Public health

The big picture

America's poor health is jeopardizing its future

New studies underscore just how bad American health is compared to other rich countries, which has worsened the impact of COVID-19

Oct 24, 2020 - Health
How the world could monitor for potential pandemic viruses

Global monitoring is key to UN strategy for preventing future pandemics.

Jul 9, 2020 - Health
Saving the elderly from coronavirus

America and much of the world is aging rapidly and is in need of technologies to care for the elderly.

Jun 17, 2020 - Health
Pandemic re-emphasizes need for universal flu vaccine

There's been "promising progress" in the quest for the universal flu vaccine.

Jun 4, 2020 - Health
Chart: The mortality rate ranking for each state, by disease

Everything's deadlier in the South.

May 11, 2019 - Health
Spain declares new state of emergency as COVID-19 cases surge

The measures include a national overnight curfew.

Oct 25, 2020 - World

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Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 23, 2020 - Health

New AI tool can predict future onset of Alzheimer's disease

A new AI model is able to predict future onset of Alzheimer's disease around 7 years in advance of diagnosis using short speech tests, according to a new study published in The Lancet eClinicalMedicine.

The big picture: There's still no treatment for Alzheimer's, meaning that there could be limited real-world demand by patients for such a tool today. But it could also be valuable for recruiting patients for clinical trials for potential treatments.

Oct 18, 2020 - Health

Ex-FDA head: White House coronavirus strategy of waiting for vaccine is "problematic"

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday the White House strategy to combat the spread of coronavirus appears to be "to endure the spread until we get to that vaccine."

Why it matters: That strategy, which leaves much of the mitigation efforts up to the states and excludes a national mask mandate, is "problematic" because the "first tranche of people to get vaccinated really won't be protected ... probably until February and maybe March," even if companies apply in November with the FDA to administer the vaccine, Gottlieb said.

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Overdose deaths spiked in the first few months of 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Overdose deaths increased by about 10% in the first three months of 2020, compared to the same time period last year, preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

What's next: The agency estimates the U.S. will suffer more than 75,500 drug-related deaths in 2020, surpassing last year's record.

Oct 14, 2020 - Health

FDA approves Regeneron's drug as first treatment for Ebola virus

Photo: Pamela Tulizo/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' Inmazeb as the first treatment for the Ebola virus.

Why it matters: The approval comes after the World Health Organization announced in June that the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak had been eradicated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There were over 3,400 cases and over 2,200 deaths, according to data from WHO.

Gallup: Only 50% of Americans now willing to get a COVID vaccine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

According to the latest Gallup poll, Americans' willingness get a coronavirus vaccine has dropped to 50% in late September, a dramatic 11-point fall from the previous month.

Why it matters: This steep drop is further evidence that the vaccine has been politicized. Republicans are now more willing to be vaccinated, while Democrats and independents have become increasingly uncomfortable.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Oct 2, 2020 - Health

Traffic fatality rates spiked during the pandemic

An impaired driver was critically injured in this crash. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

There were fewer cars on the road last spring during the height of the pandemic, but traffic fatality rates increased 30% in the second quarter as evidence suggests drivers engaged in more risky behavior, federal officials say.

Why it matters: The sharp reversal in what had been a three-year trend toward lower traffic deaths raised alarms within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where officials vowed to dig deeper.

  • "We've never seen trends like this and we feel an urgency ... to turn this around as quickly as possible," NHTSA deputy administrator James Owens said.

What they found: Total traffic volume fell 16% during the first half of 2020, NHTSA said in a release, while traffic deaths fell just 3%.

  • The fatality rate during the second quarter was 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, sharply higher than the first quarter rate of 1.10, which was in line with historical trends.
  • A second NHTSA study of trauma centers found seriously injured or fatal crash victims took risks during the pandemic that included speeding, driving impaired, and not using their seat belts.
  • For example, the study revealed a higher prevalence of alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids in crash victims during the quarter compared to the months prior to the pandemic.

The bottom line: Risky behavior, along with a potential reduction in law enforcement and safety messaging during the pandemic, could have contributed to increased fatality rates, NHTSA concluded.

Oct 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

Airlines push for testing before takeoff to rekindle confidence in travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Global airlines are pushing for widespread coronavirus testing as an alternative to quarantine measures and other travel restrictions that have dampened passenger demand and decimated the industry.

Why it matters: Airline officials have pegged the industry's recovery to the discovery of a coronavirus vaccine, but it could be mid-2021 before one is widely available.

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