People who are at risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can now monitor their kidney health from the comfort of their own homes thanks to a new smartphone-enabled test. Healthy.io’s Minuteful Kidney™ test, as it is known, uses a smartphone’s camera to look for the protein albumin in the individual’s urine. By monitoring their own kidney health, people can not only benefit from problems being detected early, but also need to take fewer trips to their doctor’s office or clinical laboratory. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the Minuteful Kidney test 510(k) clearance this month, enabling millions of Americans to potentially take advantage of it. Andrea Somerville, from Boston, is one such American who is already using the new test after her health insurer ordered it for her. whose doctor is monitoring her kidney function, received a Minuteful Kidney test kit in the mail after her health insurer ordered one for her. “It was easy to do and really easy to upload everything to my phone so that the results could go to me and to my doctor,” she said. “The other piece that’s nice,” she added, “is that you find out the results right then and there, and it’s done in the privacy of your own home.” *image courtesy of healthy.io
The unprecedented events of the last two years have certainly taken their toll on people's mental health. An ongoing health pandemic, disrupted lives and sporadic lockdowns have led to heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Now, new research reveals how owning a dog can has been beneficial to many people's mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the study by a team of researchers from Nestlé Purina Research in Saint-Louis in Missouri, United States, dog owners reported less depression and felt they had more social support compared with a control group during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking with Medical News Today, Dr. Francois Martin, lead author and section leader of the Behavior and Welfare Group at Nestlé Purina Research, said: “The context of the COVID-19 pandemic offered a unique opportunity to better understand how dogs may provide social support for their owners, buffer heightened symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and contribute to happiness.” The researchers say their study shows that owning a dog helped protect pet owners from some of the negative psychological impacts of the pandemic. They also say that it adds to the scientific evidence that dogs provide positive support to their owners during hard times. “We also found that dog owners had significantly lower depression scores than potential dog owners, but the two groups had similar anxiety and happiness scores,” Dr. Martin added. The results from this observational study appear in the journal PLOS ONE. *Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay
France is bringing forward the country’s annual flu vaccination campaign by four days to begin on October 22 for people who are most at risk. France’s government public health body, Direction générale de la santé (DGS), notified pharmacists and doctors’ surgeries of the new start date on Monday this week via an “urgent” message. “This year, in the midst of a situation where the Covid-19 and influenza viruses are both circulating, the risk of co-infection, of becoming seriously ill and dying,” is increased, it said. The DGS is therefore eager to “encourage a synergy between the two vaccination campaigns and to waste no time in vaccinating the most vulnerable people against flu and against Covid.” Care homes have already begun rolling out the flu vaccine, which pharmacists, doctors, nurses and midwives will be able to administer from Friday. In 2020, lockdown restrictions, social distancing and hygiene measures meant that there was no major flu outbreak, and so this year very few people have significant immunity against the virus. Healthcare professionals are therefore concerned that this winter could see a “more intense” flu epidemic than normal. Groups who are eligible for the flu vaccination include: Over-65s People who are immunosuppressed and their immediate entourage People who suffer from chronic health conditions Obese people Pregnant women
France extended its mandate to carry Covid-19 health passes to certain categories of workers as of yesterday. The move marks a new stage in the French government’s strategy to encourage members of the public to have Covid-19 vaccines. Under the new rules, staff who work face to face with the public – for example, at cafés, cinemas or on public transport – are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Some 1.8 million workers across the country will be encompassed by the measures. Members of the public are already required to carry health passes in order to access eateries and cultural or leisure venues. While polls suggest a majority of the public supports Covid-19 health passes, their introduction has led to protests throughout the summer, with tens of thousands of protesters staging rallies across the country on consecutive weekends. The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital. [Related reading: France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists] *Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay
France’s parliament approved a bill early on Monday requiring people to have a health pass to access restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of August. At present, all venues accommodating more than 50 people already require proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Museums, cinemas, swimming pools and other venues are all included under this law. As well as the health pass requirement for all restaurants and domestic travel, the French parliament has also approved mandatory vaccines for all health workers. The law requires all healthcare sector workers to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15 or risk suspension. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say both steps are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound, as well as avoid new lockdowns. The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise, which was approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. To get the health pass, people in France must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative for COVID-19 or recently recovered from the virus. Both paper and digital documents will be accepted.
