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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.
Since June, the agency has been expanding its list of hand sanitizers that may be contaminated with deadly methanol alcohol. But on Friday, the FDA announced a new problem. While some hand sanitizers contain the wrong kind of alcohol, others don't have enough of the right kind.
"FDA test results show certain hand sanitizers have concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, which are active ingredients in hand sanitizer products," the FDA wrote. "The agency urges consumers not to use these subpotent products."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as the best hand hygiene method to prevent the spread of disease. Soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer at killing certain germs, and some people do not use hand sanitizer correctly, either wiping it off too early or not using enough.
However, if soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol alcohol.
"Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers," the CDC explained. "Hand sanitizers without 60-95% alcohol 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and 2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright."
The rise in hand sanitizer demand has been driven by attempts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, so it is important that products actually work.
The FDA flagged the following hand sanitizers for being less effective:
- dgreen Advanced Sanitizer Alcohol Free
- dgreen Advanced Hand Sanitizer Antibacterial Gel
- Biokaab Inc. Hand Sanitizer
- Biokaab Inc. Hand Sanitizer Gel
- Clean Humans Hand Sanitizer
- Medicare Alcohol Antiseptic Topical Solution
- Datsen Hand Sanitizer
- Alcohol Antiseptic 62% Hand Sanitizer
- Bernal Hand Sanitizer
- Inflatables LLC Alcohol Antiseptic 65% Hand Sanitizer and Alcohol Antiseptic 70% Hand Sanitizer
In addition to the subpotent hand sanitizers, the FDA continues to warn against hand sanitizers that contain methanol, or wood alcohol, which is toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be deadly when swallowed. There have been reports of people going blind, damaging their hearts or nervous systems, being hospitalized and even dying because of exposure to these toxic hand sanitizers, the agency said in a news release. One of the deaths was associated with Blumen Hand Sanitizer, which is distributed by 4e North America and manufactured by 4E Global in Mexico. The company has recalled an expanded list of products.
"Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ. Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use, and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA's list of dangerous hand sanitizer products," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in the press release. "We remain extremely concerned about the potential serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol. Producing, importing and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated. The FDA will take additional action as necessary and will continue to provide the latest information on this issue for the health and safety of consumers."
There are now 115 hand sanitizers on the agency's "do-not-use list," mostly manufactured in Mexico, CNN reported. As such, the FDA has issued import alerts to stop the products from entering the U.S.
It also sent a warning letter to one of the companies involved, Eskbiochem S.A. de C.V., for poor manufacturing practices, distributing hand sanitizers made at a facility that has undeclared methanol and falsely claiming its products are FDA approved.
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By Jake Johnson
Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate are demanding that the Trump administration immediately reverse an order requiring hospitals to send Covid-19 patient information directly to a Health and Human Services database instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a change that threw the data-collection process into chaos as states struggle to cope with soaring infections.
NPR reported Friday that "hospital data in Kansas and Missouri is suddenly incomplete or missing" following the Trump administration's directive, which took effect on July 15 to the dismay of experts and local officials who previously relied on the CDC system to track the coronavirus and allocate resources.
"The Missouri Hospital Association reports that it no longer has access to the data it uses to guide statewide coronavirus planning, and the Kansas Hospital Association says its hospital data reports may be delayed," according to NPR. "The absence of the data will make it harder for health and public officials, as well as the general public, to understand how the virus is spreading."
Led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), 46 members of the Senate Democratic caucus sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx demanding that the White House reverse its decision to divert Covid-19 data from the CDC to an HHS database run by TeleTracking Technologies, a private contractor.
"In the midst of a global pandemic, these changes pose serious challenges to the nation's response by increasing the data management burden for hospitals, potentially delaying critical supply shipments, compromising access to key data for many states, and reducing transparency for the public," the senators wrote. "The Trump administration's mismanagement of the Covid-19 response and refusal to heed public health expertise continue to put the country in a dangerous position."
Nearly 70 House Democrats on Friday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging the agency to reverse the new directive, which the Trump administration portrayed as an attempt to streamline the data-reporting process.
"This is another unethical and irresponsible effort to hinder public access to data and remove transparency and accountability from the administration's poor management of this pandemic," the lawmakers wrote.
At a time when we already have more than 3.5 million cases and more than 138,300 deaths, we should not allow health… https://t.co/7gH0WvlTkr— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal)1595005963.0
The White House directive, first made public in a document posted on the HHS website last week, reportedly "came as a shock at the CDC," which previously received the data and made it available to the public.
