America Coronavirus

Can We Stop a Second Wave of Covid-19?

America may have just seen the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases exceed two million as well as more than 116,000 deaths, but the number of new daily cases are dropping, leading many Americans hoping that we had reached a turning point.

However, with the gradual reopening of some states infectious disease experts are issuing warnings, as they believe a second wave of Covid-19 is on its way, although they are still unsure as to how strong the wave may be.

The theory is that by easing some restrictions coupled with what is seen as a minority of the public ignoring any preventative measures that are in place, a second wave could be far worse than the original peak.

Dr Lawrence Kleinman, MD MPH from Rutgers University agrees saying, “I think people mistake the idea of society reopening with the idea that society is safer, but things are no safer today than they were weeks ago when we were in full lockdown.”

Kleinman continues, “It’s really important for the public to understand that the recipe for their personal safety has not changed and is not changing even as society opens up. I worry that we are going to see that the more social interactions occur, the less care people will take, the more illness there will be, and the more people who will get very sick and die.”

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There are also concerns that if the procedures put in place to protect us are not adhered to – maintaining social distancing, keeping our hands clean and our faces masked as well as symptom screening – the numbers of confirmed cases could be significantly higher than before, which could in turn lead to leaders reinstating stay-at-home orders.

There are others who do not believe that things could get so bad though. Columbia University virologist Dr Vincent Racaniello spoke about his thoughts on the subject saying, “I’m hoping we can continue our lives without having to go back into quarantine in the fall, because we’ve learned that distancing and face masks can really make a difference.”

Whichever stand the experts have taken they do agree on one thing. The way the public chooses to behave will have an instrumental impact on how severe the second wave could be.

Harvard Global Health Institute director and general internist Dr Ashish Jha believes the key way to keep infections low is to increase the number of tests carried out as well as to continue with contact tracing. “Certainly if we go into the fall with the number of tests we have right now, we’re going to get crushed. Because the biggest thing in curtailing this disease is that you’ve got to be able to identify who’s infected and separate them from others so that they don’t spread the virus.”

However there are some experts who are continuing to analyze the behavior of previous cases of respiratory illnesses to enable us to see how we should deal with what may lie ahead. One example being that there are many seasonal ailments including influenza, which is most common during the colder seasons. This is also a common belief for other types of coronaviruses and may be a factor in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that can develop into Covid-19.

According to Racaniello, “In the cooler months with lower humidity, the virus transmits better so we see outbreaks of respiratory infections in those times. I think that’s what COVID-19 will be like in the fall”.

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Another theory is that the viral transmission of the virus could be increased when indoors, which works alongside the colder months theory, as people tend to spend more time inside. Jha explains, “There’s pretty good evidence that a lot of the transmission of this virus occurs when people congregate indoors. And as schools come back along with universities and workplaces, we’re all very worried we’re going to see big spikes in cases that nationally will result in a second wave.”

Furthermore, there are worries that with the flu season still to come a second wave of Covid-19 could put extra strain on an already struggling health care system, however this is something that Racaniello does not believe to be an issue. “I think most health care systems in the U.S. have experienced the outbreak, they know how to handle it, they are going to be ready because now we’re talking about a number of months where they can prepare, they can get protective equipment, they can reallocate spending, space and ventilators.”

It is also a common belief that Covid-19 will continue to be a virus for many more years however with vaccines being developed there may be room for people to build up an immunity to it meaning the virus could diminish into a virus like a cold rather than influenza.

As the virus has spread across the world there has been reports of different mutations of the virus however experts do not believe this would have any impact on how any vaccine could work.

“I’m not worried that there’s going to be a meaningful mutation that will lead to the disease becoming much more severe,” said Jha. “We’ll obviously be paying very close attention to that and we have much better tools for looking at viral genetics, we didn’t have any such tools 100 years ago. Of all the things I lose sleep over, this isn’t one of them.”

However UCLA Department of Epidemiology’s chair Dr Karin Michels, Ph.D. says that when it comes down to it, despite the potential to have the tools in place to prevent a second wave it is up to the public to keep the rates low saying, “It is in our hands and we have all the knowledge required to keep this second wave low, but the relevant measures are unpopular, difficult to maintain and affect many aspects from economy to quality of life”.

