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Health Highlights: Sept. 21, 2020

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

CDC Removes New Coronavirus Guidelines Just Days After Posting Them

New U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website guidelines suggesting that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by tiny droplets over a distance greater than six feet and that indoor ventilation is crucial to prevent its spread were removed from the agency's website late Monday morning.

The updated guidelines were posted Friday but removed Monday because they were a website error and don't "reflect our current state of knowledge," according to a top CDC official, the Washington Post reported.

The now-deleted guidelines matched what many scientists and independent public health experts have long been saying -- that the new coronavirus is airborne and transmitted through tiny droplets (aerosols) that hang in the air much longer than larger droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.

"These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection," the now-deleted guidance said. "This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

Previously, the agency said the virus mainly spreads through large droplets that spread up to six feet, the Post reported.

"There is growing evidence that (small) droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes)," the agency said in the deleted guidelines. "In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk."

The CDC didn't suggest any new action to reduce the threat of airborne transmission of the new coronavirus, but experts said the deleted guidelines might have led to public behavior and policy changes.

That was "a major change" for the CDC, Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies how aerosols spread the virus, told the Post after the agency instituted the now-deleted guideline on Friday.

"This is a good thing," Jimenez said at the time, "if we can reduce transmission because more people understand how it is spreading and know what to do to stop it."

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EPA Approves Pine-Sol as Coronavirus Disinfectant

Pine-Sol's original cleaner has been added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of products that can kill the new coronavirus on frequently used surfaces.

Tests by a third-party laboratory that showed the disinfectant can kill the virus within 10 minutes of being used on hard, nonporous surfaces, according to a Clorox Company news release, CNN reported.

To disinfect against the new coronavirus, customers should apply full-strength Pine-Sol with a clean sponge or cloth on a surface, wait 10 minutes, then rinse, the company said. For heavily soiled surfaces, preclean to remove excess dirt.

Users should follow product instructions and pay attention to how long it should be applied to the surface being cleaned, the EPA said.

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AstraZeneca Releases Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Plans

AstraZeneca is the latest drug company to release details about human tests of its coronavirus vaccine in response to public demand for such information.

Americans have increasing doubts about a coronavirus vaccine and experts are worried that an unproven or unsafe vaccine may be released prematurely due to pressure from President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported.

AstraZeneca's clinical trials have prompted particular concern because the company has refused to provide details about serious neurological illnesses in two participants in Britain. The cases led the company to halt its trials twice. They're still on hold in the U.S. but have resumed in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa.

"If there are two cases, then this starts to look like a dangerous pattern," Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Science University, told the Times. "If a third case of neurological disease pops up in the vaccine group, then this vaccine may be done."

AstraZeneca's "release of these [trial] protocols seems to reflect some public pressure to do so," Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and expert in clinical trial design for vaccines at the University of Florida, told the Times. "This is an unprecedented situation, and public confidence is such a huge part of the success of this endeavor."

A vaccine with 50% effectiveness is AstraZeneca's goal, according to the protocol released on the weekend. That's the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's threshold in its guidance for a coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna and Pfizer have also released information about clinical trials of their coronavirus vaccine candidates.

There's a problem with all three companies' plans, according to Dr. Eric Topol, a clinical trials expert at Scripps Research in San Diego. They all count relatively mild cases of COVID-19 when assessing vaccine effectiveness, which could lead to uncertainty about whether a vaccine prevents moderate or severe illness, Topol told the Times.

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