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Scientists Are Figuring Out Why Some People Can ‘Hear’ The Voices of The Dead

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Scientists have identified the traits that may make a person more likely to claim they hear the voices of the dead.

According to new research, a predisposition to high levels of absorption in tasks, unusual auditory experiences in childhood, and a high susceptibility to auditory hallucinations all occur more strongly in self-described clairaudient mediums than the general population.

 

The finding could help us to better understand the upsetting auditory hallucinations that accompany mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, the researchers say.

The Spiritualist experiences of clairvoyance and clairaudience – the experience of seeing or hearing something in the absence of an external stimulus, and attributed to the spirits of the dead – is of great scientific interest, both for anthropologists studying religious and spiritual experiences, and scientists studying pathological hallucinatory experiences.

In particular, researchers would like to better understand why some people with auditory experiences report a Spiritualist experience, while others find them more distressing, and receive a mental health diagnosis.

“Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences which are positive, start early in life and which they are often then able to control,” explained psychologist Peter Moseley of Northumbria University in the UK.

“Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too.”

He and his colleague psychologist Adam Powell of Durham University in the UK recruited and surveyed 65 clairaudient mediums from the UK’s Spiritualists’ National Union, and 143 members of the general population recruited through social media, to determine what differentiated Spiritualists from the general public, who don’t (usually) report hearing the voices of the dead.

 

Overall, 44.6 percent of the Spiritualists reported hearing voices daily, and 79 percent said the experiences were part of their daily lives. And while most reported hearing the voices inside their head, 31.7 percent reported that the voices were external, too.

The results of the survey were striking.

Compared to the general population, the Spiritualists reported much higher belief in the paranormal, and were less likely to care what other people thought of them.

The Spiritualists on the whole had their first auditory experience young, at an average age of 21.7 years, and reported a high level of absorption. That’s a term that describes total immersion in mental tasks and activities or altered states, and how effective the individual is at tuning out the world around them.

In addition, they reported that they were more prone to hallucination-like experiences. The researchers noted that they hadn’t usually heard of Spiritualism prior to their experiences; rather, they had come across it while looking for answers.

In the general population, high levels of absorption were also strongly correlated with belief in the paranormal – but little or no susceptibility to auditory hallucinations. And in both groups, there were no differences in the levels of belief in the paranormal and susceptibility to visual hallucinations.

 

These results, the researchers say, suggest that experiencing the ‘voices of the dead’ is therefore unlikely to be a result of peer pressure, a positive social context, or suggestibility due to belief in the paranormal. Instead, these individuals adopt Spiritualism because it aligns with their experience and is personally meaningful to them.

“Our findings say a lot about ‘learning and yearning’. For our participants, the tenets of Spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practising mediums,” Powell said.

“But all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough.”

Future research, they concluded, should explore a variety of cultural context to better understand the relationship between absorption, belief, and the strange, spiritual experience of ghosts whispering in one’s ear.

The research has been published in Mental Health, Religion and Culture.

 



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Man’s Urine Turns Alarmingly Green During Hospital Stay in Rare Case Study

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A hospitalized man’s case took a strange turn when his urine became a murky shade of green, according to a new report.

Although alarming, the unusual color turned out to be a harmless side effect of his medication.

 

The 62-year-old man had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease, and he went to the emergency room after having difficulty breathing for two days, according to the report, published Wednesday (December 2) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The man had high levels of carbon dioxide in his blood, a condition that can be life-threatening. The man was admitted to the intensive care unit, placed on a ventilator and given a general anaesthetic called propofol.

Five days later, the man’s urine, which was being collected in a catheter bag, turned green.

(Spaseski & Spaseki, The New England Journal of Medicine, 2020)(Spaseski & Spaseski, The New England Journal of Medicine, 2020)

Green urine can be due to a number of factors, including medication side effects, certain infections and liver problems, according to the authors, from Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

In the man’s case, the culprit was propofol. This medication is widely used for general anesthesia, but in rare cases, it can turn a person’s urine green. 

