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The Executive Briefing - Friday, July 22th

Polio, flu in July, and a deadly heat wave


  • President Biden has COVID - even though he’s gotten two booster doses. (NY Times)
  • COVID has been tied to new-onset short-term heart disease and diabetes. (US News)
  • Flu monitoring systems actually noticed COVID months before the first reported cases in many countries, with higher negative flu tests in those with symptoms. (CIDRAP)
  • Doubting mainstream medicine, some COVID patients found bad advice and dangerous medications online, sometimes leading to their deaths. (NPR)
  • Virologists are trying to keep up with faster virus evolution, as they try to make booster shots without knowing what strain will be dominant next. (NY Times)
  • High blood pressure doubles the risk of hospitalization with COVID.  (CIDRAP)
  • The “twindemic” of COVID and flu didn’t happen earlier in the pandemic but might be starting now, according to public health experts in Australia. The US often follows similar patterns. (WebMD)

Public Health News:

  • New York has its first polio case in nearly a decade. It appears an unvaccinated person was infected by someone who recently got an oral polio vaccine in another country (not the kind given here) and then traveled to New York. (AP)
  • Most public health experts agree that more people need access to the monkeypox vaccine ASAP. Many think they should start with the 3-5 million people worldwide who should take PrEP, the pre-exposure pill for HIV. (CIDRAP)
  • Daily Harvest has identified tara flour, an ingredient from Peru that’s in its new lentil and leek crumble, as the source of the outbreak that sickened hundreds. No specific pathogen has been found to be the culprit. (Yahoo News)
  • More than 100 million Americans are in the path of a dangerous heat wave, with triple-digit temperatures across the country and other parts of the world. (WSJ)
  • Certain disinfecting ultraviolet wands can cause radiation injuries, even after a very short exposure, the FDA warns. (NY Times)
  • Miami has the first dengue case of 2022, prompting an alert about the mosquito-borne disease. (CIDRAP)
  • The FDA announced new leadership, structure and an in-depth study for food safety regulation. (Politico)
  • The CDC is reporting more unexplained Hepatitis cases in children and is still investigating a link to adenoviruses. (CDC)
  • Avian flu continues to spread in poultry. This week’s reported outbreaks were in Utah and Washington state. (USDA)

Mental Health News:

  • An early Spotify backer from Sweden has put $100 million into a mental health venture. (Bloomberg)
  • Some mental health advocates are warning against using the 988 line without knowing the risks, which include police involvement and involuntary hospitalization. (News 3)
  • The youth mental health crisis is the “next wave of the pandemic,” says a Duke psychiatrist. (NC Health News)
  • Heat, like with this heat wave, exacerbates mental health issues for nearly everyone. Crime, psych admissions, and overall stress levels rise with the temp. (Daily Beast)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

If I've had a very close contact with someone with COVID and still symptom free and testing negative on Day 5, am I in the clear from that exposure?

If it’s been at least 5 days and you have no symptoms (and a negative test, to boot!), you are in the clear to return to your normal activities, though you should continue to wear a mask for 5 additional days. It’s not common, but it’s still possible that you could develop symptoms up to 10 days after your exposure, which is why it’s important to wear a mask around others until Day 10.

Someone with monkeypox worked in the past 48 hours. What should we do?  

First, make sure it’s confirmed before you panic! We’ve seen false alarms that are everything from COVID to chickenpox. If it’s lab-confirmed, send home any close contacts who live with or have a romantic relationship with the sick employee until they have a doctor’s note clearing them to return to work. Sanitize surfaces the employee touched with any standard sanitizer - anything you use for COVID is just fine. Clean any linens, towels, or clothing the employee used very carefully, wearing gloves and a mask, and being careful not to shake virus particles out. Remember to avoid identifying the sick employee or discussing their health with other employees.

Is there any different exclusion length for a vaccinated vs unvaccinated employee who tests positive for COVID?

No, the exclusion length remains the same for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who test positive for COVID, at least for now. At least one small study in South Korea showed that vaccinated people with breakthrough infections spread COVID to fewer people and are contagious for a shorter period of time compared to those who are unvaccinated. A major caveat is that the study took place before the Omicron and BA variants that are circulating now. At some point, we might have clearer data which justifies different exclusion lengths depending on vaccination status, but for now we just can’t say for certain how long someone is infectious, especially as the variants continue to change that answer. Until we know that, anyone who tests positive should isolate for at least five days and continue to wear a mask around others for 10.

What’s up with the flu in July?

It’s strange that the flu is circulating in the summer, but we keep seeing cases anyway. There are a few reasons for it. First, there might just not be a great match with the vaccine and the actual strain that’s circulating. Flu vaccines are chosen each year based on the other hemisphere’s flu season, but ultimately it’s a best guess, and some years it’s a better match than others. The pandemic is to blame here, too. Generally a lot of people will get the flu each year, and then those people have some natural immunity for the next year. But the pandemic meant we had very low flu numbers the past two seasons with COVID precautions. This year, flu was rising in the winter but when the Omicron surge hit and people started to mask and distance, it dropped off again. When mask mandates lifted in spring, flu came back - but the longer flu season led to another issue. The yearly flu vaccine wanes in effectiveness over time, so some who are getting the flu in June and July were vaccinated last fall, but aren’t as fully protected this long after their shots. Most experts expect that flu will eventually return to its seasonal cycles once we get through a full winter or two without widespread COVID precautions.

Best Read:

5 ways to improve employee mental health

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.