Singapore Is Seeing Daily Record COVID Cases. Here’s Why It May Not be a Bad Thing

Abigail Ng wrote . . . . . . . . .

Authorities in Singapore have tightened Covid measures as infections in the country rise to fresh record highs — but two health experts told CNBC they are not terribly concerned.

The country’s health-care system and workers have been strained by the increase in cases, and there is a need to slow down transmission to avoid seeing more infections in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the health ministry said Friday when stricter measures were announced again.

For the next four weeks, group sizes for social gatherings will be reduced to two people from five people, and working from home will be the default.

Still, medical experts told CNBC that the latest virus wave may not be a bad thing since Singapore’s population is highly-vaccinated.

Many of the patients with Covid-19 have avoided severe illness and will gain further protection against future infection as antibodies fight the virus, according to Teo Yik-Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.

Around 82% of Singapore’s population has received two doses of a Covid vaccine. Health authorities on Sunday said 98% of infected individuals had no or mild symptoms over the last 28 days.

Case numbers may remain high for a few months, but the “vast majority” will be well protected by the vaccines and won’t fall seriously ill, Teo said.

“For these people, infection will not have any short-term or long-term consequence to their health, but may additionally trigger a natural immune response which reduces the chance of subsequent infection,” he said in an email.

Potential benefits of natural infection
Letting the virus transmit slowly through the population is “not necessarily a bad thing,” said Ooi Eng Eong, a professor in Duke-NUS Medical School’s emerging infectious diseases program.

The two main vaccines used in Singapore are developed by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, and both use the messenger RNA technology.

mRNA vaccines instruct the body to produce a so-called spike protein which is found on the surface of the virus that causes Covid-19. It is harmless, but triggers the immune system to develop antibodies so that the body will be able to fight off infection better if exposed to the real virus.

“If we get a natural infection, our immune system will be able to recognize a larger part of the virus” as opposed to just the spike protein, Ooi said, adding that it could make a person more resilient against future variants.

Instead of infection followed by vaccination, we’re going to go vaccination followed by infection, which I think is even better because infection will mostly be mild.

He said Singapore could reap the benefits of natural infection that some parts of Europe and North America are experiencing, but in the reverse order.

“Instead of infection followed by vaccination, we’re going to go vaccination followed by infection, which I think is even better because [infections] will mostly be mild,” he said.

“Those [countries] that had high rates of disease last year paid the price” of higher death rates, he told CNBC.

More new variants?

When asked if widespread transmission of Covid could lead to new variants emerging, Ooi acknowledged that it’s difficult to predict what will happen.

However, he pointed out that future variants will have to compete with the “very transmissible” delta variant, the dominant strain worldwide.

“It’s very hard to beat delta,” he said.

There were also concerns about mu, a new variant of interest, but it couldn’t take off because delta was too strong, he said.

“Having said that, I think the wise thing to do is still to be prepared that something fitter than delta could eventually emerge, or that the new variant could escape the immunity produced by vaccination,” Ooi said.

Local Covid situation

The number of severe Covid cases remains within expectations, according to Singapore’s health ministry.

There were 172 cases that required oxygen supplementation, and 30 in the intensive care unit (ICU) as of Sunday. ICU capacity can be ramped up to 1,600 beds if needed, the government said.

The two professors who spoke to CNBC were split on the whether there’s a need for new restrictions.

Ooi said the current virus wave is “well within the limits” of Singapore’s capacity. The new restrictions are “unnecessary” and will slow down efforts to live with the disease, he added.

While Teo agreed that the situation wasn’t worsening, he said tightening measures are needed to provide “breathing space” for Singapore to make adjustments to operational and hospitalization protocols.

Hospital beds are filling up because of the country’s “very cautious” approach, and not because that many people need acute medical care, Teo said.

The long-term plan against Covid is a combination of vaccination and natural infection to provide protection while not overwhelming hospitals, he said, adding that he does not anticipate an increase in the death rate, but the absolute numbers can be expected to rise.

