The Covid-19 outbreak has taught us several lessons, among them the importance of scientific collaboration and the value of early-stage research. It has been nearly 18 months since the pandemic first shut down the world, yet everyday scientists and medical professionals are learning new information about the coronavirus and how different individuals and communities can be affected by it. Such research is often first shared at scientific conferences, including the GME Consortium Research Day held on our platform earlier this year.
We’ve combed through the event proceedings to shine a spotlight on some of the latest findings in corona research - from the pandemic’s influence on vaccine hesitancy to the connection between social class and infection risk.
Did the pandemic worsen OCD symptoms?
When the coronavirus first began to spread, the consistent emphasis on the importance of cleanliness may have had a negative impact on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) patients. This study explores the worsening of OCD symptoms in children and adolescents as a result of the pandemic. Researchers examined the case of a 17-year-old patient with a history of OCD who experienced a significant worsening of obsessions and compulsions associated with contamination and cleanliness, although she previously only showed checking obsessions. These conditions improved with an adjustment to the patient’s medical treatment.
This case study shows how global crises can affect individuals’ mental health and invites medical professionals to expect and prepare for changes in psychotic symptoms in response to future global emergencies.
Flu shots and Covid vaccine hesitancy
According to the CDC, during the 2018-2019 flu season, over 30,000 people died due to influenza, with under-18s accounting for nearly 500 of these deaths. Mount Sinai paediatricians hypothesized that the threat of this devastation, in tandem with the loss of life wrought by Covid-19, would make parents more willing to vaccinate their children against the flu. The research team disseminated a survey to over 100 child caregivers, asking questions regarding demographics, parental vaccine decisions, and vaccine history.
Although researchers found that the willingness of parents to vaccinate their children for the 2020-21 flu season was in the favorable range of 68.5%, the results showed that the pandemic did not influence the opinion of either parents who refused the flu vaccine for their children or those who accepted it. This study exemplifies the need to inform, guide, and educate parents regarding vaccination. The research shows that caregivers who had previously immunized their children were more likely to agree to vaccinate them this flu season, yet there are still a large number of parents who were not swayed by the severity of previous flu seasons or the pandemic. This demonstrates that there's much work to be done when it comes to assuring the general public of the efficacy and importance of vaccines.
Wellness culture in a pandemic
During the early days of the pandemic, amidst lockdowns and prolonged isolation, many individuals suffered from increased stress levels, anxiety, and depression. In many cases, stress levels for frontline workers continued to rise, specifically physicians who had to work closely with Covid patients and their families. In this study, researchers conducted a survey among physicians that took part in a virtual wellness program. Based in a New York hospital, the program took place over the course of two months and consisted of weekly check-ins and lifestyle lessons. Participants learned about self-care best practices, including healthy eating, exercise, creative expression, mindfulness, reading for pleasure, journal writing, and reflection. After the completion of the course, survey results found that scores in wellness categories remained unchanged and, most importantly, did not worsen.
Research like this shows that wellness programs can help to prevent people from becoming overwhelmed with stress, even when restricted to an online format.
Social class and Covid
As the pandemic continues to unfold, data shows that certain systemic inequities have put people of color at an increased risk for Covid infection when compared to their White counterparts. A new study seeks to explore this dynamic further by revealing potential health disparities in positive pregnant Covid-19 patients. Scientists compared the demographics of positive and negative Covid patients admitted to Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital from March 30th to April 30th 2020.
The results show that subjects who were born internationally were 15 times more likely to test positive for Covid compared to those born in the US. Patients who lived in households with more than four people were nearly four times more likely to be Covid positive when compared to those who lived with three or less. Additionally, when compared to White patients, Hispanic subjects had an over threefold higher risk of contracting Covid.
By conducting this research, the study authors were able to reveal how different factors such as living in a multi-generational family household, can cause individuals of color or those from lower-income backgrounds to be disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The study also makes a case for the importance and safety of remote work and digital meetings, finding that people who work from home are four times less likely to test positive for the virus than those who do not.
As these research posters show, there is still much to learn about Covid-19 and how it has affected individuals on a social, mental, and physical level. Disseminating Covid research data in its early stages can help us develop a better understanding of the virus and equip us with the tools and sources to combat harmful misinformation.