu and Coronavirus ‘twindemic’

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Fall has officially begun with another flu season in store, but this year, public health officials and politicians are warning the flu could increase the demand on Orange County’s health care grid, which has been stressed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A second outbreak is a primary concern with cooling temperatures approaching, and relaxing pandemic rules could lead to more people gathering in tighter quarters.

County leaders are urging residents to maintain their pandemic habits, to help prevent a so-called “twindemic” of influenza and the coronavirus, and advise residents to get a flu shot.

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at UCI, states that the driving factor is COVID, a new virus, and the flu shot is not. 

Both are respiratory diseases with similar transmission modes such as coughs and sneezes spouting infectious droplets around – the flu has been around for centuries, and health systems know how to manage it, Noymer stated.

The COVID-19 countermeasures like wearing face masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing will also work against the flu. 

One concern is that both diseases share symptoms that could cause the lesser-studied COVID-19 to spread undetected if a sick person believes they have the flu, Noymer said. That will be a challenge for an already stressed healthcare system, he said. 

Annual flu hospitalizations could cause hospitals to maintain pandemic surge plans that added beds and staff. Healthcare providers are spreading the message to their patients ahead of the expected strain. 

This week, Kaiser Permanente emailed Orange County members with a video explaining the differences between a seasonal cold, the flu, and COVID-19.

The differences between all three can be hard to distinguish, which is why mild coronavirus cases might go undetected, the video explains. The main symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, with onset up to two weeks after exposure. As with influenza or the flu, it starts suddenly with fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. 

Meanwhile, common colds slowly take hold with symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, headaches, and high fevers are rare.

The flu kills 60,000 people per year nationwide, Noymer said, but “COVID-19 has killed 200,000, and the year is not even over yet,” 

According to public health data, since 2017, influenza and pneumonia have killed an average of 576 people per year in Orange County. Since March, the COVID-19 death toll among residents has climbed to more than 1,100 people.

For health experts, the coronavirus still is the wildcard as winter approaches. Noymer further added that the county’s population is more susceptible to COVID than the flu because they have flu shots and currently don’t have a COVID shot. 

The ongoing coronavirus spread could create a second wave of cases caused by business and school reopenings as well as changes in temperature and humidity.

Recently, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate subcommittee he suspects a COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the U.S. by December in limited supply.

For more information on disinfecting and sanitization measures click here

Sources: 

  1. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/09/17/orange-county-health-officials-warn-of-coronavirus-and-flu-twindemic/
  2. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/09/08/orange-county-gains-ground-against-coronavirus-advances-from-purple-tier-to-less-restrictive-red-tier/
  3. https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health-wellness/videos/covid-19/symptoms-cold-flu
  4. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/09/18/coronavirus-sanitize-or-disinfect/
  5. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/07/13/disinfecting-medical-masks-and-n95-respirator-masks/

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Covid-19

Coronavirus: Sanitize or Disinfect?

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that you wash your hands frequently or sanitizing them when soap and water are not available and cleaning commonly-touched-surfaces to keep yourself protected.

While sanitizers and disinfectants are commonly referred to as interchangeably, both products are different and should be used in separate circumstances.  

According to the CDC, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting all have different definitions:

  • Cleaning eliminates germs, dirt, and other impurities from surfaces, but does not necessarily kill them.
  • Sanitizing decreases the number of germs on surfaces or objects by killing them or removing them—to a safe level, according to public health standards or requirements.
  • Disinfecting kills germs on objects or surfaces.

Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of New Jersey Poison Center and associate professor of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, states sanitizing does not kill everything. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines sanitizers as chemical products that can kill 99.9% of germs on hard surfaces. Again, disinfectants are more potent, killing 99.999% of germs on hard, non-porous surfaces or objects.

The difference comes down to that sanitizing solutions aren’t as potent as disinfecting solutions. Some products can be both sanitizers and disinfectants. Dr. Calello says concentrated bleach can be a disinfectant, but if it’s very diluted, it might be a sanitizer meaning it kills fewer bacteria and viruses.

Sanitize or Disinfect?

There are specific procedures for cleaning groceries, surfaces in your home like doorknobs, and your hands, and it’s crucial to get them right. When it comes to groceries, you don’t need to wipe them down with disinfectant wipes (or any other disinfectants) or a sanitizer. You can clean them using water, but no soap when you bring them to your home.

For highly-touched areas of your home like doorknobs, toilet handles, and even sinks, you want to save disinfectants for these areas. However, for countertops where surfaces are exposed to food preparation, its best to sanitize those so any chemical residue isn’t as powerful and potentially harmful.

