Archive for Nicholas Veliotes

WHO recommends two new drugs to treat COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treatment

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fevercoughing, and breathing problems. Unless you have severe symptoms, you can most likely treat them at home, the way you would for a cold or the flu. Most people recover from COVID-19 without the need for hospital care. Call your doctor to ask about whether you should stay home or get medical care in person.

Scientists are trying to make new medicines and test some existing drugs to see whether they can treat COVID-19. In the meantime, there are a number of things that can relieve symptoms, both at home and at the hospital.

At-Home Coronavirus Treatment

If your symptoms are mild enough that you can recover at home, you should:

  • Rest. It can make you feel better and may speed your recovery.
  • Stay home. Don’t go to work, school, or public places.
  • Drink fluids. You lose more water when you’re sick. Dehydration can make symptoms worse and cause other health problems.
  • Monitor. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor right away. Don’t go to their office without calling first. They might tell you to stay home, or they may need to take extra steps to protect staff and other patients.
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicines that may help, like acetaminophen to lower your fever.

The most important thing to do is to avoid infecting other people, especially those who are over 65 or who have other health problems.

That means:

  • Try to stay in one place in your home. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom if you can.
  • Tell others you’re sick so they keep their distance.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth if you can.
  • Wash regularly, especially your hands.
  • Don’t share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with anyone else.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces like doorknobs, counters, and tabletops.

What to expect

Symptoms begin 2 to 14 days after you come into contact with the virus. Many people who have mild infections recover within 2 weeks. More severe cases tend to last 3 to 6 weeks.

Talk to your doctor about how long you should isolate yourself if you have symptoms. CDC guidelines say you can leave isolation when all of these are true:

  • You haven’t had a fever for 24 hours.
  • Your respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath, are better.
  • It’s been at least 5 days since your symptoms began.

How do you know if your symptoms are getting worse?

Get medical care right away if you begin to have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Confusion or severe drowsiness
  • A blue tint to your lips or face

Coronavirus Treatment in a Hospital

You don’t need to go to the hospital or ER if you have basic COVID-19 symptoms, like a mild fever or cough. If you do, many hospitals will send you home.

If your case is severe, members of the medical staff will check for signs that the illness is causing more serious problems. They might:

  • Check the levels of oxygen in your blood with a clip-on finger monitor
  • Listen to your lungs
  • Give you a COVID-19 test. This involves putting a 6-inch cotton swab up both sides of your nose for about 15 seconds.
  • Give you a chest X-ray or CT scan

You may get extra oxygen through two small tubes that go just inside your nostrils. In very serious cases, doctors will connect you to a machine that can breathe for you, called a ventilator.

You may also get fluids through a tube, or IV, in your arm to keep you from getting dehydrated. Doctors will also closely monitor your breathing. The goal is for your infection to run its course and for your lungs to heal enough that they can breathe on their own again.

Your doctors may give you an antiviral medicine called remdesivir (Veklury). Remdesivir is the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of hospitalized COVID patients over the age of 12.  Research shows that some patients recover faster after taking it. Remdesivir was created to fight Ebola, but the FDA has issued an emergency use ruling so doctors can use it against COVID-19.

Your doctor might also give you medication to thin your blood and prevent clots.

If you take drugs such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or statins for other health problems, your doctor will tell you to continue them as usual.

The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for drugs called monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19. Sotrovimab or a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab (REGEN-COV) can be given to high-risk patients who have recently been diagnosed with mild to moderate illness to lower levels of the virus in their bodies and lower the risk of hospitalization. REGEN-COV has also been granted EUA for preventative treatment in high-risk people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

The FDA also recently set an EUA for Pfizer’s drug, called Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets), to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. Adults and children over 12 years old (and weighing at least 88 pounds) can use this medication. Paxlovid can only treat positive COVID-19 cases. You won’t get this drug to prevent the virus if you were exposed but don’t yet have the virus.

Many clinical trials are underway to explore treatments used for other conditions that could fight COVID-19 and to develop new ones. The FDA has also granted an EAU of blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 in order to help patients with severe or life-threatening cases. You’ll hear this called convalescent plasma.

Clinical trials are under way for other medications, including tocilizumab, which has been used to treat autoimmune conditions and an inflammatory condition called cytokine release syndrome.

