While the focus has been on the immediate effects of COVID-19, the virus has had some interesting secondary implications. Some remain shrouded in scientific and medical mystery. Others are a bit more obvious. Here’s what we’ve seen so far.
Non-COVID-19 emergent cases may be down
Where have all the patients gone? Anecdotally speaking, a recent physician-authored New York Times op-ed indicated that physicians across the country and globe are seeing many COVID-19 cases, but little of anything else. Some of this, the writer concedes, is by design. Many hospitals canceled elective procedures that would require hospital stays, and are using telehealth to treat otherwise stable patients. But, the physician asks, where are all of the emergency cases?
It could mean that the quarantine life of skipping work, sleeping in, and relaxing at home is better for our health. Or it could mean that people who would usually go to the hospital with an emergency are staying home out of fear of coming down with COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine shortages for autoimmune patients
Speculation about the efficacy of the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine has had an unintended consequence: People with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, are having a hard time getting their hands on the drug, which is a first-line therapy. The Lupus Foundation of America indicates that patients are already having a difficult time getting their prescriptions filled. Meanwhile, the FDA has issued a hydroxychloroquine shortage notice.
The drug’s efficacy for treating COVID-19 also remains uncertain. Brazilian researchers recently halted a study in which one group was receiving a high dosage. Some participants experienced ventricular tachycardia. It’s also worth keeping in mind that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is among the top 10 causes of death in low-income countries. Increasing shortages could mean lives lost to a treatable disease.
Lower pollution levels
At the risk of this post turning into a “we are the virus” meme, state shutdowns are having a real effect on pollution levels. NASA tweeted earlier this month that in California, nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased. The European Space Agencyhighlighted a similar trend, showing declines in air pollution throughout Europe. These events follow the trend researchers saw in China early in the outbreak. And it isn’t just air quality: Noise pollution also appears to be down.
The effects of air pollution are well-documented, including stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease, according to the WHO. Additionally, heightened air pollution levels may increase COVID-19 mortality, according to a recent Harvard study, which is awaiting peer review.