Posts (15)

5 days ago · Mayo Clinic researchers are working to combat COVID-19, from the front lines to the laboratories

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs, protective equipment and step out in difficult times to be there for others. As COVID-19 continues to spread and people heed notices to socially distance themselves and hunker down in their homes, there are still those who are on the front lines helping to fight the disease. These are the unsung heroes, and there are thousands of them at Mayo Clinic. Read more.

How the virus that causes COVID-19 differs from other coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). So what makes those coronaviruses different from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?  Dr. Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist and chair of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine, says that SARS-CoV-2 shares both similarities and differences with other coronaviruses.

“The name ‘coronavirus’ has to do with what the virus looks like under a microscope,” says Dr. Cowl. “‘Corona’ means crown. All coronaviruses have a similar structure. They are also ‘enveloped’ viruses, which means they are able to stick to surfaces, but are also able to be killed with disinfectants. The novel virus that causes COVID-19 is one-nine hundredth of a width of a piece of hair.” Read more.

Science needs to guide us, says Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gianrico Farrugia on “Face the Nation”

Mayo Clinic President and CEO Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., shared his perspective on next steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program that aired Sunday.

In his interview with “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, Dr. Farrugia said the focus needs to be on saving lives because “there is no direct end in sight,” and he emphasized that the multi-faceted approach has to be “driven by the science, not by conjecture.”

Dr. Farrugia also underscored that innovations that are happening across the country will improve the way health care providers test and track the outbreak on both macro and micro levels, to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections faster and help those in greatest need. Read more.

What cancer patients should know

Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, are at higher risk of developing serious complications if infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

But what about cancer patients?

Cancer patients may be at higher risk of infection and more severe symptoms, though temporarily, due to a weakened immune system from cancer treatment. “However we have very limited information at the present time,” says Dr. Rafael Fonseca, a hematologist and interim executive director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Dr. Fonseca says he and his team are receiving many questions from patients with cancer who are concerned and want to understand better what a potential with a COVID-19 infection might mean. “From what we know, infection with COVID-19 seems to be more difficult, more aggressive and with worse outcomes in people who are, in general, unwell, and are of advancing age, and what we’re seeing is this is predominantly in older males that we have seen the effect.” Read more.

The science behind the test for the COVID-19 virus

Mayo Clinic’s new test for the virus that causes COVID-19 is described in a recent news release as a PCR test. While most won’t know what that means, PCR is a well-used tool in the laboratory and medical testing. Larry Pease, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic immunologist, and Kyle Rodino, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, explain how this test works.

To start, PCR stands for a laboratory technique known as polymerase chain reaction. In this test, the goal is to selectively amplify trace amounts of genetic material, identifying specific parts of DNA. Just as a reminder, DNA is the genetic code that is present in every cell in the body. When a cell divides, it copies DNA, separating the two strands and then creating a new strand of DNA by copying the template. PCR mimics what normally happens in cells. Read more.

Helping Kids cope during the COVID-19 pandemic

During any rapidly changing situation, loss of daily routine, isolation and uncertainty can lead to anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make you feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. When you feel this way, your kids may feel it too — and they often sense the way you’re feeling. Talking to them about what’s going on can be challenging.

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) has become a source of daily conversation. As a caregiver, you may be wondering how to support your kids’ developmental needs and understanding of COVID-19. Honest and accurate discussion with your kids about COVID-19 can help them understand what’s happening, relieve some of their fears, make them feel safe and help them begin to cope. Read more.

Learn more

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM

Fri, Mar 27 10:29am · Mayo Clinic doctors provide urgent information on COVID-19

With the U.S. now reporting more cases of COVID-19 than any other country, and people across America and around the world grappling with unprecedented lockdowns, quarantines and uncertainty, Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are working relentlessly to care for patients, search for treatments and provide people with up-to-date information and advice.

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Patients could be at risk of drug-induced sudden cardiac death from use of off-label COVID-19 treatments

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to spread, leading to more than 25,000 deaths worldwide in less than four months. Efforts are progressing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s still likely 12 to 18 months away.

