Archive for the ‘Infectious disease’ Category

Trump may reject FDA’s stricter regulations for COVID-19 vaccine

September 24th, 2020
The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland.

Enlarge / The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland. (credit: Getty | Congressional Quarterly)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he may reject the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to issue stricter safety and efficacy standards for COVID-19 vaccines, calling the plan a “political move.”

The new standards are aimed at bolstering public confidence in the FDA and its vaccine review process, which has been severely damaged by many reports of political meddling and interference by the Trump administration. Those reports include claims that the FDA was pressured by the White House into allowing COVID-19 patients to be treated with unproven blood plasma and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which was personally touted by Trump. (The authorization of hydroxychloroquine was later revoked by the FDA.) Just last week, Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, revoked the FDA’s authority to sign new regulations.

Trump himself has continually undercut federal public health guidance and government scientists, particularly Robert Redfield, his director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump has also repeatedly pushed for a pre-election release of a vaccine, though experts have, in turn, repeatedly pointed out that such a speedy release is nearly impossible based on the timeline of the clinical trials underway and the amount of data needed to make even preliminary evaluations of safety and efficacy.

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Posted in CDC, clinical trials, COVID-19, fda, Infectious disease, pandemic, public health, science, Trump, vaccine | Comments (0)

US has topped 200,000 COVID-19 deaths—and many more to come

September 22nd, 2020
A medical technician in protective gear handles a wrapped corpse on a gurney.

Enlarge / Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan prepares the body of a COVID-19 victim at a morgue in Montgomery county, Maryland, on April 17, 2020. (credit: Getty | ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

The US death toll from COVID-19 topped 200,000 Tuesday as daily reports of new cases still hover around 40,000 and daily deaths are in the 700s.

The grim milestone of 200,000 deaths is equivalent to the death toll from the 9/11 attacks occurring every day for 66 days. It’s also equivalent to losing about the entire population Salt Lake City, Utah, or nearly the population of Rochester, New York. COVID-19 has killed more in the United States than the number of Americans who died in the five most recent wars combined (the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf War).

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the COVID-19 death toll had already reached 200,541 deaths, stemming from more than 6.88 million cases. While these figures are based on data from state health authorities, the actual death toll is expected to be much higher.

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

156 countries commit to fair COVID-19 vaccine access, but US won’t join

September 22nd, 2020
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Enlarge / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (credit: Getty | Fabrice Cof)

A total of 156 countries—representing about 64 percent of the world’s population—have committed to pooling resources to help develop, buy, and equitably distribute two billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, which is co-leading the effort along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

So far, 64 high-income countries have signed on to the effort, as well as 92 low- and middle-income countries, which would be eligible for support in procuring vaccine doses. Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a WHO press conference on Monday that he expects 38 more countries to sign up in the coming days.

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Posted in china, COVAX, COVID-19, Infectious disease, pandemic, Policy, public health, russia, SARS-CoV-2, science, us, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)

Trump admin halts evictions in 2020 with rarely used public health law

September 2nd, 2020
Protesters demonstrate during a 'No Evictions, No Police' national day of action protest against law enforcement who forcibly remove people from homes on September 1, 2020 in New York City.

Enlarge / Protesters demonstrate during a 'No Evictions, No Police' national day of action protest against law enforcement who forcibly remove people from homes on September 1, 2020 in New York City. (credit: Getty | Angela Weiss)

Citing the risks of COVID-19 spread, the Trump administration on Tuesday said it would halt US evictions through the end of the year, wielding a rarely used power of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the order, the CDC is halting residential evictions of people who are unable to pay full rent due to income loss and who expect to earn no more than $99,000 in income this year (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return). Renters hoping to be protected by the order must also certify, under penalty of perjury, that if they are evicted, they “would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because [they] have no other available housing options.”

The order does not offer any financial relief—either for renters or for housing providers—and it doesn’t relieve anyone from having to pay their rent in full eventually. It also doesn’t prevent housing providers from charging interest or applying fees and penalties.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, eviction, Infectious disease, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, Transmission | Comments (0)

The CDC has failed: Ex-health officials urge states to abandon agency

September 1st, 2020
A security guard walks on the grounds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Enlarge / A security guard walks on the grounds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is promoting policies that will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, states and local leaders should disregard the agency and strike out on their own. That’s according to Harold Varmus, the Nobel-prize-winning scientist and former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Rajiv Shah, the former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and current president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

The two laid out their argument against the CDC in a searing opinion piece in The New York Times Monday, titled: “It Has Come to This: Ignore the CDC.”

Varmus and Shah’s dramatic disavowal of the country’s leading public health agency was spurred by its abrupt changes last week to COVID-19 testing guidance, which now discourages testing of people who have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus but do not have symptoms.

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

Trump advisor reportedly wants to let COVID-19 spread, repeat Sweden’s mistakes

August 31st, 2020
A serious man in a business suit sits with his hands folded in his lap.

Enlarge / Member of the coronavirus task force Scott Atlas listens to US President Donald Trump during a briefing at the White House August 10, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI )

A new advisor to President Donald Trump is reportedly advocating that the pandemic coronavirus spread largely unrestrained so that the United States can reach “herd immunity”—an idea that infectious disease experts call “absolutely absurd,” “simply wrong,” and a strategy that actually amounts to the absence of a strategy, which could leave hundreds of thousands of more Americans dead.

