Friday, October 22, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week’s selections include stories on breast cancer, Graves’ disease, toxic oil syndrome, covid and more.

The New York Times:
For Some Breast Cancer Survivors, October Is The Cruelest Month

There’s a quote from “Anne of Green Gables” that I’m already sick of hearing. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers,” said Anne. “It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” No disrespect to one of literature’s most beloved protagonists, but actually, that sounds pretty great. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I am a person who’s had breast cancer, which means for me October is basically 31 days of low-key PTSD. My inbox is crammed with marketing emails featuring other survivors’ stories. My hummus suddenly has a pink lid. I appreciate the focus on fund-raising, but the spotlight is a double-edged sword. And with 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, I’m not alone. (Burns, 10/15)

The Washington Post:
What Is An ‘Emotional Push-Up’? Exploring The Concept Of Mental Health Gyms

For a long time, Olivia Bowser relied on exercise to manage her mental health. Throughout college, and after moving to Los Angeles for her first job managing digital and e-commerce for a consumer packaged goods start-up, Bowser, 27, wrestled with anxiety, stress and feelings of loneliness. She tried to find a sense of calm and happiness by going to Pilates, Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle six days a week. It didn’t work. … Looking for answers, Bowser started attending yoga classes at night, using a meditation app and Googling journal prompts. As she began to find relief through these practices, she had an idea. What if she could take what she loved about her fitness classes and focus on strengthening the mind? (Achauer, 10/19)

The Washington Post:
Her Unexplained Jitteriness And Weight Loss Were Telling Clues

For nearly a decade, Sherrill Franklin battled an elusive foe. She lost 22 pounds without trying. Her face was flushed, her neck felt sweaty and clammy, and she felt inexplicably jittery. At times Franklin, who lives in a rural community an hour west of Philadelphia, endured bouts of dizziness. It wasn’t until a worrisome new problem landed her in the hospital that a specialist, one of nearly two dozen doctors she consulted, ordered a blood test that revealed the reason she felt so sick. (Boodman, 10/16)

Chagas Disease: The (Potentially) Deadly Bite Of The Kissing Bug 

Chagas disease, a parasitic and chronic illness, has infected approximately 6 million people and kills about 12,000 every year in North and South America, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Despite its high numbers, there is a lack of knowledge in the U.S. about the life-threatening disease, which has been called “the New AIDS of the Americas.” Fewer than 1% of those with Chagas in the U.S. are diagnosed and treated due to low awareness of the infection among health providers. (Gonzalez and Franco, 10/14)

The Washington Post:
An Early U.S. Pregnancy Test Involved Sacrificing Rabbits

Trying to figure out if you’re pregnant is probably as old as humanity itself. People had some pretty weird methods, like urinating on wheat and barley seeds (which kind of worked!), or mixing urine with wine for divination by a “wine prophet,” or shoving an onion into a patient’s vagina to see if it gave her bad breath. (This does NOT work, Gwyneth Paltrow. Do not recommend this.) These days, people who think they might be pregnant can pee on testing sticks that check for the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). But nearly a century ago, when reliable HCG testing was being developed, it looked about as bizarre as the “wine prophet” and was so expensive only wealthy people could afford it. (Brockell, 10/17)

The New York Times:
Ancient-DNA Researchers Set Ethics Guidelines For Their Work 

In 2017, a team of scientists successfully extracted the DNA of members of a Pueblo community who were buried starting around 1,300 years ago in what is now Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The DNA suggested that these people had lived in a matrilineal society, with power passed down through generations of mothers. The paper was a powerful example of how ancient DNA could illuminate the lives of people who died long ago. It was also a case study in poor ethics, some researchers contended at the time. They alleged that the scientists had failed to consult with local tribes and used culturally insensitive terms, such as referring to a tribal ancestor as “cranium 14.” (Imbler, 10/20)

The Washington Post:
Victims Of A 1981 Mass Cooking-Oil Poisoning Occupy Madrid Museum, Threaten Suicide

When a previously unrecorded illness erupted in Madrid in 1981, many people in Spain panicked. It took five weeks and dozens of deaths to understand the cause: adulterated cooking oil. The illness — which came to be known as “toxic oil syndrome” — killed hundreds and left thousands with chronic conditions, many severe. Four decades later, feeling that their grievances were not being heard, a few of those victims occupied a premier Madrid art museum, the Prado. If their demands were not met, they said, they would kill themselves within hours by ingesting pills. Six protesters were seen Tuesday standing before Diego Velázquez’s famous painting “Las Meninas”; they held a sign that read: “40 years poisoned and condemned to live as in 1981 because of the abandonment of the government.” (Westfall, 10/19)

Also —

What Can Masks Do? Part 2: What Makes For A Good Mask Study — And Why Most Fail 

As noted in part 1, not all facepieces designed to protect against respiratory diseases like COVID-19 are created equal, and they must be considered as only one tier in a hierarchy of protective steps. Here in part 2 we spell out why not all studies involving cloth face coverings or surgical/medical masks warrant equal consideration. We’ll detail the necessary elements of a rigorous study and explore some recent studies that, though highly touted by both scientists and the lay press, fell quite a bit short of the ideal.Again, at the outset, we underscore that we are not “anti-mask.” Rather, we are in favor of wearing the most protective type of facepiece for the setting—such as a non-fit tested respirator when spending more than a few minutes in a crowded, indoor space—and only in combination with other interventions. (Brosseau et al, 10/15)

The New York Times:
What The Future May Hold For The Coronavirus And Us 

On Jan. 9, 2020, about a week after the world first learned of a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases in central China, authorities announced that scientists had found the culprit: a novel coronavirus. It was a sobering announcement, and an unnervingly familiar one. Nearly two decades earlier, a different coronavirus had hurdled over the species barrier and sped around the world, causing a lethal new disease called severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The virus, which became known as SARS-CoV, killed 774 people before health officials contained it. (Anthes, 10/12)

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