Risk of Covid-19 increased last week in Ky.; booster vax rate low; exercise can thwart severe cases; dogs can detect the infection

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The federal Covid-19 risk map showed more Kentucky counties at medium and high risk of transmission than last week, and the number of counties at low risk dropped to just over half.

“Covid-19 does appear to be increasing following the Thanksgiving holiday so it’s important that if you haven’t gotten your booster that you do that,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday at his weekly briefing, held before the latest risk-map was released.

He said current data shows that fewer than 11 percent of Kentuckians who are eligible to get the updated Covid-19 booster shot have gotten it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s latest risk map shows 17 Kentucky counties at high risk of transmission, a number that has been creeping up since early December when 10 counties were reported to have high risk. Such counties are shown in orange on the map.

Counties with high risk of transmission last week include the same cluster of counties in Western Kentucky from the last two reports; the other high-risk counties were scattered: Butler, Simpson, Monroe, Harrison, Robertson, Rowan, Johnson and Pike.

In high-risk counties, the CDC continues to recommend that you wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask in public indoor spaces, and if you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.

Medium-risk counties, shown in yellow, increased to 42, up 15 from the week prior, and the number of low-risk counties, shown in green, dropped to 61, down from 78 the week prior.

If you live in a medium or high-risk county, the CDC advises those who are at high risk of getting very sick to wear a well-fitting mask when indoors and in public and to consider getting tested before having social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick and consider wearing a mask when indoors when you are with them.

Exercise can protection against Covid-19

Besides vaccinations, boosters, social distancing, keeping your hands washed and wearing masks in public places, a study has found another way to protect yourself from severe Covid-19: exercise.

The study looked at how exercise affected coronavirus outcomes in nearly 200,000 adults in Southern California. It found that people who worked out at least 30 minutes most days were about four times more likely to survive Covid-19 than inactive people, Gretchen Reynolds reports for The Washington Post.

The study, published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “found that exercise, in almost any amount, reduced people’s risks for a severe coronavirus infection. Even people who worked out for as little as 11 minutes a week — yes, a week — experienced lower risks of hospitalization or death from Covid than those who moved about less,” Reynolds writes.

The data in the study was collected before widespread coronavirus vaccines were available, but Robert Sallis, a senior author of the study, told Reynolds that he thinks the results would be similar among vaccinated people: “It is such a simple, inexpensive way to protect yourself.”

Free Covid-19 tests
It’s also important to test for Covid-19 if you have symptoms, before and after traveling for the holidays and before visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals.

Toward that end, the Biden administration has restarted a program that allows every household in the country to receive four free Covid-19 test kits. These at-home tests can be ordered at CovidTests.gov. This is the third round of free kits the administration has made available.

People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages, 8 a.m. to midnight ET any day. More information is at https://www.covid.gov/tests/faq.

Dogs can detect Covid-19 at mass events

Another study published this month found that dogs trained to detect Covid-19 infection by smell correctly identified individuals with active infections at concerts with a specificity of nearly 100% and a sensitivity of 81.58%.

The study used eight dogs of various breeds who were trained to detect positive Covid-19 samples. The dogs were presented with sweat samples from 2802 concertgoers at four events in Germany organized for the study. Each participant had been tested for Covid-19 with both a rapid antigen test and the more reliable PCR test, but the researchers, dog handlers and dogs did not know the results. Most of the human participants were vaccinated against Covid-19, but this did not affect the dogs’ ability to detect active infections.

“Our results demonstrate that scent-detection dogs achieved high diagnostic accuracy in a real-life scenario. The vaccination status, previous infection, chronic disease and medication of the participants did not influence the performance of the dogs in detecting the acute infection,” the researchers write in BMJ Global Health. “This indicates that dogs provide a fast and reliable screening option for public events in which high-throughput screening is required.”
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