UK vs Virus

The Plans in Place To Re-Open Europe

The United Kingdom’s health secretary Matt Hancock has revealed government plans to potentially issue ‘immunity certificates’ to those that have recovered from coronavirus. In a daily government briefing Hancock said that these certificates could eventually help people “get back, as much as possible, to normal life,” but the health secretary also warned that more research was to come.

“We are looking at an immunity certificate – how people who have had the disease, have got the antibodies and therefore have the immunity can show that – and so get back, as much as possible, to normal life. That is an important thing we will be doing and are looking at,” Hancock said, speaking at the daily press conference from Downing Street.

Reports from Germany suggest that they are set to launch a similar initiative in a bid to allow workers to return to work and help get the economy back on track.

The UK government are expecting to announce plans for wide scale testing soon and are currently in talks with nine companies to determine the best and most simple blood tests that will determine if a person has developed the correct antibodies for COVID-19.

In the press conference, Hancock revealed that the blood test could be carried out as simply as a finger prick, with results possible in just 20 minutes. However, tests would need to be administered 28 days after the infection, as that is when the body reaches its highest level of immunity.

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Professor John Newton, the director of health improvement at Public Health England has indicated that this would be the appropriate time to carry out the test “if you want to tell somebody that they haven’t been infected and that they’re not immune”.

Despite this, the mass production and distribution of tests may be put on hold as it is still not known how long immunity lasts, due to COVID-19 being such a new disease.

“We know from other viruses that immunity is long lasting,” said Stephen Powis, the national medical director for NHS England, before adding: “But some might last a year or so.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that this meant that it is “too early in the science” to “put clarity” to the idea of issuing immunity certificates.

With the UK currently in lockdown, this news may strengthen fears that normality will not return until the end of the year at the earliest but Hancock added that there was no link between the 28 days and time of the lockdown, and that the most important factor is maintaining social distancing.

He said: “The number one thing that stops the spread of this virus is social distancing. That is the most important thing.”

Staff of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) have been seen queuing up in car parks of theme parks and large shops like IKEA in order to get COVID-19 testing as criticism comes in for the country’s handling of their health workers, with suggestions that they are lagging behind other nations.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced government intentions to increase testing overall in England, including all patients and its National Health Service staff, from 10,000 every day to 100,000 by the end of April, using a “five-pillar” strategy.

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The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday the 2nd of April that the government had surpassed the target of 10,000 tests per day and that the total number of National Health Service staff that were tested around the country at drive-through facilities has risen to 2,800.

In the detailed press conference Matt Hancock’s revealed that his “five-pillar” plan included swab testing for all in Public Health England and the National Health Service labs; the use of commercial partners, especially universities and private businesses, in order to obtain and organize facilities to conduct more swab testing; choosing and introducing the most appropriate antibody blood tests to determine immunity if people have had COVID-19; surveillance in order to monitor the rate of infection and map how it is spreading and the building of an adequately sized and maintained diagnostics industry that will allow the figure of 100,000 tests by the end of April.

As the UK is thought to be approaching the peak of the epidemic, the government has prioritized testing NHS staff and have been enlisting the help of the private sector to cope with demand.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, currently in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19, said in a video message on Twitter that the UK needed to “massively ramp up” testing, which he then claimed was “how we unlock the coronavirus puzzle”.

“It’s crucial people who do have the disease are able to be tested positive and to take the necessary steps to isolate at home in the way that I am doing and many, many others are doing,” he said.

Breast Cancer Awareness

To Stop Cancer, You Must Spot Cancer

Over 75 community members, most from the St. Louis area chapters of The Links, Inc., were part of a Breast Health Equity Symposium held February 1 at Parkview Tower at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They trained to become breast health ambassadors in the community to spread breast cancer prevention facts and the importance of early detection to reduce breast health disparities.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. American Cancer Society data says there are 265,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among women – accounting for 40,000 deaths annually. (The number one killer is lung cancer.)

They discussed St. Louis County Health Department data which highlighted the differences in survival between African-American women and white women in the region.


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Test Results Show No Coronavirus Cases in NYC

Test results show there are currently no coronavirus cases in New York City, according to the city’s Department of Health.

As of Wednesday, the six city residents that were under observation for possible coronavirus all tested negative for the disease. One New York City non-resident also tested negative, according to the city’s health deaprtment.

There are currently no positive or pending cases.

Recently, a novel (new) coronavirus was detected in thousands of people worldwide, primarily in China. There is evidence the infection can be spread person-to-person. A “novel coronavirus” is a strain that has not been previously found in humans.

