Posts tagged with "center for disease control"

Art by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

Scientists Mapping Next Pandemic

An international team of scientists has created a powerful new resource to speed the development of vaccines and treatments to battle the next pandemic.

University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher Wladek Minor, PhD, and collaborators in China and Poland have developed an Internet information system, called virusMED, that lays out all we know about the atomic structure and potential vulnerabilities of more than 800 virus strains from 75 different virus families, including SARS-CoV-2, influenza, Ebola and HIV‑1. Several of the collaborators, including the lead investigator, Heping Zheng, are former students and members of Minor’s lab at UVA. 

This new panorama of the proteins of potential threats will help scientists respond quickly and effectively against the next pathogen poised to wreak havoc on humanity. Minor and his collaborators compare the resource to Google Maps, in that it organizes and annotates major points of interest on a virus that scientists can use as a roadmap in drug and vaccine development.

“The battle with COVID-19 is not over yet, but we cannot wait to start preparing for the next pandemic. VirusMED is a step towards an advanced information system that brings together researchers with diverse expertise to tackle complex biomedical challenges,” said Minor, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at UVA. “The information contained in virusMED will help viral researchers from many disciplines, especially those working on drug design or anti-viral therapies. We provide novel structural analysis and integrate pertinent information from various resources to provide a comprehensive picture of the proteins’ most important and vulnerable regions.”

Virus Hotspots

By quickly unlocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus mechanism of action, scientists were able to develop safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. Minor’s new database aims to put that type of critical information at scientists’ fingertips in one convenient location.

VirusMED contains extensive information on virus species and strains, hosts, viral proteins and antibodies, as well as drugs that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among other important scientific data. The researchers call the points of interest on a virus its “hotspots,” and these hotspots make for strong starting points for drug and vaccine development.

“One of the most promising strain-indifferent antibody therapies developed for the treatment of COVID-19 used this type of information to improve upon a unique antibody isolated from a survivor who was infected by the SARS virus back in 2003,” said David Cooper, PhD, research faculty in Minor’s lab. “People who are surprised by rapid drug and vaccine design don’t realize that researchers today are building upon decades of previous research.”

One of virusMED’s major advantages is that it brings together the extant knowledge about viruses in one location, Minor said. Previously, that data was spread across multiple resources and often “siloed” so that it was not easily accessible. With virusMED, researchers can browse the information by virus or by their hotspot of interest.

The free and accessible database can be found HERE.

“One of the goals of my lab is to make tools that other scientists can use. We look at the forest and find ways to help others focus on the trees,” Minor said. “Resource generation is not glamorous, but the ultimate goal of science is to make life better. One of the anonymous peer-reviewers of the paper claimed they instantly became an enthusiastic user of the system. We expect virusMED to really make a difference.”

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific IUCr Journal. The work will be featured on the journal’s cover. The research team consisted of HuiHui Zhang, Pei Chen, Haojie Ma, Magdalena Woinska, Dejian Liu, Cooper, Guo Peng, Yousong Peng, Lei Deng, Minor and Zheng. .

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

Frontliners by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

AHCA/NCAL Urges Guidance from CDC

In a letter addressed to Rochelle P. Walensky, the Director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) is requesting further guidance, data-sharing, and urgency into researching the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination, especially in regard to the elderly population. The AHCA/NCAL, represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year.


The AHCA/NCAL reports: “need for urgency on this matter is painfully evident. For nearly a year, long term care residents have been unable to visit with their loved ones in-person or participate in enriching social activities. Despite our staff’s heroic efforts to keep residents engaged and fill the void of family members, we are deeply concerned that the prolonged isolation of our residents is impacting their health and wellbeing. Prioritizing research on the vaccines’ effectiveness among our population would help ensure these facilities can swiftly and safely reopen, improving the lives of our vulnerable seniors.”

While earlier guidance from the CDC urged nursing homes to restrict group activities and visitors, the vaccination has now been administered millions of nursing home residents. As a result of this, the AHCA/NCAL hopes to see changes in the guidance previously administered by the CDC in order to improve the quality of life for their residents under these new conditions.

