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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Africa is battling a ferocious third wave of Covid cases, WHO says

Africa is battling a devastating resurgence — the continent's third major wave — of the coronavirus, one that is predicted to be the worst yet. According to the WHO, cases have risen for five straight weeks since the beginning of May, with a 21% increase this month over last. At the current rate, the agency estimates that the ongoing surge will surpass cases seen in the previous one in the next two weeks. The spread of new variants has exacerbated the situation: The Delta variant, which is poised to become the most common one in many countries, has been reported in 14 African countries. Overall, African countries have recorded more than 5 million cases collectively, and nearly 140,000 deaths. At the same time, fewer than 1% of the continent's 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated. 

CDC advisory panel backs use of dengue vaccine in high-risk areas, despite delivery challenges

In a 14-0 vote, a CDC expert panel recommended use of Dengvaxia — the first and only commercially available vaccine to prevent dengue — even though it can only be given to children in dengue-endemic areas of the U.S. As licensed by the FDA, the vaccine also only be administered to those who test positive for prior dengue infection. Taken together, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendation, which the CDC will most likely accept, means that only a small fraction of children ages 9-16 — those in Puerto Rico and other offshore territories of the U.S. — will be able to get the vaccine. The stipulation for a pre-vaccine test is a result of findings that the vaccine is safe for those with prior infection, but among those who have never been infected, Dengvaxia could worsen dengue if the vaccine doesn't block an infection. Read more here

Hispanic, Black people experienced larger drops in life expectancy due to the pandemic 

Echoing previous research, a new study finds the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced life expectancy in the U.S., an effect that was especially profound in communities of color. Looking at nearly 400,000 deaths in 2020, scientists found that life expectancy decreased by an average of 16 months compared to 2018. While white communities lost less than a year in life expectancy, that figure for the Black community was nearly two years and more than three years for Hispanic populations. Misclassified Covid-19 deaths and deaths from indirect effects of the pandemic likely mean these findings are underestimates. The authors also suggest that lower rates of health insurance among Hispanic people and other inequities may have led to the larger effects on this group. 

Inside STAT: Scientists grapple with picking up research they put on hold during Covid


(ALEX HOGAN/STAT; SOURCE PHOTO: NIAID)

At the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, only a small group of scientists who had already been working on coronaviruses jumped in to work on the new, emerging threat. Very soon, those ranks exploded with other scientists who pivoted to making their research endeavors about SARS-CoV-2, including building diagnostics and coming up with therapies. As the pandemic in the U.S. wanes, those in this latter group are wondering how best to turn to their pre-pandemic work, much of which was delayed or otherwise stagnant. But many scientists want to still keep up with the work on Covid, especially since the long-term effects of the infection are still unknown. STAT's Andrew Joseph has more here

Shelf-stable blood, music therapy for mental illness among 3M Young Scientist finalist projects

The 3M Young Scientist Challenge — a contest for kids in grades 5-8 who are working on a project that aims to solve a pressing global issue — just named its 10 finalists. The projects cover a range of topics, more than half of which touch on some aspect of human health. Seventh-grader Abhinav Anne of Illinois has devised a way to extend the safety and shelf life of blood products, for instance, while Florida eighth-grader Sarah Park has developed a personalized music therapy — one that uses AI and collects emotional responses from the skin's electrical activity — for those with mental health disorders. The finalists will now work with a 3M scientist to further develop their project and a winner, who will get $25,000, will be named in October. 

Majorities of U.S. women have a need for contraception, are at risk for unintended pregnancy

A new CDC study finds 60% of U.S. women in recent years had an ongoing or potential need for contraception and more than three-quarters were at risk of unintended pregnancies. Of the 60%, only 1 in 7 women reported using a long-acting reversible form of contraception, while nearly a third didn't use any protection at last sexual encounter. The study looked at survey data from 2017-2019 across 45 jurisdictions in the U.S. Around 45% of women in Puerto Rico and more than 70% of those in New York had an ongoing need or potential need for contraceptives. And nearly two-thirds of Alaska women and 86% of women in Georgia were at risk for an unintended pregnancy. Nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, per the CDC, so ensuring that women can access contraception is essential, the authors state. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

New cases yesterday (two-week average): 11,794
New deaths yesterday (two-week average): 313

What to read around the web today

  • In pandemic, drug overdose deaths soar among Black Americans. Associated Press
  • Brazil passes 500,000 Covid deaths, a tragedy with no sign of letup. The New York Times
  • Britney Spears lost her reproductive freedom. Tragically, her case is not unique. The 19th News
  • In reversal, Eli Lilly now intends to seek fast approval for Alzheimer’s treatment. STAT+
  • To get a shot at justice, they were forced to prove their disabled daughter’s intelligence. ProPublica
  • Pfizer halts global distribution of smoking cessation pill as it tests for potential carcinogens. STAT+

Thanks for reading! I'm off for the next few days, but my colleagues will bring you this newsletter as usual. 

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