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US Task Force Recommends All Adults Under 65 Be Screened for Anxiety

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that all physicians screen adult patients under 65 for anxiety. The move was motivated by the country’s mental health epidemic in the wake of the pandemic.

The USPSTF is a panel of medical experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The panel said the recommendation was brought forward to prevent mental health disorders from going undetected or untreated for a long time. Over the last few years, people were more stressed and depressed, and anxiety levels went through the roof.

Between August 2020 to February 2021, adults with symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression increased by 25% worldwide. In 2021, 1 in 4 adults aged 18 to 44 received treatment for mental health.

The task force recognizes anxiety as “characterized by greater duration or intensity of a stress response over everyday events.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Lori Pbert, who is on the task force, says that Americans have been remarkably stressed out after a series of stressors like COVID-19, inflation, death of loved ones, fear of illness and crime rates. According to the NYTimes and CNN, Dr. Pbert said, “our only hope is that our recommendations throw a spotlight on the need to create greater access to mental health care — and urgently.”

“Our hope is that by raising awareness of these issues and having recommendations for clinicians, that we’ll be able to help all adults in the United States, including those who experience disparities.”

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The task force lists generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia under the umbrella of anxiety conditions and recommends screening those who are not already diagnosed with a disorder. The panel also recommended that adults be screened for depression.

Mental health providers appreciated the recommendations but acknowledged that while screening tools are helpful, they are not a diagnosis, and subsequent testing is required to determine if an individual has a clinical disorder. A one-time screening may only be indicative of a temporary stressor. Providers also spoke on the lack of resources to address the issue on a wide scale.

Dr. Jeffrey Staab, a psychiatrist and chair of the department of psychiatry and psychology at Mayo Clinic, said the country is “short on mental health resources on all levels — psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists — that’s a real concern.”

“When providers say, ‘You must have a disorder, here, take this,’ we could face an overprescribing problem, but the opposite scenario is that we have lots of people suffering who shouldn’t be. Both outcomes are possible.”

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Dr. Pbert also said the task force’s research showed that people from minority groups are often overlooked in mental health research, contributing to continued systemic inequality both in and outside the medical field.

The primary care practice is currently a missed opportunity for screening. Black and Hispanic people are less likely to be treated for mental health conditions than white people and are more often misdiagnosed when they do receive care. Dr. Pbert said standardized screenings might help reduce those statistics by removing other factors like implicit bias.

The USPSTF made a similar recommendation for children earlier in the year. The task force set the age range to 65 and younger because older adults may produce positive screening results due to the natural aging effects such as fatigue and generalized pain.

The panel will finalize the draft after reviewing public comments and notes submitted before the Oct. 17 deadline. Though the recommendation is not mandatory, many physicians use the panel’s guidance to improve their standard of care.

lockdown

China’s Zero-COVID Policy Causes Mass Food and Supply Shortages

China’s ongoing zero-Covid policy has caused a massive shortage of food and essential supplies for millions of people.

The country enacted its controversial zero-Covid policy to contain the virus’s spread, utilizing authoritarian methods for its enforcement, even in the case of a few infections within a population. Thirty regions spread across China are placed under full or partial lockdown.

Authorities have banned citizens from leaving or entering their cities to purchase essential supplies. In some regions, the government has resorted to drastic measures to prevent citizens from coming into close contact.

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People residing in Xinjiang, a subdistrict in Henan Province, have taken to social media platforms like Weibo to post about widespread food, medication and essential supply shortages. The subdistrict has been in lockdown for over a month, and posts show a grim story of being unable to access medical care or replenish supplies since supermarkets closed.

“It’s been 15 days, we are out of flour, rice, eggs. From days ago, we run out of milk for kids.”

Xinjiang has long been under scrutiny by the international community. A U.N. report accused China of mass “human rights violations” against its Muslim minority and Uyghur population.

Authorities are resorting to turning off elevators to prevent residents from leaving their buildings. According to BBC, authorities locked down 500,000 residents in the Guizhou province without warning.

In Chengdu, a city of 21 million people, residents were instructed to stay inside during a 6.6 magnitude earthquake. Videos surfaced online of people trying to exit their buildings, only to find police had locked the doors, trapping them inside. Only 156 cases of covid had been reported.

In Xi’an, a man died of a heart attack after being refused admission by hospital employees. A woman who was eight months pregnant and bleeding was turned away, resulting in a miscarriage.

A video of an Uyghur man pleading for assistance for his children, who had not eaten for three days, surfaced online. In Yining city, 300 people signed an online shared document requesting food, medicine and sanitary pads.

“I’m out of money to buy supplies. My wife is pregnant and we have two kids. We are running out of gas. My wife needs a medical check.”

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Chinese media outlets are accusing authorities of flooding social media with benign posts about Xinjiang in a campaign to drown out posts about living conditions.