To achieve this goal, the NHCA/NCAL is asking for CDC’s support to rapidly evaluate the vaccines’ effectiveness among the long term care population in both preventing spread and in reducing morbidity and mortality. The NHCA reports that the organization understands that clinical trials only evaluated the effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease and severe illness, and participants did not include long term care residents. Therefore, they are requesting further study regarding the vaccines’ impact on transmission and the elderly population before revising guidance to long term care settings. The NHCA/NCAL asks that the CDC expedite this evaluation of the vaccines in order to bring clarity to states, providers, residents and family members as soon as possible.

Fortunately, preliminary analysis by AHCA/NCAL reports that the vaccines may be as effective as hoped. Their research division, the Center for Health Policy Evaluation in Long Term Care (CHPE), found that COVID-19 cases decreased at a faster rate among nursing homes that had completed their first vaccine clinic, compared to nearby nursing homes that had not yet administered the vaccine. More specifically, the CHPE analysis reports:

  • Vaccinated nursing homes experienced a 48% decline in new resident cases three weeks after the first clinic, compared to a 21% decline among non-vaccinated nursing homes located in the same county.
  • Similarly, new staff cases declined by 33% in vaccinated nursing homes compared to 18% in non-vaccinated facilities.

While encouraging, further study is needed to determine if these trends will continue in subsequent clinics or after the second dose of the vaccine. The AHCA/NCAL requests that data and funding be made available to the research community to expedite this ongoing analysis. Both organizations are willing to assist the CDC in this effort through facilitating data sharing between providers and researchers, as well as connecting with experts from the public and private sector to assist with data waiting to be evaluated.

As the CDC has taken great effort to administer residents and staff their second dose of the vaccine, many states have started planning reopening strategies. The AHCA/NCAL reports on the reopenings: “State governments play a vital role in contributing to the protection of our residents and staff during this time. However, in this situation, we believe that cohesion is needed to ensure effective outcomes. Without guidance from the federal government, states may create confusing or inconsistent practices.”

In hope of creating consistent practices surrounding reopening, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living is requesting that the CDC reiterate their most up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 safety practices. Since the effectiveness of the vaccine isn’t fully determined, the AHCA/NCAL emphasizes the importance of clear communication with stakeholders to make sure that everyone understands the stressed importance and vigilance of vaccination efforts.

COVID 19 by Symara Wilson for 360 Magazine, Covid Travel restriction

Coronavirus Mutations × U.S. Travel Restrictions

By: Emily Bunn

A breaking news article featured in The New York Times announced that the United States will be imposing a mandatory requirement for negative COVID-19 test results from all incoming, international travelers. The requirement for proof of a negative test in order to fly will begin Tuesday, January 25th.

The CDC has ordered for all travelers to provide proof of a negative test taken no more than 3 days before their travels. Without documentation of a negative test or documentation of recovery supplemented with a letter from a health care provider or public health official, passengers will be prohibited to fly.

The United States is not the only country to be putting in place tighter travel regulations. Due to new mutations of the virus, many countries are adopting stricter border protocol. The New York Times reports:

“Even as the United States moved to impose travel restrictions, citing the danger of the fast-moving variants, a case of the variant spreading in Brazil was identified in Minnesota.”

Variations of the virus in Brazil and South Africa, due to international travel, both pose the threat of COVID-19 mutating. If the virus does mutate, it is potential that the new strain of such will be unreactive to current vaccination efforts.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to President Biden, has commented: “With the world travel that you have, and the degree of transmissibility efficiency, it’s not surprising.” Further, President Biden has broadcasted a ban on travel by all non-citizens into the United States from South Africa, the U.K., Ireland, and 26 other European countries.

An article published today on AP News reported that in attempts to increase vaccination efforts, President Biden announced that his administration is planning to purchase 100 million doses of each of the approved coronavirus vaccines–Pfizer and Moderna. Vaccination deliveries to states will be surged for the next three weeks. The Biden administration has announced that they plan to vaccinate 300 million citizens by the end of summer, as reported by The New York Times.

The President, in a White House briefing on January 26th, commented on importance of increasing vaccination supplies to help Americans:

“And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way.  We can do this if we come together, if we listen to the scientists.”

