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Updated boosters next week!

The Executive Briefing - Friday, September 8th

Health News:

  • Updated boosters may be ready as soon as next week, with approval set for later today. (ABC)
  • More study of the new Pirola (BA.2.86) variant shows it’s less worrisome than we initially feared - and Moderna says its updated boosters provide protection against it. (USA Today)
  • California is seeing a rise in COVID outbreaks with confirmed workplace transmission, everywhere from movie studios to libraries to talent agencies. (LA Times)
  • As Congress and employers try to figure out how to enact heat policies, workers pay the price. (KFF Health)
  • An E. coli outbreak linked to a shared daycare kitchen has sickened at least 128 children in Alberta, Canada. (CBC)
  • The FDA recalled oysters from Groton, CT for contamination. They may have been distributed to restaurants. (FDA)
  • Tofu was identified as the culprit in a Canadian Salmonella outbreak, the first time tofu has been linked to Salmonella. (MMWR)
  • There’s increased RSV in infants in Georgia and Florida, the CDC warned doctors this week. (CDC)
  • The US quietly terminated a controversial $125 million wildlife virus hunting program after some feared the research could cause another pandemic. (BMJ)
  • High levels of a blood protein may predict who will have COVID brain fog. (CIDRAP)
  • Officials are working to contain Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal prion disease found in deer, before hunting season begins. (CIDRAP)
  • Paqui pulled its spicy “One-Chip Challenge” from store shelves after a teen’s death, which is being investigated. (AP)

Mental Health & Substance Use News:

  • Even in the most depressed county in the US where one-third of residents have been diagnosed with depression, stigma around mental health persists. (KFF Health)
  • The share of US overdose deaths caused by fake prescription pills is growing. (NPR)
  • Colleges are focusing on mental health as students return to school. (NC Health News)

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

What’s the deal with the new variant? First, we heard it was a huge problem, and now it’s not a big deal. Which is it?

One of our favorite voices on COVID, Dr. Eric Topol, put it perfectly: “This has downgraded from a hurricane to not even a tropical storm.” New studies shared over the weekend confirm that while Pirola has a lot of mutations, the updated boosters that will be available as early as next week will provide protection against it. Even though it does have some immune escape, it’s not nearly as much as we feared. This is all good news but doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. COVID hospitalizations have been rising for seven straight weeks, fueled by other Omicron subvariants, and just because BA.2.86 isn’t as bad as it could have been, it doesn’t mean it won’t cause waves. Today we’re just grateful that the new vaccines protect against Pirola and hope you’ll plan to get your fall booster and flu shot soon!
Sources: YLE, USA Today

If I have cold symptoms should I still be COVID testing?

Ultimately, we think you should. While we know that isolating for 5 days is a nuisance for some and a financial hardship for others, the reality is that everyone will be in close contact with someone who has a newborn baby or grandparent at home that needs to be protected. Even though we are living day to day with this virus, it’s still much deadlier than the flu - one study found over one in four patients hospitalized with COVID died, compared to less than one in ten with the flu. If you test negative, you still might have COVID, so it’s best to test a few days in a row if you have symptoms and to stay home if you’re sick even if you test negative. We’re all sick of it, but the virus is still here and we do have some control of whether we spread it to our friends, coworkers, and families.
Source: CIDRAP

Do we need to be as concerned about an employee reporting another type of E. coli rather than a shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC)?  

It’s not nearly as concerning from a foodborne illness perspective if an employee tests positive for a non-shiga-toxin-producing E. coli. The worst outbreaks are generally from E. coli O157:H7 or other STEC type E. coli. California is one example of a state that only requires reporting for STEC, also known as enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) or vero-toxin producing (VTEC). But for some state and county health departments, all E. coli cases are reportable, but different health departments respond differently to non-STEC E. coli. For example, in Iowa, all E. coli cases are reportable, but not all individual cases require public health investigations. If the employee had GI symptoms and tested positive for E. coli, you should assume that there’s a foodborne illness risk and act accordingly, but it may not require the same level of response as O157:H7. When in doubt, give ZHH a call and we can support you in figuring out the right next steps with the employee and the health department.
Source: IDPH, CDPH

Best Read:

A "flu" at the US Open? Hmm… Opinion | Dr. Jeremy Faust for MedPage Today

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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.