News in brief: Respiratory admissions reduced during pandemic; Long COVID uncommon in children; Australia wins bronze in global health services ranking

Tuesday, 10 Aug 2021

Significant drop in respiratory admissions during pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in New Zealand from March 2020 led to marked reductions in acute respiratory admissions including influenza and pneumonia compared to previous years.

The lockdown also led to fewer COPD admissions during winter 2020. Asthma admissions dropped early the lockdown but rose to near normal during winter then fell again.

However there was little change in hospital admissions for congestive heart failure or acute coronary syndrome, challenging the belief that respiratory diseases are linked to the winter heart-failure peak, researchers said.

They suggested the winter peak in cardiovascular disease may be due to other factors such as colder temperatures or higher levels of  air pollution over winter.

Patterns of non-infectious respiratory admissions including lung cancer, PE and pneumothorax were not different in 2020 compared to previous years suggesting that health-care seeking behaviour was also unchanged.

“The reduction in acute infectious respiratory admissions, including pneumonia, COPD and lower respiratory tract infections are compatible with the hypothesis that the normal seasonal trends in admissions are driven by circulating respiratory viruses,” the study said.

“It is unsurprising that measures designed to halt the spread of SARS-CoV-2 have also impacted on the prevalence of other respiratory viruses,” they concluded


Long COVID uncommon in children, research finds

Children who develop COVID-19 typically have mild illness and recover within a week, with just 4.4% experiencing symptoms beyond a month and almost all recovering fully by eight weeks, a large UK study has found.

Researchers from King’s College London said their findings suggest that long illness duration after infection with SARS-CoV-2 “appears less common in children than in adults”.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, looked at data reported to the ZOE COVID app between 1 September 2020 and 22 February 2021, during which time 1,734 children developed symptoms of COVID-19 and received a positive PCR test.

The data showed that children were ill for an average of six days. Older children were generally ill for longer than primary school aged children (an average of 7 days in 12-17 year olds versus 5 days in 5-11 year olds), and were also more likely to experience symptoms after the four-week mark (5.1% vs 3.1%, respectively).

Also, children in the cohort experienced an average of three symptoms in the first week of illness, most commonly headache (62.2%), fatigue (55.0%), anosmia and dysosmia (39.6%), fever (37.7%) and persistent cough (25.5%).

Typically, only two symptoms remained in those experiencing symptoms after a month, the most common being fatigue. However, almost all children had symptom resolution by eight weeks, “providing reassurance about long-term outcomes”, the researchers said.

Australia wins bronze in global health services ranking

The COVID-19 ravaged UK’s National Health Service has slipped from first place to fourth in a ranking of global health services in 11 high-income countries allowing Australia to step onto the podium in third place overall.

US think tank the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment of healthcare system performance looked at 71 measures across five areas – access to care, care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and healthcare outcomes.

It found the top-performing countries overall to be Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia, followed by the UK.

Australia was first in the domains of equity and health care outcomes, second in administrative efficiency but performed less well in care process and access to care.

The UK’s drop in rankings has been attributed to the impact of the pandemic on the overall health service.

The United States ranked last overall and in all but one domain, despite spending far more of its gross domestic product on health care than other countries.

New Zealand topped the domain of care process which measures activities such as preventive care, safe care, coordinated care, and engagement and patient preferences.

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