These efforts come at an especially critical time, as the global number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 100 million, reports The Wall Street Journal. However, that has been recent speculation regarding the accuracy of that number. In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has been accused of undercounting the amount of coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes. A report released by Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York, shows that the coronavirus death count appears to have been cut by approximately 50 percent. The report compares the number of facility deaths publicized by the Department of Health–1,229 deaths, versus the number of facility deaths reported the Office of Attorney General–1,914 deaths. This staggering discrepancy between reported deaths has spurred suspicion against Cuomo, and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) is conducting an on-going investigation concerning the cause of these variances.

However, there is still hope. In Los Angeles, Governor Gavin Newsom rescinded the county’s stay-at-home order this past Monday, reports The Los Angeles Times. This new jurisdiction will allow for all counties in California to return to the four-tier, colored-coded system of assessing coronavirus risk. Lifting the imposed stay-at-home order could allow for the reopening of personal care services and outdoor dining. While LA has been particularly hard hit by coronavirus, the city actually has a higher vaccination rate than most other comparable cities in the U.S. The New York Times reports that “83 percent of the doses the city has received have been administered, compared with 74 percent in New York City; 52 percent in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio; and 58 percent of the doses ordered in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.”

While the coronavirus situation is still being closely tracked and monitored, hospitalizations and the number of patients in ICUs have been steadily declining. With hospitalizations at their national lowest since December 13th and an increase in vaccination efforts, there is progress to be recognized, despite current setbacks and uncertainties.

Despite progress in vaccination efforts and decreasing corona virus cases, new virus mutations pose critical cause for concern. In countries across the Asia-Pacific region, a new, more infectious variant–the Delta variant–is causing stay-at-home orders to be again put into place. This new variant was first identified in India, and has quickly been spreading. As restrictions begin yet again, countries across the globe are grappling with the harrowing fate that the pandemic is far from over.

In some major Australian cities, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Darwin, residents have been forced into strict lockdowns. Flights are even being banned due to the new threat, with Hong Kong barring British entry. Indefinite stay-at-home orders were extended by the Malaysian government on Monday. In Malaysia, the new variant is especially threatening, as only 6% of the country’s residents are fully vaccinated, reports the New York Times.

India has faced a devastating, major second wave of coronavirus due to the Delta Plus variant, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant. This past spring, the dangerous variant caused thousands of deaths per day, and forced residents into partial stay-at-home orders, yet again. Much like in Malaysia, in India only 5% of the population is fully vaccinated. In fear of a third wave of the virus, Maharashtra’s chief minister, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, has authorized the use of a fourth vaccine in an attempt to increase vaccination supplies.

In good news, the Covid-19 vaccination is largely effective against the new Delta variant. However, this Delta variant is 50 percent more contagious than several of the other variants of concern, such as the Alpha variant.

As countries continue reopening, people look toward high vaccination rates to change the coronavirus game. In the U.S. and Britain, officials are planning to, or already have, lift most pandemic restrictions. White House secretary, Jen Psaki, recently announced that the United States would send two million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Peru. Additionally, the U.S. looks to send 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan. A third shipment of 1.5 million Moderna vaccination doses will be sent to Honduras from the United States.

Looking ahead to this weekend, July 30-Aug 1, 2021, the return of  a major musical festival threatens a super-spreader event. The highly infectious variant of COVID-19 has again created a surge in the number of recent coronavirus cases. As festival fans migrate to Chicago for Lollapalooza – the first of which held since 2019 – the Windy City braces for the potentially devastating impact.

Fortunately, the festival is taking several precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. All attendees must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of event entry. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that not all guests will be honest about meeting these requirements.

