Health Highlights: May 8, 2020

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

Antibodies Found in Nearly All People Infected by New Coronavirus: Study

Nearly all people who’ve been infected with the new coronavirus have antibodies to it, according to a new study.

The antibodies could provide these people with some protection against reinfection by the new coronavirus, possibly making it safe for them to return to work. However, it’s unclear how long this protection might last, The New York Times reported.

The Mount Sinai findings were posted online on Tuesday but hasn’t been reviewed by experts.

The study included 624 people who’d tested positive for the new coronavirus, recovered and volunteered to donate convalescent plasma — coronavirus antibodies extracted from the blood, The Times reported.

The analysis was conducted on the first set of donors in the project, which has enrolled 15,000 people so far, said study leader Dr. Ania Wajnberg. Only 3% of these first donors were seen in an emergency department or hospitalized, while the rest had only mild or moderate symptoms.

Of the 624 people tested, 511 had high antibody levels, 42 had low levels and 71 had none. However, 64 participants who initially had low or no antibody levels were retested more than a week later and all but three had at least some antibodies, The Times reported.

That suggests that when people are tested for antibodies can significantly affect the results, according to the researchers.

“We weren’t looking exactly at this, but we had enough to say that 14 days is probably a little too early,” Wajnberg told The Times.

Levels of antibodies were even different at 24 days compared with 20 days, which suggests that the ideal time for an antibody test is long after the start of symptoms, according to Wajnberg.

“What we’re telling people now is at least three weeks after symptom onset,” Wajnberg told The Times.


Malaria Drug Ineffective Against COVID-19 in Another Study

A malaria drug touted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19 was ineffective in patients with the illness caused by the new coronavirus, a new study says.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York City compared 811 patients who received hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin — a combination also promoted by Trump — and 565 patients who didn’t get the malaria drug, the Associated Press reported.

Overall, 180 patients required breathing tubes and 232 died, and hydroxychloroquine did not appear to reduce the risk of either, according to the study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It is disappointing that several months into the pandemic, we do not yet have results” from any strict tests of hydroxychloroquine, some journal editors and other doctors wrote in an accompanying editorial, the AP reported.

This study “suggests that this treatment is not a panacea,” they added.

Hydroxychloroquine, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause potentially serious and deadly side effects, including heart rhythm problems, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it shouldn’t be used to treat coronavirus infections except in studies, the AP reported.


FDA Slashes Number of Approved Chinese Makers of N95 Masks

The number of mask makers in China approved to make N95-type masks for the U.S. healthcare workers was slashed from 80 to 14 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

The cut in approved mask makers comes after U.S. officials found that many imported N95 masks didn’t meet U.S. standards, MarketWatch reported.

For example, tests of 67 different kinds of imported masks showed that 60% failed to meet U.S. standards to filter out 95% of tiny particles. Masks from one Chinese company filtered out only 24-35% of particles.

The FDA’s action reversed a decision it made on April 3 that approved all 80 Chinese N95 mask makers, MarketWatch reported.


Trump Personal Valet Tests Positive for Coronavirus

One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal valets has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The White House confirmed Thursday that the unidentified valet, a member of the U.S. Navy, tested positive after exhibiting symptoms Wednesday morning, CNN reported.

“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States Military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for Coronavirus,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “The President and the Vice President have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”

The valets belong to an elite military unit dedicated to the White House and often work very close to the President and first family. News that someone close to Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus was “hitting the fan” in the West Wing, according to CNN.


U.S. Job Losses During Pandemic Hitting Minorities Hardest

Job losses among Americans during the coronavirus pandemic are nearly twice as high among Hispanics than among whites, and rates among blacks are also higher than among whites, a new survey finds.

The Washington Post-Ipsos poll of 8,000 adults and over 900 laid-off workers found that 20% of Hispanic adults, 16% of blacks, 11% of whites, and 12% of other racial groups have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.

The survey also found that people most likely to have lost their jobs include younger and blue-collar workers, and those without college degrees.

U.S. companies cut 20.2 million jobs from their payrolls in April alone, the ADP Research Institute said Wednesday, the Post reported.

Last month, the Department of Labor said that more than 700,000 jobs had been lost and that the unemployment rate had increased from 3.5% to 4.4%.

Those figures could climb to job losses of more than 20 million and an unemployment rate of 16% when the department this Friday releases the first jobs report covering an entire month of shutdowns, according to said Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute, the Post reported.

COVID-19 death rates are higher among Hispanics and blacks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.