The FDA rescinded its emergency authorization for the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 amid serious concerns about their safety and how well they worked against the virus. The medications are approved to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

One study found that dexamethasone, a common steroid medication, can help people who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19 complications. But the findings are preliminary, and the researchers haven’t released the full study.

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill

Anyone seeking Paxlovid, which must be prescribed within five days of the first symptoms, should be sure to let their prescribers and pharmacists know the complete lists of other medications and over-the-counter supplements they are taking.

Some medications, such as particular statins, are most likely safe to stop taking during treatment with the Covid pills. For example, it might be better to stay on certain blood thinners but to lower the doses. Some heart rhythm drugs cannot be taken with Paxlovid.

Conversely, some anti-seizure medications can boost liver enzymes’ metabolic action and thus lower the body’s Paxlovid levels, as can the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort. The FDA warned that they should not be combined with Paxlovid.

Because the Paxlovid treatment is brief — 30 pills, taken asthree pills twice a day for five days — experts are hopeful that the risk of adverse interactions with other medications is low. 

“Five days of interactions is not a big deal for the majority of drugs,” said Jason Gallagher, a clinical pharmacy specialist in infectious diseases at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. 

If a drug’s potential interaction with Paxlovid poses too much of a risk, a safe and effective alternative Covid-19 therapy would be GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab — the sole authorized monoclonal antibody treatment that research indicates reliably neutralizes the omicron variant of the virus. Otherwise, the antiviral molnupiravir is an option, albeit one with a much lower efficacy than either Paxlovid or sotrovimab. 

Even with the concerns about taking Paxlovid with other prescription medications, experts are excited about the drug’s potential. 

Goal setting


When it comes to setting New Year resolutions, most people struggle to adhere to them as they are too vague, ambitious or unmeasurable. 

“But the key to success is taking the right approach.”

Consider the meaning of the word ‘resolution’ (a firm decision to do or not to do something) versus ‘goal’ – (the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result). 

goal is something to work towards and allows for lapses along the way, but the idea is to reach it and move on to the next thing.

For professionals embracing the new world of hybrid work, which typically affords better work-life balance (as people are able to combine working in an HQ with being based at home and at a local coworking space).

There is more scope in 2022 to 

• upgrade skills

• improve time management and

• invest in personal wellbeing. 

Here are five tips for setting goals – and achieving them…

Choose a ‘power’ word

Sometimes simplicity is the best approach. Choosing a ‘power’ word that has resonance for the New Year acts as a way of guiding you in your decision making and helps to remind you of your priorities as you balance time at your desk with looking after loved ones, for example. 

American philanthropist Melinda Gates is an advocate of selecting a ‘word of the year’.

“In 2016, my word of the year was gentle, which, for me, functioned as a reminder to go easy on myself, to fight the pull of perfectionism, and to encourage others around me to do the same. The next year, my word was spacious, which encouraged me to make room for the things that matter. Last year, my word was grace.”

She says that a well-chosen word “makes the year better – and it helps me be better, too”.

Focus on one objective at a time.

Having too many competing goals will detract from your chance of success, so a good approach is to eliminate the distraction of other ambitious targets by putting your focus on one at a time. 

It can also be helpful to break down a “BHAG” (“big hairy audacious goal”) by deciding on more manageable aims that can be achieved over a set timeline.

For example, instead of saying you want to have a team of 100 employees by the summer, focus on recruiting more gradually and keep the business lean, perhaps working with freelancers and contractors, to retain a degree of flexibility

Focusing on the exact projects or tasks you need help with, will give you clarity in your decision-making.

Stack your successes

Success is addictive, so setting achievable targets that you can ‘stack’ one on top of the other once they are done can be incredibly motivating

The method works like this – you say: “After I have got a new accountant, I will work on my financial forecasts.”

The approach is also effective at building better habits

For example: “After I have done one hour of emails in the morning, I will go for a run.” 

The nature of hybrid working, which has flexibility at its heart, is ideal for supporting both personal and professional objectives.

Whether your goals are for you as an individual or that of the company, writing them down is particularly important – whether it’s on a whiteboard for everyone to see, in a notebook or on your phone – because it’s satisfying to tick them off and you can visibly see your progress. 

The Strides app is worth downloading as it is specifically designed for logging goals and stacking successes.

Talk about goals with others.

A well-known technique for achieving goals is to talk about them with other people. 