Critics immediately warned that submitting crucial coronavirus patient data to a system managed by HHS would leave the information vulnerable to political spin.
"It's hugely problematic," said Dr. Karen Maddox, public health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. "The only way that we know where things are going up and where things are going down and where we need to be putting resources and where we need to be planning is because of those data."
Shortly after the administration's new directive took effect Wednesday, observers noticed that hospital data was removed from the CDC website. HHS had the information restored on Thursday but said the data would not be updated on the CDC site beyond July 14.
New HHS apology memo is worthless... HHS directs COVID hospital data “Re-establish the dashboard” to CDC website ..… https://t.co/zv29VX5Ijg— Eric Feigl-Ding (@Eric Feigl-Ding)1594928291.0
The Missouri Hospital Association said in a notice on its website that it "will be unable to access critical hospitalization data during the transition" to the Trump administration's new data-collection system.
Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, told NPR that the organization hopes to have access to the data it needs "within a few days or weeks."
"However, in the short term," Dillon said, "we'll be very much in the dark."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
The group's recent recommendations include social distancing protocol based on different grades. For example, it's more feasible to keep preschoolers in small groups (known as "cohorting") with the same teacher throughout the day. Older children should have desks 3 to 6 feet apart and wear masks.
They also say schools should limit unnecessary visitors to the buildings and utilize outdoor spaces for learning. The guidelines recommend safer bussing, hallway traffic monitoring, cafeteria use, cleaning, and screening protocols among other recommendations.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, also voiced support for safe reopening measures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines for reopening schools.
Despite calls for them to be revised by President Donald Trump, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said they will not change, but the CDC will soon publish additional documents on symptom monitoring and mask usage.
But school administrators, parents, and teachers remain wary of going back to school full time as they fear becoming the site of super spreader events.
Keeping Schools Safe
What will safer schools look like?
In a JAMA article published last month, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.
Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.
He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.
Erika Martin, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.
Not all recommendations will be achievable for schools in certain areas, noted Lucy Sorensen, PhD, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany.
"It may not be feasible to space desks six feet apart or have windows open in classrooms in a New York winter," Sorensen explained.
Other strategies to safeguard school communities can include high-intensity ultraviolet light, thermal cameras, and conferencing systems.
"Social distancing will be hard for students," said Tina M. Pascoe, a nurse and co-founder of Nurses for Day Care, who has been involved with efforts to keep day care centers open during the pandemic.
Limiting class size, and not having special activities that require students to leave the room, will be key. "This keeps students stay in one cohort or like a family unit," she told Healthline.
Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted Rachel Widome, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.
"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.
Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.
Should Kids Go Back?
While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.
In a Pediatrics commentary, Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr., an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.
But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.
"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a June article in JAMA with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."
Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.
What Parents Can Do
Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.
"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.
"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.
She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.
"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.
Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.
"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added Lee Scott, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at The Goddard School. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.
Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a checklist for administrators, report on ethical considerations, and a tracker of state and local reopening plans.
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By Heather Grey
Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at community events and gatherings.
The agency has also issued recommendations to help people manage the risk during other personal and social activities.
In these guidelines, the CDC emphasizes the importance of staying home when sick, maintaining physical distancing, wearing face masks, and practicing good hand hygiene.
The agency also advises event organizers to take local circumstances into account when deciding whether or not to host, cancel, postpone, or otherwise adjust an event or gathering.
"[The CDC guidance] is very much based on the desire to give everybody an idea of what the risks are and help people make informed decisions on how to reduce the risks as low as possible," Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, an emergency physician and director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, told Healthline.
"It's based on the best available evidence on what we know about how this virus is spread, with the understanding that people are going to have different risk tolerances," he added.
Some Activities Pose Higher Risk
Some types of community events, gatherings, and activities pose greater risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission than others, warns the CDC.
Virtual events and gatherings held online or over the phone provide the safest option for connecting with other people, the agency advises.
When it comes to in-person activities, smaller outdoor gatherings tend to pose lower risk than larger gatherings and those held indoors.
The less time that people spend in close contact with each other, the less likely they are to contract the virus or pass it to others — especially if everyone wears a face mask.
"The most effective way to reduce risk is to avoid large indoor gatherings altogether. This setting poses the highest risk of exposure and potential transmission of the virus," Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthline.
