Friday 20 November 2020 | Kaiser Santé news


Longer Looks: Some Interesting Reads You May Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week’s picks include stories about masks, tattoos, wasp venom, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Obamacare, death doulas and more.

The New York Times: Inside the chaotic and fierce gray market for N95 masks

In his 30 years as a physician, Andrew Artenstein never worried about N95 respirators. Baystate Health’s chief medical officer, he ran his four hospitals in western Massachusetts with precision, and an essential face covering out of stock was inconceivable. Its doctors, nurses and others received about 4,000 a month, usually to treat patients with airborne illnesses. There were always more of them in the warehouse, just outside the town of Springfield, where Baystate is based. But on April 6, as the novel coronavirus swept through the northeast, Artenstein rose in the pre-dawn darkness, on a mission to secure around a quarter of a million masks for his thousands of staff. Baystate Health was days away. (Bock Clark, 11/17)

The Washington Post: 28-year-old ‘nerd’ in Baltimore invented a new kind of mask and took advantage of the weirdness of this 2020 holiday season

Narwhals are social creatures. Whales with spiral tusks protruding from their heads are known to live in small groups which, sometimes, congregate to form large pods. That way, they are no different from humans while on vacation. That alone would have made the name Narwall Mask suitable for the product invented by Alex Rattray and released publicly this week. When the Baltimore resident started creating the full face mask based on snorkeling gear, he hoped it would bring people together during a pandemic that forced them to go their separate ways. (Vargas, 11/18)

Los Angeles Times: T-shirt? Napkin? Some experts say it’s time to move beyond states’ approach to masks

With more states requiring face coverings indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, gaiters and bandanas have become popular accessories, especially among college students and other young adults. Less restrictive than masks, they can easily be pulled up or down as needed – and don’t convey that vibe right out of the hospital. But tests show that these trendier face covers aren’t as effective as surgical or cloth masks. Bandanas, like plastic face shields, allow the virus to escape from below as aerosolized particles that can stay in the air for hours. And gaiters are often made of a material so thin that they don’t trap as many viruses as fabric masks. (Hawryluk, 11/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Covid-19 pandemic underscored importance of informatics in medical research

Data storage, cloud computing and artificial intelligence have been important tools for Covid-19 investigators this year, as science teams learned about the virus and its impact on patients. As of March, multidisciplinary teams with skills in medical imaging analysis and machine learning were key to sifting through large Covid-19 data sets, said Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, scientific director of the Center for Clinical Data Science. The center is part of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “A lot of us have given up on all other research and tried to focus entirely on modeling Covid,” said Dr Kalpathy-Cramer. (Castellanos, 11/13)

Modern healthcare: microsensor tattoos could one day warn of health risks

Someday your tattoo might do more than adorn your skin. It could save your life or at least alert you to a medical threat. This is the proposition behind the research of Carson Bruns, assistant professor of materials, biomedical, micro / nanoscale at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (11/14)

Undark: Wasp venom can save lives. But the supply chain is fragile.

One morning in fall 2019, Zach Techner donned a heavily woven white beekeeper costume, donned rubber boots and thick orange gloves, and wrapped duct tape around his wrists and along the zipper. He slipped safety glasses over his eyes and a mesh hood over his head and closed it with a zipper. He was about to collect one of America’s most dangerous wild creatures: the yellow vests. (Hoag, 11/16)

The Washington Post: Echoes of a pandemic: Experts fear lessons from 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign being ignored

The news that a vaccine would be available in record time brought relief to Kelly Moore, director of the Tennessee immunization program, and a whole new set of concerns: how to build a network of pandemic vaccine suppliers from zero and ensure equitable access to communities of color and rural areas in the state’s 95 counties. That was just over a decade ago, and the H1N1 flu virus was wreaking havoc across the country. “We invested huge sums in 2009,” said Moore, now associate director of the vaccine education organization Immunization Action Coalition, describing a whirlwind of spreadsheets and brainstorming sessions that ultimately brought 1 500 pharmacies, hospitals and clinics in a coordinated operation. (Permanent sellers, 11/7)

As well –

NPR: More people can access surgery. It’s great for them, horrible for the planet

Add surgeries to the list of human activities making the climate hotter and more unstable. “Surgical, obstetrical and anesthetic care is one of the main contributors to climate change in the healthcare sector,” according to an article published this month in the scientific journal The Lancet by doctors and researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. They fear that the climate impact of current surgical practices may worsen as life-saving procedures become available to the 5 billion people worldwide, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, who currently cannot get them. (Mo, 11/17)

Houston Chronicle: Death Doulas Help the Dying Reach Their End with Affirmation Instead of Anxiety

Just as birth doulas help expectant parents breathe new life into the world, end-of-life doulas help dying people cope with their next journey. They help the dying and their survivors cope with death with empowerment and assertiveness instead of fear and anxiety. Also known as death doulas, these trained professionals provide terminally ill patients and their families with physical and emotional support before, during and after death. These are non-medical services that often include relaxation exercises, funeral planning, educating the family about their loved one’s condition, and just company. (Guzman, 11/18)

NPR: Inside China’s fentanyl chemicals online networks, helping fuel opioid crisis

He is a light man with glasses. Colleagues at the industrial materials company where he works describe him as a humorous but diligent employee known for driving his white Jeep in northwest China’s Ningxia region to meet potential customers. . Unbeknownst to them, he goes through Benjamin Chen online, where he has a whole different business: He’s a popular seller of the chemicals used to make the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. NPR has identified him but is not using his real name due to the illegal activity he is involved in. (Feng, 11/17)

The Washington Post: The unusually flexible joints that gave him a boost in gymnastics foreshadowed a disease it took years to diagnose

Tarryn Simone Jacobson remembers stepping out of a tryout for an elite New Jersey gymnastics team, getting into her mother’s car and tearfully announcing that she had broken her wrist. Her mother was skeptical: Wouldn’t the coaches have told her if something bad had happened to her 9-year-old? A few hours later, the x-rays confirmed the little girl’s claim. Jacobson’s growth plate was fractured in several places, the first of multiple sprains, dislocations, torn ligaments and other afflictions that would come to him as a young gymnast and later as an adult. (Boodman, 11/14)

The New York Times: Recession with a Difference: Women Face a Special Burden

For millions of working women, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a rare and ruinous punch. First, the sectors of the economy that have been hit hardest and the earliest by job losses are those where women dominate – restaurants, retail and health care. Then a second wave began to cut jobs in local and state government, another area where women outnumber men. (Cohen, 11/17)

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