NIHCM Newsletter / October 2022

Long Covid and the Importance of Boosters

Released: October 6, 2022

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Long Covid and the Importance of Boosters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the new COVID boosters to everyone over twelve. However, less than 4% of eligible people have gotten the shot. A survey by Kaiser Family Foundation found that about half of adults have heard little or nothing about the booster that targets newer omicron variants and the original strain of the virus. While experts say that COVID is under control in the US, new variants might emerge this fall, leading to a new infection. More information about what we’re learning about COVID is below:

  • Brain Fog: Nearly 15% of American adults who have had COVID have long COVID and may experience brain fog, one of many long COVID symptoms. Brain fog is most often a disorder that makes concentrating, multi-tasking, and planning difficult. There are no tools to measure or cure brain fog. Current treatment is limited to helping people manage their symptoms.
  • Demographics: Research on COVID-related deaths in California shows a decline among the Latino population compared to a proportional increase among White people. Experts link this to White people being more likely to work remotely during the first two years of the pandemic while large numbers of essential, frontline workers were Latino. In terms of long COVID, CDC data from the Household Pulse survey show that rates of long COVID are higher for female adults (18%) compared to males (11%).
  • COVID & Children: Pfizer is seeking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for an Omicron-tailored COVID-19 vaccine booster authorization for children 5 to 11 and Moderna is seeking authorization for boosters for adolescents 11 to 17 and children six to 11. A study found that long COVID is uncommon among children.

Resources & Initiatives:

Hurricanes and the Environment’s Impact on Health

During the last week of September, Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 storm, killing at least 100 people, and leaving many communities uninhabitable for weeks or months. Beyond disrupting human life, health experts warn that extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, can cause a rise in infectious diseases, water contamination, respiratory conditions, and air pollutants. Many people may also experience anxiety, depression, and an exacerbation of ongoing mental health issues. Climate change related extreme weather events also threaten health care services, medically vulnerable patients, and damage facilities.

Resources & Initiatives:

The Latest on Viruses

As COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining, many hospitals are updating the traditional hospital design model to better accommodate the next pandemic. Some familiar viruses, such as influenza, have returned in unexpected ways while other viruses, including monkeypox and enterovirus, have become more prevalent.

  • Influenza: With COVID-19 precautions continuing to weaken and fewer individuals immunized against influenza, health officials are warning that this fall and winter may be an exceptionally severe flu season and that cases may begin to rise earlier than usual. The projected rise in flu and COVID-19 cases this winter could result in the long-feared "twindemic."
  • Poliovirus: The US was recently designated as a country where circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus has been reported, joining a list with 30 other outbreak countries.
  • Monkeypox Cases: The US reported almost two-fifths of the world’s monkeypox cases. While new cases and serious complications are still occurring, transmission in the US appears to be slowing down. The CDC recommends that the monkeypox antiviral be reserved only for people at high risk for severe disease.
  • Perception of Monkeypox: Awareness of monkeypox surged over the summer in the US and public health experts continue to warn about stigmatizing monkeypox messaging as was the case during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Increased awareness of monkeypox has also been accompanied by increased scrutiny for many individuals with skin conditions. For those that have contracted the lesion-causing virus, it continues to impact both physical and mental health.
  • EV-D68 in Children: In September, the CDC issued a health advisory about the nationwide increase in pediatric hospitalizations with severe respiratory illness who also tested positive for rhinovirus or enterovirus EV-D68. In rare cases, this virus can cause polio-like symptoms in children.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is sponsoring a Care Van program to provide free vaccinations to schools and community centers around the state.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds adults to stay up-to-date on vaccines, including flu shots, COVID-19 boosters, and tetanus boosters.
  • Learn more about poliovirus, monkeypox, and rhinovirus and enterovirus with these resources.
  • The New York Times released resources on how to prepare for this year’s flu season. Learn more about influenza with this resource.
  • The CDC launched a pilot program to set aside doses of the monkeypox vaccine for communities that have faced barriers accessing the shots and have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak.
  • NIHCM Grantee, the Alliance for Health Policy is hosting a webinar on October 12th discussing the state of HIV/AIDS progress and applying lessons learned to current public health problems. NIHCM also recently released an infographic on HIV in the US.

Cancer in America

Cancer death rates have been declining by 2% every year since 2016, according to a report from the American Association for Cancer Research. The report credits declines in smoking and developments in detection and treatment for driving the change. President Biden recently spoke on progress in his cancer moonshot program and acknowledged the stark inequities in cancer diagnosis and treatment. The US spends more on cancer care than most countries but without better outcomes.

  • Access to Care: Rural cancer patients struggle to access treatment due to cost and distance. Another barrier to accessing care is the price of cancer drugs. A recent report found that hospitals marked up cancer drugs as much as 11 times under a program that was created to ensure access to low-income patients.
  • Disparities in Cancer: Racial and ethnic minorities have a disproportionately higher burden of cancer. In 2019, overall cancer death rates among Black men and women were higher than all other racial and ethnic groups in the US. Research shows that screening for cancer is lower among Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native populations compared to their White counterparts.
  • Breast Cancer: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This article, under a NIHCM grant, describes how while genetic tests can create opportunities to guide the treatment of breast cancer, there is confusion among providers about how best to deploy them.

Resources & Initiatives:

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