First Edition: April 27, 2022

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Call It ‘Mexicare’: Fed Up With High Medical Bills, A Family Crosses The Border For Health Care

The Fierro family of Yuma, Arizona, had a string of bad medical luck that started in December 2020. That’s when Jesús Fierro Sr. was admitted to the hospital with a serious covid-19 infection. He spent 18 days at Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he lost 60 pounds. He came home weak and dependent on an oxygen tank. Then, in June 2021, his wife, Claudia, fainted while waiting for a table at the local Olive Garden. She felt dizzy one minute and was in an ambulance on her way to the same medical center the next. She was told her magnesium levels were low and was sent home within 24 hours. (Andalo, 4/27)

KHN Is On TikTok! 

KHN is now on TikTok, where our reporters deliver the latest health care news straight to your feed. From disparities in rates of cesarean sections to the absurd amount of time Americans waste on phone calls with insurance companies, we create both lighthearted content and journalistic deep dives into the state of public health.  (4/27)

Daily Aspirin Offers Little To No Benefit For Most Adults Trying To Prevent Heart Disease, New Report Says

Taking low-dose aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack or stroke provides little to no benefit to people without cardiovascular disease but could instead increase the risk of dangerous bleeding, a new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says. For adults ages 60 and up who don’t have cardiovascular disease or aren’t at high risk of developing it, the task force determined there was no benefit to starting aspirin if they are not already on it. Among adults 40 to 59 years old, the task force, a volunteer group of medical experts, concluded “with moderate certainty” that there was a small net benefit to taking low-dose aspirin among those who have a 10% or higher risk of developing heart disease in a 10-year period. It’s up to those individuals and their doctors to decide whether to take aspirin, the task force concluded. (Cueto, 4/26)

ABC News:
Aspirin No Longer Recommended To Prevent 1st Heart Attack, Stroke For Most Adults Over 60 

For years, doctors recommended people in their 50s start taking baby aspirin every day to protect against heart attacks and stroke. But in recent years, with new evidence of the possible harm of daily aspirin, health experts shifted those recommendations. In major new guidance, an influential physician task force no longer recommends daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke among people 60 and older. Meanwhile, the new guidance said people 40 to 59 should only take it if they have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, and in consultation with a doctor. There is little benefit in continuing aspirin beyond the age of 75 years old, experts concluded. (Akusoba, 4/26)

Daily Aspirin To Prevent Heart Attacks And Strokes Could Do More Harm Than Good

New guidance from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says people over the age of 60 should not start taking daily, low-dose aspirin to prevent cardiovascular events like heart attacks or strokes. Low-dose aspirin had been a popular prevention measure, but as more evidence has accumulated its benefit has come into question. On Tuesday the task force finalized new recommendations advising against the practice. The task force concludes that initiating daily aspirin in adults 60 years or older has “no net benefit,” and increases a person’s risk of internal bleeding. (Aubrey and Stone, 4/26)

More Than Half Of Americans Have Been Infected By COVID-19 In Past 2 Years

Most people in the United States, including most children, have now been infected with the coronavirus, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, the CDC’s Dr. Kristie Clarke said so many people caught omicron over the winter that almost 60% of everyone in the U.S. now have antibodies to the virus in their blood. That number is even higher for children — almost 75% of children 11 and younger have antibodies to the virus. (Neel, 4/26)

The Washington Post:
A Majority Of Americans Have Had Coronavirus Infections 

Before omicron, one-third of Americans had been infected with the coronavirus, but by the end of February, that rate had climbed to nearly 60 percent, including 3 out of 4 children, according to federal health data released Tuesday. The data from blood tests offers the first evidence that over half the U.S. population, roughly 190 million people, has been infected at least once since the pandemic began. That is more than double the official case count. Many of those infections are likely to have been asymptomatic or with few symptoms. The virus has killed nearly 1 million Americans and caused disruptions that have driven up death rates from other causes, including cancer and heart disease. (Sun, Keating and Achenbach, 4/26)

