'Science Says' Sunday – The 2019-nCoV Virus

5 facts about the infamous 2019 Coronavirus outbreak

1.     Is this a new virus? It is in fact a new virus, but it has already been identified and sequenced (aka the DNA strand or sequence, has been studied). That work suggests that it is a relative of other coronaviruses like SARS. In case you’re wondering, the family of viruses called “coronavirus” is responsible for causing things like the common cold, but each virus within that family can cause illness that varies from not too serious to life threatening. The official name, btw, is 2019-nCoV. This virus, the 2019-nCoV appears to have originated late last year in a seafood market Wuhan, China. That seafood market is believed to have been selling wildlife illegally. This virus is believed to have originated or come from an animal source.

2.     How easily is it transmitted from human to human? We don’t yet fully understand how “infectious” or how easily it is transmitted from human to human. As scientists collect data, we will know more. Currently, the scientific data suggest that it is more infectious than the flu, but how infectious will depend on a number of factors and those factors change on a daily basis. As scientists gather more information about it, we will have a better idea about how easy it will be to contain it, create a vaccine for it, prevent others from getting it, how sick it will make people, etc. It’s still, simply, too early to tell.

3.     Do you need to worry if you’re in the US? That’s a tricky question. As I write this, there are a total of 5 cases reported in the US. There are 2062 reported in mainland China. It is most certainly a greater public health emergency in China than it is in the US, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. If you’re in the US, you currently have more reason to worry about the flu and getting sick from that, than getting infected with 2019-nCoV. That said, it is helpful to keep up with information about this new outbreak. I’ve listed a number of great resources at the end of this post. Bottomline: We are not facing a pandemic. Not yet at least.

4.     Is the disease deadly?? When reports first came out, there was concern that the high rates of pneumonia meant that the disease was super harmful, possibly deadly. As days have passed, scientists and physicians have seen milder cases appear, suggesting that the 2019-nCoV virus does not seem to be as deadly as it first seemed, and maybe less deadly than SARS, which killed 11% of the people it infected. It is STILL VERY EARLY to say this with absolute confidence, though, so scientists continue to monitor cases and the virus itself before making more concrete statements about it. Many of the cases of death due to 2019-nCov appear to have occurred in people with other illnesses or conditions which weakened their immune system.

5.     I’m traveling to China soon; should I be worried?? China has put a quarantine in place (sort of like a mandatory isolation of a group or persons or area), meaning that they have encouraged people not to travel, go places, etc., including travel, until they figure out what’s going on. There are questions about how effective the quarantine will be, given that every province in China has had cases of the virus. The timing of the Chinese New Year and all the travel and proximity of groups to one another likely has not helped transmission of the virus in China. We currently know that the virus is transmitted from human-to-human and that a person can be infected with the virus 7-12 days without showing symptoms. If you are traveling to China, you should practice hygiene and self-protection measures like you would against other respiratory infections, like washing your hands and covering your mouth/nose with a mask during travel or when around others.

To keep up with the latest numbers of cases, follow along here: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Additional sources of evidence-based information:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00166-6?utm_source=fbk_nnc&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=naturenews

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/25/how-to-tell-whats-really-happening-with-the-wuhan-virus/

https://www.statnews.com/2020/01/26/containing-new-coronavirus-may-not-be-feasible-experts-say/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/coronavirus-china-latest-updates/2020/01/26/4603266c-3fa8-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health/china-scrambles-to-contain-strengthening-virus-idUSKBN1ZP02B

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/coronavirus-china-latest-updates/2020/01/26/4603266c-3fa8-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html

https://www.statnews.com/2020/01/26/containing-new-coronavirus-may-not-be-feasible-experts-say/

‘Science Says’ Sunday – The Flu Shot

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There are so many questions out there about science and health, and so many people willing to share misinformed and/or non-evidence based information, that I decided to create a ‘Science Says’ Sunday series. I polled the Instagram Community and came up with this series to share evidence-based information with you on a number of science and health-related topics. There will be one posted every Sunday, so stay tuned!

In today’s post, we are talking about the flu and the flu shot. Lots of misconceptions out there, so here are some myths and facts:

MYTH: You can get the flu from the flu shot/vaccine.

  1. You CANNOT get the flu from the flu vaccine. People who get sick after the flu vaccine were going to get sick anyway. It takes 1-2 weeks to be fully protected from the flu after getting the vaccine, so it is still possible to get sick during that time. That’s why it’s important to get the flu shot as early as possible when it’s offered every fall (usually Sept/Oct).

 

MYTH: Getting the flu is better than getting the flu vaccine.

False. The flu a serious viral infection and can be especially serious in children and older adults, not to mention people who are immunocompromised (eg people undergoing chemotherapy) or babies who are too young to be vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine works best if everyone gets it; it minimizes the amount of people who get sick and can transmit disease to others.