This is because knowing that colleagues, for example, are expecting you to do something motivates you to actually get it done. 

Having a monthly Zoom catch-up or in-person meeting at an office or local flexspace is a great way of sharing progress reports and announcing when goals have been reached.

And don’t forget to celebrate those wins, no matter how small they might be.  As motivational speaker Tony Robbins says: “You can only build on success.”

Mediterranean Diet Microbiome benefits

  • A new study explored the impact of a Mediterranean on our microbiome – or gut bacteria.
  • It suggests that a Mediterranean can make changes to our microbiome that are linked to improvements to cognitive function and memory and immunity and bone strength.
  • In ageing society, these could be important health benefits. 

As our global population is projected to live longer than ever before, it’s important that we find ways of helping people live healthier for longer. 

Exercise and diet are often cited as the best ways of maintaining good health well into our twilight years. But recently, research has also started to look at the role our gut – specifically our microbiome – plays in how we age.

Our latest study has found that a Mediterranean diet causes microbiome changes linked to improvements in cognitive function and memory, immunity and bone strength.

The gut microbiome is a complex community of trillions of microbes that live semi-permanently in the intestines. 

These microbes have co-evolved with humans and other animals to break down dietary ingredients such as inulinarabinoxylan and resistant starch, that the person can’t digest. 

They also help prevent disease-causing bacteria from growing.

However, the gut microbiome is extremely sensitive, and many things including diet, the medications you take, your genetics, and even conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, can all change the gut microbiota community

The gut microbiota plays a such a huge role in our body, it’s even linked to behavioural changes, including anxiety and depression

But as for other microbiome-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, changes in the microbiome are only part of the issue – the person’s genetics and bad lifestyle are major contributing factors.

Since our everyday diets have such a big affect on the gut microbiome, our team was curious to see if it can be used to promote healthy ageing. 

We looked at a total of 612 people aged 65-79, from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland.

We asked half of them to change their normal diet to a Mediterranean diet for a full year. This involved eating more vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil and fish, and eating less red meat, dairy products and saturated fats. The other half of participants stuck to their usual diet.

We initially found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet had better cognitive function and memory, less inflammation, and better bone strength. 

However, what we really wanted to know was whether or not the microbiome was involved in these changes.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, a person’s baseline microbiome (the species and number of microbes they had living in their gut before the study started) varied by country. 

This baseline microbiome is likely a reflection of the diet they usually ate, alongside where they lived. 

We found that participants who followed the Mediterranean diet had a small but insignificant change in their microbiome diversity – meaning there was only a slight increase in the overall number and variety of species present.

However, when we compared how strictly a person followed the diet with their baseline microbiome data and their microbiome after following the diet, we were able to identify two different gut microbe groups: diet-positive microbes that increased on the Mediterranean diet, and diet-negative microbes whose abundance was reduced while following the diet.

Diet-positive microbes are microbes that flourished in the Mediterranean diet. 

Diet-negative microbes either couldn’t metabolise the diet, or they were were unable to compete with diet-positive microbes. 

These diet-positive microbes were linked with less frailty and inflammation in the body, and higher levels of cognitive function. Losing the diet-negative microbes was also associated with the same health improvements.

When we compared the changes in the number of these microbes in the treatment group (those on the Mediterranean diet) and the control group (those following their regular diet), we saw that the people who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet increased these diet-positive microbes. 

Although the changes were small, these finding were consistent across all five countries – and small changes in one year can make for big effects in the longer term.

Many of the participants were also pre-frail (meaning their bone strength and density would start decreasing) at the beginning of the study. 

We found the group who followed their regular diet became frailer over the course of the one-year study. 

However, those that followed the Mediterranean diet were less frail.

The link between frailty, inflammation, and cognitive function, to changes in the microbiome was stronger than the link between these measures and dietary changes. 

This suggests that the diet alone wasn’t enough to improve these three markers. 

Rather, the microbiome had to change too – and the diet caused these changes to the microbiome.

These types of studies are challenging and expensive, and the microbiome dataset is often difficult to analyse because there are many more data-points to study than there are people in the study. 

Our findings here were possible because of the large group sizes, and the length of the intervention.

However, we recognise that following a Mediterranean diet isn’t necessarily doable for everybody who starts thinking about ageing, usually around the age of 50. 

Future studies will need to focus on what key ingredients in a Mediterranean diet were responsible for these positive microbiome changes. 

