By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Priyanka Jaisinghani
COVID-19, "stay-at-home" orders and enforced physical distancing has made us more dependent on digital when it comes to connection and communication at both a local and global level.
Civic Engagement Redefined<p>Long-lasting impact requires changes from the bottom up. Civic engagement means working to make a difference in our communities to promote quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.</p><p>We're seeing how, across multiple issues, young people are becoming active participants in driving dialogues with policy-makers, on a state and federal level. In addition, they are empowering the citizens of the communities in which they reside, taking an active role in shaping the future we hold.</p>
1. Racial Justice<p>Across the U.S., we saw the rise of the racial justice movement through Black Lives Matter. Hundreds of protestors came to the streets, from New York to Nevada, acknowledging, supporting and condemning the long-existing inequalities faced by the black community. We saw this movement propel beyond the streets, throughout social media, and to the polling stations.</p><p>Young activists were demanding not only awareness but also change. In this digital space, young people started sharing resources and information for others to educate themselves about the pressing need for racial justice. They were able to mobilize support to inform, educate and shape citizen action. They shared links to petitions, offered advice for safe protesting practices, created templates for emailing authorities, listed bail funds and black-owned restaurants and businesses in need of support. They used social media to support the various needs of this movement – and continue to do so.</p>
2. Climate Change<p>The youth-led climate change has become dominant online. Every Friday, young people lead a digital #ClimateStrike to raise awareness of important legislative initiatives and create tangible ways for individuals to get involved in the fight against climate change.</p><p>As a leading example, to commemorate this year's Earth Day, youth held a 72-hour, live-streamed "digital march" with protests, speeches, and more. This "digital march" was attended by more than 200,000 viewers. Young people are pivoting their strategies and applying them to a digital space. We know when the streets are safe again, they will continue their activism by marching to raise awareness both on the streets and digitally.</p>
3. Voting Rights<p>Voting is another pertinent issue coming to the fore. In <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/315761/lack-voting-information-hamper-youth-turnout.aspx" target="_blank">a Gallup poll</a>, four out of five (79%) young people say "the coronavirus pandemic has helped them realize how much political leaders' decisions impact their lives"; three in five say "they are part of a movement that will vote to express its views."</p><p>As a result of these changing attitudes, young people are having conversations with their families and finding ways to get politically active. They're donating funds to campaigns, volunteering their time to raise awareness around voting and creating social campaigns to try to influence other people to vote and register to vote.</p>
How social media is used in the U.S. for political issues. Statista<p>It's inspiring to see young people around the world deeply engaged in the digital space and continuing their activism. They have played a critical role in calling for change and transformation in society. From climate to health to politics, young people are the most affected. The only way to make progress is to build back better. They're building upon existing issues and movements, creating new alliances and driving conversations and action. This generation is also building upon the same values and ideas of those before them to change the status quo and find ways to enact change for a better future.</p>
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By Alexander Freund
At first glance, the symptoms caused by SARS CoV-2 resemble those we know from a "normal flu."
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The UN World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday that will need to raise $6.8 billion over the next six months to avert famine triggered by the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
Over 1 Billion Raised<p>The UN food agency is the world's largest humanitarian organization and it is entirely funded by donations. In 2019, the money it raised funded school meals for 17.3 million children globally and delivered 4.2 million tonnes of food to regions or countries.</p><p>Beasley is now urging donors, including governments and institutions, but also the more than 2,000 billionaires in the world - who hold a combined net worth of $8 trillion - to donate to the WFP.</p><p>The organization has so far raised $1.6 billion, far below the target needed this year. </p>
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Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it is pausing COVID-19 vaccine trials after a study participant fell ill. The announcement comes just weeks after the company said trials were in the final stages, NBC News reported.
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Climate change has spurred close to a doubling of natural disasters in the last 20 years, and world leaders are failing to prevent Earth from evolving into "an uninhabitable hell" for millions, the United Nations warned on Monday.
Climate Change Proves Deadly<p>Worsening floods and storms accounted for about four-fifths of the total from 2000-2019, while major increases were also registered for droughts, wildfires and heat waves.The report noted that extreme heat is proving especially deadly. Other major recorded disasters included earthquakes and tsunamis.</p><p>The natural disasters also caused almost $3 trillion in global economic losses — almost twice the amount in the preceding two decades.</p><p>The UN body blamed leaders for not only <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-scientists-should-cut-back-on-air-travel/a-42862862" target="_blank">insufficient action</a> in slowing down climate change but also for failing to combat the global coronavirus pandemic which has killed over 1 million people and infected over 37 million in the past nine months.</p><p>"COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune into the world around them," Mizutori said in a statement. Despite warnings from experts and UN agencies, "almost all nations" have not done enough to prevent death and illness caused by the pandemic.</p>
Asia at Highest Risk<p>Though the report commended countries including India and Bangladesh for stepping up efforts in evacuating millions of people to safety from life-threatening floods and cyclones, it said the odds "continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions" in line with an agreed aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.</p><p>The report, released ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Tuesday, relied on statistics from the Emergency Events Database, which records all disasters that kill 10 or more people, affect 100 or more people or result in a state of emergency declaration.</p><p>According to the data, Asia has suffered the highest number of disasters in the past 20 years with 3,068 disasters, followed by the Americas with 1,756 and Africa with 1,192.</p><p>In terms of affected countries, China topped the list with 577 events followed by the US with 467.</p><p>"It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming," Mizutori said.<br></p>
By Thomas A. Russo
If you think you're safe from the coronavirus just because you're outdoors, think again.