The head of the BBB, Steve Bernas, warns of the potential for festival scammers who fabricate fake vaccine cards and negative test results. “We anticipate a double whammy this year not only the tickets but also the vaccine cards,” Bernas said in a statement. “The scammers will be out in full force.” He continues, cautioning ticket buyers to be on high-alert: “Just like finding tickets, there are countless ways for consumers to find vaccinations cards online, with online marketplaces, ticket sellers, resellers and the like…and unfortunately, some of them are rip-offs”

One of Chicago’s top coronavirus experts, Dr. Emily Landon, also weighed in on the weekend’s festivities. She argues that Lollapalooza’s 72-hour testing window is too lenient, and that the city is inviting in a massive spike of cases by holding the concert. NBC Chicago reports that Dr. Emily Landon commented, “Lolla has let us down with respect to how vigorously they’re restricting people based on the things that they sort of initially told us (about how) ‘we’re going to be really strict’ and now it’s like they’ve lightened up quite considerably on checking vaccines and negative tests.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady expressed concerns similar to Dr. Emily Landon’s. Recognizing the importance of getting vaccinated, she commented the following in a coronavirus update last week: “We want people to have a good time and we want this to be as safe as it can be…And so certainly we’ll be watching that just as we do any other gathering, but I am more concerned about the many people who have not chosen the COVID vaccine.”

Still, Chicago’s mayor and top doctor still haven’t wavered their support for the much-loved music festival. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed her desire the event to occur as safely as possible, though she didn’t comment on the recent uptick in case numbers and coronavirus hospitalizations. NBC 5 Chicago reports on the current coronavirus statistics in the city:

“Chicago’s average daily number of new cases rose to 130 per day early Monday – a 76% jump compared to last week. The city’s average daily case rate was at 90 per day last week and 41 per day the week before that, meaning it’s more than tripled in roughly three weeks. However, it is still significantly lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.”

Additional safety measures, including mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, will also be enforced. The Chicago Transit Authority is offering reduced ticket rates this weekend for Lollapalooza travelers.

As Summer winds down, COVID-19 cases are beginning to rise yet again. Several virus variants, including the new Lambda variant, are causing major concern among Americans. In an attempt to quell concern, several cities have launched vaccine passport programs.

Across the United States, metropolitan hubs including New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans are requiring residents to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor spaces. That means that visiting gyms, concerts, restaurants, and more will require citizens to have both of their required vaccination shots. Vaccine passports are not being put in place to stop public gatherings, but are intended to creater safer enviroments outside of one’s home.

However, many Americans are opting to stay indoors yet again, thanks to new variant threats. The Lambda variant, which was first detected in Peru and is quckly spreading through South America, is causing concern among citizens. The New York Times reports that “On June 14, the World Health Organization designated it as a “variant of interest,” meaning, essentially, that experts suspect it could be more dangerous than the original strain.

However, it has been reported that the Lambda variant is likely not as contagious as other deadly virus mutuations, like the Delta variant. And fortunately, the Lambda variant is able to be combatted by the vaccines that have currently rolled out across the U.S. The New York Times records the climbing numbers of the Lambda variant, “As of mid-June, Lambda had been reported in 29 countries, territories or areas, according to a June 15 update from the W.H.O. The variant had been detected in 81 percent of coronavirus samples sequenced in Peru since April, and 31 percent of those in Chile to date, the agency said.” However, assessing the virus has been difficult due to Latin America’s limited ability to conduct geonomic surveillance and follow-up laboratory studies, reports the NYT. Scientists and medical professionals around the world are currently conducting research to better understand this new variant and its implications.

HotelPlanner’s Delta Variant Coverage:

America’s comeback is in jeopardy. The Delta variant is surging, prompting concerns that we need another lockdown. Travel executives are already huddling, discussing potential next steps to both protect guests and their businesses’ bottom lines. Americans were traveling in record numbers, and people are wondering if this could slow down the sector. How could the Delta variant, and other emerging variants, impact travel?

“We are watching the rapid uptick in Delta variant case infections closely, says Tim Hentschel, Co-Founder and CEO of HotelPlanner. “Although some families may choose to curtail their summer travel plans, we remain confident that the vast majority of Americans who were planning to travel this summer will keep their plans, while exercising more caution with crowds and destination selection. For those who are already vaccinated, the Delta variant shouldn’t be a deterrent to summer travel because they should be protected.”