In the meantime, the pandemic, with over 500,000 confirmed cases worldwide already, is driving researchers to find safe and effective therapies for patients with COVID-19, and an antimalarial drug is potentially on the front lines of that effort. While new and repurposed drugs are being tested in clinical trials, some of these promising drugs are simultaneously being used off-label for compassionate use to treat patients.

Some of the medications being used to treat COVID-19 are known to cause drug-induced prolongation of the QTc of some people. The QTc is an indicator of the health of the heart’s electrical recharging system. Patients with a dangerously prolonged QTc are at increased risk for potentially life-threatening ventricular rhythm abnormalities that can culminate in sudden cardiac death. Read more.

3D Anatomic Modeling Lab prints model of virus that causes COVID-19

To help in educating the public and in the hope of better conveying the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 3D Anatomic Modeling Lab at Mayo Clinic in Rochester has printed a 3D model of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Jonathan Morris, M.D., medical director of the 3D Anatomic Modeling Lab at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, says because the virus cannot be seen with the naked eye, it may not be perceived by some as a real threat.

“This may be a vital tool for colleagues to really drive home the seriousness of this virus. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a model is worth a thousand pictures,” Dr. Morris says. “What we’ve seen through our 3D printing practice is that models help people fundamentally understand something they just couldn’t through pictures. We believe this could do the same for people who maybe aren’t convinced yet about the seriousness of the virus and the importance of self-isolation.” Read more.

What does supportive care mean for patients with COVID-19?

“Supportive treatment refers to what we can do to relieve the symptoms of COVID-19,” says Dr. Cowl, a pulmonologist and chair of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine. “By closely monitoring patients, helping them breathe, delivering intravenous fluids, keeping their fever down and treating cough, we can hopefully prevent adverse events, such as chronic shortness of breath, or worse, death in severe cases. But as the number of severe cases increases, we must prepare for delivering supportive care to more people with the illness.” Read more.

Keeping seniors and immunocompromised people safe

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adults 60 and older and those with an underlying health condition or a compromised immune system appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

According to Dr. Jessica Lancaster, a Mayo Clinic immunologist, as we age, our immune systems start to gradually decline and has a much more delayed immune response when faced with infection. Dr. Lancaster says one way to think about how our immune system works is to think of it as a sort of military operation.

“The different immune cells come together and they have to coordinate their efforts in order to repel the threat,” says Dr. Lancaster. “So if you think of a younger immune system, the cells are able to react much more quickly and are able to coordinate their efforts in order to clear the infection. However, as we age, the ability for the cells to communicate with each other starts to diminish. It starts to slow down and, thus, the patient could potentially succumb to the effects of the illness before they had a chance to launch a proper immune response.” Read more.

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Answering listeners’ COVID-19 questions

Each day, the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast shares the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic. On today’s episode, Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, answers listeners’ coronavirus questions.

Click the player below:

Expert Alert: Have heart disease? Protect your health during the COVID-19 pandemic

People with heart disease and other underlying health conditions are at a high risk for becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19. Heart patients may question if they are doing the right things for their health at a time when there is little research available surrounding this new viral disease. Stephen Kopecky, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, talks about what heart patients need to consider in relation to COVID-19, including maintaining a healthy diet and weight, getting a flu shot to head off viral inflammation, and keeping up the exercise. Read more.

Learn more

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM

Tue, Mar 24 8:15am · Mayo Clinic scientists and doctors give advise, updates on COVID-19 pandemic

By Mayo Clinic News Network

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are providing daily updates and information to help keep people healthy and safe.

What happens to your body when you have COVID-19?

As the number of cases of COVID-19 rises, experts continue to learn more about the disease. They know that symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. But what does the virus do inside your body to cause those symptoms?

Dr. Neal Patel, a Mayo Clinic pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist, says that like most viruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 enters the body when you breathe it in through the mouth or nose. It also may enter through the eyes.

“Once it enters into the body, many different things happen,” says Dr. Patel. “Initially, the virus can cause some damage locally where it enters. Then it moves further into the respiratory system.”  Read more.

