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A summary of important health news from the past week.

Researchers Investigate How to Make Donated Organs Compatible With Any Blood Type

By Meagan Drillinger, Healthline 

Research findings from a new study published in Science Translational Medicine suggest that it may be possible to convert blood types safely in donor organs intended for transplantation. In this study, researchers were able to use enzymes to convert an organ to match an O blood type. This research could change the organ donor system and make organ donation more common and accessible. Traditionally, ensuring the compatibility of blood types between donor and recipient is an important step in a transplant process, and is vital to the success of organ transplants. Due to the necessary compatibility, organ donation involves long waitlists, inequitable organ allocation, and a high risk of mortality for patients on the waitlist.

New C.D.C Guidelines Suggest 70 Percent of Americans Can Stop Wearing Masks

By Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times

The C.D.C released new guidelines on Friday to determine where mask mandates are still necessary in the US. The new recommendations treat each county as a separate entity and only suggest mask mandates in counties considered high risk. New guidelines have also changed the qualifications for determining risk and only recognizes 30% of Americans as living in areas where masks should be required. Some scientists and public health experts oppose the new guidelines, citing high death and hospitalization rates around the country. Supporters of the change argue that a one-size-fits-all policy is not necessary for a country where COVID cases vary widely based on region.

What do we know about microplastics in food?

By: Amber Charles Alexis, Medical News Today

The convenience and cost of packaged foods are amongst the primary appeals of these products for modern consumers. However, the serious, often insidious health consequences of consuming foods packaged in plastics are less commonly considered. The natural decay of plastics in materials used to bundle foods, usually caused by environmental conditions like heat, can allow harmful chemical stabilizers, fillers, and the like to leech into foods, exposing consumers to disease-inducing toxins. The literature, in recent years, reports an oversaturation of these plastic fragments, or microplastics, now found in food in other areas of our environment, making the threat of plastics to human health increasingly burdensome and the need for effective management of plastic exposure equally paramount.

In Texas, an unrelenting assault on trans rights is taking a mental toll

By: Rina Torchinsky, NPR

In an article from NPR, Rina Torchinsky reports about the mental toll that discussion of anti-transgender legislature can have on transgender children and their families. In Texas, there has been frequent anti-transgender rhetoric. In the past week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton equated gender-affirmation surgery for children to child abuse. Texas Governor Greg Abbott then wrote a letter supporting this statement, asking teachers and doctors to report parents that allow their children to pursue gender-affirmation surgery. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas asserts that neither the statement from the Attorney General nor the letter from the Governor have any legal ground. However, this anti-transgender rhetoric causes emotional distress for transgender children and their families. With Texas’ history of anti-transgender legislature, some Texan families are now looking to leave the state to protect their children.

Ukraine, already contending with Covid and polio, faces mounting health threats

By Dana Varinsky, NBC News

Between a recent large COVID spike and a polio outbreak that Ukraine has been trying to control since October, the country is already dealing with significant public health threats.  NBC reports that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to worsen public health conditions even beyond military violence.  Experts from the World Health Organization, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and other public health organizations agree, warning that existing public health problems will likely worsen during this time.  ICU beds may not be available for COVID patients due to military violence, and there is concern about rise of mental health issues and alcohol and substance abuse.  Experts believe that being prepared for the mental health impacts of the invasion, including post-traumatic stress disorder, will be vital to public health in Ukraine.  

Items contributed by: Zainab Molumo, Lexi Rosmarin, India Stevenson, Gabrielle Stearns, Annika Urban