As egg prices soar, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history drags on

Chicken eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel's northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022.

Enlarge / Chicken eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel’s northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022. (credit: Getty | JALAA MAREY / AFP))

The ongoing bird flu outbreak in the US is now the longest and deadliest on record. More than 57 million birds have been killed by the virus or culled since a year ago, and the deadly disruption has helped propel skyrocketing egg prices and a spike in egg smuggling.

Since highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) was first detected in US birds in January 2022, the price of a carton of a dozen eggs has shot up from an average of about $1.79 in December 2021 to $4.25 in December 2022, a 137 percent increase, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although inflation and supply chain issues partly explain the rise, eggs saw the largest percentage increase of any specific food, according to the consumer price index.

And the steep pricing is leading some at the US-Mexico border to try to smuggle in illegal cartons, which is prohibited. A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told NPR this week that people in El Paso, Texas, are buying eggs in Juárez, Mexico, because they are “significantly less expensive.” Meanwhile, a customs official in San Diego tweeted a reminder amid a rise in egg interceptions that failure to declare such agriculture items at a port of entry can result in penalties up to $10,000.

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#avian-influenza, #biology, #bird-flu, #birds, #h5n1, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #mink, #poultry, #public-health, #science, #viruses

Gonorrhea is becoming unstoppable; highly resistant cases found in US

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea. (credit: NIAID)

The most highly drug-resistant cases of gonorrhea detected in the US to date appeared in two unrelated people in Massachusetts, state health officials announced Thursday.

The cases mark the first time that US isolates of the gonorrhea-causing bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, have shown complete resistance or reduced susceptibility to all drugs that are recommended for treatment.

Fortunately, both cases were successfully cured with potent injections of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, despite the bacterial isolates demonstrating reduced susceptibility to the drug. Ceftriaxone is currently the frontline recommended treatment for the sexually transmitted infection.

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RSV vaccine for older adults is 84% effective, Moderna says

Image of a syringe in front of a Moderna company logo.

Enlarge (credit: DeFodi Images )

Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccine against RSV (respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus) was effective at preventing disease in older adults, according to preliminary, top-line results of an ongoing phase III clinical trial the company announced Tuesday. Moderna said it will now seek regulatory approval for the vaccine in the first half of this year.

According to the company, the vaccine was 83.7 percent effective at preventing RSV-associated lower respiratory tract disease (RSV-LRTD) involving two or more symptoms in adults age 60 and over. It was 82.4 percent effective at preventing RSV-LRTD with three or more symptoms in the same group. No safety concerns were identified.

The findings are another positive sign for mRNA vaccine platforms generally, which Moderna and other pharmaceutical companies have quickly shifted to for fighting various other infections and diseases given the global success of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines. mRNA-based vaccines are now in development for everything from seasonal flu to HIV and certain cancers.

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WHO presses China for more data after COVID death tally leaps from 37 to 60K

Passengers wearing face masks wait to board a high-speed railway train in Guangzhou South railway station on January 15, 2023, in Guangzhou, China. China is currently experiencing Spring Festival travel season, where millions of Chinese travel around the country before celebrating the Chinese or Lunar New Year.

Enlarge / Passengers wearing face masks wait to board a high-speed railway train in Guangzhou South railway station on January 15, 2023, in Guangzhou, China. China is currently experiencing Spring Festival travel season, where millions of Chinese travel around the country before celebrating the Chinese or Lunar New Year. (credit: Getty | Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto )

China is now reporting that nearly 60,000 people had died of COVID-19 since early December when the country abruptly abandoned its zero-COVID policy and omicron subvariants began ripping through its population. The new death toll is a stark revision from China’s previously reported figure for that period, which was just 37. But experts remain skeptical that the new, much larger tally is a complete accounting, and the World Health Organization continues to press the country to release more data.

In a Saturday press conference in Beijing, the Medical Administration Director of China’s National Health Commission (NHC), Jiao Yahui, told reporters that the country recorded 59,938 COVID-related deaths between December 8 and January 12. Of those, 5,503 deaths were specifically linked to respiratory failure, and 54,435 were associated with underlying conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The new figures double the country’s tally of COVID-19 deaths due specifically to COVID-19 respiratory failure, bringing the pandemic total to 10,775. Previously, those deaths—the ones due to COVID-19 respiratory failure or pneumonia—were the only deaths that China counted as caused by COVID-19, which drew criticism from WHO officials, who called the classification “too narrow.”

