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Health Highlights, Nov. 3, 2020

By Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster HealthDay Reporters

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:

Rapid COVID-19 Test Falters in People Without Symptoms, Study Finds

A new study finds that a rapid COVID-19 test doesn't perform as promised in real-world conditions, especially when testing in people who don't have symptoms, The New York Times reported Monday.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that in symptomatic patients the rapid test made by Quidel could detect more than 80% of infections found by a slower, lab-based P.C.R. test.

But when the rapid test was used to randomly screen students and staff members who did not feel sick, it found only 32% of the positive tests found by P.C.R.

Quidel's test is only authorized for use in people with symptoms, but its use with asymptomatic patients has been pushed by the U.S. government, the Times reported.

The test, called the Sofia, is less accurate than P.C.R. tests, but takes only 15 to 30 minutes to run and costs about $23, compared with $50 or more for a P.C.R. test, the newspaper said.

In September, the White House announced plans to buy and 150 million rapid tests made by Abbott Inc., the Times said.

"This is really valuable data that has been hard to come by," Dr. Benjamin Mazer, a pathologist at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the study, told the Times. "But 32 percent is a very low sensitivity. I'm surprised by how low that is."

The data, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, were evaluated by Mazer and other outside experts at the request of the Times.

"The data for the symptomatic group is decent," Jennifer Dien Bard, director of the clinical microbiology and virology laboratory at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told the Times. "But to get less than 50 percent in the asymptomatic group? That's worse than flipping a coin."

Pregnant Women At Increased Risk From COVID-19

Pregnant women have been added to the list of those at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and death, U.S. health officials said Monday.

Although most pregnant women with COVID-19 have not become severely ill, the warning is based on a study of tens of thousands of pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms, The New York Times reported.

These women were more likely to need intensive care, be connected to heart-lung bypass machines, and to need mechanical ventilation, compared with non-pregnant women of the same age with COVID symptoms. In fact, the pregnant women had a 70% increased risk of dying, compared with symptomatic women who are not pregnant.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study collected data on more than 400,000 symptomatic women aged 15 to 44, of whom more than 23,000 were pregnant.

"We are now saying pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness. Previously we said they might be at increased risk for severe illness," Sascha Ellington, a health scientist with the CDC, told the Times.

Still, the overall risk of both complications and death was low, Ellington noted.

"The absolute risk of these severe outcomes is low among women 15 to 44, regardless of pregnancy status, but what we do see is an increased risk associated with pregnancy," she said.

Prince William reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in April

Britain's Prince William was sickened with COVID-19 back in April, BBC News reported Monday.

Sources told BBC News that William tested positive, although the prince's office has not commented.

William, also known as the Duke of Cambridge, is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles.

The Sun newspaper reported that William was treated by palace doctors and isolated at home and was struggling to breathe at one point.

His illness may have been kept private because the royals didn't want to alarm the nation, BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said.

Prince Charles also tested positive for COVID-19 in the spring. At the time, the prince's office said in a statement that Charles was showing "mild symptoms, but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also had the virus in the spring. He was the first world leader to announce he had COVID-19 in March. He was admitted to the hospital, but recovered.

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