Health Highlights: July 10, 2020

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

WHO Affirms That Coronavirus Can Linger in Indoor Air

The new coronavirus can linger in small airborne droplets indoors, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, after being urged to do so by hundreds of experts.

The WHO now says transmission of the coronavirus by tiny droplets may have been responsible for “outbreaks of COVID-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking or singing,” The New York Times reported.

However, the WHO’s updated description of how the coronavirus spreads still largely emphasizes that it occurs by larger droplets that are coughed or inhaled, or from contact with contaminated surfaces.

The agency also stated unequivocally that the coronavirus can be transmitted by people who don’t have symptoms, the Times reported.


Coronavirus May be Passed From Pregnant Women to Babies: Study

It may be possible for the new coronavirus to be passed from infected pregnant women to their babies, Italian researchers say.

They assessed 31 women with COVID-19 who delivered babies in March and April, and found signs of the virus in several samples of umbilical cord blood and the placenta and one sample of breast milk, the Associated Press reported.

The research was presented at a medical conference being held online.

Still, pregnant women shouldn’t be alarmed, said study leader Dr. Claudio Fenizia, an immunology specialist at the University of Milan.

The findings don’t mean there’s viable coronavirus in the samples and “it’s too early to make guidelines” or to make changes in the care of pregnant women, according to Fenizia, the AP reported.

But more research is needed, especially in women who are infected earlier in their pregnancies, Fenizia said.


WHO to Lead Investigation of Coronavirus Pandemic Origins

The World Health Organization will lead an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China.

Two WHO experts — one in animal health and another in epidemiology — were to arrive in Beijing on Friday and will meet with Chinese officials to make preparations for the mission, the Associated Press reported.

A key part of the investigation will be to “look at whether or not it jumped from species to human, and what species it jumped from,” according to WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris.

It’s believed that the coronavirus may have originated in bats and was transmitted to another mammal before infecting humans, the AP reported.


CDC Now Says School Reopening Guidelines Won’t be Revised

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says the agency won’t revise its guidelines for reopening schools despite pressure from President Donald Trump.

Instead, Dr. Robert Redfield on Thursday told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the CDC will provide additional reference documents, CNN reported.

On Twitter Wednesday morning, Trump attacked current CDC guidelines that outline preventive measures for reopening schools, and threatened to withhold funding from schools that don’t fully reopen in the fall.

Trump’s push to reopen schools goes against the advice of some of the nation’s leading health officials and comes during a spike of coronavirus cases nationwide, CNN reported.

Later on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would issue new recommendations next week.

“Well the president said today, we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said. “That’s the reason why next week, the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”

On Wednesday, Redfield appeared to be in step with Pence, but said Thursday that the agency wouldn’t be changing any guidelines, CNN reported.

“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines; it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward.”

The CDC guidelines include keeping desks six feet apart, children using cloth face coverings, the closure of communal areas like dining rooms and playgrounds, and the installation of physical barriers like sneeze guards where necessary, CNN reported.


Higher Rates of Pain and Bleeding With Essure Birth Control Device: Study

The permanent birth control device Essure is associated with higher rates of chronic lower abdominal or pelvic pain and abnormal uterine bleeding compared to tubal ligation, according to interim results of a post-market study ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It compared Essure and tibal ligation among more than 1,100 women across the United States and found that rates of chronic lower abdominal or pelvic pain were just over 9% in the Essure group and 4.5% in the tubal ligation group, and rates of abnormal uterine bleeding were 16.3% in the Essure group and 10.2% in the tubal ligation group, CNN reported.

The Essure group had higher rates of gynecologic operations — including surgery to remove the device — than the tubal ligation group, while pregnancy rates were similar in the two groups, according to a statement from Dr. Terri Cornelison, director of the FDA’s Health of Women Program.

In 2018, Essure maker Bayer pulled the device from the U.S. market due to concerns about side effects. The FDA told Bayer to extend a post-market surveillance study on Essure from three to five years, CNN reported.

The study is ongoing, and patients are still completing one-year follow-up visits, the FDA said.

“Final analyses of endpoints will not be completed until the study concludes’ in 2025. It is therefore too early to draw any conclusions,” Bayer said in a statement, CNN reported.

“The results of several large, real-world observational studies comparing patients with Essure to patients who have had tubal ligations consistently show that Essure’s safety profile is similar to that of tubal ligation,” Bayer said.