COVID-19: Tips for Mindfulness & Coping with Anxiety

Amid ever-changing information around the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety.

“Anxiety is not right, and it is not wrong. It is just part of the human experience,” says Kristin Lothman, a mind-body counselor with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Integrative Medicine and Health. “Healthy anxiety calls us into action to be safe, to take care of the people that we love and to arrive at the present moment experience with resilience.”

“There are many strategies to manage anxiety,” Lothman says. “I recommend developing a self-care practice. Elements of that could include journaling, exercise, yoga, meditation and prayer.” Read more.

Importance of home exercise while being isolated

As social distancing becomes the norm due to COVID-19, it’s important to find new ways to remain active, as exercise is important.

“We need fitness for better overall health but in particular to keep our stress level down, especially now. We don’t want our muscles to become sedentary since we’re staying at home,” says Dr. Sunni Alessandria, a Mayo Clinic physical therapist.

Alessandria says that while items such as exercise bands, a fitness ball or weights are useful, you don’t need special equipment to stay active at home.

“You can use basic things you can find at your home, including stairs, a wall, a chair ― even things from your pantry like a can of soup or two-pound bag of flour,” she says. “If you are outside, a curb or step will work well, too.”

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert, answers COVID-19 questions

The information about the COVID-19 pandemic changes rapidly, and it’s hard to stay up to date with the latest information. On today’s Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, answers COVID-19 questions.

Dr. Poland discusses preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus, what to do if you do get sick, and the potential for effective treatments and a vaccine.

Click the player below:

10 steps from Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team to minimize the spread of COVID-19

There are several common-sense things you can do to protect yourself, and help prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 to your family. Consider these 10 steps from Mayo Clinic‘s Infection Prevention and Control team:

  1. Pause for a moment and collect your thoughts. Pandemics can be overwhelming, and remaining as calm as possible can help.
  2. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer. Both are effective. This is particularly important when coming home from outside, before meals and after using the restroom.
  3. At the beginning of the day and when you get home, disinfect items that are frequently touched by yourself or others. Such items could include cellphones and cellphone cases, door handles and keyboards. Regular household disinfectants are effective. Disinfecting surfaces and items, and cleaning your hands will reduce transmission.
  4. It is reasonable to change out of your work clothes before or when you get home. Launder frequently with normal detergent. No extra laundering or special handling is needed. Read more.

Your questions answered

How does the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enter the body?

“COVID-19 disease is spread through respiratory droplets. So what that means is that if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, they generate droplets. These are generally large droplets so they can spread about 3-6 feet from the person that generates them. That’s pretty close contact that’s required. If those droplets land on a surface and you touch that surface and  then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, then you are at risk of becoming infected as well,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Why are some cases worse than others?

“Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, can create a spectrum of illness, and, so, some people will be very mildly affected and some people can have more severe disease,” says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease specialist. “So the severity of illness can range from having a cold or a flu-type illness all the way to needing to be hospitalized or be in an intensive care unit.”

Will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Is it seasonal?

“We don’t know yet. One possibility is that this would become what’s called an endemic community transmissible disease,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research group. “SARS did not go that way. SARS disappeared and we don’t know exactly why.  MERS is one where there continues to be zoonotic transmission and small outbreaks here and there. What this one will do, we don’t know. I think what we can say is that coronaviruses are here to stay. We’ve had three novel coronaviruses in the last 18 years. It will happen again.”

What groups of people are at greatest risk from COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to the World Health Organization. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Will warmer temperatures affect how COVID-19 spreads?

“We know that for Influenza, cases dwindle down in the spring and summer seasons. However, no one can say for sure how it will affect COVID-19. “At this point, we don’t know enough about this virus to understand how it’s going to behave over time,” says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19.
For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM

Fri, Mar 20 8:59am · Mayo Clinic COVID-19 update: testing expands, patients connect, doctors advise on symptoms

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Mayo Clinic Laboratories significantly expands testing capability for the COVID-19 virus

 Mayo Clinic has significantly expanded its capacity to test clinical samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. With new equipment that went online Tuesday, Mayo Clinic Laboratories now has the capacity to process COVID-19 test samples from all Mayo Clinic sites. In addition, it has begun processing test samples from its clients across Minnesota, including eight major health systems.

