Archive for the ‘public health’ Category

As COVID-19 rages around the globe, other infectious diseases shrink away

July 31st, 2020
Few people and no cars dot a street amidst highrises.

Enlarge / A masked pedestrian crosses an empty street at a usually busy intersection in the Central Business District on February 3, 2020, in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Keven Frayer)

Reports of influenza and a host of other infectious diseases have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into lockdowns.

In many places, social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus may be smothering the spread of other infectious diseases at the same time. But, in other places, the pandemic may simply be masking disease spread, as people may avoid seeking care for more routine infections while health care systems stretched thin by the pandemic may struggle to conduct routine, surveillance, testing, and reporting.

Some of the resulting declines are dramatic. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere have reported much lower numbers of influenza than usual. Australia, for instance, began 2020 with a relatively high level of flu—reporting around 7,000 lab-confirmed cases in both January and February. But the outbreak crashed in March, with reports of only 229 cases in April, compared with nearly 19,000 in April 2019, as noted by the New Scientist.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, influenza, lockdowns, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

COVID-19 hospital data is a hot mess after feds take control

July 31st, 2020
Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.

Enlarge / Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads. (credit: Getty | Go Nakamura)

As COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US approach the highest levels seen in the pandemic so far, national efforts to track patients and hospital resources remain in shambles after the federal government abruptly seized control of data collection earlier this month.

The Trump administration issued a directive to hospitals and states July 10, instructing them to stop submitting their daily COVID-19 hospital data to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—which has historically handled such public health data—and instead submit it to a new database in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services. The change was ostensibly made to streamline federal data collection, which is critical for assessing the state of the pandemic and distributing needed resources, such as personal protective equipment and remdesivir, an antiviral drug shown to shorten COVID-19 recovery times.

Watchdogs and public health experts were immediately aghast by the switch to the HHS database, fearing the data would be manipulated for political reasons or hidden from public view all together. However, the real threat so far has been the administrative chaos. The switch took effect July 15, giving hospitals and states just days to adjust to the new data collection and submission process.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, data, database, healthcare IT, HHS, hospitalization, Infectious disease, IT, pandemic, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

US COVID-19: 70K new cases a day, 60K hospitalized, testing swamped

July 23rd, 2020
Vehicles make their way to a COVID-19 test site in Los Angeles, California on July 21, 2020. California on July 21 reported a total of 400,769 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, approaching the numbers of New York, the state with the most cases.

Enlarge / Vehicles make their way to a COVID-19 test site in Los Angeles, California on July 21, 2020. California on July 21 reported a total of 400,769 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, approaching the numbers of New York, the state with the most cases. (credit: Getty | Frederic Brown)

The US surpassed 4 million cases of COVID-19 Thursday as the pandemic shows no signs of easing. Already, nearly 144,000 people in the country have died from the disease.

Yesterday saw more than 70,000 new cases tallied, with a seven-day average of nearly 67,000 new cases per day, according to data collected by The COVID Tracking Project.

With the ongoing surges, hospitalizations are nearing a new record during the pandemic. There are currently 59,628 people hospitalized across the country. That’s slightly below the previous peak on April 15 of 59,940. Deaths are also on the upswing, with a seven-day average of 834 deaths a day. The last two days have seen death tolls over 1,000. Southern states and hotspots in western states, such as California, are seeing the most significant disease spread.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, laboratory testing, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)

Meet the 4 frontrunners in the COVID-19 vaccine race

July 23rd, 2020
A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath Hospital on June 28, 2020 in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial began on June 24 in South Africa. The vaccine, developed by Oxford University's (UK) Jenner Institute, will inoculate 2,000 South Africans.

Enlarge / A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath Hospital on June 28, 2020 in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial began on June 24 in South Africa. The vaccine, developed by Oxford University's (UK) Jenner Institute, will inoculate 2,000 South Africans. (credit: Getty | Felix Dlangamandla)

Researchers have now reported data from early (and small) clinical trials of four candidate COVID-19 vaccines.

So far, the data is positive. The vaccines appear to be generally safe, and they spur immune responses against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. But whether these immune responses are enough to protect people from infection and disease remains an important unknown.

The four candidates are now headed to larger trials—phase III trials—that will put them to the ultimate test: can they protect people from COVID-19 and end this pandemic?

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Posted in antibodieis, Astrazeneca, cansino, china, COVID-19, Features, immune system, immune system response, immunity, immunology, moderna, mRNA, Pfizer, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccines | Comments (0)

Brazil hits 80,000 deaths as more leaders test positive for COVID-19

July 21st, 2020
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gives the thumbs up to supporters from the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 20, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo by EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gives the thumbs up to supporters from the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 20, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo by EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images) (credit: Getty | EVARISTO SA)

Two more high-ranking government officials in Brazil have tested positive for COVID-19 as the country’s epidemic exceeded the grim milestone of 80,000 deaths—a toll second only to deaths in the US.

Earlier this month, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro announced he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the threat of COVID-19, referring to it as a “little flu” and urging local leaders to lift restrictions aimed at reducing spread of the disease. Prior to testing positive, Bolsonaro had been seen in public appearances amid crowds of people, sometimes shaking hands and not wearing a mask.

