“after a successful test run at New York’s JFK Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pursuing talks with airlines and port authorities to start collecting samples from long-haul international flights’ wastewater after they land.”
“Some portion of this steep rise in cases is related to the fact that more people are being tested for the flu than in previous years. Over the month of November, about twice as many flu tests were done at clinical labs nationwide as during the same period last year (about 540,000 versus 265,000). More testing means more cases will get picked up.
However, there are corroborating warning signs that this is truly a bad season. Flu hospitalizations have been off the charts and are rising quickly. In a press conference Monday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said there have already been 78,000 flu hospitalizations this season, or nearly 17 out of every 100,000 Americans. That’s “the highest we’ve seen at this time of year in a decade,” she said. In keeping with past trends, the highest hospitalization rates are among adults 65 and older.
What’s making these high hospitalization rates particularly concerning is their overlap with surges in other viruses causing many people to get sick enough to require admission. One of those is RSV, which has been packing pediatric hospitals for more than six weeks. And while Walensky noted there were signals RSV transmission was slowing in parts of the country, Covid-19 hospitalizations recently began to tick upward.”
“Over the last five years, syphilis transmission has increased explosively all over the US. The spread of this infection, which starts as a rash but can progress to severe disease in adults, is particularly alarming because syphilis infections during pregnancy can lead to death or disability in newborns.
Although syphilis trends are bad on a national scale, South Dakota’s numbers are particularly concerning. Since 2020, cases in the state have increased tenfold. Furthermore, infections are not evenly spread across the population: American Indians make up more than two-thirds of the state’s cases.”
“The worldwide monkeypox outbreak began in early May 2022. Since then, more than 15,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified across more than 60 countries. Disease caused by the monkeypox virus typically involves a few days of fever and lymph node swelling followed by a rash, which can leave scars. Most cases in the current outbreak have resolved without hospitalization or the need for medication. As of July 20, there have been five deaths, all of them in Africa.
Monkeypox is related to the smallpox virus, and immunity to smallpox is protective against monkeypox. But as of 1980, smallpox has been eradicated in humans, and vaccinations against smallpox have grown rare — and human cases of monkeypox have been on the rise.
With monkeypox, the world faces a very different situation than in the early days of Covid-19. Monkeypox, unlike SARS-CoV-2, is a known quantity. We have more tools to prevent and treat it — far more than we did for Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic — and both public health and the general public have had a lot of practice taking measures to prevent infections from spreading.”
“Did the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic originate from live animals for sale in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, or as a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute for Virology? In search of answer to this question, a new article in Science parses the early outbreak data along with environmental samples taken in Huanan Market supplied by Chinese researchers. It finds that the market was the “epicenter” for the contagion. A second article concludes that the outbreak began after two genetically distinct coronaviruses infected people beginning in November and December of 2019.
Do these findings rule out the possibility that the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from the institute? No. The first article acknowledges that “events upstream of the market, as well as exact circumstances at the market, remain obscure, highlighting the need for further studies to understand and lower the risk of future pandemics.” Those “events upstream” could include a scenario in which someone associated with the Virology Institute was unknowingly infected with the virus and carried it to the market while shopping.
“Have we disproven the lab leak theory? No, we have not,” one of the study’s authors told The Washington Post. “Will we ever be able to? No. But there are ‘possible’ scenarios and there are ‘plausible’ scenarios….’Possible’ does not mean equally likely.”
Skeptics of the natural origin of the virus will point to its novel furin cleavage site (FCS), which enhances its ability to latch onto and infect human cells. Broad Institute researcher Yujia Alina Chan and her colleagues noted in a January 2022 article for Molecular Biology and Evolution that the Wuhan Institute had earlier proposed to research FCS in coronaviruses found in bats. They further observed that the FCS has not been found so far in plausible evolutionary forebears of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
On the other hand, a May 2022 analysis of the genetics of bat coronaviruses in Communications Biology identifies “several possible ways for natural acquisition of the FCS” in bat coronaviruses. This, they argue, supports “a natural evolutionary origin from bats with or without the involvement of [other animal] intermediary hosts.”
In June, the World Health Organization urged the Chinese government and researchers to allay speculations about lab leaks by being more forthcoming about the work on coronavirus viruses undertaken at the Wuhan Institute for Virology. The world is still waiting to hear from them.”
“As monkeypox spreads across the United States, it may be giving people flashbacks to the days of wiping down counters and groceries to get rid of the coronavirus. But for most people, the risk of getting monkeypox remains low. Almost all cases in the current outbreak — 98% — have been in adult men who have sex with men.
So how is the virus spreading? Studies of previous outbreaks suggest that the monkeypox virus is transmitted in three main ways: through direct contact with an infected person’s rash, by touching contaminated objects and fabrics or by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There is also evidence that a pregnant woman can spread the virus to her fetus through the placenta.
Scientists are still trying to understand if the virus can spread through semen, vaginal fluids, urine or feces and if people can be contagious before they develop visible symptoms.”
“The activities that put a person at highest risk of catching the virus involve close, intimate contact with another infected individual. This includes the kind of skin-to-skin contact that occurs during sex as well as when cuddling, hugging, massaging or kissing another person. Condoms probably add a layer of protection during sex, but they are unlikely to prevent contact with lesions on an infected person’s groin, thighs, buttocks or on other parts of their body.
Roommates and family members in the same house are also at significantly higher risk of getting monkeypox compared to any other individuals a patient may come into close contact with, said Dr. Bernard Camins, the medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System.
Household contacts can catch monkeypox through contaminated clothes, towels and bedding. Shared utensils that may carry an infected person’s saliva should also be considered high risk, said Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at George Mason University.”
“in the past 10 days, cases have been reported in the United States, as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. Typically, monkeypox is rare outside West and Central Africa.
In total, there were 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases as of yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.
On the upside, there’s little reason to think monkeypox will wreak the kind of havoc that COVID-19 did. It does not spread as easily or cause severe symptoms in most people. And it’s not novel—we already know what monkeypox is and how to fight against it.”
“In addition, we already have a vaccine that provides some protection against monkeypox: the smallpox vaccine. And the U.S. has “enough to deal with the likelihood of a problem,” said President Joe Biden in Tokyo this week.
“I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19,” said Biden. He says he does not expect quarantine requirements even for people infected.”