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Another Pandemic We Don’t Understand – Red Deer Advocate

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Another Pandemic We Don’t Understand

There are a lot of things we know about pandemics. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of widespread viral infection caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Last week, this column lamented the lifestyle-caused diseases of obesity and Type 2 diabetes and lamented the lack of concerted societal action on the pandemic proportions of these stealthy but determined killers. But there is yet another pandemic, the still-too-frequently hushed-up problem of poor mental health, sometimes resulting in its most devasting form, suicide.

The fact is, for more than 100 years, there has been little progress in understanding the factors that result in a state of dismal mental health – the state that must be the precursor to suicide. Medicine has made tremendous progress in diagnosing, treating and saving lives from multiple diseases. Advancing knowledge allowed for the development of vaccines, medical imaging, antibiotics, and antiviral drugs that drastically changed the course of human health. Organ transplants, stem-cell research, and immunotherapy have given new hope and extended lives to millions in recent years.

But our understanding of the brain and mind is slower in coming.

The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 die of suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. For each person who dies by suicide, there may be about twenty others who attempt it. But like the obesity and diabetes pandemics, we haven’t shut down the economy. We haven’t held daily press conferences. We barely acknowledge it at all.

Yet, these statistics indicate that suicide is a bigger killer than COVID-19. And a recent article in JAMA Psychiatry cautions that the prevalence of suicide may worsen because of COVID-19.

A major concern is the extended requirement for social distancing. Researchers have documented the association between social isolation and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. But the list of other related factors is long and familiar to those living in the time of COVID-19 – economic stress, childcare pressures, limited access to community and religious support, barriers to mental health treatment, and the compounding effect of other existing health problems.

Sadly, firearm sales have spike in both the U.S. and Canada since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Guns are the most common method of suicide. Researchers have demonstrated an association between suicide rates and access to a gun.

For some individuals, particularly seniors, and paradoxically, for some health care workers, suicidal feeling may emerge from a concern for family members or a desire to avoid adding burden.

But there is some good news to report. Neuroscientists and other experts in mental health are starting to open new avenues for understanding the biological factors that determine brain and mind health. One such area is the connection between brain and gut. Millions of nerves and neurons send signals from the gut to the brain as part of our “microbiome”. Treating the ailments in our heads may be a matter of better minding our bodies.

But you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to make one of the most effective interventions in preventing suicide. All you have to do is reach out. Take the time to think about someone you know who may be feeling isolated. Make a phone call. Drop them a line. Send a gift. They call it the “pulling-together effect”, when people come together in a shared experience, offering mutual support and encouragement.

If you yourself are having suicidal feelings, you must reach out too. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). In Canada, call Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566) or text 45645.

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'No benefit' from hydroxychloroquine for virus: U.K. trial – CTV News

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A major British clinical trial has found hydroxychloroquine has “no benefit” for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, scientists said Friday, in the first large-scale study to provide results for a drug at the centre of political and scientific controversy.

Hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria and rheumatoid arthritis drug, has been touted as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus by high profile figures, including U.S. President Donald Trump, and has been included in several randomised clinical trials.

The University of Oxford’s Recovery trial, the biggest of these so far to come forward with findings, said that it would now stop recruiting patients to be given hydroxychloroquine “with immediate effect”. 

“Our conclusion is that this treatment does not reduce the risk of dying from COVID among hospital patients and that clearly has a significant importance for the way patients are treated, not only in the UK, but all around the world,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford professor of medicine and epidemiology who co-leads the study. 

The randomised clinical trial — considered the gold standard for clinical investigation — has recruited a total of 11,000 patients from 175 hospitals in the UK to test a range of potential treatments. 

Other drugs continuing to be tested include: the combination of HIV antivirals Lopinavir and Ritonavir; a low dose of the steroid Dexamethasone, typically used to reduce inflammation; antibiotic Azithromycin; and the anti inflammatory drug Tocilizumab.

Researchers are also testing convalescent plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19, which contains antibodies to fight the virus.

Researchers said 1,542 patients were randomly assigned to hydroxychloroquine and compared with 3,132 patients given standard hospital care alone. 

They found “no significant difference” in mortality after 28 days between the two groups, and no evidence that treatment with the drug shortens the amount of time spent in hospital.

