Posts tagged with "CDC"

A pox on you: What is monkeypox?

May 23, 2022

An extremely rare disease called monkeypox, a cousin of smallpox, has again made its way to the United States. A case of monkeypox was reported on Wednesday, May 18, in a patient hospitalized in Massachusetts who had recently traveled to Canada using private transportation, reports CNN.

In 2021, two people traveling from Nigeria to the United States were diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monkeypox is mostly found in West and Central Africa; but additional cases have been seen in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world in recent years. Those cases are typically linked to international travel or imported animals infected with the pox, the CDC said.

On Thursday, CNN reports:

  • Spain confirmed seven cases of monkeypox in Madrid and authorities are investigating another 22;
  • Italy confirmed its first case; and
  • Canadian public health officials announced they are investigating 17 suspected cases of monkeypox in Montreal.

Several cases of monkeypox in the U.K. among people who have no known travel or contact with others who are carrying the virus have health officials there and at the CDC concerned—but there is no cause for alarm, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“At this time, we don’t want people to worry,” Murthy said. “These numbers are still small; we want them to be aware of (the) symptoms and, if they have any concerns, to reach out to their doctor.”

What are the initial symptoms of monkeypox? There is an incubation period of some seven to 14 days, the CDC said. Initial symptoms are typically flu-like, such as fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and muscle weakness, followed by swelling in the lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection and disease.

“A feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.

Next comes a widespread rash on the face and body, including inside the mouth and on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The painful, raised poxes are pearly and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles. The lesions finally scab over and resolve over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC said.

“Treatment is generally supportive as there are no specific drugs available. However, a vaccine is available that can be given to prevent the development of disease,” Jimmy Whitworth, professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement.

Close contact with an infected individual is required for the spread of the monkeypox virus, experts say.

Research contact: @CNN

Biden Administration to launch website for free 500 million COVID-19 testing kits on Wednesday

January 19, 2022

The Biden Administration o is set to launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person on Wednesday, January 19, according to a senior administration official, reports USA Today.

The tests—which represent part of the Biden Administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections—will be delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that his administration would double its order to 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide as U.S. cases spike. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said. 

The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country—shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals, and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation. 

The administration so far has procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and is working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official.

The White House also plans to launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community organizations to meet requests from the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, according to officials.

Aside from the free tests available through the website, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month for people through their insurance plans beginning Saturday, January 22. Americans will be able to either purchase tests for free through their insurance or submit receipts for reimbursement.

The president is also expected to announce next week the steps he’s taking to make high-quality masks available for free, but details of how those would be distributed are still unclear.

The latest White House effort comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting new records—with some hospitals delaying elective surgeries while states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.

The White House is also sending military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Mexico to help confront a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Roughly one in five hospitals has reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA Today analysis found. One in four anticipated critical shortages within the next week.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Pfizer and BioNTech to develop mRNA-based shingles vaccine

January 6, 2022

Pfizer and BioNTech are teaming up again—this time,  to develop a new shingles vaccine with the same mRNA technology used to develop their COVID-19 shots, the companies announced on Wednesday, December 5.

The companies plan to develop a vaccine using Pfizer’s antigen technology and BioNTech’s mRNA technology to further prevent the disease that effects one out of every three Americans. The vaccine’s clinical trials are expected to launch in the second half of 2022, reports The Hill.

The collaboration will mark the third time Pfizer and BioNTech work together on an mRNA-based vaccine, following the widely used COVID-19 series and an influenza vaccine project started in 2018.

Shingles vaccines already exist, but the companies will strive to create a vaccine that has “better tolerability” and is easier to develop worldwide. 

Pfizer agreed to pay BioNTech $225 million, including an equity investment of $150 million, with the option for BioNTech to receive future regulatory and sales milestone payments reaching up to $200 million.

BioNTech will send $25 million to Pfizer for its antigen technology.

Under the companies’ agreement, Pfizer has the rights to commercialize the vaccine globally, except for in Germany, Turkey and other specific developing countries.