CDC Estimates 3 In 4 Kids Have Had Coronavirus Infections

Three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with the coronavirus and more than half of all Americans had signs of previous infections, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers estimated in a report Tuesday. The researchers examined blood samples from more than 200,000 Americans and looked for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines. They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February, when the more contagious omicron variant surged through the U.S. (Stobbe, 4/26)

NBC News:
CDC Says 75 Percent Of Children Had Covid By February

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said this should not be interpreted to mean that antibodies from prior infection equal adequate protection against future illness. “We don’t know whether that protection has waned. We don’t know as much about that level of protection than we do about the protection we get from both vaccines and boosters,” Walensky said, adding that the agency still encourages those with detectable antibodies from prior infection to get vaccinated. (Edwards, 4/26)

The New York Times:
Vaccines For Young Children Delayed By Incomplete Data, F.D.A. Official Says 

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet cleared a coronavirus vaccine for children under 5 because the vaccine manufacturers have not finished their applications for authorization to distribute doses, a top official at the agency suggested on Tuesday. The official — Dr. Peter Marks, who oversees vaccine regulation for the F.D.A. — said the agency will release a schedule this week for outside expert review of vaccines for the nation’s 18 million children younger than 5. That is the only age group still not eligible for coronavirus vaccination. (LaFraniere, 4/27)

Pfizer Asks FDA To Authorize Booster Shots For Kids Ages 5 Through 11

Children ages 5 through 11 who’ve received two shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may soon be eligible for a booster. That’s if the Food and Drug Administration agrees to a request made Tuesday by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech to authorize their booster shot for kids in this age range. The companies submitted data to the FDA showing that the low-dose booster shot is safe for children ages 5 through 11 and could help protect them against omicron. Currently, boosters are only authorized for people ages 12 and older. (Stein, 4/26)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Vice President Kamala Harris Tests Positive For COVID-19 After California Trip

Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, her office announced, making her the highest-ranking member of the Biden administration to announce being infected. Harris has no symptoms and is working from her home, according to her press secretary. The former California senator and attorney general returned to Washington late Monday after spending last week in Los Angeles and has not been in contact with President Biden or first lady Jill Biden, her office said. (Kopan, 4/26)

Harris Positive For COVID-19, Biden Not A ‘Close Contact’ 

Neither President Joe Biden nor first lady Jill Biden was considered a “close contact” of Harris in recent days, said the vice president’s press secretary, Kirsten Allen. Harris had been scheduled to attend Biden’s Tuesday morning Presidential Daily Brief but was not present, the White House said. She had returned Monday from a weeklong trip to the West Coast. The last time she saw Biden was the previous Monday, April 18.“I have no symptoms, and I will continue to isolate and follow CDC guidelines,” Harris tweeted. “I’m grateful to be both vaccinated and boosted.” (Miller, 4/26)

The Hill:
Harris Prescribed COVID-19 Antiviral Pill After Testing Positive 

Vice President Harris has been prescribed and has taken Paxlovid, an antiviral pill used to treat COVID-19. Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen tweeted the announcement about the vice president’s treatment on Tuesday. It came just hours after it was announced that Harris, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for COVID-19. (Beals, 4/26)

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden Positive For COVID-19, Mild Symptoms

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19, his office said, as the virus continues to circulate among lawmakers and policymakers in the nation’s capitol. The Oregon Democrat tested positive during a routine screening and is experiencing mild symptoms, his office said in a statement. (4/26)

Sen. Chris Murphy Tests Positive For The Coronavirus 

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said he tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday after experiencing mild symptoms overnight.“ We’ve done the contact tracing and let people know,” the Democrat said in a Twitter post. “It’s a bummer, but I’m sure if I wasn’t fully vaccinated I would be feeling a lot worse. So remember to get your booster!” (4/26)

North Carolina Rep. Deborah Ross Tests Positive For COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross said she tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. In a tweet, the first-term Democrat from Raleigh representing the 2nd Congressional District said she’s experiencing mild symptoms. She said she will quarantine and avoid traveling, in keeping with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (4/26)

Biden To Comply With Forthcoming Order To Keep Covid Border Restrictions In Place

