Health Highlights: April 27, 2020

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

No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Can’t be Reinfected: WHO

There is “no evidence” that people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 can’t be reinfected with the coronavirus that causes the illness, according to the World Health Organization.

The agency said that even though survivors have antibodies to the coronavirus, they may not provide adequate protection against a second infection, CBS New reported.

The WHO issued the warning as the United States and a number of other countries consider issuing people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 with “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates that would allow to return to work and other activities, based on the assumption that they’re immune to the coronavirus.

But the WHO said issuing such documentation could increase the spread of the coronavirus, CBS News reported.

“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection,” WHO said. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”


Boris Johnson Returns to Work Amid Growing UK Coronavirus Crisis

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to work Monday after recovering from COVID-19, his government faces growing criticism over the deaths and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson was hospitalized and spent three nights in intensive care. He was released from a London hospital on April 12, but hasn’t been seen in public since, the Associated Press reported.

Britain has recorded 20,732 deaths among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the fifth country to exceed 20,000 deaths. It’s believed that thousands more have died in nursing homes.

Britain’s death toll could have been lower if Johnson’s Conservative government had imposed a nationwide lockdown sooner, according to opposition politicians, who also want to know when and how the government will ease restrictions implemented March 23 and scheduled to last until at least May 7, the AP reported.

“Decisions need to be taken quicker and communication with the public needs to be clearer,” opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said in a letter to Johnson.

“The British public have made great sacrifices to make the lockdown work,” he wrote. “They deserve to be part of an adult conversation about what comes next.”

There will be no dramatic sudden change to the restrictions, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been filling in for Johnson, the AP reported.


Southern California Beaches Jammed During Heat Wave

People swarmed to Southern California beaches, rivers and trails on Sunday during a heat wave, causing officials to warn that ignoring stay-at-home orders could result in a resurgence of the coronavirus.

As temperatures reached close to 90 degrees, Newport Beach in Orange County attracted tens of thousands of people as lifeguards reminded people to stay apart if they were in groups of six or more, the Orange County Register reported.

Nearby Huntington Beach also had large crowds even though parking lots were closed and metered parking was restricted along the Pacific Coast Highway.

“Unless all these people are in one household, it does look like they are not social distancing,” Robin Ford told the Register. “They could be spread out more.”


Heartburn Drug Being Tested as COVID-19 Treatment

COVID-19 patients at some New York hospitals are receiving heartburn medicine as part of a clinical trial.

The patients are being given famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, and early results from the trial could be available in the next few weeks, according to Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, which has 23 hospitals in the New York City area, CNN reported.

The clinical trial has 187 patients so far, with the goal of enrolling 1,200, Tracey said.

He and his colleagues decided to assess the use of famotidine in COVID-19 patients after observations in China that some patients taking the drug had better outcomes than those not taking the drug, CNN reported.

“We don’t know if it has any benefit. We really don’t. I swear we don’t,” Tracey said. “People are hoping for anything. But we need to do this clinical trial.”

He noted that the patients in the clinical trial are in the hospital receiving mega-doses of famotidine intravenously — doses about nine times greater than a person would normally take for heartburn, CNN reported.

“You should not go to the drugstore and take a bunch of heartburn medicine,” Tracey warned.