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Calling All People Who Sew And Make: You Can Help Make Masks For 2020 Healthcare Worker PPE Shortage

Rally is probably not the right word. A significant movement, perhaps even a revolution of epic noble intentions, is underway in hackerspaces, makerspaces, and sewing groups to come together and solve a problem to save lives at risk with the Coronavirus.

You can help. Today, right now. Are you sitting in your apartment or house in some sort of state-wide lockdown? You can do something to help others. People of all ages and walks of life are diving in to make a difference. Check out some of these amazing initiatives, both small and large:

Joost De Cock (Old Dutch for “The Cook”) started the FreeSewing Open Source Project from his home in the Netherlands to provide free sewing patterns. Recently, his wife who is a surgeon started seeing potential shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). Joost knew what to do, so he posted it to FreeSewing in late February. People thought he was being silly as a handmade mask would never be used by professionals. (I love the brand for FreeSewing.org, by the way.)

But he was onto something when he posted: Calling all makers: Here’s a 1-page PDF facemask pattern; Now go make some and help beat this thing. I took inspiration from Joost’s call for help in the writing of my headline. Shoutout also to Katelyn Bowden who shared Joost’s post. It is her workshop photo above and she has been cranking out the DIY masks. She calls herself a “reluctant hacker” and also runs a nonprofit to help image abuse victims. She pointed me to a bunch of different resources.

If you think that a handmade mask cannot be used, think again. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a place for them — in times of crisis, like the one we are in right now. On the CDC page: Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks, they explain that as a last resort, a homemade mask is acceptable. Frankly, we are at that stage right now. Here’s how they explain it in the Crisis Strategy section, When No Facemasks Are Available, Options Include:

“Healthcare personnel (HCP) use of homemade masks:

In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.

It is possible that the government and manufacturers will ramp up in a wartime-like effort, but the reinforcement is more likely to come from the people. Millions of masks are needed. People are starting to make them and it is going to be a big deal.

Clearly, there is a shortage of the manufactured N95 respirator. You know this. Healthcare workers know this. If you have been hoarding them, let me cut to the chase — there are people and organizations who need your extras and you can do the right thing and donate them. Get in touch with Holly Figueroa O’Reilly on Twitter — she is organizing the distribution of masks. Karen Booth is another person listing out different projects as she starts making masks herself. Follow the hashtags #millionmaskchallenge and #millionmaskmayday and scroll through and you will find programs and projects around the USA and world.

People like Joost, Katelyn, Holly, and Karen are bringing enormous good into the world. When I asked Joost why he was doing this FreeSewing project, he pointed me to his Pledge page where he explains that all the funds that come into the project are donated to Doctors Without Borders. All of it. Why? He pointed me to that page again: “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the phrase ‘noblesse oblige’ but it essentially means that privilege entails responsibility.” Then said, “I mean every word of it.”

Makers, hackers, craftspeople are awesome. Coronavirus does not stand a chance. Tweet, tweet.


Additional Resources for Open Source or Volunteer COVID-19 Projects:

One of my favorite how-to sites is Instructables. The DIY Cloth Face Mask has almost 100,000 views. It is a step-by-step instruction for those who need it. Kudos to ashevillejm.

In 2006, CDC released a Simple Respiratory Mask design using heavyweight t-shirts in its Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. More of an academic post, but some ideas in it.

A Facebook group was formed last week: Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies. It is worth a visit — in just a few short days there are 20,000-plus members and volunteers.

If you are looking for some research and street-level testing of various materials for DIY mask-making, this post from Smart Air Filters is exceptional: What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks? It also includes a few great links at the end of it.

Forbes’ editor Amy Feldman just expanded on the developing story of a team in Italy that is 3D printing respirator parts. Read it here: Meet The Italian Engineers 3D-Printing Respirator Parts For Free To Help Keep Coronavirus Patients Alive.

Bloomberg confirms that the workers and communities around them are rising up to meet this challenge: Hospital Workers Make Masks From Office Supplies Amid U.S. Shortage.

If you have a 3D Printer and have been trying out different N95-type designs, then you will want to read this one from 3D Printing Media Network by Davide Sher: Copper3D organizing global campaign to 3D print antimicrobial masks on a global scale. After you read it, you will probably want to order some PLA filament from the folks at Copper3D who are making their patent-pending idea and design open source to help fight COVID-19.

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I’m a Tech and Productivity guy. Do you have #lifehacks, #DIYtips, #HowTO ideas? Click the little “House” icon below to get to my website where you can submit ideas (via a Google spreadsheet). I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and connecting. Sign up for my Tech Tips email. You can find me at the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter link buttons, too. I still also cover a bit of my old beat on 3D printing, hardware, software, and mobile apps, as well.

Source: Calling All People Who Sew And Make: You Can Help Make Masks For 2020 Healthcare Worker PPE Shortage

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This is a translation of the video I made for an initiative by Make in Belgium. Different rules and requirements may exist in your area, so please check with your local health providers before making and donating masks. Download the (Dutch) pattern on http://maakjemondmasker.be A big hurrah for Make in Belgium for organizing this wonderful initiative. And thank you to Henk Rijckaert for involving me in this. Check out his YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/henkrijc… INSTAGRAM: http://www.instagram.com/craftswithellen PATREON: http://www.patreon.com/craftswithellen ————————— DISCLAIMER Even though my videos are set up as tutorials, I’m not professionally trained in any of these crafts. The tools that I use can be dangerous. Don’t try a craft if you are unfamiliar with the tools and the necessary safety precautions. Be safe!

 

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New York City 10 Days Away From ‘Widespread Shortages’ Of Medical Supplies, Mayor Says

Topline: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday CNN appearance that “if we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die” as the city—now the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic—faces a possible shortage of medical supplies.

  • “We’re about 10 days from seeing widespread shortages,” de Blasio said, adding, “We have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point.”
  • De Blasio also said that the military hasn’t been mobilized by the Trump administration, and that the Defense Production Act, which the president invoked by executive order Wednesday, has not been put into motion.
  • “It feels like we’re on our own at this point,” de Blasio said, adding that April would be worse for New York City than March has been, and he fears May could be even worse.
  • CNN also reported Sunday that Federal Emergency Management Agency head Peter Gaynor could not provide a number of how many medical masks were in the federal stockpile or how many have been shipped to state and local governments.
  • In a sign of demand on medical supplies, a Friday letter from a New York-Presbyterian Hospital department head said each employee would only be given one N95 mask (when it typically uses 4,000 per day).

