How effective are face masks in reducing transmission of Covid-19?

Overall, review of data to date suggests that face masks are quite effective in reducing the transmission of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19. A Lancet 2020 meta-analysis involving over 12,000 subjects, found that transmission of coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2, SARS and MERS) was reduced with face masks by 85% (adjusted O.R. 0.15, 95%CI 0.07-0.34).1

More specific to Covid-19, a study from Mass General Brigham hospitals found a significant drop in healthcare worker (HCW) SARS-CoV-2 PCR positivity rate from 21.3% to 11.5% following adoption of universal masking of HCWs and patients.2

An U.S. epidemiologic survey of 2,930 unique counties plus New York City found mandating face mask use in public was associated with a significant decline in the daily Covid-19 growth rate. 3 It was estimated that more than 200,000 Covid-19 cases were averted by May 22, 2020 as a result of the implementation of these mandates.

Another 2020 meta-analysis involving 21 studies reported an overall efficacy of masks (including surgical and N-95 masks) of 80% in healthcare workers and 47% in non-healthcare workers for respiratory virus transmission (including SARS, SARS-CoV-2 and influenza).4

A criticism of above reports has been their primarily retrospective nature. A randomized-controlled Danish study found a statistically insignificant 20% reduction in incident SARS-CoV-2 infection among mask wearers (5,6).    Despite its randomized-controlled design, this study had several limitations, including relatively low transmission rate in the community and lack of universal mask wearing in public during the study period. In addition, less than one-half of participants in the mask group reported adherence to wearing masks, and there was no assurance that masks were worn correctly when they did wear them. 

At most, this study suggests that it’s not enough for the uninfected to wear masks; the infected—often with little or no symptoms— should also wear them to help curb the pandemic.

So please do your part and tell your friends and family members to do the same by masking up while we are at war with Covid-19!

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that universal wearing of masks in the public in response to a respiratory virus pandemic is nothing new?  It was adopted as far back as 100 years ago during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic!

References

  1. Chu DK, Akl EA, Duda S, et al. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet 2020;395: 1973-87. https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(20)31142-9.pdf
  2. Wang X, Ferro EG, Zhou G, et al. Association between universal masking in a health care system and SARS-CoV-2 positivity among health care workers. JAMA 2020;324:703-4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768533
  3. Lyu W, Wehby GL. Community use of face masks and COVID-19: evidence from a natural experiment of state mandates in the US. Health Affairs 2020;39: July 16. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818
  4. Liang M, Gao L, Cheng Ce, et al. Efficacy of face mask in preventing respiratory virus transmission: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Travel Med Infect Dis 2020;36:1-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32473312/ 
  5. Bundgaard H, Bundgaard JS, Tadeusz DE, et al. Effectiveness of adding a mask recommendation to other public health measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in Danish mask wearers. Ann Intern Med 2020; November 18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33205991/
  6. Frieden TR Cash-Goldwasser S. Of masks and methods. Ann Intern Med 2020; November 18. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/m20-7499

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Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How effective are face masks in reducing transmission of Covid-19?

Why might convalescent sera or plasma transfusion therapy be effective in the treatment of patients with Covid-19?

Of the myriad therapeutic approaches currently under consideration in our fight against Covid-19, convalescent sera/plasma therapy (CSPT) is particularly promising. The principle behind CSPT is to provide immediate immunity to susceptible people by administering the serum or plasma—therefore antibodies—of individuals who have successfully recovered from Covid-19.1

The theory behind using antibody-containing blood products to treat infections is by no means new and goes back to the 1890s when serum from exposed animals who recovered from disease was used to protect healthy animals against tetanus and diphtheria.2

Historically, CSPT has been used against poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, and influenza, and more recently in a smaller number of patients with SARS, H5N1 and H7N9 avian influenza and Ebola.1,3-8 A 2015 systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis of 32 studies involving severe acute respiratory infections of viral etiology (including influenza and SARS) found a reduction in mortality (odds ratio, 0.25, 95% C.I. 0.14-0.45), particularly when CSPT was administered early into the illness.3