Health officials say the risk to New Yorkers of contracting this novel coronavirus is low.

However, if you are experiencing symptoms and want to get tested, talk to your health care provider, health officials say. Symptoms can include fever, cough or shortness of breath. An infection can result in death, but that is a rare outcome.

The World Health Organization has named the disease caused by the virus as COVID-19, avoiding any animal or geographic designation to avoid stigmatization and to show the illness comes from a new coronavirus discovered in 2019.

The illness was first reported in December and connected to a food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak has largely been concentrated.

Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said that while the virus outbreak in China may peak this month, the situation at the center of the crisis remains more challenging.

“We still need more time of hard working in Wuhan,” he said, describing the isolation of infected patients there a priority.

China on Wednesday reported another drop in the number of new cases of a viral infection and 97 more deaths, pushing the total dead past 1,100 as postal services worldwide said delivery was being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China.

The National Health Commission on Wednesday said 2,015 new cases had been reported over the last 24 hours, declining for a second day. The total number of cases in mainland China is 44,653, although many experts say a large number of others infected have gone uncounted.

The additional deaths raised the mainland toll to 1,113. Two people have died elsewhere, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.


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Health Quote

Health Benefits of Walnuts

Reaching for a snack between mealtimes or postworkout is something we all do. And sometimes that snack is whatever is at the gas station or something packaged and tasty (but not always healthy) from the vending machine at work. But everything we eat can affect our gut health and risk for heart disease, so we can be more strategic about our snacking.

According to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition, swapping out your usual salty or sweet afternoon pick-me-up for walnuts can have some serious heart health benefits.

Researchers looked at 42 participants who were overweight or obese and were between the ages of 30 and 65. Before the study began, everyone was placed on a diet that mirrored an average American diet (where 12 percent of daily calories came from saturated fat) for two weeks. Then, participants switched to diets that were lower in saturated fat, where 7 percent of daily calories came from saturated fat, and incorporated walnuts. After munching on two handfuls of walnuts daily for six weeks in place of snacks like chips or crackers, all participants saw lower cholesterol levels and gut bacteria that improved their risk of heart disease. (It’s important to note that typically one serving of walnuts is one ounce—about one handful.)

This is likely because eating whole walnuts daily lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure, study authors Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., distinguished professor of nutrition and Kristina Petersen, Ph.D., assistant research professor, both in the department of nutritional sciences at Penn State University explained to Bicycling. And while the researchers said that this study showed correlation, not causation, previous research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association also found that adding walnuts to a person’s diet can help lower blood pressure, especially when they are replacing foods high in saturated fat.

Overall, swapping out unhealthy snacks for a serving of walnuts or other nuts is a relatively small change that will have major health benefits—and is easier than doing a radical diet or exercise overhaul, Kris-Etherton and Petersen said.

And, it’s not just people at risk for heart disease, the study authors explained. Nuts are recommended in many heart-healthy diets, such the Mediterranean diet. “It’s a great way to encourage people who are already healthy to stay healthy,” Petersen said.

In full disclosure, this one study was supported by grants from the The California Walnut Commission. However, there have been ample amounts of independent research on all the heart healthy components of nuts such as omega-3s, unsaturated fats, and fiber. Plus, adding nuts to your diet promotes healthy aging and can help prevent against risk of chronic disease, previous research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found. So, even if you are healthy in your 20s or 30s, as you age, blood pressure and cholesterol levels increase, which is why eating a heart-healthy diet is important no matter your age or activity level, the study authors explained.

The bottom line: snacking on nuts is something people can do now to maintain health, rather than waiting until later in life. While this study looked at walnuts specifically, the researchers pointed out that adding a variety of nuts can help a person keep up this healthy habit, as eating walnuts daily may get boring. “It’s much harder to reverse disease once it comes about, so prevention is key,” Kris-Etherton said.


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Young Boy on Phone

Is Social Media Impacting Your Child’s Mental Health? Experts Weigh In

In today’s world, we are all connected by the internet, social media and smartphones–especially teenagers. According to a PEW Research study, 95% of teens use a smartphone and 45% say they are online constantly. Approximately 70% of teens are on Snapchat and Instagram, and 85% are on YouTube. Some may think the online “socializing” with peers, classmates and friends would help these teens feel more connected. Experts say this isn’t always the case.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, found that students who spend more time using smartphones and other electronic devices are less satisfied with their lives than students who frequently engage in face-to-face interaction.