Big number: 300 million. That’s how many masks could be needed for healthcare workers versus the current stockpile of 30 million, as testified to Congress by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at the end of February.

Key background: The Defense Production Act is intended to be used by Trump to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of Covid-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.” Trump faced questions Thursday around his reticence to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce healthcare items to combat the coronavirus, one day after he said he’d be invoking its powers. The New York Times reported Thursday that both the U.S. and countries abroad are facing a shortage of ventilators, with manufacturers saying that they can’t increase production to meet the demand.

Tangent: Tesla CEO Elon Musk volunteered his company’s factories to manufacture ventilators, but it’s unclear whether that will move forward.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose and xoJane.

Source: New York City 10 Days Away From ‘Widespread Shortages’ Of Medical Supplies, Mayor Says

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Hospitals are sounding the alarm that they need more equipment as the coronavirus outbreak grows. Greg Cergol reports.

Coronavirus Live Updates: As Lockdowns Expand, Global Markets Plummet

Markets in Asia and the Middle East opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets. Shares in Saudi Aramco, the state oil giant, dropped 10 percent leading to a halt in trading on the Riyadh stock market.

Asian markets opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets.Tokyo was down 4.7 percent at midmorning on Monday, while Hong Kong was down 4.1 percent. Futures markets showed investors predicting sharp drops in Wall Street and Europe as well.

The coronavirus has unnerved investors as it spreads, clouding the prospects for global growth. Italy on Sunday put a broad swath of its industrial northern region under lockdown as the virus has spread, making it one of the biggest sources of confirmed infections outside China. France, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries also took further steps to stop the spread.

In the United States, the number of confirmed infections exceeded 500 cases. A top American expert said on Sunday that regional lockdowns could be necessary.A clash over oil between Russia and Saudi Arabia, two major producers, further unnerved investors. As the coronavirus hits demand for fuel, Saudi Arabia slashed its export oil prices over the weekend, starting an apparent price war aimed at Russia.

Lower oil prices could help consumers, but it could unsettle countries that depend on oil revenue to prop up their economies. In futures markets, the benchmark price for American and Europe oil supplies tumbled $10, or about one-quarter.Investors fled to the safety of the bond market, driving yields lower. In the market for U.S. Treasury bonds, yields broadly fell below the 1 percent level for both short term and long term holdings. The 10-year Treasury bond, which is closely watched, was yielding about 0.5 percent.

In other Asian markets, South Korea was down 3.6 percent. Shanghai was down 1.5 percent.

Italy reported a huge jump in deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, a surge of more than 50 percent from the day before, as it ordered an unprecedented peacetime lockdown of its wealthiest region in a sweeping effort to fight the epidemic. The extraordinary measure restricted movement for a quarter of the country’s population.“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m.

The move is tantamount to sacrificing the Italian economy in the short term to save it from the ravages of the virus in the long term. The measures will turn stretches of Italy’s wealthy north — including the economic and cultural capital of Milan and landmark tourist destinations such as Venice — into quarantined red zones until at least April 3.

They will prevent the free movement of roughly 16 million people. Funerals and cultural events are banned. The decree requires that people keep a distance of at least one meter from one another at sporting events, bars, churches and supermarkets. The Italian outbreak — the worst outside Asia — has inflicted serious damage on one of Europe’s most fragile economies and prompted the closing of Italy’s schools. The country’s cases nearly tripled from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 7,375 on Sunday. Deaths rose to 366.

More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks. More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut off access to Shiite Muslim towns and villages in the east of the kingdom, cordoning off an area in Qatif Governorate where all 11 of the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been identified. And local Saudi media reported that the country would temporarily close down all educational institutions and block travel to and from a number of countries in the region. The kingdom had already suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

In Iran, which has been hit the hardest in the Middle East, state media reported that all flights to Europe would be suspended indefinitely. The health minister in France, one of Europe’s bigger trouble spots, announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The U.S. has counted at least 539 cases across 34 states — Connecticut reported its first case and Washington announced another patient being treated for coronavirus had died on Sunday — and the District of Columbia, and logged 22 deaths. Washington State, New York, California, Maryland and Oregon have declared emergencies.

A growing number of schools are shutting down across the country, raising concerns about the closings will affect learning, burden families and upend communities. The U.S. Army suspended travel to and from Italy and South Korea, now the world’s third largest hot spot, until May 6, an order that affects 4,500 soldiers and family members. And the Finnish armed forces announced that troop exercises planned for March 9-19 with Norway would be scrapped.

On Sunday, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that it was possible that regional lockdowns could become necessary and recommended that those at greatest risk — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — abstain from travel. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Trump administration was prepared to “take whatever action is appropriate” to contain the outbreak, including travel restrictions in areas with a high number of cases.

“I don’t think it would be as draconian as ‘nobody in and nobody out,’” Dr. Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But there’ll be, if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call mitigation.”

Even as the rate of new infections appeared to taper in China, the number of cases around the world continued to rise on Sunday, with some of the biggest clusters emerging in Europe. Besides the sharp rise in Italy, Germany reported more than 930 cases; Switzerland’s total reached 281; and Britain’s health department said that three people with the virus had died and that the number of cases in the country had jumped to 273 by Sunday. The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.

The Spanish authorities announced on Sunday that three more people diagnosed with coronavirus had died in Madrid, raising the number of coronavirus fatalities in the country to 13. There are now over 500 cases, the authorities said. Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said at a news conference in Madrid that several cases in Spain were linked to people who recently traveled to Italy.

Source: Coronavirus Live Updates: As Lockdowns Expand, Global Markets Plummet

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As Coronavirus Spreads, Many Questions & Some Answers From Harvard Health Blog

The rapid spread of the coronavirus and the illness it causes called COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that will be necessary if the coronavirus spreads within communities.

Below, we’re responding to a number of questions about COVID-19 raised by Harvard Health Blog readers. We hope to add further questions and update answers as reliable information becomes available.

Does the coronavirus spread person-to-person?

What is the incubation period for the coronavirus?

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

Can people who are asymptomatic spread coronavirus?

Can the coronavirus live on soft surfaces like fabric or carpet? What about hard surfaces?

Should I wear a face mask to protect against coronavirus? Should my children?

Should someone who is immunocompromised wear a face mask?

Should I accept packages from China?

Can I catch the coronavirus by eating food prepared by others?

Should I travel on a plane with my children?

Is there a vaccine available for coronavirus?

Is there a treatment available for the new coronavirus?

