Health Highlights: July 6, 2020

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

Only 5% of Spain’s Population Has Antibodies to New Coronavirus

Only 5% of Spain’s population has developed antibodies to the new coronavirus, which experts say adds to proof that herd immunity to the virus is “unachievable.”

Herd immunity occurs when enough people have antibodies or are vaccinated against a disease to halt its spread, CNN reported.

The findings from a study of more than 61,000 people in Spain — one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic — suggests that 95% of the population remains susceptible to the new coronavirus. The results were published in the The Lancet medical journal.

“Some experts have computed that around 60% of seroprevalence might mean herd immunity. But we are very far from achieving that number.” study lead author Marina Pollan, director of Spain’s National Center for Epidemiology, told CNN.

“In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable,” Isabella Eckerle, head of the Geneva Center for Emerging Viral Diseases, and Benjamin Meyer, a virologist at the University of Geneva, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

The new findings add to an antibody study on more than 2,700 people in Geneva, Switzerland published in The Lancet in early June, CNN reported.


COVID-19 Claims Life of Broadway Actor Nick Cordero, 41

Broadway musical theater actor Nick Cordero — who’d been hospitalized for three months after contracting the new coronavirus — died Sunday at age 41.

His death Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles was announced on Instagram by his wife, Amanda Kloots. She did not cite a cause, The New York Times reported.

“My darling husband passed away this morning,” she wrote. “He was surrounded in love by his family, singing and praying as he gently left this earth.”

Kloots used Instagram to keep people updated about her husband’s struggles with the coronavirus, including weeks in a medically induced coma and the amputation of his right leg, The Times reported.

Actor Zach Braff, in whose guesthouse Ms. Kloots has been living with her family while Mr. Cordero was hospitalized, said on Twitter: “I have never met a kinder human being. Don’t believe that COVID only claims the elderly and infirm.” Braff was Cordero’s co-star in the musical “Bullets Over Broadway.”


New Coronavirus Can Linger in Indoor Air: Scientists

The new coronavirus can linger in indoor air and infect people, 239 scientists in 32 countries say in an open letter to the World Health Organization that challenges the WHO’s position on how the virus is spread.

The WHO says the virus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, but that those droplets fall quickly to the floor instead of remaining in the air, The New York Times reported.

But the scientists’ letter contends that much smaller exhaled droplets can travel the length of a room through the air and cause infection when they’re inhaled. They plan to publish their letter next week in a scientific journal.

If this type of airborne transmission plays a significant role in the pandemic, there are major implications, according to The Times. Masks may be required indoors, building ventilation systems may need to minimize recirculating air, ultraviolet lights may be required to kill airborne viral particles, and health care workers may need masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients.

However, the WHO’s technical lead on infection control said the evidence for the new coronavirus spreading in the air this way was unconvincing.

“Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” said Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, The Times reported. “There is a strong debate on this.”


Fight Against Coronavirus Threatens Progress Against Other Diseases

Decades of progress against HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases worldwide are threatened by the diversion of resources on the coronavirus pandemic, the International AIDS Society says in a report to be published this week.

“The social distancing efforts and lockdowns to control the spread of it [coronavirus], have disrupted HIV prevention and treatment programs and put vital HIV research on hold,” Dr. Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society, said last week, CNN reported.

The society will outline its concerns during 23rd International AIDS conference, which began Monday.

A survey released in June by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria found that among the 106 countries the international financing nongovernmental organization works in, 85% had disruptions to HIV services, 78% to TB services, and 73% to malaria services, and nearly 20% had major disruptions in services for all three diseases, CNN reported.

These disruptions could result in more than 1 million extra deaths due to the three diseases, according to models by the World Health Organization, Imperial College London and Stop TB partnership.


FDA Warns About Hand Sanitizers With Methanol

A warning about hand sanitizer products that contain methanol (wood alcohol), a substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze, has been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested, and is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizer products, according to the FDA.

It said it’s seen an increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol.

Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.

State officials have reported recent harm among adults and children who ingested hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol, including blindness, hospitalization and death, the FDA said.

Consumers who have hand sanitizers with methanol should immediately stop using them and dispose of the bottle in a hazardous waste container, if available, or dispose of as recommended by your local waste management and recycling center. Don’t flush or pour these products down the drain or mix with other liquids.

There is a list of FDA-tested and recalled hand sanitizers on the agency’s website.

“All Americans should practice good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Unfortunately, there are some companies taking advantage of the increased usage of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk by selling products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients. Consumers and health care providers should not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an agency news release.