"Outdoor events while wearing a mask represent a safer option," he continued.
"Virtual meetings are the best way to have a meeting in this context," he said.
Risk Varies From Place to Place
When someone is assessing the risk that an event, gathering, or other activity may pose, the CDC encourages them to take their local circumstances into account.
Some municipalities and states have issued stricter guidelines and rules around events, gatherings, and other activities, compared with others.
The rate of transmission and how likely you are to get the virus also vary from place to place, both within and between states.
If an event or gathering is held in an area where virus transmission rates are high, that raises the risk that someone with SARS-CoV-2 will attend and pass it on to others.
If someone travels to an event or gathering from outside the local area, they may carry the virus with them or pick it up in transit and pass it to other attendees after they arrive.
"Having a family reunion where people are flying in from 30 different states is much riskier than having a cookout with your neighbors," Cioe-Pena said.
Some People More Vulnerable
Some community members face heightened risk of developing severe illness if they do contract SARS-CoV-2.
For example, older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be more likely to develop a severe infection or complications.
The CDC advises people to take those personal risk factors into account when planning an activity or deciding whether to participate in one.
"If it's a family gathering where there are a fair number of older persons who are over age 60, many of whom likely have underlying illnesses, that's a group I'd be much more cautious about," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Healthline.
"If the COVID virus got to that gathering and spread among them, it could make a lot of them very seriously ill," he said.
Protect Yourself and Others
To lower your risk for contracting or transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the CDC recommends keeping at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and members of other households.
When you can't maintain 6 feet of distance from members of other households or you're spending time around those people indoors, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.
If you're helping to host an event, gathering, or other activity, you may need to limit attendance, make changes to the layout of your venue, or use other strategies to enable attendees to keep their distance from each other.
If your guests or event attendees will be eating with each other, consider asking them to bring their own food and drinks or take steps to limit the number of people who touch food containers, condiments, and serving ware.
For example, designate one person to serve all of the food.
Frequent handwashing is also important for reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, the CDC advises. So is regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs and light switches.
When in Doubt, Stay Home
If you've tested positive for the virus or have symptoms of COVID-19, or you've had close contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 within the past 14 days, the CDC advises you to stay home.
If you're hosting an event or gatherings, ask attendees to stay home if they've tested positive for the virus, have any symptoms, or been in close contact with someone with symptoms in the past 2 weeks.
"I think we have to be very mindful that social distancing has flattened the curve in many parts of this country, and if we want to keep it flat, we have to keep doing that," Schaffner said.
"I know it's tedious, I know it's disruptive, I know it's uncomfortable. I know it makes many people unhappy — but it's necessary," he added.
As CDC Says 'Do Not Go to Work,' Trump Says Thousands With Coronavirus Could Go to Work and Get Better
By Jake Johnson
Running roughshod over the advice of trained medical professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Donald Trump Wednesday night suggested to millions of Fox News viewers that people infected with coronavirus could still go to work and recover, comments that were immediately condemned as irresponsible and dangerous.
"A lot of people will have this and it's very mild. They'll get better very rapidly," Trump told Fox's Sean Hannity. "They don't even see a doctor, they don't even call a doctor. You never hear about those people."
"So you can't put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and/or virus," Trump continued. "So you just can't do that. So, if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better."
The CDC has advised that anyone exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus such as a fever, coughing, and/or shortness of breath stay home from work, avoid public areas as much as possible, and seek medical attention.
"You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care," the CDC's website states. "Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis."
Trump also claimed in the interview with Hannity that the World Health Organization's (WHO) estimate of a 3.4% global death rate from coronavirus is a "false number."
"This is just my hunch," the president said.
In this clip, Trump: 1. Denies WHO's coronavirus death rate based on “hunch" 2. Calls coronavirus "corona flu" 3. S… https://t.co/mkSwCySBr0— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1583380089.0
"These are really dangerous lies," tweeted The Nation's Jeet Heer.
"Trump has had briefings from the nation's best doctors and scientists on COVID-19 and he still spouts total, dangerous bullshit," added climate scientist Peter Gleick.
Trump's remarks came just hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency following the death of a 71-year-old man, the first U.S. coronavirus fatality reported outside of Washington state.
"This is not something that I say hyperbolically," Newsom said of the emergency declaration during a press conference Wednesday. "The proclamation is to serve to help advance our resources."