How is this new coronavirus confirmed?

How deadly is this coronavirus?

What should people do if they think they have coronavirus or their child does? Go to an urgent care clinic? Go to the ER?

Can people who recover from the coronavirus still be carriers and therefore spread it?

Does the coronavirus spread person-to-person?

Yes, the virus can spread from one person to another, most likely through droplets of saliva or mucus carried in the air for up to six feet or so when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Viral particles may be breathed in, land on surfaces that people touch, or be transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus.

Often it’s obvious if a person is ill, but there are cases where people who do not feel sick have the virus and can spread it.

Basic steps for avoiding flu and other infections — including steps for handwashing shown in this video and avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes — are likely to help stop the spread of this virus. The CDC has a helpful list of preventive steps.

Quarantines and travel restrictions now in place in many counties, including the US, are also intended to help break the chain of transmission. Public health authorities like the CDC may recommend other approaches for people who may have been exposed to the virus, including isolation at home and symptom monitoring for a period of time (usually 14 days), depending on level of risk for exposure. The CDC has guidelines for people who have the virus to help with recovery and prevent others from getting sick.

What is the incubation period for the coronavirus?

An incubation period is the time between being exposed to a germ and having symptoms of the illness. Current estimates suggest that symptoms of COVID-19 usually appear around five days on average, but the incubation period may be as short as two days to as long as 14 days.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

Fever, dry cough, and trouble breathing are the common symptoms of COVID-19. There have been some reports of gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) before respiratory symptoms occur, but this is largely a respiratory virus.

Those who have the virus may have no obvious symptoms (be asymptomatic) or symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, the virus can cause pneumonia and potentially be life-threatening.

Most people who get sick will recover from COVID-19. Recovery time varies and, for people who are not severely ill, may be similar to the aftermath of a flulike illness. People with mild symptoms may recover within a few days. People who have pneumonia may take longer to recover (days to weeks). In cases of severe, life-threatening illness, it may take months for a person to recover, or the person may die.

Can people who are asymptomatic spread coronavirus?

A person who is asymptomatic may be shedding the virus and could make others ill. How often asymptomatic transmission is occurring is unclear.

Can the coronavirus live on soft surfaces like fabric or carpet? What about hard surfaces?

How long the new coronavirus can live on a soft surface — and more importantly, how easy or hard it is to spread this way — isn’t clear yet. So far, available evidence suggests it can be transmitted less easily from soft surfaces than frequently-touched hard surfaces, such as a doorknob or elevator button.

According to the WHO, coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for just a few hours or several days,  although many factors will influence this, including surface material and weather.

That’s why personal preventive steps like frequently washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and wiping down often-touched surfaces with disinfectants or a household cleaning spray, are a good idea.

Should I wear a face mask to protect against coronavirus? Should my children?

Follow public health recommendations where you live. Currently, face masks are not recommended for the general public in the US. The risk of catching the virus in the US is low overall, but will depend on community transmission, which is higher in some regions than in others. Even though there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, most people are more likely to catch and spread influenza (the flu). (So far this season, there have been nearly 30 million cases of flu and 17,000 deaths.)

Some health facilities require people to wear a mask under certain circumstances, such as if they have traveled from areas where coronavirus is spreading, or have been in contact with people who did or with people who have confirmed coronavirus.

If you have respiratory symptoms like coughing or sneezing, experts recommend wearing a mask to protect others. This may help contain droplets containing any type of virus, including the flu, and protect close contacts (anyone within three to six feet of the infected person).

The CDC offers more information about masks. The WHO offers videos and illustrations on when and how to use a mask.

Should someone who is immunocompromised wear a mask?

If you are immunocompromised because of an illness or treatment, talk to your doctor about whether wearing a mask is helpful for you in some situations. Advice could vary depending on your medical history and where you live. Many people will not need to wear a mask, but if your healthcare provider recommends wearing one in public areas because you have a particularly vulnerable immune system or for other reasons, follow that advice.

Should I accept packages from China?

There is no reason to suspect that packages from China harbor COVID-19. Remember, this is a respiratory virus similar to the flu. We don’t stop receiving packages from China during their flu season. We should follow that same logic for this novel pathogen.

Can I catch the coronavirus by eating food prepared by others?

We are still learning about transmission of COVID-19. It’s not clear if this is possible, but if so it would be more likely to be the exception than the rule. That said, COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have been detected in the stool of certain patients, so we currently cannot rule out the possibility of occasional transmission from infected food handlers. The virus would likely be killed by cooking the food.

Should I travel on a plane with my children?

Keep abreast of travel advisories from regulatory agencies and understand that this is a rapidly changing situation. The CDC has several levels of travel restrictions depending on risk in various countries and communities.

Of course, if anyone has a fever and respiratory symptoms, that person should not fly if at all possible. Anyone who has a fever and respiratory symptoms and flies anyway should wear a mask on an airplane.

Is there a vaccine available for coronavirus?

No vaccine is available, although scientists are working on vaccines. In 2003, scientists tried to develop a vaccine to prevent SARS but the epidemic ended before the vaccine could enter clinical trials.

Is there a treatment available for coronavirus?

Currently there is no specific antiviral treatment for this new coronavirus. Treatment is therefore supportive, which means giving fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and, in severe cases, supplemental oxygen. People who become critically ill from COVID-19 may need a respirator to help them breathe. Bacterial infection can complicate this viral infection. Patients may require antibiotics in cases of bacterial pneumonia as well as COVID-19.

Antiviral treatments used for HIV and other compounds are being investigated.

There’s no evidence that supplements, such as vitamin C, or probiotics will help speed recovery.

How is this new coronavirus confirmed?

A specialized test must be done to confirm that a person has COVID-19. Most testing in the United States has been performed at the CDC. However, testing will become more available throughout the country in the coming weeks.

How deadly is this coronavirus?

We don’t yet know. However, signs suggest that many people may have had mild cases of the virus and recovered without special treatment.

The original information from China likely overestimated the risk of death from the virus. Right now it appears that the risk of very serious illness and death is less than it was for SARS and MERS. In terms of total deaths in the United States, influenza overwhelmingly causes more deaths today than COVID-19.

What should people do if they think they have coronavirus or their child does? Go to an urgent care clinic? Go to the ER?

If you have a health care provider or pediatrician, call them first for advice. In most parts of the US, it’s far more likely to be the flu or another viral illness.

If you do not have a doctor and you are concerned that you or your child may have coronavirus, contact your local board of health. They can direct you to the best place for evaluation and treatment in your area.

