Friday Five

Coronavirus latest: One million fatalities worldwide and the relevance of inherited Neanderthal genes – this week’s Friday Five

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More than one million people have died from coronavirus globally 

The data from John Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak showed that the millionth death on Tuesday 29th September, nearly 10 months since the first confirmed death in China.

The virus is continuing to spread across the world, with more than 33 million confirmed cases in 188 countries. The World Health Organisation has warned the death toll could hit two million before an effective vaccine is widely used.

The United States has the world’s highest death toll, where fatalities passed 200,000 in September.

Read the full story in the BBC.

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The growth in cases of coronavirus may be slowing down, but the prevalence of infection is at an all-time high

The React study by Imperial College London analysed samples from 84,610 people chosen at random from across the country. They found the virus’s reproduction (R) number, appears to have fallen from 1.7 to 1.1 since measures including the “rule of six” were introduced.

Although the R number has decreased, the research estimated that 0.55% of the population have the SARS-CoV-2 virus, compared to the 0.13% in the previous round of testing by the React study.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React programme at Imperial, said: “While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date. This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease’’.

Read the full story at Imperial News.

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Neanderthal genes increase the risk of severe Covid-19 

Scientist have identified that a cluster of genes inherited from Neanderthals are associated with an increased risk of developing a severe Covid-19 infection.

The study, published in Nature, analysed 3,199 hospitalised Covid-19 patients and found that these inherited genes are the major risk factor for a more serious Covid-19 infection, with patients having an increased risk of respiratory failure.

This gene cluster inherited from Neanderthals is currently carried by around 50% of people in South Asia and 16% of people in Europe.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

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Delirium has been shown to be an early warning sign of Covid-19 in frail older people

A King’s College London study found that frail over 65s are more likely to have delirium as a symptom of Covid-19, when compared to fitter people of the same age group. Frail is used by doctors to describe older people who have trouble recovering from everyday illness and accidents.

In this study, more than 800 people over the age of 65 who had tested positive for Covid-19 were examined. One in five of the over 65s patients in hospital had delirium as their only symptom.

In summary of their findings, the researchers recommend that doctors and carers should look out for signs of confusion in frail older people, as it could be an early warning sign for Covid-19.

Read the full story in the BBC.


Quote of the week

In Cara Leavey’s latest article in The Health Foundation, she reflected on the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which shows that young people aged 12-24 years are one of the worst-affected groups, especially in terms of the labour market and mental health outcomes. She said: “ The Covid-19 pandemic has brought existing inequalities into sharp focus and young people face new challenges. These touch on many different areas of their lives, from emotional wellbeing to their housing, work and relationships and will affect their transition into adulthood.’’

Read the full article in The Health Foundation.