Exactly how this discoloration happens isn’t fully understood. But it may occur when certain breakdown products (metabolites) of propofol are eliminated through the kidneys rather than the liver, according to a 2015 report of a similar case published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. (Propofol is usually metabolized in the liver.) It is the metabolites that cause the green color. 

 

Fortunately, this discoloration is benign and goes away once the medication is stopped. Indeed, the man’s urine returned to a normal color once he was taken off propofol, the report said. He stayed in the hospital for two weeks and was then released to a rehabilitation facility, the report said.

People’s urine can take on an array of colors. In 2019, doctors reported the case of a woman with “purple urine bag syndrome”, which is the result of an odd chemical reaction that can take place inside catheter bags, Live Science previously reported.

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

 



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Over 100 Infected Danish Mink Have Escaped And Could Spread SARS-CoV-2 to Wildlife

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More than 100 SARS-CoV-2 infected mink may have escaped from Danish fur farms, raising the risk that these escapees could spread the novel coronavirus to wild animals, creating a new reservoir for the virusThe Guardian reported.

 

“Every year, a few thousand mink escape,” and this year, an estimated 5 percent of these escaped animals may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, Sten Mortensen, veterinary research manager at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, told The Guardian.

These mink may be spreading the coronavirus to wild animals, even as millions of mink still on farms are being culled to prevent spread of the virus.

After several hundred farms reported SARS-CoV-2 infections among their mink, the Danish government ordered that all mink in the country should be culled, to prevent further spread of the disease, Live Science previously reported.

While circulating in mink, the virus had picked up genetic mutations, health authorities found, and this mutant virus spread from the mink to a small number of humans. The authorities were worried that if the mutant virus spread to more people, it could potentially make COVID-19 vaccines less effective.

Experts had doubts about this claim, noting there’s not enough evidence that the mutated virus would be resistant to vaccines. In addition, the Danish government cannot legally order farmers to cull healthy animals, The Associated Press reported; however, despite the questionable legality of the order, more than 10 million of Denmark’s roughly 17 million mink have already been culled.

 

No new cases of the mutant mink virus have cropped up in the past two weeks – but now, authorities warn that the virus may still be spreading, unnoticed, in the wild.

In general, mink are “very solitary creatures,” so the risk of them spreading the virus to other animals may be low, Mortensen noted.

Susceptible animals, such as free-roaming cats and members of the weasel family, would be most likely to catch the virus by eating infected mink or coming into contact with their feces, he said.

For example, wild populations of European polecat (Mustela putorius), a close relative to ferrets and minks, can be found in Denmark, according to a report in the Journal of Zoology.

If allowed to spread unchecked in wild animals, SARS-CoV-2 could continue to circulate in different species and pose a “permanent pandemic threat to humans and animals,” Marion Koopmans, head of viroscience at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University in the Netherlands, told The Guardian.

It’s also possible that, as the virus circulated, it could mutate to infect a wider range of animal species than it currently does, Joanne Santini, a microbiologist at University College London, told The Guardian

 

The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States have all reported SARS-CoV-2 infections among farmed mink and have culled thousands of the animals as a result. 

Coronavirus vaccines for mink are currently being developed in the US, in an attempt to protect the animals and the mink farming industry, according to The Guardian.

But representatives of Humane Society International have argued that all the animals should be culled and the industry dissolved, both to prevent avoidable suffering of the mink and to lower the risk of future pandemics

Read more about the infected mink at The Guardian.

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

 



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Actual COVID-19 Cases Could Be 6 Times Greater Than Official Figures

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The true number of COVID-19 infections is probably much higher than what’s being reported in many high-income nations around the world.

A newly modelled estimate from the United States, Australia, Canada, South Korea and 11 countries in Europe suggests official figures could be struggling to capture the full scale of the outbreak. 

 

The new model from scientists in Australia employs a ‘backcasting’ method, which projects the number of new daily fatalities in reverse, from the time of death to the time of infection. This allows scientists to avoid using epidemiological and serological data, which comes with testing limitations.

