Health Highlights: Sept. 21, 2020

By on September 21, 2020

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

CDC Updates Coronavirus Transmission Guidance

The new coronavirus can commonly spread “through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols,” produced just when a person breathes, according to updated guidance on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Previously, the agency said it was believed that the coronavirus spread mainly between people in close contact and “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks,” CNN reported.

“Airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread,” says the updated guidance posted on Friday.

The CDC said the virus still most commonly spreads through close contact, and now says the virus is known to spread “through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes,” CNN reported.

The updated guidance recommends staying “at least 6 feet away from others, whenever possible,” wearing a mask and routinely cleaning and disinfecting, and also urges people should stay home and isolate when sick, and “use air purifiers to help reduce airborne germs in indoor spaces.”

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EPA Approves Pine-Sol as Coronavirus Disinfectant

Pine-Sol’s original cleaner has been added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of products that can kill the new coronavirus on frequently used surfaces.

Tests by a third-party laboratory that showed the disinfectant can kill the virus within 10 minutes of being used on hard, nonporous surfaces, according to a Clorox Company news release, CNN reported.

To disinfect against the new coronavirus, customers should apply full-strength Pine-Sol with a clean sponge or cloth on a surface, wait 10 minutes, then rinse, the company said. For heavily soiled surfaces, preclean to remove excess dirt.

Users should follow product instructions and pay attention to how long it should be applied to the surface being cleaned, the EPA said.

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AstraZeneca Releases Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Plans

AstraZeneca is the latest drug company to release details about human tests of its coronavirus vaccine in response to public demand for such information.

Americans have increasing doubts about a coronavirus vaccine and experts are worried that an unproven or unsafe vaccine may be released prematurely due to pressure from President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported.

AstraZeneca’s clinical trials have prompted particular concern because the company has refused to provide details about serious neurological illnesses in two participants in Britain. The cases led the company to halt its trials twice. They’re still on hold in the U.S. but have resumed in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa.

“If there are two cases, then this starts to look like a dangerous pattern,” Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Science University, told the Times. “If a third case of neurological disease pops up in the vaccine group, then this vaccine may be done.”

AstraZeneca’s “release of these [trial] protocols seems to reflect some public pressure to do so,” Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and expert in clinical trial design for vaccines at the University of Florida, told the Times. “This is an unprecedented situation, and public confidence is such a huge part of the success of this endeavor.”

A vaccine with 50% effectiveness is AstraZeneca’s goal, according to the protocol released on the weekend. That’s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s threshold in its guidance for a coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna and Pfizer have also released information about clinical trials of their coronavirus vaccine candidates.

There’s a problem with all three companies’ plans, according to Dr. Eric Topol, a clinical trials expert at Scripps Research in San Diego. They all count relatively mild cases of COVID-19 when assessing vaccine effectiveness, which could lead to uncertainty about whether a vaccine prevents moderate or severe illness, Topol told the Times.

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