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Routine Vaccinations for U.S. Children Have Plummeted During the Covid-19 Pandemic

May 8, 2020

(STAT News) – Routine vaccination of children in the United States appeared to have declined dramatically in March and April, in the weeks after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and the United States government declared a national emergency, a new study published Friday shows.

Some Ethical Guidelines for Controlled Human COVID-19 Infection Studies on Human Volunteers

May 8, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – A panel of experts led by Northwestern University bioethicist Seema Shah has published a Policy Forum paper in the journal Science outlining what they describe as an ethical way to test possible COVID-19 vaccines on human volunteers. Such testing would involve exposing the volunteers to the virus after inoculation to see if it prevents an infection.

Hong Kong Saliva Tests for Travelers Bring Bioethics into Question

May 8, 2020

(Macao Daily Times) – In the global battle to curb Covid-19, governments have collected troves of data from testing and contact-tracing apps to try to find the disease and stop its spread. Even as many are willing to surrender personal information amid the crisis, privacy experts worry about who controls the data and what will happen to it after the crisis ends.

A Flood of Coronavirus Apps Are Tracking Us. Now It’s Time to Keep Track of Them.

May 7, 2020

(MIT Technology Review) – As the covid-19 pandemic rages, technologists everywhere have been rushing to build apps, services, and systems for contact tracing: identifying and notifying all those who come in contact with a carrier. Some are lightweight and temporary, while others are pervasive and invasive: China’s system, for example, sucks up data including citizens’ identity, location, and even online payment history so that local police can watch for those who break quarantine rules. Some services are being produced locally by small groups of coders, while others are vast, global operations. Apple and Google are mobilizing huge teams to build their upcoming systems that notify people of potential exposure, which could be used by hundreds of millions of people almost immediately.

India Is Forcing People to Use Its Covid App, Unlike Any Other Democracy

May 7, 2020

(MIT Technology Review) – The world has never seen anything quite like Aarogya Setu. Two months ago, India’s app for coronavirus contact tracing didn’t exist; now it has nearly 100 million users. Prime Minister Narendra Modi boosted it on release by urging every one of the country’s 1.3 billion people to download it, and the result was that within two weeks of launch it became the fastest app ever to reach 50 million downloads. “We beat Pokémon Go,” says a smiling Arnab Kumar, who is leading development of the service for the Indian government. But although the app’s growth is unprecedented, it is extraordinary in an even more important way: if you don’t install it, you might lose your job, get fined, or go to jail.

Autopsy Slowdown Hinders Quest to Determine How Coronavirus Kills

May 7, 2020

(Nature) – Autopsies are painstaking work under normal conditions; during an infectious-disease outbreak, the added risk calls for safety precautions that make them even more arduous. Since 16 March, Gianatti’s team has performed 80 autopsies of people who tested positive for the coronavirus. The group typically handles only 150 autopsies in a year. Few hospitals in Italy have the safety equipment and resources to launch a similar undertaking, Gianatti says.

Three Potential Futures for Covid-19: Recurring Small Outbreaks, a Monster Wave, or a Persistent Crisis

May 7, 2020

(STAT News) – As epidemiologists attempt to scope out what Covid-19 has in store for the U.S. this summer and beyond, they see several potential futures, differing by how often and how severely the no-longer-new coronavirus continues to wallop humankind. But while these scenarios diverge on key details how much transmission will decrease over the summer, for instance, and how many people have already been infected (and possibly acquired immunity) — they almost unanimously foresee a world that, even when the current outbreak temporarily abates, looks and feels nothing like the world of just three months ago.

To Find a Coronavirus Vaccine Can We Ethically Infect People with a Disease with No Cure?

May 7, 2020

(U.S.A Today) – Vaccine trials can take decades. In the race against COVID-19, we don’t even have years. To have a vaccine by next summer will require both luck and cutting corners never cut before, putting once seemingly academic questions about vaccine testing suddenly front and center. Current rules are meant to protect volunteers from harm, but with the global death count from the coronavirus over 250,000, scientists are asking: Is it acceptable to deliberately infect healthy people with a disease that could kill them, and for which there is no cure?

Researchers Report “Unprecedented Cluster” of Inflammatory Problems in Children Amid Pandemic

May 6, 2020

(CNN) – Researchers in the UK said Wednesday they have seen an “unprecedented cluster” of eight children with rare inflammatory problems amid the coronavirus pandemic. The cases, they said, resemble a severe form of Kawasaki disease — a rare condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries and can limit blood flow to the heart. Separately on Wednesday, the New York State Department of Health reported 64 suspected cases of a similar syndrome, which they called “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19.”

Using Human Brain Tissue in Lab Dishes, Researchers Show Herpes Link to Alzheimer’s

May 6, 2020

(STAT News) – A small 3D version of the human brain develops key features of Alzheimer’s disease when it is infected with a virus that causes cold sores, scientists reported on Wednesday, adding to the evidence that this most common form of dementia can be caused by a common microbe. The new research, published in Science Advances, is the first to directly show in a lab model (rather than through circumstantial evidence from human studies) that the herpes simplex virus HSV-1 might cause Alzheimer’s: Human brain-like tissue infected with the virus became riddled with amyloid plaque-like formations — the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. It also developed neuroinflammation and became less effective at conducting electrical signals, all of which happen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Doctors Lambaste Federal Process for Distributing Covid-19 Drug Remdesivir

May 6, 2020

(STAT News) – Hospitals and physicians around the country are sharply criticizing the federal government for the uneven and opaque way it is distributing its supply of the Covid-19 drug remdesivir. The experimental drug received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last week, after preliminary data from a clinical trial showed that it reduced how long it took hospitalized Covid-19 patients to recover. Now, as the drug’s producer, Gilead Sciences, tries to ramp up production, the U.S. government is starting to distribute the limited number of  vials that aren’t needed for ongoing research, so that patients can start to see the benefit outside of clinical trials.

