A summary of important health news from the past week.
By Chelsea Cirruzzo
The pandemic has increase the prevalence and severity of mental illnesses; social isolation and compounding socio-political events are taking a toll on individuals emotional wellbeing. Without a pandemic, the wintertime tends to be harder for those struggling with their mental health; this is a syndrome called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The colder weather, less natural day-light, and longer darker days can trigger or worsen depression. Cirruzzo shared techniques, such as knowing your triggers, getting a light box or SAD lamp, and figuring out ways to stay connected, to prepare for darker times.
By Betsy McKay and Erin Ailworth
Over 170,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported last Friday, reporting a new record of cases since the beginning of the year. This time, even patients who had been following the rules and guidelines, wearing masks and sanitizing, contracted Covid-19 when in contact with close friends and family. While in the spring and summer, cases were high in populous areas such as New York, California, or Florida, the new surges have been reported to occur in areas around the Midwest. What’s more, other states that had successfully reduced rates of infection are now seeing resurges in the number of cases of Covid-19. In the days leading up to more and more family gatherings, physicians and leaders recommend staying in social isolation, at least until it is safe to do so again.
By: Julia Belluz
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech announced on Monday that their joint Covid-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective at preventing infection. However, one thing missing from the announcement was evidence. There weren’t any detailed data or peer-reviewed study to back up their claim. This doesn’t mean that the findings are wrong or misleading, but it does bring an air of skepticism. As Julia puts it, “science by press release is not reliable science”. While there is a good reason to be optimistic about the announcement, it’s still too early to know whether or not it will end the pandemic. What we do know is that 9/10 people who received the vaccine will have protection against the virus.
By: Shawn Radcliffe
A new study published on November 5th reveals that children have a distinct immune response to COVID-19 that differs from adults. After analyzing blood samples taken from adults and children, researchers saw that children who had contracted the new coronavirus produced lower levels of neutralizing antibodies and fewer types of antibodies. This suggests that children produce antibodies that target different parts of the protein. Adults are targeting both the outer spike protein, as well as the nucleocapsid that binds to and protects the genome of the virus, but kids are only making antibodies against the spike protein. This could have implications for coronavirus testing. Some antibody tests look only for antibodies that bind to the nucleocapsid. These tests may miss children who currently have the new coronavirus or who had an infection in the past. Many vaccine candidates target the spike protein, which may prove to be effective in both adults and children who have been omitted from trial testing.
By: Tara Parker-Pope and Julie Halpert
With covid-19 cases rising, there are concerns of how students can go home for Thanksgiving without potentially getting sick and bringing the virus home with them. College campuses have some of the highest rates of infection and the issue is that asymptomatic students could unwittingly infect vulnerable family members. Some colleges have been working diligently to control the virus through mandatory weekly testing, contract tracing, and safety restrictions. However, some colleges have not been as strict with covid-19 policies. There are several things that students can do to lower their risks of contracting and spreading covid-19 before coming home. For example, students can restrict contacts for about a week before coming home. Students can also get tested before coming home.