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Founded in 2004, HotelPlanner has enduring partnerships with the world’s largest Online Travel Agencies, well-known hotel chains, individual hotels, online wedding providers, ancillary lodging providers, corporations, sports franchises, universities, and government agencies.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Risk Increases During Holidays

By Hannah DiPilato

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Covid cases are skyrocketing all over the country and officials are advising people to social distance this holiday season.

According to CNN, more than 12 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died. With those that are elderly or immune-compromised, the risk of complications due to COVID-19 is higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the safety guidelines for traveling. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Walke continued.

The CDC has also recommended people stay in their immediate households for the holiday season. Even without traveling across the country, seeing those you don’t usually see can lead to a breakout of coronavirus.

Walke said he does not plan to visit his own family for the holiday season. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” he continued, “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

If you plan to gather with those outside of your immediate household, there are important precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, keep gatherings as small as possible. Many states have restrictions in place which limit the number of people allowed to gather inside. Check your local and state regulations to ensure your gathering is following the laws.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz said, “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”

If possible, move your Thanksgiving dinner outside. Coronavirus is less likely to spread outside where there is better ventilation than indoors. Although many places are getting cold, tell your guests to load up with blankets and winter gear. If it’s too cold for an outside gathering, keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

One of the most important and simplest things you can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask. In many states, masks are required in public places and Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Keep your mask on unless eating and remain six feet away from other guests.

It is also recommended that guests handle making their own food and bringing their own utensils to Thanksgiving dinner this year. This prevents the spread of germs as well as cross-contamination between households. Remember to frequently wash your hands when cooking, eating and generally to stop the spread of germs.

Covid cases are rising in communities as well as healthcare networks which is making the virus even harder to handle. Many more people are becoming hospitalized due to the virus and healthcare workings are at risk.

According to the Associated Press, 905 staff members at The Mayo Clinic Health System have been infected with coronavirus in the last two weeks. The Mayo Clinic Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in the midwest that are run by Mayo Clinic.

Executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Dr. Amy Williams, said that most cases came from exposure within the community and not from work. “It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

If a virtual gathering isn’t in your Thanksgiving plans this year and you will be seeing people outside of your family in person, consider isolating yourself beforehand. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 days, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not carry the virus. Although a negative test result for coronavirus isn’t a sure sign of safety, it is an extra precaution everyone should add before mingling this holiday season.

Besides getting a coronavirus test, people should also consider a 14-day quarantine before seeing loved ones, or afterward. Isolating before seeing family will decrease the risk of spreading the disease within your holiday circle. If you plan on traveling for the holiday, consider isolating yourself after returning to prevent the spread of covid in your community.

The CDC has predicted this will be a dark winter and although a vaccine is in the works, it likely won’t be ready for mass distribution for a few more weeks. The holiday season will only lead to more cases with an increase in travel and group gatherings. As the weather in many places gets colder, inside gatherings are more likely to occur.

The CDC also recommends everyone get their flu shot for the upcoming flu season. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help the healthcare system more easily manage the large influx of people going to the hospital.

In all states except Hawaii, Maine and Vermont, there is an active or imminent outbreak of coronavirus according to Covid Act Now. Even these three states are at risk for an outbreak. Currently, North Dakota has the highest number of new daily cases per 100,000 people with 159.6 cases. Wyoming and New Mexico follow closely behind.

Many states have separated their cities and counties into different zones depending on the number of Covid cases present. The restrictions in place for these areas are then determined by the number of cases.

New York City is starting to enforce tighter restrictions as cases start to rise. “In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” said Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed.  I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.” There is currently a 10 person gathering limit and a curfew for nonessential businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Similarly, in Boston, Governor Charlie Baker has released a stay-at-home advisory for the same time frame. People are urged to only go out between these hours for essentials. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

Things on the west coast seem just as bleak. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries will be closed for dine-in services for at least three weeks. People in Los Angeles are being advised to stay home and have a similar curfew to Boston and New York City.

In some cities where cases are skyrocketing, restrictions are not being put in place as heavily as in California and New York. In Miami, restaurants are able to be open to 100% capacity and seat 10 people per table. Most things in Miami are reopened, but with restrictions such as requiring masks.