A Cancer Patient Reconsiders Her End-of-Life Wishes, as Covid-19 Brings Mortality into Sharper Focus

May 6, 2020

(STAT News) – The creators of the policies said that they were being as fair and objective as possible, and that their algorithm would take every individual’s current prognosis into account. Cancer patient coalitions retorted that no one had consulted them; regardless of their prospects on paper, they said, their lives were worth saving, and they were protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If their medical records contained what’s known as a DNR — a “do not resuscitate” order — and there were, for instance, a shortage of ventilators, then they wouldn’t even be in the running for whatever equipment remained. So some patients began calling and texting their oncologists, to remove the DNR from their files. Some took to social media, encouraging others to do the same.

Coronavirus Drug Trial on Volunteer Military Personnel Resumes Following Ethics Concerns

May 6, 2020

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – A COVID-19 drug trial involving Australian military personnel and frontline health workers has resumed following complaints by some ethics committee members, who were initially sidelined from the trial’s approval process. The Australian Defence Force [ADF] Malaria and Infectious Diseases Institute has been conducting a study to see whether anti-malaria drug chloroquine is effective in stopping people from contracting coronavirus.

Patients Dying Fast, and Far from Family, Challenge Practice of Palliative Care

May 6, 2020

(NPR) – Owens, like other palliative care specialists in COVID-19 hot spots around the country, has seen his professional duties transformed by the deadly virus. Patients and their families face abrupt decisions about the kind of care they want, and time for sensitive deliberation is scarce. Conversations once held in-person are now over the phone, with all the nuances of nonverbal communication lost. The comfort of family at the bedside of the dying is all but gone. This is the new reality for those who practice palliative medicine — a speciality focused on relieving pain and symptoms, improving quality of life, and providing support to patients and families during severe, chronic or fatal illness.

The Problem with Stories About Dangerous Coronavirus Mutations

May 6, 2020

(The Atlantic) – As if the pandemic weren’t bad enough, on April 30, a team led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory released a paper that purportedly described “the emergence of a more transmissible form” of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This new form, the team wrote, “began spreading in Europe in early February.” Whenever it appeared in a new place, including the U.S., it rapidly rose to dominance. Its success, the team suggested, is likely due to a single mutation, which is now “of urgent concern.” The paper has not yet been formally published or reviewed by other scientists. But on May 5, the Los Angeles Times wrote about it, claiming that “a now-dominant strain of the coronavirus could be more contagious than [the] original.” That story quickly went … well … viral. But “the conclusions are overblown,” says Lisa Gralinski of the University of North Carolina, who is one of the few scientists in the world who specializes in coronaviruses. 

Pfizer Begins Human Testing for Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine in the US

May 5, 2020

(CNBC) – Pfizer said Tuesday it has begun testing an experimental vaccine to combat the coronavirus in the United States. The U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant, which is working alongside German drugmaker BioNTech, said the first human participants in the United States have been dosed with the potential vaccine, BNT162. They began human trials of the experimental vaccine late last month in Germany.

‘ICU Delirium’ Is Leaving COVID-19 Patients Scared and Confused

May 5, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Spending time in the ICU, especially for anyone with COVID-19, is a dangerous, physically taxing experience: Only the most seriously ill patients land in intensive care, where many undergo a number of complex medical treatments at once, making them even more vulnerable to life-threatening complications. Ten to 30 percent of the sickest, oldest patients who enter don’t make it out. But for survivors, the mental toll can be even more severe than the physical one. About one in three patients who spends more than five days in the ICU will experience some kind of psychotic reaction, which often takes the shape of delirium—an intense confusion that the patient can’t snap out of.

Three Russian Doctors Fall from Hospital Windows, Raising Questions Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

May 5, 2020

(CNN) – Three frontline health care workers have mysteriously fallen out of hospital windows in Russia over the past two weeks, heightening public attention to the working conditions for doctors and medical professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Two of those health care workers are dead, and one remains hospitalized. All three incidents, which are being investigated by Russian law enforcement authorities, have prompted intense discussion in the Russian press and on social media.

The Fight Over Facial Recognition Technology Gets Fiercer During the Covid-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020

(STAT News) – The long-simmering debate over facial recognition technology is taking on new urgency during the pandemic, as companies rush to pitch face-scanning systems to track the movements of Covid-19 patients. That’s playing out in California, where state legislators on Tuesday will debate legislation that would regulate the use of the technology. Its most controversial element: It would permit companies and public agencies to feed people’s facial data into a recognition system without their consent if there is probable cause to believe they’ve engaged in criminal activity. The bill isn’t specifically meant for the coronavirus response, but if enacted, could shape the way that people with Covid-19 and their contacts are tracked and traced in the coming months.

New Studies Add to Evidence That Children May Transmit the Coronavirus

May 5, 2020

(New York Times) – Among the most important unanswered questions about Covid-19 is this: What role do children play in keeping the pandemic going? Fewer children seem to get infected by the coronavirus than adults, and most of those who do have mild symptoms, if any. But do they pass the virus on to adults and continue the chain of transmission?

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