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Health Highlights: Sept. 18, 2020

Last Updated: September 18, 2020.

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

Drug May Reduce Need for Ventilators in COVID-19 Patients

An inflammation-fighting medicine was associated with reduced use of ventilators among COVID-19 patients, according to a study that included mainly Hispanics and Blacks.

The study was conducted by Roche, which sells the IV drug tocilizumab (Actemra and RoActemra) to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases, the Associated Press reported.

The study included 389 people in the United States, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. Of the participants, about 85% were Hispanic, Black, Native American or other ethnic or racial minorities -- groups that have been disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

About 12% of patients who received the drug needed a breathing machine or died within 28 days, compared with about 19% of those in the placebo group, the AP reported.

Death rates were 8.6% among those who received the drug and 10.4% among those who received the placebo, but the difference is so small that it might have been by chance.

Roche said it would quickly publish the results, which haven't yet been reviewed by independent scientists, the AP reported.

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Long-Term Fatigue Common in COVID-19 Survivors

More than half of COVID-19 survivors have fatigue months after they've recovered from the illness, a new study finds.

It included 128 recovered patients about 2-and-a-half months after their illness, when it was expected that their symptoms would have subsided, NBC News reported.

Even people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized reported long-term fatigue.

The study, which hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal, will be presented at a virtual meeting of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, NBC News reported.

"This study highlights the importance of assessing those recovering from COVID-19 for symptoms of severe fatigue, irrespective of severity of initial illness, and may identify a group worthy of further study and early intervention," the study authors wrote.

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Controversial COVID Testing Guidelines Posted on CDC Website Without Scientific Review

U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) officials wrote a controversial recommendation about COVID-19 testing that appeared on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website over the objections of CDC scientists, according to The New York Times.

The guidance -- which was posted on Aug. 24 and widely criticized by experts -- said it wasn't necessary to test people without symptoms of COVID-19 even if they'd been exposed to the virus, and was posted on the CDC website when public health experts were urging more testing, not less.

The recommendation originated with the CDC and was revised with input from the agency's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, according to Trump administration officials.

However, people familiar with the matter told the Times that HHS staff did the rewriting and then "dropped" the guidance into the CDC's public website without first going through the agency's scientific review process.

"That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the [White House] task force [on the coronavirus]," said an official with knowledge of the controversy. "That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy."

It's not clear why the recommendation on testing bypassed the usual CDC review, according to Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration's testing coordinator and an assistant secretary at the HHS, the CDC's parent organization.

"I think you have to ask Dr. Redfield about that. That certainly was not any direction from me whatsoever," he told the Times, which couldn't reach Redfield for comment.

A new version of the testing guidance that's expected to be posted Friday also hasn't gone through CDC's review process and is being revised by HHS officials, a federal official told the newspaper.

"The idea that someone at HHS would write guidelines and have it posted under the CDC banner is absolutely chilling," Dr. Richard Besser, who served as acting director at the CDC in 2009, told the Times.

"HHS and the White House writing scientifically inaccurate statements such as 'don't test all contacts' on CDC's website is like someone vandalizing a national monument with graffiti," Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director of the agency during the Obama administration, told the newspaper.

"Suggesting that asymptomatic people don't need testing is just a prescription for community spread and further disease and death," Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, told the Times.

It was recently revealed that Trump appointees at HHS interfered with the CDC's weekly scientific reports on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Warning About Potentially Deadly Mosquito-Borne Virus in Michigan

Some Michigan residents are being told to stay indoors after dark and protect themselves from mosquito bites as the state tries to contain the spread of a rare but potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease called Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

A suspected case of EEE in a resident of Barry County was announced earlier this week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, CNN reported.

The case "shows this is an ongoing threat to the health and safety of Michiganders and calls for continued actions to prevent exposure, including aerial treatment," Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the department's chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in a statement.

"MDHHS continues to encourage local officials in the affected counties to consider postponing, rescheduling or canceling outdoor activities occurring at or after dusk, particularly those involving children to reduce the potential for people to be bitten by mosquitoes."

EEE has been confirmed in 22 horses across 10 counties, which is twice the number of animal cases recorded in the state by this time last year, CNN reported.

Aerial treatment in several "high-risk areas" is underway to reduce mosquito populations, state officials said.


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