Flu drug could shorten COVID-19
A drug developed to treat the flu could prove a COVID-19 game changer by more than halving the recovery time for patients.
Researchers from Melbourne's The Alfred Hospital and Monash University have begun testing the antiviral drug Favipiravir on coronavirus patients, after successful international trials.
The antiviral medication stops a virus in its tracks by preventing it making a new version of itself inside human cells.
With the treatment, patients could get over the virus in four days compared to the average 11 days.
The drug - sold under the brand name Avigan - was developed by the company Fujifilm and Japan, which has stockpiled two million doses to treat not ordinary influenza but new strains of flu that could become a pandemic.
Studies showed it cured mice from a lethal flu virus.
In 2016, Japan provided the drug as emergency aid to treat ebola patients in Guinea and the fatality rate among the 73 patients treated with the drug (42.5 per cent) was lower than that in untreated patients (57.8 per cent).
"We think this could work for COVID-19," The Alfred Hospital's Infectious Diseases specialist Dr James McMahon said.
"If it did have an effect, you would hope it would have an effect in days."
In Shenzen, China, 80 patients with mild COVID-19 given the drug had their recovery time shortened from 11 days to four days.
A trial in Wuhan found the drug shortened fever duration from an average of 4.2 days to 2.5 days.
These studies were in a small number of people, now the Melbourne researchers are aiming to test it in 190 people.
Half the patients will be given the drug and the other half will get a sugar pill to prove it's actually the drug that helps people recover more quickly.
If it works to reduce the amount of virus infected people are shedding, it could also help slow the spread of infection through the community, Dr McMahon said.
The antiviral tablet has been given to thousands of people safely in trials to treat other viral infections and has been found to be safe for human use.
This means it is safe to carry out the Melbourne trial on COVID-19 patients who are recovering at home rather than those sick enough to be in hospital.
Trial participants will need to begin the medication as soon as possible and no later than five days after their diagnosis.
A handful of patients have already been dosed with the medicine at The Alfred Hospital but Dr McMahon is desperate to recruit more.
To be eligible patients must have symptoms of the virus and have been diagnosed less than five days ago, they can't be asymptomatic, Dr McMahon said.
Patients would need to take the medication in tablet form for 14 days and every second day they would have to swab their throat under the supervision of a nurse to check whether the amount of virus in their body was decreasing.
The nurse will come to the person's home dressed in full personal protective equipment and there is no need for the patient to visit the hospital after they have been diagnosed.
If you are interested in taking part in the Virco trial please contact The Alfred Hospital on 03 9076 6908.
You can find more information via this link here
US DEATH TOLL HITS 160,000 - EXPECTED TO REACH 300,000 SOON
Nearly 300,000 Americans could be dead from COVID-19 by December 1, University of Washington health experts have forecast.
But they said 70,000 lives could be saved if people were scrupulous about wearing masks.
The latest predictions from the university's widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) comes as top White House infectious disease advisers warned that major US cities could erupt as new coronavirus hot spots if officials there were not vigilant with countermeasures.
The news comes as the US death toll passed 160,000 and the nation's number of cases approached 5 million.
The United States has recorded more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period as the death toll surpassed 160,000 and Dr Anthony Fauci warned there is 'trouble ahead' for some cities if they don't act now to stop the spread.
Deaths in the US exceeded the grim 160,000 mark on Friday, which is nearly a quarter of the global COVID-19 death toll. The number of positive cases across the US is now at nearly 4.9 million.
The US added 2,060 deaths in 24 hours according to the Johns Hopkins University live tally. The last time the US recorded more than 2,000 deaths in a 24-hour period was on May 7.
"We're seeing a rollercoaster in the United States. It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down," Dr Christopher Murray, director of the IHME, said in announcing the university's revised forecast.
Reuters reported that the IHME said infections were falling in the former epicentres of Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, but rising in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, on Thursday said he had tested positive for the virus ahead of a planned meeting with President Donald Trump, but had experienced no symptoms of the illness. He later said a second test came back negative and his wife and staff members had likewise tested negative.
Tennessee and North Carolina reported record single-day increases in deaths on Thursday with 42 and 73, respectively.
The US outbreak, once centred around densely populated New York City, has since infected communities from coast to coast. Experts believe that spread has been driven in part by summer vacation travel.
"This is a predictor of trouble ahead," Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases official, told CNN.
PM CALLS FOR COVID VACCINE TO BE SHARED
Scott Morrison has called on other nations to share COVID-19 vaccine advances with Australia.
The Prime Minister also said the national cabinet was given an update on the progress of a vaccine.
"We won't know when a vaccine will come. But as Professor (Paul) Kelly will tell you, there's never been a global effort like this and there are some positive signs there that we can be hopeful about," Mr Morrison said.
"Australia is positioning itself well to take advantage and be in a position to be able to manufacture and supply vaccines, should they be developed."
