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Covid-19 Variants Keep Getting More Contagious. Here’s Why.

August 11, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – Comparing the BA.5 subvariant to earlier versions of the virus, such as Delta or even BA.1, however, is more of a challenge, Dr. Bedford and other infectious-disease experts said. Covid-19 vaccinations and infections have changed our immune defenses over time, making head-to-head matchups between past and present variants harder, including for characteristics like intrinsic severity of the disease.  The specific traits that help a variant thrive and take over have shifted, too, as our immunological landscape has changed. Earlier in the pandemic, when most people had yet to encounter the virus, variants that figured out how to increase their innate infectiousness had the advantage. Now, after most people have been vaccinated, infected or both, variants that can also evade or suppress our existing immune responses tend to have the edge. (Read More)

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HIPAA Faces Test in New Abortion Reality

August 10, 2022

(Axios) – Doctors are weighing the legal risks of turning over ultrasounds and other personal health records if prosecutors or law enforcement demand the information to enforce state abortion bans. Why it matters: The new post-Roe landscape is testing the suitability of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The landmark federal privacy law restricts how health providers share medical information, but it doesn’t prevent them from sharing it with law enforcement. (Read More)

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Everything You Need to Know About Paxlovid

August 10, 2022

(Wired) – Paxlovid became the world’s first oral Covid antiviral when it was authorized for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency back in December 2021. With regulators green-lighting the drug less than a year after the first person received it in clinical trials, it has been described as the fastest drug-development project in history. Since then, Paxlovid has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, and the United Nations struck a deal with manufacturers to produce a generic version of it so that millions of doses can be supplied to low- and middle-income countries, beginning in April 2022. (Read More)

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Phones Know Who Went to an Abortion Clinic. Whom Will They Tell?

August 10, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, companies across the location-data industry are examining and in some cases revising how they handle data regarding visits to abortion clinics. Some are agreeing voluntarily not to sell the data or say they will store it in ways that mask the location. Some such as Tapestri, which pays consumers for sharing their anonymized location history, delete any health-related location information that they deem to be sensitive. (Read More)

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Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022

August 10, 2022

(Pew Research) – The landscape of social media is ever-changing, especially among teens who often are on the leading edge of this space. A new Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers ages 13 to 17 finds TikTok has rocketed in popularity since its North American debut several years ago and now is a top social media platform for teens among the platforms covered in this survey. Some 67% of teens say they ever use TikTok, with 16% of all teens saying they use it almost constantly. Meanwhile, the share of teens who say they use Facebook, a dominant social media platform among teens in the Center’s 2014-15 survey, has plummeted from 71% then to 32% today. (Read More)

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What Scientists Know–And Don’t Know–About How Monkeypox Spreads

August 10, 2022

(STAT News) – In some ways, the virus is acting differently than it has in the past. For decades, researchers in West and Central Africa, where the virus is endemic, have observed that outbreaks there tend to be self-limiting. A single case or small cluster would pop up occasionally, caused by hunting and handling infected animals or being bitten by one, but those spillover events rarely kicked off long chains of transmission within communities. As researchers rush to understand exactly what is different about this global outbreak, they’re finding that for the most part, monkeypox is still the same it’s always been. The mechanisms of how it moves from host to host remain unchanged. What’s different is the environment and the social networks monkeypox now finds itself in. (Read More)

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Facebook Turns Over Mother and Daughter’s Chat History to Police Resulting in Abortion Charges

August 10, 2022

(The Verge) – A 17-year-old from Nebraska and her mother are facing criminal charges including performing an illegal abortion and concealing a dead body after police obtained the pair’s private chat history from Facebook, court documents published by Motherboard show. Although the charges against the two women are based on established abortion law (Nebraska outlaws abortions 20 weeks post-fertilization unless the mother’s life is in danger), women’s health campaigners and digital privacy advocates say the case illustrates the dangers of ubiquitous digital surveillance in a post-Roe America. (Read More)

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‘Systemic Disparities’ Present in Residency Selection: Study

August 9, 2022

(Medscape) – A recent study that was published in JAMA focuses on racial and ethnic differences in the selection of residents across eleven specialties. Defined as underrepresented groups in the study are Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic, Latino, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander people. The JAMA study yielded two findings: White matched residents were overrepresented, and racial and ethnic minority groups other than Asian were underrepresented in the 11 competitive specialties included in the study. (Read More)

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Analysis: More Chinese Women Delay or Give Up on Having Babies After Zero-COVID Ordeal

August 9, 2022

(Reuters) – Studies have shown that pandemics and economic uncertainty historically weigh on birth rates around the world. But, particular to China, its uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy of promptly stamping out any outbreaks with strict controls on people’s lives may have caused profound damage on their desire to have children, demographers say. (Read More)

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A ‘Staggering’ Number of People Couldn’t Get Care During the Pandemic, Poll Finds

