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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Spread of coronavirus in mink hits 'scary buttons' but experts urge calm

Mink are seen at a farm in Gjol, Denmark. (HENNING BAGGER/RITZAU SCANPIX/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The spread of a mutated SARS-CoV-2 virus among mink in Denmark has set off global alarm bells, and prompted plans to cull the nation's entire herd. The fear: The mutated virus could be passed back to people, thus undermining Covid-19 vaccines under development. "This hits all the scary buttons," one expert tells STAT's Helen Branswell. But he and other experts also said fears are overblown. In their view, the outbreak among minks, while unfortunate, likely won't increase transmission or make the virus more severe. Read more here

NASEM committee studying the impact of Covid-19 on women in STEM

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is investigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the careers of women in STEM. A NASEM committee commissioned five papers on the subject after early indications that women in STEM were being disproportionately impacted by the crisis, according to the study's director, Maria Dahlberg. Researchers behind those five papers — on leadership, tenure clocks, collaborations and mentorships, mental health, and work-life balance — are now presenting preliminary findings to the committee in a series of webinars that concludes Monday.

Presentations this week suggested, for instance, that many academic jobs lost during the pandemic — either temporary furloughs or permanent cuts — have been part-time, non-tenure track positions, which are largely held by women. The NASEM committee will release a final report next spring. "The purpose of the report is to understand what has happened [as a result of Covid-19]," as well as what research still needs to happen to understand its full impact, Dahlberg tells me. 

UNICEF, WHO call for emergency funding to fight measles and polio

The WHO and UNICEF are calling for $655 million in emergency funding to prevent epidemics of polio and measles from vaccinations missed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The two agencies estimate that countries that are not eligible for funding through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — countries whose per capita gross national income is higher than $1,630 over the past three years — will need $400 million for polio immunizations and $255 million for measles vaccinations. The world has seen a resurgence of measles in recent years as a result of coverage gaps, and the agencies say failure to eradicate polio in under-immunized areas such as Pakistan could lead to up to 200,000 new cases per year within the next decade.

Inside STAT: Being 'nonadherent' patient made me a more empathetic doctor 

Internal medicine resident Jessica Stuart hears the way others, when on rounds, talk about patients who don't take their medications as prescribed by doctors. The way her colleagues often talk about patients being "nonadherent" is "dripping with blame," Stuart writes in a new First Opinion. Stuart, who had non-Hodgkins lymphoma as a teen, understands where these patients are coming from. As a 13-year-old, she had to swallow 11 pills daily — some for chemotherapy, some to prevent complications from the chemotherapy, and some that were extremely bitter to swallow. And for a brief period, taking only the chemotherapy pills helped her feel some sort of control over a situation that otherwise made me feel helpless. Her own experience has now made her more empathetic to these "nonadherent" patients because, as she writes, "Being sick is really hard." Read more here

New study describes case of asymptomatic Covid-19 infection for more than two months

In a new study, researchers report the case of a 71-year-old woman with leukemia who was infected with SARS-CoV-2 for at least 105 days and was actively infectious for a minimum of 70 of those days — despite being asymptomatic the whole time. Her case is unusual, scientists say, because the majority of those infected with the virus so far have only been infectious for about eight days. The patient, who was in a facility in Kirkland, Wash., experiencing a large Covid-19 outbreak, was screened for Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital for severe anemia. Regular testing revealed that she continued shedding infectious virus for at least 70 days and didn't completely clear the virus until day 105. The patient also never developed antibodies. The researchers hypothesized that the patient's immunocompromised nature possibly never allowed her body to mount a response, leaving her shedding the virus for as long as she did.

U.S., New Zealand among list of nations where adolescent growth is trending poorly

A new analysis of child and adolescent physical growth from over 200 countries in the past 35 years shows a wide, and often troubling, variation in height and weight patterns. Here are some of the notable findings:

  • Overall trends: New Zealand, the U.S., Malaysia, and Mexico were among the countries where children showed little height gain and/or excess weight gain over the study period. Girls in South Korea and Vietnam showed healthy growth trends — more height gain than weight — while boys in Denmark and Portugal were among those who experienced the same.

  • Height trends: Among 19-year-olds, there was an average gap of 20 centimeters — or more than half a foot — between children in the tallest and shortest nations last year. The countries with the tallest teens were mostly in western and central Europe, while southeast Asia and east Africa had among the shortest 19-year-olds. 

  • Weight trends: An average of 25 kilograms — or about 55 pounds — separated adolescents in the countries with the highest and lowest average BMIs. The Pacific Islands and parts of the Middle East were also among the places with teens with high BMIs, while south Asian and east African nations had 19-year-olds with the lowest BMIs.

What to read around the web today

  • People with developmental disabilities were promised help. Instead, they face delays and denials. ProPublica/Arizona Daily Star
  • VA Joins Pentagon in recruiting volunteers for Covid vaccine trials. Kaiser Health News
  • A new item on your medical bill: The ‘Covid’ fee. The New York Times
  • First Covid-19 vaccine doses to go to health workers, say CDC advisers. NPR

Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a restful weekend,

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Friday, November 6, 2020


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