Herewith three items of Covid-19 news you may have missed this week: viral loads are falling; glasses might help; and dogs sniff for Covid. Plus the accustomed frippery.
Viral loads are falling
ICU admissions and death rates from Covid-19 have been falling since the spring. Have we been getting that much better at treating the disease? There’s some of that, but two new studies point to a different cause: for unknown reasons, the amount of virus carried by infected people — their viral load — has been falling. Perhaps it’s the result of mask wearing and social distancing. This may have led to milder disease (that hypothesis is still unproven). The two studies were presented at a recent (virtual) conference, and caveats apply: both are unpublished, and both are observational — that is, they can suggest or reveal a correlation but not a causation.
Glasses might help
As a glasses wearer since age 11, I was happy (in a schadenfreudean kind of way) to see this study claiming that wearing glasses might offer some protection from this coronavirus. The authors write, “In this cohort of 276 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Suizhou, China, the proportion of daily wearers of eyeglasses was lower than that of the local population (5.8% vs 31.5%).” It makes sense: if a face shield or goggles are protective, it stands to reason that a smaller transparent surface fronting your eyes might prevent some droplets from landing that otherwise might have.
At the Helsinki airport in Finland, a team of four dogs works the crowd. Arriving international passengers are asked to swab their skin with a piece of cloth provided; in a separate room, a trained dog is offered that scent along with other (control) swatches. If the canine “alerts” to a swatch, the passenger is asked to take an RT-PCR test to determine infection status. The dogs’ accuracy is said to be near 100% (the article did not get more specific than that). Eight dogs in total work international arrivals in two shifts.
In an earlier French study (preprint), eight experienced dogs were trained on cloth samples containing armpit sweat from hospitalized Covid-19 patients. (The dogs had previously been used in detection of drugs and colon cancer.) Four of the dogs scored 100% accuracy and the other four managed from 83% to 94% correct.
Frippery: photographs of birds in flight
Thanks for your patience, at last you get to relax with the frippery. Enjoy photographer Xavi Bou’s amazing images of the patterns birds make in flight. Bou calls the images “ornitographies.” Each one comprises 150 to 1,000 photos.