Do you need to wear a face mask outside?

Face masks have become part of our new normal over the past year both indoors and outdoors. While they’re highly recommended inside heavily populated areas like supermarkets/grocery stores and public transport, there’s not much guidance when it comes to outside.

According to Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, the risk of catching COVID-19 outside is quite low.

“The risk of outside transmission is very low because viral particles disperse effectively in the outside air. A study in Wuhan, China, which involved careful contact tracing, discovered that just one of 7,324 infection events investigated was linked to outdoor transmission. In a recent analysis of over 232,000 infections in Ireland, only one case of COVID-19 in every thousand was traced to outdoor transmission. And a scoping review from the University of Canterbury concluded that outdoor transmission was rare, citing the opportunity costs of not encouraging the public to congregate outdoors. Overall, transmission is around 5000 times less likely to happen outside than inside.” (Posted April 27, 2021)

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases doctor and Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

… so, does that mean that we ditch our face masks and get some fresh air? With the vaccination programmes across the world coming along more efficiently and effectively we’re edging closer and closer to that point.

However, until it’s fully safe to do otherwise, we should all continue to maintain social distancing when around people who aren’t in our households, support bubbles or friendship groups.


The quote is taken from Sciline’s ‘Quotes From Experts‘.

Update: EMA concludes that benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks

The EMA safety committee held a meeting on 18th March and found that:

  1. the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects;
  2. the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots in those who receive it;
  3. there is no evidence of a problem related to specific batches of the vaccine or to particular manufacturing sites;
  4. however, the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, i.e. low levels of blood platelets (elements in the blood that help it to clot) with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST).

The full report of the meeting can be found here.

AstraZeneca vaccine suspended in Europe due to safety concerns

Several countries across Europe have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety concerns. There have been reports of blood clotting and deaths in people who have been administered the vaccine.

In comparison, there seems to be little trouble with the rollout of the vaccine in the UK with scientists there insisting that the jab is safe.

What happens next?

The European Medicines Agency is currently reviewing the issue, along with the Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech vaccines which have also been linked to blood clotting. The EMA executive director, Emer Cooke, said:

There is no indication vaccination has caused these [blood clotting] conditions.

However, like with any form of medicine, we will only find the answers through continuous testing.

Currently, WHO has stated that it is safe to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine and indications are that the suspensions may not last, particularly in Europe where some countries are experiencing a third wave of infections.

16th March 2021:

WHO is investigating the reports and working closely with the European Medicines Agency.

As soon as review of the data is finalized, we’ll inform the public of any findings.

For the moment, the European Medicines Agency’s position is that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.

WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) is meeting today to review the reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Source:

On This Day – 14th March

On This Day, Albert Einstein was born. Born 14 March 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Einstein was a renowned physicist who developed the special and general theory of relativity.

He is, perhaps, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century, with his work continuing to have an impact even today (without his breakthroughs, technology such as the computer, television and music players would not have existed).

Einstein was also partial to dropping some notable insight, much of which exists in the form of quotes posted all over the internet.

My personal favourite (and one I need a constant reminder of) is:

If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.


Sources:

Reference

Today In Science

Biography

Mental Health and Social Media

When people ask me if I have social media, I often provide my handles with a caveat.

I don’t post often.

It’s an understatement, really because I hardly post at all. Why? Well, like the video states, I was using it as an escape and it often took all my time and I’d feel terrible after. Instagram in particular has me feeling anxious and nervous so I limit my time on it.

One thing that has always caught my interest is society’s reliance on social media. How often do people wake up and scroll through their Twitter or Facebook feeds? Or during a spare minute, you’re casually on Instagram seeing what your friends are up to. It may seem simple and benign, almost, but we are all taking in this information and processing it whether we are aware or not.

Continue reading “Mental Health and Social Media”

How are we using social media?

Roxanne Cohen Silver, PhD:

Research does make it clear that social media is a larger source of misinformation and rumour than we typically get from traditional media. There isn’t anybody who is monitoring and vetting the information for its truthfulness or its veracity. So we need to step back. How are we using social media? Is it for connection, or is it for information gathering?

Purplexed Science: During the early stages of the pandemic, I admittedly relied heavily on Twitter updates. Not necessarily other people’s tweets, but the curated headlines and conversations Twitter itself would group together. The public’s willingness to be informed is directly linked to how the media has chosen to inform.

I found myself deleting several news notifications I’d set up because it was nothing but COVID-19, and I think that can do two things.

Dilute the information, or expose people to more misinformation. Human beings tend to rationalise what they cannot understand and this pandemic has been no different.

People are using social media for connection, but that also comes with information gathering. People feel a need to share what they’ve learnt with others. Often without stopping to fact check, after all, it’s easier to click a button than it is to input a search term into Google and spend half an hour reading up on a topic you may not necessarily understand.

One solution may be integrating a fact checking service within all social media platforms, or a service that allows people to quickly input information and returns them with a concise and clear explanation. Implementing such a service would be costly and time-consuming, so the buck stops with social media and news outlets. They should be held accountable for what is posted and do their due diligence before misinformation is allowed to spread.

On This Day – 4th Jan

On 4th January 1900, James Bond was born.

Not the James Bond we know as Agent 007, but rather the inspiration behind the character. James Bond was an American ornithologist. Ornithology is the study of the behavior, ecology and environment of birds. James Bond traveled to as many as 100 different countries in pursuit of his knowledge on birds, eventually publishing a book called Birds of the West Indies. This book was seen by James Bond creator and author, Ian Fleming, who was a keen birdwatcher himself – and the rest as they say is history.


References: here and here.

There is a new variant of COVID-19 in the UK

On Saturday 19th December, millions of people were thrown into uncertainty when the UK government announced that Christmas was effectively cancelled. Plans to allow people to travel without restrictions for up to five days were scuppered by the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The variant is named VUI-202012/01.
  • It was detected by the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium
  • There have been more than 1000 cases so far
  • It’s been detected in at least 60 local authorities within the UK
  • It was first spotted in September but seems to be causing a rise of case across the UK now

According to Public Health England, the new variant is not necessarily more dangerous, although research is currently underway.

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and mutations are expected to occur as it replicates. Some variants with changes in the spike protein have already been observed as the virus is intensely sequenced here in the UK and around the world. There is no evidence that the newly-reported variant results in a more severe disease.

Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the department of infectious disease, Imperial College London.

In terms of the vaccine, the mutation that’s caused the new variant has been located in the spike protein — the area targeted by the vaccine. This means it should still be effective. However, more research is being done and we will know more in the coming weeks.


Source: BMJ 2020;371:m4857 (link), Science Focus (link)