LATEST: Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency after announcing California had 53 confirmed cases of novel… https://t.co/f17kNyu699— ABC News (@ABC News)1583372288.0
As Trump and other White House officials have attempted to downplay the severity of the outbreak and hurled accusations of fearmongering — the president said at a rally last week that Democrats' criticism of his handling of the health crisis is a "new hoax" — coronavirus has spread to at least 15 states in the U.S. and killed 11 people.
"The death rate so far—which includes more than 3,000 deaths [globally]—is many times higher than the mortality rate of the seasonal flu, which is 0.1%," the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. "WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that is at least partly because COVID-19 is a new disease, and no one has built up an immunity to it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Michael Halpern
The Trump administration is scrambling to reconcile the president's contradictions of statements made by federal health scientists about the emerging coronavirus crisis. Their solution: muzzle scientists, require that all statements be politically vetted through Vice President Pence, and punish federal employees who draw attention to gross negligence. This is a highly dangerous power grab that undermines both emergency response and public faith in the reliability of information coming out of the government. And it speaks to the incompetence and incoherence of the response to this crisis so far.
It's hard to keep track of the number of Trump appointees who should know basic facts about the coronavirus but don't. Then yesterday, we learned that the actual public health experts in government would no longer be allowed to speak publicly about the outbreak without the vice president's blessing. Via The New York Times:
"Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country's leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance."'
CDC already has a 65-page manual for communicating complex scientific information to the public in times of crisis. "Clearance" by the White House will not improve this function.
Later yesterday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that government health officials were sent to take in evacuees without proper training or protective gear. An employee who raised concerns has filed a whistleblower complaint after facing retaliation. According to the Post:
"The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated."
As chronicled by UCS's Anita Desikan, previous Trump administration actions have already compromised government response. The State Department overruled objections by CDC scientists and allowed 14 people who tested positive for the virus to fly together with non-infected people. Global disease surveillance systems were weakened. Initiatives to better understand viruses in animals were shuttered. And National Security Council global health security experts were pushed out the door.
We already know that this White House prioritizes the president's ego over giving the public the information it needs. Remember Sharpiegate? The president erroneously claimed that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama. The professional civil service staff at the National Weather Service clarified that the state was not in the path of the storm. That's their job.
Rather than admit a mistake, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney ordered the acting NOAA administrator to repudiate the experts and prevent other scientists from talking about the path of the storm. During the hurricane. Under termination threats, NOAA political appointees buckled, telling professional staff that the even when public safety is concerned, the president is always right.
We know that the president will fire anyone who crosses him, even leaders within the intelligence services, with nary a whimper from his allies in Congress who claim to care about the Constitution. The emperor will be sure that nobody will tell him when he has no clothes.
What will happen now that the White House has a compelling self-interest in downplaying the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in light of the plummeting stock market? Don't count on Pence, who was overheard complaining that he had "nothing to do."
There is no substitute for experienced government professional staff who are focused on the public interest. That becomes even more critical in times of emergency. If this censorship and retaliation trend continues, we can expect more gross incompetence in handling the virus' spread. More people will get needlessly sick and more people will needlessly die.
If the White House has no qualms about misleading the public about weather forecasts, how can we possibly expect them to tell the truth about a major public health crisis? Enough with the political vetting. We need to hear directly from the experts.
Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science.
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The U.S. government expanded a recall of ground beef Tuesday as an outbreak of salmonella has quadrupled to 246 people in 25 states since the first recall was announced in October, NBC 4 New York reported.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) announced that the Arizona-based JBS Tolleson, Inc. was recalling an additional 5,156,076 pounds of raw beef that were packaged between July 26 and Sept. 7. When added to the approximately 6,937,195 pounds originally recalled Oct. 4, it makes for a total of around 12,093,271 pounds recalled by the company.
"FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers' freezers. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase," the agency warned in the recall announcement.
The recalled beef has the label "EST. 267" inside its USDA mark of inspection and was sent to stores across the country including Walmarts in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico Nevada and Texas and Sam's Clubs in 26 states. You can find the full list of recalled products here and the full list of impacted retailers here.
The label of one of the recalled ground beef productsUSDA FSIS
The beef has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Newport that first started Aug. 5. The last case reported was on Oct. 16. So far, 59 people have been hospitalized and no one has died, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
A timeline of Salmonella Newport cases so farCDC
Salmonella usually causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. It usually clears up after four to seven days without treatment, but children under five, older adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems could be more vulnerable.