Only people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness should seek medical care in the ER. Severe symptoms are rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, high or very low temperatures, confusion, trouble breathing, severe dehydration. Call ahead to tell the ER that you are coming so they can be prepared for your arrival.

Can people who recover from the coronavirus still be carriers and therefore spread it?

People who get COVID-19 need to work with providers and public health authorities to determine when they are no longer contagious.

Reliable resources

Also, read our earlier blog posts on coronavirus:

Related Information: Cold and Flu

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What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19)? The World Health Organization declared the new #Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak a global health emergency in January 2020. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine are closely monitoring the spread of the virus and offering useful information on what the disease is and how to help prevent transmission. For more information, please visit the #JohnsHopkins Medicine coronavirus website. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coron…

New York City Has Its First Coronavirus Patient Here’s What You Need To Know

Topline: New York City’s first case of coronavirus was reported by the New York Times Sunday evening.

  • The patient, a woman in her 30’s, is isolated in her home in Manhattan, according to a New York state official, and had recently been to Iran, according to the Times.
  • The patient’s test was conducted and confirmed by New York state, according to a state official, after the FDA approved the state on Saturday to run its own tests.
  • 1.5 million masks have been distributed to healthcare workers, with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio saying 300,000 more masks are needed from the federal government, among other protective gear.
  • Also in New York City: 1,200 hospital beds are available for coronavirus patients, while plans for possible quarantines at hotels, hospitals and homes are being made.
  • New York City’s subway and bus system could limit or stagger service, according to the New York Times, and transit workers have posted thousands of signs throughout the system encouraging riders to wash hands and avoid close contact with sick people.
  • San Francisco preemptively declared a state of emergency Tuesday, which will free up funding from state and federal governments that will reimburse its preparedness efforts, and allows it to direct city employees to focus on coronavirus response, including public health nurses, social workers and case managers.

Crucial quote: “The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving to New York,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo in a Sunday evening statement. “There is no reason for undue anxiety—the general risk remains low in New York.”

Big number:  $40 million. That’s how much money New York state has set aside for coronavirus efforts. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the funds will be used to hire additional staff, procure equipment and other resources to combat coronavirus, according to NBC’s New York affiliate.

Chief critic: U.S. surgeon general Jerome M. Adams. “Seriously people,” he tweeted from his official account Saturday, “STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

                                

What to watch for: “We encourage everyone to take the standard precautions they would during any flu season,” said Patrick Warren, chief safety officer of the New York City’s mass transit system, which means covering one’s face when they sneeze or cough and washing hands frequently. New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot said anyone feeling coronavirus symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

Key background: Up until Sunday, New York City had zero confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 32 people have been tested for the disease, according to a New York state official. Only the Manhattan patient’s test results came back positive, but there are 76 total cases nationwide. New York officials have already asked 700 recent visitors from China to self quarantine. In California, 33 people have been infected, while over 8,400 more are being monitored.  And the federal government is enforcing a mandatory 14 day quarantine for any citizens returning from China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus is thought to have originated. U.S. citizens returning from other parts of mainland China will be asked to self-quarantine and be monitored by their local health departments for symptoms.

Tangent: San Francisco officials urged the public to separate the disease from ethnicity. Both SF and New York City’s Chinatowns have seen a drastic decrease in business over fears of the disease, when the virus’ transmission is mainly based on travel, according to San Francisco city health director Grant Colfax. Carmen Chu, a city assessor, said it was important “to share a message of making sure that we don’t let this disease turn us into racists…this is about contracting a virus because someone traveled.”

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Source: New York City Has Its First Coronavirus Patient. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Americans evacuated from China receive a health screening every 12 hours; although they have tested negative for the virus, it can incubate up to 14 days.

The Global Shortage of Medical Masks Won’t Be Easing Soon

This photo taken on February 18, 2020 shows a worker sorting face masks being produced to satisfy increased demand during China’s COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, at a factory in Nanjing, in China’s Jiangsu province. – The medical equipment factory switched surgical instruments and dental equipment production lines to a mask production line to meet the increased demand. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

f you’re worried about the coronavirus and are having trouble getting hold of medical masks, these numbers will explain why: China is the world’s largest producer of them, with a reported daily capacity of 20 million pieces, but by the estimate of its manufacturers domestic demand alone is around 50 to 60 million per day.

No wonder you can’t find medical masks at your local pharmacy.

Some experts doubt the effectiveness of such masks for stopping transmission of the virus, officially named COVID-19. U.S. health officials say the bug spreads mostly between people who are in close contact with each other, and from respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

“A surgical mask might provide some protection, but it’s going to be very modest,” William Shaffner, a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University says.

But that hasn’t put a damper on demand. The scale of the epidemic in China—where the virus originated and where almost 78,500 people are now infected—and the continued spread of the coronavirus globally has driven shortages across the globe.

Retailers on multiple continents are running out of masks, and prices for a box of masks on online retailers like Amazon have surged to hundreds of dollars. On Monday, aerial footage captured a line hundreds of people long in the city of Daegu, South Korea, where an outbreak is growing, waiting to buy them. On the same day, an industrial equipment store in Italy, where more than 370 people are confirmed to be infected, sold more than 500 masks—of the kind used in factories and on building sites—in the first 30 minutes it was open.

Chinese demand is outpacing supply

Chinese mask makers were only operating at 76 per cent capacity in mid-Feb. according to Chinese officials, which puts daily production at around five million pieces fewer than the 20 million maximum. The country’s output of N95 respirators, which are often worn by medical workers for additional protection, is even lower, at 200,000 a day, given the more complex technology and materials required to make them.

Demand in China could even be higher that what its mask makers estimate. Chaun Powell, vice president of strategic supplier engagement at North Carolina-based healthcare company Premier Inc., tells TIME that China’s need might exceed 400 million medical masks every day, if each workplace provides multiple masks per employee per shift.

To meet the shortfall, some Chinese companies in unrelated industries have started making masks. Foxconn, which manufactures Apple’s iPhones in China, has switched some of its production to masks; the company aims to produce two million units a day by the end of the month. Others, like an auto-maker in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, are making masks too.

Unable to produce enough of the protective gear to meet its own demand, Beijing has also been sourcing medical masks from overseas. Indonesian officials said at the beginning of February that China had placed “large orders” for Indonesian-made masks, equating to as much as three months of production, and Vietnam has exported huge quantities of masks to China. There are reports that Chinese traders have started sourcing supplies in markets as far away as Kenya and Tanzania.

