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Coronavirus

How fingers could point to a link between low testosterone and Covid hospitalisations

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Could the length of a person’s fingers provide a clue to how ill they might get after contracting Covid-19?

It is widely recognised that a longer ring finger is a marker of higher levels of testosterone prenatally, whereas a longer index finger is a marker of higher levels of oestrogen. Generally, men have longer ring fingers, whereas women have longer index fingers.

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New research involving Swansea University is examining the link between levels of sex hormones in the womb and in puberty and Covid hospitalizations.

Most people who contract the virus only experience mild symptoms. But when it comes to patients who need hospital care, the rates vary depending on age (with elderly people the most affected) and gender (with males experiencing a higher severity than females).

This has led scientists to examine the link between testosterone and Covid-19 severity more closely. One hypothesis implicates high testosterone in severe cases but another links low levels of testosterone in elderly men with a poor prognosis.

Now Professor John Manning, of the Applied Sports Technology, Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) research team, has been working with colleagues from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital to look more closely at digit ratios (ratios of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th digits) as predictors of severity of Covid-19 symptoms.

The researchers observed that patients with “feminized” short little fingers relative to their other digits tend to experience severe Covid-19 symptoms leading to hospitalization, and more importantly patients with large right hand – left hand differences in ratios 2D:4D and 3D:5D – have substantially elevated probabilities of hospitalization.

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These preliminary findings have just been published in  Scientific Reports.

Professor Manning said: “Our findings suggest that Covid-19 severity is related to low testosterone and possibly high oestrogen in both men and women.

“’Feminized’ differences in digit ratios in hospitalised patients supports the view that individuals who have experienced low testosterone and/or high oestrogen are prone to severe expression of Covid-19. This may explain why the most at-risk group is elderly males.

“This is significant because if it is possible to identify more precisely who is likely to be prone severe Covid-19, this would help in targeting vaccination. Right-Left differences in digit ratios (particularly 2D:4D and 3D:5D) may help in this regard.”

There are currently several trials of anti-androgen (testosterone) drugs as treatment for Covid-19. However, in contrast, there is also interest in testosterone as an anti-viral against Covid-19.

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He added: “Our research is helping to add to understanding of Covid-19 and may bring us closer to improving the repertoire of anti-viral drugs, helping to shorten hospital stays and reduce mortality rates.”

Professor Manning said the team’s work would now continue: “The sample is small but ongoing work has increased the sample. We hope to report further results shortly.”

His previous work in the field highlighted how the length of children’s fingers relate to mothers’ income level and point to susceptibility to diseases that begin in the womb.

Researchers led by Professor Manning revealed that low-income mothers may feminize their children in the womb by adjusting their hormones, whereas high-income mothers masculinize their offspring

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Coronavirus

Face coverings retained in health and social care settings

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will remain in place.

Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.

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But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.

The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.

These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.

“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.

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“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.

“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”

The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.

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Coronavirus

Schools’ Covid guidance aligned to businesses and other workplaces

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced that Covid-19 measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations.

The Welsh Government has written to schools in Wales this morning to inform them of the changes.

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Since September last year, schools have applied measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus according to local circumstances, based on the Local Covid-19 infection control decision framework for schools. Schools will no longer be advised to use the framework.

The change is in line with the Welsh Government’s long-term Covid-19 transition from pandemic to endemic. The risk from coronavirus is now considered in the same context as other communicable diseases, such as flu.

The First Minister has announced that the remaining coronavirus restrictions will be removed from 9 May, if the public health situation remained stable. The changes to the guidance for schools will also come into effect from 9 May.

Schools and other education settings will continue to be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisors to ensure that measures remain appropriate and proportionate and reflect local risks and circumstances.

A checklist will be provided to support schools and settings in considering which control measures remain proportionate. Special schools will continue to follow the advice for children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.

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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing, Jeremy Miles said: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic. This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.

“We all know that Covid-19 has not gone way. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”

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Coronavirus

Health board extends shuttle bus between Llanelli and COVID vaccination centre

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Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi, will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week – with no service at 12.00pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

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People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court.

The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On 21 February 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

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Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service, including wearing face coverings unless medically exempt.

A maximum of 14 passengers are allowed per journey with a screen in place between driver and passengers.

The health board say that passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day.

They add that before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, people should check the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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