It is crucial for everyone to work together to bring covid cases back down over the coming weeks. As cases spike, it is important to remember that each state has precautions in place for a reason. Although many states won’t fully shut down, you can decide to continue social distancing and only going out for essentials.

Flower Illustration

Advice for the Holiday Season

This holiday season is going to be one of the more unusual ones. Between a pandemic and a polarizing political year, the family get-together is going to look a little different. What do you need to know to make it go as smoothly as possible? Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, cross-cultural trainer, author and founder of Access to Culture, has offered her advice. 

Plan and Prepare in Advance but Be Flexible

A good host prepares their holiday gathering well in advance, but keep in mind you may have to practice being flexible. If COVID numbers rise, as they appear to be, you might have to postpone or cancel the festivities this year. Invited guests to a holiday celebration should respect the host’s decision to make changes, even if it comes at the last minute.  

Follow CDC Guidelines and Local Regulations

To keep everyone safe, follow the latest recommended CDC guidelines such as maintaining six feet of distance from others, providing proper ventilation, frequent hand washing, mask-wearing, smaller gatherings, and spending more time outdoors if the weather permits. Make sure and let your guests know in advance the protocols you will be following and that they are expected to follow as well. 

When in Doubt, Stay Home

In years past, maybe you would still attend Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner if you had a little cold or were slightly under the weather. This year, however, it’s just not worth the risk. Keep in mind in this pandemic-driven world that it’s not only about your health and well-being but also about being respectful of the people around you. 

Remember Your Manners

This holiday season is going to be especially challenging for all of us as we continue to manage the pandemic. The best thing we can do is be on our best behavior by practicing patience, acting with civility and respect, and being kind to each other. Don’t be a rogue guest. Avoid discussion about sex, politics, and religion. Don’t ask prying questions. Focus on gratitude and treat others how you want to be treated.

BYOM (Bring Your Own Meal & Mask)

BYOM serves double duty this year, with the ‘M’ meaning meal and mask. In the past, it was customary for guests to bring at least one dish to the holiday gathering. This year, for safety, asking each family attending to bring their own meal is not out of the question. It should also go without saying that each guest should arrive wearing a mask. Hosts need to let their guests know the BYOM rules ahead of time so there is no confusion and awkwardness. 

Drive Instead of Fly When Possible

Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel period of the year for air travel. Although air travel has been deemed rather safe despite COVID concerns, nonetheless it still increases your risk. When possible, turn holiday travel this year into a fun road trip. Consider traveling at off-peak times to avoid contact with the crowd of other holiday travelers.  

Be Aware of “Naive Realism”

Psychologists identify this as our tendency to believe that the way we see the world is the way the world really exists. Your view of COVID, politics or anything else is only one of a range of numerous perspectives. When in conversation with others, remember that your view isn’t everyone’s reality.

Opioid Crisis Takes a Turn with Death of Founder

By: Elle Grant

The opioid epidemic is one of the great public health crises facing the United States today. Over the past two decades, the crisis has ebbed and flowed in different moments, but overall deaths, especially amongst younger people, have increased at an alarming rate. One of the most distinct drugs at the root of the problem is OxyContin from the company Purdue Pharma, a substance now known to be distinctly addictive and dangerous.

OxyContin, also known on the street as killers, OC, Oxy, poor man’s heroin or Oxycotton, is dangerous particularly due to its most active ingredient; “a 12-hour, time-released form of oxycodone, a synthetic form of morphine that is found in common painkillers like Percodan and Percocet.” Alarmingly, OxyContin can have as much as ten times the amount of oxycodone as an average Percodan or Percocet. Approved by the FDA in 1995, the National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts the “chronic use of drugs such as OxyContin can lead to physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped, including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. Large doses can cause severe, potentially fatal, respiratory depression.” Intended to be taken orally, many patients and addicts chose to inject or snort the pills (after being modified) to quicken and heighten the effects. Oxycodone is intensely addictive, requiring more frequent and stronger doses as the body becomes dependent.

