Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—March 8, 2020

Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out our top 5 articles of the week.

#5: Washington Insurance Commissioner Orders Insurers to Cover COVID-19 Testing

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency order Thursday requiring all health insurance carriers in the state to waive copays and deductibles for consumers requiring COVID-19 testing.

The order, which is effective through May 4, follows the February 29 proclamation by Gov. Jay Inslee of a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the state, which saw the first reported US case of the virus reported on January 20. The number of cases of COVID-19 in Washington has continued to rise, with 70 reported cases and 10 deaths in the state as of Thursday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health.

“Consumers are rightly concerned about prevention, testing and possible treatment,” Kreidler said in a statement. “My emergency order provides guidance to health insurers and should help reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to protect them.”

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#4: CDC Recommendations for Coronavirus Home Isolation with Pets

There is currently no evidence to suggest that companion animals, pets, or service animals can spread the novel coronavirus, according to a briefing from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite the fact that this virus seems to have originated via an animal source, the CDC believes it is now spreading person-to-person.

The CDC recently released guidelines for public health professionals who are managing the home care and isolation of people with coronavirus who may have animals in their homes. They have not received any reports of pets or other animals being sick with coronavirus.

Care managers should first assess whether home care is appropriate for patients. The caregivers should evaluate whether there is a separate bedroom where a patient can recover without sharing personal space with others, if there are food and other necessities present, if there is personal protective equipment at the home (including at a minimum: gloves and a facemask), and what the risks are to others in the home that may be over the age of 65, pregnant, children, or immunocompromised.

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#3: New Jersey Confirms First Coronavirus Death in Bergen County

A day after Governor Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency, New Jersey has confirmed its first coronavirus (COVID-19) death on March 10, 2020.

The New Jersey Department of Health announced that the man was 69 years old and had underlying medical conditions. The total number of cases confirmed by officials also rose to 15, with 31 persons under investigation.

According to a joint statement by Governor Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, the man was from Bergen County.

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#2: Italy on Lockdown in Response to COVID-19

Italy imposed a dramatic nationwide lockdown this week—closing schools, public spaces and tourist attractions, canceling events, and restricting travel until at least April 3—as COVID-19 continues to take a mounting toll on the country.

More than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 631 deaths were confirmed in Italy as of Tuesday evening. The country recorded the highest singled-day death toll from the coronavirus Tuesday, when 168 deaths were confirmed, according to reports.

The lockdown began Sunday in northern Italy, where Antonio Pesenti, a hospital official in the Lombardy region, described a “a tsunami of patients,” with intensive care being set up in corridors and the region’s health system “one step from collapse,” CNN reported.

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#1: Gastrointestinal Symptoms Could Be New Focus for Coronavirus Diagnosis

Novel coronavirus symptoms seem to be mostly focused on fever and cough, but gastrointestinal symptoms should be a new focus for clinicians, according to 2 new papers published online in Gastroenterology.

The first paper describes how investigators from Shanghai, China, sought to document the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Although fever, dry cough, and dyspnea present in most cases, they wanted to understand what impact the virus had on symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort. So far, those symptoms have varied among different study populations, the authors wrote.

Former studies on SARS, which is related to the coronavirus and can present with similar symptoms, showed that SARS was verified in patients after detection in biopsy specimens and stool. This was true even after the patients had been discharged from the hospital.

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