 

MYTH: The flu shot contains harmful ingredients.

Vaccine skeptics have centered on this and cited Thimerosal (preservative) and formaldehyde (used to kill the virus) among the harmful chemicals used in the making or preservation of the flu vaccine. REPEATED, peer-reviewed studies have shown that these substances are not harmful in the tiny amounts contained in flu vaccines.

 

MYTH: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.

The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak. Getting the flu vaccine has also been associated with less severe symptoms even if you do end up getting the flu, so it’s worth getting it either way.

 

MYTH: It’s too late to get your flu shot this year.

Though flu season is well underway, it is NOT too late to get your shot, since the season typically continues into February or beyond.

Other concerns:

The flu vaccine can cause severe side effects. The flu vaccine has been associated with the onset of Guillain-Barré Syndome (GBS), in very rare cases. It has been reported in 1 in 1 million people who get the flu vaccine. The exact cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome is unknown. But it is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu. It is possible that cases associated with the flu would have developed even in the absence of getting the flu vaccine.

Information for this post was sourced from the Centers for Disease Control, The World Health Organization, the Harvard Health Blog, and Dr. Andrea Carcelen of John Hopkins University. Thanks for reading and look forward to sharing more with you this year!

yours truly, dr. b

 

SPEC-TACULAR

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This post was sponsored by Eyemart Express, however all opinions are my own. Thank you for helping me to support brands and retailers I love!

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit my local Eyemart Express. I’ve owned my current pair of lenses for at least two years now, and while they’re great, I definitely needed a new pair. Specifically, a pair of prescription lens sunglasses. I spend a lot of time at the ballpark and I don’t love wearing makeup when I am there – hello, Alabama summer that melts all makeup away. However, to wear sunglasses I currently own, means I have to wear contacts because I’m blind as a bat without them. Not to mention the fact that none of my current lenses are UV polarized. So off I went!

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The store was pleasant, filled with a variety of lenses. A number of sales associates buzzed around and laughed alongside their customers, as men and women tried on glasses and sunnies. I signed in, waited a little, until my name was called.

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I perused all the collections online prior to arriving at the store, so I already knew what I wanted to try on: the High Street Collection London and LadyBird lenses.

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Ms. Joan helped me try them both on, and I immediately fell in love with the Pearl version of the London eyeglasses.

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With my prescription in hand, she quickly filled out paperwork on my behalf and sent me on my way! “Be back in an hour or so”, she said, “or, we will text you if your glasses are done before then.” UM WHAT? In an hour?? I had no idea my glasses would be done within the hour! I had some grocery shopping to do, so off to my Super Target I went. I browsed the clothing and home section, did my grocery shopping, and was loading groceries in the car when I got the text: my glasses were done. It turns out my eyeglasses were ready more quickly than my sunnies, but my sunnies were done by the time I got to the store and someone was able to help me. For someone who’s always in a hurry and often doesn’t have the time to “return 1-2 weeks later” to pick something up, being able to return within the hour, while having run other errands, was simply perfection.

Today, I ended up at the ballpark for the first time since the fall, and just as I had imagined, I was able to wear my sunnies without makeup and didn’t have to wear contact lenses. The day was cold, but sunny, and I was SHOCKED how well I was able to see through my sunglasses. Having never worn polarized lenses, I had no idea 1) how clearly one sees even when the sun is blasting rays in your face and 2) how awesome prescription sunglasses are given you are essentially getting a two-for-one deal…shade and sight!

Pictured below are the High Street LadyBird frames in black, with Polycarb SV (2 Lens), polarized lenses, and Platinum Pro Plus Poly. Not sure what the first and third things mean, but surely someone at Eyemart Express will. 🙂

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My second pair, the High Street London pair, are so fun. I’ve never owned a lighter colored pair, but I’ve been inspired to branch out a bit more, so I did!

If you’re like me, then by now you’re probably wondering how much this all came to. Well, as seen above, each pair was $99.95. The add-on’s you get, will ultimately determine what your final price will be. I have a Vision Service Plan, or VSP, otherwise known as vision insurance. Each year, I am able to cover my eye exam and either contacts or glasses. Eyemart Express takes VSP and other types of insurance. This can help offset immediate costs, should that be a concern.

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Eyemart Express has locations all over the US, with three located in the Birmingham area. If you’re in the Hoover, AL area, be sure to stop and ask for Ms. Joan and Mr. Thom. Both helped me that day and were absolutely delightful to work with!

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Feel free to email me if you have any questions about my experience or the glasses/sunnies I selected; otherwise, hope you enjoy an Eyemart Experience soon!

yours truly, dr. b (1)