“The capability to test and process clinical samples for the SARS-CoV-2 virus is urgently needed nationwide and we have been working around the clock to make this expansion happen as quickly as possible,” says William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories and chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. “Our expanded capacity will expedite caring for patients at this critical time, and hopefully will ease the burden being felt at test processing laboratories in Minnesota and a growing number of geographies.” Read more.

Q&A: Length of time COVID-19 can live outside an organism varies considerably

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I have read that COVID-19 spreads from person to person, but can it also live on objects? Should I be concerned about catching the virus from things I buy at the grocery store or while filling up my car with gas?

ANSWER: Your highest risk of catching COVID-19 is being exposed to a person ill with COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that leads to symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. The virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets generated when someone infected coughs or sneezes. If you breathe in the droplets, or they land on your eyes, nose or mouth, you are at risk of infection. Read more.

COVID-19: Symptoms that require emergency care

Growing concerns over COVID-19 have health care organizations worldwide making vast changes ― from postponing procedures to visitation restrictions. Consumers are being asked to limit emergency room visits.

But every day, people have medical emergencies that may require urgent intervention.

“You should not go to the emergency room for every sniffle or cold, but there are things that warrant medical attention and should not be ignored,” says Dr. David A. Miller, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

While people with preexisting conditions are at a higher risk to develop more severe consequence to COVID-19, which may include shortness of breath, it’s also important to recognize respiratory issues may be a sign of a heart attack, too. “If you experience symptoms consistent with a heart attack or stroke, it’s important not to ignore them. There are treatments for heart attack and strokes that are effective if they are initiated in a short time after the symptoms start.” Read more.

Connecting Patients: Talking about COVID-19

Stay connected virtually for your health on #MayoClinicConnect

It’s time to come together, virtually, to talk about anything that’s affecting you related to COVID-19, with a brand new Connect group, simply called COVID-19. This is a space to talk about topics such as: 

  • Closings in your community and how it affects you.
  • What you are doing to cope.
  • Whether keeping up your book club or running group makes sense.
  • How you can pass the time.
  • Housekeeping and disinfecting your home.
  • How to deal with your own or your children’s fears. 
  • Being helpful to others in a challenging time. 

It’s also a space to congregate and be socially active. You can:

  • Join the virtual walking group.
  • Tour virtual museums together.
  • Share art, music and books.
  • Find daily escapes and inspirations.

Read more.

Learn more

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM

Thu, Mar 19 8:45am · As COVID-19 pandemic evolves, Mayo Clinic experts explain when to seek care, who is at greater risk

By Mayo Clinic News Network

In response to the progression of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Mayo Clinic is committed to helping you stay informed. Here are some of the ways our researchers, physicians and staff are working relentlessly to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic, and steps you and your family can take to stay healthy.

What to do if you suspect you may have COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms can mimic the flu. Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine, says symptoms can come on rapidly. These symptoms can be especially dangerous for people over 70; immunosuppressed people; and those with underlying conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Cowl says that many people who contract the disease will have mild or no symptoms. But if they develop symptoms, when and how should they seek medical help? Should they get tested? Read more.

What patients with cancer should know

Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, are at higher risk of developing serious complications if infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

But what about patients with cancer?

Cancer patients may be at a higher risk of infection and more severe symptoms, though temporarily, due to weakened immune system from cancer treatment. “However, we have very limited information at the present time,” says Dr. Rafael Fonseca, a hematologist and interim executive director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. Read more.

Kids and COVID-19: Why they are not getting as sick

Children are not immune to COVID-19. They are getting infected with the disease and can spread it, but they do not get as sick as adults. Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist, offers some insight as to why.

“There is some interesting information about kids and this new coronavirus,” says Dr. Rajapakse. “Theories about why kids are not getting as sick have to do with their exposure to other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, and their immune systems.”