Shingles usually occurs in older adults who had a chickenpox infection—sometimes, decades earlier. The virus can resurface after being dormant for years, leading the patient to endure rashes and more rare symptoms of facial paralysis, deafness, and blindness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites studies that show that 99 percent of Americans aged 40 and older have had chickenpox.

Research contact: @thehill

WaPo bombshell: Trump exposed 500 people to COVID and kept it secret from close staff

December 7, 2021

The Washington Post has a stunning bombshell out in which it details the seven days from which former President Donald Trump first tested positive for COVID to when he announced his positive test and then hospitalization later that Friday, October 1, reports The Political Flare.

Trump announced his positive COVID test at 1 a.m. (ET) October 1—and by 6 p.m. that same day, he was struggling to walk into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Thus, Political Flare notes, “No one should ever have believed that he didn’t know long before the 1st.”

When he first learned he had tested positive for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump was already aboard Air Force One September 26, en route to a massive rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania. With him on the plane that Saturday evening were dozens of people—senior aides, Air Force One personnel, junior staffers, journalists and other members of the large entourage typical for a presidential trip — all squeezed together in the recirculating air of a jetliner.

“Stop the president,” White House physician Sean Conley told Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to a new book by Meadows set to publish on Tuesday, December 7, that was obtained by the Guardian newspaper. “He just tested positive for COVID.”

But Meadows asserts in his book that it was too late to stop Trump and that a second rapid antigen test —apparently done using the same sample—came back negative. But under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump should have taken a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm whether he had the coronavirus.

 On Wednesday, during the rally, Hope Hicks, a top Trump aide and close confidante, had started feeling sick. By the time she boarded Air Force One, she discreetly self-quarantined, exiting the plane from the rear entrance when it touched down just after midnight.

Indeed, on the return trip home, Trump ventured back to the press cabin—unmasked—where he spoke with the media for roughly ten minutes.

Political Flare argues, “Everyone knows Trump wasn’t a big “mask” guy, but one has to read the details to truly appreciate his recklessness and lack of care about others.”

During the next few days, he met Amy Coney-Barrett and her family in a reception with Pence and other top staff—all maskless—and he met with all of the members of the Gold Star families.

The Rose Garden ceremony for Coney-Barrett would later become known as an apparent “superspreader event”, with more than a half dozen attendees testing positive for the coronavirus within the week —including Trump, his wife, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Notre Dame President John Jenkins, and Republican Senators. Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (North Carolina).

 Trump then went through all the debate prep and the debate while positive and Mark Meadows said that he knew something was wrong, Trump had dark blotches under his eyes.

Trump came in contact with roughly 55 people that Wednesday, according to The Post’s analysis.

One former senior administration official, speaking anonymously to share a candid opinion, remarked,“Everyone spent months trying to reconstruct the Rose Garden and it turns out it was good old Patient Zero, the president.”

 Research contact: @politicalflares

FDA moves closer to clearing Moderna and J&J COVID booster shots this week

October 12, 2021

Millions of Americans will be one step closer to receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this week when a key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel meets Thursday and Friday, October  14 and 15, to debate extra doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, reports CNBC.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meetings come less than a month after U.S. regulators authorized COVID booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine to a wide array of Americans, including the elderly, adults with underlying medical conditions; and those who work or live in high-risk settings, like health and grocery workers.

More than 7 million Americans have received a booster dose in the United States as of Saturday, October 9, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Members on independent committees by the FDA and CDC and Prevention said at the time they were frustrated that only Pfizer recipients would be eligible to get the extra shots, leaving out millions of Americans who got Moderna or J&J’s shots.

The FDA advisory group is scheduled Thursday to discuss data on the safety and effectiveness of a Moderna booster shot in adults. On Friday, the committee is expected to debate J&J booster shots for adults. The FDA could make a final decision within days of the meetings, handing it off to the CDC and its vaccine advisory committee to make their own decision.

The CDC’s next vaccine advisory meeting is scheduled to take place from October 20 to October 21, when it’s expected to discuss the boosters.

