Health Highlights: May 1, 2020

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

New Initiative to Study Coronavirus Genome

At least 75 U.S. public health, academic and commercial institutions will be brought together to study the genome of the new coronavirus in an effort to hasten research into how it’s spreading in the U.S. and how to fight it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Tiny mutations accumulate in the genetic code of a virus as it replicates, and identifying those changes help scientist track transmission patterns and outbreaks, The New York Times reported.

Sharing research on genetic changes in viruses helps combat them, but it’s long been the case that laboratories studying pathogen genomes released only general information about them, often in scientific journals. In some states, patient privacy laws limit the information that scientists can release.

Without context, genetic sequences on their own have little meaning. A goal of this CDC initiative is to standardize the information that should accompany each sequence, such as where and when a sample was taken.

These are crucial details for making use of the data, and it’s hoped that sharing the results of genetic research on the coronavirus will help scientists create vaccines and treatments, The Times reported.


Mental Health Struggles Common During Pandemic Lockdown: Survey

Many American adults are struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey reveals.

The poll was conducted last week and found that two-thirds of respondents said they felt nervous, depressed, lonely or hopeless on at least one of their past seven days, and nearly 2 in 10 said they experienced at least one of those emotions on three or more days, the Associated Press reported.

Women were more likely than men to say they had felt at least one of the negative emotions in the past week, 71% to 56%, according to the COVID Impact Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation.

Younger adults were most likely to experience emotional distress. About 81% of respondents younger than 30, and 70% of those ages 30-44, said they felt nervous, depressed, lonely or hopeless at least one day in the past week, compared with 62% of those ages 45-59 and 48% of those 60 and older, the AP reported.

A positive finding from the survey was that 65% of respondents said they communicated with friends and family by phone, text, email or online “basically every day” in the past month, compared with 54% who said they did that in a typical month before the pandemic.

Another 24% said they are in contact with family and friends a few times a week, the AP reported.


More Airlines to Make Passenger Face Coverings Mandatory

Following the lead of JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines are among other airlines that will soon require passengers to cover their faces during flights.

The three airlines made the announcement Thursday as the industry grapples with how to comply with social-distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

JetBlue was the first U.S. airline to say that it would require passengers to wear face coverings during flights, which takes effect next week.

Delta and United said masks would be mandatory starting Monday, and Frontier Airlines said it would require passengers to wear masks as of May 8, the AP reported.

Other measures being taken by airlines include blocking some or all middle seats to create social distancing.