Shortages are being felt across the world

Meanwhile, pharmacies from Germany to Canada to Italy and the U.K. are all low on medical mask supplies, according to posts circulating on social media.In a post on Twitter, a journalist for Agence France-Presse said that the only pharmacy in central London she could find stocking face masks was selling them for approximately $3.25 a piece.

Stores in the U.S., from Knoxville, Tennessee to New York City are also facing a dearth of the product. One medical supply company in Dublin, Ireland said it was struggling to find a supply of masks at a reasonable cost. And dentists in the U.K. and Australia say that with so much of their supply originally sourced from China, they now are facing a desperate shortage.

Withers Dental in Toowoomba, a city of 137,000 in Australia’s Queensland state, about 80 miles outside of Brisbane, tells TIME that they are among those affected.

“It’s extremely difficult, a lot of our regular suppliers have now put limits on the number of boxes we can buy,” says Anna Yarrow, the practice manager. “We’re limited to about two to three boxes a week, which is nowhere near enough to get us through our normal day of patients.”

Yarrow says that the practice has a back up supply of masks, which they’re relying on now.

“We’re trying every day single day with our suppliers and new suppliers to see what we can manage to get,” she says. “We’re just really hoping everything settles down and gets back to normal.”

Mike Bowen, an executive vice president and partner at the Texas-based mask maker Prestige Ameritech, says that he’s now receiving calls from people across the world who want to buy medical masks from his company, even though American-made masks tend to be more expensive than those produced elsewhere.

“I’m getting hundreds of calls every single day from people wanting to buy products from me because they can’t get them anywhere else,” he says. “You name a country, I’ve heard from them.”

Bowen, who is also the spokesman of the Secure Mask Supply Association, an organization that aims to ensure a sufficient supply of masks in a health crisis, tells TIME that he’s been trying to raise awareness of China’s global dominance in the supply chain for years.

“I’ve been very public about a prediction that one day China is going to have a pandemic and we’re not going to have masks over here,” he says. “And now it’s kind of happening.”

He says that about half of the U.S. supply of face masks comes from China, with Mexico another big supplier, but he’s seen less product available from China in recent weeks as the country grapples with the outbreak at home.

Powell, of Premier Inc., says that although China has not formally announced any embargoes on exports of personal protective equipment, he believes that no such gear has shipped out of China since mid-January. Other places, like Thailand, Taiwan and India have also restricted exports of masks to protect their domestic supply.

In Hong Kong, some have taken matters into their own hands. One film director imported a machine from India with which he hopes to begin manufacturing masks to sell online, and a Hong Kong property developer has announced plans to set up a factory capable of producing 200,000 masks a day.

Medical workers are facing supply shortages

Most seriously, the shortages are hitting medical workers—even those directly treating coronavirus patients.

In early February, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the fight against coronavirus was being hampered by “widespread inappropriate use” of protective gear by those who are not front line medical staff, and he cautioned against stockpiling masks.

“Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal, and prices are up to 20 times higher,” he said. “Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient to meet the needs of WHO and our partners.”

U.S. hospitals are closely watching their mask supplies. According to the initial findings of a survey of more than 4,000 hospitals Premier Inc. ran in conjunction with the U.S. CDC and FDA, most hospitals have more than a week of inventory, but are managing and rationing mask usage to prevent shortages. Powell says that the demand for N95 masks by the U.S. healthcare system is estimated to be somewhere between 25 million and 40 million each year.

“I’m getting calls from large hospitals that used to not even answer my phone calls,” Prestige Ameritech’s Bowen says.

On Tuesday, U.S. health officials said that Americans should prepare for the the coronavirus to begin spreading locally. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reportedly told Congress Tuesday that the U.S. has far fewer medical masks than it would need in the case of a major outbreak in the country. The country has a stockpile of about 30 million N95 masks, but might need as many as 300 million during the outbreak, he said.

Bowen says that he hopes the crisis is a wake up call for U.S. hospitals who have been purchasing masks from overseas suppliers.

“What’s the difference between a Chinese mask and an American-made mask?” he asks. “Well, the main difference is [American-made masks are] here, and they’ll be available when China has a pandemic.”

By Amy Gunia / Hong Kong February 27, 2020 1:42 AM EST

Source: The Global Shortage of Medical Masks Won’t Be Easing Soon

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for free here: https://sc.mp/subscribe-youtube The demand for face masks has continued to surge in many places around the world including Hong Kong, Japan and Australia as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has spread. Follow us on: Website: https://scmp.com Facebook: https://facebook.com/scmp Twitter: https://twitter.com/scmpnews Instagram: https://instagram.com/scmpnews Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sout…

Here’s How Effective the CDC Says the Flu Vaccine Has Been for Kids This Season

Close up of a vaccination protection Influenza on young girl.

(NEW YORK) — It may end up being a bad flu season for kids, but early signs suggest the vaccine is working OK.

The vaccine has been more than 50% effective in preventing flu illness severe enough to send a child to the doctor’s office, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Health experts consider that pretty good.

The vaccines are made each year to protect against three or four different kinds of flu virus. The ingredients are based on predictions of what strains will make people sick the following winter. It doesn’t always work out.

This flu season has featured two waves, each dominated by a different virus. Both of those flu bugs are considered dangerous to children, but tend not to be as dangerous to the elderly.

Health officials grew worried when it became clear that the vaccine didn’t match the Type B flu strain that ended up causing most early season illnesses. But the CDC estimates that the vaccine has been about 50% effective against that strain in children.

And the vaccine has been about 55% effective among kids against the Type A strain that has caused a second wave of flu illnesses.

“These estimates are reassuring,” said the CDC’s Brendan Flannery, who oversees the agency’s system for evaluating flu vaccine effectiveness.

Vaccines against many infectious diseases aren’t considered successful unless they are at least 90% effective. But flu is particularly challenging, partly because the virus can so quickly change. Overall, flu vaccine averages around 40%.

This season, the vaccine has been 45% effective against both types of flu across all ages.

That can change as the flu season progresses. Updated vaccine effectiveness numbers are expected later this year.

One troubling finding: This season’s vaccine has been virtually ineffective vs. the Type A virus in younger adults. The reason is a mystery, but may change as more data comes in, Flannery said.