Comparing the new estimates with official confirmed cases, the team was able to predict the ‘true’ infection rate for each country. According to their results, at the end of August the population infection rate was, on average, six times higher than reported cases.

“Unlike reported infections based on RNA tests, backcasting is not dependent on the coverage or efficacy of testing regimes, which can be very different across jurisdictions and over time,” the authors write.

That means it’s much easier to use on a regional, national or even international level than other methods. What’s more, because it doesn’t rely on a nation having widespread testing, it can help public health experts prepare in areas that have limited testing capacity. 

“Simply put, we analysed statistics on how many people had died from COVID-19 in a given country and then worked backwards to see how many people would have to have been infected to arrive at that number of deaths,” says data scientist Steven Phipps from Ikigai Research in Australia.

 

“Our method is a novel and easy-to-use method for estimating the true infection rate wherever there is reliable data on the number of fatalities attributable to COVID-19.”

Some nations were better at reporting these infections than others. In South Korea, the actual number of  infections was found to be 2.6 times higher than reported figures, whereas in Italy, the ‘backcasted’ number of cases was a startling 17.5 times higher.

In general, since March, countries around the world have gotten better at rolling out COVID-19 testing, educating the public on symptoms, and coming up with more and more accurate ways to detect and track the infection. 

Despite that improvement, international numbers continue to lag behind the likely reality. Even in Australia, which has one of the best levels of detection among all 15 countries studied, researchers say the rate of infection could still be nearly five times higher than what’s being reported.

“We found COVID-19 infections are much higher than confirmed cases across many countries, and this has important implications for both control and the probability of infection,” says economist Quentin Grafton from the Australian National University. 

 

“These findings raise serious questions about how we deal with all facets of the coronavirus pandemic, including ongoing morbidity and life-long health impacts for people who have been infected, how we implement and manage lockdowns, and how we make sure we are on top of this pandemic more broadly.”

This isn’t the first time scientists have found a discrepancy between actual COVID-19 cases and reported infections. Pretty much since the beginning, experts have warned we are likely underestimating the true extent of viral spread.

Determining a cause of death from the novel coronavirus is no easy matter when testing is limited, symptoms often overlap with other illnesses, and those who are most vulnerable have pre-existing medical conditions.

Many estimates to date have compared the total death rate in 2020 to what it would usually be in any other given year, or they’ve used antibody testing to go back and identify individuals who were not included in initial case figures, possibly because they showed little to no symptoms. 

Most epidemiological models agree that actual infections far outnumber confirmed cases, but exactly to what extent and how that changes over time is less clear.

 

Epidemiological data are limited by the level of a nation’s testing, and antibody testing comes with some false positives and false negatives, which means that if the number of cases is low, on a population level even a handful of false results can skew the data.

An estimate by a different study in the US found the number of infections in April was 3 to 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and most of that was due to incomplete testing and, to a lesser extent, imperfect test accuracy.

Another estimate using antibody data in the US found there were 10 times more SARS-CoV-2 infections than reported in May. 

The new model is only based on high-income countries that have relatively widespread testing regimes. Most nations, however, have taken far fewer tests among their populations, which suggests the number of people globally who have been infected with COVID-19 is likely several times greater than official figures.

Some countries like Belgium, France, Italy and the United Kingdom were found to have very low true detection rates. As of 31 August 2020, official figures in these nations represented only 10 percent of all actual COVID-19 cases, according to the new analysis. 

At this point, however, no estimate is perfect, and this new method shouldn’t replace existing ones, it should merely complement them.

Epidemiological models are still much better at predicting future hospitalisations than backcasting methods, and the authors wholly admit this.

It’s also important to note that for backcasting to be accurate, the age distribution across those infected with COVID-19 has to be broadly similar, because older people have a higher chance of death once infected. This may skew the results in places like Australia where around 75 percent of the deaths have occurred in aged care

Finding the best way to estimate past, current and future COVID-19 cases will take time, and to a certain point, it might be impossible to ever truly know exactly how many people will be sickened by the current pandemic.