Doesn’t Wind Make Outside Safer Than Inside?<p>It's true that the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.abc6197" target="_blank">wind helps disperse respiratory droplets</a> that can carry viruses.</p><p>When you're indoors, one of the big concerns about how the coronavirus spreads is aerosols – tiny, light droplets people emit along with larger droplets when they breathe. These particles can <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-covid-19-superspreaders-are-talking-where-you-sit-in-the-room-matters-145966" target="_blank">linger in the air</a>, and the concentration can build up in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces. There's less of a risk in open outdoor settings because of the sheer volume of air and available space to physically distance.</p><p>At least one study, not yet peer reviewed, found COVID-19 patients were <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.28.20029272" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nearly 20 times more likely</a> to have been infected indoors than outdoors.</p><p>But that doesn't mean you're in a protective bubble when outdoors.</p>
What Behaviors Could Put You at Risk Outside?<p>To get a sense of how easy it is to put yourself at risk outdoors, look at crowd photos from the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/the-interactions-of-rose-garden-ceremony-attendees-who-tested-positive-for-coronavirus/2020/10/03/b7564938-61a3-44f1-83c6-0c1551f0a518_video.html" target="_blank">White House Rose Garden event</a> on Sept. 26. About 200 people attended that ceremony, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/02/us/politics/trump-contact-tracing-covid.html" target="_blank">at least 12</a> tested positive for the virus within days, including President Donald Trump and <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/04/15/833692377/how-the-coronavirus-has-affected-individual-members-of-congress" target="_blank">two senators</a>. When and where each person was infected isn't known, but several behaviors at the Rose Garden ceremony raised the risk of getting or sharing the virus.</p><p>The first problem with this scene: Very few people were <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html" target="_blank">wearing face masks</a>.</p><p>With no mask, infectious people can be shedding the virus when they talk and there is nothing to stop the respiratory droplets. For people not yet infected, no mask means the virus has several ways to enter their bodies – nose and mouth as well as eyes. The lack of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02801-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">masks</a> also raises the risk of getting a larger dose, and a higher viral load may mean a higher <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30196-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">likelihood of severe disease</a>.</p><p>People were also seated <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html" target="_blank">close together</a>. And before and after the ceremony, they mingled – indoors and outdoors – shaking hands, leaning in for close conversations and hugging each other.</p><p>Remember that just breathing expels respiratory droplets, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm" target="_blank">loud, animated speech</a> like laughing or shouting expels more. We don't yet know how much virus is needed to trigger symptoms, but those doses add up. So, you might get a small dose from a person sitting next to you, but if that person later gives you a big hug or shakes your hand, they could give you another dose. Or you might talk to someone else who is infectious for several minutes and inhale more virus particles.</p><p>All it takes is one person in the peak infectious period – the 24 to 48 hours before and after symptoms start – to spark a superspreader event.</p>
When Do I Have to Wear a Mask Outdoors?<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06067-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Face masks lower your risk</a> of getting infected, and they also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2020.0376" target="_blank">reduce the amount of virus</a> you're spreading if you're infected.</p><p>If you're running or walking, carry a mask with you. When you're near other people, put it on.</p><p>If you're sitting at an outdoor café, try to mask up between bites and sips, especially if your age or health or weight make you vulnerable to severe COVID-19.</p><p>The likelihood of a passing interaction from someone walking by a table is small, but it's still possible. The safest spot when eating outdoors is a table away from high-traffic areas and upwind of everyone else.</p>
Is Six Feet of Social Distancing Enough?<p>Depending on where you are, maximize the distance between yourself and others. There's <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-lower-your-coronavirus-risk-while-eating-out-restaurant-advice-from-an-infectious-disease-expert-138925" target="_blank">nothing magic about staying six feet apart</a>. Particles <a href="http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.4756" target="_blank">generated by sneezes</a> can travel a lot farther than that.</p><p>Twelve or 15 feet is safer.</p><p>It's all about minimizing risk. You can never drive that risk to zero when you're in public.</p>
Can I Still Have People Over for an Outside Party?<p>Think of the coronavirus like a sexually transmitted disease – everyone claims to behave safely, but do you really know where they've been? <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/the-virus-didnt-stop-a-washington-socialite-from-throwing-a-backyard-soiree-then-the-tests-came-back-positive/2020/07/01/841041ba-ba19-11ea-bdaf-a129f921026f_story.html" target="_blank">It just takes one</a> infected person. Rapid COVID-19 tests <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02661-2" target="_blank">aren't 100% accurate</a>, either, and are presently unavailable for most people.</p><p>To keep things safe for an outdoor gathering, set up tables for each social bubble – a family, for example. Keep the tables at least 15 to 20 feet apart. Set up food on individual plates in a central location and have people or each bubble go up separately. Don't share utensils or food or glasses. Wear masks as much as possible, and don't forget physical distancing.</p><p>There is a lot we still don't know about the coronavirus, including what the long-term damage is. Regardless of how old you are or how healthy, do what you can to avoid the virus until there's a vaccine. Even if you get over the illness quickly, we don't know what the long-term consequences will be.</p>
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By Julia Conley
As the American public awaits a new coronavirus aid package and at least one in five small businesses expect to close by the end of 2020 due to economic hardship, government watchdog Accountable.US and the HuffPost revealed Sunday that at least five companies which were previously fined for pollution violations received millions of dollars in loans via the Paycheck Protection Program which was introduced in March.