U.S. health officials have counted 92 child flu deaths this year, up from the same time last year but fewer than were counted by this point in 2018. In all, the CDC estimates at least 14,000 Americans have died of the flu this season.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

By Mike Stobbe / AP February 20, 2020

Source: Here’s How Effective the CDC Says the Flu Vaccine Has Been for Kids This Season

Informational, 1-minute-50-second video that raises awareness about important influenza (flu) prevention actions, including receiving a flu vaccine every year. Preventive actions, including covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough and limiting your contact with others if you become sick, can also help prevent the spread of flu. For complete audio descriptions, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/video/prevent… Comments on this video are allowed in accordance with our comment policy: http://www.cdc.gov/SocialMedia/Tools/… This video can also be viewed at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/video/prevent…

How Our Modern World Creates Outbreaks Like Coronavirus

February 4, 2020 – Wuhan, China: The interior of “Wuhan Livingroom”, which is converted into a hospital to receive patients infected with the novel coronavirus, in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province. (Cai Yang/Xinhua / Polaris)

Everyone knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world,” observes Albert Camus in his novel The Plague. “Yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet plagues and wars always take people by surprise.”

Camus was imagining a fictional outbreak of plague in 1948 in Oran, a port city in northwest Algeria. But at a time when the world is reeling from a very real microbial emergency sparked by the emergence of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, central China, his observations are as pertinent as ever.

Like the global emergency over Zika in 2015, or the emergency over the devastating West African Ebola outbreak the year before – or the global panic sparked by SARS (another coronavirus) in 2002-2003, the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic has once again wrong-footed medical experts and taken the world by surprise.

Whether the Wuhan outbreak turns out to be a mild pandemic like the 2009 swine flu, or a more severe one like the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people worldwide, at present no one can say.

But if a century of pandemic responses has taught us anything, it is that while we may have gotten better at monitoring pandemic threats in what used to be called the “blank spaces” on the map, we also have a tendency to forget the lessons of medical history.

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The first of these is that epidemics of emerging infectious diseases appear to be accelerating. In the 19th century it took several years for cholera and plague to spread from their endemic centers in India and China to Europe and North America following the trade routes plied by caravans, horses and sail ships.

That all changed with the advent of steam travel and the expansion of the European railway network. For instance, it was a steam ship, sailing from Japan via Honolulu, that most likely brought rats infected with plague to San Francisco in 1900. And ten years earlier, it was steam trains that spread the so-called “Russian” influenza throughout Europe. The result was that within four months of the first report of an outbreak in St Petersburg in December 1889, the Russian flu had been introduced to Berlin and Hamburg, from where it was carried by ocean-going liners to Liverpool, Boston and Buenos Aires.

But the big game-changer has been international jet travel and the greater global connectivity that has come with it. Located at the centre of China’s airline network, Wuhan is both a domestic and international hub, with more than 100 non-stop flights to 22 countries worldwide. The result is that whereas during the 2002 SARS outbreak it took five months for the coronavirus to spread worldwide, this time it has taken just four weeks for the world to catch China’s cold.

Another important lesson from the recent run of epidemics is that by focusing too narrowly on microbial causation, we risk missing the wider ecological and environmental picture.

Seventy percent of emerging infectious diseases originate in the animal kingdom. Beginning with the AIDs pandemic of the 1980s, and continuing through SARS, and the recent Ebola and bird flu scares in the early 2000s, most outbreaks can be traced to so-called spillover events from animals to humans. Some of these can be prevented by better hygiene and regular inspections of wild animal markets. But others can be traced to the disturbance of ecological equilibriums or alterations to the environments in which pathogens habitually reside. This is especially true of viruses such as HIV and Ebola that are believed to circulate in discreet animal reservoirs.

For instance, the West African Ebola epidemic very likely began when children in Guinea dined on a local species of bat, known as lolibelo, that had taken up a roost in a rotten tree stump in the middle of their village. The bats usually reside in dry savannah on the edge of woodlands but appear to have been driven from their normal habitat by climate change and deforestation due to the activities of logging companies.

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Bats are also thought to be the ultimate reservoir of coronaviruses, but the virus has also been isolated from snakes and palm civets, a game animal resembling a cat prized by the Chinese for its heat-giving energy. The SARS epidemic was almost certainly sparked by civets traded at a wild animal market in Shenzhen in southeast China. Likewise, the Wuhan outbreak appears to have begun at a wholesale seafood market which, despite its name, also sold wild animals, including wolf cubs, crocodiles, snakes and bats.

A third lesson is that China’s mega-cities – like vast urban conurbations in Asia, Africa, and South America – provide the ideal breeding grounds for the amplification and spread of novel pathogens by concentrating large numbers of people in cramped and often unsanitary spaces. Sometimes technology and alterations to our built environment can mitigate the risks that such overcrowding presents for the transfer of pathogens to people. Thus the plague abatement measures that followed the outbreaks of plague in San Francisco in 1901 and in Los Angeles in 1924, were effective at removing the rats and squirrels that harbored plague fleas from domestic homes and businesses.

Likewise, tower blocks and air conditioning systems are very effective ways of insulating people from the mosquitoes that transmit Zika and other diseases. But as became clear during the SARS outbreak when Hong Kong saw scores of infections at the Amoy Gardens apartment complex in Kowloon, our built environment can also present new disease risks.

Indeed, time and again, we assist microbes to occupy new ecological niches and spread to new places in ways that usually only become apparent after the event. In such circumstances, it is worth keeping in mind the view expressed by George Bernard Shaw in The Doctor’s Dilemma, namely that “The characteristic microbe of a disease might be a symptom instead of a cause.”

But perhaps the biggest lesson from the recent run of epidemics is that while scientific knowledge is always advancing, it can also be a trap, blinding us to the epidemic just around the corner ­­– the so-called Disease X’s.

Thus, in the case of SARS, our delay in realizing we were dealing with a dangerous new respiratory pathogen, was due in no small part to the WHO’s conviction that the world was on the brink of a pandemic of H5N1 avian influenza—a view that seemed to be confirmed when ducks, geese, and swans suddenly began dying in two Hong Kong parks.

Similarly, the 2014 Ebola outbreak was initially missed by the WHO, not least because few experts suspected that the virus, which had previously been associated with outbreaks in remote forested regions of central Africa, might pose a threat to West Africa, much less to cities such as Monrovia, Freetown, New York and Dallas.

In each case, what was “known” before the event that Ebola can’t reach a major urban area, much less a city in North America; that coronaviruses do not cause atypical pneumonias – was shown to be wrong and the experts were left looking foolish.