The Independent reports that one media outlet published a leaked document from the government instructing censors to “open a campaign of comment flooding.” The order asks enforcers to post content about domestic life, parenting, cooking and personal status updates.

 “All internet commentary organizational work units must carry out comment flooding work at the relevant times … the time period in question is from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight.”

Users on the platform quickly recognized the propaganda comments and spoke out, ridiculing them, prompting the accounts to go private.

In May, the World Health Organization advised China to change its containment policy, warning that the policy was unsustainable knowing the virus’s behavior. The organization urged the country to consider such a stringent policy’s human rights concerns and economic cost.

polio

New York Declares State of Emergency After Finding Polio Virus in Wastewater

New York declared a state of emergency Friday after detecting polio virus in Long Island wastewater. The discovery in Nassau County, Long Island, signals a more extensive virus spread within the state’s population.

In July, Rockland County confirmed the first case of polio in the United States since 1993. The county is less than 50 miles from New York City. Officials began testing waters in surrounding counties shortly after and found the virus in Orange and Sullivan counties’ wastewater.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T Basset warns that one observed case of the paralytic disease usually signals hundreds of asymptomatic infected individuals. Even if an infected individual is asymptomatic, they may be contagious for days to weeks.

“Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”

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Polio is highly contagious. If infected, most people will have mild or no symptoms. A smaller percentage of infected individuals may develop more severe symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord. According to the state’s health department, “New Yorkers should know that paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio because it can lead to permanent disability and death.”

The World Health Organization states that one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among the most vulnerable are children under five, who comprise a large percentage of the infected population.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Friday to expand the medical personnel who can administer the vaccine. EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists will be able to vaccinate individuals. Health care providers will also need to send immunization data to the New York State Department of Health so that officials can determine which counties are at the most risk and have the highest vaccine demand.

Officials are urging the public to vaccinate if they have not already done so. Dr. Basset told the public Friday, “do not wait to vaccinate” and “on polio, we simply cannot roll the dice.”

“If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”

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Children can be vaccinated if they are two months or older. The statewide polio vaccination rate sits at around 79%. The counties with contaminated wastewater all had lower rates of vaccinations, and the confirmed case in July was in an unvaccinated adult.

Polio spreads through person-to-person contact. In the 1940s, polio disabled an average of more than 35,000 individuals and caused 15,000 cases of paralysis a year. Due to a widespread vaccine campaign beginning in 1955, polio cases fell to less than 100 in the 1960s.

People most susceptible to infection are those who never had the polio vaccine, who never completed the vaccine regimen or those who will be traveling to areas that could put them at a high risk of catching the virus.

patient

Mysterious Disease Plagues Argentina And Claims Third Victim

An unknown form of pneumonia has been found in Argentina and killed three people and sickened at least six other individuals. 

The individuals who have come down with the new illness have been tested for other pneumonia-causing bugs, including COVID-19 and have all come back as negative.

All the most recent cases have been reported right around the small region of Tucumán, roughly 800 miles from the capital of Buenos Aires.

“It’s obviously concerning but we still need key information on transmission and hopefully [ the] underlying cause,” said Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global health at Edinburgh University.

Reports from Ministry of Public Health of Tucmán Province stated that the first six cases all had similar symptoms including fevers, muscle pain, abdominal pain and had difficulty breathing.

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“What these patients have in common is the severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia and compromise in [Z-ray] images very similar to COVID, but that is ruled out,” said Tucmán health minister Luis Medina Ruiz. 

The European Centre for Disease Control’s epidemic intelligence team has been looking at and monitoring the rising cases since Tuesday and scientists at the World Health Organization started tracking as well.

Since Tucmán is the only place known to be the origin of the infection, local officials have also been testing the water and air conditioning units to see if there are any factors there as well.

Currently there has been no proof that this mysterious pneumonia has been contagious from person-to-person transmission.

Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC in an interview that it is pretty impossible at this stage to say what the impact of the disease might since it is still so new.

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“These things happen from time to time. Often they just fizzle out, but not always. Sometimes they cause a substantial local outbreak or something even bigger,” said Hunter.

He hopes that within the next few days that the experts who are working on the new disease will have even more answers due to the rapid speed that the tests can give results too. 

Dr. Ruiz has also stated that given the current situation, it would be hard to predict an origin with it only being 11 days since the first case was announced.

Moreover, every person who has come in contact with the disease has has a difference response with the outbreak. 

There is nothing that health officials can do at this point besides wait only because there is still many unknowns that are linked to the disease. 

 

pill

A Single-Dose ‘Polypill’ Found To Be A Life Saving Drug

A three-in-one drug combo was recently found and it helps those who have a history of heart attacks find a new way to stay healthy. 

In a recent clinical study led by Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai in New York City, he studied roughly 2,499 patients across seven European countries. 