“We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online,” Twenge wrote.

Experts say liking or commenting on a post, or keeping a Snapchat streak, isn’t the same as catching up in person. In fact, it’s not even close. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control released statistics showing teens are more lonely, anxious and depressed than ever before. One-third of teens surveyed by the CDC said they experience persistent sadness or hopelessness. John Richter, director of public policy at the Mental Health Association, told NeaToday that social media is exacerbating this trend.

“Researchers are finding that when someone develops depression and withdraws from peers, they see other people on social media smiling and at parties with friends. It magnifies their sense of isolation,” Richter said.

In 2018, the Child Mind Institute’s 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report focused on spotlighting the prevalent role social media has on teenagers’ lives. The report indicates that “youth with a stronger emotional investment in social media are likely to have higher levels of anxiety.” Despite these results, students are having a hard time putting down their phones.

In today’s world, we are all connected by the internet, social media and smartphones. NeaToday spoke to several educators across the country who reported struggling to detach students from their electronic devices. In order to help combat the problem, New York and Virginia both became the first states to require mental health education as part of the school curriculum. Ritcher says it’s a start and will help students deal with the pressures of their lives.


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Couple Exercising

For A Tried-And-True Stress Buster, Rely On Exercise

The consequences can be serious: “Stress elicits responses by the body that can have negative effects on our cardiovascular system and blood sugar levels,” says Bryant. Self-care is vital, he explains, because those effects can increase the risk of disease over time.

Fortunately, there is an effective way to get a better handle on stress that doesn’t require switching careers, spending a ton of money or living off the grid: exercise. Studies show that regular exercise can help you to be physically healthy by lowering stress hormones, improving sleep and boosting confidence. Here’s how working out can contribute to mental wellness by decreasing stress—and why it’s easier than you think to get started.

Thanks to its “mood-elevating effect,” exercise can reduce the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety, says Bryant. In fact, according to a recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry, people are 26% less likely to become depressed with regular physical activity. One explanation is that exercise can stimulate the release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin—brain chemicals that regulate mood. There are environmental factors at play as well: Exercise can provide a healthy distraction from worries and negative thinking, as well as encourage social interaction and human connection.

The physical symptoms of stress range from headaches and upset stomach to chest pain and muscle tension, according to Bryant. Luckily, physical exercise can work to offset those symptoms—helping to relax and relieve our bodies. In fact, by interacting with the receptors in your brain that diminish the perception of pain, WebMD suggests that exercise-induced endorphins can act as powerful analgesics. The best part: Unlike many kinds of pain medication, endorphins don’t carry the same risks of addiction and don’t cost a thing.

A Quick Guide To Managing Stress

Embarking on an exercise program might be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to contribute to your stress. Here are some smart tips as you tackle the hardest part of the process: Getting started.

Make exercise fun. Kickboxing, walks in the park, skateboarding, Pilates—there’s no shortage of ways to incorporate exercise into your daily self-care routines. The trick, however, is to find an exercise to help improve your mood, not something that feels like a chore. While one activity may burn more calories than another form of exercise, you likely won’t stick with it if it’s not fun or fulfilling. “Finding something that you deem to be enjoyable is likely to have the most beneficial effects and outcomes,” says Bryant. “Exercise doesn’t have to be painful and super intense to derive significant benefits.”

Seize opportunities. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy gear to get started. Rather, Bryant suggests getting creative: “Look for opportunities to move.” For some, this may mean walking around the block during a lunch break. For others, the best way to reduce stress may involve forming a corporate baseball team or identifying a way to make exercise more social. The goal is to keep things simple and affordable so that physical activity becomes as commonplace—and as vital to your day—as eating and sleeping.

Stress might be a modern-day staple, but there are a variety of healthy methods for counteracting its effects, and even the slightest uptick in physical activity can help reduce its negative impact. So the next time you want to improve your mood, get moving.

In today’s fast-paced world, stress might feel like an inevitable part of daily life. In fact, about 70% of adults in the U.S. say they experience stress or anxiety regularly, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “There isn’t a human who isn’t impacted or affected by stress at some level,” says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., president and chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise.


