Health Highlights: Dec. 16, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled bythe HealthDay staff:

COVID-19 Significantly Increases Deaths Among Young Adults

COVID-19 has significantly increased deaths among young U.S. adults, and COVID-19 deaths in this age group exceeded opioid overdose deaths in some areas, researchers say.

They found that about 76,000 adults ages 25-44 died from March through July 2020, which is nearly 12,000 more deaths than would be expected over those five months, compared with previous years.

About 38% of these deaths were attributed directly to COVID-19, but the rate was 80% or more at times in some regions, such as New York and New Jersey, according to the research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors also noted that due to inadequate testing, COVID-19 deaths in young adults were likely underreported.

Accidental drug overdoses are the usual leading cause of death among young adults, so the researchers compared the number of COVID-19-attributed deaths to unintentional opioid overdoses during the same period of time in 2018, the most recent year for which such data is available.

"In some regions that experienced substantial COVID-19 surges, COVID-19 deaths among US adults ages 25-44 equaled or exceeded the number of deaths caused by unintentional opioid overdoses in 2018," lead author Dr. Jeremy Faust, of the department of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a hospital news release. "In these regions, COVID-19 appears to have temporarily rivaled or surpassed the usual leading cause of death among US adults ages 25-44."

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo Quarantining After COVID-19 Exposure

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quarantining after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the State Department said Wednesday.

It said Pompeo tested negative for the coronavirus but was being monitored by medical professionals. It cited privacy reasons for not identifying the infected person Pompeo had been in contact with, the Associated Press reported.

"In accordance with CDC guidelines, he will be in quarantine. He is being closely monitored by the Department's medical team," the State Department said.

Pompeo and the department have been criticized for hosting holiday parties as the coronavirus pandemic rages throughout the U.S., the AP reported.

WHO Team Seeks to Pinpoint Source of Coronavirus

A World Health Organization team of experts will examine samples and medical data from China to try to find out where the new coronavirus first made the leap from animals to people.

Most experts believe the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in animals in China, probably bats, the Associated Press reported.

The objective of the 10-person WHO team is to gather information to better prepare for possible future outbreaks, according to team member Fabian Leendertz, a German biologist who specializes in emerging diseases.

"It's really not about finding a guilty country," Leendertz told the AP. "It's about trying to understand what happened and then see if based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future."

Leendertz' team is already talking with scientists in China and expects to travel there in January. They will likely start in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, though a precise itinerary hasn't yet been set, Leendertz said.

Tracking down the animal in which the virus emerged will be key, so the group will take samples of further bat species and other animals that might harbor it, Leendertz added.

Leendertz said the team has not been informed of any restrictions on their work in China beyond the typical two-week quarantine. In total, the mission is expected to last four to five weeks.

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