coronavirus file photo

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health earlier this month shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

COVID-19 hit the No. 3 spot on the list of North Dakota’s leading causes of death in 2021, according to provisional figures from the North Dakota Department of Health.

That mirrors a similar leap for the disease in national death statistics, where the virus also landed the No. 3 spot.

Diseases of the heart and cancer retained their No. 1 and No. 2 spots as leading causes of death in North Dakota, with 1,422 and 1,307 deaths respectively, but COVID caused 1,159 deaths, while Alzheimer’s Disease fell to the No. 4 spot with 505 deaths.

Flu and pneumonia deaths, meanwhile, were 158.

There were 7,938 deaths for 2020 in all, based on provisional statistics for the year.

Here’s how other causes of deaths stacked up for 2020:

No. 5 — accidents with 409 deaths

No. 6 — COPD with 335 deaths

No. 7 — Cerebrovascular disease with 320 deaths

No. 8 — diabetes with 216 deaths

No. 9 — flu and pneumonia with 158 deaths

No. 10 — Cirrhosis with 142 deaths

No. 11 — suicide with 140 deaths

No. 12 — Nephritis with 122 deaths

No. 13 — Septicemia with 111 deaths

No. 14 — Hypertension w or w/o renal with 102 deaths

No. 15 — All other various causes with 1,490 deaths

North Dakota gets COVID-19 aid

FEMA has announced $8.912 million to reimburse North Dakota for COVID-19 efforts through February 28, 2021. The costs covered include expanding laboratory services related to COVID-19 diagnosis, as well as additional staffing, warehouse space, purchase and distribution of medical supplies, and other necessary expenses.

Dogs can smell coronavirus

Dogs have been trained to sniff out a variety of things over the years, ranging from bombs, bodies, and drugs. That’s probably what prompted a group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to see whether dogs could identify positive coronavirus samples.

Turns out they can. In their study, nine dogs were able to sniff out coronavirus samples with 96 percent accuracy on average, after just three weeks of training.

The dogs were also tested on their ability to recognize heat-treated urine samples as well as heat-treated saliva from patients hospitalized by COVID-19 infection. These inactivation methods didn’t affect their accuracy.

There have been some other similar studies in Europe. A group of researchers in Germany trained eight dogs for a week using hidden metal containers filled with nose and throat samples from both COVID-19 infected and non-infected patients. Their accuracy in that study was 94 percent.

And researchers in Paris used sweat samples with eight dogs, and the accuracy range for that study was 83 to 100 percent.

Some sporting venues are already using this technique to scan attendees, including Miami Heat basketball and NASCAR.

Tracking mutant COVID-19 cases

Every transmission of the COVID-19 virus is another chance for a new variant of the disease, one that could be more infectious or dangerous than the last.

That has prompted the Biden administration to propose a $1.7 billion national network that would not only track COVID-19 mutations that could lead to a new pandemic wave, but also create permanent infrastructure to spot and track any emergent disease threats.

The strategy includes a funding boost for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for state health departments to ramp up coronavirus gene-mapping. It also establishes six partnerships with universities that will develop gene-based surveillance for pathogens in general, and it will establish a data system to better share and analyze information on any and all emerging disease threats.

Funding for the network is already available as part of the last COVID relief package.

The proposal comes on the heels of a new variant circulating in the U.S. that first emerged in the United Kingdom, B117. So far, vaccines have been effective against this more contagious version of the COVID-19 virus, but other mutations are also circulating the globe which are showing resistance, including P1 detected in travelers from Brazil, and B1351 identified in travelers from South Africa.

Safety data online for COVID-19 vaccines

All of the existing COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are being used under emergency authorization. This means the drug manufacturers must continue to collect data on the safety of the vaccines.

This information is available and searchable online at clinical trials.gov.

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