All of the cases in the current outbreak might not have been reported yet, the CDC explained, because it can take up to two to four weeks for someone to report their illness after getting sick. So far, cases have been reported in 25 states, as this map shows.
A map of Salmonella Newport cases as of November 15CDC
Officials source outbreaks by interviewing infected people about what food they ate the week before. In this case, 90 percent of respondents said they ate ground beef at home.
The CDC further explained the sleuthing that went into uncovering the cause of this particular outbreak:
Officials in Arizona collected an unopened package of ground beef from an ill person's home. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport was identified in the ground beef. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella identified in the ground beef was closely related genetically to the Salmonella in samples from ill people. The ground beef was one of the products recalled on October 4, 2018.
The CDC recommends that anyone eating ground meat always cook it or order it cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and always wash hands and any equipment that came in contact with the raw meat with soap and water.
"No one should be eating partially cooked or raw meat," FSIS warned.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned of a "multistate infestation" with the Asian longhorned tick—the first new tick species to enter the U.S. in 50 years.
New Jersey was the first state to report the Haemaphysalis longicornis on a sheep in August 2017. Since then, it has been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, according to Friday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"The presence of H. longicornis in the United States represents a new and emerging disease threat," the report said.
The ticks were reported from 45 counties in nine states from August 2017 to September 2018.CDC
As EcoWatch previously mentioned, in Asia the species carries a disease that kills 15 percent of those infected, but no human diseases have been linked to the species in the U.S. since it was first found in New Jersey.
The CDC is currently working with public health, agricultural and academic experts to understand the possible threat posed by the insect.
"The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown," said Ben Beard, Ph.D., deputy director of CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in a press release. "In other parts of the world, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people, and in the environment, is spreading in the United States."
LiveScience further reported:
"In other parts of the world, longhorned ticks are known to spread diseases, including the bacterial infections babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, theileriosis and rickettsiosis, as well as certain viral diseases. In China and Japan, the longhorned tick transmits a disease called severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), which can be deadly."
The Asian longhorned tick is new to the United States and has the potential to spread germs. People should take ste… https://t.co/P34DHHTsTa— Dr. Robert R. Redfield (@Dr. Robert R. Redfield)1543591201.0
Unlike most tick species, a single female Asian longhorned tick can reproduce offspring without mating and lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time.
This means hundreds to thousands of ticks can be found on a single animal, person or in the environment, the CDC said.
Earlier this month, the CDC reported that in 2017, state and local health departments reported a record number of tickborne illnesses like Lyme disease.
"Tick-borne diseases like Lyme hit an all-time high this year, just as a new tick capable of spreading disease rears its ugly head," Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal tweeted Friday in reaction to the report. "It's clear, urgent federal action is needed to fight the debilitating & growing public health threat of tick-borne diseases."
Tick-borne diseases like Lyme hit an all-time high this year, just as a new tick capable of spreading disease rears… https://t.co/U536hH5A5d— Richard Blumenthal (@Richard Blumenthal)1543594213.0
You can protect yourself from tick-borne diseases by using insect repellents, wearing protective gear and clothing, checking your body and clothing for ticks after returning from potentially tick-infested areas and showering soon after being outdoors, the CDC advises.
The CDC also advised livestock producers and pet owners to work with their veterinarians to maintain regular tick prevention and report any unknown tick species to their local department of agriculture.
Here's the agency's advice on what you should do if you think you have found an Asian longhorned tick:
- Remove any tick from people and animals as quickly as possible.
- Save the ticks in rubbing alcohol in a jar or a ziplock bag, then:
- Contact your health department about steps you can take to prevent tick bites and tickborne diseases.
- Contact a veterinarian for information about how to protect pets from ticks and tick bites.
- Contact your state agriculture department or local agricultural extension office about ticks on livestock or for tick identification.
Longhorned tick. Nymph and adult female, undersideCDC
If you're hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow, be sure to leave romaine lettuce off the menu! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are warning everyone to avoid the classic salad green until investigators can pinpoint the exact source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 32 people in 11 states.
The FDA advised Americans to stop eating romaine and to toss any that's left in the fridge. Restaurants and retailers should also stop serving it until more is known.
