Airplane lavatories deliver new hope for the CDC’s variant hunt

“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.”

The US has never recorded this many positive flu tests in one week

“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.”

Syphilis rates are soaring in South Dakota’s American Indian communities. What’s going on?

“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.”

A worldwide monkeypox outbreak

“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.”

How the pandemic screwed up our antibiotics

“if we’re not very careful now, humanity may backslide into a world where our antibiotics become useless — and the common infections they used to treat cut our lives short.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made that danger worse. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the first year of the pandemic, the problem of drug resistance only intensified.

Drug resistance is what happens when we overuse antibiotics in the treatment of humans, animals, or crops. When a new antibiotic is introduced, it can have great, lifesaving results — for a while. But then the bacteria adapt. Gradually, the antibiotic becomes less effective, and we’re left with diseases we’re less able to treat.

Even before Covid-19, experts had been warning that we’re approaching a post-antibiotic era — a time when our antibiotics would become largely useless against health problems ranging from tuberculosis to STIs to urinary tract infections. They noted that routine hospital procedures like C-sections and joint replacements could become more dangerous, too, as the risk associated with infection — especially infections acquired in hospitals — increases.

Some professionals, especially in hospitals, had heeded the experts’ warnings, and we’d seen some progress as a result. Take staph infections, for example. A 2019 CDC report noted that rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had dropped. And overall, deaths caused by drug resistance had decreased by 18 percent since 2013.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has reversed years of hard-won progress. Drug-resistant hospital-related deaths and infections from seven pathogens grew 15 percent from 2019 to 2020, including a 13 percent increase for MRSA infections, which can be deadly.

One reason for that is that hospitals overprescribed antibiotics, according to the CDC. From March through October 2020, almost 80 percent of Covid-19 patients who were hospitalized were given antibiotics. As a viral illness, Covid-19 isn’t affected by antibiotics, but doctors may have been keen to prescribe them to cure or protect against secondary infections, especially given that hospital stays for Covid-19 can be long and intensive.

“This setback can and must be temporary,” Michael Craig, the director of the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, said in a statement. “The best way to avert a pandemic caused by an antimicrobial-resistant pathogen is to identify gaps and invest in prevention to keep our nation safe.”

Obviously, the last thing we want is for the Covid-19 pandemic to pave the way for a new pandemic caused by some drug-resistant pathogen.”

“The good news is that we can absolutely address the problem of drug resistance. In its new report, the CDC calls for doubling down on strategies we know work, like preventing hospital-acquired infections in the first place and training medical professionals on when it is and isn’t appropriate to dole out antibiotics.”

What Puts Someone at Risk of Catching Monkeypox?

“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.”