The Biden administration said on Tuesday that it will comply with an expected court order from a Louisiana judge that would block the lifting of Title 42, a Trump-era deportation policy used to expel more than one million migrants at the Southern border. The administration had announced that it would end the use of Title 42, a public health order, by May 23. But a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana announced on Monday that he would side with Republican states to keep the order preserved barring some agreement being reached between them and the administration. (Daniels and Barron-Lopez, 4/26)

Dallas Morning News:
This Spreading COVID-19 Subvariant Is In Dallas-Fort Worth. Here’s What You Need To Know

UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers are confirming the presence in North Texas of a new omicron subvariant that’s spreading quickly in parts of the Northeast. Scientists sequenced four cases of BA.2.12.1, a subvariant similar to BA.2 but with a mutation on its spike protein, or the part of the coronavirus that affects how easily it spreads to people. There’s not enough data on the new variant yet to determine whether it spreads more easily than BA.2 or causes more severe disease, said Dr. Jeffrey SoRelle, who leads UT Southwestern’s COVID-19 variant tracking effort. (Wolf, 4/26)

What Do We Know About The New Omicron Mutant?

BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 29% of new COVID-19 infections nationally last week, according to data reported Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it caused 58% of reported infections in the New York region. The variant has been detected in at least 13 other countries, but the U.S. has the highest levels of it so far. Scientists say it spreads even faster than stealth omicron. (Ungar, 4/26)

When Hospitalized, Omicron Patients Require Similar Care To Delta Patients

Though they need hospital care much less often, patients hospitalized with the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant require similar levels of respiratory support and intensive care unit (ICU) treatment as those with the Delta variant, according to a Johns Hopkins study published in the May issue of eBioMedicine. The study involved 1,119 Omicron and 908 Delta patients diagnosed from Nov 22 to Dec 31, 2021, in the Washington, DC, area. (4/26)

Covid Case Metrics Fall Behind Omicron Variant

In early January the state of Massachusetts added a new set of figures to its Covid-19 dashboard. Two years into the pandemic, it began to draw a distinction between people who were hospitalized because of the virus and people who were there for other reasons but also happened to be infected. Nothing changed inside the hospitals’ walls—a Covid-positive patient there because of a car crash still had to be isolated. But the effect on the state’s numbers was dramatic. It cut them in half. (Armstrong, 4/26)

Can We Trust Rapid COVID Tests Against BA.2? This Is What The Experts Say

COVID-19 cases have been slowly ticking up in the U.S., with the omicron BA.2 subvariant now the dominant strain in the country. At the same time, rapid at-home antigen tests have become the first choice diagnostic tool for many people who think they might be infected. While these rapid tests are useful in detecting the spread of COVID-19, the high infectivity of BA.2 and concerns around self-reporting have given rise to a number of questions. Here is what two health experts have to say. (Levitt and Louise Kelly, 4/27)

WA Seafood Processing Plant Fined $56K Following COVID Death

A seafood processing plant has been fined $56,000 in connection with a 2021 COVID outbreak that left one employee dead. The Department of Labor and Industries announced the fine against Shining Ocean Inc. on Monday, Northwest News Network reported. According to the agency, a 65-year old employee of the Sumner company died after contracting COVID at a company staff meeting on November 4, 2021. During the meeting, the investigation found most of the 23 people in attendance did not wear masks. Sixteen workers contracted COVID, including the man who later died. (4/26)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philadelphia COVID Vaccine Mandate For City Workers Set For May 31

Mayor Jim Kenney’s long-delayed policy requiring unionized city workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is now set to take effect May 31. But it could be delayed again because the city has not yet reached an agreement over the policy with the Philadelphia firefighters union. Kenney announced the vaccine requirement in November, and it was initially supposed to take effect Jan. 14. But the administration has struggled to quickly reach agreements over its implementation with the four major municipal unions, which represent about 24,000 city workers. (Collins Walsh, 4/26)

The Washington Post:
Disability Community Pushes To Keep Masks Aboard Transit 

The D.C. region’s disability community is urging Metro to recommend mask usage aboard buses and trains and at stations, after the transit agency — and others across the country — made face coverings optional following a court ruling that voided a federal mask mandate for public transportation. Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee passed a motion to be presented to Metro’s board on Thursday urging the transit agency to continue following recommendations by health experts on masking. They cite concerns about virus spread among vulnerable passengers, particularly seniors and people with disabilities. (Lazo, 4/26)

