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Medical Waste from Coronavirus Epidemic Worries Spaniards

June 5, 2020

(Reuters) – Spaniards are concerned about a new problem resulting from the coronavirus epidemic – how to safely get rid of vast amounts of disposable masks, gloves and other sanitary equipment. A special prosecutor for environmental issues said on Friday that as the use of such items has soared, so had public concern about the mismanagement of contaminated waste.

Genes May Leave Some People More Vulnerable to Severe Covid-19

June 4, 2020

(New York Times) – Why do some people infected with the coronavirus suffer only mild symptoms, while others become deathly ill? Geneticists have been scouring our DNA for clues. Now, a study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19, the researchers found. One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

Tear Gas Is Way More Dangerous Than Police Let On–Especially During the Coronavirus Pandemic

June 4, 2020

(ProPublica) – The Philadelphia protest was one of many instances in recent days in which police launched tear gas — a toxic substance that can cause lung damage — into crowds. In a statement, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that officers had no choice but to release it after protesters threw rocks at them and refused to disperse, and that officers also used nonchemical white smoke to minimize the amount of the irritant “while maintaining a deterrent visual effect.” She called it “a means to safely [defuse] a volatile and dangerous situation.” But tear gas is not safe, according to a number of experts interviewed by ProPublica. It has been found to cause long-term health consequences and can hurt those who aren’t the intended targets, including people inside their homes.

E.R. Visits Drop Sharply During Pandemic

June 4, 2020

(New York Times) – Emergency room visits in the United States have dropped sharply during the pandemic, underscoring concerns that people with serious medical conditions, like heart attacks, are avoiding hospitals, according to a new analysis released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the coronavirus spread across the United States this spring, visits to emergency rooms decreased by 42 percent over four weeks in April, compared with the same period in 2019. The declines were greatest among children 14 and younger and women, and in the Northeast.

Depression, Anxiety Up 3-Fold Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

June 4, 2020

(UPI) – The numbers of Americans suffering from mental health disorders like anxiety and depression have more than tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published Thursday by JAMA. The number of people in the United States reporting feelings of anxiety and depression peaked in early April, according to a separate analysis also published Thursday, by researchers at the University of Southern California.

U.S. Health Department Asks Labs to Add Demographic Data to COVID-19 Results

June 4, 2020

(Reuters) – U.S. laboratories testing patients for COVID-19 are required to report data such as a patient’s age and ethnicity along with test results, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Thursday.  The move aims to better understand why the respiratory illness affects certain demographics such as racial minorities and older Americans more severely than others, the HHS said in a statement. 

Lancet, New England Journal Retract Covid-19 Studies, Including One That Raised Safety Concerns About Malaria Drugs

June 4, 2020

(STAT News) – The Lancet, one of the world’s top medical journals, on Thursday retracted an influential study that raised alarms about the safety of the experimental Covid-19 treatments chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine amid scrutiny of the data underlying the paper. Just over an hour later, the New England Journal of Medicine retracted a separate study, focused on blood pressure medications in Covid-19, that relied on data from the same company. The retractions came at the request of the authors of the studies, published last month, who were not directly involved with the data collection and sources, the journals said.

Governments and WHO Changed Covid-19 Policy Based on Suspect Data from Tiny US Company

June 3, 2020

(The Guardian) – The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.

ICUs Become a ‘Delirium Factory’ for COVID Patients

June 3, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Doctors are fighting not only to save lives from COVID-19, but also to protect patients’ brains. Although COVID-19 is best known for damaging the lungs, it also increases the risk of life-threatening brain injuries — from mental confusion to hallucinations, seizures, coma, stroke and paralysis. The virus may invade the brain, as well as starve the organ of oxygen by damaging the lungs. To fight the infection, the immune system sometimes overreacts, battering the brain and other organs it normally protects. Yet the pandemic has severely limited the ability of doctors and nurses to prevent and treat neurological complications. The severity of the disease and the heightened risk of infection have forced medical teams to abandon many of the practices that help them protect patients from delirium, a common side effect of mechanical ventilators and intensive care.

Hype Collides with Science as FDA Tries to Rein in ‘Wild West’ of COVID Blood Tests

June 3, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Across America, untold numbers of employers, employees and ordinary citizens are turning to a slew of sometimes pricey new COVID-19 blood tests. Knowing who’s already been infected could have important implications for understanding the spread of the disease, scientists say. But serious questions about the accuracy of some of the serology tests — and the usefulness of the results they provide — have prompted the federal Food and Drug Administration to try to rein in what several infectious disease experts described as “the wild, wild West” of antibody testing.

Benzodiazepines Tied to Higher Risk of Ectopic Pregnancy

June 3, 2020

(New York Times) – Women who take benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax, before becoming pregnant may be at increased risk for ectopic pregnancy, a new study found. An ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy is one in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube, and it is a life-threatening event. The egg must be removed with medication or surgery. Benzodiazepines, sold by prescription under several brand names, are widely prescribed for anxiety, sleep problems and seizures. The study, in Human Reproduction, used an insurance database of 1,691,366 pregnancies to track prescriptions for benzodiazepines in the 90 days before conception. Almost 18,000 of the of the women had used the drugs, and the scientists calculated that these women were 47 percent more likely to have a tubal pregnancy than those who did not.