These patients have had a history of type 1 myocardial infarction within the last six months or were over the age of 75 or had a minimum age of 65 with at least one high risk faster.

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A handful of the patients were given the polypill that had aspirin, ramipril and atorvastatin while the other received typical care. The groups were followed over the next three years.

Typically after a patient suffers a heart attack, they are prescribed three different drugs. These usually are aspirin, ramipril or another drug for blood pressure and a cholesterol-lowering drug. 

However, usually less than 50% of patients take their prescriptions as they are prescribed by the doctor. 

“Although most patients initially adhere to treatment after an acute event such as an infarction [tissue death], adherence drops off after the first few months. Our goal was to have an impact right from the start, and most of the patients in the study began taking a simple polypill in the first week after having a heart attack” 

“The results were, frankly, very exciting,” said Fuster. 

After the study, the outcome was overwhelmingly positive. The results found that there was 24% reduction in heart disease or other heart problems.

The new drug also helped reveal that it helped cut the high risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 33%. 

“The SECURE study findings suggest that the polypill could become an integral element of strategies to prevent recurrent cardiovascular events in patients who have had a heart attack. By simplifying treatment and improving adherence, this approach has the potential to reduce the risk of recurrent cardiovascular disease and death on a global scale,” said Fuster. 

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According to UPI, the polypill that has been used within the study still hasn’t been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, Fuster believes that the positive results from the study could be submitted with an effort to hopefully gain approval.

“Combination pills are easier for the physician and for the patient, and the data is pretty clear – it translates into benefit,” said Dr. Thomas Wang, chair of the department of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. 

The combination of the drugs, in this all in one pill, seems to help lead to the improvements and the patients well being, people may be more likely to stay on top of their medications to help them improve their health which is a win win.

run

Study Finds Regular Physical Activity Could Reduce Covid-19 Risk 

According to a data analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular exercise can lower the risk of developing Covid-19 or getting seriously ill when one contracts the virus. The data suggests that about 20 minutes of exercise a day yielded the greatest results. 

The study stated that a weekly total of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity would give the greatest results. 

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“Regular physical activity seems to be related to a lower likelihood of adverse Covid-19 outcomes,” the team of researchers wrote. 

“Our analysis reveals that individuals who engage in regular physical activity have a lower likelihood of Sars-CoV-2 infection, Covid-19 hospitalization, severe Covid-19 illness and Covid-19-related death than physically inactive individuals, independent of design and instrument used.”

In general, exercise has a protective effect when it comes to respiratory infections. Regular physical activity reduces one’s chances of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a multitude of other illnesses, most recently Covid-19. 

The researchers emphasized that the analysis was relatively limited, so the results shouldn’t be taken at face value. The team attempted to quantify the specific threshold of physical activity needed to make an actual difference in lessening the risk of contracting Covid-19, or lessening the severity should one become infected. 

The study observed data from 1.8 million adults, 54% of which were women, and the median age of each individual was 53. 

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The data analysis showed that, overall, “those who included regular physical activity in their weekly routine had an 11% lower risk of infection with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid.”

Those individuals also had a 36% lower risk of hospitalization, a 44% lower risk of severe Covid-19, and a 43% lower risk of death from Covid-19. 

The research team also warned that the data was a result of “observational studies, differing study designs, subjective assessments of physical activity levels, and concerned only the Beta and Delta variants of Sars-CoV-2 rather than Omicron, all of which could weaken the findings.”

“There are plausible biological explanations for what we found. Regular moderate-intensity exercise may help to boost the body’s anti-inflammatory responses, as well as cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, all of which may explain its beneficial effects on Covid-19 severity,” the researchers said. 

“Our findings highlight the protective effects of engaging in sufficient physical activity as a public health strategy, with potential benefits to reduce the risk of severe Covid-19.”

“Given the heterogeneity and risk of publication bias, further studies with standardized methodology and outcome reporting are now needed,” they wrote. 

monkeypox

World Health Organization Declares Monkeypox Outbreak As A Global Health Emergency 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern, the strongest call to action the agency can make. 

Since 2009, the WHO has declared seven global health emergencies, the most recent being for Covid-19, which was declared an emergency back in 2020. 

According to the WHO’s international health regulations, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

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The UN health agency states that the term implies that the situation is very serious, sudden, unusual, and/or unexpected. A global health emergency also implies this is a threat for public health beyond national borders, and may require immediate international attention. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said at a press conference that the “committee met on Thursday to review the latest data, but were unable to reach a consensus.”

“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” he said. 

“For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

While he said the “risk of monkeypox is moderate globally, it’s high in Europe and there is a clear risk of further international spread.”

So far there have been around 16,000 cases of monkeypox globally, 4,132 of which were in the past week according to data from WHO. It’s now been found in 75 countries and territories, and there have been five deaths. 