FDA, @CDCgov, & partners are investigating a new multistate outbreak of E. coli likely linked to romaine lettuce. C… https://t.co/0fHwLJxDr5— U.S. FDA (@U.S. FDA)1542769780.0
"The quick and aggressive steps we're taking today are aimed at making sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak, to reduce risk to consumers, and to help people protect themselves and their families from this foodborne illness outbreak. This is especially important ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when people will be sitting down for family meals," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a press release issued Tuesday. "We want to get this information out to consumers early. While we've made progress, it's still early in this investigation and work remains to pinpoint the source of contamination that contributed to this outbreak and allow us to employ more targeted measures to reduce future risk."
Cases so far have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. The particular strain causing the outbreak is called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, according to the CDC alert. It has sent 13 people to the hospital so far, and no one has died.
A map of states where illness has been reportedCDC
Illnesses began on Oct. 8, and the last reported case was on Oct. 31. It usually takes about two to three weeks for someone to report an illness after first getting sick, so more people might have been infected since then, the CDC said. Public health workers believe romaine is the culprit because 79 percent of the 14 infected people interviewed so far said they ate romaine lettuce in the week before getting sick, but researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint a specific grower, supplier, brand or distributor to issue a recall.
A timeline of the outbreak so farCDC
The outbreak has also crossed the border into Canada, where 18 people in Quebec and Ontario have been infected so far.
Recent illnesses reported in Ontario and Quebec suggests that there is a risk of E. coli infections associated with… https://t.co/FYYXdHXKUS— GovCanHealth (@GovCanHealth)1542765634.0
This isn't the first time salad has made people sick in the U.S. and Canada. The strain of this outbreak has a similar DNA fingerprint to one in 2017 that was linked to leafy greens in the U.S. and romaine lettuce in Canada.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli kick in two to eight days after initial infection. They usually include stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea, and sometimes a fever of 101 degrees or lower, according to the FDA. It usually clears up after five to seven days, but 5 to 10 percent of people who get it develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening condition. The FDA explains:
Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working (acute renal failure), but they may also develop other serious problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems.
If you think you are coming down with E. coli, the CDC advises that you:
- Talk to your doctor.
- Write down what you ate the week before you got sick.
- Alert the health department.
- Answer any questions public health employees ask you about your illness.
By Joyce Sakamoto and Shelley Whitehead
Mosquitoes, long spreaders of malaria and yellow fever, have more recently spread dengue, Zika and Chikungunya viruses, and caused epidemic outbreaks, mainly in U.S. territories. The insects are also largely responsible for making West Nile virus endemic in the continental U.S.
Ticks, which are not insects but parasitic arthropods, actually cause more disease in the U.S. than mosquitoes do, accounting for 76.51 percent of total U.S. vector-borne disease cases. These include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and newer diseases as well.
Why the uptick in vector-borne disease, and more importantly, how can we protect ourselves from potentially serious diseases? As researchers of these types of diseases, we have some answers.
Blood: The High Cost of Living
Both mosquitoes and ticks transmit disease-causing pathogens through bites.
Only the female mosquito takes a blood meal to make eggs, but almost all life stages of ticks need blood to survive.
Although mosquitoes were first demonstrated to have the ability to transmit diseases in 1889, mosquitoes have been transmitting diseases for far longer. Written records as early as 2700 B.C. suggest malaria plagued humans in China.
The first suspected dengue outbreak occurred in the early 1600s, but it took three centuries for the first three mosquito-borne diseases—malaria, dengue and yellow fever—to invade the Americas. Yet, in the past two decades alone, we've experienced a wave of three more mosquito-borne diseases—West Nile, Chikungunya and Zika viruses. This marked increase in disease spread is due to several factors, including advances in air and water travel and warming temperatures.
The High Cost of International Travel and Trade
The international tire trade has made Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, a global traveler. This mosquito gains passage on cargo ships and gets unlimited access to man-made containers, which it needs for breeding, in the thousands of tires on board these ships. Rainwater collecting in the tires are ideal breeding sites. Even though it is not a major vector of dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, this invasive species is still especially dangerous. It is able to outcompete most other mosquito species that live in similar habitats.
We humans serve as hosts for many vector-borne diseases, and our own movement can aid transmission. We can hop on a plane and be in a different country within hours. Diseases once quarantined to other regions of the globe can now be easily transported within an infected human. Some people don't even realize they are sick. Researchers have estimated that up to 80 percent of individuals infected with Zika virus are symptomless. Yet, if the right vector feeds on a symptomless but infected person, transmission can still occur.