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Mental Health Ribbon

How Selena Gomez Came to Terms With Her Mental Health Issues

Selena Gomez is on a roll lately. After receiving the first number one song of her career with “Lose You To Love Me,” the 27-year-old singer went on to release her third, highly-successful, solo, studio album. Rare is being received with tons of positive feedback from fans and critics alike. Furthermore, the Wizards of Waverly Place alum has been doing lots of press to promote the new album. In the interviews, Gomez speaks openly about how her life over the past four years served as an inspiration for all 13 of her new songs.

While Gomez is in a much “sweeter place” these days, it’s been a long road to get to where she is now. Over the past four years, Gomez suffered through an emotionally abusive relationship, Lupus, a kidney transplant, as well as struggles with her mental health. Gomez has been candid about the fact that she’s suffered from depression and anxiety. In fact, many of her new songs blatantly reference her mental health issues. “This is just what the doctor ordered (yeah) Put a gold star on my disorder,” the lyrics for Gomez’s new song “Fun” rings out. “Holding hands with the darkness and knowing my heart is allowed,” the songstress’ song “A Sweeter Place” declares.

In a recent interview with NPR, Gomez got candid about the status of her mental health. While she confesses that she still struggles with depression and anxiety, medication and therapy have made things much more manageable for her. “I feel great, yeah. I’m on the proper medication that I need to be on, even as far as my mental health. I fully believe in just making sure you check in with your doctors or therapist. [Taking care of mental health — ] that’s forever. That’s something I will have to continue to work on. Yes, I don’t think I just magically feel better. I have days where it is hard for me to get out of bed, or I have major anxiety attacks. All of that still happens. I think “Fun,” in that particular way, was that I do like learning about it,” the “Look At Her Now” artist shared.

But, despite her struggles with mental health, Gomez has committed to using them for good. She confessed that her hardships made her able to have difficult conversations with people “But the way I find these moments in my life that are pretty difficult, I think the only way it’s helped me is that I can use that for good. So yeah, I can sit down with somebody who’s gone through a lot of health issues, I can sit down with someone who has had their heart completely broken, or a family that’s broken, fighting for their right to stay in this country, or kids who are going through things they shouldn’t even be worrying about at that age,” Gomez shared.

She continued on to share her hope for the world and the future, citing the role she saw herself playing in the long run. “I want to live in a world where an 11-year-old is not committing suicide because of bullying on social media. That’s what I think my real mission is; I think that I have such big dreams and ideas for ways that I can give back. And right now I know that this is something that will be for life,” Gomez confessed. It’s commendable that Gomez continues to use her incredible platform for good. Being open about her hardships can’t be easy, but Gomez seems to be taking it all in stride.


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Man Running

Bay Area Man to Run 8 Marathons in 8 Days for Health, Charity

A Bay Area man has decided to run eight marathons in eight days on seven continents to challenge himself, according to Stanford Children’s Health, where he works.

Brendan Watkins, 44, decided to run what’s called the Triple 8 Quest to also raise money for the Lucile Packard Children’s Fund, which is a charity that provides care for children and expectant moms.

Watkins Monday posted on his blog that he finished his first marathon in Auckland, New Zealand, in about 3 hours and 45 minutes.

He’ll run Tuesday in Perth, Australia, followed by a marathon Wednesday in Singapore.

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A Fit Life Is The Prescription To Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

In our 50s, there is a marked increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

When we talk about this increased risk for CVD, the conversation is usually about food. While managing your consumption of salty and fatty foods is part of the plan, what is missing from the discussion is an exercise prescription.

There are three common CVD risk factors (not including weight) that are positively influenced by 30 minutes a day of exercise.

Stress is a common CVD risk factor that we don’t talk about enough. While it’s hard to eliminate all the stressors in life, you can diminish the physiological effects of stress with exercise.

Daily exercise is the best way to complete the stress cycle.

There is a lot of talk about lowering cholesterol, but reducing your LDL is only part of the equation. Raising your good cholesterol, your HDL level, has a protective benefit for your yeart. The best way to raise HDL is through regular exercise.

The Mayo Clinic calls exercise the most effective non-drug treatment for high blood pressure available. Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heartdoesn’t have to pump as hard, therefore reducing blood pressure.

The Mayo Clinic also acknowledges that sometimes 30 minutes is hard to come by in your busy day. You can still get protective benefits with shorter workouts throughout the day. If you need to do two 15 minute workouts or three 10 minutes workouts, you will still help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.


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