That said, accurate estimates of the real COVID-19 burden will be crucial in determining how to respond to the global tragedy on our hands.

The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science.

 



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A Record Number of People in The US Are Currently Hospitalised With COVID-19

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More people than ever are currently hospitalized in the US due to the coronavirus, and a record of 150,526 new cases were reported on Thursday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

 

This week alone, one in 378 US residents has tested positive for COVID-19, the group said.

Over 1,100 new deaths were also reported on November 12. Over the last week, an average of 1,052 people died each day from COVID-19.

This number of people currently hospitalized, as reported by The COVID Tracking Project, 67,096, is nearly double what it was two weeks ago.

“The current national case surge has been underway for nine weeks,” The COVID Tracking Project said in a blog post explaining the new data, “hospitalizations have risen for seven weeks, and deaths have risen for five.”

Cases are also increasing at the fastest rate since the pandemic began, and not just because there is more testing.

Indeed, the number of cases reported this week is up 41 percent from last, compared to a 13 percent increase in new tests.

Over 234,000 people have now died from the coronavirus. By December 5, that number could be as high as 282,000, according to an analysis by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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If You Have COVID-19, US Study Shows 50% of Your Household Will Get Sick Within Days

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People who develop COVID-19 infect around half of their household members, with adults only slightly more likely than children to spread the virus, a US government study said Friday.

 

The paper by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the latest to attempt to quantify the household transmission rate of the disease, with previous research varying widely but generally suggesting that adults are bigger drivers than children.

The new research by the CDC involved finding cases of “index” or initial patients with lab-confirmed coronavirus infection in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marshfield, Wisconsin, starting in April 2020.

Both the index patients and their household members were trained remotely to complete symptom diaries and obtain self-collected specimens, which were either nasal swabs only or nasal swabs and saliva samples, for 14 days.

A total of 191 enrolled household contacts of 101 index patients reported having no symptoms on the day of their index patient’s illness onset. 

In the follow-up period, 102 of the 191 contacts had SARS-CoV-2 positive tests, for a “secondary infection rate” of 53 percent.

The secondary infection rate when index patients were over 18 was 57 percent, which fell to 43 percent when the index patient was under 18.

Overall there were far fewer children index patients than there were adults: 20 compared to 82, which makes it harder to generalize the results for under-18s.

 

In terms of household characteristics, the median number of members per bedroom was one, 69 percent of index patients reported spending four or more hours in the same room with one or more household member the day before, and 40 percent the day after illness onset.

Forty percent of index patients reported sleeping in the same room with one or more household members before illness onset and 30 percent after illness onset.

Higher than reported

Interpreting the findings, the authors of the paper wrote: “In this ongoing prospective study that includes systematic and daily follow-up, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among household members was common, and secondary infection rates were higher than have been previously reported.”

“Substantial transmission occurred whether the index patient was an adult or a child,” they added.

Another important finding of the study was that fewer than half of household members with confirmed infections reported symptoms at the time infection was first detected, and many reported no symptoms throughout seven days of follow-up.

This underscores the potential for transmission for asymptomatic secondary contacts.

Other studies carried out abroad have at times found lower household infection rates. 

 

The CDC said this might be because those studies didn’t have enough follow-up, or because those patients isolated in facilities outside their houses or applied more stringent mask use.

It recommended that people who think they might have COVID-19 should isolate themselves from others in their household, including sleeping separately and using a separate bathroom if possible, and wear a mask.

People exposed should not delay isolating until their infection is confirmed by a test.

An important limitation of the study was that determining who the index patient was can be challenging.

When the calculations were changed to exclude 54 household members who had positive tests in specimens taken at enrolment, but whose results took some time to be confirmed, the overall secondary infection rate fell to 35 percent.

