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The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Vaccinating adults appears to protect children as well
New data from Israel, where health officials moved quickly to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE, suggests that the vaccination of adults also protects unvaccinated people living around them. Roughly one third of Maccabi Healthcare Services (MHS) 1.95 million members - all above the age of 16 - had received at least a single vaccine dose by Jan. 30. In analyzing outcomes in 223 communities, researchers found that as the number of vaccinated adults went up, infection rates among unvaccinated MHS members in the same community went down - particularly among children. MHS is Israel's second largest healthcare maintenance organization. "While the observed vaccine-associated protection of unvaccinated is encouraging, further studies are required to understand whether and how it might support the prospect of herd immunity and disease eradication," the researchers concluded in the study posted on Wednesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. (https://bit.ly/3wnIVVf)
Illinois bar-opening event linked to 46 cases of COVID-19
An indoor celebration of a bar opening in rural Illinois in February led to 46 new cases of COVID-19 and wider ramifications, according to a U.S. study that serves as a caution about how such events can affect local communities. Four attendees had COVID-19-like symptoms that day. Of the 46 coronavirus infections linked to the party, there were 26 cases among patrons, three in staff members and 17 "secondary cases" in people infected by them, according to a report published on Monday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The secondary cases included children and residents of long-term care facilities. "Transmission associated with the opening event resulted in one school closure affecting 650 children (9,100 lost person-days of school) and hospitalization of one long-term care facility resident with COVID-19," researchers said. "These findings demonstrate that opening up settings such as bars, where mask wearing and physical distancing are challenging, can increase the risk for community transmission of SARS-CoV-2," researchers said. Businesses should "work with local health officials to promote behaviors and maintain environments that reduce the risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission and develop strategies for reopening safely to prevent outbreaks in the community, such as modifying layouts and operating procedures," they said. (https://bit.ly/3mtsoKU)
Congenital heart disease does not worsen COVID-19 risks
Adults with congenital heart defects are not more likely than the average person to have severe COVID-19, or to die from it, according to an international study. Risk factors associated with poor outcomes in these individuals are the same as those associated with poor outcomes in the general public - older age, male gender, a history of heart failure, irregular heart rhythm, kidney problems, diabetes, and need for extra oxygen before becoming infected with the coronavirus, said study coauthor Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn of the UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Center. Researchers analyzed data from 1,044 adults with COVID-19 from 58 congenital heart disease centers worldwide. Even people with very complex heart defects did not appear to have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 as long as they did not already have severe signs and symptoms of heart disease, Aboulhosn said, calling the finding, "somewhat surprising." The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. (https://bit.ly/2PPhFxQ; https://bit.ly/2OcdzQ0)