Still, according to reporting by The Washington Post, the idea is being pushed by Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who began advising Trump in August. In his short tenure so far, Professor Atlas has repeatedly made statements contrary to scientific evidence, such as saying that children do not spread the virus.

Officials say Atlas was recruited to the advisory role counter the advice of Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. One senior administration official said Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases, sees himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci.”

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Posted in COVID-19, herd immunity, immunity, Infectious disease, public health, science, scott atlas, sweden, Trump, WHO | Comments (0)

Reverse it, now: Infectious disease experts slam CDC’s COVID-19 testing change

August 27th, 2020
Admiral Brett Giroir, US assistant secretary for health, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listen during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, July 31, 2020.

Enlarge / Admiral Brett Giroir, US assistant secretary for health, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listen during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, July 31, 2020. (credit: Getty | Erin Scott)

Intense backlash from medical and infectious disease experts continues over revisions to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 testing recommendations, which as of this week discourage testing for people who have been exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms.

In a joint statement late Wednesday, the Infectious Diseases Society of American (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) called for “the immediate reversal of the abrupt revision” by the CDC.

In a separate statement, Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association—the nation’s largest organization of doctors—called the revision to the testing guidance “a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.”

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Posted in ama, asymptomatic, CDC, COVID-19, hivma, idsa, Infectious disease, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing, testing recommendations, Transmission | Comments (0)

Coronavirus-exposed teachers could stay in classrooms under new fed. guidance

August 20th, 2020
Teacher in school classroom.

Enlarge / Teacher in school classroom. (credit: Getty | Arne Dedert)

An updated guidance document from the Trump Administration now designates teachers and school staff as “essential critical infrastructure” workers, which would allow them to remain in classrooms and schools after being exposed to the pandemic coronavirus, rather than going into quarantine.

The guidance is not a directive—school districts can still decline to include educators in the designation. But some school districts have already made the designation and have signaled that they will keep teachers out of quarantines after exposures, as long as they remain symptom free. That includes school districts in Tennessee and Georgia, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Keeping exposed teachers in schools raises the risks that they could spread the infection to students and coworkers while showing no symptoms. Studies so far have suggested that infected people may be most infectious around the time they first develop symptoms. Researches have repeatedly found that levels of viral material in the upper respiratory tract are at their highest right around the time when people first notice symptoms. Additionally, some infected people do not develop symptoms but can still harbor similar levels of the virus as symptomatic people, according to several studies.

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Posted in children, COVID-19, Exposure, Infectious disease, public health, quarantine, SARS-CoV-2, school, science, students, teacher | Comments (0)

New Zealand baffled by new COVID-19 cases, eyes frozen-food packaging

August 13th, 2020
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 13: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with media at a COVID-19 briefing on August 13, 2020. COVID-19 restrictions have been reintroduced across New Zealand after four new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Auckland. Auckland has been placed in Level 3 lockdown for three days from Wednesday, August 12, with all residents to work from home unless they are essential workers and all schools and childcare centers are closed. The rest of New Zealand has returned to Level 2 restrictions. The new cases are all in the same family, with health authorities working to trace the source of the infection.

Enlarge / WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 13: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with media at a COVID-19 briefing on August 13, 2020. COVID-19 restrictions have been reintroduced across New Zealand after four new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Auckland. Auckland has been placed in Level 3 lockdown for three days from Wednesday, August 12, with all residents to work from home unless they are essential workers and all schools and childcare centers are closed. The rest of New Zealand has returned to Level 2 restrictions. The new cases are all in the same family, with health authorities working to trace the source of the infection. (credit: Getty | Mark Tantrum)

New Zealand officials are scrambling to halt a growing cluster of COVID-19 cases that has baffled health investigators trying to understand how the pandemic coronavirus regained a foothold on the island nation.

Officials on Tuesday announced four cases in one family in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Before that, the country had gone 102 days without any local transmission. Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has been among the most successful countries in the world at responding to and holding back the pandemic coronavirus, relying on swift and thorough testing and tracing as well as rigorous social distancing and lockdown orders.

But the new cluster has stumped investigators, who are now exploring all the possible ways the coronavirus may have slipped back in—including that it arrived on the packaging of frozen-food shipments and infected a worker unpacking them.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, new zealand, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, Transmission, virus | Comments (0)

Massive Salmonella outbreak sweeps US, Canada. Nearly 900 sickened so far

August 10th, 2020
Close-up photograph of hand and knife chopping red onion.

Enlarge / Red onions have been fingered as the likely culprit. (credit: Getty | Thomas Trutschel)

An outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to tainted onions has mushroomed in North America. So far, the outbreak has sickened 879 people, hospitalizing 114 across 43 US states and seven Canadian provinces.

The US Food and Drug Administration traced the outbreak back to red onions produced by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California. Thomson issued a recall of all of its onions August 1, covering red, yellow, white, and sweet bulbs that were shipped any time after May 1. But the outbreak numbers will likely continue to climb, given the potentially week-long period between eating a bad onion and developing symptoms, plus a typical two-to-four-week lag in case reporting.

The tainted onions were shipped to wholesalers, restaurants, and grocery stores across Canada as well as in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Affected stores include Walmart, Kroger, Fred Meyer, Publix, Giant Eagle, Food Lion, and H-E-B. The onions were sold under brand names: Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion.

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Posted in bacteria, Canada, CDC, fda, food borne illness, food poisoning, Infectious disease, onions, outbreak, recall, salmonella, science | Comments (0)