However, it’s still thought more likely that the person who first developed symptoms is the index patient.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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Scientists Identify The 5 Symptoms That May Predict a Long-Term Case of Coronavirus

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For a select group of coronavirus patients known as “long-haulers”, the onset of symptoms is the beginning of an extended battle. Many COVID-19 patients develop weeks- or months-long illnesses that researchers now call “long-COVID”.

 

These individuals are difficult to study, since not all received a proper diagnosis initially due to testing shortages or the abnormal nature of their symptoms. Some may simply not report lingering ailments, making them difficult for researchers to track.

But a spate of preliminary studies are beginning to pinpoint the early signs that a patient won’t recover right away.

A recent study from King’s College London, which is still awaiting peer review, examined more than 4,000 coronavirus patients across Sweden, the UK, and the US by asking them to record their symptoms in an app.

About 20 percent said they still weren’t feeling better after four weeks – the threshold at which the researchers mark a case of long-COVID. By eight weeks, around 190 patients reported lingering symptoms. And by 12 weeks, nearly 100 patients said they hadn’t recovered yet.

Patients who experienced more than five symptoms during the first week of their illness were significantly more likely to develop long-COVID, the study found. That was true across sex and age groups.

The researchers also identified five symptoms that predicted a case of long-COVID more than others: fatigue, headache, difficulty breathing, a hoarse voice, and muscle or body aches. This could offer clues about targets for future COVID-19 treatments.

 

“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,” Dr. Claire Steves, the study’s senior author, said in a statement.

“Thanks to the diligent logging of our contributors so far, this research could already pave the way for preventative and treatment strategies for long-COVID.”

Nearly 98 percent of patients with long-COVID in the study reported fatigue, while 91 percent reported a headache.

“We know that fatigue is a huge component, so I’m really glad that their research captured that,” Natalie Lambert, an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University who wasn’t involved in the study, told Business Insider.

Lambert is also looking at patterns of symptoms among long-COVID patients. All of the roughly 1,500 long-haulers she surveyed in July said they’d experienced fatigue at some point in their illness.

Roughly two-thirds said they had experienced muscle or body aches. The same amount said they had difficulty breathing, and around 58 percent said they had developed a headache.

The results of the King’s College study, Lambert said, square with her observations so far.

 

Age, gender, and BMI could also predict long-COVID cases

By far the strongest predictor of a long-COVID case, according to the King’s College study, was age. Around 22 percent of participants ages 70 and older reported long-term symptoms, compared to 10 percent of people ages 18 to 49.

Participants with a higher body mass index (BMI) were also more likely to develop long-COVID.

Though sex wasn’t as strong of a predictor of a long-COVID case, women in younger age groups were found to be more likely to suffer this outcome than men. Around 15 percent of women in the study had long-term symptoms compared to nearly 10 percent of men.

That finding is unexpected, since men are on average more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 outcomes than women. Scientists haven’t determined exactly why, but studies have shown that women may develop a more robust T-cell reaction or quicker immune response to the virus.

Other scientists have pointed to behavioural factors like men eating less nutritiously than women do, being more likely to smoke cigarettes, or being reticent to wear masks or wash their hands.

 

One explanation for the surprising trend when it comes to long-lasting cases, however, could simply be that more women than men logged their symptoms into the app in the first place.

“I’ve had the same experience where many more women who have long-term symptoms took my survey than men by a huge margin,” Lambert said. “Is it because more women are experiencing long-term symptoms? Is it because women are more likely to take these surveys and share their health experiences? We won’t really know until we get enough data about everybody.”

It’s important to note, she added, that anyone is vulnerable to long-lasting symptoms.

“It can happen to absolutely anybody, no matter how healthy they were beforehand,” Lambert said.

Non-hospitalized patients are still under-studied

Surveys that ask people to report their own symptoms are imperfect, since people may have trouble remembering each symptom or they might associate it with something other than the virus.

“With COVID, the symptoms are so numerous and wide-reaching that sometimes people don’t recognise it as something related to COVID until you ask them about it,” Lambert said. “We’ve found that with things like blurry vision.”

But even imperfect data can be useful, she added, since so little is known about the virus’ long-term effects.