The good news this time round is that the new coronavirus was quickly identified by Chinese scientists, and despite the Chinese government’s initial suppression of warnings posted on social media by medics at the frontline of the outbreak, they rapidly shared the genetic sequence. This gives us hope we will be able to develop a vaccine, something that didn’t happen during SARS.

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However, those efforts will certainly not be aided by misinformation about the efficacy, for instance, of face masks over sensible measures such as frequent hand-washing. Nor is it helpful to refer to the “exotic” Chinese taste for wild animals or, as one French newspaper did last week, post scare headlines about a “yellow alert.”

A final lesson of medical history is that during epidemics we need to choose our words carefully, lest language becomes a motor for xenophobia, stigma and prejudice, as occurred in the early 1980s when AIDs was wrongly labeled “the gay plague.” This is especially the case in our era of instantaneous digital communications, where misinformation and fake news travels faster and more widely than any virus.

By Mark Honigsbaum February 7, 2020 Honigsbaum is a medical historian and the author of The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris.

Source: How Our Modern World Creates Outbreaks Like Coronavirus

The Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, answers some of the most common and pressing questions surrounding the recent coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China Subscribe to Guardian News on YouTube ► http://bit.ly/guardianwiressub The Wuhan Coronavirus: what we know and don’t know – Science Weekly podcast ► https://www.theguardian.com/science/a… Coronavirus: three Chinese cities locked down and Beijing festivities scrapped ► https://www.theguardian.com/world/202… Coronavirus: panic and anger in Wuhan as China orders city into lockdown ► https://www.theguardian.com/world/202… Support the Guardian ► https://support.theguardian.com/contr… Today in Focus podcast ► https://www.theguardian.com/news/seri… The Guardian YouTube network: The Guardian ► http://www.youtube.com/theguardian Owen Jones talks ► http://bit.ly/subsowenjones Guardian Football ► http://is.gd/guardianfootball Guardian Sport ► http://bit.ly/GDNsport Guardian Culture ► http://is.gd/guardianculture

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Why This Week Could Be Pivotal for Understanding the Coronavirus Outbreak

It has been less than two months since authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan announced they were investigating a mysterious pneumonia-like viral infection. In that time, the pathogen—later identified as novel coronavirus 2019-nCov—has spread around China with abandon—from a few dozen suspected cases to more than 20,000 confirmed infections, and causing more than 420 deaths.

But this week could prove crucial for understanding how much farther the outbreak is likely to spread and whether the dramatic efforts of Chinese authorities to contain the coronavirus have been effective.

Officials in China began placing entire cities on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus on Jan. 23, when outbound trains and flights from Wuhan— the biggest city in Hubei province, population 11 million— were suspended. The next day authorities broadened the lockdown to include 13 cities, and by Jan. 25 the blockade had expanded to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million, creating what is believed to be the largest quarantine in human history.

“This week we should start to see the effects of the containment strategy,” Ben Cowling, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “This week is a critical week.”

The virus appears to have an average incubation period of about five days, according to a study published by researchers in China on Jan. 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study focused on the first 425 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan, where it is believed to have originated in a seafood market. Cowling says it can take at least another five days for a sick person to be tested and receive confirmation of a coronavirus infection.

“If the number of reported cases begin to slow, this might be an early indication that control measures are working, or are least having an effect on the trajectory of the virus,” Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says.

Chiu adds that if the number cases continue to rise significantly this week, it’s reason for additional concern. “It would suggest that the stringent control measures that have been put into place by China to prevent spread… are not adequate to prevent spread of this virus,” Chiu says.

Researchers caution that there are a lot of details they don’t know for sure that could change this calculus. For instance, it’s still not certain how long the incubation period lasts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days for symptoms to appear. Additionally, it’s still not clear whether the virus can be transmitted in the incubation period—while patients are asymptomatic.

Katherine Gibney, an infectious diseases physician at Royal Melbourne Hospital and an epidemiologist at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, tells TIME that if the control measures delay the epidemic from taking off in countries outside of mainland China—so far there are less than 200 confirmed cases elsewhere—it might buy medical experts time to develop a vaccine or antiviral medication.

Some researchers believe that, despite the efforts of Chinese authorities, that the number of infections is likely to rise for several months. Gabriel Leung, the chair of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong said in a Jan. 27 press conference that by his projections, the outbreak might only peak in April or May in major cities in China.

That around 5 million people fled Wuhan before the lockdown went into effect might also have hampered containment efforts. The virus is transmissible enough that the average sick patient, according to the NEJM paper, will infect about two others.

Another factor that could push up infection numbers is the mild symptoms some patients experience. Shira Doron, an infectious disease doctor and epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, says that the first patients diagnosed are often those who are very sick, and it might be possible that in the coming weeks it will become apparent that the number of people with mild illness, or even asymptomatic infection, is much larger than currently recorded. Doron says that the death rate reported early in an outbreak often “grossly overestimates the true fatality rate.”

Infections shot up from 639 cases in mainland China on Jan. 23, when officials started putting control measures in place, to around 9,700 cases a week later on Jan. 30. As of Tuesday, the number of cases on the mainland stands at around 20,500. In mainland China, the number of both infections and deaths from the virus has already surpassed that of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed 348 people on the mainland and infected more than 5,000 during an outbreak in 2002 and 2003.

The first cases outside of mainland China were confirmed in Thailand and Japan on Jan. 13 and 16. Cases in South Korea, Taiwan and the U.S. were confirmed on Jan. 21, and there are now more than 194 cases in over 23 countries.

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As of Tuesday, 425 people have died in mainland China. There has also been one death in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

As infection counts have grown in China, other countries have imposed their own strict measures to curb the advance of the virus—most of them targeting travelers from the world’s most populous nation. Italy and Israel have cancelled all flights from China. Mongolia and Russia have shut their borders with the country, and Singapore has banned the entry and transfer of travelers holding passports issued in Hubei province. In the U.S., the Trump Administration on Jan. 31 declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency and announced that it will temporarily deny entry to any foreign national who “poses a risk” of transmitting the virus. But on Monday, U.S. authorities confirmed the country’s second case of human-to-human transmission in a person who had no recent history of travel to China.

Experts will be watching closely this week for signs that the virus is continuing to grow and spread—especially outside the province where Wuhan is located.

“What we’re worried about is that we don’t see any reduction in the steady increase,” Cowling says.