Research contact: @CNBC

Overeating doesn’t cause obesity? Scientists claim it’s all about what you’re eating, not how much

September 15, 2021

There may be no need to turn down that second portion and push back from the table. A team of scientists now says it’s  actually what you eat, not how much you eat that leads to obesity, Study Finds reports.

Their study finds processed food and rapidly digestible carbohydrates may be what’s really behind society’s growing waistline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of American adults classify as obese. This places nearly half the population at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, the USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020 to 2025 maintains that losing weight “requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.”

However, lead author Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School,  says that this age-old energy balance model for weight loss doesn’t actually work in a world full of highly palatable, heavily marketed, cheap processed foods. Indeed, he points out, despite years of public health messaging about eating less and exercising more, cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases continue to rise.

His team claims that its new carbohydrate-insulin model better explains the global trend towards obesity and weight gain, noting that the model even points to more effective and long-lasting weight loss strategies.

“During a growth spurt, for instance, adolescents may increase food intake by 1,000 calories a day. But does their overeating cause the growth spurt, or does the growth spurt cause the adolescent to get hungry and overeat?” asks Dr. Ludwig in a media release.

But if overeating is not the main cause of weight gain, what is? The real culprit is processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.

The study finds such foods also cause hormonal responses which alter an eater’s metabolism, drive fat storage, and lead to weight gain. When people consume carbohydrates, the body increases the amount of insulin it secretes. This signals fat cells to store more calories and leaves fewer calories for the body to use as muscle fuel.

As a result, the brain thinks the body isn’t getting enough energy to keep going and starts sending out the hunger signals. Moreover, the researchers say, a person’s metabolism can also slow down as the body tries to “conserve fuel. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves people thinking they’re still hungry and continuing to pile on more non-filling food.

Reducing consumption of the rapidly digestible carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era lessens the underlying drive to store body fat. As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle,” Dr. Ludwig says.

The findings appear in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Biden to deliver six-step plan on COVID

September 10, 2021

On Thursday, September 9, President Joe Biden was expected to outline new approaches to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which rages on despite the wide availability of vaccines, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

In his speech, Biden planned to focus on six areas—among them, new plans to get more people vaccinated, enhancing protection for those who already have had shots, and keeping schools open, according to a White House official.

In addition, the official said, the president would discuss increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting an economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “We have more work to do, and we are still at war with the virus.”

Increasing infections have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Just over 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated, including almost two-thirds of the adult population, according to CDC data. The disease has killed more than 649,000 Americans.

With many Americans still skeptical of the shots, the White House already has announced plans to give those who are fully vaccinated booster shots for more additional protection.

In doing so, they have rejected arguments from the World Health Organization and other advocates that rich countries should hold off on booster shots before more people worldwide have been inoculated.

Research contact: @thomsonreuters

Supreme Court blocks part of New York’s eviction moratorium

August 16, 2021

On Thursday, August 12, the Supreme Court blocked part of an eviction moratorium in New York State that had been imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic—a move the law’s supporters said might expose thousands to eviction, The New York Times reports.

“This is a very serious setback for our ability to protect tenants in the middle of a pandemic,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat and one of the sponsors of the moratorium law.

Randy M. Mastro, a lawyer for the landlords who had challenged the law, told the Times that the court’s decision would permit “cases that have been stopped in their tracks by the state moratorium law to proceed so that both landlords and tenants can be heard.”

Still, the court’s order, which was unsigned, stressed that it applied only to a provision that bars the eviction of tenants who file a form saying they have suffered economic setbacks as a result of the pandemic, rather than providing evidence in court.

“This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case,’” the SCOTUS majority wrote.

The order left other parts of the law intact, including a provision that instructed housing judges not to evict tenants who have been found to have suffered financial hardship.

Other challenges to eviction moratoriums, including one recently imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may reach the court soon. According to the Times, that federal moratorium is on precarious legal ground in light of a ruling in June in which a key justice said it could not be renewed without congressional approval.