Increased climate fluctuations, largely due to human activity, can also affect how vector-borne diseases spread. Warmer climates may allow mosquitoes to survive in areas previously too cold to support them.
Predicting the outcome of warming on overall vector populations can be difficult. If, for example, summer in the deep Southeast becomes too hot and dry for mosquito development, peaks in transmission and mosquito numbers could shift to the fall. Higher temperatures may shorten the time it takes for pathogens to develop within mosquitoes, so mosquitoes may become infectious faster and transmit pathogens sooner.
Five percent of 900 tick species are known to transmit disease-causing microorganisms. Because 38 percent of all tick species have been known to bite humans, researchers will likely find more tick-borne diseases. Since 2004, there have been nine new vector-borne diseases described in the U.S., and seven of these are tick-transmitted, including the two potentially fatal Bourbon and Heartland viruses.
Most, or 82 percent of tick-borne disease cases, are Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmitted by the blacklegged, or deer, tick. Cases of Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis have increased two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half fold.
Tick-borne diseases may be rising due to global travel, animal transport, habitat fragmentation and changing climate. Climate change is correlated with range expansion of several important tick species. Ticks previously limited by cold winters are now becoming established farther north. In response to the arrival of Lyme disease to Canadian soil, the Public Health Agency of Canada responded with a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease focused on disease surveillance, education and awareness, and best practices for control, prevention and treatment of Lyme disease.
What Can You Do?
To lower your risk of transmission from mosquitoes:
- Check backyards for anything that could hold water and empty such vessels. This includes children's toys, bird baths, empty soda cans and flower pots.
- Use mosquito repellents that are EPA approved. Avoid natural repellents that haven't been verified for their effectiveness.
To prevent tick bites:
One sure way to prevent tick bites is to avoid suitable habitats for ticks, but this isn't always possible. Large-scale habitat control or acaricide (tick-killing) treatment of wildlife, though possible, can be difficult or not cost-effective for homeowners. The best preventative measures are:
- Use CDC-recommended repellents such as DEET or picaridin.
- Shower and do a thorough tick check.
Tick checks are absolutely crucial. People usually follow this routine after going outdoors, but sometimes forget. And they often avoid places that ticks love, such as between your legs. Hard-to-reach areas are prime real estate for blood-feeding parasites that don't want to be dislodged, so make sure to check: the hairline (especially on children), torso, belly button and groin. If necessary, get assistance or a mirror and a bright light.
If you find an embedded tick, correctly dislodge it with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the part closest to the skin and pulling straight up. Do not burn, squeeze, twist or smother the tick, since this may cause it to regurgitate. Gross-out alert: Any pathogens they have in their saliva can then be dumped into the bite site.
After removal, keep the tick for identification; different species transmit different pathogens. Finally, see a doctor after finding an embedded tick or if you think you have been bitten. In addition to getting medical attention, your data will be added to the national list of reported tick-borne diseases.
The CDC has several pages dedicated to vector-borne disease control and prevention. Local state health departments, general practitioners and veterinarians will also have recommendations for prevention, treatment and vector control. Talk to your veterinarian about repellents or agents that will kill mites called acaricides for pets, since some can be toxic to cats.
#EPA Approves Release of Mosquito-Killing #Mosquitoes in 20 States https://t.co/FYN3EBTLz7 @SierraClub @GMWatch… https://t.co/kMCr7jjeGh— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1510163765.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
The number of diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 through 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than 640,000 cases were reported during those 13 years. There were more than 96,000 cases in 2016, a massive jump from the 27,000 cases in 2004.
The bite of an infected mosquito, tick or flea can transmit illnesses including the Zika virus, West Nile, Lyme disease and chikungunya. The report also mentions that nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the U.S. in the years studied.
This increase in insect-borne illnesses can be blamed on many factors, including overseas travel and commerce, the CDC said.
Lyle Petersen, the report's lead author and the agency's director of vector-borne diseases, also said warmer weather was a reason, as Wired reported.
However, the official stopped short of using the highly politicized term "climate change," even though many scientists have established this link.
"I can't comment on why there's increasing temperatures, that's the job of meteorologists," Petersen told reporters, as quoted by Wired. "What I can tell you is increasing temperatures have a number of effects on all these vector-borne diseases."