Efforts were being made to hold OxyContin owners and Purdue Pharma executives accountable for their actions. Thousands of lawsuits had been filed against the Sackler family, one of America’s wealthiest with an estimated combined net worth of about $13 billion. One of the main pillars of the family was Jonathan Sackler, son of one of the three Sackler brothers that transformed the small drug company Purdue Frederick into a hugely profitable pharmaceutical firm. Sackler passed away on the June 30 due to cancer, complicating many of the lawsuits as he was often named a defendant. Other members of his family have been named other defendants, depending on the case.

The famed OxyContin pill launched in the mid-1990s and was continually and thoroughly promoted by the Connecticut based family. The members of the family are charged with the accusation that “eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the US opioid epidemic” due to an unethical, irresponsible, and often illegal scheme. Furthermore, “the actions of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma included sharing studies that they knew were misleading, claiming that this was an effective, long-term treatment that didn’t give rise to risks of addiction,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told reporters at a news conference last year. “Those claims were verifiably false and ignored expert warnings. And they even undermined studies suggesting that there were addictive effects.”

Purdue as a company as well as the Sackler family deny any wrongdoing. Currently, Purdue seeks bankruptcy protection in order to counteract nearly 3,000 lawsuits that attribute blame to Purdue for beginning the opioid crisis. A Department of Justice criminal investigation is ongoing, relating to this process.

The opioid crisis, an epidemic that has spanned from 1999 to the present, has killed almost 500,000 individuals, potentially more. This count includes those that have died from an overdose involving an opioid, including both prescription and illicit opioids. Said epidemic can be characterized in three waves. The first beginning with the rise of prescribed opioids in the 1990s, including “natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone.” The second wave is marked by an increase of overdose deaths specifically related to heroin. The third commenced in 2013, with alarmingly stark increases in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, especially those “involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl” Unfortunately, “the market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.”

Many Americans are unaware of the impact of the opioid crisis, or the fact that it is becoming increasingly, not decreasingly relevant to society. Yet, there are signs of positive change. Overall opioid-involved death rates decreased by 2% from 2017 to 2018, with sharper drops in prescription and heroin-involved deaths. Yet the increase in synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by 10%, proving more work must be done to protect Americans. Currently, the Center for Disease Control combats this epidemic by monitoring trends, advancing research, equipping states with resources, supporting providers, partnering with public safety officials, and increasing public awareness.

Apart from crooked doctors, big pharmaceuticals, especially Jonathan Sackler, the Sackler family, and Purdue Pharma have received a majority of the blame for the epidemic. Jonathan Sackler’s death marks the death of who many see as a villain, but before justice was served in the American court system.

The opioid crisis, two decades in, has captivated the American imagination through film and media, as many crises often due. Netflix in particular has made efforts to document the crisis, including with the true crime series The Pharmacist and the limited series The Business of Drugs. Coming to Netflix next month is the long-awaited Hillbilly Elegy, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams, both nominated for six Academy Awards each. The film lends a careful eye towards Appalachia, an area ravaged by the opioid epidemic, and features Adams in the role of a struggling addict. The film has already generated major Oscar buzz and will certainly bring further attention to a crucial issue.

Addiction is an incredibly difficult disease to combat. If you or a love one is struggling, please consider contacting the national hotline.

Mosquito illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 MAGAZINE

Preventing Mosquito Bites Around Your Home

By Dr. Craig Stoops

For many people, mosquitoes are a part of life in the summer. Their presence is annoying and can even threaten the health of people and pets.  

Fortunately, there are ways people can protect themselves against mosquito bites. Three effective ways to control mosquitoes around a house and limit exposure to their bites are: 1) Source reduction, 2) EPA-approved repellents, and 3) Hiring a professional.

Source reduction

Many mosquito species like to use water found in unattended bird baths or discarded items such as buckets, tarps, and children’s toys as locations to lay their eggs and continue the next generation. By emptying and cleaning bird baths and discarding items that can hold water (often called “tip and toss”) one can greatly diminish the mosquito population around their house and protect themselves from mosquito bites.

It is important to get your neighbors involved as well. What they do will impact you because mosquitoes will easily go from one property to the one next door seeking a blood meal.