As for your own hands, you should not use disinfecting wipes as it can be hazardous for your skin, according to Dr. Calello. She further adds that at the poison center, she works for has seen people’s adverse effects using disinfectants on their own bodies. She said there was a man who acquired powerful, industrial-use disinfectant wipes and developed a blistering rash.

Donald Ford, MD, family medicine doctor at Cleveland Clinic, states that you can wipe off surfaces but wash your hands. Due to the “good” bacteria that live on your skin, when you apply something that kills all the bacteria on your hands, you’re killing off some helpful and natural bacteria. 

Dr. Calello says there is a reason why we do not apply something that does not kill every organism like a hand sanitizer, which should contain 60% alcohol. However, it’s essential to remember that hand sanitizer is adequate if you’re out in public, but washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is preferred.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in people purchasing disinfectants and sanitizing products and knowing when to sanitize and disinfect surfaces or objects can help in practicing proper sanitation. 

Sources: 

  1. https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/sanitize-vs-disinfect
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm
  3. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/ece_curriculumfinal.pdf
  4. https://www.njpies.org/administrative-staff/
  5. https://rutgershealth.org/provider/diane-calello
  6. https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/how-to-use-cleaning-chemicals-safely

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Covid-19

How to Properly Disinfect Every Type of Face Mask

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Face masks help limit the spread of COVID-19 by catching respiratory droplets that are released when people sneeze, cough, or talk. According to Dr. Steve Pergam, MPH, medical director of infection prevention at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, this is how the virus spreads person to person through these droplets.

When a person nearby inhales the droplets or the droplets land inside their mouth or nose, they could contract an infection with the virus. They could also likely contract the virus by touching a contaminated mask then touches their mouth or nose.  

Cleaning and sanitizing your mask is essential to limit the possibility of contracting the virus from contaminated surfaces, including face masks. 

This article will show how to safely disinfect common types of masks for reuse and handle medical-grade masks that cannot be easily cleaned outside of a medical setting.

Cloth Face Coverings

Debra Goff, PharmD, FIDSA, FCCP, an infectious diseases specialist and pharmacy professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, states that bandanas, cloth masks, neck gaiters, and scarves are masks that can be cleaned and reused.

If you plan to machine-wash your mask, first, wash your hands. Then remove the mask and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, Goff advises.

Place the mask directly into the washing machine then wash your hands immediately.

Goff recommends using your regular laundry detergent in addition to bleach and the warmest water recommended for that fabric type. Once the mask is washed, dry on high heat until it’s completely dry.

For hand-washing your mask, she suggests following the same method washing your hands before removing your face mask.

To disinfect your mask properly, soak it in a bleach solution containing four teaspoons of household bleach per each quart of water for 5 minutes.

Then soak the mask, and rinse thoroughly with water, and let the mask air-dry.

Goff states it’s best to clean cloth face masks after each use.

Medical-Grade Masks 

Kaiming Ye, Ph.D., professor and department chair of biomedical engineering and director of the Center of Biomanufacturing for Regenerative Medicine at Binghamton University, State University of New York, states that some masks, like N95 and surgical masks, are intended for single-use only.

This means the masks should be thrown away in the trash after wearing them for the average person.

Ye says these masks can be reused in professional settings, however, if properly sanitized. He says N95 masks can be disinfected by UVC germicidal irradiation or vapor phase hydrogen peroxide. 

However, there have been no tests performed on surgical mask disinfection or reuse as the demand is low, Ye notes. Goff suggests inspecting the mask when you take it off when you can’t replace your mask between each use.

If the face mask is dirty, torn, or saturated with moisture, she says you should discard it. Suppose it appears to be clean and intact. In that case, she recommends storing it in a clean paper bag or another breathable container between uses.

Ideally, however, they shouldn’t be reused.

Face Shields 

Since face shields open on the side, they don’t protect you from sneezes or coughs behind you. Face shields, however, protect your eyes.

Goff says face shields are often worn with a face mask for added protection. When it comes to cleaning face shields, first wipe down the inside using a clean cloth saturated with a neutral detergent solution or cleaner wipe.

Then wipe down the outside using a disinfectant wipe or clean cloth saturated with a disinfectant solution. Followed by wiping the outside of the face shield with clean water or alcohol to remove the residue.

Allow the face shield to air-dry, and finally, wash your hands when you’re done. Face masks are an essential way to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Make sure your face masks are cleaned or discarded after use by following these guidelines on how to keep every type of face mask sanitized.  Keep in mind that medical masks are not designed for reuse. Face shields may be used in addition to a face mask for more protection, and should also be cleaned between uses.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0714-americans-to-wear-masks.html
  3. https://www.seattlecca.org/providers/steven-a-pergam
  4. https://pharmacy.osu.edu/directory/debra-goff
  5. https://www.binghamton.edu/biomedical-engineering/people/profile.html?id=kye

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