Health Highlights: Oct. 22, 2020

By on October 22, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Mouthwash Will Not Save You From COVID-19

Regardless of what you may have heard, mouthwash won’t protect you from COVID-19, experts say.

A new study had suggested that mouthwash might incapacitate the cold virus, and that it “may provide an additional level of protection against” the new coronavirus.

But be cautious when interpreting the findings, experts told The New York Times. Not only did the study not test for COVID-19, but it also didn’t test if mouthwash affects how the virus is spread.

“I don’t have a problem with using Listerine,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, told the Times. “But it’s not an antiviral.”

The lab study, published last month in the Journal of Medical Virology, only looked at the coronavirus 229E, which causes common colds — not the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Although the viruses are in the same family, they aren’t interchangeable, Rasmussen told the newspaper.

Also, the tests were not done on actual people. The human mouth, full of nooks and crannies and lots of chemicals, is more complicated than a laboratory dish. Nothing should be considered conclusive “unless human studies are performed,” Dr. Maricar Malinis, an infectious disease expert at Yale University, told the Times.

Rasmussen added that viruses inside cells are shielded from the fast-acting chemicals found in these products. “It’s not like your cells get infected and then they secrete a bunch of virus and they’re done,” she said. “Infected cells are constantly making more virus.”

Relying on mouthwash or a nasal rinse to kill a virus is as futile as trimming the tops of weeds, but not the roots, and expecting the weeds to disappear, she added.

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Who’s At Risk For ‘Long COVID?’

Being sick with COVID-19 for more than four weeks, so-called “long COVID,” affects older people, women and those with a wide range of symptoms in the first week of their illness most, British researchers report.

About 5% of those with COVID-19 will have symptoms for eight weeks or more, according to the preprint analysis of data, CNN reported Wednesday.

The researchers identified two groups of long COVID sufferers. One had mostly respiratory symptoms, such as a cough and shortness of breath, plus fatigue and headaches. The other group had symptoms in many parts of the body, such as heart palpitations, gut issues, pins and needles or numbness, and brain fog.

“It’s important we use the knowledge we have gained from the first wave in the pandemic to reduce the long-term impact of the second. This should pave the way for trials of early interventions to reduce the long-term effects,” researcher Dr. Claire Steves, a clinical academic at King’s College London, said in a statement.

Long COVID sufferers were twice as likely to have a relapse after they recovered, compared with those who had short COVID (16% versus 8%).

About 22% of adults older than 70 with COVID-19 developed long COVID, compared with about 1 in 10 of those aged 18 to 49, the study found. Women were also more likely to suffer from long COVID than men — 15% versus 10%. But that only applied to younger patients, CNN reported.

Also, those who developed long COVID were slightly heavier than those with short COVID and those with asthma were more likely to develop long COVID, but there were no clear links to other health conditions, the researchers added.

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Purdue Pharma to Plead Guilty to Opioid-Related Crimes

Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin linked to the opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to three federal crimes as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The company will plead guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws, the Justice Department officials to the AP.

The plea bargain does not absolve company executives or owners, including members of the Sackler family, from criminal liability.

The settlement is the federal government’s biggest win in seeking to hold a major drug company responsible for an addiction and overdose crisis tied to more than 470,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000, the AP says.

As part of the deal, the company will admit that it misled the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely claiming it had an effective program to avoid drug diversion and by sending misleading information to the agency to increase the company’s manufacturing quotas, the officials said.

A Justice Department official told the AP that Purdue had been representing to the DEA that it had “robust controls” to avoid opioid diversion but instead had been “disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up.”

Purdue will also admit to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioids and for using electronic health records to influence the prescription of pain medication.

The company will pay $225 million to the government, which is part of a $2 billion criminal forfeiture. Also, Purdue faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine. That money will most likely not be fully collected because it will be part of a bankruptcy, which includes other creditors. Purdue will also agree to $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability, the AP reported.

Purdue would become a public benefit company, meaning it would be run by a trust that has to balance the trust’s interests against those of the American people and public health, the officials told the AP. The Sacklers would not be involved in the new company.

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COVID-Related Deaths Hit 300,000: CDC

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of early October nearly 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

These deaths include those directly caused by the virus and almost 100,000 that would not have happened if not for the virus. These include deaths from COVID-19 that were misclassified or missed and deaths from heart attacks that weren’t treated because victims were afraid to go to the hospital, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The largest percentage increase in excess deaths is among young adults aged 25 to 44, a 27% increase, compared with a 14% increase among those over 85.

Excess deaths among Blacks and Hispanics of all ages also rose, compared with past years — 33% and 54% respectively. Among whites, the increase in deaths was 12%, according to the CDC.

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