It was not clear how many people could immediately be affected by the ruling on Thursday. More than 830,000 households in New York State, the majority of them in New York City, are behind on rent, with a total estimated debt of more than $3.2 billion, according to an analysis of census data by the National Equity Atlas, a research group associated with the University of Southern California.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D), who is set to become New York’s next governor in less than two weeks after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo leaves office amid a sexual harassment scandal, said in a statement that she would work with state lawmakers to “quickly address the Supreme Court’s decision and strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation.”

“No New Yorker who has been financially hit or displaced by the pandemic should be forced out of their home,” she said.

The court’s three liberal members dissented from the order. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for himself and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the law was set to expire in a matter of weeks and was not plainly unconstitutional.

“The New York Legislature is responsible for responding to a grave and unpredictable public health crisis,” Justice Breyer wrote. “It must combat the spread of a virulent disease, mitigate the financial suffering caused by business closures and minimize the number of unnecessary evictions.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Hundreds of thousands of bikers expected in Sturgis despite Delta variant

August 9, 2021

The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began on Friday, August 6 and will run through  August 15—just as the infectious Delta variant of COVID is producing a surge in cases nationwide, The New York Times reports.

Although most large events shut down last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally forged ahead, panicking health experts as nearly a half-million motorcycle enthusiasts descended on the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This year’s rally, is expected to draw an even larger crowd, just as the infectious Delta variant is producing more new virus cases nationwide than this time last year.

But which path the virus will take through Sturgis remains to be seen, the Times notes.

Transmission is more difficult outdoors, vaccines greatly reduce the risk of serious illness, and South Dakota has the fewest new virus cases per capita in the United States. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Delta as contagious as chickenpox; and people are traveling from across the country—several Southern states are in their worst outbreaks of the pandemic—to a region with a relatively low vaccination rate.

Hundreds of new cases were linked to last year’s rally, but because infected bikers returned to their home states, it made contact tracing difficult and obscured the true tally.

Sturgis officials emphasized that the upcoming rally, which lasts for more than a week, would offer coronavirus tests, free masks, and hand sanitizer stations. For the first time, attendees will be allowed to carry alcoholic drinks outside without fear of being fined, in an effort to limit crowds inside bars.

Those precautions are being accompanied with warnings.

“We are encouraging people who are in a high-risk category, whether it be age or because of comorbidities, that they come next year,” Dan Ainslie, Sturgis’s city manager, told the Times.

Other large outdoor events have returned this summer, in part because of the availability of vaccines. Attendees at the recent Lollapalooza music festival, which packed people into downtown Chicago, had to either provide proof of vaccination or show a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours.

The motorcycle rally in Sturgis will not have a similar screening process. Vaccines will be made available at the event, including the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, but it takes time for them to strengthen immune systems.

Meade County, which includes Sturgis, has a 37% vaccination rate—significantly lower than the half of Americans who are fully vaccinated—and the six counties that border it have even lower vaccination rates.

Research contact: @nytimes

GOP congressman who is suing Pelosi over mask mandate contracts coronavirus

August 9, 2021

Representative Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina)—one of three Republican members of Congress whom last week filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the House mask mandate, has tested positive for COVID-19, he said in a statement on Thursday, August 5, The Washington Post reports.

“After experiencing minor symptoms this morning, I sought a COVID-19 test and was just informed the test results were positive,” Norman tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “Thankfully, I have been fully vaccinated and my symptoms remain mild.”

Norman added that he would be in quarantine for the next ten days and work virtually “to every extent possible.”

A week ago, Norman—along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky)—filed a lawsuit against Pelosi (D-California), arguing that fines they had incurred for not wearing masks on the House floor were unconstitutional. The three were each fined $500 in May for mask violations.

They argued that, at the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had changed its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people most likely did not have to wear masks. Pelosi, however, kept in place the mask mandate on the House floor, sparking a backlash among House Republicans, who accused Pelosi of wanting simply to “control” the chamber.

With the more contagious Delta variant driving a surge in coronavirus infections across the country, Pelosi last week reimposed a mask requirement in the House, leading again to protests by House GOP members.

“Government-imposed mask mandates represent a harmful combination of virtue signaling and unjustified fear,” Norman tweeted last week.

Representatives for Norman’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @washingtonpost