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Health Highlights: April 17, 2020

Last Updated: April 17, 2020.

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

Asthma Not Common in COVID-19 Patients Who've Died

Asthma is not among the top 10 chronic health problems in people who've died from COVID-19 in New York State, even though many health experts have warned that people with asthma are at increased risk for severe illness if they get the coronavirus.

Data released this month by New York State, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, show that only about 5% of COVID-19 patients who've died had asthma, The New York Times reported.

The state said the top 10 co-existing (comorbid) health conditions in COVID-19 patients who've died are: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, dementia, the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, cancer and congestive heart failure.

"We're not seeing a lot of patients with asthma," Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told the Times. The hospital has treated more than 800 COVID-19 cases.

The more common risk factors among COVID-19 patients are "morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease," Mina said.

There is little research on the association between asthma and COVID-19 at the moment, and the findings aren't consistent.

It's "striking" that asthma appeared "to be underrepresented in the comorbidities reported for patients with COVID-19" a group of European researchers wrote in a recent commentary in The Lancet medical journal, the Times reported.

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Coal Plant Pollution Rule Scrapped by Trump Administration

A rule requiring coal plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other human health hazards has been reversed by the Trump administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency's rollback of the Obama-era rule is designed to limit future regulation of air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, the Associated Press reported.

Critics slammed the Trump administration for a series of rollbacks on industry pollution controls while the public is focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

The easing of those regulations means the "EPA is all but ensuring that higher levels of harmful air pollution will make it harder for people to recover in the long run" from COVID-19, given the lasting harm the illness does to patients' hearts and lungs, said Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the senior Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the AP reported.

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Dogs May be Able to Detect COVID-19: Researchers

British researchers are trying to train dogs to sniff out COVID-19 to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The team noted that there's widespread need for more testing and said that dogs may be able to supplement current testing efforts by helping to check up to 250 people an hour with noninvasive screening, CBS News reported.

The researchers said they've "begun preparations to intensively train dogs so they could be ready in six weeks."

Trained dogs can detect a number of medical conditions, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, malaria and cancer, CBS News reported.

It's not known if COVID-19 has a specific odor, "but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odor so there is a chance that it does," researcher James Logan said in a statement.


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