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Coronavirus update: Scientists find genetic link to loss of smell

A study finds that brain damage from COVID-19 is similar to Alzheimer’s disease

COVID-19 and genetics concept
Photo (c) matejmo - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 66,457,054 (65,700,210)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 851,732 (850,601)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 331,313,694 (328,350,251)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,548,119 (5,540,981)‌

Loss of smell could be genetic, scientists say

Scientists are closing in on the reason why some people infected with COVID-19 lose their ability to smell. They think they have found a genetic reason that explains why some patients are affected that way and others aren’t.

A study published this week in the journal Nature Genetics found a genetic risk factor associated with the loss of smell after a coronavirus infection. Scientists say the discovery brings researchers closer to understanding the pattern and could possibly lead to effective treatments. 

Researchers estimate that as many as 1.6 million Americans are unable to smell six months after contracting the virus. The precise cause of sensory loss, however, is still a mystery.

Study finds COVID-19 brain damage similar to Alzheimer's

Older COVID-19 patients may face added risk from the virus. A new study finds that older patients can suffer brain damage that is more extensive than what is caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine found higher levels of seven markers of brain damage in patients with COVID-19 with neurological symptoms than those without them. The excess markers are also found in the blood of patients who died in the hospital rather than in those discharged and sent home.

The study found 251 people who had no record or symptoms of cognitive decline or dementia before being hospitalized for COVID-19. Those with higher levels of the seven markets were more likely to die from the virus.

CDC director makes some COVID-19 course corrections

The Biden administration’s policies to handle the coronavirus pandemic have been called into question lately, culminating in the Supreme Court’s rejection of the vaccination mandate for private businesses. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is hitting the reset button.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Walensky said the pandemic has made twists and turns that have kept medical experts off balance. She says she should have said from the beginning that there is a lot about the disease that she and other experts just don’t know.

“I think what I have not conveyed is the uncertainty in a lot of these situations,” Walensky said. 

Around the nation

  • Arizona: Two major hospital systems in Southern Arizona will allow employees to work, even if they test positive for COVID-19. Both Banner Health and Tucson Medical Center said they are following guidance from the CDC. “Team members who return under these guidelines will be required to wear N95/KN95 masks for 10 days after a positive test,” Banner Health said in a statement

  • Maryland: After battling a surge in cases of the Omicron variant for weeks, state officials say COVID-19 numbers have begun moving lower. Even though the seven-day rate of cases is still well above the target range of 5%, it is sharply lower from Jan. 10’s average of 27.98%.

  • Massachusetts: Hospitals across the state had already postponed most elective surgeries because of COVID-19. Now they are including many non-elective operations. "We are deferring surgeries for what we consider to be benign tumors or masses. But some of those of course turn out to be cancer," Dr. Ron Walls, COO of Mass. General Brigham, told ABC News.

  • California: The state’s new COVID-19 workplace rules have taken effect. In the event of an outbreak, the rules require employers to make FDA-approved COVID-19 tests available to all exposed employees at no cost, during work hours.

  • Colorado: Emergency room (ER) doctors are appealing to Gov. Jared Polis for help in handling the influence of COVID-19 patients arriving daily at the ER. The leaders of the Colorado chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians say ERs are trying to deal with a greater number of patients but lack the staffing and resources to do so.

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