Elon Musk Buying Twitter Prompts WHO Warning On Covid Misinformation

As billionaire Elon Musk nears a potential deal to buy Twitter Inc., a World Health Organization official warned of the dangers of health and vaccine misinformation on social media. Misinformation costs lives, Mike Ryan, executive director of the health emergencies program at the WHO, said Tuesday in response to a reporter’s question regarding the offer from Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist, to buy Twitter for about $44 billion. (Hoffman and Hernanz Lizarraga, 4/26)

CIDRAP To Develop Vaccine Roadmap For Future Coronavirus Threats

New coronaviruses armed with the capacity to cause severe human disease are becoming more frequent, raising the stakes for global preparedness, along with a need for a vaccine that could broadly protect against the most dangerous ones, such as SARS-CoV-2. To help jump-start the process, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota announced today that it has received $1 million in grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a Coronavirus Vaccines Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap. (Schnirring, 4/26)

Modern Healthcare:
Tenet Investigating Cybersecurity Incident That Led To ‘Temporary Disruption’

Tenet Healthcare, one of the U.S.’s largest for-profit hospital chains, is recovering from a “cybersecurity incident” that occurred last week, the company said Tuesday. Dallas-based Tenet’s investigation into the incident is ongoing. Tenet identified unauthorized activity on some of its information-technology applications last week, the company said in a notice posted online. Tenet suspended access to the affected applications and “executed extensive cybersecurity protection protocols” to restrict further unauthorized access, the company said. (Kim Cohen, 4/26)

Modern Healthcare:
Epic Is Fastest-Growing EHR Among Hospitals, Report Shows

Epic Systems added more U.S. hospitals to its electronic health records software footprint than its competitors last year, according to a new report. A net 74 hospitals installed or signed contracts to install Epic’s EHR platform in 2021, expanding its market share from 31% to 33%, KLAS Research’s annual report on EHR market share found. It aggregated publicly available information, self-reported EHR vendor data and information from operators of acute-care, psychiatric, long-term acute care, rehabilitation and other specialty hospitals. More than 340 hospitals either purchased a new EHR system or migrated to a new version of their vendor’s EHR product last year, up 44% from 2020, according to the report. Epic was the top choice for large organizations. Cerner was the favorite among smaller hospitals. (Kim Cohen, 4/26)

Rite Aid Ordered To Pay Humana $123 Million For Inflating Pharmacy Claims

Rite Aid was ordered by an arbitrator to pay nearly $123 million to Humana, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S., for an alleged scheme in which the retailer sought reimbursement for prescription drugs at inflated prices. Many of the nation’s largest drug store chains and health plans have recently gone to court to settle such disputes. Last month, several Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in different states filed a lawsuit against Walgreens Boots Alliance. Two years ago, a different group of Blue Cross and Blue Shields plans filed a complaint against CVS Health and its pharmacy chain. (Silverman, 4/26)

Pharmacist Gets 10 Years For $180M Health Care Fraud Scheme

Federal prosecutors say a former Mississippi pharmacist has been sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison for a $180 million health insurance fraud scheme involving unnecessary prescriptions for expensive pain creams and other medications. Mitchell “Chad” Barrett, 55, now of Gulf Breeze, Florida, was sentenced Tuesday in Mississippi’s Southern District, a news release said. He is among more than a dozen people who have pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the scheme. (4/26)

Federal Antitrust Case Against Sutter Health Headed For Appeal 

The long-running federal antitrust lawsuit against Sutter Health is getting a second wind after attorneys filed a notice of appeal Tuesday seeking to revive the case. The lawsuit appeared doomed in March when a San Francisco jury unanimously sided with the California health system at the conclusion of a month-long trial. The verdict cleared Sutter of allegations that it engaged in anticompetitive business practices that drove up healthcare costs in Northern California by more than $400 million. (Bannow, 4/26)

Bay Area News Group:
Thousands Of Nurses Continue Strike As Bargaining Continues Between Stanford, Packard And Nurses’ Union