But in the meantime, it’s clear that the more you can stick to a Mediterranean diet, the higher your levels of good bacteria linked to healthy ageing will be.

‘Blue Zone’ Diet

In the early 2000s, Dan Buettner embarked on a mission to determine what specific aspects of lifestyle and environment help humans live longer. He teamed up with National Geographic and the National Institute of Aging on his quest, and through research, they were able to identify five areas with the highest percentage of centenarians (i.e. a person who is 100 years old or older).

Known as the Blue Zones, these areas also have low rates of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Buettner and his team of anthropologists, epidemiologists, and researchers traveled to these particular areas to study the lifestyle characteristics of the people who lived in these Blue Zones. From there, the “Blue Zone” diet became of interest to help people outside of these locations practice that way of life. Here’s everything you need to know about the Blue Zones, including diet recommendations and more.

What are the five specific locations of the Blue Zones?

  1. Sardinia, Italy: Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and home to some of the world’s longest-living males. The local shepherds walk at least five mountainous miles daily and follow a predominately plant-based diet. Meat is enjoyed on Sundays and special occasions only.
  2. Okinawa, Japan: The world’s longest-living women are from Okinawa, a chain of islands in Japan. Their longevity is suggested to be in part due to their close-knit social circles, as well as an old Confucian mantra said before meals that reminds them to avoid overeating and stop when they are 80% full.
  3. Loma Linda, California: The residents of this city in San Bernardino have one of the highest rates of longevity in America. The community of Seven-Day Adventists in Loma Linda follow a primarily vegan diet and also recognize their Sabbath day weekly.
  4. Nicoya, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula is known for elders with a positive outlook on life. Their diet is abundant in tropical fruits packed with antioxidants, and their water is rich in calcium and magnesium that helps to prevent heart disease and builds strong bones.
  5. Ikaria, Greece: This island in Greece is known for the long-living locals who embrace a Mediterranean diet abundant in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Ikarians also take time for a mid-afternoon break. They experience half the rate of heart disease and 20% less cancer than Americans do. Additionally, most Ikarians are Greek Orthodox Christians that follow several periods of fasting throughout the year where they essentially follow a vegan diet.

What habits contribute to the Blue Zone lifestyle?

Although the Blue Zones are all over the world, they share quite a few commonalities. After studying the Blue Zone populations, Buettner and his team narrowed down nine evidence-based common denominators among all of the world’s centenarians. Known as the “Power 9,” these factors are said to be the most influential in promoting longevity in these Blue Zone groups.

  1. Move naturally: Centenarians don’t run marathons or frequent the heavy lifting section of the gym. Instead, they are just constantly active throughout the day by tending to their gardens, cooking, doing house work, and walking. Research on Sardinian men specifically found that residing in mountainous areas, walking longer distances to work, and shepherding are linked to their longevity.
  2. Purpose: Blue Zone natives have a keen sense of purpose which motivates them in every day life. Ikigai and plan de vida are phrases from the Okinawans and Nicoyans, respectively, and both translate to, “why I wake up in the morning.”
  3. Downshift: Stress is inevitable wherever you live, but centenarians take time each day to de-stress whether it’s praying, taking a nap, or enjoying a glass of wine. 
  4. Eighty percent rule: The Okinawan phrase hara hachi bu is said before meals to remind Okinawans to stop eating when they are 80% full. This plays a role in weight management as well and fighting off obesity. 
  5. Plant slant: Fresh produce, especially homegrown, and beans are the cornerstones of most diets of Blue Zone people. On average, meat is only eaten five times per month in the Blue Zone regions.
  6. Wine: Most Blue Zone people, except Adventists, drink 1 to 2 glasses of alcohol per day with friends or at a meal. Sardinian Cannonau wine, made from Grenache grapes, specifically has significantly more healthy flavonoids than other wines. Tea is also sipped daily throughout the Blue Zone regions, but beverages like soft drinks are practically unknown.
  7. Faith: The vast majority of Blue Zone people belong to a faith-based community and attend faith-based services regularly.
  8. Family: Centenarians put family first and are all about keeping the family close. They commit to a life partner and take time to build memories with their children. 
  9. Social networks: Friendship and close social circles support healthy behaviors in the Blue Zone regions. Okinawans in particular have created something called moais, which are groups of five friends that are committed to each other for life.

What is the ‘Blue Zone’ diet and how does it work?