France has granted citizenship to more than 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers as a reward to them for their services to the country throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 children, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for "showing their attachment to the nation". Back in September, Schiappa instructed citizenship authorities to speed up the applications of essential workers who had "actively contributed" in the fight against Covid-19. She ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France. Normally, under French Nationality Law, a person can apply for French citizenship by naturalization after five years' habitual and continuous residence in the country. Among the more than 2,000 individuals granted citizenship are health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies. Schiappa's office said that over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, adding that all requests were being given "the greatest consideration". In 2020, 61,371 people were granted French citizenship, a decline of 20% compared with 2019. [Related reading: Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
France’s third Covid-19 lockdown is easing. Children have returned to school across the country and a domestic travel ban has been lifted. Citizens can now travel anywhere in France, which is a huge improvement over the previous restriction that prevented people from going more than 10km (six miles) from their homes. French citizens also no longer need to carry a form giving a valid reason for travelling. However, a night-time curfew remains in force in the country, with restrictions in place from 19:00 to 06:00 nationwide France’s third lockdown, lighter than the previous two, was implemented back in March. Under the French government's plan, more easing will begin on 19 May, when the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 21:00, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to welcome outdoor diners, and spectators will be allowed to return to sports venues. Along with indoor eating places, France will keep non-essential businesses, shopping centres and leisure facilities closed. The lockdown easing comes as France continues to register around 25,000 new coronavirus infections each day. Fortunately, the number of patients in intensive care units has dropped below 5,600. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay
During the coronavirus pandemic, eligible Australians have been accessing Medicare-subsidised telehealth services. However, this arrangement is due to end on June 30. But it now looks like there will be an extension until at least the end of the year. Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has said the government will extend Medicare-subsidised telehealth services until the end of the year, while the government works with peak bodies to design a post-pandemic telehealth system going forward “Over the last 12 months, telehealth services have been life-changing for many in need of support,” Mr Hunt said. “The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home. This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times.” The Australian Government rapidly rolled out telehealth subsidies back in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic became apparent to enable citizens to continue to access GP, mental health and allied health services even during lockdowns. Over the course of the year to the end of March, more than 54 million Medicare-subsidised telehealth services were delivered to 13.5 million patients. The cost of the six-month extension will be detailed in the Australian federal budget on May 11, 2021. *Image: Sydney Opera House, courtesy of Patty Jansen from Pixabay
French schools have closed for at least three weeks under a third national lockdown to fight rising Covid-19 cases. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that schools would switch to remote learning from the beginning of this week. Other lockdown measures, introduced in some parts of France earlier this month, including Paris, have also been extended to other areas. From last Saturday, all non-essential shops closed and there is now a ban on travelling more than 10km (6 miles) from home without good reason. Last Wednesday, the country's health ministry reported 59,038 new cases. France has so far reported more than 4.6 million cases of coronavirus and 95,495 Covid-related deaths. In a live televised address, Mr Macron described the situation in France as "delicate". He added that April would be a “crucial” month in the battle against Covid-19. "We will lose control if we do not move now," he said. Mr Macron outlined that the race to vaccinate would continue alongside attempting to control the spread of the virus. He said that while schools would be closing from this week, classes would remain open for the children of key workers. Image: French President Emmanuel Macron, courtesy of Foundations World Economic Forum, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The French Government has confirmed a three-step plan to open restaurants, although no firm date has been set for when it will begin. Following a meeting between hospitality representatives and government ministers on March 16, Didier Chenet, president of hospitality union GNI, told news source FranceInfo the date for reopening was dependent on two factors: “The daily number of Covid cases and the number of people vaccinated”. Since the second national lockdown was imposed more than four months ago on October 29, 2020, restaurants and cafes have been closed in France. The government’s initial plan was to reopen such establishment on January 20, 2021, but this was delayed indefinitely as daily Covid-19 cases remained high and health experts feared a spike could occur as a result of Christmas and New Year celebrations. The three-stage plan, Mr Chenet said, would begin with the opening of hotels for breakfast and dinner. Next would be terraces and interiors in cafes and restaurants, including hotel restaurants, with a 50% capacity limit. Finally, “In the third phase establishments would be fully open, with health protocols in place,” he said. Mr Chenet also revealed that each phase would last four weeks.