Most coronavirus studies have focused on hospitalized patients, who may be more likely to develop certain symptoms, like a fever. The King’s College London study, for instance, found that fever was a strong predictor of a hospital visit.

But in Lambert’s latest survey of roughly 4,000 symptomatic coronavirus patients, only 8 percent of patients reported a fever in the first 10 days of their illness.

To better understand the effects of the virus, Lambert said, more research should track non-hospitalized patients, including people who are asymptomatic.

“On the one hand, it’s amazing that scientists and researchers all over the world are finding each other and working on this stuff, but at the same time, we kind of feel like a ragtag team,” Lambert said.

“These are questions that we really need to answer now.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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Study in 19 Countries Shows We May Struggle to Get High Uptake of a COVID-19 Vaccine

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While the world waits as patiently as it can for a COVID-19 vaccine to materialise, no shortage of questions remain. When will we have a vaccine? How will it be distributed? Will it be as effective as we hope?

 

Amid these pressing unknowns, there’s another important question we need to be asking. How many people will choose to receive coronavirus vaccinations when they become available? The answer might surprise you.

In the face of such a deadly virus – a pandemic unprecedented in living memory – it’d be easy to assume that the clear and overwhelming dangers of COVID-19 would cancel out people’s reluctance or refusal to get vaccinated. Such an assumption would be wrong, though.

The anti-vaccination phenomenon – called vaccine hesitancy – is officially considered one of the most dire global health threats (and that was in a pre-pandemic world).

Today, the risks that come with vaccine hesitancy stand to present an even more serious issue, and a new study underlines the extent of the problem we’re facing.

In a global survey conducted in June involving over 13,000 people from 19 countries, the majority of people indicated they would be very or somewhat likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine proven to be safe and effective. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the majority of people only amounted to 71.5 percent of the participants in the survey. In other words, almost three out of every 10 people said they either wouldn’t take the vaccine (indicating refusal), or were neutral (indicating hesitancy).

Even more concerning is that the 19 countries the researchers surveyed were chosen because they were among the hardest-hit nations at the time of the poll in terms of reported numbers of COVID-19 cases.

covid vaccine refusal countries(Lazarus et. al, Nature Medicine, 2020)

Above: Percent of respondents in each country who responded positively to the question ‘If a COVID-19 vaccine is proven safe and effective and is available, I will take it’.

As the researchers point out, these kinds of numbers could potentially translate into tens of millions of potential vaccine avoiders in the real world if the same decisions were made; that said, surveys such as this aren’t necessarily a firm predictor of what actual vaccine uptake will be, as vaccine decisions depend on numerous factors and can change over time, the researchers acknowledge.

 

Overall, vaccine acceptance varied broadly between different countries, with people in China indicating the highest acceptance (88.6 percent), while Russia demonstrated the lowest acceptance (54.9 percent) and Poland showed the highest proportion of negative responses (27.3 percent).

Generally, people with higher incomes and more education were more likely to respond positively to vaccines, as were women compared to men, and older people compared to younger people.

Invariably, vaccine confidence was higher in countries where people had more trust in their government, whereas it was lower in a question asking about vaccination being mandated by employers.

“All respondents, regardless of nationality, reported that they would be less likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine if it were mandated by employers,” the authors of the study, led by infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Lazarus from the University of Barcelona, explain in their paper.

“This finding across all countries with both high and low reported vaccine acceptance proportions suggests that promoting voluntary acceptance is a better option for employers.”

Overall, the researchers say their results show governments and health authorities need to be prepared to address vaccine hesitancy and build vaccine literacy among the public, so that people choose to accept COVID-19 immunisation measures when they become available.

 

Clear and consistent communication from a variety of trusted sources will be crucial in building public confidence in vaccine programs, and time is of the essence. Subsequent polling conducted after this survey suggests vaccine hesitancy might actually be growing, even as we draw closer to vaccines being released.

Against the backdrop of all this hesitancy, doubt, and confusion, COVID-19 cases worldwide are still rising, and the stakes are higher than ever.

