CLEVELAND, Ohio — COVID-19 is unlikely to have escaped from a Wuhan lab, and new research predicts that the COVID-19 vaccines will need to be updated if the pandemic continues.
Cleveland.com is rounding up some of the most notable coronavirus news making headlines online. Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday, March 30.
Lab leak unlikely start to pandemic
COVID-19 likely first passed to humans from a bat through an intermediary animal, with investigators all but ruling out a laboratory leak, an international expert mission to Wuhan concluded in a report seen Monday.
The intermediate host hypothesis was deemed “likely to very likely,” while the theory that the virus escaped from a lab was seen as “extremely unlikely,” according to a copy of the final report.
Health experts believe that coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, originally came from bats.
“Although the closest related viruses have been found in bats, the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link,” the report said.
COVID-19 vaccines updated
While the pandemic continues, COVID-19 vaccines will need to be updated to stay effective, predicts a group of researchers in a study recently published in Virus Evolution. However, a few years after the pandemic has faded, COVID-19 vaccines are likely to remain effective for longer. Scientists compared the evolution of viruses that cause the common cold with influenza viruses to draw their conclusions.
Americans asked to stay vigilant
President Joe Biden on Monday urged governors and local leaders who dropped mask mandates to reinstate their orders and indicated some states should wait before reopening their economies.
During a press briefing, Biden announced a series of plans to vastly expand access to the vaccines in the coming weeks. He also supported the warnings from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said earlier on Monday that the U.S. is facing “impending doom” as daily COVID-19 cases begin to rebound once again.
Positive COVID-19 cases among Americans have increased by 10.6%, compared to the previous seven-day period. Hospitalizations and deaths, which are a lagging indicator, also rose over the last seven days, by 4.2% and 2.6%, respectively.
Study sheds light on how COVID-19 affects brain
A new review of past studies sheds light on how COVID-19 damages the brain, leading to symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, brain fog and suicidal thoughts.
The body’s immune response to COVID-19 creates a cytokine storm that can activate immune cells in the brain, possibly leading to brain damage, altered learning, memory, hallucinations, and nightmares.
The coronavirus may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, causing autonomic changes such as shortness of breath, sweating and rapid heart rate, researchers said. The study was recently published in JAMA Psychology.
The virus itself may cross the blood-brain barrier, too, and in the brain stem, could prompt anxiety and autonomic changes such as rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and sweating.
Pandemic’s mental health toll rises
A new national survey found that the COVID-19 pandemic is still increasing the number of Americans feeling anxious or depressed. The survey, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at the use of mental health care among adults between August and February.
During those months, adults who recently felt anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, while those reporting that their mental health care needs were unmet increased from 9.2% to 11.7%. Increases were largest among adults aged 18–29 years and those with less than a high school education, the report said.
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