Newswise — A novel device developed by researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Chiba University in a new study utilizes ions and an electric field to effectively capture infectious droplets and aerosols, while letting light and sound pass through to allow communication. The innovation is significant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, since it shows promise in preventing airborne infection while facilitating communication.
Airborne infections, such as H1N1 influenza, SARS, and COVID-19, are spread by aerosols and airborne droplets. While the droplet/aerosol transmission can be prevented using acrylic partitions or, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, by imposing lockdowns in severe cases, these countermeasures can significantly impede communication. This, in turn, can lead to unintended consequences.
For instance, lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe economic losses as well as a rise in cases of mental illness like depression and suicide around the world. Therefore, as we prepare for a potential future pandemic, it is necessary to develop more sustainable countermeasures that do not disrupt economic activities and daily face-to-face interactions.
To this end, a research team including Kaito Kanda, a graduate student at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) at the time of research, Assistant Professor Tetsuya Yamada, from the Institute of Innovative Research at Tokyo Tech, and Professor Takeo Fujiwara from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) and Chiba University researchers, has now developed a device that successfully captures droplets and aerosols while allowing the transmission of light and sound for effective communication.
Their work, which presents a novel solution for preventing the transmission of airborne pathogens, including the coronavirus, was published in Volume 13 of Scientific Reports on 26 August 2023. “While traditional partitions play a role in preventing airborne infection, they have been known to obstruct smooth communication by affecting the visibility of facial expressions and blocking voices. Recognizing these issues after experiencing limitations in communicating with my grandfather in a partitioned meeting area at a nursing home, we decided to tackle the challenge of reconciling airborne infection prevention and communication,” explains Mr. Kanda.
Subsequently, during a symposium hosted by the Consortium for Post COVID-19 Society in 2021, students and researchers from the union of four universities in Tokyo, including Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Hitotsubashi University, engaged in a group discussion concluded that partitions should be further improved. The students in the group had created a prototype for new partitions at Tokyo Tech, and researchers from the TMDU, actively involved in COVID treatment, conducted validation experiments in the clinic.
To enable unimpeded communication, a device must allow the transmission of sound and light. At the same time, it must capture the sources of infection, i.e., airborne droplets and aerosols. The researchers found a solution by harnessing pre-existing ion and electric field-based aerosol capture technologies utilized in air purifiers. “As a verification step, we first captured incense smoke near an ion and electric field generator. In regions where no ions or electric field were present, the smoke rose naturally, while it was drawn downward in places where the device was operational,” adds Dr. Yamada.
It was also critical to ensure that the ions and electric field did not hinder the transmission of sound and light. Notably, conventional six-mm-thick acrylic panels used in partitions reflect light, limiting the perception of facial expressions during conversation. In contrast, ions and electric field demonstrated high light transmittance—equivalent to that of air. Similarly, while acrylic panels interfered with sound, ions and electric field allowed sound to pass through like air. These results showed that ions and electric field enabled the transmission of light and sound while capturing aerosols.
Encouraged by these results, the researchers created a device that generates ions and an electric field (Figure 1). The ozone concentration generated in it was below 0.001 ppm, and the electric field strength at a distance of 30 cm from the device ranged from 10–45 kV, undetectable by humans.
By introducing aerosols simulating a light cough to the proposed device, the team demonstrated that it could block 89% of the droplets at an opening height of 16 cm (Figure 2). Finally, a prototype was installed in hospital rooms where patients infected with COVID-19 had been admitted. “The device successfully captured aerosols, including the coronavirus, reducing the viral load in the room,” highlights Prof. Fujiwara.
The present study demonstrates the effectiveness of the newly developed device in blocking out droplets and aerosols while allowing for communication. Let us hope that this innovation will find its way into our lives and will enable safer communication by not only preventing the spread of new outbreaks of COVID-19 but also other infectious diseases.
About Tokyo Institute of Technology
Tokyo Tech stands at the forefront of research and higher education as the leading university for science and technology in Japan. Tokyo Tech researchers excel in fields ranging from materials science to biology, computer science, and physics. Founded in 1881, Tokyo Tech hosts over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students per year, who develop into scientific leaders and some of the most sought-after engineers in industry. Embodying the Japanese philosophy of “monotsukuri,” meaning “technical ingenuity and innovation,” the Tokyo Tech community strives to contribute to society through high-impact research.
Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Study finds risk factors for severe COVID-19 cases in children
UT Southwestern researchers show living in the Southern U.S., having preexisting conditions linked to more serious illness
Newswise — DALLAS – Nov. 21, 2023 – Children who had preexisting health problems or who lived in the Southern United States had a higher risk for severe health outcomes from acute COVID-19 infections, according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The results, reported in the journal Hospital Pediatrics that is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, also showed the importance of vaccinations in reducing the severity of illness for those who became infected.
“While receiving the COVID-19 vaccines did not mean that our little patients would not get sick from the virus, vaccines did protect them from more severe outcomes such as death and intensive care admissions. Protecting your children by immunizing them is a good thing, especially if your child has a preexisting condition, such as heart disease or asthma,” said one of the study’s authors, Christoph Lehmann, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and in the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics, Director of the Clinical Informatics Center, and a member of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. School of Public Health at UT Southwestern.
The national study analyzed records from 165,437 children age 18 and younger who tested positive for COVID-19 between January 2020 and January 2022. About 1.8% were hospitalized without complication, 1.8% were admitted to intensive care or needed intensive respiratory support, and 31 children died.
The researchers found that children in the Southern United States were more than three times as likely to have more severe complications compared with other areas of the country.
“It matters where you live,” Dr. Lehmann noted. “While we do not know what causes children in the South to have worse outcomes, our findings call for an exploration of possible causes – such as weather and climate, immunization rates, public health or government messaging, mandates, and closures.”
The study also found that among children under age 5, those younger than 2 years old were at the highest risk for severe outcomes. This finding contradicts initial anecdotal observations suggesting that infants were not as prone to severe disease with COVID-19 as they were from other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“While this wasn’t surprising to us – smaller airways are disproportionately affected by respiratory illness – it does mean that we have to be more vigilant when the little ones acquire COVID-19,” Dr. Lehmann added.
Finally, the study found that those with multiple chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and lung disease, were more than twice as likely to have severe complications following COVID-19 infection, and the more chronic conditions they had, the higher the risk.
Other UTSW researchers who contributed to this study include lead author Robert W. Turer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine; first author and medical student Milan Ho, B.S.; Trish M. Perl, M.D., M.Sc., Professor of Internal Medicine; Zachary M. Most, M.D., M.Sc., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Bhaskar Thakur, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and a member of the O’Donnell School of Public Health; John J. Hanna, M.D., Assistant Instructor of Internal Medicine; Marlon I. Diaz, B.S., Sameh Saleh, M.D., Madison Pickering, M.S., and Richard J. Medford, M.D., all with the Clinical Informatics Center; medical student Julia A. Casazza, B.S.; and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Alexander P. Radunsky, Ph.D.
Dr. Lehmann holds the Willis C. Maddrey, M.D. Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Science. Dr. Perl, a member of the O’Donnell School of Public Health, holds the H. Ben and Isabelle T. Decherd Chair in Internal Medicine in Honor of Henry M. Winans, Sr., M.D.
This study was funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (UL1 TR003163).
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty members have received six Nobel Prizes and include 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 20 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 3,100 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 120,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 5 million outpatient visits a year.
Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Family Caregivers are Filling the Gap
More than 53 million Americans serve as “informal” caregivers filling critical roles that make independent living possible for people with disabilities.
MIDDLEVILLE, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES /EINPresswire.com/ — In the wake of a direct care worker shortage, more than 53 million Americans serve as “informal” caregivers filling critical roles that make independent living possible for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. However, family caregiving can take a financial, emotional, and physical toll on those performing the unpaid work. Below, we explore five opportunities to help family caregivers build sustainable and strong caregiving relationships.
Family caregivers are critical resources in the quest to promote independence and autonomy among people with disabilities, and they deserve all the support our communities can offer.”— Steve Locke
Determine Whether Payment is Possible
In some cases, family caregivers can receive financial compensation for their caregiving. Medicaid’s Self-Directed Services program, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veteran-Directed Care program, certain Home and Community-Based Services programs, many long-term care insurance plans, and even some employers offer stipends to informal caregivers providing necessary care.
Make a Plan for Respite Care
Creating a respite care plan helps caregivers build in time on a regular basis to take a break from caregiving and pass their responsibilities on to a trustworthy provider. The AARP outlines the process for creating a plan, including identifying what you and your loved one need and who could provide support. Professional respite care resources are available through the Senior Corps, local Area Agency on Aging, and Elder Helpers.