"There are many projects that are underway around the world and we have a process for identifying those that we believe we can take an early position on.
"But the other thing Australia has been saying, and it's supported strongly by the premiers, and I made this point earlier in the week, and that is whoever finds this vaccine must share it.
Any country that were to find this vaccine and not make it available around the world, without restraint, I think would be judged terribly by history, and that's certainly Australia's view and we'll continue to advocate that view in every conversation we have, as I certainly have."
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said he remains hopeful for a vaccine.
"I think as the PM has said, there is really strong optimism here. We can't promise that there will be a vaccine or when it may occur. We have never had a vaccine for a coronavirus in the world before, but the very best minds in the world are concentrating on this.
"Many companies, well over a hundred different types of vaccine that are in development, and many of those are already in clinical trials in what has been described by some as warp speed.
So these things normally take years. It's taking months, even weeks, to get through there."
$15B BOOST TO JOBKEEPER
The prime minister has also announced an additional investment of $15 billion to JobKeeper, bringing the total to more than $100 billion.
"This is the largest program of this nature the country has ever undertaken," Scott Morrison said following Friday morning's national cabinet meeting.
He also stressed that JobKeeper is not just for Victorians.
"This is a national program. This is not an arrangement that has been put in place specifically for Victoria, it's a national program and I was able to remark to the other leaders today at the meeting there'll be many people in their states and territories who will also benefit from the changes that have been made for eligibility to make sure the JobKeeper reaches to those parts of the country where they're also continuing to do it tough," Mr Morrison said.
DROP IN VIC CASES COULD BE WEEKS AWAY
Victoria recorded 450 new cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths on Friday taking the state's death toll to 181.
Seven of the 11 deaths are connected to aged care.
Sixty-six of the new cases are mystery cases with no known trace or source.
Despite a drop in cases on the previous day, Premier Daniel Andrews said there's "still far too many of those mystery community transmission cases that we can't find the source or the circumstance behind that infection."
As hundreds of thousands of Victorians face joblessness and employment uncertainty, the Premier acknowledged the pain facing many industries.
"These are challenges, the likes of which we've never faced before and there are a number of industries that will feel it in a more acute way than others.
"There'll be a massive job to repair the economy, and in order to get the health problem fixed and to get the numbers down to a level where we can start to open up again."
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victorians can expect to see a significant change in new case numbers within the next two weeks.
"We do expect within 14 days a really significant intervention that we'll see a change in numbers. So, you know, certainly, 14 days from the really widespread implementation and the behaviour change that happens with stage 4 restrictions, we'll get a different average daily numbers, I would expect," he said.
It comes as Victoria Police issued 196 fines relating to COVID-19 breaches overnight Thursday. Of these, 51 were to people failing to wear masks outside of their homes, 43 were for breaches of the 8pm to 5am curfew.
Police are also investigating 500 cases of potential isolation breaches where people have not answered the door or been at home during ADF and Department of Health officers spot check-ins.
CHANGES FOR YEAR 12 STUDENTS
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino also announced an additional $28.5 million in funding formental health and wellbeing support for school students, and changes to students preparing for Year 12 VCE exams.
"This year is like no other, it is an unprecedented year and we need to support our students in an unprecedented way," Mr Merlino said on Friday.
"We've got time to re-engage those students who have disengaged from school. But for our Year 12 students, this is it. This is their last year of school."
Moving forward, VCE students will be individually assessed and any adverse impacts stemming from the pandemic will be reflected in their ATAR ranking.
Considerations will include school closures and extended absences from lessons, increases in family responsibilities due to COVID-19, and mental health and wellbeing.
"They'll go into their exams knowing that their final scores and their ATAR ranking will be a fair reflection of their year, and they will not be disadvantaged as a result of COVID-19," Mr Merlino said.
COVID NUMBERS UP IN NSW
NSW recorded 11 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, as a Newcastle cluster continues to grow.
The Newcastle outbreak, which has grown to three people in the last 24 hours, has caused St Francis Xavier's College in Hamilton East to close.
The NSW Government is calling on anyone who attended the campus between August 3 - 5 to present for testing if symptoms arise. The source of the cluster is still unknown.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also called on young people within the state to limit their socialising during the pandemic after a man in his 20s with coronavirus was found to have visited seven venues last weekend.
"If you have the virus and you go out five times a week to different places, you could potentially be spreading it to five different locations, and then we have to contract trace everybody," Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
"It's not anybody's fault, but it's just the nature of the virus. It's so contagious that if you don't know you have it and you are still socialising you have the potential to give it to so many people."
NSW Police fined two people after a Nimbin woman was found to have breached self-isolation rules after returning from Victoria, while another woman was discovered playing a gaming machine at an Albury pub on an essential worker permit that only allowed her to enter the state for work.
Originally published as Flu drug could shorten COVID-19