August 8, 2022

(NPR) – Other recent studies have found significant delays in cancer screenings, and disruptions in routine diabetes, pediatric and mental health care. While it’s still early to know the long-term impacts on people’s health, researchers and physicians are concerned, especially as the disruptions continue with the country’s health care system struggling to bounce back from the pandemic.  The new poll also found that disruptions in care hit some racial and ethnic groups harder. (Read More)

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Study Connects Climate Hazards to 58% of Infectious Diseases

August 8, 2022

(STAT News) – Climate hazards such as flooding, heat waves, and drought have worsened more than half of the hundreds of known infectious diseases in people, including malaria, hantavirus, cholera, and anthrax, a study says. Researchers looked through the medical literature of established cases of illnesses and found that 218 out of the known 375 human infectious diseases, or 58%, seemed to be made worse by one of 10 types of extreme weather connected to climate change, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Climate Change. (Read More)

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Locked-In Syndrome and the Misplaced Presumption of Misery

August 8, 2022

(Undark) – While research into LIS patients’ quality of life is limited, the data that has been gathered paints a picture that is often at odds with popular presumptions. To be sure, wellbeing evaluations conducted to date do suggest that up to a third of LIS patients report being severely unhappy. For them, loss of mobility and speech make life truly miserable — and family members and caregivers, as well as the broader public, tend to identify with this perspective. And yet, the majority of LIS patients, the data suggest, are much more like Lopes: They report being relatively happy and that they want very much to live. Indeed, in surveys of wellbeing, most people with LIS score as high as those without it, suggesting that many people underestimate locked-in patients’ quality of life while overestimating their rates of depression. (Read More)

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COVID-19 Vaccines Induce Better Long-Term Immunity than Infection

August 8, 2022

(The Scientist) – Crotty’s experiments revealed some striking results. When compared to samples from primary infections, all vaccines were just as, if not more, effective in inducing a SARS-CoV-2-specific long-term immune response that lasted up to six months. By analyzing the presence of memory B and T cells and measuring their response to in vitro SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers found that mRNA vaccines are just as effective as the traditional protein-based vaccination methods. They also found some notable differences between the vaccine types. (Read More)

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Pfizer Begins Late-Stage Trial Testing Lyme Disease Vaccine

August 8, 2022

(NBC News) – Pfizer has started a late-stage clinical trial to test a vaccine that aims to protect against Lyme disease, the drugmaker announced Monday. There are currently no vaccines approved in the United States for the tick-borne illness, which infects an estimated 476,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If Pfizer’s trial succeeds, the vaccine could be the first human inoculation available for Lyme disease in the U.S. in two decades. Only one other vaccine for the disease, LYMErix, has been used in the country, but it was discontinued in 2002.  (Read More)

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There’s Just One Drug to Treat Monkeypox. Good Luck Getting It.

August 8, 2022

(New York Times) – The only drug available to treat monkeypox is so difficult to access that just a fraction of the nearly 7,000 patients in the United States have been given it. Health officials have designated tecovirimat, also called Tpoxx, an “investigational drug,” which they say means it cannot be released from the strategic national stockpile without a series of convoluted bureaucratic steps. But most doctors do not have the time or resources to fill out the required 27-page application or to provide the detailed patient information. (Read More)

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This Startup Wants to Copy You Into an Embryo for Organ Harvesting

August 8, 2022

(MIT Technology Review) – In a search for novel forms of longevity medicine, a biotech company based in Israel says it intends to create embryo-stage versions of people in order to harvest tissues for use in transplant treatments. The company, Renewal Bio, is pursuing recent advances in stem-cell technology and artificial wombs demonstrated by Jacob Hanna, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Earlier this week, Hanna showed that starting with mouse stem cells, his lab could form highly realistic-looking mouse embryos and keep them growing in a mechanical womb for several days until they developed beating hearts, flowing blood, and cranial folds. (Read More)

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Amazon Is Pushing Hard Into Healthcare. Here’s What That Could Mean for You.

August 8, 2022

(BuzzFeed) – Amazon’s $3.9 billion purchase of primary care provider One Medical in late July is not the first sign that the “everything store” is making a hard push into healthcare. In 2018, the retail behemoth purchased online pharmacy PillPack for a reported $753 million amid reports that it was in talks with insurers and exploring building brick-and-mortar locations to break into pharmaceuticals, a highly dysfunctional but highly valuable industry. It launched Amazon Pharmacy in 2020 using the PillPack purchase as its foundation, installing the former VPs of the Alexa and Prime divisions to run it. In your hospital room, Alexa can now summon your nurse and change the channel on the TV. Amazon also owns a medical diagnostic company and has partnered with a major cancer center on a clinical cancer vaccine trial. (Read More)

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Most Parents Are Saying No to Covid-19 Vaccines for Toddlers

August 8, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – Parents are having their say about the Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5, and for most, the answer so far is no. More than a month after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended shots for about 17.4 million children ages 6 months through 4 years, about 4% to 5% of them have received a shot, according to the most recent agency data and population estimates from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  By contrast, the vaccination rate for children 5 to 11 years reached about 18% a month after the CDC first recommended shots last November. The rate now stands at about 38%. (Read More)

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