About 5,000 nurses at Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital remained on the picket line Tuesday as leaders began the first day of negotiations in the early morning since the start of the strike. Union leaders and hospital officials were tight-lipped about the closed-door bargaining, but nurses say they are prepared to strike indefinitely until a reasonable contract is agreed upon. On Monday, Stanford Health Care and Packard Hospital canceled appointments, postponed surgeries and sent chemotherapy patients to sister hospitals as the thousands of nurses walked off the job Monday, forcing hundreds of traveling nurses to scramble to meet patient demand. (Toledo, 4/26)

Modern Healthcare:
Telehealth Didn’t Lead To Unnecessary Care In 2020, Study Says

Telehealth generally didn’t lead to duplicative care in late 2020, according to a study published Tuesday. Patients treated for most acute conditions via telehealth were as likely or slightly more likely to need a follow-up visit as those who sought in-person care to start, the study in JAMA Network Open found. Telehealth patients with chronic conditions were less likely to need follow-up care. Telehealth patients with acute respiratory infections were more likely to require a follow-up visit than in-person patients, but this could reflect COVID-19-related concerns, the researchers said. (Goldman, 4/26)

The Doctor Who Is Trying To Bring Back Surprise Billing 

If Daniel Haller gets his way, surprise medical bills will be back in full force. Haller, an acute-care surgeon on Long Island in New York, is suing the federal government over the No Surprises Act, a new law that protects people from receiving unexpected bills from out-of-network doctors. He argues the entire law should be thrown out because it violates his constitutional rights to bill patients directly for any “balance of the fair value” of his services, according to his complaint. It’s a stunning position, given how popular the consumer protections are — the law is one of the few health care policies that politicians in both parties brag about, and even doctors groups whose members have taken a hit from the changes don’t outright oppose it. (Herman, 4/27)

Dallas Morning News:
U.S. 5th Circuit Officially Ends Abortion Providers’ Lawsuit On Senate Bill 8 Restrictions In Texas

As expected, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday formally ended a legal challenge against Senate Bill 8, Texas’ six-week abortion ban enacted on Sept. 1, which is considered the most restrictive abortion law since Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973. The federal challenge is remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss all challenges to the law’s private enforcement provisions. The federal challenge was doomed after the 5th Circuit sent the case to Texas Supreme Court regarding a question on whether or not state medical licensing officials could reprimand providers who violate SB 8. The state’s high court said the law did not allow such enforcement. (Hollers, 4/26)

Abortions In Kansas Rise; Fewer Women Come From Some States 

Kansas saw a 4.1% increase in the number of abortions performed in the state in 2021 compared with 2020, with more Missouri residents but fewer Oklahoma and Texas residents coming into the state to terminate their pregnancies. A preliminary report Tuesday from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment showed that 7,849 abortions were performed in the state last year. That’s 303 more than the 7,546 performed in Kansas in 2020. (4/26)

Dems Grow Alarmed By Lack Of Fear Over Roe’s Future 

For decades, Democrats insisted that Republicans would invite a major voter backlash if they took aggressive action to curtail abortion rights. Now, as a growing number of GOP-led states do just that, passing a slew of bills curtailing abortion with no exemptions for rape and incest, they fear that voters are uninformed or misinformed about the stakes. And they are sounding the alarm that more is needed to engage voters and warn them that the current slate of laws is just the beginning. (Barron-Lopez and Ollstein, 4/26)

Senate Panel Finds ‘Grave’ Health Risks In Military Housing 

One of the largest providers of military housing in the United States continues to respond inadequately to mold and other structural problems, threatening the health and safety of service members and their families, according to a Senate panel’s investigation. The allegations against Balfour Beatty Communities LLC are focused on housing provided to service members stationed at Fort Gordon Army Base in Georgia and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. The company oversees about 1,700 homes at the two bases. (Freking, 4/26)

Oklahoma Governor Signs Law Banning Nonbinary Birth Certificates 

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a new law that bans nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates in the state. The legislation, which cleared the Oklahoma state legislature in recent weeks, states: “The biological sex designation on a certificate of birth issued under this section shall be either male or female and shall not be nonbinary or any symbol representing a nonbinary designation including but not limited to the letter ‘X’.” The law takes effect immediately because it was passed with an emergency designation. (LeBlanc and Rose, 4/26)