France is gearing up for a possible easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from mid-April, as vaccines, to date, are proving effective at lowering infection rates. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.” Attal said vaccinated groups (mainly the elderly) are witnessing falling infection rates, which, he said, is a sign that the country’s vaccination program is working and should be sped up. "It is neither a distant nor uncertain horizon - it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it. "The president (Emmanuel Macron) asked us to submit proposals that could allow for a cautious re-opening of the country soon,” he said. Attal added that the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and safeguard the nation’s health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Against expectations, France has resisted imposing a nationwide lockdown, choosing to introduce new Covid-19 border restrictions instead. Under the new restrictions, all non-essential travel from outside the EU has been banned and testing requirements for travellers from within the EU have been tightened. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said France's night curfew would also be more tightly enforced and large shopping centres would close. It had been expected that French President Emmanuel Macron would impose a third national lockdown to contain Covid-19. However, the French premiere opted to tighten existing restrictions on travel and shopping instead. The move sees France following a different path than its two biggest neighbours Britain and Germany, at a time when the more contagious UK variant of the disease is spreading rapidly across Europe. [Related reading: Moderna says its vaccine will work against new COVID variants] "Everything suggests that a new wave could occur because of the variant, but perhaps we can avoid it thanks to the measures that we decided early and that the French people are respecting," Health Minister Olivier Veran told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper on Sunday. Despite the news of tighter border restrictions, France Surgery’s proprietary telehealth platforms remain open and accessible to all of our international clients, one of the main benefits of remote healthcare.
Despite Covid-19-related lockdowns continuing in many countries across the world, the Michelin Guide has awarded its coveted stars for 2021 — and France (including Monaco) now has more three-star establishments than any other country. Originally due to be announced at a lavish gala ceremony in Cognac, southwest France, the Michelin awards were broadcast via Facebook on Monday from the Jules Vernes restaurant (one star) on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Social distancing rules forced Michelin to call off the event in Cognac, which would have been the first time the awards were held outside Paris. Ahead of this year’s awards, Michelin had promised that no three-star restaurants would be demoted as the global pandemic continues, causing many establishments to remain closed or switch to take-aways and deliveries. One of the main talking points of this year’s awards was ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale or Non-Animal Origin. The vegan restaurant in Ares near Bordeaux, which serves only plant-based foods, became the first of its kind in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. Vegan restaurants in the US, Germany and Spain have already received Michelin stars in recent years. ONA was also awarded a green star for its strong ethical and sustainable practices.
More than 40 countries have banned individuals arriving from the United Kingdom due to concerns about a new variant of coronavirus. France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, which meant no lorries or ferries could leave from Dover. Meanwhile, flights from the UK have either been suspended or are in the process of being suspended to countries across the world, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. The UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, has also temporarily suspended all services to mainland Europe, due to the "current restrictions around air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK". UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation, saying that both sides wanted to resolve "these problems as fast as possible". The ban on UK arrivals came about after a new strain of coronavirus – which is reportedly 70% more transmissible – has been spreading across London and south-east England. However, health officials have said there is no evidence that this new variant is more deadly or would react differently to vaccines. French Europe Minister Clément Beaune is expected to announce today what measures were being introduced "after this phase of emergency and harsh precaution that we had to take". Any measures, he said, would come into effect from Wednesday. [Related reading: France lifts lockdown, opens borders for Covid-safe countries]
After about a month and a half of complete lockdown, France’s Covid-19 restrictions are easing. While several types of venue will remain closed, the lockdown will be replaced with a nightly curfew, designed to avoid another spike of cases. French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said that the health situation in France has improved considerably in recent weeks. However, he warned that the second wave of the pandemic had yet to end. “We have not yet reached the end of this 2nd wave, and we will not be, on December 15,” he said, explaining why a nightly curfew would be in place, and some venues prevented from reopening. In addition to the lockdown ending, France has also opened both international travel and travel to different regions of the country for non-essential reasons. This will allow tourists and second homeowners to once again visit France, as well as enabling people to travel to see relatives and friends in other parts of the country or other countries. In his speech announcing the new measures, PM Castex said that travel on the evening of December 24 will be allowed, but not for more than six adults at a time. He also reminded French citizens to respect the hygiene and social distancing guidelines. Under the new measures, travel between France and the following countries/territories is now permitted: - European Union - Andorra - Australia - The Holy See - Iceland - Japan - Liechtenstein - Monaco - New Zealand - Norway - Rwanda - San Marino - South Korea - Singapore - Switzerland - Thailand - United Kingdom
Telehealth has helped patients living with chronic conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, continue their care management throughout the pandemic, new research shows. According to the global survey of patients living with type 1 diabetes, many moved to telehealth because in-person doctor visits were curtailed as a result of COVID lockdown restrictions. But even after the pandemic has passed, three-quarters say they will continue to take advantage of telehealth solutions to meet their care management needs. The information, presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), highlights the value of telehealth platforms in maintaining care management during times of unprecedented disruption to daily life. Furthermore, many patients with chronic conditions will have foregone check-ups throughout the pandemic for fear of becoming infected or adding an extra burden to healthcare providers. Telehealth has a significant role to play hear by helping these individuals re-establish their care routines and get the treatment they require. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland and supported by Novo Nordisk, involving more than 7,000 people in 89 countries, is published in in the journal Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism. “The results … demonstrate that a large number of people living with type 1 diabetes have rapidly adopted telemedicine or plan to in the near future and that this has generally been perceived positively,” the researchers concluded in the study.