“Kids who have been found to be infected seem to be having mild, if any illness at all, related to the infection.,” says Dr. Rajapakse. “One theory is we know that there are other coronaviruses that circulate in the community and cause the common cold. And because kids frequently get colds, there is some thought that maybe some of those antibodies are providing them with some protection to this coronavirus.”

Read more.

Older adults have higher risk of serious illness

Adults over 65 are more at risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“So there are two major factors that cause the aged immune system to be much more vulnerable to new threats, such as COVID-19,” says Dr. Jessica Lancaster, a Mayo Clinic immunology researcher. “First, as we age, we start to produce less new immune cells that are able to respond to new sorts of infectious disease.”

“Secondly, as we age, the immune system has a delay in its ability to coordinate itself. There is a delay in the communication among all the different types of immune cells, and, so, the aged immune system is much more slow at clearing an infectious disease.”

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Long-term care facilities take precautions against COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Long-term care facilities are taking steps to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. With guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, long-term care facilities are restricting visitors in most cases.

The Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast features Dr. Brandon Verdoorn, a Mayo Clinic geriatrician. Dr. Verdoorn is also medical director of Charter House, a continuing care retirement community in Rochester, Minnesota, that is affiliated with Mayo Clinic. Dr. Verdoorn explains how staff are taking steps to keep residents safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayo Clinic deferring elective care

As part of Mayo Clinic’s response to COVID-19, we have carefully evaluated the readiness of our facilities, personnel, capacity and supply availability, and assessed community transmission within our regions.

Based on this review, Mayo Clinic will defer all elective care that can be deferred for eight or more weeks. This will include both elective surgeries, procedures and office visits.  Semi-urgent, urgent and emergency care will continue in clinic and hospital settings. This deferment will be effective March 23 at all Mayo Clinic locations nationwide, including Mayo Clinic Health System. Read more.

Your questions answered

How does the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enter the body?

“COVID-19 disease is spread through respiratory droplets. So what that means is that if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, they generate droplets. These are generally large droplets so they can spread about 3-6 feet from the person that generates them. That’s pretty close contact that’s required. If those droplets land on a surface and you touch that surface and  then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, then you are at risk of becoming infected as well,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Learn more

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM

Tue, Mar 17 8:50am · From critical blood shortages to protecting your family, Mayo Clinic doctors weigh in on COVID-19

 

By Mayo Clinic News Network

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating critical blood shortages in the U.S. “It’s not due to more COVID-19 patients needing blood products. Rather, it’s a lack of donations coming in,” says Dr. Justin Kreuter, transfusion medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center.

“Our collections have really plummeted because of the concerns about being out in the community,” he explains. “We’re used to living at a one-to two-week blood inventory. Now a lot of the country is living at a one-to two-day inventory and it’s challenging to look at what our future holds.”

Dr. Kreuter says he wants to assure people that there is no risk of getting COVID-19 from donating blood and that it is safe for healthy people to come to a blood donor center. Read more.

Helping kids cope with the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has become a source of daily conversation. As a caregiver, you may be wondering how to support your children’s developmental needs and understanding of the coronavirus. 

Jennifer Rodemeyer, manager of the Child Life Program at Mayo Clinic, offers these suggestions to help kids cope through this experience.  

“Kids are hearing about this virus daily. Take the time to sit down with your children to define what coronavirus/COVID-19 is using language that supports their development. Start your conversation by asking your children, ‘What do you think coronavirus or COVID-19 is?’ This gives you an understanding of what your children know, think they know or how they interpret the illness.” Read more.

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Simple steps to protect yourself against COVID-19 (coronavirus)

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist, gives helpful tips to protect yourself from COVID-19. Hand-washing, social distancing and respiratory etiquette all play a part in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Read more.

COVID-19: Flattening the curve

“When we refer to the term, ‘flattening, or bending, the curve,’ we’re talking about preventing a sudden influx of new cases,” says Dr. Cowl. “And by keeping those numbers down, we can avoid severe illnesses, deaths and overloading the supply system.”

Dr. Cowl says flattening the curve will help maintain resources.

