Health Highlights: March 25, 2020
U.S. Social Distancing Efforts May Be Working, Fever Study Hints Nearly 4,000 Amazon Accounts Suspended for Price Gouging Malaysian Medical Glove Makers Operating With Half of Normal Workforce FDA Eases Access to Blood Plasma Treatment for Coronavirus Patients China to Lift Lockdown on Wuhan, Origin of COVID-19 Pandemic
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Social Distancing Efforts May Be Working, Fever Study Hints
Social distancing measures such as closing restaurants, bars and other nonessential businesses is slowing the spread of thre new coronavirus in the United States, early evidence suggests.
Data show that the number of people with fever that's an early indication of coronavirus infection started falling almost immediately after social distancing measures took effect in some areas, USA Today reported.
The findings are from health technology company Kinsa, which analyzed fever readings from more than 1 million thermometers in use across the U.S.
"When you shut down schools and businesses, you are breaking the chain of infections," Kinsa CEO Inder Singh told USA Today. "The data are showing it is working and the clusters of fever we were seeing are leveling off and diminishing within days."
Fever fell more than 60% in Santa Clara County, California since it issued a shelter-in-place order on March 17, while fevers have been on the rise in Miami-Dade County.
State and local governments in Northern California took earlier and more aggressive social distancing action than those in South Florida, USA Today reported.
The data is available for public and scientific analysis, and Kinsa plans to submit it to a medical journal.
These are "interesting results that support public health recommendations and should be independently reviewed," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former top U.S. Food and Drug Administration official and Maryland health commissioner, told USA Today.
Amazon Suspends Nearly 4,000 Accounts for Price Gouging
More than 3,900 accounts have been suspended by Amazon for price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic, and the company also pulled more than half a million offers of products.
"Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping," the company said in a blog post Monday, CBS News reported.
"We have deployed a dedicated team that's working continuously to identify and investigate unfairly priced products that are now in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitizer," according to Amazon.
The company also said it is "proactively sharing information with state attorneys general and federal regulators about sellers we suspect have engaged in egregious price gouging of products related to the COVID-19 crisis," CBS News reported.
Malaysian Medical Glove Makers Operating With Half of Normal Workforce
Malaysia is the world's leading medical glove maker, but its glove factories are operating with half their normal workforce at a time when there's a critical need for medical gloves due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All factories in Malaysia were ordered to close as of March 18. Those deemed essential must seek exemptions to reopen, but to operate with only half their normal number of workers to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, the Associated Press reported.
The government also requires manufacturers to fulfill domestic demand before exporting products.
The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association has asked for an exception, the AP reported.
"Any halt to the production and administrative segments of our industry would mean an absolute stoppage to glove manufacturing and it will be disastrous to the world," association president Denis Low said in a statement.
He said association members have received requests for millions of gloves from about 190 countries, the AP reported.
FDA Eases Access to Blood Plasma Treatment for Coronavirus Patients
Access to a blood plasma treatment for seriously ill coronavirus patients has been made easier by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The agency said Tuesday that it's "facilitating access" for patients with life-threatening infections to receive injections of blood plasma taken from people who've recovered after testing positive for the coronavirus and have antibodies to the virus, CNN reported.
The treatment is being tested in clinical trials by the state of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
The FDA decision is a "big step" forward, Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chief of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN.
"It has a high likelihood of working, but we won't know whether it works until it's done" and enough patients have been treated, he said. "We do know, based on history, it has a good chance," said Casadevall, who has pushed for the plasma treatment.
China to Lift Lockdown on Wuhan, Origin of COVID-19 Pandemic
The lockdown of the city of Wuhan -- where the global coronavirus pandemic started -- will be lifted on April 8, China says.
That will be more than two months after the capital of Hubei province was first sealed off in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus, CNN reported.
Lockdowns of other cities in Hubei province will be lifted Wednesday, provincial officials said Tuesday.
There had been no new coronavirus cases in Hubei for five consecutive days from March 19, compared with thousands of new cases a day in February. On Tuesday, the province reported one new coronavirus case in Wuhan, a doctor at the Hubei General Hospital, CNN reported.
Hubei has had the majority of infections and deaths in China, with 67,801 cases and 3,160 deaths reported as of Monday.