Being obese or overweight increases the chances of someone with COVID-19 experiencing serious illness, complications, and death, new research suggests. Having examined existing studies, Public Health England (PHE) found that carrying excess weight put people at greater risk of requiring hospital admission or intensive care. Furthermore, that risk grew as weight increased. The findings of the PHE evidence review come ahead of an expected UK Government announcement relating to new measures to curb obesity in the country. At present, the UK has some of the highest obesity levels in Europe, with almost two-thirds of adults now either overweight or obese. Many believe that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown have served to exacerbate many people’s weight issues, with individuals stuck at home for prolonged periods and unable to carry out their usual exercise regimes. The findings of the evidence review will be of particular concern to groups that are already at higher risk of COVID-related complications, such as older people, black and ethnic minorities, and those living in more deprived areas. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the current evidence was clear: “Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health - and may also help protect against the health risks of Covid-19," she said. "The case for action on obesity has never been stronger.”
If people washed their hands regularly, social distanced, and wore face masks most COVID-19 outbreaks could be prevented, even without a vaccine or additional treatments, a new study has found. According to the research published in the journal PLoS Medicine, which created a COVID-19 prevention and spread model, the steps should work in most western countries. The research found that government-imposed social distancing measures, such as closing business establishments, cancelling in-person events, and advising people to stay at home whenever possible, can delay the peak of a COVID-19 epidemic by up to seven months on their own. However, when coupled with regular handwashing and wearing masks, the peak of the epidemic can be delayed by a further few months. Furthermore, the earlier people adopt such measures, the greater the positive impact. The researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands said in a country where 90% of the population uses multiple actions, such as hand washing and social distancing, a large outbreak of COVID-19 or a second wave could be averted. Speaking about the findings of the research, Ganna Rozhnova, an infectious disease modeler at the University Medical Center Utrecht, said: “If nearly all [the] population adopted self-imposed measures we would not have to confront the possibility of secondary lockdowns as well as the possibility that we may find our medical systems overwhelmed during the peaks of epidemics.”
A strict COVD-19 lockdown has been reinstated near Beijing in China after a small surge in cases. The restrictions in Anxin county in Hebei province affect around 400,000 people, with only those classed as ‘essential workers’ allowed to leave their homes. One member of each household is also allowed to go out once a day to shop for necessities. In the last two weeks, there have been 18 new COVID-19 cases in Anxin. While this may sound like only a small number, China is taking the threat of a potential second coronavirus wave seriously, hence the swift lockdown. Luckily, Anxin county, which is approximately 90 miles south of Beijing, is not as densely populated as many of China’s other large urban centers and local officials believe this small spike can be contained. Up until two weeks ago when Beijing experienced a spate of new COVID-19 cases, the Chinese capital had gone 57 days without a locally-transmitted case. Despite the pockets of new cases appearing, China has, in general, successfully “flattened the curve” in recent months. While places like the United States and South America witness thousands of new cases on a daily basis, China has added only 4,700 since the start of March.
