Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Experts question Facebook's approach to combat Covid-19 misinformation


Facebook recently launched a strategy to curb false coronavirus claims that the company says pulls from a collection of psychology studies on combating inaccurate posts. But scientists behind those papers and other experts say the good-faith effort is misguided and the social media giant appears to be interpreting the findings incorrectly. Facebook is deleting misinformation and sending those who've interacted with it a generic message about Covid-19 information — but experts said it might be better to tell people when they've come across an inaccurate post and correct it. STAT's Erin Brodwin has more here.

Here's what else is new with the pandemic: 

  • Propelled by the encouraging results that remdesivir may help Covid-19 patients, Gilead Sciences is ramping up production of the drug. It hopes to get up to "multiple millions of treatment courses" by year's end, but experts say the realities of manufacturing pharmaceuticals limit how much a company can churn out.
  • Even before Wednesday's hopeful remdesivir news, physicians were reporting hearing from a few families who were hoping to get the drug for loved ones. Now, they're expecting that demand to be even higher, even though the evidence to fully recommend the drug is still out of sight.
  • The situation with Covid-19 in the U.S. is still fluid, and predicting how many people will die is difficult. But providing context to this ever-changing count is perhaps easier, and in a new story, STAT's Sharon Begley and Hyacinth Empinado compare the more than 60,000 deaths so far to other conditions, including the 2017-2018 flu season (61,000 deaths) and 2009's swine flu crisis (around 12,400 deaths).
  • In a new STAT First Opinion, psychiatrist Wendy Dean writes that the Covid-19 crisis is exacerbating some of the mental health problems plaguing medical staff, and the recent suicides of two emergency health workers are a sign that things may get worse. 
  • On this week's episode of "The Readout LOUD," former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb joins the STAT podcast team to talk about a range of Covid-19 topics, including reopening the U.S., vaccines, and the politicization of public health. Listen here

Women seeking care more regularly than men may explain why they fare better after a serious illness

Women tend to live longer than men after a major illness, and that may be explained by differences in how they seek treatment, finds a new study of older adults in Denmark. Researchers looked at differences in how more than 65,000 adults aged 60 and over accessed care before and after being admitted to the hospital for one of four major diseases, including heart attack and cancers of the digestive tract. Before being admitted to the hospital for a heart attack, for instance, only 1 in 7 women hadn't used primary care, compared to 1 in 4 men. And following hospitalization, 2% of men didn't visit their doctor, compared to 1% of women. Even when males used primary care services, they tended to have fewer visits, on average, compared to females. The findings only represent an association, but the authors write that future efforts should focus on ensuring that more people access primary care to improve their health outcomes. 

Tetanus cases among pregnant women and newborn children has fallen by 90% 

In the last two decades, the number of tetanus cases among pregnant women and newborns globally has dipped by nearly 90% and deaths from the bacterial disease in this population have fallen by 85%. Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, has between an 80%-100% fatality rate for neonates in areas where immunization is low and where babies could be born in contaminated facilities. In a new report, CDC researchers found that immunization rates for tetanus among women of reproductive age increased from 62% in 2000 to 72% by 2018. And as countries also worked to ensure that more babies were delivered by skilled birthing attendants, the deaths among neonates from tetanus dropped from around 170,000 in 2000 to fewer than 25,000 in 2018. However, around 47 million women and their babies are still unprotected from tetanus, the report finds, and will still need to be targeted through public health campaigns. 

Inside STAT: Infect volunteers with Covid-19? A proposal lays bare a minefield of issues

Challenge trials — in which volunteers are purposefully, but carefully, infected with a pathogen — are a tool used by researchers to better understand how pathogens not only infect people, but also respond to possible vaccines and drugs. The idea to conduct such trials in the quest for a Covid-19 vaccine is now being floated by some scientists. Challenge trials are already controversial, but they are now facing an added level of skepticism and backlash. Some argue that since there is no reliable treatment for Covid-19, and so volunteers who are infected cannot be safely protected from severe illness or death. Others argue that it would take a long time to even develop the right model under which to conduct a challenge study. STAT's Helen Branswell has more here

Poll of older adults finds broad support for having nursing homes allow virtual visits

A new AARP poll of U.S. adults aged 50 and over finds overwhelming support for video visitation for those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have disproportionately been affected by Covid-19, and many have shut their doors to visitors as a result. In the poll, 96% of the nearly 2,800 respondents supported having these care facilities enable video visitation so residents could still keep in contact with family. Overwhelming majorities also expressed support for these facilities having to disclose any Covid-19 infections to family members and a tax credit for those who serve as caregivers for a family member. 

At the same time, another poll of nearly 23,000 people across all 50 U.S. states finds that while older individuals are about as likely as those younger than 45 to be concerned about getting the coronavirus, they were much less likely than younger individuals to be concerned about a family member getting Covid-19. 

Musical theater production chronicling 'the father of hand-washing' to stream online

For those of you who are fans of musical theater and medicine, the 2018 production of "Semmelweis," which chronicles the story of Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, will be streaming online for a month starting this Sunday. Semmelweis discovered in the mid-1800s that regular hand-washing with a soap solution drastically cut down on infections among women who had just given birth. Semmelweis' discovery came before Pasteur's germ theory, however, and so the Hungarian doctor's findings were ridiculed and Semmelweis was stripped of his credentials. He was later admitted to an asylum, and it was only decades later that his recommendation that doctors regularly wash their hands was widely accepted and validated, earning him "the father of hand-washing" moniker. The production will be available to view here

What to read around the web today

  • Texas still won't say which nursing homes have COVID-19 cases. Families are demanding answers. The Texas Tribune/ProPublica
  • 27 days in Tokyo Bay: What happened on the Diamond Princess. Wired
  • FDA's lax rules on coronavirus blood tests open U.S. market to dubious vendors. Reuters
  • California to widen pipeline of psychiatric nurse practitioners. Kaiser Health News
  • NIH’s axing of bat coronavirus grant a ‘horrible precedent’ and might break rules, critics say. Science

Thanks for reading! Have a nice weekend, 


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Friday, May 1, 2020


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