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#china, #covid-19, #data, #deaths, #omicron, #public-health, #reporting, #science, #who

Amid China’s massive COVID wave, 42% of people on one flight tested positive

A passenger wearing protective clothing amid the COVID-19 pandemic waits to board a domestic flight at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on January 3.

Enlarge / A passenger wearing protective clothing amid the COVID-19 pandemic waits to board a domestic flight at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on January 3. (credit: Getty | HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

Although China has largely abandoned COVID-19 case reporting, evidence of its massive wave of infection readily shows up in airports outside its borders.

On a December 26 flight from the southeastern city of Wenzhou to Milan, Italy, 42 percent of the 149 passengers on board tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Eurosurveillance.

The Italian researchers behind the study also looked at test-positivity rates of three other flights from eastern cities in China to Italy, two to Milan and two to Rome, all at the end of December. Collectively, 23 percent of the passengers from the four flights (126 of 556 passengers) were positive for SARS-CoV-2. The other three flights had positivity rates of 19 percent, 11 percent, and 14 percent.

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US vaccination decline continues: 250,000 kindergarteners vulnerable to measles

A small person looks at the band-aid being applied to their arm.

Enlarge / A child getting a vaccination on February 19, 2021, in Bonn, Germany. (credit: Getty | Ute Grabowsky)

Routine childhood vaccination coverage continues to slip among US kindergarteners, falling from 95 percent—the target coverage—prior to the pandemic to 94 percent in the 2020–2021 school year and to the new low of 93 percent in the 2021–2022 school year, according to a fresh analysis published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While a two-percent drop “might not sound significant, it means nearly 250,000 kindergarteners are potentially not protected against measles alone,” Georgina Peacock, director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, told reporters in a media briefing Thursday. And, she added, national coverage of MMR vaccination—which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella—is now the lowest it has been in over a decade.

Peacock and other health experts in the briefing attributed the continued decline to a variety of factors. Prime among them are pandemic-related disruptions, such as missed well-child doctor’s appointments where routine vaccines are given. There’s also data suggesting barriers to access for children living below the poverty line or in rural areas. And vaccine misinformation and disinformation continue to play a role, as it has for many years prior to the pandemic.

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XBB.1.5: Still more questions than answers on risk of latest omicron subvariant

A CDC COVID-19 variant testing site inside Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. The airport testing is part of the government's early warning system for detecting new variants, which began expanding recently in the wake of a COVID-19 surge in China.

Enlarge / A CDC COVID-19 variant testing site inside Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. The airport testing is part of the government’s early warning system for detecting new variants, which began expanding recently in the wake of a COVID-19 surge in China. (credit: Getty | Jill Connelly/Bloomberg )

Amid a winter wave of COVID-19 in the US, the latest coronavirus omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, has grabbed headlines due to its swift rise, raising fears of another towering spike in the disease. But the spotlight is revealing more questions than answers in the early days of the subvariant, which has ominously been described as one of the most immune-evasive omicron subvariants to date.

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly downgraded estimates of its prevalence. As Ars and other outlets reported, the CDC previously estimated that XBB.1.5 accounted for 40.5 percent of COVID-19 cases throughout the country in the week ending on December 31, with the highest prevalence in the Northeast. But last Friday, the agency updated the estimates with a backlog of sequencing data from over the holidays, which indicated XBB.1.5 accounted for 18 percent of cases nationwide that week—not 40.5 percent. Currently, the CDC estimates that XBB.1.5 accounted for 27.6 percent of cases nationwide in the week ending on January 7. But the 95 percent prediction interval is wide, spanning 14 percent to 46.5 percent).

The updated estimate still indicates that the variant, first detected in New York in October, is on the rise. But the uncertainty throws a wrench in estimates of its transmission advantage over other omicron subvarianty, BQ.1.1 is still the most prevalent omicron subvariant, accounting for an estimated 34 percent of cases in the US.

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US acceptance of COVID vaccines rises, now like other Western democracies

A medical professional administers a shot to the arm of a seated individual.

Enlarge (credit: Luis Alvarez)

COVID vaccines remain the safest way to reduce the chance that SARS-CoV-2 can put you in the hospital and are therefore a critical component of the public health campaign against the pandemic. Yet, in the US, there has been lots of controversy and outright anger about attempts to expand the use of vaccines, and a substantial portion of the population appears to be avoiding the shots for political reasons.

The extreme polarization of the US’ politics hasn’t gone away, and the controversy seems to be fresh in some politicians’ minds, so it’s easy to expect that the vaccine hesitancy isn’t going away. But an international survey on COVID vaccine attitudes suggests that the US has seen a large boost in COVID vaccine acceptance and now has attitudes similar to other westernized democracies. Elsewhere in the world, the survey reveals clear regional patterns in vaccine acceptance, although there are oddities everywhere.

Becoming typical

The survey started out back in 2020 as a series of questions about whether people intended to get vaccines once they became available. In the intervening years, the people performing the survey have added several nations (it’s now up to a total of 23) and shifted the questions to account for the availability of vaccines, addition of boosters, and development of treatments for COVID-19. In all 23 countries, the survey involved a pool of 1,000 participants who were generally reflective of the country’s population.

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What Rice-Farming Cultures Can Teach Us about Pandemic Preparedness

Societies that farm rice over wheat tend to be more tight-knit and interdependent, which could protect them from pandemic viruses like the one behind COVID

#health, #public-health

Masks Are a Proven Way to Defend Yourself from Respiratory Infections

Respiratory viruses have rebounded hard after COVID seclusion, and masks are one of the best ways to avoid getting them

#health, #public-health

Masks Are a Proved Way to Defend Yourself from Respiratory Infections

Respiratory viruses have rebounded hard after COVID seclusion, and masks are one of the best ways to avoid getting them

#health, #public-health

Editors’ Picks: Our Favorite Opinions of 2022

Our opinion section took us to the front lines of COVID, revealed how racists misuse evolutionary biology, illuminated a mental health epidemic in kids, and more

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The Opioid Epidemic Is Surging among Black People because of Unequal Access to Treatment

Clinics and the most effective types of therapy are harder to find in communities where people of color live

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Bacteria and Fungi Can ‘Walk’ across the Surface of Our Teeth

Clusters of bacteria and fungi seem to be capable of complex movement, setting tooth decay in motion

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Power plant pollution higher in neighborhoods subject to racist redlining

Image of a power plant in New York City

Enlarge (credit: Silvia Otte)

In the US, it’s well-documented that poor neighborhoods are likely to suffer from higher pollution levels. Sources of pollution, like power plants and freeways, are more likely to be located in poor neighborhoods. The ensuing pollution adds to the economic burdens faced by these neighborhoods, with increased medical costs, productivity lost due to illness, and premature deaths.

Since minorities and immigrants tend to live in lower-income neighborhoods, this also adds to the racial disparities present in the US. Now, a group of public health researchers has found another factor that contributed to this disparity. The historic practice of “redlining,” or assigning high-risk scores to mortgages in minority neighborhoods, is also associated with higher power plant emissions, reinforcing the challenges minorities face in the US.

In the red

The term redlining is derived from a federal program, started in the New Deal, that was intended to expand access to mortgages and boost home ownership in the US. The organization that oversaw the program, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, set standards for loans that focused on four categories of risk scores, evaluated by neighborhood. The highest risk category was identified on maps with a red line, leading to its name. It was much harder to obtain mortgages in these neighborhoods, which depressed housing prices for their residents.

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Fauci Responds to Musk’s Twitter Attack and Rates World’s COVID Response

Public health leader Anthony Fauci advises early-career researchers “not to be deterred” by vitriol

#health, #public-health, #social-sciences, #sociology

“Impossible” to track: China gives up on COVID case count amid explosive outbreak

This frame grab from AFPTV video footage shows people queueing outside a fever clinic amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Beijing on December 14, 2022.

Enlarge / This frame grab from AFPTV video footage shows people queueing outside a fever clinic amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Beijing on December 14, 2022. (credit: Getty | YUXUAN ZHANG/AFPTV/AFP)

Amid what appears to be an explosive outbreak of COVID-19, China on Wednesday said it would no longer report asymptomatic cases because they’ve become “impossible” to track after an end to mandatory testing.

The now-voluntary testing policy is part of an abrupt pivot away from the country’s strict zero-COVID policy that drew widespread protests in recent weeks.

After years of keeping SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks largely at bay with various restrictions, mandatory isolations, quarantines, lockdowns, and extensive testing, China last week significantly eased its unpopular policy. The State Council announced on December 7 that residents would no longer be required to undergo frequent PCR tests for COVID-19. It also dropped the requirement to use digital health passes—personal QR codes that tracked an individual’s movements and COVID-19 test results—for access to buildings and public transportation. And for the first time during the pandemic, the government also allowed people with mild or asymptomatic infections to isolate at home rather than in centralized facilities, which residents often criticized for being unsanitary and overcrowded.

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People in Rural Areas Die at Higher Rates Than Those in Urban Areas

Deaths from heart disease, cancer and COVID are all higher in rural areas than urban ones in the U.S., and the gap is only widening

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The Most Compelling Science Graphics of 2022

From COVID to space exploration, graphics helped tell some the year’s most important stories

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US COVID death toll would be 4X higher without vaccines, modeling study finds

A woman watches white flags on the National Mall on September 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. Over 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Enlarge / A woman watches white flags on the National Mall on September 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. Over 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. (credit: Getty | Chen Mengtong)

Without COVID-19 vaccines, the US would have seen four times more deaths from the pandemic virus—an additional 3 million lives lost—as well as nearly four times more hospitalizations, 1.5 times more infections, and an additional $1.5 trillion in medical bills since December of 2020.

Those are the top-line results from a new modeling study by the Commonwealth Fund, which simulated the unmitigated effects of COVID-19 in the US from December 2020 to November 2022.

The age-stratified model accounted for US demographics, the prevalence of disease-enhancing comorbidities, social networks, limited social contact during pandemic restrictions, COVID-19 case data, hospitalization rates, vaccination administration eligibility and rates, vaccine efficacy estimates, waning protection from vaccination and infection, and the characteristics of five SARS-CoV-2 variants (Iota, Alpha, Gamma, Delta, Omicron). The model was calibrated to replicate real-world data of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths before the researchers removed vaccines from the scenario.

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Officials, experts call for masking as illnesses slam US ahead of holidays

Commuters in a subway in New York on October 25, 2022.

Enlarge / Commuters in a subway in New York on October 25, 2022. (credit: Getty | Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

Health officials and experts are renewing calls for masking as respiratory illnesses surge and Americans prepare for holidays.

RSV infections in children appear to be cresting nationally after overwhelming children’s hospitals for weeks, but they remain unseasonably high. Influenza-like illnesses also remain extremely high for this point in the year, with flu-like illnesses accounting for more than 1 in 13 visits to the doctor’s office and hospitalizations continuing to rise. Respiratory infection transmission is high or very high in 42 states.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, meanwhile, are on the rise, signaling the potential start of a much-dreaded winter wave. According to data tracking by The New York Times, cases are up 56 percent over the last two weeks and hospitalizations, which typically lag behind case rises, are up 28 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that about 9 percent of US counties have high COVID-19 Community Levels, which are based on case numbers and hospital capacity. An additional 35 percent of US counties reportedly have medium community levels.

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#biology, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #masks, #medicine, #public-health, #science

Amid pathetic uptake, FDA green lights confusing COVID vaccine update for kids

Reisa Lancaster RN, left, administers the Covid-19 vaccine to 14 month old Ada Hedge, center, being comforted by mom Sarah Close and dad Chinmay Hedge, right at Children's National Research and Innovation Campus, in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Reisa Lancaster RN, left, administers the Covid-19 vaccine to 14 month old Ada Hedge, center, being comforted by mom Sarah Close and dad Chinmay Hedge, right at Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post, Bill O’Leary)

The Food and Drug Administration has greenlit updated COVID-19 vaccine doses for children under the age of 5, but the change to the authorized vaccination regimens is far from straightforward. This may further hamstring efforts to vaccinate the youngest Americans, which are already off to an abysmal start.

After months of availability, only about 3 percent of infants and toddlers 6 months to 2 years old have completed a primary series. Just 6.5 percent have gotten at least one shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those aged 2 to 4 years, just under 5 percent have completed a primary series, with 9 percent having gotten at least one dose.

It was back in June when the FDA authorized—and the CDC endorsed—small doses of both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.

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Ohio measles outbreak hits partially vaccinated kids, babies too young for shots

Child with a classic four-day rash from measles.

Enlarge / Child with a classic four-day rash from measles. (credit: CDC)

The measles outbreak in Ohio continues to swell, striking a total of 63 children to date. The tally now includes at least three children who were partially vaccinated against the highly contagious virus and 14 who are typically too young to be vaccinated.

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, with the first dose recommended between the ages of 12 months and 15 months and the second between ages 4 and 6. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just one MMR dose is estimated to be 93 percent effective against measles. Two doses are 97 percent effective. People who get their two doses on the recommended schedule are considered protected for life.

It’s unclear if the three partially vaccinated children were too young to be eligible for their second dose or contracted measles quickly after getting their first dose, potentially before full protection developed. Health officials in the affected areas of Ohio have been promoting vaccination, which may have led some parents to get their eligible children freshly vaccinated amid the heightened awareness. The affected areas in Ohio span at least two counties: Franklin County, which encompasses Columbus, and Ross County to the south.

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#antivaccine, #biology, #children, #infectious-disease, #measles, #mmr, #ohio, #public-health, #science, #vaccine

Scarlet fever is soaring in UK after pandemic lull; invasive infections kill 8

A microscope image of <em>Streptococcus pyogenes</em>, a common type of group A strep.

Enlarge / A microscope image of Streptococcus pyogenes, a common type of group A strep. (credit: Getty | BSIP)

Scarlet fever is spiking in the UK, with case numbers more than fourfold higher than normal for this time of year. And a rare but serious invasive disease caused by the same bacteria that causes scarlet fever and strep throat—Group A streptococci—is also surging, killing at least eight children in the UK, according to media reports.

The unusual rise is seen as yet another anomalous disease transmission cycle rippling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many other seasonal infections, scarlet fever cases in the UK virtually flattened at the end of the 2019–2020 season and bottomed the chart throughout the 2020–2021 season, according to data released by the UK Health Security Agency.

Now, with most pandemic-related health restrictions lifted or at least eased, a throng of seasonal infections—particularly those that hit children the hardest—have returned. Many have returned with some ferociousness, finding a yet larger pool of susceptible victims than usual after a hiatus. Many of these disease-cycle anomalies have been seen in seasonal viruses, namely enteroviruses, adenoviruses, influenza, and RSV (respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus), which are currently swamping hospitals and pediatric wards in the US.

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Pfizer seeks FDA greenlight for bivalent COVID dose in kids under 5 years

Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Enlarge / Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (credit: SOPA images)

With respiratory illnesses ravaging children around the US, vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that they are seeking regulatory authorization to offer their bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 6 months to 4 years—but not as a booster; instead it would be part of an updated primary series.

Currently, the bivalent vaccine, which targets the coronavirus omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to an ancestral strain, is only available as a booster dose to Americans ages 5 years and up. Although BA.5 is no longer dominant in the US, its sublineages now reign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published real-world effectiveness data indicating that the bivalent boosters increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection over protection provided by the previous boosters.

For now, children under 5 only have had access to a primary series—two small doses of Moderna’s original vaccine or three small doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s original vaccine. Both were first authorized on June 17 after a rollercoaster regulatory process that lasted months.

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#biontech, #bivalent, #booster, #children, #children-under-5, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #pandemic, #pfizer, #primary-series, #public-health, #science, #vaccine

Respiratory illnesses slam US: “Perfect storm for a terrible holiday season”

An intensive care nurse cares for a patient suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), who is being ventilated in the children's intensive care unit of the Olga Hospital of the Stuttgart Clinic in Germany.

Enlarge / An intensive care nurse cares for a patient suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), who is being ventilated in the children’s intensive care unit of the Olga Hospital of the Stuttgart Clinic in Germany. (credit: Getty | picture alliance)

With SARS-CoV-2 still circulating and seasonal viruses, including influenza and RSV, making up for lost time during the pandemic, the US is getting slammed by respiratory illnesses. And things could get worse as more holidays and associated gatherings approach, health officials warned Monday.

“This year’s flu season is off to a rough start. Flu’s here, it started early and with COVID and RSV also circulating, it’s a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season,” Sandra Fryhofer, chair of the American Medical Association and adjunct medicine professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said in a press briefing held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today. “Over the last few years, COVID-protective measures also prevented spread of flu and other respiratory infections, but we’re really no longer in that bubble.”

Cases of influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) are soaring throughout the country, with 47 states seeing “very high” or “high” activity levels, according to the latest CDC data. The agency estimates that there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu.

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Ohio measles outbreak nearly triples, expected to last “several months”

A false color image of the measles virus.

A false color image of the measles virus. (credit: Arizona Department of Health)

A measles outbreak in the Columbus, Ohio, area has nearly tripled in the last two weeks as officials say they’re struggling to identify the geographic spread of the outbreak and expect it to drag on for months.

Confirmed cases have risen from 18 in mid-November to the confirmed case count of 50, as of Friday morning. Twenty of the cases have required hospitalization. No deaths have been reported.

All of the sickened children are entirely unvaccinated. Nine of the cases are in babies under the age of 1 year, who are typically not yet eligible for vaccination. Twenty-six cases are in infants ages 1 to 2 years—who are eligible for their first dose. Ten cases are in toddlers ages 3 to 5—some of whom would have been eligible for their second dose—and there are five cases in children between the ages of 6 and 17.

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#anti-vaccine, #columbus, #franklin-county, #infectious-disease, #measles, #mmr, #ohio, #outbreak, #public-health, #science, #unvaccinated, #vaccine, #virus

Students with HIV Need Support

I helped develop a plan to support youth living with HIV and would like to see more educational institutions prioritize our needs

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Homeopath who made thousands on bogus COVID pellets gets nearly 3 years in prison

Extreme close-up photograph of a row of vials.

Enlarge / Vials containing pills for homeopathic remedies are displayed at Ainsworths Pharmacy on August 26, 2005, in London. (credit: Getty | Peter Macdiarmid)

California naturopath and homeopath Juli Mazi will spend 33 months in federal prison for falsifying federal COVID-19 vaccination cards and selling pellets she falsely claimed would offer lifetime protection from COVID.

It was a scheme that netted her thousands of dollars in the early phases of the pandemic before also earning her the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to bogus COVID-19 vaccination and vaccination records.

Mazi, of Napa, California, pleaded guilty to the charges in April and faced a maximum sentence of 25 years for all the charges.

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#covid-19, #fraud, #healthcare-fraud, #homeopath, #homeopathy, #immunication, #juli-mazi, #medicine, #naturopath, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #vaccination, #vaccination-cards, #vaccines

Musk’s Twitter abandons COVID misinfo policy, shirking “huge responsibility”

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presents a vaccine production device during a meeting September 2, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Musk met with vaccine-maker CureVac, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines.

Enlarge / Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presents a vaccine production device during a meeting September 2, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Musk met with vaccine-maker CureVac, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines. (credit: Getty | Filip Singer)

Under the leadership of billionaire Elon Musk, social media platform Twitter has abandoned its efforts to prevent the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation on its platform, dismaying experts who say false and misleading health information can harm individuals and put lives at risk.

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the company noted in various places on its website.

From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health responses have been severely stymied by a plague of misinformation, often in digital spaces.

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#covid-19, #health, #health-misinformation, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #misinformation, #musk, #pandemic, #policy, #public-health, #science, #twitter, #vaccination, #who

China links COVID outbreak to man’s jog through a park; Scientists skeptical

Runner in Shanghai, China.

Enlarge / Runner in Shanghai, China. (credit: Getty| Avalon)

In the early morning of August 16, a 41-year-old man in China’s southwest-central municipality of Chongqing got up and went for a jog along a lake in a local outdoor park—something that should have been a pleasant, if not unremarkable, outing. But what really happened during that 35-minute jaunt has now sparked international alarm and debate, with some scientists doubtful of China’s startling account.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the unmasked man infected 33 unmasked park visitors and two unmasked park workers with the coronavirus omicron subvariant BA.2.76 during his short run. The agency claimed transmission occurred in fleeting outdoor encounters as he trotted past people on a four-meter-wide foot path. Many others were infected without any close encounter. Twenty of the 33 infected park goers became infected by simply visiting outdoor areas of the park the jogger had previously passed through, including an entrance gate. The two infected workers, meanwhile, quickly passed the infection on to four other colleagues, bringing the jogger’s park outbreak total to 39.

To support these unusual conclusions, the CCDC cited case interviews, park surveillance footage, and SARS-CoV-2 genetic data, which reportedly linked the cases but is notably absent from the report.

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#biology, #china, #covid-19, #jogger, #medicine, #omicron, #outdoor, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #transmission, #virology, #virus

What the Triple Threat of COVID, RSV and Flu Means for Children

Two epidemiologists explain how three viral illnesses are straining health care systems

#biology, #health, #public-health

First efficacy data on bivalent boosters shows they work against infection

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, speaks alongside COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha during a briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on November 22, 2022, in Washington, DC. Fauci spoke on the updated COVID-19 booster shots and encouraged individuals to get their vaccines. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Enlarge / Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, speaks alongside COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha during a briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on November 22, 2022, in Washington, DC. Fauci spoke on the updated COVID-19 booster shots and encouraged individuals to get their vaccines. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (credit: Getty | Win McNamee)

The updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine increased protection against symptomatic disease compared with the original monovalent vaccine given as recently as two months ago.

That’s the takeaway from a study released Tuesday morning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offered the first clinical efficacy data for the bivalent shot since its national rollout in September.

In adults, the relative effectiveness of the bivalent vaccine’s protection against symptomatic infection ranged from about 30 percent to up to 56 percent compared with that of the monovalent vaccine, with the relative efficacy estimated to be larger the more time had passed since a person’s last monovalent shot.

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These UV Devices Could Keep Indoor Air Free of Viruses

Devices using shorter UV light could keep indoor air free of viruses without harming human health

#health, #outlook, #public-health

Climate Models Could Help Predict Future Disease Outbreaks

Lessons from climate modeling could be used to help prepare for future disease outbreaks

#climate-change, #environment, #outlook, #public-health

Why Life Expectancy Keeps Dropping in the U.S. as Other Countries Bounce Back

COVID cut average life spans short in many high-income countries, but the U.S. decline has been steeper and longer than most

#health, #public-health, #social-sciences, #sociology

COVID Communication Often Failed: How Health Policy Makers Can Do Better

Health policy makers need to cultivate social trust and plan effective communication strategies well before the next pandemic

#behavior, #health, #mindbrain, #outlook, #public-health

How Can the World Prepare for the Next Pandemic?

The COVID pandemic is not over, but countries must start to prepare for the next one to avoid a similar or even worse outcome

#health, #outlook, #public-health

Record number of parents miss work as respiratory illnesses spike in kids

Parents work on their computers while their son entertains himself at their home in Boston in April 2020.

Enlarge / Parents work on their computers while their son entertains himself at their home in Boston in April 2020. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Respiratory illnesses are raging this fall, slamming children particularly hard. Cases of influenza-like illnesses are off to a startlingly strong and early start this season. RSV—respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus—continues to skyrocket. A stew of SARS-CoV-2 variants is still simmering in the background. And the rabble of usual cold-season viruses, such as rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, is also making the rounds.

With the surge in infections, children’s hospitals around the country have reported being at capacity or overwhelmed, as Ars has reported before. But another effect of the crush of viruses is a squeeze on the workforce. As The Washington Post first reported Tuesday, the US broke its record last month for people missing work due to childcare problems—such as having children home sick and childcare facilities or schools shuttered due to staffing shortages and sickness.

In October, more than 100,000 employed Americans missed work for childcare-related problems, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is more missing workers than in any other month in recent records, including the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many childcare facilities and schools closed down for extended periods. At the height of pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020, the number of Americans missing work for childcare problems only reached the low 90,000s.

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#ashish-jha, #biology, #cdc, #childcare, #covid-19, #flu, #infectious-disease, #influenza, #labor, #medicine, #outbreak, #parents, #public-health, #respiratory-illnesses, #rsv, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccination, #vaccines

Are Gas Stoves Bad for Our Health?

Evidence is building that fumes from gas stoves can aggravate lung ailments

#health, #public-health, #the-science-of-health

Measles outbreak jumps to 7 Ohio daycares, 1 school—all with unvaccinated kids

A false color image of the measles virus.

A false color image of the measles virus. (credit: Arizona Department of Health)

A measles outbreak in Ohio has swiftly expanded, spreading to seven childcare facilities and one school, all with unvaccinated children, according to local health officials. The outbreak highlights the risk of the highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease mushrooming amid slipping vaccination rates.

On November 9, the health departments of the city of Columbus and Franklin County, which encompasses Columbus, announced an outbreak at one childcare facility, which had sickened four unvaccinated children. Officials reportedly expected that more cases would follow.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been 18 confirmed cases from seven childcare facilities and one school. All of the cases are in unvaccinated children, and at least 15 cases are in children under the age of four. At least six have required hospitalization, Kelli Newman, spokesperson for Columbus Public Health, told Ars.

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#anti-vaccine, #biology, #children, #hospitalized, #infectious-disease, #measles, #medicine, #mmr, #ohio, #outbreak, #public-health, #science, #unvaccinated, #vaccination, #vaccine, #virus

Who Is Dying from COVID Now, and Why

Nearly three years into the pandemic, COVID’s mortality burden is growing in certain groups of people

#health, #health-care, #inequality, #public-health

Climate Change Is Fueling a Public Health Crisis. Doctors Need to Address This

It’s time for doctors to recognize the growing effects of climate change on people’s health

#climate-change, #health, #public-health

The International Community Must Prioritize COVID Treatment and Test Access

Global trade rules are extending the COVID pandemic

#health, #public-health

Measles outbreak erupts among unvaccinated children in Ohio daycare

This child, who had been ill with measles, exhibited the characteristic rash on the fourth day of its evolution. Measles can cause hearing loss, brain damage, and be fatal to young children.

Enlarge / This child, who had been ill with measles, exhibited the characteristic rash on the fourth day of its evolution. Measles can cause hearing loss, brain damage, and be fatal to young children. (credit: CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

Amid declining vaccination rates nationwide, an outbreak of measles has erupted this week among unvaccinated children at a childcare facility in Columbus, Ohio.

The outbreak has sickened at least four children so far, all of whom are unvaccinated with no history of travel, meaning they contracted the highly contagious virus locally, according to Columbus-area health officials. An investigation into the outbreak is ongoing. Health officials are notifying parents and tracing contacts. The childcare facility is cooperating and has temporarily closed.

Columbus CBS affiliate WBNS-TV reported that one of the four cases had been hospitalized in intensive care. Officials also told the outlet that they expect additional cases will be identified in the coming days.

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#biology, #infectious-disease, #measles, #medicine, #mmr, #ohio, #outbreak, #polio, #public-health, #science, #vaccines

The Viral Triple Threat and Why You Need a Booster: COVID, Quickly, Episode 41

COVID, flu and RSV are surging. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

#health, #public-health, #vaccines

Bivalent booster is 4x better against BA.5 in older adults, Pfizer says

Bivalent booster is 4x better against BA.5 in older adults, Pfizer says

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Future Publishing)

The new bivalent COVID-19 booster spurred neutralizing antibody levels that were fourfold higher against the omicron subvariants BA.4/BA.5 in older adults than those seen after the original booster, Pfizer reported Friday.

The new data may help calm concerns about whether the updated booster is an improvement over the previous booster. But the fall booster campaign—aimed at preventing another devastating winter wave—still faces considerable challenges. For one thing, a shockingly low number of Americans are rolling up their sleeves to get the shot.

Better boost

Experts all agree that the new booster shot, like the old one, will revive waning immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and provide strong protection from severe COVID-19. But some experts have expressed skepticism about whether the updated bivalent booster—which in part targets omicron subvariants BA.4/BA.5—will offer a clinically meaningful advantage over the previous booster in preventing mild infections against the subvariant.

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#antibodies, #antibody-levels, #ba-4, #ba-5, #biology, #biontech, #bivalent, #booster, #bq-1, #bq-1-1, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #older-adults, #omicron, #pfizer, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #sublineages, #subvariants, #vaccination, #vaccines, #viruses

What to Do if You’re Trapped in a Surging Crowd

Crowd management experts explain the factors that enabled Seoul’s deadly crowd crush

#health, #public-health

The New COVID Booster Shot Could Save Your Life; Get One Now, FDA Expert Says

FDA Chief Medical Officer Hilary Marston explains the importance of getting a booster shot, considers why so few people have gotten them and answers other questions

#biology, #health, #public-health, #vaccines

CDC director’s COVID returns as study finds such rebounds shockingly common

A woman adjusts her face mask while sitting in front of a microphone.

Enlarge / Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adjusts her protective mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has experienced a COVID-19 rebound—a return of mild symptoms and positive tests after completing a course of the antiviral drug Paxlovid and testing negative—the CDC announced today.

Walensky first tested positive on October 21 and experienced mild symptoms. She completed a five-day course of Paxlovid, recovered, and tested negative. But on Sunday, October 30, her mild symptoms returned, and she once again tested positive, the agency reported.

Walensky now joins the ever-growing ranks of people reporting rebounds after Paxlovid, including high-profile rebounders such as President Biden and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. But, according to a small study published in JAMA Network Open last week, rebounds may be surprisingly common in all COVID-19 cases—even those not treated with Paxlovid.

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#cdc, #covd-19, #covid-rebound, #covid-19-rebound, #infectious-disease, #paxlovid, #paxlovid-rebound, #public-health, #rebound, #sars-cov-2, #science, #walensky