With many countries now seemingly in control of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention is turning to a potential ‘second wave’ of the virus. But what does this actually mean? The Spanish Flu pandemic that began in early March 1918 lasted for around two years. But it was the second wave of the virus during three especially cruel months in the fall of 1918 that proved to be the deadliest. It raises questions about whether there will be a second wave of COVID-19. Now the easiest way to picture a second wave is to think of waves on the sea. The total number of infections goes up and then down, until the next wave comes along and the process begins all over again. To say that one wave has ended, the total number of infections needs to fall substantially. If we were then to see a significant rise once more, it would be safe to say that we are experiencing a so-called second wave. Health officials in South Korea believe the country is now experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Despite being one of the success stories of the pandemic, officials are now bracing for potential restrictions for several more months. While global lockdowns have had a profound impact on economies and people’s lives, lifting them too much and too early could lead to a second wave of COVID-19. That’s why any easing will come in stages and contact tracing and wearing face masks could be the new norm for a while. Hopefully, with effective social distancing measures and frequent handwashing, a second COVID-19 wave can be averted. However, what actually happens remains to be seen. [Related reading: This cost effective, low-dose steroid could be a breakthrough treatment for COVID-19]
The World Health Organization’s Maria Van Kerkhove, MD and technical lead for the WHO’s pandemic response, caused a stir recently when she implied that transmission of the coronavirus from asymptomatic individuals appears to be “very rare.” Now, the WHO has sought to clarify her comments, saying they were based on a relatively small set of studies. Kerkhove’s comments caused confusion because they appeared to directly contradict advice from several public health organizations. While evidence suggests that individuals with symptoms are most infectious, others do not develop any symptoms at all, despite testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. What remains unknown is how many other people these asymptomatic individuals go on to infect. It’s one of the reasons why Europe-wide lockdowns have been so effective in halting the spread of the virus, saving millions of lives. Then there are people who infect others while they are pre-symptomatic, meaning before they have actually developed any symptoms but later do. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pre-symptomatic individuals account for around 40% of coronavirus transmission. Director of the WHO's health emergencies programme, Dr Michael Ryan, said he was "absolutely convinced" that asymptomatic transmission was occurring; "the question is how much". So the bottom line seems to be that we simply don’t know how big a role asymptomatic individuals play in the spread of the virus. More research is needed.
While the COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe have not been easy for most people, new research shows that they have been effective in saving countless lives. According to the study by a team at Imperial College, London, Europe-wide lockdowns to reduce the impact of SARS-CoV-2 have saved more than three million lives. The team said that if lockdown had not been implemented across the continent, the “death toll would have been huge”. However, the team also warned that Europe is still only at the beginning of the pandemic and that scores more people could be infected. Assessing the impact of lockdowns up to the beginning of May in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. By that time, approximately 130,000 people had died from COVID-19 in those countries. Using disease modelling, the researchers predicted how many deaths there would have been if no lockdowns and restrictions had been enforced. They estimated 3.2 million people would have died by 4 May, the report in the journal Nature shows. In other words, lockdown measures prevented around 3.1 million lives, including 470,000 in the UK, 630,000 in Italy and 690,000 in France. "Lockdown averted millions of deaths, those deaths would have been a tragedy," said Dr. Seth Flaxman, from Imperial College. [Related reading: Which demographic worries least about COVID-19?]
We reported last month that as part of the French government’s smoking crackdown, trial smoking bans have been introduced into several Paris parks. Now, as part of the same wave of reforms, the French government is looking to make it illegal for smokers in France to buy cheap cigarettes online. Selling cigarettes online in France has been illegal for some time, but that hasn’t stopped French smokers buying their cigarettes on the internet historically. There are numerous online retailers, which are based in Ireland where taxes are often significantly lower than the rest of Europe. These online retailers have allowed French smokers to purchase cigarettes at reduced prices and the French government want it to stop. Not only do cheap, readily available online cigarettes damage the health of the people who smoke them but they also cost the French government a huge amount in lost taxes. In fact, Philip Morris International estimates that France loses around €400 million per year due to online foreign purchases. Other initiatives by the French government to curb its country’s smoking habits have included banning smoking in cars that are also carrying children; removing all cigarette branding and raising prices. All measures which regular smokers dislike. The French government’s firm standpoint on smoking is testament to its commitment to reducing smoking related deaths in the country; something which will ensure its top-quality healthcare services remain fully accessible going forward.