Foodborne Illness Alert:
- The CDC has issued a travel advisory for Mexico due to an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Newport. The advisory recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to Mexico (Level 3 Warning) and practicing heightened precautions if visiting Mexico (Level 2 Alert). (CDC Travel Notice)
- Most of you know by now that President Biden declared the pandemic over - his COVID team was surprised, and says it’s much more complicated than that. (Politico)
- Over 400 people are still dying every single day of COVID in the US. (NY Times)
- A new app can detect COVID in people’s voices using AI, with shockingly accurate results similar to those of rapid tests. (European Lung Foundation)
- Anti-vaxxers are using the carrot emoji to get around misinformation censors online, replacing the word vaccine with the emoji. (BBC)
- New Omicron sub-variants that are in the lineage BA2.75 are doubling weekly and considered likely to result in a winter wave. A new sub-variant BA 4.6 is taking hold now, but current antibodies appear to be effective. (Github)
- NYC announced it will be lifting its private employer COVID vaccine-mandate effective November 1st but encouraged employers to keep their own vaccination requirements in place. City workers’ mandate remains in effect. (ABC)
- MPX cases are falling in the US due to a variety of factors, including vaccines and people changing their social behavior to reduce the spread via sexual contact. (WIRED)
- The chances of catching MPX last month for a men who have sex with men was about 1 in 750, and about 1 in 260,000 if for woman or heterosexual men. Compare that to your chances of dying in a car crash, which are 1 in 7500. (NPR)
- Only high-risk patients should be treated with TPoxx, the antiviral drug, to prevent the virus from developing resistance to the treatment. (Washington Post)
Public Health News:
- NC State and Gojo released a new study on the effectiveness of surface disinfectants for Norovirus. Only the alcohol-based (ethanol) sanitizer significantly reduced the amount of virus on surfaces. The other products performed poorly, and adding a wiping step was important. (HAPPI)
- Climate change jeopardizes healthcare services, with fires, floods, and heat waves putting hospitals and clinics at risk. (AP)
- The CDC has confirmed that some ground beef in HelloFresh meal kits sent in July was contaminated. They're continuing to investigate to see if any other ground beef products may be contaminated. (CDC)
- A girl in Hong Kong has been hospitalized from H5N6 bird flu after contact with market poultry. (CIDRAP)
- Pfizer has started late stage clinical trials on mRNA flu vaccine with 25,000 patients participating. This could lead to better, faster flu shots. (Reuters)
- A sharp rise in STDs like syphilis is prompting health officials to call for new prevention and treatment efforts. (AP)
Mental Health News:
- Swapping 30 minutes of social media use per day for exercise benefits mental health. (Medical News Today)
- Women with serious mental illness often get worse care than men. (Seattle Times)
- A health task force has recommended routine anxiety screening in adults as well as kids 8 and up to help primary care doctors identify early signs. (Washington Post)
- Hot temperatures are linked to rises in hate speech on social media, which is in turn linked to poor mental health. (Newsweek)
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
What would happen if there was a “twindemic” of flu and COVID?
For the past two winters, we’ve been discussing what would happen if there was a “twindemic” - a pandemic of both flu and COVID simultaneously. We tend to think of the flu as a generic cold, but in reality influenza kills up to ~50,000 people per year, and leads to between 140,00 and 710,000 hospitalizations. The main concern is that if we have a really bad flu season - which we’re expecting this year - and another COVID surge, we could overwhelm our healthcare systems and stress hospitals to the limit.
Is COVID actually over? What about the public health emergency?
The president said that the COVID pandemic is over in an interview with 60 Minutes this past weekend. But to the families of the 400+ people who will die today from COVID, it’s most certainly not over. There’s no one metric that we can use to decide when the pandemic is over. Some say it’s when people stop taking precautions and resume their activities from before the pandemic. Others define it by a low number of deaths and steady case rates. Either way, the US still has a public health emergency in place, and HHS has promised it will provide 60 days notice. The next date to extend it is in October.
Is MPX over?
Cases of MPX (the term we’re using instead of monkeypox) are definitely decreasing in the US, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Last week, someone in Los Angeles county died from MPX, a stark reminder that there are absolutely still risks. Cases are declining from the peak in August, but public health leaders warn that the government and health departments need to keep working to get people vaccinated and educate about this new virus. Most believe that the lower case rate is due to both vaccination and some change in behavior in the LGBTQ+ community where the spread has been greatest. We continue to see new cases daily across our clients’ employee populations.
Can you get reinfected with MPX?
The short answer is that we’re not totally sure, but we don’t think so. Orthopox virus immunity tends to be lifelong. While we have much more data on smallpox than we do on MPX, scientists who study these viruses are hopeful that reinfection is extremely unlikely.
We sat down with Mara Aspinall, a Managing Director of BlueStone Venture Partners and a Professor of Practice and Diagnostics at the ASU College of Health Solutions. She’s one of the nation’s preeminent experts on diagnostic testing and has been a leader in the COVID testing space. She talks to us today about where we are in the COVID-19 pandemic, what the current stats mean for us, and where we go from here as we enter the endemic phase.
Listen to our chat with her now!