Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

WHO cautions that transmission of the new coronavirus outside of China could increase

The WHO cautioned over the weekend that even though the transmission of new coronavirus cases from China may appear to be slowing down, it could be because of a lag and that count may still spike. “[T]here is a window of opportunity that we should use to the maximum in order to have a better outcome, and further decrease the progress and stop it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. The outbreak has now infected more than 40,600 people and killed 910 individuals. The latest figures mean that the death toll from the new virus has surpassed that from SARS, also caused by a coronavirus. While public health officials have looked to that outbreak for lessons for the current emergency, what seems unchanged is the modest level of interest — and funding — to combat coronaviruses, which could complicate the response to this and future such events. 

In their words: Democratic candidates explain exactly how they’d lower drug prices

Democratic presidential candidates were recently interviewed by the editorial board of the Boston Globe, STAT’s sister publication, and STAT also got the opportunity to ask them about their proposals for lowering drug prices. Here’s a sampling of their remarks: 

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), on a CBO claim that some Democratic proposals to cut drug prices would lead to fewer new drugs: “I just don’t think that’s true. … We need to have a system where we bring down the cost of these prescription drugs, but at the same time, make more investment in medical research.” 

  • Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, on breaking drug manufacturing patents to keep prices low: “I hope never to reach for that tool, but I think it’s really important that it be on the books.”

  • Andrew Yang, on the threshold for seizing drug patents: “Failure to keep your pricing in line with international standards. You should not be charging Americans dramatically more than you’re charging citizens in other parts of the world.”  

Read the full responses with these and other candidates here.

LGBTQ youth are more openly sharing their orientation, still experience high rates of suicidal thoughts

More sexual minorities are sharing their sexual orientation in youth surveys now than a decade ago, and these individuals still have a high rate of suicide attempts compared to the rest of the population. Using data from six states, one study found that in 2009, around 7% of sexual minorities shared their orientation, but that doubled by 2017. Although suicide attempts in this population declined over the study duration, their rate of attempts in 2017 was still three times higher than among heterosexual youth. This trend was further supported by another 23-year study among Massachusetts youth: Suicidal ideation declined among sexual minorities, but 33%-40% still reported those experiences. In a related commentary, scientists write that more research is needed to identify specific interventions to help narrow the suicide-related disparities between sexual minority youth and their heterosexual peers. 

Inside STAT: The vodka trial: In search of a treatment for vocal disorders

(Alex Hogan/STAT)

To Karen Feeley, treatment for her speech disorder is like getting a toothpick pushed into her Adam's apple. She needs that painful shot of Botox into her vocal cords to help with laryngeal dystonia, a mysterious condition that causes the cords to move involuntarily, creating breaks in words and delays in speech. Although the effects only last a few months, these injections are among the best available therapies. But last April, Feeley traveled to Boston to test the effects of a different sort of medicine: two shots of vodka. Dr. Kristina Simonyan, the otolaryngologist behind the trial, had heard anecdotes from patients claiming their laryngeal dystonia symptoms improved with alcohol. Now, she wanted to see if she could turn that into a safe and reliable treatment. STAT's Eric Boodman has more here

Diabetes becoming more common among Canada’s First Nations people

New research suggests the prevalence of diabetes among Canada’s First Nations people is on the rise. Looking at data from 1995-2014, researchers found that prevalence — how many cases there were at any given time — rose from 11% in 1995 to more than 16% two decades later. First Nations women had a higher prevalence, as did Indigenous people living within First Nations communities. First Nations people also had a 57% chance of developing diabetes over their lifetimes versus a 44% risk for others in Ontario. However, diabetes incidence — the frequency at which new cases emerged — decreased, from approximately 11 cases per 1,000 people in 2001 to 8 cases per 1,000 people in 2014. The study was unable to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, making it difficult to confirm the reason behind the trend, the authors write. 

Depression, stress about relationships are major reasons why people text for help

The nonprofit Crisis Text Line, which provides crisis counseling via text, is out with a report that found that since the service’s launch in 2013, depression is the top issue that people reach out for help with. Here’s more: 

  • Overall trends: Crisis Text Line counselors have sent more than 129 million texts to users since the nonprofit’s inception. Depression is the top issue, making up 40% of messages sent to the text line, while a third of texts had to do with people’s anxiety. 

  • State-level trends: California, Texas, and New York had the most number of users reaching out to Crisis Text Line, with more than 100,000 people in each state. 

  • Demographics: Some 36% of those who used the service were aged 14-17, followed by those 18-24. Nearly 80% of those who reached out identified as genderqueer, while men outnumbered women by nearly 6 to 1.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

What to read around the web today

  • Police offering drug recovery help: 'We can't arrest our way out of this problem'. NPR
  • She hoped to shine a light on maternal mortality among Native Americans. Instead, she became a statistic of it. NBC News
  • Coronavirus is bad. Comparing it to the flu is worse. Wired
  • How lifesaving organs for transplant go missing in transit. Kaiser Health News
  • Investor impatience with Gilead reclamation project sparks acquisition chatter. STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, February 10, 2020


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