“The far-from-universal willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine is a cause for concern,” the researchers write.

“Unless and until the origins of such wide variation in willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine is better understood and addressed, differences in vaccine coverage between countries could potentially delay global control of the pandemic and the ensuing societal and economic recovery.”

The findings are reported in Nature Medicine.

 



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Mysterious Post-COVID Syndrome Found in Kids Is Now Also Affecting Adults

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Months after the discovery of a “multisystem inflammatory syndrome” tied to COVID-19 in children, health officials are warning that a similar condition can strike adults as well.

 

On Friday (October 2), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report describing a “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adults” or (MIS-A).

Like the syndrome in children, MIS-A is a severe illness that targets multiple organs and causes increased inflammation in the body, the report said.

And with both syndromes, many patients either test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, or have antibodies against it, indicating a recent infection.

Currently, MIS-A appears rare, like its counterpart in children. The new CDC report identifies around two dozen cases of MIS-A. 

Still, the new report, published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, urges doctors to consider a diagnosis of MIS-A in adults with compatible signs and symptoms.

“Ultimately, the recognition of MIS-A reinforces the need for prevention efforts to limit spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the authors concluded.

Adult syndrome 

Reports of a mysterious inflammatory syndrome in children first appeared in the spring, and doctors dubbed the condition MIS-C, or “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

Children with this rare syndrome, which affects multiple organs and often requires hospitalization, can experience fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, and fatigue, according to the CDC.

 

So far, the CDC has received reports of 935 cases of MIS-C in the United States, including 19 deaths. The official definition of MIS-C includes an age limit of 20 years old, and cases have been seen in children, teens and young adults. 

Over the summer, there were reports of a similar syndrome popping up in adults. The new CDC report describes 27 cases of MIS-A from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sixteen of these cases are described in detail, nine of which were officially reported to the CDC, and seven of which were described in published case reports.

Among the 16 cases, patients ranged in age from 21 to 50 years old. Just one case was reported in the UK, with the rest reported in the US, including cases in Maine, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas.

Some adult symptoms were similar to those seen in children, including fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, and rash. Some patients reported chest pain or heart palpitations, and all had elevated levels of markers of inflammation.

All of the patients had either a positive COVID-19 test or positive antibody test. Ten patients required treatment in the intensive care unit, and two patients died, the report said.

 

The findings “indicate that adult patients of all ages with current or previous SARS-CoV-2 infection can develop a hyperinflammatory syndrome resembling MIS-C,” the authors wrote.

The authors note that hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in general can experience inflammation and effects on organs beyond the lungs.

However, in most cases, those effects are accompanied by serious respiratory problems. However, with MIS-A, patients haven’t shown serious respiratory symptoms. Of the 16 patients, half did not have any respiratory symptoms, and half had only mild ones.

Concerningly, of 22 patients in the study with information on race/ethnicity available, all but one patient belonged to a minority group. 

“Long-standing health and social inequities have resulted in increased risk for infection and severe outcomes from COVID-19 in communities of color,” the authors said.

A similar trend has been seen in children with MIS-C — more than 70 percent of reported U.S. cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic or Black, according to the CDC.

The underlying causes of MIS-C and MIS-A are not known. But 30 percent of adults in the current report and 45 percent of a sample of 440 children with MIS-C tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, but positive for antibodies against the virus, “suggesting MIS-A and MIS-C might represent postinfectious processes,” the authors wrote.

Further research is needed to understand the exact causes of this condition and its long-term effects, they concluded. 

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

 



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Pets Can Be a Mental Health Buffer During The Stress of Lockdown, Study Shows

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Good news for pet owners, and not just dog people and cat lovers.

Having a pet or companion animal – whether it be a furry friend or farm animal – seems to help people’s mental health cope with the stresses caused by pandemic life and loneliness during lockdown.

 

According to a study from the UK, pets were an important source of emotional support for many people during lockdown, reducing the loneliness they reportedly felt and improving their general mental health.

