Coronavirus morning recap: Test swab stuck in woman’s lung, and Covid corruption latest

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | PICS: Swab gets stuck inside woman’s lung during coronavirus test

A 51-year-old patient ended up with a snapped coronavirus test swab inside her lung after it was inserted into a breathing tube in her neck, a BMJ case report revealed.

The woman was undergoing brain surgery in a UK hospital to remove a fragment of her skull. As part of her treatment, a tracheostomy tube – placed into the windpipe to assist with breathing – was fitted.

After the operation, medical staff at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS (National Health Service) Trust sent the patient to undergo a coronavirus test as part of normal protocol before discharging her to a nursing home.

Since the patient had been breathing through the hole in her neck and could have potentially become infected with the virus through this airway, medical staff took a swab through her tracheostomy tube.

However, a nurse carrying out the test felt the swab snap during the procedure, and part of it ended up in the patient’s windpipe.

The test swab is designed to snap into a test tube to be sent to the lab.

According to the case report, the patient became "momentarily unsettled" and began breathing more heavily for a while before returning to normal.

A CT scan of the woman's chest was performed, but the images did not reveal any signs of a foreign object. However, it did indicate an unusual swelling in the lower part of her right lung.

READ | Some younger people get severe Covid-19 and scientists think they are close to finding out why

One of the lingering questions of the Covid-19 pandemic is why the disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, appears to hit older people harder than young adults and children.

A new study suggests that one of the answers may have to do with our antibodies.

"We found that persons with serious Covid-19 disease have antibodies that are blocking so-called interferons, which are an important part of the body's defence mechanism," Professor Eystein Husebye from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway said in a news release issued by the university.

Husebye conducted the study together with his French colleagues and their findings were published in the journal Science.

He has had plenty of experience with patients who have autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS1) – a serious, but rare, immune disease.

Patients who have APS1 have a high concentration of antibodies against interferons. Interferons are proteins that are produced by the body's cells and they act as a defensive response to viruses.

Huseybe and his team found that if patients who have APS1 become infected with Covid-19, their bodies work against their own immune systems.

This response, the authors wrote, was also seen in patients who had milder immune diseases.

"It is relatively easy to see if young people with Covid-19 have these antibodies in their blood. If so, it might be possible to supply them with extra interferons as treatment," Husebye explained.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 706 304.

According to the latest update, 18 656 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 639 568 recoveries.

So far, close to 4.6 million tests have been conducted, with 15 366 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Wednesday morning, positive cases worldwide were over 40.6 million, while deaths were close to 1.2 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 8.2 million, as well as the most deaths - just over 220 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | Gauteng closes three quarantine sites, only one to remain open until Jan 2021

The Nasrec field hospital that was contracted by the Gauteng provincial government to be used for isolation and quarantine of Covid-19 positive patients in the province, will remain open until January 2021.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the province's health department said two of its quarantine and isolation sites - Telkom in Olifantsfontein and Transnet in Esselen Park - were already closed in August, while the third site, Eskom in Midrand, was expected to close by the end of November.

This was due to low demand for services in these facilities, and the need to make use of the venues by the owners, said the department.

It also added the threat of Covid-19 infections had not been "completely reduced" in the province to justify Nasrec being closed at this stage.

"The projected peak was not realised by end of September 2020 as per initial projections, the threat of the second wave of infections still remains, according to the World Health Organisation,"acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo said.

"The province is cautious on its decisions to start reducing the number of beds outside hospital environments without consideration of underlying threats of a second wave which is evidently being realised in other countries."

READ | Covid-19 corruption: Hawks to make more arrests this week, 80 000 illegal payments yet to be probed

With another round of Covid-19 corruption arrests expected this week, the Hawks have seen an influx of cases with about 80 000 identified illegal payments the elite crime busting unit needs to investigate.

While the workload mounted, a "multi-disciplinary and collaborative" approach between the various law enforcement agencies had yielded positive results.

The Fusion Centre, established to deal with Covid-19 graft, had also prioritised cases identified to be heard in court.