Heart Patients Avoided ERs as Coronavirus Hit, US Study Says

June 3, 2020

(ABC News) – Emergency room visits in the U.S. for chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, according to a study that supports fears that the coronavirus outbreak scared away people from going to the hospital.  ER visits were up for respiratory illnesses and pneumonia, but were down for nearly every other kind of injury or ailment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. Overall, fewer ER patients showed up: Visits were down 42% in a four-week period that stretched from late March through most of April, compared to the same time last year.

Top Medical Journals Raise Concerns About Data in Two Studies Related to Covid-19

June 3, 2020

(STAT News) – Both studies in question used data from Surgisphere, a little-known company based in Chicago that claimed in the Lancet study to have data from 671 hospitals on six continents. The Lancet paper found that the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which had been explored as potential therapies for Covid-19, did not correspond with improved outcomes for patients, and were also associated with higher mortality. The paper in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that blood pressure medications were not associated with worse outcomes in patients with Covid-19. The studies share some of the same authors, including Sapan Desai, who runs Surgisphere.

Handgun Ownership Vastly Increases Suicide Risk, Large Study Confirms

June 3, 2020

(STAT News) – A large new study confirms what mental health experts and those who research firearms have known for some time: Owning a handgun vastly increases one’s risk of suicide. The research, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, goes beyond what smaller past studies have shown, however, by capturing suicide risk down to the individual level.

Two More People Infected with Ebola in New Congo Outbreak, WHO Says

June 3, 2020

(Reuters) – The Ebola virus has infected two more people in Equateur province in western Democratic Republic of Congo and spread to a new area 150 km (93 miles) away from the original six cases, the World Heath Organization said on Wednesday. On Monday Congolese authorities confirmed tests showing that four people had died of Ebola in the western city of Mbandaka.

Major Hydroxychloroquine Trial Shows No Prevention Benefits

June 3, 2020

(Wired) – The drug hydroxychloroquine, touted by President Donald Trump and his allies as a treatment and preventative for the pandemic disease Covid-19, does not keep people from getting sick. A large, randomized study, scheduled to appear today in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that the drug is no better than a placebo at preventing infection in people exposed to the virus under real-world conditions. This was a careful, well-planned trial—one of the most rigorous tests of hydroxychloroquine yet completed.

Thousands of People Will Help Scientists to Track the Long-Term Health Effects of the Coronavirus Crisis

June 2, 2020

(Nature) – The effort, led by epidemiologist Monique Breteler, is one of several long-term cohort studies that originally focused on other diseases but have swiftly been repurposed to study the coronavirus. Population cohorts collect genetic, health and lifestyle information from thousands of people over years or even decades to find out which genetic and environmental factors collude to increase risk of diseases. The Rhineland Study, for instance, was set up in 2016 to study neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists Question Medical Data Used in Second Coronavirus Study

June 2, 2020

(New York Times) – Since the outbreak began, researchers have rushed to publish studies about the new coronavirus spreading swiftly through the world. On Tuesday, for the second time in recent days, a group of scientists has questioned the data used in studies in two prominent medical journals. A group of scientists who raised questions last week about a study in The Lancet about the use of antimalarial drugs in coronavirus patients have now objected to another paper about blood pressure medicines in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was published by some of the same authors and relied on the same data registry.

Racism Is a Public Health Issue and ‘Police Brutality Must Stop,’ Medical Groups Say

June 2, 2020

(CNN) – As protests over George Floyd’s death continue nationwide, several doctors’ groups — the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American College of Physicians — are emphasizing that racism is a public health issue and they’re calling for police brutality to stop. The American Academy of Pediatrics posted to Twitter on Sunday night that “racism is a public health issue,” and the tweet linked to the AAP’s 2019 policy statement about the impact of racism on child and adolescent health.

What Norma McCorvey Believed Matters

June 2, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Last weekend, FX premiered AKA Jane Roe, a documentary on Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. Backers of the film touted its most explosive revelation—that McCorvey, Jane Roe herself, had converted to the anti-abortion cause only because she was getting paid. This news made waves, and the attention it received has raised, in turn, a bigger question: Why does it matter at all what she really thought about abortion? The constitutional-law expert Michael Dorf has argued that it doesn’t—or at least that clashing social movements have blown its significance way out of proportion. He contends that when it comes to the ultimate fate of abortion rights, McCorvey’s beliefs matter very little. That may be right legally, but McCorvey—and making sense of her—remains central to the abortion debate, and the reason is obvious: Her story has come to stand in for the greater question of whether abortion is good for women—a question the Supreme Court is likely to rule on by the end of next month.

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