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Covid-19: June Updates and What We Need to Know

Covid-19: June Updates. From shortages to lockdowns, frightening statistics to glimmers of hope, the coronavirus pandemic has taken our world for a ride. Since the early days of 2020, our understanding and reaction to this novel virus has evolved dramatically. June has marked a shift in our adaptation to life with COVID-19, as cities around the world start to reopen and come back to life.  

While the past few months have shed light on the medical, social, and economic implications of COVID-19, there are still many things we don’t fully understand. Researchers and doctors are still hard at work to help us learn how to overcome COVID-19 and determine the best practices for staying safe while reacclimating to life. The most important step to take is to stay informed, so let’s review what we officially know, what we still need to learn, and how we can stay safe now and in the future. 

COVID-19: June Updates - What We Know

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2, a new type of coronavirus. The disease attacks the respiratory system and can be fatal in some cases. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, congestion, and aches and pains. Other less common symptoms include diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, skin rashes or discoloration, and conjunctivitis

COVID-19 has spread rapidly throughout the world and has been declared a pandemic and global emergency. As of mid-June, there have been nearly 8.5 million reported cases worldwide (over 2 million in the US) and a tragic loss of over 450,000 lives. While 80% recover successfully, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people with SARS-CoV-2 require substantial medical carei.

COVID-19 is spread through contact with infected people.
Coronavirus is spread from an infected person through saliva. Small droplets of saliva can be passed through air from the nose or mouth to other people or surfaces. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is most commonly transmitted by breathing in these tiny droplets while in close contact with an infected person. To reduce potential exposure to these droplets (and other bodily fluids that may contain the virus) the CDC recommends staying at least 6 feet away from others, frequently washing hands after touching surfaces, and avoiding touching your face

Some individuals are more at risk.
The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) agree that those who are 65 and older, living in nursing homes or assisted care facilities, or those with underlying health conditions should be extremely cautious to protect themselves against COVID-19. A recent analysis shows that those with underlying conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and obesity are up to 12 times more likely to die from the virus. However, it is important to remember that while underlying conditions play a big role in who suffers serious complications from coronavirus, anyone is susceptible to this disease. 

COVID-19 causes widespread inflammation and organ damage in severe cases.
While COVID-19 is well-known for causing respiratory failure, this virus and the resulting inflammation can impact many of the body’s other organ systems. Once infected, the immune system mounts a major inflammatory response to fight the virus which later causes a cytokine storm and inflammatory dysregulation. The research shows that this floods the body with inflammatory compounds that attack not only the virus, but the body’s own cardiovascular, renal, and gastrointestinal systems. In severe cases, this can lead to organ failure and death. Scientists are currently looking to anti-inflammatory drugs to combat this inflammatory damage to save lives.

Social distancing helps to flatten the curve.
Public health officials have urged citizens of many countries to practice social distancing and isolation to “flatten the curveiv.” This is a strategy that slows the spread of the disease so that those suffering have adequate access to the medical treatment they need, and therefore a better chance of survival. Statistics show that strict social distancing measures have worked in flattening the curve and we are experiencing reduced death and infection rates. As states begin to reopen, however, there is concern that easing up on these measures may cause a new spike in cases. Protect yourself and others by maintaining social distancing whenever possible. 

SARS-CoV-2 can live in air and on surfaces.
COVID-19: June Updates - Studies show that coronavirus can live suspended in air for up to three hours and on surfaces for a range of hours to days. For example, scientists found the virus to be active on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, and on plastic or stainless steel up to three days. Although the virus can live on surfaces, public health experts are not overly concerned with contracting the virus from things such as boxes and delivered goods. Nevertheless, it is best to err on the side of safety by washing hands and avoiding touching your face after handling items.

Wearing a face mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The effectiveness of wearing face masks has been hotly contested, but new research shows that wearing a mask does reduce the spread of COVID-19 in those with or without symptoms of the virus. The study found that states with mandated mask use had a greater decline in new COVID-19 cases compared to states that did not. In fact, the results of the study show that as many as 230,000-450,000 potential COVID-19 cases were likely averted between April 8th and May 22nd due to state face mask mandates

COVID-19 tests are helpful, but not 100% reliable.
COVID-19 tests detect if your body is producing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. If these antibodies are present, there is a high chance you are infected with the virus and can start early isolation and treatment. The prevalence of false negatives, however, poses a problem. In systematic reviews of various studies on the accuracy of COVID-19 tests, between 2-29% of tests have provided false negatives (patients tested negative but later developed the disease). More sensitive tests are needed for better accuracy.  

