Health Highlights: April 1, 2020
Half of People With Coronavirus Don't Have Symptoms, Iceland Testing Shows Why Germany Has Far Fewer Coronavirus Deaths Than Neighboring Countries WalMart Will Check All Workers' Temperatures Imported Masks, Other Medical Supplies Arriving in U.S.
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Half of People With Coronavirus Don't Have Symptoms, Iceland Testing Shows
Up to half of people who test positive for the new coronavirus don't have symptoms, results from Iceland show.
As of March 31, more than 17,900 people in Iceland had been tested for the virus, nearly 5% of its population, CNN reported.
The National University Hospital tests people who are high-risk or have symptoms, but nearly half the tests have been conducted in the wider population by biopharma company deCODE Genetics.
Fewer than 1% of the tests conducted by the company were positive for coronavirus, but about 50% of people who tested positive had no symptoms, company founder Kari Stefansson told CNN.
That supports previous research suggesting that people with no or mild symptoms play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus.
"What it means in my mind, is that because we are screening the general population, we are catching people early in the infection before they start showing symptoms," Stefansson told CNN.
Why Germany Has Far Fewer Coronavirus Deaths Than Neighboring Countries
Early, widespread testing could be the reason why Germany has much lower rates of coronavirus deaths than neighboring countries, experts say.
As of Wednesday, Germany had more than 71,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 775 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, the Associated Press reported.
In contrast, Italy has reported almost 106,000 infections and more than 12,400 deaths, Spain has more than 102,000 cases with over 9,000 deaths, France has four times as many deaths as Germany and Britain has twice as many, even though both countries have fewer reported infections.
While a number of factors may explain the differences between Germany and the other countries, some experts believe an important reason is early and widespread testing in Germany, which had a test ready in mid-January.
"The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths at the moment compared to the number of infected can be largely explained by the fact that we are doing an extremely large number of lab diagnoses," virologist Dr. Christian Drosten, whose team developed the first test for the new virus at Berlin's Charité hospital, told the AP.
Germany can conduct up to 500,000 tests a week, according to Drosten.
Spain tests 105,000 to 140,000 people a week -- about 20-30% of Germany's capability, and Italy did about 200,000 tests over the past week, but that's due to a significant recent increase, the AP reported.
As well as being quick to start widespread testing, Germany's universal health system covered the costs of the tests, which were available to everyone with symptoms who either recently traveled to a coronavirus hotspot or had close contact with somone confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.
Then there's the availability of ICU beds. Italy had 8.6 intensive care unit beds per 100,000 people before the outbreak, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development. By comparison, Germany's most recent available figure is 33.9 per 100,000, or about 28,000 in total, a number the government wants to double.
"We are well prepared today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," Dr. Uwe Janssens, who heads Germany's Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the AP.
WalMart Will Check All Workers' Temperatures
The temperatures of all workers at Walmart stores, clubs and facilities will be taken when they show up for work, according to updated coronavirus health and safety guidelines announced Tuesday by the company.
Employees with a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be sent home for at least three days and may be advised to seek medical treatment. The workers will be paid for showing up for work, CBS News reported.
Walmart is sending infrared thermometers to all locations, which could take as long as three weeks. Along with having their temperature taken, employees will be asked basic health screening questions.
Employees should not fear losing their jobs if they decide against coming to work because they don't feel well or have any coronavirus symptoms, including coughing, aches or breathing issues, according to Walmart.
The company also said that it's working on making masks and gloves available to all workers in the next 1-2 weeks, CBS News reported.
Another measure is implementation of the "6-20-100" rule, which instructs employees to stay 6 feet away from others, spend 20 seconds washing their hands, and to stay home if their temperature is over 100 degrees.
Imported Masks, Other Medical Supplies Arriving in U.S.
For the first time since February, imported N95 medical masks are arriving in the United States, but they're not nearly enough to meet demand as COVID-19 cases climb.
The U.S. has a critical shortage of medical supplies, many of which come from China. Prior to this week, the last time that medical-grade N95 masks from China arrived in the United States was on Feb. 19, the Associated Press reported.
Recently, 24 pallets of the masks made at a 3M factory in Singapore arrived at the port of Los Angeles, 130,000 of the masks from Southeast Asia were on a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-booked cargo plane that landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the humanitarian aid group DirectRelief expects 80,000 masks to soon arrive at Los Angeles International Airport.
In a written statement, FEMA said that it's established an "air bridge" to quickly bring medical supplies to the U.S. from factories in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, Honduras and Mexico, the AP reported.
The flight that landed at Kennedy Airport was the first of those FEMA flights. Along with the 130,000 N95 masks, the 80-ton shipment that included 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10.3 million gloves and thousands of thermometers destined for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Other FEMA flights arrived Monday in Chicago with supplies to be shipped to other states, and another 19 flights are scheduled, with more flights being added daily, the AP reported.