Experience with 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic: A meta-analysis of 1703 hospitalized patients (Yes, scientists performed wonderful studies back then too despite a pandemic!) during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic demonstrated decreased mortality with administration of convalescent blood products with crude case-fatality rates dropping by one-half (16% vs 37% in controls)! Notably, patients who were treated within 4 days of pneumonia had one-third the case-fatality rate compared to those treated later.3

Experience with 2002-2004 SARS epidemic: A retrospective study from Hong Kong involving 80 patients with SARS (caused by another coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1) not responding to antibiotics/steroids/interferon but receiving CSPT reported a lower mortality rate with near significant (P=0.08) improvement in outcome and reduced mortality in the group that received CSPT before day 14 of the illness (6.3% vs 21.9%).4

What about Covid-19? A very preliminary report out of China involving 5 mechanically-ventilated patients with ARDS and rapid progression despite corticosteroids and antivirals found clinical improvement in all 5 patients. More specifically, body temperature normalized within 3 days in 4 of 5 patients and ARDS resolved in 4 patients at 12 days following transfusion, 2 patients were in stable condition and 3 patients were eventually discharged from the hospital.9

Of course, we should be mindful of potential adverse reactions due to CSP as well, such as allergic reactions, infections, transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), and theoretical risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of infection (ADE).1 Only properly designed clinical studies can shed light on the safety and efficacy of CSPT in Covid-19.

Nevertheless, the historical data on the use of CSPT in serious viral infections is encouraging. In fact, the first US studies of CSPT in Covid-19 have already been approved by the FDA!10 Stay tuned!

Bonus pearl: Did you know that serum and plasma both refer to the noncellular fluid part of blood, but serum is collected after coagulation factors (fibrinogen) have been removed. Fortunately, both contain antibodies!

 

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Contributed by Bruce Tiu, Harvard Medical Student, Boston, MA.

References:

  1. Casadevall A, Pirofski L. The convalescent sera for containing COVID-19. J Clin Invest. 2020;130(4):1545-1548. doi: 10.1172/JCI138003 https://www.jci.org/articles/view/138003
  2. Eibl MM. History of immunoglobulin replacement. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2008;28(4):737–viii. doi:10.1016/j.iac.2008.06.004 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889856108000702
  3. Mair-Jenkins J, Saavedra-Campos M, Baillie K, et al. The effectiveness of convalescent plasma and hyperimmune immunoglobulin for the treatment of severe acute respiratory infections of viral etiology: A systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis. J Infect Dis 2015; 211: 80-90. https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/211/1/80/799341
  4. Luke TC, Kilbane EM, Jackson JL, et al. Meta-Analysis: Convalescent Blood Products for Spanish Influenza Pneumonia: A Future H5N1 Treatment?. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:599–609. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-145-8-200610170-00139 https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/729754/meta-analysis-convalescent-blood-products-spanish-influenza-pneumonia-future-h5n1
  5. Cheng Y, Wong R, Soo YO, et al. Use of convalescent plasma therapy in SARS patients in Hong Kong. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2005;24(1):44–46. doi:10.1007/s10096-004-1271-9 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10096-004-1271-9
  6. Zhou B, Zhong N, Guan Y. Treatment with convalescent plasma for influenza A (H5N1) infection. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:1450–1. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc070359 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc070359
  7. Chen L, Xiong J, Bao L, et al. Convalescent plasma as a potential therapy for COVID-19. Lancet Infect Dis 2020;20: 398-400. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30141-9/fulltext
  8. Wu XX, Gao HN, Wu HB, Peng XM, Ou HL, Li LJ. Successful treatment of avian-origin influenza A (H7N9) infection using convalescent plasma. Int J Infect Dis. 2015;41:3–5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2015.10.009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26482389
  9. Shen C, Wang Z, Zhao F, et al. Treatment of 5 Critically Ill Patients With COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma. JAMA. Published online March 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4783 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763983
  10. https://thehill.com/regulation/healthcare/490768-first-us-coronavirus-patients-being-treated-with-plasma-therapy.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Why might convalescent sera or plasma transfusion therapy be effective in the treatment of patients with Covid-19?

Catch these selected key clinical pearls on coronavirus disease (Covid-19)!