Find Peer Support
Up to 40% of informal caregivers report that caregiving makes them feel alone, yet there are many others experiencing the same scenarios and connecting can help caregivers cope. Your local Center for Independent Living can connect you with caregiving support groups, the Area Agency on Aging can provide assistance, or even nonprofit or religious groups like Courage to Caregivers that link volunteer peer mentors with caregivers.
Ask for Help!
The digital age has brought a wealth of apps that make it easier for caregivers to communicate their needs and get other friends and family members on board to help. Whether you need alternative transportation to a medical appointment or would love a friend to drop off dinner a few days per month, apps like Carely, Caring Village, and LotsaHands provide tools to help caregivers coordinate caregiving responsibilities among family and friends.
Pay Attention to your Mental Health
Up to 4 in 10 caregivers report that they “never relax,” and one survey revealed that more than half of caregivers polled had experienced suicidal ideation during the COVID pandemic. Caregiving while experiencing this level of mental anguish is dangerous for both the caregiver and the patient. In cases like this, finding an alternate source of care at least part of the time is necessary. Individuals in crisis can call 988 for 24/7 mental health support and the Caregiver Action Network can provide a listening ear, resources, and assistance.
Family caregivers are critical resources in the quest to promote independence and autonomy among people with disabilities, and they deserve all the support our communities can offer. As organizations like MiSILC advocate for formal and informal caregivers at the highest levels, nonprofits and community resources can provide the services necessary for effective, sustainable caregiving. Learn more about our work at MiSILC.org.
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Stay Balanced this Holiday Season with Health-Ade Kombucha
Celebrate the return of a seasonal favorite plus a new limited-edition collab
LOS ANGELES /PRNewswire/ — Health-Ade, makers of delicious, bubbly beverages that support a happy and healthy gut, are celebrating feeling good from the inside out this holiday season. A perfect swap for alcohol or soda, Health-Ade Kombucha’s living probiotics help keep your gut in balance while enjoying the season’s festivities and indulging in your favorite holiday foods.
To celebrate the season, Health-Ade Kombucha has launched its seasonal holiday flavor, Holiday Cheers, which expertly blends notes of ginger, vanilla, allspice, and cacao for the perfect sip to spread the cheer all season long. This winter staple is a perfect accompaniment for sipping by the fire, enjoying as a festive treat, or even as a delicious probiotic hostess gift for those holiday parties and celebrations. Every bottle of Health-Ade’s Holiday Cheers Kombucha will help you celebrate the seasonal flavors you love, while supporting a happy and healthy gut.
“Health-Ade is a delicious, easy way to support your gut health during the holiday season,” says Claire Chewning, Health-Ade’s Registered Dietitian Advisor. “Good nutrition is all about adding IN, not restricting unnecessarily. Adding in sources of fermented foods and probiotics, like kombucha, can increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. For many, this can help manage symptoms of bloating and other digestive discomforts. For another gut-happy practice, you can also consider swapping alcohol for a few fun Health-Ade Kombucha mocktails. Cheers to a delicious and nourished holiday season!”
Special for this season, Health-Ade has partnered with fellow Los Angeles-based brand Mar Mar to create a limited edition Holiday Minis candle set. The Mar Mar x Health-Ade Kombucha collaboration features three best-selling Mar Mar scents reimagined with a Health-Ade twist. Titled The Bold, The Rebel, and The Optimist these 2oz votives are wrapped in Health-Ade’s beloved and recognizable color schemes to make the perfect gift set for anyone on your list and a great companion to your Health-Ade Kombucha selection.
You can purchase the limited-edition candle set and Holiday Cheers flavor now on health-ade.com for yourself and all of the Health-Ade Kombucha lovers on your holiday gift list. The Mini Candle set retails for $60, or you can bundle with your favorite case of Health-Ade for a $10 discount. Holiday Cheers can also be found at select retailers nationwide, while supplies last.
About Health-Ade Kombucha
Health-Ade creates feel-good, bubbly beverages with gut health benefits so you can follow your gut and show the world what you’re made of. The brand got started in the Brentwood Farmers Market in 2012 selling its flagship kombucha drinks. Instantly gaining a cult following in Southern California, Health-Ade Kombucha rapidly expanded to sell nationwide in over 65,000 stores including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Safeway / Albertsons, Kroger, Publix, and Target. All Health-Ade products are naturally fermented with high-quality ingredients and are certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan, and each bottle of Health-Ade Kombucha exceeds the World Health Organization’s daily standard for probiotics.
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