If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
A group of scientists nicknamed XBB.1.5 “Kraken” and it caught on from a viral tweet. This Omicron subvariant was likely created when someone was infected with two different subvariants that “recombined” into a new one. We now know that people can be infected with multiple variants at once and that new subvariants can occur from mutations or combinations of prior ones. While we haven’t seen many massive evolutionary leaps in the virus since Omicron cropped up, there’s always a possibility that a new variant wreaks havoc by better evading our immunity or being more severe. But we’re glad to report that the Kraken variant doesn’t cause more severe illness than previous variants, a trend that we’re hopeful will continue with the subsequent evolution of the virus.
There was a massive meeting of scientists and public health experts at the end of January to discuss this along with a bunch of other tricky issues. They’ve landed on an annual COVID vaccine in the fall, on roughly the same schedule as flu shots. They’ll meet in June to review the prevailing sub-variants and recommend which ones to target for mRNA vaccines, and those will be available in the fall, just like they do each year with targeting the flu strains that are circulating in the southern hemisphere. So, for those of us who have already gotten our updated bivalent booster (less than one in five eligible Americans!), we’ll likely get them each fall moving forward, unless another surge or new unforeseen variant arises mid-year. For those who haven’t yet gotten the updated booster, you are eligible right now! It prevents severe illness, reduces the chances of long COVID, and makes it more likely that your next brush with COVID will be a mild one. We should hear more after the ACIP meeting in mid-February about whether there’s any need for higher-risk folks to get another booster dose before the fall.
Being fully vaccinated does cut your chances of getting long COVID. A study of nearly 100,000 patients in Scotland found that six to 18 months after coronavirus infection, nearly half had lingering symptoms ranging from mild to severe. That study reported that vaccination did provide some protection from long COVID, and it also found that asymptomatic infections didn’t generally lead to long COVID. So, getting the updated booster may not prevent you from getting COVID at all and having to isolate for five days, but it does reduce your chances of getting long COVID, which can happen to healthy people even with mild infections.
First, get the employee any medical help they need, and wear gloves while helping them! You should have a first aid kit readily available, but for more serious injuries, call 911. Once the employee has the help they need, you’ll start bloodborne pathogen clean up procedures. Every location should have a kit, which may vary but should have clear instructions inside. Generally, you’ll open the kit and put on protective equipment. Use a brush and dustpan to sweep any broken glass or objects that could cut you, and sprinkle a special powder over the spill area, which makes any liquid into a gel so that it’s easier to clean up. Then you’ll disinfect the area and let it soak (30 seconds for blood, 10 minutes for vomit) before using paper towels to scrub the area from the outside in and repeat that process twice. Check and disinfect any nearby reusable equipment. Soiled paper towels and protective items go into the biohazard bag that’s in the kit. Seal and dispose of the biohazard bag properly, which means sending in the ambulance with the patient, dropping it off at the local ambulance corps or ER, or calling the ER to find out the best local place to dispose of biohazard. Finally, carefully wash hands, arms, and face, and be sure to reorder a new bloodborne pathogen clean up kit right away. Depending on your company policy, managers may need to report the incident to HR.