This emerged as Hawks head, General Godfrey Lebeya, met with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

The Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)briefed Scopa on the progress made with investigations into Covid-19-related corruption.

Lebeya told MPs that the country could expect some "successes" as the Hawks made more Covid-19 corruption arrests this week.He also said the Hawks had established teams in all provinces, including at the headquarters in Pretoria.

He said: "All teams are led by officers at a level of brigadier, comprising of all capabilities within the Hawks. A major-general from the Priority Crime Specialised Investigation has been appointed to oversee and monitor all investigations relating to the Covid-19 pandemic nationally, as wellas to assist with any challenges that may arise from the investigations.

"These teams are working in collaboration with the NPA, as well as the SIU in the provinces."

READ | Covid-19: 30 Fort Hare students test positive after nights out at tavern and bash

A total of 30 students from the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape tested positive forCovid-19 after going out for a night of drinks at a tavern in Quigney, and a week later attended abash, the university confirmed.

According to the university, the students tested positive after alleged non-compliance to alertLevel 1 regulations, claiming masks were not worn, social distancing not observed and no washing and sanitising of hands at a tavern in Quigney.

Fort Hare spokesperson Tandi Mapukata said the East London campus students went to thetavern on 3 October.

"This non-compliance was also evident on [10 October] where the '10-10 2020 Bash' was held in Quigney", added Mapukata.

The Department of Health in the Eastern Cape then launched a testing and tracing campaign after the breakout.

"Most of the students that tested positive are from the Nursing Science Faculty and [to] a lesser degree of the Law Faculty", Mapukata said.

She said two students who tested positive went home: one to Mount Fletcher and the other toReston in East London.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | US, Europe still aren't quarantining correctly, WHO says

Coronavirus cases are ticking up across many parts of Europe and North America, signaling the beginning of a new wave of this pandemic.

The number of new confirmed cases is rising especially fast in the US, UK, Italy, and Belgium but the increase is not limited to those spots. 

"About half of our member states within the European region have experienced a 50% increase in cases in the last week," World Health Organization executive director of health emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan said during a virtual press briefing from Geneva on Monday.

"Clearly, across the board, we're seeing a large increase in cases."

Part of the reason for the increase in cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, across so much of the Northern Hemisphere right now is because as temperatures fall, more gatherings are being held indoors, where the virus spreads best. 

But there is also one neglected virus-fighting strategy that Ryan says is a major reason why the virus isn't going away in certain places.

There is one more measure in addition to widespread mask wearing, handwashing, and social distancing that is essential to combatting the virus' spread, and preventing more deaths, and it is not being done enough: Get people who've been exposed to the virus away from everybody else, fast. 

READ | Covid-19 wrap | Madrid hospital 'swamped' with cases, Ireland first EU country to re-enter lockdown

At Severo Ochoa hospital in a Madrid suburb badly-hit during the pandemic's first wave, the intensive care unit is once again full and exhausted medics dread a repeat of the same"horror".

"We're swamped," admits Ricardo Diaz Abad, head of intensive care at this hospital in Leganes, south-west of Madrid, standing in front of the unit's 12 beds, all filled with gravely ill Covid-19 patients.

"Unfortunately we lost two patients" overnight, he tells AFP as nurses tend to the patients, who range in age from 54 to nearly 80, through a glass window.

Unlike the first wave when the hospital did not have enough beds for Covid patients, "we can now treat them because we have created space", said Diaz Abad.

In other international news, Mexico City's mayor on Monday warned tighter coronavirus curbs could come into effect later in the week as Covid-19 hospitalisations in the sprawling capital rose.

"We still have time to take preventative measures to keep (hospitalizations) from increasing in the coming weeks," Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told reporters, noting that hospital beds for coronavirus patients are just under half-full.

Hospitalisations have ticked up for nearly 10 days, and officials are monitoring the trend this week to determine if it indicates an upswing of infections in Mexico's biggest urban hub - a metropolis of some 9 million people ringed by dense suburban sprawl.

Sheinbaum said she did not want to ban any activity outright, but would consider limitations such as reducing operating hours of some businesses to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed and to avoid more deaths.

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images

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