Maine To Require Test For Virus That Causes Hearing Loss

Maine is close to requiring screening for a potentially debilitating virus in some newborns in the state. The Maine Senate on Monday unanimously voted to enact a bill to require screening for cytomegalovirus for some babies, sending the bill to the governor. The proposal from Democratic Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth would require the state to test every infant for the virus if the baby fails two hearing tests. (4/26)

Maine, With Region’s Highest Smoking Rate, Funds Cessation

Maine is increasing funding for smoking cessation programs as the state tries to shed the distinction as having the highest rate of smoking in New England. Almost 18% of adults in Maine use cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Maine Legislature enacted legislation on Monday to increase funding for cessation and prevention and treatment programs to $15.9 million. (4/26)

Bangor Daily News:
Bangor Will Repeal 1st-In-State Flavored Tobacco Ban

Bangor’s city council will repeal an ordinance banning flavored tobacco sales after the city failed to provide enough notice to tobacco businesses warning them about the new law. Bangor was required to directly notify local tobacco retailers at least 30 days before it considered the ordinance, because the proposal was more restrictive than state law, city solicitor David Szewczyk told councilors on Monday during a workshop. The ordinance was set to go into effect June 1 after the Bangor City Council voted 7-1 last fall to ban the sale of flavored tobacco, like menthol cigarettes and electronic cigarettes that have a taste or smell other than tobacco. (Russell, 4/26)

Governor Clears Way For Cannabis Research Center To Open 

Gov. Andy Beshear cleared the way Tuesday for a cannabis research center to open as he reviews whether he has the executive authority to singlehandedly legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. The governor revealed his action on a bill authorizing the research center at the University of Kentucky. The measure won overwhelming approval from lawmakers on the final day of this year’s legislative session earlier this month. (Schreiner, 4/26)

Salt Lake Tribune:
Citing ‘Carnage’ Of Opioid Addiction, Salt Lake County Unveils Partial Settlement In Its Yearslong Lawsuit Against Drugmakers

Salt Lake County will receive about $57 million over the next 16 years as part of a $266 million payout to Utah, after four defendants in a yearslong opioid lawsuit decided to settle with governments nationwide. Under the partial settlement, 85% of the total must go to education and other programs that address the effects of opioid addiction, something Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said had plagued the country. The settlement stems from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against 19 drugmakers and distributors. Only four of the defendants — manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, and distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — agreed to settle. “Today’s settlement,” Gill said, “is a partial down payment on that carnage that they’ve left behind.” (Apgar, 4/26)

Detroit Free Press:
Oakland County Names Calandra Green First Black Female Health Officer

Calandra Green, a registered nurse who has risen through the ranks at the Oakland County Health Division, was named its new leader on Tuesday. She is the first woman of color to hold the health officer position, and will manage public health in Michigan’s second-most populous county. “Calandra shares our vision for having public health rooted in the community,” said Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter in a statement. “As we transition to a new phase of the pandemic, her knowledge, skills, and commitment are what we need to move public health forward to achieve our strategic goal of having healthy residents.” (Jordan Shamus, 4/26)

The Hill:
Scientists Link ‘Forever Chemicals’ Exposure To Liver Damage 

Scientists have identified a link between exposure to “forever chemicals” and liver damage, as well as a potential connection to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, in a study published on Wednesday. Exposure to such compounds — also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS —  was associated with elevated levels of a liver enzyme called ALT, which serves as a biomarker for liver damage, the scientists concluded in an Environmental Health Perspectives article. (Udasin, 4/27)

CBS News:
New Technology Seeks To Destroy Toxic “Forever Chemicals” In Drinking Water

Researchers estimate more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states could have cancer-causing carcinogens in their drinking water. The toxic chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS, have been virtually indestructible — but new technology aims to change that. Sandy Wynn-Stelt discovered too late that her Michigan home sat across from a former waste dump. Her husband died of cancer six years ago and she has had thyroid cancer. For more than 20 years, they drank well water contaminated with PFAS. (Strassmann, 4/26)

