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Health Highlights: March 29, 2021

 

Coronavirus Likely Transmitted From Bats to Humans Through Another Mammal: WHO Report

The new coronavirus was most likely transmitted from bats to humans through another mammal species, while a lab leak of the virus is "extremely unlikely," according to a draft copy of a joint World Health Organization-China report on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that was obtained by the Associated Press.

The findings are based largely on a WHO team's visit earlier this year to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected.

The study notes that the closest relative of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been found in bats, but "the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link," the AP reported.

Highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, suggesting they could also be carriers, according to the study.

The draft study all but dismissed a speculative theory that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, the AP reported.

There is no firm conclusion on whether the pandemic originated in a Wuhan seafood market where one of the earliest cluster of cases occurred in December 2019.

The study has been finalized and was being fact-checked and translated, Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO expert who led the Wuhan mission, told the AP.

"I expect that in the next few days, that whole process will be completed and we will be able to release it publicly," he said.

It's not clear whether there will be changes to the study before its release. The WHO did not immediately respond to the AP's requests for comment.

The draft study provides little new insight into how the virus started to spread worldwide and leaves many questions unanswered, and the investigators proposed further research into every area except the lab leak theory.

 

Kids' Summer Camps a Possibility: Fauci

It may be possible for children to go to summer camp this year despite not having COVID-19 vaccines, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci previously said that vaccination of elementary school-aged children aren't likely to occur before the first quarter of 2022 because vaccine makers are still assessing how the vaccines affect youngsters, CNN reported.

But on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Fauci noted if the current pace of vaccinations continues, that's "going to drive the rate and the level of infections per day to a much, much lower level."

"If we get into the summer and you have a considerable percentage of the population vaccinated, and the level in the community gets below that plateau that's worrying me and my colleagues in public health," Fauci said, "it is conceivable that you would have a good degree of flexibility during the summer, even with the children with things like camps."

"We don't know that for sure," he cautioned, "but I think that's an aspirational goal that we should go for," CNN reported.

 

COVID-19 PPE Tax-Deductible: IRS

Faces masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are among the types of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) that Americans can deduct as a medical expense when filing taxes this year, the Internal Revenue Service says.

Deductions are allowed for purchases of COVID-19 PPE for use by an individual taxpayer, their spouse or dependents that are not covered by insurance if total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income, CBS News reported.

Eligible deductions include PPE bought since Jan. 1, 2020, according to the IRS.

It also said that purchases of PPE are eligible to be paid or reimbursed under flexible spending plans and medical savings accounts, but would then not be eligible as a tax deduction, CBS News reported.

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