COVID-19: June Updates - What We Are Still Learning

Where did COVID-19 come from?
While we know that the first reported outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 appeared in Wuhan, China, there is still some question as to how, when, and where the virus actually originated. The most popular idea at this time is that it was spread to humans from animals at live seafood and animal markets in the area, where clusters of people later fell ill with the strange new disease. However, investigations into the origin of coronavirus are still ongoing

How exactly is coronavirus spread and what happens when someone is infected?
By now, we know that SARS-CoV-2 is spread through saliva and contact with infected persons, but scientists are still learning how the virus is shed, which other body fluids contain the virus, and how the virus contaminates surfaces and air. We are also aware of the main symptoms of COVID-19, but questions remain about the pathogenesis, or disease progression. How the virus triggers the immune and inflammatory response is being studied so researchers can find more effective treatments and preventative measures.

Does weather affect the transmission of SARS-CoV-2?
Some speculate that warmer weather may slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 as with other coronaviruses like the common cold. This idea has been backed by studies that show reduced viability in the virus with increased temperature and humidity. However, many other sources have run sophisticated tests to model the spread and data suggest that weather will not be a major consideration until more people have immunity. At this time, scientists believe our lack of immunity and behaviors are the most impactful factors when it comes to the spread and progression of COVID-19.

Will a cure or vaccine be available to protect against COVID-19?
There is no known cure or vaccine that protects against COVID-19. Researchers are currently working to better understand COVID-19 and develop effective vaccines and medications to eradicate the disease.

COVID-19: June Updates - Notable Recent COVID-19 Research

  • A UK study suggests that dexamethasone could be a potential treatment option for seriously ill patients with COVID-19. The low-dose steroid has been part of the ongoing RECOVERY trial for a range of existing drugs that may help in the fight against COVID-19. Researchers announced they’ve found dexamethasone to reduce the risk of death by up to one third for those on ventilators or one fifth for those on oxygen. Since dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory drug, it is believed to help patients by drastically reducing the damaging inflammation caused by COVID-19 to prevent organ damage. The full peer-reviewed study has yet to be released.
  • Researchers have found an association between the common histamine H2 receptor antagonist famotidine after noticing a decreased risk of intubation and death in patients with COVID-19 who took the drug. The evidence is not currently strong enough to support use, but a randomized controlled trial is underway to determine famotidine’s potential.
  • A meta-analysis released on June 1 has proven social distancing, face masks, and eye protection to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • A new study suggests that the use of a BTK (Bruton tyrosine kinase) inhibitor may help reverse the severe and life-threatening inflammation of COVID-19. A randomized controlled clinical trial will begin.
  • As these new studies offer promising results for new treatment methods, other therapies (such as hydroxychloroquine) have been lacking.

COVID-19: June Updates - What We Can Do to Stay Safe

As medical workers continue to find innovative solutions for this challenging pandemic, we, too, can make a difference with habits that protect ourselves and others. 

The WHO and CDC continue to urge frequent hand washing, social distancing, and the use of face masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Along with these general guidelines, there are also many ways you can stay on top of your health by supporting your immune system:

  • Stay active. Regular exercise helps to stimulate the immune system’s powerful disease-fighters such as T-cells and natural killer cells.
  • Eat a nutritious diet. Certain foods can offer your immune system the powerful vitamins and nutrients it needs to function. Aim for foods high in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits to keep the immune system balanced.
  • Limit alcohol and cigarettes to keep your immune system strong. These habits can weaken immune cells and reduce your chances of fighting off infection.
  • If you experience minor symptoms (like cough or headache), self-isolate until you feel better. If you develop more severe symptoms like a fever or cough, call your doctor to find out the best way to seek the help you need while protecting othersi

Our understanding of this pandemic changes with each day. The best medicine we have for COVID-19 at the moment is prevention. Keep safe distances, practice good hygiene, and give your immune system the extra care it needs to stay strong. 

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