EPA-approved repellents

There are numerous safe and effective insect repellents available on the market in a variety of formulations such as sprays, creams and wipes. The best and longest-lasting repellents contain the active ingredient DEET, but there are other active ingredients available such as picaridin, IR3535 and several botanical ingredients such as lemongrass oil and others. Visit the U.S. CDC website on mosquito bite prevention for additional information: https://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/about/prevent-bites.html

Researchers are always looking for additional “tools for the repellent toolkit” and new effective active ingredients have been recently found. One example is nootkatone. The EPA has recently provided approval for this active ingredient developed by scientists and the U.S. CDC from the Alaska yellow cedar tree. It has shown in the laboratory to be effective at repelling both mosquitoes and ticks and is available for development by a company into a commercially available product. 

Not everyone will be comfortable using a repellent that contains DEET. And repellents are only effective if people use them, so having ingredients like nootkatone available is important in protecting people from mosquito bites. Here is the U.S. CDC webpage on nootkatone: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0810-nootkatone-registered-epa.html

Hire a professional

While people can do a lot to control the mosquitoes around their house by discarding and emptying containers that breed mosquitoes, there may be times that getting advice from a professional is necessary to effectively control the problem. Pest control operators specifically trained in identifying the mosquitoes in your yard and recommending an integrated control program can be a great way to provide season-long relief from mosquito bites.  

When considering using a pest control company, be sure to do your homework and make certain you are hiring certified professionals who understand the methods and limitations of mosquito control. These professionals will be able to identify problem areas and use both non-chemical and EPA-approved insecticides to control the problem.

Dr. Craig Stoops (www.mosquito-authority.com), LCDR (ret.) MSC USN, is a retired U.S. Navy medical entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito® Authority, a mosquito control company. He has conducted mosquito control and research in the United States, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has a B.S. in biology from Shippensburg University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in entomology from Clemson University. Dr. Stoops is board certified by the Entomological Society of America in medical and veterinary entomology.

Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

CDC × COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that it appears inevitable that COVID-19 will spread in United States communities. Officials said it’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a conference call that the spread of the new coronavirus in countries other than China has officials concerned about outbreaks in the U.S.

“Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Messonier. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

The CDC says the agency is preparing to address the potential spread of the virus in the U.S. and it’s encouraging Americans to begin planning as well.

“We will maintain, for as long as practical, a dual approach where we continue measures to contain this disease, but also employ strategies to minimize the impact on our communities,” said Messonier.

Messonier said that officials don’t know whether the spread of the disease in the U.S. would be mild or severe, but Americans should be ready for “significant disruptions” to their daily lives.

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Messonnier said.

If the virus begins to spread amongst Americans, the CDC says it will becomes increasingly important to implement basic precautions to prevent more infections. That includes staying home when ill and practicing respiratory and hand hygiene.

Additionally, the CDC says community level intervention might include school dismissals and social distancing in other settings, like postponing or canceling large gatherings. Officials said it may become necessary for students and the workforce to meet over the internet, instead of in person.

“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” said Messonier.

The virus is believed to have originated from Wuhan, China, where early patients had some link to a large seafood and live animal markets.

The CDC says more than 2,400 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, with a majority of the deaths in mainland China. However, other countries are now battling sizable outbreaks as well.

Europe’s biggest outbreak is in Italy, where more than 280 people have reportedly been infected. Iran has reported at least 95 cases. And, South Korea has more than 970 cases.

As of Tuesday, the CDC had confirmed 14 cases in the U.S., 12 being travel-related and two from person-to-person spread. A total of 43 cases have been confirmed in the group of people repatriated to the U.S. from either Wuhan or the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, the CDC says. That’s a total of 57 cases.

At this time, there’s no vaccine or medicine to help stop the spread of the virus.

“In the absence of a vaccine or therapy, community mitigation measures are the primary method to respond to widespread transmission and supportive care is the current medical treatment,” wrote the CDC.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) and the current outbreak is occurring during a time of year when respiratory illness are highly prevalent. The CDC is hoping COVID-19 is a seasonal disease like the flu, but officials are preparing in case it’s not.

Click here for CDC updates and to learn more about COVID-19.