By Amy Gunia February 4, 2020

Source: Why This Week Could Be Pivotal for Understanding the Coronavirus Outbreak

148K subscribers
An outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness that started in the city of Wuhan has put health authorities on high alert in China and around the world. The new coronavirus—named 2019-nCoV—is thought to have originated in the food market of the central China metropolis and has since infected hundreds of people. China first reported the outbreak on Dec. 30. Most of the deaths have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital. Ahead of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25—often dubbed the largest annual human migration in the world—Chinese authorities have restricted some travel to try and stop the illness’s spread. In Wuhan, public transportation and ride-hailing services have been suspended, trains and flights from the city have been stopped and people have been told to leave only for essential reasons. Similar travel restrictions were announced in at least 11 other Chinese cities, impacting more than 40 million people. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm QUICKTAKE ON SOCIAL: Follow QuickTake on Twitter: twitter.com/quicktake Like QuickTake on Facebook: facebook.com/quicktake Follow QuickTake on Instagram: instagram.com/quicktake Subscribe to our newsletter: https://bit.ly/2FJ0oQZ Email us at quicktakenews@gmail.com QuickTake by Bloomberg is a global news network delivering up-to-the-minute analysis on the biggest news, trends and ideas for a new generation of leaders.

This Inexpensive Action Lowers Hospital Infections And Protects Against Flu Season

Harvard Medical School graduate and lecturer, Stephanie Taylor, is something of an Indiana Jones of medicine. She’s a determined scientist who can’t seem to sit still. Along with a resume full of accolades and publications, she’s a skydiver with 1,200 jumps. She solves haunting medical mysteries. “Anything that seems scary, I say I need to learn more about that,” she explained in a recent interview

While practicing pediatric oncology at a major teaching hospital, Taylor wondered why so many of her young patients came down with infections and the flu, despite the hospital’s herculean efforts at prevention. Her hunch: the design and infrastructure of the building contributed somehow.

Dr. Taylor embarked on a quest to find out if she was right. First, the skydiving doctor made a career jump: She went back to school for a master’s in architecture, and then began research on the impact of the built environment on human health and infection. Ultimately, she found a lost ark.

She and colleagues studied 370 patients in one unit of a hospital to try to isolate the factors associated with patient infections. They tested and retested 8 million data points controlling for every variable they could think of to explain the likelihood of infection. Was it hand hygiene, fragility of the patients, or room cleaning procedures? Taylor thought it might have something to do with the number of visitors to the patient’s room.

While all those factors had modest influence, one factor stood out above them all, and it shocked the research team. The one factor most associated with infection was (drum roll): dry air. At low relative humidity, indoor air was strongly associated with higher infection rates. “When we dry the air out, droplets and skin flakes carrying viruses and bacteria are launched into the air, traveling far and over long periods of time. The microbes that survive this launching tend to be the ones that cause healthcare-associated infections,” said Taylor. “Even worse, in addition to this increased exposure to infectious particles, the dry air also harms our natural immune barriers which protect us from infections.”

Since that study was published, there is now more research in peer-reviewed literature observing a link between dry air and viral infections, such as the flu, colds and measles, as well as many bacterial infections, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding more research. Taylor finds one of the most interesting studies from a team at the Mayo Clinic, which humidified half of the classrooms in a preschool and left the other half alone over three months during the winter. Influenza-related absenteeism in the humidified classrooms was two-thirds lower than in the standard classrooms—a dramatic difference. Taylor says this study is important because its design included a control group: the half of classrooms without humidity-related intervention.

Scientists attribute the influence of dry air to a new understanding about the behavior of airborne particles, or “infectious aerosol transmissions.” They used to assume the microbes in desiccated droplets were dead, but advances in the past several years changed that thinking. “With new genetic analysis tools, we are finding out that most of the microbes are not dead at all. They are simply dormant while waiting for a source of rehydration,” Taylor explained. “Humans are an ideal source of hydration, since we are basically 60% water. When a tiny infectious particle lands on or in a patient, the pathogen rehydrates and begins the infectious cycle all over again.”

These findings are especially important for hospitals and other health settings, because dry air is also associated with antibiotic resistance, which can devastate whole patient populations. Scientists now believe resistant organisms do not develop only along the Darwinian trajectory, where mutated bacteria produce a new generation of similarly mutated offspring that can survive existing antibiotics. Resistant pathogens in infectious aerosols do not need to wait for the next generation, they can instantly share their resistant genes directly through a process called horizontal gene transfer.

According to her research, and subsequent studies in the medical literature, the “sweet spot” for indoor air is between 40% and 60% relative humidity. An instrument called a hygrometer, available for about $10, will measure it. Every hospital, school, and home should have them, according to Taylor, along with a humidifier to adjust room hydration to the sweet spot.

Operating rooms, Taylor notes, are often kept cooler than other rooms to keep gown-wearing surgical staff comfortable. Cool air holds less water vapor than warm air, so condensation can more easily occur on cold, uninsulated surfaces. Consequently, building managers often turn humidifiers off instead of insulating cold surfaces. This quick fix can result in dry air, and Taylor urges hospitals to bring the operating room’s relative humidity up, even when it is necessary, to maintain a lower temperature. Taylor’s research suggests this reduces surgical site infections.

Taylor travels the country speaking with health care and business groups to urge adoption of the 40%–60% relative humidity standard. And she practices what she preaches. “My husband has ongoing respiratory problems and had at least one serious illness each winter. Ever since we started monitoring our indoor relative humidity and keeping it around 40%, even when using our wood stove, he has not been sick. Our dogs also love it because they do not get static electricity shocks when being petted in the wintertime!”

The bad news is that it takes on average of 17 years for scientific evidence to be put into medical practice, according to a classic study. The good news is that Taylor is on the case, and she’s on a crusade against the destruction of bacteria and viruses. She’s not waiting 17 years. Jock, start the engine.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I run an organization called The Leapfrog Group with a membership of highly impatient business leaders fed up with problems with injuries, accidents, and errors in hospitals. I can’t stand the sight of blood but I’ve worked in healthcare over 20 years, including a rural hospital system, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s health policy office, and the National League for Nursing. Follow me on twitter: @leahbinder.

Source: This Inexpensive Action Lowers Hospital Infections And Protects Against Flu Season

326K subscribers
The flu season in the U.S. has already claimed a number of lives in what the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has called one of most severe flu seasons in nearly a decade. “People often forget that tens of thousands of Americans will die each year from influenza infection; the vast majority of those who die are those who have underlying medical comorbidities,” says Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. “They have heart disease or lung disease, and influenza tips them over and they end up dying from their underlying medical comorbidity, or chronic illness.” More health and medical news on the Mayo Clinic News Network http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/

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