Research suggests that a strong mechanism behind the longevity and reduction of chronic disease in Blue Zone people is the anti-inflammatory benefits of their dietary choices. While these centenarians aren’t necessarily completely vegan, their diets do have a predominant focus on plants.



How to Start a Mediterranean Diet

Vegetables, especially homegrown, are a huge emphasis for Blue Zone people and provide a ton of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant benefits. Beans and lentils are strong plant-based sources of protein in these populations. Similarly to vegetables, legumes also provide a ton of fiber which has benefits ranging from reducing risk of cardiovascular disease to helping control blood sugar levels. Healthy fats, such as olive oil, are used in several of the Blue Zone regions and provide a slew of heart-healthy fatty acids and antioxidants.

Blue zone people limit their consumption of red meat, and even only enjoy small portions of fish about three times per week. These populations do still indulge in moderation regarding sweets and other foods, but they eat sensibly and don’t overindulge. By maintaining moderation and balance with food choices, especially following rules such as the Okinawans do with the hara hachi bu principle, weight stays controlled and obesity is not as prevalent to fuel chronic disease.

Blue Zone diet food list:

Based on the “Power 9” principle of plant slant that the Blue Zone regions embrace, we’ve put together a food list that can help you get started on eating the Blue Zone way.

Produce

  • Fruit: apples, bananas, berries, grapes, oranges, papaya, pineapple, plums, watermelon, etc
  • Vegetables: bell peppers, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collard greens, cucumber, garlic, green beans, kale, onions, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, etc.

Protein

  • Beans & legumes: black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
  • Eggs (up to two to four times per week)
  • Fish (up to three small servings a week): anchovies, salmon, cod, swordfish, tuna, sardines, etc.
  • Goat milk and goat-based dairy products
  • Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, etc.
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, etc.
  • Tofu, extra-firm

Grains & Pantry Staples

  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Coffee
  • Dried spices and fresh herbs
  • Oatmeal, preferably steel-cut
  • Olive oil
  • Quinoa
  • Red wine
  • Tea
  • 100% Whole wheat, sprouted grain bread, and sourdough bread

COVID-19 and PCR Testing


What is a COVID-19 PCR test?

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 is a molecular test that analyzes your upper respiratory specimen, looking for genetic material (ribonucleic acid or RNA) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists use the PCR technology to amplify small amounts of RNA from specimens into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is replicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detectable if present. The PCR test has been the gold standard test for diagnosing COVID-19 since authorized for use in February 2020. It’s accurate and reliable.

Who should get tested for COVID-19?

Your healthcare provider may recommend testing for COVID-19 if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headache.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Congestion or runny nose.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Not everyone with COVID-19 develops symptoms. And not all symptomatic people develop all of the symptoms listed above. Please check with your healthcare provider if you’re feeling unwell during the COVID-19 pandemic — even if you’ve been vaccinated.

TEST DETAILS

There are three key steps to the COVID-19 PCR test:

  1. Sample collection: A healthcare provider uses a swab to collect respiratory material found in your nose. A swab is a soft tip on a long, flexible stick that goes into your nose. There are different types of nose swabs, including nasal swabs that collect a sample immediately inside your nostrils and nasopharyngeal swabs that go further into the nasal cavity for collection. Either type of swab is sufficient for collecting material for the COVID-19 PCR test. After collection, the swab is sealed in a tube and then sent to a laboratory.
  2. Extraction: When a laboratory scientist receives the sample, they isolate (extract) genetic material from the rest of the material in the sample.
  3. PCR: The PCR step then uses special chemicals and enzymes and a PCR machine called a thermal cycler. Each heating and cooling cycle increases (amplifies) the amount of the targeted genetic material in the test tube. After many cycles, millions of copies of a small portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic material are present in the test tube. One of the chemicals in the tube produces a fluorescent light if SARS-CoV-2 is present in the sample. Once amplified enough, the PCR machine can detect this signal. Scientists use special software to interpret the signal as a positive test result.

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP

What do COVID-19 PCR test results mean?

positive test result means that it’s likely that you have an infection with SARS-CoV-2. This could be due to asymptomatic infection, but if you have symptoms, then this infection is called COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and can recover safely at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or if you have questions or concerns.

negative test result means you probably didn’t have an infection with SARS-CoV-2 at the time your specimen was collected. However, it’s possible to have COVID-19 but not have the virus detected by the test. For example, this may happen if you recently became infected but you don’t have symptoms yet — or it could happen if you’ve had COVID-19 for more than a week before being tested. A negative test doesn’t mean you are safe for any length of time: You can be exposed to COVID-19 after your test, get infected and spread the SARS-Cov-2 virus to others.