Women Responded Better To Early Alzheimer’s Interventions, Study Finds 

After age and genetics, being a woman is the single most important risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, experts say. “Two out of every three brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease are women’s brains,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic in the Center for Brain Health at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine. (LaMotte, 4/26)

The Washington Post:
How Stress Affects Your Brain And Body 

We all know what stress feels like physically — though the symptoms vary by person. Some people experience shakiness or a racing heart, while others develop muscle tension, headaches or stomach aches. But what we might not realize is that our physiological responses to life’s stresses and strains can have deeper, less obvious, repercussions for just about every organ and system in the body. “I think people really underestimate just how big the effects are,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. When you experience stress, your brain triggers the release of a cascade of hormones — such as cortisol, epinephrine (a.k.a., adrenaline), and norepinephrine — that produce physiological changes. These changes, called the stress response or the fight-or-flight response, are designed to help people react to or cope with a threat or danger they’re facing. (Colino, 4/26)

The Wall Street Journal:
More Than 60 Tons Of Ground Beef Recalled Due To E. Coli Concerns 

A New Jersey company is recalling more than 60 tons of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli, according to the Agriculture Department. The products distributed by Lakeside Refrigerated Services were shipped nationwide, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Monday. The department’s food safety and inspection service discovered the issue during routine testing of the products, it said. (De Avila, 4/26)

The Boston Globe:
Wealthy Nations Falter On Global Vaccine Commitments

The West’s pandemic promises were grand, its goals ambitious, and from the early days of the virus’s spread, those commitments were trumpeted to the international community in a tone of solidarity. President Biden promised the United States would be an “arsenal of vaccines” for the developing world. United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on G-7 world leaders to pool their financial firepower to immunize the world against COVID-19 by 2022. And in her State of the European Union Address, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen portrayed the EU as a champion of vaccine equity, pledging to invest millions into protecting the global poor from the virus on behalf of Team Europe. (Baskar, 4/26)

Mexico Says Coronavirus Now Endemic, Not Pandemic

The Mexican government said Tuesday that COVID-19 has passed from a pandemic to an endemic stage in Mexico, meaning authorities will treat it as a seasonally recurring disease. Mexico never enforced face mask requirements, and the few partial shutdowns of businesses and activities were lifted weeks ago. … About 90% of adult Mexicans have recieved at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. (4/27)

Djokovic Can Play At Wimbledon; No Vaccination Required

Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his title at Wimbledon, despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, because the shots are not required to enter Britain, All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said Tuesday. Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb who is ranked No. 1, missed the Australian Open in January after being deported from that country because he was not vaccinated against the illness caused by the coronavirus that has led to the deaths of millions during the pandemic that began in 2020. (Fendrich, 4/26)

More Kids’ Hepatitis Cases Reported In US And Abroad

Several more unexplained hepatitis cases in young children have been reported, including three in Illinois and more in the United Kingdom. Also, media reports note possible cases in Japan and Romania. In the United States, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported three potential cases of severe hepatitis in children, two in suburban Chicago and one in the western part of the state. One of the patients required a liver transplant. (4/26)

China Reports World’s First Human H5N8 Avian Flu Infection

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) today announced the first known human infection from H3N8 avian influenza, a strain known to have infected different animals before, but not people. The patient is a 4-year-old boy from Zhumadian City in Henan province, located in the central part of the country, according to the statement in Chinese, which was first translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog. … An investigation found that there were chickens and wild ducks around the boy’s home. (4/26)

Vaccine-Derived Polio Is On The Upswing. Can A New Vaccine Stop The Spread?

The world has spent billions of dollars over the last 15 years in an effort to wipe out the virus through vaccination efforts – with encouraging results. Rates plunged from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to just several dozen by 2016. But in recent years, polio incidence has started to inch back up. The reason has to do with the type of vaccine used in many parts of the world, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. While the United States and other Western countries inject an inactivated virus that poses no risk of spread and are now polio-free, other countries rely on an oral vaccine. It’s cheap, it’s easy to administer and two or more doses confer lifelong immunity. But it’s made with living, weakened virus. And that poses a problem. (Daniel, 4/26)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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