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article imageEpidemiology of COVID-19 and the public health response

By Tim Sandle     Nov 24, 2020 in Science
The coronavirus pandemic has a considerable impact upon health services and the public health response. The responses require new approaches and different ways of working, from caring for newborns, to schools, and the workplace.
There are a umber of health related issues that require exploring, in relation to COVID-19. For example, is the recommendation to keep mother and baby together even when maternal COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed appropriate? A different area of inquiry is whether schools are major sources of coronavirus infections. These, and other important areas of health research, are summarized below.
Severe COVID-19 infection rare in newborns
UK-wide analysis of COVID-19 infections in newborns across the UK suggests that severe COVID-19 infection is rare in newborn babies. The study found 66 babies required hospital treatment for COVID-19 infection within the review period. This is the equivalent of 1 in 1785 births, or 0.06 percent of births, reports the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The importance of the research is that it provides an indication of the infection rates with babies, compared with the general population. This also supports policies that keep a baby and mother together under circumstances where the mother shows symptoms of COVID-19.
Why schools probably aren't COVID hotspots
Young children are unlikely to spread the virus - but older kids are more at risk, say researchers. The research, reported in Nature News, looks at the concerns that the opening of schools would lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. This is not necessarily the case, based on the current data. The study shows that children can catch the virus and shed viral particles, and older children are more likely than very young kids to pass it on to others. However, global data indicates that outbreaks in schools were uncommon, particularly when precautions were taken to reduce transmission.
Healthcare workers and their households at increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation
During the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland, whilst the absolute risk remained low, patient-facing healthcare workers were at three-fold higher risk of hospitalisation with COVID-19 than the general population, according to a new study.
Such is the level of risk for those working in hospitals, it stands that healthcare workers and their families accounted for one in six of all individuals hospitalised with COVID-19.
The science of superspreading
Science Magazine explains why preventing hot spots of transmission is key to stopping the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 superspreading events have been reported around the world. They happen in all sorts of places: bars and barbecues, gyms and factories, schools and churches, and on ships.
The best way to address such events and the subsequent impact, the article argues, is to prevent large public gatherings. The more people that are within the same indoor venue, then the greater the risk of transmission and infection becomes.
How to stop restaurants from driving COVID infections
Building on the previous topic of superspreaders, U.S. mobile data suggests restaurants, gyms and cafes can be COVID hotspots, reports Nature news. These areas, where there are large numbers of people, represent the main areas to avoid. This is irrespective of any local lockdown measures in place.
The associated study reveals how reducing occupancy in venues can significantly cut the number of infections.
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