If your test is positive, talk with your healthcare provider, stay home and separate yourself from others. If your test is negative, continue to take steps to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.

How long does it take to get coronavirus test results?

You should receive your test results as early as 24 hours after sample collection, but sometimes it can take a few days, depending on how long it takes the sample to reach the laboratory.

How long do you test positive after having had COVID-19?

Because the PCR test is so sensitive, it can detect very small amounts of virus material. This means that the test can continue to detect fragments of SARS-CoV-2 virus even after you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer contagious. So you may continue to test positive if you’ve had COVID-19 in the distant past, even though you can’t spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others.

Prolonged infection in immunocompromised individuals can occur where they shed infectious virus for months. Also, healthy people can become reinfected. If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but you think you might have already recovered from COVID-19, please discuss with a healthcare provider.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS

What’s the difference between the PCR and antigen tests for COVID-19?

There are two types of tests for COVID-19: the PCR test and the antigen test.

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This tests for the presence of the actual virus’s genetic material or its fragments as it breaks down. PCR is the most reliable and accurate test for detecting active infection. PCR tests typically take hours to perform, but some are faster.
  • Antigen test: This detects bits of proteins on the surface of the virus called antigens. Antigen tests typically take only 15 to 30 minutes. Rapid antigen tests are most accurate when used within a few days of the start of your symptoms, which is when the largest amount of virus is present in your body.

Which COVID test is more accurate?

The antigen test is typically faster but is less sensitive than the PCR test. Because the antigen test is not as accurate as PCR, if an antigen test is negative, your healthcare provider could request a PCR test to confirm the negative antigen test result.

Covid-19 variant Omicron


The number of confirmed Omicron Covid cases in South Africa is still relatively low, with 2,828 new confirmed cases recorded on Friday, but its speed in infecting young people in the country has alarmed health professionals, the Associated Press reports.

“We’re seeing a marked change in the demographic profile of patients with Covid-19,” Rudo Mathivha, head of the intensive care unit at Soweto’s Baragwanath hospital, told an online press briefing.

“Young people, in their 20s to just over their late 30s, are coming in with moderate to severe disease, some needing intensive care. About 65% are not vaccinated and most of the rest are only half-vaccinated,” said Mathivha.

“I’m worried that as the numbers go up, the public health care facilities will become overwhelmed.”

She said urgent preparations are needed to enable public hospitals to cope with a potential large influx of patients needing intensive care.

Diagnostic tests so far indicate the Omicron variant may be responsible for as many as 90% of the new cases, according to South Africa’s health officials.

Covid-19 Vaccine Latest

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 11. 

The vaccine is given in two doses that are 21 days apart from each other and is reported to be 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Pfizer’s vaccine is the first mRNA vaccine that received EUA by the FDA.

What is different about an mRNA vaccine?

Although mRNA vaccines — also known as messenger RNA vaccines — are now being approved for the first time, they have been a topic of study by researchers for decades. 

The difference between mRNA vaccines and more traditional ones comes down to what is contained within the vaccine.

“MRNA vaccines do not contain live virus, so they cannot cause an infection,” Dr. Fryhofer said. “They cannot give someone COVID. MRNA vaccines do not affect or interact with our own DNA in any way. The messenger RNA never enters the nucleus of the cell and it doesn’t hang around. The body breaks it down with hours.”

What’s different about an EUA compared with the normal vaccine approval process?An EUA is different than approval of a vaccine. According to the FDA website, an EUA “is a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies.” A product can receive EUA if it meets an effectiveness standard and an assessment of its benefit compared with its risk is favorable.

The FDA has been transparent in its review process and expects any manufacturer that receives EUA to continue its clinical trials and eventually pursue official FDA approval, Curtis said.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earns FDA nod.

If you’ve already had COVID-19 or received monoclonal antibodies, should you still get the vaccine?

Yes, although people who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent serum should wait at least 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Should pregnant women get the vaccine?