As of Sunday, Singapore reported 87,892 Covid cases and 78 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Source : CNBC


Read also at Reuters:

Vaccinated people make up 75% of recent COVID-19 cases in Singapore, but few fall ill . . . . .

Pumpkin Maritozzo of Seven Eleven Japan

Maritozzo with pumpkin-flavored whipped cream and bittersweet caramel sauce sandwiched between black brioche bread kneaded with cocoa. The price is 270 yen (tax included).

Dairy Foods May Be Good for You After All

Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

You remember the ad. It asked if you’ve “got milk?” and said that “milk does a body good.”

So, does it? New research suggests it might.

In the study, people who consumed more dairy fat actually had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who drank or ate less dairy, CNN reported.

“Increasing evidence suggests that the health impact of dairy foods may be more dependent on the type — such as cheese, yogurt, milk and butter — rather than the fat content, which has raised doubts if avoidance of dairy fats overall is beneficial for cardiovascular health,” said lead author Kathy Trieu, a researcher from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia.

“Our study suggests that cutting down on dairy fat or avoiding dairy altogether might not be the best choice for heart health,” Trieu told CNN.

To study the issue, her team looked to Sweden, measuring the blood levels of a fatty acid mostly found in dairy food. The country is known to be among the world’s highest consumers and producers of dairy products.

The investigators continued to follow just over 4,000 participants, whose blood was analyzed for an average of 16 years.

The researchers adjusted for known cardiovascular disease risk factors and looked at how many in the group had had heart attacks, strokes and other circulatory illnesses, and how many had died during those intervening years. Those whose blood contained the highest levels of the fatty acid had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and no increased risk of death from all causes, the study found.

The researchers didn’t stop at Sweden. They confirmed their findings by combining the results with 17 other studies that included 43,000 people from the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark, CNN reported.

“While the findings may be partly influenced by factors other than dairy fat, our study does not suggest any harm of dairy fat, per se,” said Matti Marklund, a senior researcher at the George Institute and joint senior author of the paper.

“We found those with the highest levels actually had the lowest risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease]. These relationships are highly interesting, but we need further studies to better understand the full health impact of dairy fats and dairy foods,” Marklund added.

The results should not be interpreted to mean that full-fat dairy products cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at Tufts University’s Cardiovascular Nutrition Research Laboratory in Boston, told CNN.

The study showed that the group with the highest biomarker of dairy intake also had a significantly lower BMI, were more physically active, had a lower smoking rate, lower rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a higher level of education, higher intakes of vegetables, fruit and fish, and lower intake of processed meat. All of these factors are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

“They were controlled for in the statistical analyses, however, residual confounding cannot be ruled out. The data reported are for associations, however, associations cannot establish causality,” Lichtenstein explained.

What researchers do know is that dairy, especially when it’s fermented, had been associated with heart benefits.

Trieu said, “It is important to remember that although dairy foods can be rich in saturated fat, they are also rich in many other nutrients and can be a part of a healthy diet. However, other fats like those found in seafood, nuts and non-tropical vegetable oils can have greater health benefits than dairy fats.”

Brian Power, a lecturer at the department of health and nutritional sciences at Ireland’s Institute of Technology Sligo, said the study should prompt scientists to “rethink what we think we know about food and disease.”

“Dairy products do not need to be avoided,” Power, who was not involved in the study, told CNN. “This is largely lost in its translation when communicating what we know about healthy eating.”

The research was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

Double Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients

scant 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6-1/2 oz white chocolate, broken into pieces
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sunflower oil or peanut oil
1 cup milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Linea 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the sugar and 4-1/2 oz of the white chocolate.
  4. Place the eggs and oil in a separate bowl and whisk until frothy, then gradually whisk in the milk. Stir into the dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners, filling each three-quarters full.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until well risen and springy to the touch.
  7. Remove the muffins from the oven, let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then remove and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Place the remaining white chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and heat until melted. Spread over the top of the muffins. Let set, then dust the tops with a little cocoa and serve.

