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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, May 23rd

How to protect employees from wildfire smoke

Health News:

  • The WHO is urging better preparation for the next pandemic, starting now. (Reuters)
  • Remote work is an underestimated benefit for family caregivers. (KFF News)
  • The World Organisation for Animal Health recommends vaccinating birds against the avian flu. (Reuters)
  • Some hopeful news - overdose deaths seem to have plateaued in the US after many years of increases, though the number is still over 100,000. (AP)
  • Researchers found a UTI caused by E. coli that’s resistant to all of the standard antibiotics typically used to treat these infections. (CIDRAP)
  • 88% of Americans still support the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine for kids, but many question the benefits. (CIDRAP)
  • A new study details mpox spread through casual heterosexual partners. (CIDRAP)
  • The FDA approved the first oral treatment for moderate to severe Crohn’s Disease. (FDA)
  • Despite a warrant for her arrest two months ago, a WA state resident with active TB is still not in custody. (NBC)
  • Bacteria-tainted eye drops that were recalled led to a fourth death, with 81 total cases. (USA Today)
  • A Maine man died of Powassan virus, a rare tick-borne disease that can cause neurological symptoms. (CBS)
  • A Texas military medical barracks is still empty after an outbreak of Legionella. (Military.com)
  • The rivers in Sacramento have high levels of E. coli right now, mostly from bird poop. (CBS)
  • Two locations of a local restaurant chain were closed in Boston due to a Salmonella outbreak. (Boston 25)
  • Recent research has revealed that deadly bacteria are adapting to plastic marine waste, threatening marine biodiversity and public health. (Scitech)
  • A new type of opioid overdose-reversal drug called nalmefene was approved by the FDA, similar to naloxone with longer effects. (MedPage Today)

Mental Health News:

  • Studies suggest that seasonal allergies could play a role in mood disorders like depression and anxiety. (NY Times)
  • New Hampshire plans to stop holding psychiatric patients in the ER by 2025. (NHPR)
  • Art - including drawing, music, or writing - can help improve your mental health. (NY Times)
  • The surgeon general says that social media may pose a “profound risk” to teen mental health. (CBS)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

If bird flu spreads to people, what would happen?

The current outbreak that’s affecting birds globally isn’t considered a major issue for humans just yet, since all human cases have had direct contact with birds. It’s certainly possible, especially since we’ve seen mammal-to-mammal transmission already, but it would require a few more mutations to really spread between humans. Most likely, we’d see it first spread in a group of people who work directly with birds or pigs, and possibly to their close contacts. Officials would rush to contain that outbreak, but if it became more widespread, we’d look to other measures, including vaccination. While the US already has an H5N1 vaccine for humans, the chances that it works well for this strain are low, since it’s based on a strain that’s nearly two decades old. Researchers are working on updated mRNA vaccines that are more easily tweaked for new mutations. In a recent NBC interview, Dr. Gregory Poland from the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group says the recent bird flu outbreak and mammalian deaths are like “the rumbles prior to an earthquake.” We recommend doing some post-pandemic planning so your company is better prepared for the next big one.

A manager’s spouse and kids have COVID. Can she work?

Yes, she can continue to work even if exposed at home. There are no longer any work exclusions or quarantine requirements for people exposed to COVID, even if their exposures are prolonged, like a household member or child sick. That said, it’s very possible that she becomes sick soon, so she should monitor herself for symptoms and stay home if any new symptoms develop.

Should we be worried about China’s recent COVID surge?

China is undergoing a new COVID wave and is on track to hit a peak of 65 million new cases per week toward the end of June. It’s mostly the XBB variant, which earlier this month made up about 15% of new cases in the US. China’s previous COVID surges haven’t translated into major surges in the US, which means we don’t necessarily expect a spike here based on theirs. We do expect to see XBB continuing to make up a higher percentage of new cases in the US as it continues to spread worldwide.

Our area is affected by wildfire smoke. What should we do to protect employees?

A large portion of the northern and western US was affected this week by smoke from massive Canadian wildfires. From the entire state of Montana all the way to New York City, poor air quality can have a negative health impact, from respiratory issues to eye and throat irritation and more. If your employees work outdoors, poor air quality may be an OSHA hazard that you need to protect against depending on your state (especially in California), so consult your legal team and company policies. Consider offering N95 or similar masks, moving outdoor jobs indoors when possible, requiring more frequent indoor breaks, and providing good indoor ventilation with limited outdoor air.

Best Read:

China, birthplace of the COVID pandemic, is laying tracks for another global health crisis | Reuters

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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.