Now, Citizenship Minister Onyx Lorenzoni, a close ally of Bolsonaro, and Education Minister Milton Ribeiro each announced on social media that they have also tested positive. Brazil’s national security adviser, Augusto Heleno, and the minister of mines and energy, Bento Albuquerque, had previously reported testing positive, according to NPR.

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Posted in Brazil, COVID-19, deaths, Infectious disease, pandemic, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

It’s becoming clear why the US’ response to COVID-19 is terrible

July 20th, 2020
Image of President Trump being interviewed.

Enlarge (credit: Fox News)

The United States, already in possession of the largest number of infections in the COVID-19 pandemic, seems strangely committed to making things worse. As new infections have shot up to record levels, major retailers are making basic protective steps optional, while the governor of Georgia is moving to block any local authorities from acting to protect their citizens. This is despite the fact that the head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said "If we could get everybody to wears a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control."

And it's not just masks. Health experts are nearly unanimous in indicating that reopening schools should only take place in the context of having a low infection rate in the community, classrooms redesigned to allow greater social distancing, and distance learning used where needed. But the Trump administration is threatening to withhold funding from any schools that do not fully reopen for in-person education. Meanwhile, the administration is attempting to downplay the value of one thing—more testing—that could help us understand the virus' progression through our population.

What in the world is going on?

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Posted in COVID-19, pandemic, Policy, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, Trump | Comments (0)

CDC delays new school-reopening guidance prompted by flak from Trump

July 17th, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Alex Wong)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not release new guidance documents on school reopening this week, contrary to recent comments from officials in the Trump Administration.

A CDC spokesperson told NPR in an exclusive that new documents would instead be published sometime before the end of the month. The delay comes amid fierce nationwide debate about schools reopening and how it can be done safely.

President Mike Pence announced July 8 that the agency would release new documents this week that would better guide schools in their efforts to safely reopen classrooms shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic—which is still engulfing much of the US. That announcement came just hours after President Trump blasted the CDC’s current recommendations in a series of tweets, calling them “very tough & expensive.” He also threatened to cut funding from schools that do not open before the November election.

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Posted in CDC, children, COVID-19, education, Infectious disease, pence, public health, redfield, SARS-CoV-2, school reopening, schools, science, trump administration | Comments (0)

As pandemic rages out of control, CDC head warns of darker times this fall

July 15th, 2020
A serious man in a business suit puts on a surgical mask.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Pool)

If seasonal influenza roars back this fall while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, the combined weight of the diseases could cause US healthcare systems to collapse, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.

The grim warning comes as COVID-19 is spreading out of control in many areas of the country, which is now seeing upwards of 60,000 new cases a day.

I am worried,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a live interview with Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the medical journal JAMA. “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.”

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, flu, healthcare, Infectious disease, influenza, masks, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

As Trump pushes to have schools open, CDC’s cautious approach leaks

July 13th, 2020
Image of a man in a suit with a yellow tie.

Enlarge / CDC Director Robert Redfield at an event focused on discussing how to safely reopen schools. (credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The United States has seen a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections with less than two months to go before the start of the school year. With little indication that the country has even started to flatten the curve, there are serious questions about which areas of the country are positioned to open schools safely. But, for reasons that remain unclear, the Trump administration has a firm answer: all of them.

Over the past couple weeks, the administration exerted pressure on the Centers for Disease Control, instituted restrictive rules for foreign college students, and had several senior administration figures, including Trump himself, join in the push to have schools open. The push places the administration at odds with public health experts and its own CDC, which advises a far more cautious approach, as revealed in an internal document that leaked over the weekend.

Pro open

At an event on Monday, President Trump reiterated his administration's message, saying, "Schools should be opened—kids want to go to schools." But, in keeping with his administration's approach to health policy, he followed that up with an evidence-free and likely false statement: "You're losing a lot of lives by keeping things closed."

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, Health policy, Policy, public health, SARS-CoV-2, schools, science, Trump | Comments (0)

Pediatricians walk back school-reopening stance as WHO gives dire warning

July 13th, 2020
Men and women in suits sit at a long table. The only one masked is an MD.

Enlarge / American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Sally Goza (center) attends a meeting with US President Donald Trump, students, teachers, and administrators about how to safely reopen schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic in the East Room at the White House July 07, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Chip Somodevilla )

The American Academy of Pediatrics has clarified its stance on school reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the Trump administration repeatedly used the academy’s previous statement to pressure school systems to resume in-person learning in the fall.

The AAP, in a joint statement with three large education organizations, emphasized that school reopening should be informed by science and safety—“not politics.” It also directly responded to a President Trump’s threat of withholding funding from schools who did not reopen, calling the move a “misguided approach.”

The point was echoed Monday by Michael Ryan, an infectious disease expert with the World Health Organization, who implored countries not to let school reopening become a “yet another political football.”

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, pandemic, Policy, public health, SARS-CoV-2, schools, Trump | Comments (0)