Although the Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to evolve and our knowledge of its epidemiology and pathophysiology is still far from complete, you may find the following pearls based on published literature to date useful when discussing this disease with your colleagues or the public. 1-11

  • Age group: Primarily an adult disease. Children (< 15-year-old) account for only a minority of symptomatic patients (<1%); ~50% of patients are between 15-49 years of age with 15% in the ≥ 65 year group. 1
  • Incubation period: A bit longer than seasonal flu. Median 4.0 days (IQR 2.0-7.0 days); an upper range up to 24 days has also been reported. In contrast, for seasonal flu the median incubation period is shorter (median 2.0 days, 1.0-7.0 days. 1,4,11
  • Transmission: Contact, droplet, and possibly airborne. On average each person may transmit Covid-19 virus to 2-3 other persons (vs <2 people for seasonal flu). Unlike SARS or MERS, but more akin to the seasonal flu, asymptomatic persons may also be able to transmit the disease. 4,5,11
  • Comorbid conditions (eg, diabetes, hypertension, COPD…): Present in about 1/3 of reported patients. 1
  • Symptoms 1,5
    • ~80% of patients may be either asymptomatic or have mild disease
    • Fever may be absent in ~50% of patients on presentation but will eventually develop in ~90% of hospitalized patients
    • Cough (2/3 dry) is present in majority (~80%) of cases
    • Rhinorrhea is uncommon (<10%), in contrast to the seasonal influenza
    • GI symptoms (nausea/vomiting/diarrhea) are uncommon by some reports(<10%), but not by others (>30.0%). 12
    • May take 9-12 days from onset of symptoms to severe disease
  • Labs 1
    • Lymphopenia is common (up to ~80%)
    • Abnormal liver function (AST and ALT) is found in about 1/3 of patients
    • C-reactive protein (CRP) is usually elevated (~80% of severe cases)
    • Procalcitonin is usually normal
  • Treatment: Supportive for now. Candidate drugs include remdesivir, lopinavir/ritonavir, chloroquine phosphate, ribavirin and several others.4
  • Mortality: Reported mortality among mostly symptomatic hospitalized cases is ~2.0% (0.9% without comorbidities, 5-10% in those with comorbidities, 50% among critically ill). Overall mortality rates will likely drop as more patients without symptoms or with mild disease are tested. In contrast, 2 other coronavirus diseases, SARS and MERS, have mortality rates of ~9.0% and 36.0%, respectively. 1,4,5

 

Bonus pearl: Did you know that, Covid-19-infected patients shed the virus in their nasopharyngeal secretions on the average for 12 days, some as long as 24 days?3

 

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References

  1. Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of Coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020. First published Feb 28, 220, last updated March 6, 2020. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032
  2. Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, et al. First case of 2019 novel Coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med 2020; 382:929-36. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191
  3. Young BE, Ong SWX, Kalimuddin S, et al. Epidemiologic features and clinical course of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore. JAMA. Doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3204. Published online March 3, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762688
  4. Wang Y, Wang Y, Chen Y, et al. Unique epidemiological and clinical features of the emerging 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) implicate special control measures. J Med Virol 2020. Doi: 10.1002/jmv.25748. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32134116
  5. Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19—Navigating the uncharted. N Eng J Med 2020. DOI:10.1056/NEJMe2002387. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387
  6. Del Rio C, Malani PN. 2019 novel coronavirus—important information for clinicians. JAMA 2020, Feb 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32022836
  7. Lipsitch M, Swerdlow DL, Finelli L. Defining the epidemiology of Covid-19—studies needed. N Engl J Med 2020. Feb 19. DOI:10.1056/NEJMp2002125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32074416/
  8. Morens DM, Daszak P, Taubenberger JK. Escaping Pandora’s box—another novel coronavirus. N Eng J Med 2020. Feb 26. DOI:10.1056/NEJMp2002106. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2002106
  9. She J, Jiang J, Ye L, et al. 2019 novel coronavirus of pneumonia in Wuhan, China: merging attack and management strategies. Clin Trans Med 2020;9:19. https://clintransmed.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40169-020-00271-z
  10. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020; 395: 497-506. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext
  11. Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed asymptomatic carrier transmission of COVID-19. JAMA 2020. Feb 21. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762028
  12. Pan L, Mu M, Yang P, et al. Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms in Hubei, China: a descriptive, cross-sectional, multicenter study. Am j Gastroenterol 2020. https://journals.lww.com/ajg/Documents/COVID_Digestive_Symptoms_AJG_Preproof.pdf
Catch these selected key clinical pearls on coronavirus disease (Covid-19)!

Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Seasonal variation, primarily characterized by a winter peak, has been reported for acute CV events, such as acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and sudden death, aortic rupture or dissection, and ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and VTE (1). A meta-analysis involving patients with VTE, primarily with a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, revealed a 20% absolute increase in the incidence of VTE during January (1).  

Potential physiological mechanisms for these observations include increased sympathetic activity, decreased loss of fluids and sodium, increase in LDL cholesterol, increase in serum fibrinogen levels and other coagulation markers and C-reactive protein, and lower vitamin D levels due to shorter daylight hours during winter months (1,2).  At least in the case of AMI in the U.S., the higher incidence in winter is not affected by climate (2).  

Respiratory virus infections as a cause of acute inflammation leading to  CV or VTE events is another intriguing explanation (3). Indeed, influenza vaccination has been associated with reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly (4) and, in patients with cardiovascular disease, a reduction in death due to combined cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes (5).

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References

  1. Dentali F, Ageno W, Rancan E, et al. Seasonal and monthly variability in the incidence of venous thromboembolism. A systematic review and a meta-analysis of the literature. Thromb Haemost 2011;106:439-447. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21725580
  2. Spencer FA, Goldberg RJ, Becker RC, et al. Seasonal distribution of acute myocardial infarction in the Second National Registry of Myocardial Infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol 1998;31:1226-33.h ttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9581712
  3. Woodhouse PR, Khaw KT, Plummer M, et al. Seasonal variations of plasma fibrinogen and factor VII activity in the elderly: winter infections and death from cardiovascular disease. Lancet 1994;343:435-39.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7508540
  4. Nichol KL, Nordin J, Mulloly J, et al. Influenza vaccination and reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:1322-1332. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa025028
  5. Clar C, Oseni Z, Flowers N, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005050.pub3h ttp://www.cochrane.org/CD005050/VASC_flu-vaccines-for-preventing-cardiovascular-disease  

 

 

 

 

Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Are GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea common in patients with influenza?

Typically, GI symptoms are more prominent in children with influenza than adults but during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 (which has subsequently become endemic), up to 26% of hospitalized adults with H1N1 infection had abdominal pain or vomiting and up to 25% had diarrhea (1). 

In fact, H1N1 virus has been isolated from stool of adult hospitalized patients (2,3) and receptors of influenza virus have been identified in human GI epithelial cells, the correlation between GI symptoms and isolation of virus from stool is poorly defined (4).

Interestingly, the mechanism involved in influenza-mediated intestinal injury may have less to do with direct invasion of the intestinal mucosa by the virus and more to do with immune mediated changes  related to alterations in the intestinal microbiota induced by influenza virus infection itself (4,5)! 

Aside from direct or indirect effects of influenza virus on the GI tract, oseltamivir and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use may also contribute to GI symptoms (4).

 

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References

  1. Writing Committee of the WHO Consultation on Clinical Aspects of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza. Clinical aspects of pandemic 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. N Engl J Med 2010;362:1708-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20445182
  2. Yoo SJ, Moon SJ, Kuak E-Y, et al. Frequent detection of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus in stools of hospitalized patients. J Clin Microbiol 2010; 48:2314-2315. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20375236
  3. Minodier L, Charrel RN, Ceccaldi PE, et al. Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with influenza, clinical significance, and pathophysiology of human influenza viruses in faecal samples: what do we know? Virol J 2015;12:215. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4676820/
  4. Shu Y, Li CK, Gao R, et al. Avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses can directly infect and replicate in human gut tissues. J Infect Dis 2010;201:1173-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20210629
  5. Wang J, Li F, Wei H, et al. Respiratory influenza virus infection induces intestinal immune injury via microbiota mediated Th17 cell-dependent inflammation. J Exp Med 2014;211:2397-2410. http://europepmc.org/article/PMC/4235643
Are GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea common in patients with influenza?