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Health Highlights: March 20, 2020

Hong Kong Has Spike in Coronavirus Cases Blood Type May Affect COVID-19 Risk: Study E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Clover Sprouts Rises to 39 Cases in Six States Antiviral Drug Combo Ineffective Against Coronavirus

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

Hong Kong Has Spike in Coronavirus Cases

A record one-day spike of 48 coronavirus cases occurred Friday in Hong Kong as thousands of people returned to the city this week ahead of widening travel restrictions.

In response to the sudden surge of cases, officials announced new quarantine measures that require anyone arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days, the Washington Post reported.

The 48 cases represent about a quarter of all cases previously recorded in Hong Kong, which now as more than 250 confirmed infections.

The city is "at the highest risk since this began," said Gabriel Leung, chair of public health at Hong Kong University who is serving on the Hong Kong government's coronavirus committee, according to the South China Morning Post, the Washington Post reported.

"When one patient passes the virus to two people in the community to form an unknown number of hidden transmission chains, then it's very likely that we will have 400 to 600 cases in the next two weeks," Leung said.


Blood Type May Affect COVID-19 Risk: Study

A person's blood type may affect their risk for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, researchers report.

They analyzed blood samples from nearly 2,200 COVID-19 patients in China and tens of thousands of healthy people, and found those with A blood types had a significantly higher risk of COVID-19 while those with O blood types had a significantly lower risk, Newsweek reported.

The findings appear on the website medRxiv, where health researchers publish studies before they undergo the peer review process required by journals.

The researchers said blood type-related differences in COVID-19 risk may be due to certain antibodies in the blood, but further studies are needed to confirm this, Newsweek reported.

The finding that blood type may affect COVID-19 risk could be important for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, because those with A blood types" "might need particularly strengthened personal protection to reduce the chance of infection."

Also, people with A blood types might require "more vigilant surveillance and aggressive treatment," and identifying a person's blood type as a routine part of treating COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections might be helpful, according to the researchers, Newsweek reported.

The study was limited because of its small size and it didn't offer an explanation for its findings, Gao Yingdai, a researcher from the State Key Laboratory of Experimental Hematology in Tianjin, told the South China Morning Post.

The study "may be helpful to medical professionals, but ordinary citizens should not take the statistics too seriously," said Gao,who did not work on the study, Newsweek reported.

"If you are type A, there is no need to panic. It does not mean you will be infected 100 percent," she said, addingm "If you are type O, it does not mean you are absolutely safe, either. You still need to wash your hands and follow the guidelines issued by authorities."


E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Clover Sprouts Rises to 39 Cases in Six States

The number of cases in an E. coli outbreak linked to clover sprouts has reached 39 in six states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

There were 25 new cases reported since the CDC's last update on Feb. 26, 2020. Two people have been hospitalized. Cases have been reported in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Florida and Utah.

On March 16, Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing red clover sprouts, and the CDC has advised all consumers, restaurants and retailers to not eat, serve or sell recalled products containing sprouts from Chicago Indoor Garden.

Children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems -- such as those with diabetes, cancer or HIV/AIDS -- should not eat raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts), because sprouts are a known source of foodborne illness, the CDC said.


Antiviral Drug Combo Ineffective Against Coronavirus

An antiviral drug combination tested as a treatment for the coronavirus was ineffective, researchers say.

The study of Kaletra, a combination of the antiviral medicines lopinavir and ritonavir, included 199 adults, ages 48 to 68, in China who were hospitalized and severely ill, The New York Times reported.

"No benefit was observed," wrote the authors of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The two antiviral drugs are normally used to treat HIV.

While the study results were disappointing, the researchers suggested that more studies might determine if the drugs would be effective if given at an earlier stage of the illness or in combination with other medicines, The Times reported.

There is no proven drug treatment for the new coronavirus. Several antiviral drugs have been considered possible treatments, but so far none have been shown to be effective.

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