Health Highlights: Aug. 25, 2020

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

Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 Still Experimental: WHO

The use of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat patients hospitalized with the disease is still considered experimental, the World Health Organization said the day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would allow emergency use of the therapy.

On Sunday, the FDA authorized “emergency use” of the treatment, something the agency can do to make promising experimental drugs available during a public health crisis, the Associated Press reported.

However, that does not mean that plasma therapy for COVID-19 has been proven safe and effective.

The WHO noted that the FDA’s decision has many scientists concerned that formal studies currently underway to assess the therapy will be sidelined, the AP reported.

So far, results from those studies “are not conclusive,” WHO’s chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said. “At the moment, it’s still very low-quality evidence.”

“Of course, countries can do an emergency listing if they feel the benefits outweigh the risks,” she said. “But that’s usually done when you’re waiting for the more definitive evidence.”


Children Ages 6-11 Should Wear Masks in Certain Situations: WHO

Children ages 6-11 should wear masks in certain situations, the World Health Organization says.

In recommendations released Monday, WHO said a number of factors should be considered in decisions about whether children in that age range should wear masks, the Associated Press reported.

They include whether COVID-19 transmission is widespread where a child lives, the child’s ability to safely use a mask, and adult supervision when children take masks on or off.

It’s believed that children younger than 12 aren’t as likely to transmit the virus as much as adults, and children generally have less severe virus symptoms than adults, especially seniors, the AP reported.

“Luckily, the vast majority of children who are infected with the virus appear to have mild disease or asymptomatic infection, and that’s good news,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical chief of the WHO’s emergencies program.

However, some children can develop severe cases of COVID-19 and even die, she added.

Children younger than age 6 shouldn’t wear masks, while those ages 12-18 should use them in the same way as adults, the WHO recommended.


There’s No FDA Conspiracy to Delay Coronavirus Vaccines, Treatments, Trump’s Former Agency Head Says

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no secret agenda to delay trials for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, former U.S. FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb says in response to an allegation made by President Donald Trump.

In a tweet Saturday, Trump claimed: “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd,” CBS News reported.

Gottlieb defended the agency in an appearance Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

“I firmly reject the idea that they would slow-walk anything or accelerate anything for that matter, based on any kind of political consideration and any consideration other than what’s best for the public health and a real sense of mission to patients,” said Gottlieb, CBS News reported.

Gottlieb headed the FDA for two years under the Trump Administration.


World’s First Confirmed Case of Coronavirus Reinfection Reported in Hong Kong

The world’s first confirmed case of reinfection with the new coronavirus has been reported in Hong Kong.

That’s cause for concern because it suggests that immunity to the coronavirus may last only a few months in some people, and there are implications for vaccines under development, according to The New York Times.

“An apparently young and healthy patient had a second case of Covid-19 infection which was diagnosed 4.5 months after the first episode,” University of Hong Kong researchers said Monday in a statement.

Several cases of suspected reinfection have been seen in the United States and elsewhere, but none were confirmed, The Times reported.

The 33-year-old man in Hong Kong had mild symptoms the first time he was infected, and no symptoms the second time. The researchers said his reinfection was discovered after he returned from a trip to Spain, and the strain he had closely matched one circulating in Europe in July and August.

“Our results prove that his second infection is caused by a new virus that he acquired recently rather than prolonged viral shedding,” according to Dr. Kelvin Kai-Wang To, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.

Recovered people can shed viral fragments for weeks, which can cause a positive test result even though there is no live virus, The Times reported.

There are millions of cases of coronavirus infection worldwide, so it’s not unexpected that some people might be reinfected with the virus within a few months, according to experts.

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