“This is a really important result, at last providing unequivocal evidence that hydroxychloroquine is of no value in treatment of patients hospitalised with COVID-19,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor at Imperial College London, in reaction to the results.

He added that the drug was “quite toxic” so halting the trials would be of benefit to patients.  

Hydroxychloroquine has been in use for years but it has a number of potentially serious side effects, including heart arrhythmia. 

‘IT DOESN’T WORK’

Researchers from the Recovery trial said they would share their data with the World Health Organization (WHO), which on Wednesday restarted its own trials of hydroxychloroquine.

They were temporarily halted last month because of a now-retracted observational study in The Lancet medical journal that had suggested hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, a related compound, were ineffective against COVID-19 and even increased the risk of death.

Authors of the Lancet research said on Thursday that they could no longer vouch for the integrity of its underlying data, in the face of serious concerns raised by fellow scientists over a lack of clarity about the countries and hospitals that contributed patient information.   

The scandal cast a shadow over The Lancet and another top medical journal, but it did nothing to clear up the increasingly politicised question of whether or not hydroxychloroquine works as a treatment for COVID-19. 

Openshaw said the Recovery trial should be credited with continuing the research until they could reach a definitive conclusion on hydroxychloroquine. 

“Everyone regrets that it doesn’t work, but knowing that allows us to focus on finding drugs that actually help recovery from COVID-19,” he added. 

Oxford professor Peter Horby, the lead investigator on the Recovery Trial, said there was probably a “very large number” of people around the world taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, with countries including the U.S., China and Brazil authorising it. 

A separate clinical trial on Wednesday in the U.S. and Canada found that taking hydroxychloroquine shortly after being exposed to COVID-19 does not work to prevent infection significantly better than a placebo.

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City asking people to wear masks on buses, but not mandatory – GuelphToday

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As the city prepares to allow more riders on Guelph Transit buses, it is asking riders to wear a non-medical mask or face covering.

They are not mandatory.

Free 30-minute Guelph Transit service will continue for the rest of June but the city says thta with more businesses reopening and more people heading back to work, Guelph Transit is preparing to resume fare collection and regular schedules later in the summer.

In a news release Friday morning, the city said the request is based advice from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

“According to health officials, wearing a homemade face covering/non-medical mask is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. Wearing a mask has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, but it can help protect others around you,” the release said.

“As the buses get busy again, physical distancing may not always be possible. We’re asking riders to wear a non-medical mask or face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Robin Gerus, general manager of Guelph Transit.

Guelph Transit is encouraging face coverings, not requiring them.

“It’s becoming more common to wear a mask on public transit in other cities, but it’s new for Guelph. Some riders may not be aware of or understand the latest guidelines from health officials. Some may not have resources to purchase or make a mask, or they may have a medical reason for not wearing one,” added Gerus. Everyone is welcome to use Guelph Transit, and we’re asking people to protect and respect each other as ridership increases.”

Since March, Guelph Transit made the following adjustments to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • free 30-minute service allows passengers to avoid using the farebox and board from the rear door
  • plastic barrier between the driver and passengers
  • hand sanitizing stations and cleaning supplies for drivers
  • no more than 10 people per bus
  • blocked several seats to encourage physical distancing between passengers

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City and Guelph Transit encourage riders to continue following the latest advice from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health:

  • wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer
  • stay at least two metres away from people you don’t live with
  • when you can’t maintain physical distancing, wear a non-medical mask or face covering

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WHO resumes hydroxychloroquine trial on Covid-19 patients – ITIJ

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On May 25, WHO suspended the trial of the drug, which is usually used to treat malaria patients, after a study published in medical journal The Lancet found that Covid-19 hospitalised patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had a higher risk of death, as well as an increased frequency of irregular heartbeats, than those who weren’t treated with it. 

However, WHO officials have since asserted that there is no evidence that the drug reduces the mortality in these patients, and the study has since been retracted over data concerns. 

“The executive group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of solidarity trial including hydroxychloroquine,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference 3 June, adding that WHO planned to continue to monitor the safety of the therapeutics being tested in trials involving over 3,500 patients spanning over 35 countries. 

“WHO is committed to accelerating the development of effective therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics as part of our commitment to serving the world with science, solutions and solidarity,” Ghebreyesus said. 

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