Makes 12 muffins.

Source: 100 Best Delicious Chocolate


Today’s Comic

Exercise May Reduce Sleep Apnea and Improve Brain Health

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Exercise may help reduce symptoms of a common sleep disorder and improve brain function, a small study finds.

Exercise training could be a useful supplemental treatment for people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, the research showed. The condition is characterized by loud snoring and disrupted breathing and can raise the risk for heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline. It is typically treated with continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a machine that pushes air through a mask into the airway to keep it open while a person sleeps.

“Exercise training appears to be an attractive and adjunctive (add-on) non-pharmacological treatment,” said lead investigator Linda Massako Ueno-Pardi, an associate professor at the School of Arts, Science and Humanities at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. She also is a research collaborator at the university’s Heart Institute and Institute of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine.

Estimates show obstructive sleep apnea affects roughly 9% to 38% of U.S. adults, though many cases are thought to be undiagnosed. It is more common in men than women and becomes more prevalent as people age.

According to a scientific statement by the American Heart Association published in June, between 40% and 80% of people with cardiovascular disease have sleep apnea.

The condition often is associated with obesity, which can narrow the airway at the back of the throat, making it harder to breathe while lying down. Cigarette smoking, family history, nasal congestion, back sleeping, drinking alcohol, having a thicker neck or narrow throat and some hormone abnormalities also can contribute to the condition. Some medical conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, also raise the risk for sleep apnea.

Previous studies have shown people with sleep apnea experience a decrease in brain glucose metabolism, or the brain’s ability to upload and properly use glucose, its main source of fuel. This can impair cognitive function. Ueno-Pardi and her team explored whether exercise could help correct that.

The new work builds upon a small 2019 study in the journal Brain Plasticity that concluded increased aerobic activity improved brain glucose metabolism and executive function in older, middle-aged adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The new research included 47 Brazilian adults with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. Half took part in 60 minutes of supervised exercise three times per week for six months. The other half did not. The supervised exercise included five minutes of warming up; 25-40 minutes riding a stationary bicycle, 10 minutes of muscle strengthening and five minutes of cooling down.

Participants in both groups were given a series of tests to measure exercise capacity, brain glucose metabolism and cognitive function, including attention and executive function – the ability to plan and carry out tasks. Researchers also measured the severity of obstructive sleep apnea symptoms, such as disruptions to breathing and reductions in the body’s oxygen levels, or hypoxia, which has been shown to impact attention and executive function skills.

At the end of six months, those in the exercise group showed an increased capacity for exercise; improvements in the brain’s ability to use glucose; reductions in sleep apnea symptoms; and a boost in cognitive function, including a 32% improvement in attention and executive function. Those who did not exercise experienced no changes except a decline in brain glucose metabolism.

The findings, reported this week at the AHA’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions virtual conference, are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research makes a good case as to why exercise should be added to the treatment strategy for sleep apnea, said Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. He was not involved in the study.

The findings are important because they show exercise could benefit brain health in people with sleep disorders, he said.

“Our current treatments largely involve pushing air down people’s airways, which is great, and it works. But it is kind of a blunt instrument. Exercise training is one option that could add benefit and maybe even be curative. This is especially important with a disease where our gold standard treatment is not curative.”

CPAP machines do little to address obesity, the largest cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Exercise training may be effective in reducing the excess fat around the airways that makes it harder for people to breathe at night, Grandner said.

That’s one of the outcomes Ueno-Pardi believes happened in her study. While she and her team didn’t measure weight loss or muscle tone, they did measure percentage of body fat and found a “significant reduction” in the exercise group, she said. The exercise may have improved sleep apnea severity by decreasing body fat, especially around the airways.

“There’s a lot of research out there that weight loss is a really powerful strategy for treating sleep apnea,” Grandner said.

Source: American Heart Association