Pregnant or lactating women may receive the vaccine if they choose, however, safety data is not known about this population at this time. A woman who is pregnant or lactating should consult with her physician about what is best for her and her baby.

Is there anyone who should not get the vaccine?

According to ACIP, people who have a history of allergic reactions to any vaccine should not get vaccinated at this time. There were no signs of allergic reactions during the Pfizer trials, she said, but several people in the United Kingdom had severe allergic reactions to the vaccine earlier in the month.

“The COVID vaccine should not be given in combination with other vaccines right now,” she said. “The study protocol for these vaccines did not allow co-administration with other vaccines, so don’t do it. We want this vaccine to do its best job.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least a two-week window between getting Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine.

Are there any expected side effects to the vaccine?

As with any vaccine, patients may experience some side effects, and it is important for physicians to make sure their patients understand the side effects, which include pain or swelling at the site of the shot, as well as fever, chills, tiredness or headache. 

The symptoms are usually worse after the second dose, and they’re usually worse in younger as compared to older patients.

WELLNESS RETREAT AT HOME TO REFRESH, REVIVE, REJUVENATE THE MIND AND BODY


Seek stunning natural surroundings. Think lush foliage, quiet pools, nearby lakes, hills, etc. These natural environments help you relax and unwind.

DISCONNECT FOR INWARD FOCUS to unplug and recharge. When you unplug, you’re able to focus more on the present, whether it’s eating a delicious meal, getting a massage or going on a walk or hike.

ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONSE to allow you to turn your thoughts inwards. Try meditation, yoga or try another mindfulness practice. Sit in a quiet spot and just look at the sky. Having free time lets you really decompress and reconnect to what it is you really want.

“You control your Thoughts, which control your Feelings, determine your Actions, then dictate and control your Events

CLEANSE Try a detoxifying meal plan, packed with nutrient-rich vegetable and fruit juices, raw foods, fresh wheatgrass and essential oils to quickly cleanse the body of unwanted toxins and restore vital nutrients, reclaiming energy and enhanced mental processing.

REVITALIZE You will have time and energy for everything from fitness classes (zoom) to long walks, hikes, massages to swims.

MAKE NEW PATTERNS Include aerobic exercise into your daily routine, learning how to prepare raw foods, or creating a sustainable meal plan that fits your lifestyle.

COVID19 VACCINE

Development usually takes around five years. Once you pick a disease to target, you have to create the vaccine and test it on animals. Then you begin testing for safety and efficacy in humans.

Safety and efficacy are the two most important goals for every vaccine. Safety is exactly what it sounds like: is the vaccine safe to give to people? Some minor side effects (like a mild fever or injection site pain) can be acceptable, but you don’t want to inoculate people with something that makes them sick.

Efficacy measures how well the vaccine protects you from getting sick. Although you’d ideally want a vaccine to have 100 percent efficacy, many don’t. For example, this year’s flu vaccine is around 45 percent effective.

To test for safety and efficacy, every vaccine goes through three phases of trials:

  • Phase one is the safety trial. A small group of healthy volunteers gets the vaccine candidate. You try out different dosages to create the strongest immune response at the lowest effective dose without serious side effects.
  • Once you’ve settled on a formula, you move onto phase two, which tells you how well the vaccine works in the people who are intended to get it. This time, hundreds of people get the vaccine. This cohort should include people of different ages and health statuses.
  • Then, in phase three, you give it to thousands of people. This is usually the longest phase, because it occurs in what’s called “natural disease conditions.” You introduce it to a large group of people who are likely already at the risk of infection by the target pathogen, and then wait and see if the vaccine reduces how many people get sick.

After the vaccine passes all three trial phases, you start building the factories to manufacture it, and it gets submitted to the WHO and various government agencies for approval.

For COVID-19, financing development is not an issue. Governments and other organizations (including our foundation and an amazing alliance called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) have made it clear they will support whatever it takes to find a vaccine. 

So, scientists are able to save time by doing several of the development steps at once. For example, the private sector, governments, and our foundation are going to start identifying facilities to manufacture different potential vaccines. If some of those facilities end up going unused, that’s okay. It’s a small price to pay for getting ahead on production.

Fortunately, compressing the trial timeline isn’t the only way to take a process that usually takes five years and get it done in 18 months. 

Another way we’re going to do that is by testing lots of different approaches at the same time.

There are dozens of candidates in the pipeline.

As of April 9, there are 115 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the development pipeline.

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