The Natural Resources Defense Council explained that warming winters and milder seasons are giving ticks, which carry Lyme disease, more opportunity to find hosts to dine on and survive in greater numbers. Additionally, rising temperatures have enabled ticks to spread to areas of the country that have historically been too cold to sustain them.
Similarly, the range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry dengue and Zika, is largely limited to the hot, wet conditions of the tropics and subtropics. But a recent study suggested that as our world becomes warmer and wetter, the range of these bloodsuckers could spread, putting millions of people at risk to exposure.
Incidentally, as Salon observed, the CDC has an entire webpage dedicated to how the impacts of climate change can impact human health. It even has a subsection on climate affecting the geographic and seasonal distribution of vector populations.
According to the new CDC report, wearing "long-sleeved shirts and long pants" and using insect repellant are among the list of measures the CDC offers to prevent insect-borne diseases.
The report said the nation needs better preparation to face this growing public health threat.
"Our nation's first lines of defense are state and local health departments and vector control organizations, and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.
Urging the government to fight against climate change might be a good place to start.
By Sandra Eskin
Three days before 2018 arrived, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced they were investigating a foodborne E. coli outbreak that ultimately resulted in one death and sickened at least 25 people in 15 states. "Leafy greens" were identified as the likely source, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to work with state and local partners to determine the specific products that made people ill and where they were grown, distributed and sold, all with the goal of finding points where the E. coli contamination might have occurred.
This outbreak highlights the importance of the ongoing implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Food safety—overseen by FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—should remain a priority for federal policymakers this year. We already saw a major step forward in produce safety in January as FDA's first enforceable food safety standards for fresh fruits and vegetables took effect on large farms.
Here are four other food safety policy developments expected in 2018:
1. Enhancements to FDA Recalls
The same week that the CDC announced its E. coli investigation, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, of which FDA is a part, released a report that concluded the agency "did not always have an efficient and effective food-recall process." These faults at times translated into delays in the removal of unsafe products from the marketplace. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb responded, in part, with a pledge that the agency would act in 2018 to speed up recalls, including the release of new guidance on recall communications with consumers. One change under consideration is publicly disclosing information about the retail and food service locations that sold or served recalled products. Currently, the agency often considers these details exempt from disclosure. The Pew Charitable Trusts and other public health advocates have urged FDA to adopt a clear and consistent policy to provide such facts so Americans can more easily determine if they may have bought or eaten contaminated foods and can take steps to protect their families.
2. Hog Slaughter Modernization
On Jan. 19, USDA released a proposed rule that would shift how certain hog slaughterhouse duties are divided between employees of the department's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the companies that own the hogs. Similar to a 2014 USDA rule covering poultry plants, the proposal would allow FSIS inspectors in hog slaughter establishments that opt into the program to perform more duties away from the animal processing line, such as overseeing a facility's compliance with sanitation and prevention-based food safety regulations. The facility's employees would take on some of the duties previously handled by FSIS employees, such as carcass sorting and removal. Pork industry groups have expressed strong support for the USDA's intent to make these changes, although some members of Congress and consumer advocates have raised concerns that the proposal would jeopardize food safety, as well as the welfare of animals and slaughterhouse workers.
3. Food Safety Funding
In his fiscal year 2018 budget request, President Trump proposed a change in how meat and poultry inspections are funded from appropriated dollars to user fees collected from businesses overseen by FSIS. Congress rebuffed the idea in its fiscal 2018 spending bills, but the administration may again advance the proposition in the president's fiscal 2019 budget, scheduled for public release on Feb. 12. For many years, lawmakers, meat and poultry companies and consumer advocates have strongly objected to any shift in the funding mechanism from a taxpayer-supported, general good to a program funded directly by the regulated industry. Meanwhile, with bipartisan support in Congress, FDA's food safety program has received funding increases for six years running as it implements FSMA. However, this portion of the budget could be targeted for cuts in fiscal 2019.
4. Reauthorization of the Farm Bill
Congress typically takes up a broad package of farm legislation that includes everything from crop insurance to nutrition assistance and conservation programs about every five years. The current law—the Agricultural Act of 2014—expires Sept. 30. In limited instances, a farm bill has included policies related to meat and poultry safety. That last happened in 2008, when the law created a program that allows facilities inspected by state authorities (rather than by FSIS) to ship products across state lines. At this time, it is unclear whether the next iteration of the federal law will contain meat and poultry safety-related provisions.
Sandra Eskin directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' work on food safety.
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