“This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown,” said animal behaviour researcher Daniel Mills from the University of Lincoln.

We know that loneliness is linked to higher risk of developing other mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

And from previous research, we are starting to recognise that pets can seriously support people living with severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

This study, however, involved surveying people of all walks of life, and under largely unprecedented circumstances – a pandemic lockdown.

Between mid-April and the end of May, close to 6,000 people living in the UK during lockdown were surveyed about their mental health and their pets.

Most of the study participants had at least one pet, so although the researchers surveyed thousands of people, only a small fraction of people involved didn’t own any pets, meaning the findings are skewed towards animal lovers.

 

“Results need to be interpreted with this caveat in mind,” the authors explain in their paper. “Nonetheless, in our sample of ‘animal lovers’, having an animal was linked to somewhat attenuated effects of the lockdown experience on mental health and loneliness.”

People who responded to the survey were asked questions about how close they felt to their pet and the comfort their animal friend provided, as well as different ways their pets might have positively affected their wellbeing during lockdown. This could be helping their owners stay active or feeling socially connected to other people.

Participants also assessed their own mental health wellbeing and feelings of loneliness by answering questionnaires about how they felt before and during the UK lockdown.

Analysing the data, the researchers adjusted for other things that may affect a person’s mental health: such as how lonely the person was before lockdown; their age; if they lived alone or with other people; and how many social contacts (with human friends) they had each week.

The vast majority of pet owners (including more than 90 percent of dog, horse, and cat owners) said their animals had helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown, and had positive effects on their family as well.

 

People with pets were still affected by the lockdown, but owning an animal was associated with smaller declines in mental health and smaller increases in loneliness than what was reported by people who didn’t own pets.

The results are similar to findings from before the pandemic, including, for example, that pets can stave off loneliness by encouraging more social interactions.  

Most studies like this to date have focused on dogs and cats, but it turns out, unsurprisingly, that people can form strong emotional connections with any type of pet; it doesn’t depend on which species we choose as our companion.

Once the researchers had accounted for whether people’s pets had a special role in their lives, such as an assistance dog or therapy animal (which can dramatically improve someone’s mental health), there was no significant difference between the emotional bonds people formed with their pets.

“People in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog,” said lead author and mental health researcher Elena Ratschen from the University of York.

 

So don’t discount unlikely pets: remember goats can be as loving as dogs.

The study also found potential links between people’s mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets.

People who reported a stronger bond with their pet in the study tended to report poorer mental health to begin with, which might mean they’re somewhat vulnerable to fluctuations in their mental health, and possibly reliant on their pet for support.

“Interestingly, stronger reported human-animal bonds were associated with poorer mental health pre-lock down, highlighting that close bonds with animals may indicate psychological vulnerability in owners,” the authors said.

But having a pet also sometimes added to stresses during lockdown, the study found, in addition to mitigating stress.

Over two-thirds of pet owners reported worrying about their pets during lockdown. Some people in the survey worried about who would look after their pet if they fell ill. Other owners were concerned that their animal friend might not cope so well when they returned to work after lockdown.

It’s also important to note that while lockdown may have been a little less lonely for pet owners, the overall differences in mental health as reported by animal owners and pet-free people were small. This means we can’t make any grand conclusions that getting a pet would necessarily solve all our worries.

“While our study showed that having a pet may mitigate some of the detrimental psychological effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, it is important to understand that this finding is unlikely to be of clinical significance,” Ratschen and her colleagues noted.

This means the changes to people’s mental health recorded in the study were not so profound that we should go recommending it as a cure-all to other people.

“[It] does not warrant any suggestion that people should acquire pets to protect their mental health during the pandemic,” said Ratschen.

Nonetheless, there has been a huge surge in demand to adopt pets during the pandemic, from New York to Sydney, and there are concerns that many of these animals might be abandoned when people return to school and work, or if they can no longer afford to take care of them.   

So remember to look out for your animal friends, just like they look out for us.

The study was published in PLOS One.

 



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