<div id="28c35" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="39d60f1d30497c2d70e6bd472fc84cf8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1312727026609074183" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Tens of millions of dollars went to companies with environmental mishaps. https://t.co/9gZs160fIt</div> — Chris D'Angelo 🌎 (@Chris D'Angelo 🌎)<a href="https://twitter.com/c_m_dangelo/statuses/1312727026609074183">1601813487.0</a></blockquote></div>
Britain and France both posted record high rises in the daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday evening.
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By Meredith Ayan
While pet foster and adoption rates have soared in New York and many parts of the United States, globally, the situation is much direr.
In the face of COVID-19, these shelters are continually facing critical challenges, including food shortages, spikes in pet abandonment with a plummeting and near-zero rate of adoptions, overcrowding, and fears of culling. Thanks to our work with partners all over the world, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) International has a direct line of communication with these international shelters and a unique insight into their experiences during the pandemic. What we've been hearing is harrowing.
Online retail giant Amazon, which has seen its profits soar since COVID-19 lockdowns began, announced Thursday that nearly 20,000 of its employees either tested positive or have been presumed positive for the coronavirus, CNN reported.
By Gudrun Heise
Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.
Influenza Vaccination<p>A flu vaccination may thus be able to narrow down the diagnostic options when flu-like symptoms occur, but whether such a vaccination also has an influence on the behavior of the dangerous new virus is — like so much else — not clear. "It is conceivable that there is an indirect effect. But it is, I believe, a matter of speculation whether it has an immunological effect in the narrower sense," says Krause.</p><p>Every winter, doctors' waiting rooms are full of people who are coughing and sniffing but who mostly turn out to have only a severe respiratory infection. According to current knowledge, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is also likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations. </p><p>In winter, cold viruses, at least, flourish because cold and dry air offers ideal conditions for their spread. In addition, it becomes more difficult to air rooms regularly and intensively — an important further measure to counteract the coronavirus and contain to some extent the danger posed by aerosols.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://www.rki.de/DE/Home/homepage_node.html" target="_blank">Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency</a>, between 5% and 20% of people in Germany become infected with flu viruses every year. These viruses are also dangerous and can be fatal. The flu vaccination must be adapted to the influenza viruses every year, because they mutate. But at least there is a vaccination.</p><p>Most experts agree that there is unlikely to be a vaccine against the coronavirus by the time the next wave of influenza comes around. And even if a vaccine were to be approved, many unknowns remain.</p>
COVID-19 and Flu Simultaneously<p>For example, there is a lack of practical experience in dealing simultaneously with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. It is possible to speculate that having influenza could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into the human body. "The general weakening of the immune system during an influenza infection could increase the susceptibility of a patient to a SARS-CoV-2 infection," Krause says.</p><p>However, it is uncertain how dangerous this double infection could ultimately be and what can be done about it. Krause is of the opinion that we must arm ourselves against all three diseases — colds, flu and COVID-19. If we have a cold, bed rest, hot tea and cough medicine usually help. We can get vaccinated against flu. But how do we deal with COVID-19?</p><p><span></span>Probably people can only hope that if they get the illness, they will have a mild form with as few after-effects as possible. Here, it will certainly help to stick to suggested rules on hygiene to reduce or prevent our exposure to the virus. In an interview with DW, Bonn-based virology professor Hendrik Streeck made it clear that COVID-19 usually takes a more severe course when there is a high viral load at infection.</p>
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene<p>The same hygiene measures with which we are trying to get at least some kind of grip on COVID-19 also apply to influenza. The less we come into contact with viruses, the greater the chance that we will be spared an infection or that it will be mild.</p><p>These measures include general hygiene precautions such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of protective face masks. "The various hygienic measures against COVID-19 will also reduce the spread of influenza," says Krause. "Possibly, further connections of a more immunological nature will be discovered."</p><p>Let us hope that is the case, because the flu season hasn't even started.</p>
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By Alexander Freund
The World Health Organization, along with its global partners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced that it will provide 120 million rapid-diagnostic antigen tests to people in lower- and middle-income countries over the next six months. The tests represent a "massive increase" in testing worldwide, according to the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics.