Holiday gatherings carry the risk of spreading the coronavirus among loved ones. For those determined to see family and friends, here are some tips.
A surge in demand for vaccines to ward off the winter flu has led to shortages in some European cities, raising the risk of a potentially lethal "twindemic" as COVID-19 cases spike. Top manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L>, Sanofi <SASY.PA>, Abbott <ABT.N> and Seqirus have boosted supplies to the region by an average of 30% in anticipation of higher demand. Interviews with at least 10 city and government officials, as well as medical experts, also show systems in major cities such as Warsaw are struggling with the strong early demand, causing delays and temporary shortages.
Health experts recommend wearing masks in public and keeping your distance from others in most cases, but whether you should do both could depend on the situation. “There’s no invisible force field at 6 feet,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University. Other factors could also influence whether it’s best to keep your distance while also wearing a mask.
During a rare CDC public briefing, HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday outlined a timeline for the COVID-19 vaccine and pledged it would be safe.
Complication rates are higher with severe COVID-19 than with severe flu, according to a new study. Researchers compared 3,948 adults hospitalized for COVID-19 with 5,453 hospitalized in previous years with influenza. The flu patients had higher rates of underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
The pandemic has strained the nation's blood supply, with donations increasing but demand increasing as hospitals continue to treat COVID-19 patients.
An Instagram post falsely speculates that President Donald Trump's prior flu vaccinations put him at risk for COVID-19.
The list of drugs effective at treating COVID-19 got longer Tuesday, even as another well-used drug lost some of its luster.
England's test and trace scheme needs improvement and it is hard to run an effective system when there are large and increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, UK chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said on Thursday.
There is evidence levels of COVID-19 infections are "flattening" in some areas of Britain due to the measures the government has taken to stem the pandemic, the UK's chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance said on Thursday. "There are some areas where we begin to see real effects of what's happening, so there's some indications that amongst young people the rates are coming down or flattening off a bit," he said at a media briefing. Vallance added that the latest modelling consensus suggested between 53,000 and 90,000 new infections may be occurring each day.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday he was hoping to see next week the first positive signs of the curfew put in place almost a week ago in Paris and eight other big cities to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Restrictive measures generally take two to three weeks to produce some effects, health experts say.
Britain has authorised the temporary use of the Flublok flu vaccine and ordered millions of doses as it seeks to give jabs to more people during the coronavirus pandemic. A surge in demand for vaccines to ward off winter flu has led to shortages in some European cities, raising the risk of a potentially lethal "twindemic" as COVID-19 cases spike. Britain is targeting the vaccination of more than 30 million people, nearly half the population, and said it had given authorisation for the supply of Flublok, which has been used in the United States for the last three winters.
Health officials in Africa say the rollout of rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 could be a “game changer” for their fight against the coronavirus but also warned Thursday that increased testing could drive up confirmed cases on a continent that has seen them decline or plateauing as case numbers soar in the West. “African countries are gearing up to introduce antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests on a large scale, and this will be a game changer, we think, in the fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said.
Italy has registered 16,079 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday, the highest daily tally since the start of the country's outbreak and up from the previous record of 15,199 posted on Wednesday. The ministry also reported 136 COVID-related deaths on Thursday, against 127 the day before, but still far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April, when a daily peak of more than 900 fatalities was reached. A total 36,968 people have now died in Italy because of coronavirus, while 465,726 cases of the disease have been registered to date.
According to the survey of nearly 2,000 adults, people were most swayed by vaccine efficacy, adverse effects, duration of protection and politics.
Britain tightened COVID-19 restrictions in three more areas of England on Thursday, putting them in the "high" category of the UK's three-tier system, meaning people will not be able to mix outside their households. Several cities in northern England are in the top "very high" category, which requires the closure of hospitality.
Minorities make up 37% of the study, but that percentage was on track to be much lower until the company slowed enrollment and closed trial sites.
Over 25,650 participants have so far received their second shot of the vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, the company said. Moderna said its study includes more than 11,000 participants from minority communities, including 6,000 Hispanic or Latin-American participants and more than 3,000 Black or African-American participants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires at least two months of safety data after a full vaccination regime to review applications for emergency use authorization of an experimental vaccine.
When U.S. figure skaters and a few foreigners training in this country kick off the season at Skate America this weekend, it could be a rare opportunity to display their wares. “Being an elite athlete during this unprecedented time has definitely presented its challenges,” says Mariah Bell, whose sensational free skate at the U.S. championships in January earned her a silver medal.
The risk of COVID-19 spreading on flights appears "very low" but cannot be ruled out, despite studies showing only a small number of cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. Global airlines body IATA said on Oct. 8 that only 44 potential cases of flight-related transmission had been identified among 1.2 billion travellers this year, or one in every 27 million passengers.
Prepare emergency kits with essential items for all of the members of your household — but please don't buy all of the toilet paper.
Spain this week became the first country in western Europe to record more than 1 million confirmed infections, as it struggles to contain a resurgence of the new coronavirus. The country of 47 million is among those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 34,000 deaths attributed to the disease. Confirmed cases rose beyond the 1 million mark on Wednesday, when nearly 17,000 new infections were added.
The Dutch hospital system is coming under increasing strain from coronavirus admissions as daily cases hit a record high, and it expects to begin transferring some patients to Germany within two days, the hospital association said on Thursday. Almost half the country's intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the LNAZ association's head Ernst Kuipers said. The number of daily infections hit 9,271 on Thursday, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said.
Hydraulic fracturing has boomed in the U.S. over the past decade, but unless you live near it, you may not realize just how close fracking wells can be to homes and schools. In Colorado, the wellbore – the hole drilled to extract oil or gas – can be 500 feet from someone’s house under current state rules. In some states, like Texas, drilling can be even closer.For people living in these areas, that means noise, pollution and other stressors that can harm physical and mental health.People with homes near fracking operations describe vibrations that can make sleep difficult and disturb their pets. Truck traffic around wellpads adds to the noise, dust and other airborne pollutants, creating another layer of industrial disruption.One woman I spoke with had a 30-foot-high sound wall put up around her property, but the parade of semitrucks at all hours still rattled her home, and the sound wall couldn’t keep out the noise. When she opened her bedroom curtains, all she saw was a brown wall where she used to have mountain views. As a social scientist who studies extractive industries and their environmental justice and health impacts, I have spent years in communities with unconventional oil and gas activity, visiting homes and well sites.My research shows that living near fracking sites can lead to chronic stress and self-reported depression. These effects often relate to systemic problems associated with the industry. Consequences of the fracking boomThe boom in hydraulic fracturing started around 2010 and made the U.S. the No. 1 producer of hydrocarbons globally. In Colorado, fracking has since helped quadruple oil production and increased natural gas production.But that growth has come with consequences. By 2017, researchers estimated 4.7 million people lived within 1 mile of an unconventional oil or gas well in the U.S.Health studies have found respiratory difficulties like coughing and wheezing in people living and working near fracking sites. Other studies have found increases in endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can affect pregnant women and children, including raising the risks of birth defects and childhood cancers.Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, have also spiked around oil and gas activity.Less well understood have been the effects on mental health.In a new study on the mental health effects, I examined multiple communities across northern Colorado, surveyed hundreds of households and visited people’s homes, schools and wellpads.Two drivers of stress and mental health harm stood out: * First, people report chronic stress and depression related to their uncertainty about environmental and public health risks – and inadequate access to useful information about it. * Second, stress and depression relate to people’s experiences of political powerlessness – particularly their inability to control the activity, where it occurs, and how it is regulated. Previous studies have suggested links to depression and lower quality of life, as well as social psychological impacts, such as increased tensions within communities, but these studies typically used surveys or government data. This new research looked closer at people’s experiences.[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.] Fearing the unknownImagine you live in northern Colorado. A company notifies you that it will start drilling in the open space in your subdivision that you can see from your backyard or deck. You try to find information about the health or environmental risks, but that information is locked behind a publisher’s paywall or it is buried in hundreds of pages full of technical language.One of the people I interviewed, a 45-year-old teacher who has lived in his community his entire life, talked about stress from the uncertainties of living near fracking: “What’s stressful is the unknowns and how this industry is operating behind a curtain all the time. … When you don’t know the chemicals they’re pumping down. You don’t know where they’re getting the water. You don’t know how much these tanks are leaking. … To me, that is stressful, the not knowing.”Other people reported feeling stress over uncertainties about long-term impacts. A retired former city worker said: “We’re lab rats right now. They’re learning about it as they’re going. … We don’t know what the impacts are going to be 20 years down the line.”Many people feel powerless to do anything about it. In Colorado, people typically have only three minutes to talk during public meetings, while the companies have more time to present their cases.A middle-aged woman living with a wellpad about 1,000 feet from her deck explained why public meetings felt so exclusive: “This was a public hearing … and they turned it over to [an oil company] to give their slideshow. … [The oil company] proceeded to do about a two-hour presentation, so there was no time for public input. So four or five people out of a hundred people who wanted to protest got a chance to talk. It’s very hard to be heard.”These patterns emerged across my data. About 90% of the people I interviewed reported increased, chronic stress related to nearby fracking operations, and 75% reported feeling long-term depression – particularly because of the uncertainty about the impacts and feeling powerless to stop it. What can be done about it?Governments could help address some of these systemic problems fairly quickly.The first step is to provide easy-to-understand, accurate information about the environmental and public health risks, as well as the economic risks and benefits. Governments can also give people more meaningful opportunities to participate in zoning and other decisions about how, when and where hydraulic fracturing takes place. Fixing the health and environment risks that underlie the stress is more challenging. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is expected in early November to finalize new drilling rules that include a 2,000-foot setback from homes, the widest statewide rule in the country, but wells could still be built closer. People I’ve interviewed have reported feeling a sense of empowerment by organizing with others to fight for more local control. But solutions aren’t only the responsibility of governments or the public; companies must be accountable, too.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Stephanie Malin, Colorado State University.Read more: * The risk of preterm birth rises near gas flaring, reflecting deep-rooted environmental injustices in rural America * How weakened US fossil fuel regulations threaten environmental justice in ColoradoStephanie Malin receives funding from the National Science Foundation, the Colorado Water Center, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (a branch of NIH), the Rural Sociological Society, and CSU School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court has once again pushed the debate over when life begins into the headlines, which could have far-reaching effects on access to both current and emerging reproductive technologies. In 2006, Judge Barrett was one of the signatories on a newspaper ad sponsored by an anti-abortion group that not only believes life begins at fertilization but also hopes to criminalize discarding extra embryos created during in vitro fertilization.As legal scholars, we are closely watching how jurisdictions regulate emerging reproductive technologies, including a set of techniques called mitochrondial replacement therapies which can prevent some heritable diseases. But because they use IVF methods, and some (but not all) of the techniques require discarding an embryo, law codifying the belief that life starts at fertilization could restrict access to mitochondrial replacement therapies and derail productive conversations about how to regulate them properly. Implications for assisted reproductionLast week, the medical journal Fertility & Sterility ran an editorial arguing that confirming Judge Barrett could result in restrictions not only on reproductive rights to contraception and abortion, but also on IVF. One concern is that future legal decisions could forbid IVF clinics from discarding extra embryos – even ones unlikely to start a pregnancy – or limit the number of embryos which can be formed. That could raise treatment costs or make efforts to start a healthy pregnancy with IVF much harder. The nomination of Judge Barrett also comes just as new technologies look almost ready to help parents have children free of certain heritable diseases. Children can inherit mitochondrial diseases from their biological mother (and possibly their father) caused by dysfunctional mitochondria – which generate energy molecules for the cell. These tiny structures in the cell carry their own special DNA; but those that carry mutations can cause disease. A new type of reproductive technology called mitochondrial replacement therapies offers the possibility of preventing children from inheriting these diseases. Mitochondrial replacement therapiesEstimates suggest 1,000-4,000 children in the U.S. alone are born each year with a heritable mitochondrial disease.These complex diseases can affect many different organs – especially those with high energy needs like the brain, eyes or heart. There are no cures and few treatment options exist, so children often die in severe cases. Having a child with mitochondrial diseases can place huge emotional and financial tolls on families, with significant economic costs for health care systems.With limited treatment options, some experts place more hope in preventing children from inheriting mitochondrial diseases altogether. Sometimes called “three parent IVF,” mitochondrial replacement therapies make this possible by replacing the unhealthy mitochondria in an egg cell or embryo with healthy ones from a donor woman. Using this technique, couples at high risk of having children with mitochondrial diseases can then have a healthy child who is biologically related to them.Mitochondrial replacement therapies do, however, raise a few concerns. Health problems could arise from molecular mismatches between the parents’ nucleus and donor mitochondria or from a treated embryo reverting to an unhealthy state, though these risks are hypothetical for now. And female children born through mitochondrial replacement therapies could, theoretically, pass these conditions to their children.Because mitochondria carry 37 of their own genes, children born from mitochondrial replacement therapies technically have DNA from three people – the couple and the woman who donated her healthy mitochondria. The donor contributes a minuscule amount of DNA – less than 1% – but this does raise questions about their “parenthood.” Another concern is that swapping out mitochondria (and their DNA) in embryos makes for a slippery slope to designer babies, especially now that three births have occurred after gene editing. Regulating mitochondrial replacement therapiesThese safety and ethical concerns call for policy to investigate and minimize risks, while answering questions like what the legal status of the third “parent” should be.In 2015, the United Kingdom became the first jurisdiction in the world to expressly legalize and regulate mitochondrial replacement therapies, creating a system to license clinics for this service. This move came after an extensive public engagement process. Regulation is overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which governs all human fertility treatments and research within the U.K. Two other countries, Australia and Singapore, are considering legislative amendments to follow in the U.K.’s footsteps.While brand-new regulatory systems for mitochondrial replacement therapies may seem ideal, lessons learned from other emerging technologies suggest most countries probably won’t adopt this approach – since existing rules often apply already, though maybe not in an ideal way. The trick then becomes making sure existing rules can still cover concerns with the new technology. However, this reality has led to critics raising the alarm about “unregulated” mitochondrial replacement therapies, especially since medical tourism is already happening.Even if most countries don’t enact new laws, many already have rules which should apply to mitochondrial replacement therapies. For example, the U.S. won’t need a new regulatory system if it removes its current ban on the technology. The Food and Drug Administration already plans on regulating mitochondrial replacement therapies with the same tools it uses for “biologics,” a broad category of medical products ranging from vaccines to gene therapy.Mexico got a bad reputation for having “no rules” after a child was born there via mitochondrial replacement therapies, but legal scholars have pointed out that Mexico’s regulations on health research likely prohibit this use of mitochondrial replacement therapies. However, these rules weren’t triggered because doctors modified the embryos in the U.S., before sending them to Guadalajara for the treatment. Instead, the U.S. FDA intervened, informing the clinic that they had violated U.S. law in several ways.In Greece, regulators already approved a clinical trial for mitochondrial replacement therapies using their existing rules for fertility treatments – although the trial addresses the success of fertility treatments instead of preventing mitochondrial diseases. And in Ukraine, though the details are murky, health officials appear to have similarly approved a clinical trial for mitochondrial replacement therapies. Moving forwardReproductive technologies have allowed millions of families around the world to conceive healthy children over the last 42 years. For the first time, recent advances in mitochondrial replacement therapies could allow families who otherwise couldn’t have a healthy child of their own to do so. But changes in law that restrict access to IVF could have profound social and medical impacts that would ripple across the country. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]Rather than making reproductive technologies like mitochondrial replacement therapies more difficult to access – especially for those with a medical reason for doing so – we believe regulators and governments should be looking for ways to provide individuals access to these technologies in a way that promotes safety and efficacy for everyone involved. That includes those living in the U.S. who wish to access mitochondrial replacement therapies in their own country.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Walter G. Johnson, Arizona State University and Diana Bowman, Arizona State University.Read more: * Scared of CRISPR? 40 years on, IVF shows how fears of new medical technology can fade * Those designer babies everyone is freaking out about – it’s not likely to happenDiana Bowman receives funding from the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program. Walter G. Johnson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
“Until solar and wind power take more of the energy load, I like not paying an arm and a leg to heat my house.”
“It is imperative to ramp down greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.”
“Any kind of ban on fracking would cause severe damage to our stressed economy.”
“Climate scientists are urging us to leave all fossil fuels in the ground so that they’ll never be burned. That includes natural gas.”
“Any immediate economic repercussions to the economy can be offset if oil-and-gas companies are made to pay their fair share.”