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European regions have the highest number of total cases at 11,865, and the highest increase in cases within the last week, with 2,705. 

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the technical lead for monkeypox at the WHO health emergency program, stated that there’s “a lot of work to be done. Action must be taken to establish what causes risk and to reduce situations that could put people at risk so they can protect themselves. This is how we will get to the end of this outbreak.” 

Monkeypox is classified as a viral infection typically found in animals in central and western Africa, although it can cause outbreaks in humans, as we’ve been seeing. 

Besides Europe, cases have been reported throughout the US, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and others. 

Experts have stressed that anyone can get monkeypox as it’s spread through close or intimate contact. The UN has warned that some media portrayals of the virus impacting mainly Africans and individuals in the LGBT+ community “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.” 

Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO emergencies program, said: “We all know how difficult it has been historically to deal with issues like this because of stigma. If nothing else this is about enlightened self-interest, as well as solidarity with those affected.”

comic con

San Diego Comic-Con Mandating Masks And Health Pass Screenings To Attend 

San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) has released their set of safety protocols for attendees as the world combats the sixth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to the set of health and safety protocols, all convention attendees must provide vaccine verification that proves they’ve received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, or proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours. 

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Additionally, attendants must be wearing a mask the entire time they’re at the convention. Guidelines state that “face coverings should completely cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly against the side of the face, and not have any gaps.” 

The Los Angeles Times reported that as of Monday, “the California COVID Assessment Tool, published by the state Department of Public Health, said the spread of the coronavirus is likely increasing, with every infected Californian likely spreading it to 1.15 other people.”

“When you look at the [coronavirus] case counts, they’re no longer reliable. There are tremendous undercounts, and the number of cases now probably is not all that dissimilar to what we saw during the massive surge in December and January,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the UC San Francisco Department of Medicine, said. 

According to the SDCC’s FAQ page about attending the event, individuals can download the CLEAR app to easily upload their Covid-19 vaccine verification. 

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For unvaccinated individuals, SDCC says that “adults and children aged 5 and older who are not fully vaccinated, a recent negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained. All COVID-19 tests must be done by a certified lab, clinic, or physician. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within 72 hours. Additionally, both PCR and antigen are acceptable as long as testing is conducted within the time frame.”

The website for SDCC also emphasizes that they will have health and safety protocol enforcers at the event to ensure that everyone in attendance is adhering to the guidelines that are implemented for everyone’s safety. 

During May’s Star Wars celebration in Anaheim, California, and June’s Anime Exposition in Los Angeles similar protocols were put in place, which allowed staff at SDCC to prepare for the convention itself and enforce the covid safety protocols. 

SDCC kicks off with preview night this Wednesday, July 20th, and ends Sunday July 24th.

sanitize hands

Pandemic Habits To Maintain Long Term To Prevent Getting Sick

After being in the Covid-19 pandemic for more than two years, experts are emphasizing the preventative measures that we should adopt long term in order to prevent contracting other viruses like the flu.

Clinical Trial

A Small Cancer Trial Resulted In Remission For Every Patient Involved 

In a new research trial of 18 rectal cancer patients, every individual involved who took the same drug found themselves in remission for their illness. The cancer vanished in every single patient, meaning the cancer was undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, MRI scans, and PET scans. 

The research from the trial was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine from lead author Dr. Luiz A. Diaz Jr. of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The trial was sponsored by drug company GlaxoSmithKline, and Dr. Diaz stated that he knew of no other study where a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient involved. 

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“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer.”

Dr. Alan P. Venook, a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved with the study, said he also thought “this was a first. A complete remission in every single patient is unheard-of,” he said.

The rectal cancer patients involved in the study have all previously experienced invasive and intense treatments for their conditions including chemotherapy, radiation, and life-altering surgery that could result in bowel, urinary, and sexual dysfunction. 

When the patients received the news that they would no longer need treatment for their cancer, as it was no longer existent, Dr. Andrea Cercek, a co-author of the paper, said “there was a lot of happy tears from everyone.”

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Venook added that another major surprise was that none of the patients had any clinically significant complications from the trial drug. On average 20% of patients who take a drug similar to the one used in the trial, dostarlimab, have some sort of adverse reaction. 

In the trial the medication was given every three weeks for six months, each dose cost around $11,000. The drug itself is meant to “unmask” cancer cells, allowing the body’s immune system to easily identify and destroy them. 

“While most adverse reactions are easily managed, as many as 3% to 5% of patients who take checkpoint inhibitors have more severe complications that, in some cases, result in muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing and chewing. The absence of significant side effects, means that either they did not treat enough patients or, somehow, these cancers are just plain different,” Venook said.

Dr. Hanna K. Sanoff of the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, called it “small but compelling, though, that it is not clear if the patients are cured. Very little is known about the duration of time needed to find out whether a clinical complete response to dostarlimab equates to cure.”