“For the individuals who develop severe disease, we want to make sure to have adequate supplies ⏤ adequate numbers of gowns and masks for our health care providers ⏤ to take care of them so they don’t get the illness,” says Dr. Cowl. “They need adequate amounts of supplemental oxygen, IV lines, ventilators and things like that.” Read more.

Your questions answered

Why are some cases worse than others?

“Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, can create a spectrum of illness, and, so, some people will be very mildly affected and some people can have more severe disease,” says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease specialist. “So the severity of illness can range from having a cold or a flu-type illness all the way to needing to be hospitalized or be in an intensive care unit.”

Will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Is it seasonal?

“We don’t know yet. One possibility is that this would become what’s called an endemic community transmissible disease,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research group. “SARS did not go that way. SARS disappeared and we don’t know exactly why.  MERS is one where there continues to be zoonotic transmission and small outbreaks here and there. What this one will do, we don’t know. I think what we can say is that coronaviruses are here to stay. We’ve had three novel coronaviruses in the last 18 years. It will happen again.”

What groups of people are at greatest risk from COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to the World Health Organization. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Will warmer temperatures affect how COVID-19 spreads?

“We know that for Influenza, cases dwindle down in the spring and summer seasons. However, no one can say for sure how it will affect COVID-19. “At this point, we don’t know enough about this virus to understand how it’s going to behave over time,” says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Learn More

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Fri, Mar 13 10:42am · Mayo Clinic working to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic

By Mayo Clinic News Network

In response to the progression of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Mayo Clinic is committed to helping you stay informed. Here are some of the ways our researchers, physicians and staff are working relentlessly to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic, and steps you and your family can take to stay healthy.

Mayo Clinic develops test to detect COVID-19

Mayo Clinic has developed a test that can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in clinical samples. The SARS-CoV virus causes COVID-19. The test has been fully validated, and data will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review and emergency use authorization.

“This is an issue the whole world is grappling with, so we felt like this was our moral obligation to offer testing to as many people as we can,” says Dr. Matthew Binnicker, a clinical microbiologist and director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic. Read more.

Mayo Clinic offers pre-screened patients drive-through specimen collection for COVID-19 testing

Mayo Clinic is conducting a drive-through process in Rochester to collect COVID-19 specimens for testing. Transmission of the coronavirus is increasing nationwide, and other institutions have successfully used the drive-through approach.

Patients who meet criteria for testing are directed to the location. Mayo Clinic staff collect the specimens, using appropriate precautions, and send them to the Minnesota Department of Health for analysis. This process reduces the need for other critically constrained resources. Read more.

COVID-19: Why social distancing, having a personal plan is important

You may be hearing the term “social distancing” in relation to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. “In terms of social distancing, it’s important to understand how this virus is transmitted,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. “It’s transmitted through respiratory droplets generated when someone infected coughs or sneezes. We know that these droplets extend about 3 to 6 feet from the person that generates them. If you breathe in the droplets, or they land on your eyes, nose, or mouth then you are at risk of getting infected.”

“This is where the concept of social distancing comes in. If we stay away from someone who is sick, or in general, beyond that 6 foot margin, then the risk of being exposed drops dramatically. Read more.

Is worry about COVID-19 disrupting your life?

The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. The constant flow of news from all types of media may heighten fears about the disease. People need facts to protect themselves from contracting the infection, but information overload can spur excessive worry. Dr. Sheila Jowsey-Gregoire, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, says anxiety can build when people feel that a situation is out of their control, and when rumors spread.

“Many unique situations are going to arise that need to be considered on a case-by-case basis,” says Dr. Jowsey-Gregoire.  “Using problem-solving and flexibility as key coping strategies, rather than relying on emotional coping ⏤ anger and despair ⏤ will help you feel, and be, in control.” Read more.

COVID-19: What a Mayo Clinic expert says you need to know about the coronavirus

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your local health care provider or hospital, and ask how best to be evaluated. Do not go to your health care provider or hospital without calling first. Read more.

Your questions answered

How does the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enter the body?

“COVID-19 disease is spread through respiratory droplets. So what that means is that if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, they generate droplets. These are generally large droplets so they can spread about 3-6 feet from the person that generates them. That’s pretty close contact that’s required. If those droplets land on a surface and you touch that surface and  then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, then you are at risk of becoming infected as well,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Aside from washing your hands and using hand sanitizer, what other ways can we protect ourselves from COVID-19?

  • Stay on top of travel restrictions and use other protective measures provided by the CDC.
  • Avoid touching mouth, eyes and nose.
  • If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, stay in your home and contact a healthcare provider who can advise you.
  • Disinfect high-touch areas regularly.
  • Avoid contact with people exhibiting these symptoms

How long is the incubation period for COVID-19?

“Based on the information we have now about COVID-19, we suspect the longer end of the incubation period is about 14 days. So that’s the duration that has been used for the quarantines that have been put in place in multiple areas,” says Nipunie S. Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., a Mayo Clinic Infectious Disease specialist.

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Tue, Mar 10 6:00am · How pharmacogenomics can improve the lives of persons living with HIV

By Jessica Fenske

Life with HIV typically means using any number of medications to control the virus. But not all medications are the same or act the same way in different people. Mayo researchers are zeroing in on a new test to help patients fine-tune their treatments.

While there is no cure for HIV, there are more than 30 different medications available to control the virus. These drugs can be lifesaving, but persons living with HIV still face a lifetime of potentially serious side effects.

As part of research supported by the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, a team led by Nathan Cummins, M.D., Infectious Diseases Research, is trying to figure out how to improve tests to identify which medications are the right fit for a person living with HIV.

A complicated disease

“HIV is a very complicated disease,” Dr. Cummins says. “The biology of the virus is complicated, the disease affects multiple organ systems, and oftentimes the most vulnerable of populations are most affected.”

The challenge of unraveling such a complex infection is part of what drew Dr. Cummins to a research career focused on HIV. Now he hopes that pharmacogenetics — the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs — can improve the lives of those living with HIV by quickly identifying the best medicine for each individual.

It’s a complicated process. Each medication has the potential for different drug-to-drug interactions, and multiple patients can take the same medication yet all experience different side effects.

“These differences make it difficult to figure out which drugs work best for each individual person,” says Dr. Cummins. “What works well for one patient doesn’t always work well for another.”

Finding the best medications for each individual often involves continuing to try different options until uncovering the combination of drugs with the fewest side effects.

“Because it looks at DNA, it’s a one-time test. DNA doesn’t change, so once they have the results, they can use them for the rest of their lives.” – Dr. Cummins

A broader test

The current standard of care for persons living with HIV is to test one gene for one particular HIV medication. But Dr. Cummins and his team are offering a broader, more comprehensive solution. The OneOme 22-gene RightMed pharmacogenomics panel tests 22 different genes for dozens of potential medications. It also tests their interactions with several other drugs. 

In an initial clinical trial, 96 persons living with HIV completed the pharmacogenomics panel, and many received new clinical recommendations based on the results.

Each patient reviewed the test results with pharmacists Christina Rivera, Pharm.D., and John Zeuli, Pharm.D. The pharmacists helped explain why the patients may not have tolerated a medication in the past, what risks they have with current medications, and what side effects and drug-to-drug interactions they might have with future medications. With this information, patients and care teams can make decisions about changing medications or keeping a closer eye on potential risks. 

The test results are also put in the patient’s health record. This makes the information available for future decisions about medications, and the patient can share it with any clinician.

“Because it looks at DNA, it’s a one-time test,” says Dr. Cummins. “DNA doesn’t change, so once they have the results, they can use them for the rest of their lives.”

Leading the way

“Mayo Clinic is one of the world leaders in introducing pharmacogenomics into practice,” says Timothy Curry, M.D., Ph.D., a leader of clinical pharmacogenomics implementation in the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. “This pilot project demonstrates that individualized medicine can improve the way we care for patients.”

With the initial pilot complete, Dr. Cummins and his team are working on additional pilots to expand the availability of the test and education, with the ultimate goal of making it a routine part of care for all persons living with HIV. 

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