A Cure for Diabetes?

Newswise — A novel approach to treating type 2 diabetes is being developed at the Technion. The disease, caused by insulin resistance and reduction of cells’ ability to absorb sugar, is characterized by increased blood sugar levels. Its long-term complications include heart disease, strokes, damage to the retina that can result in blindness, kidney failure, and poor blood flow in the limbs that may lead to amputations. It is currently treated by a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and insulin injections, but ultimately is associated with a 10-year reduction in life expectancy.

Led by Professor Shulamit Levenberg, Ph.D. student Rita Beckerman from the Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory in the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering presents a novel treatment approach, using an autograft of muscle cells engineered to take in sugar at increased rates. Mice treated in this manner displayed normal blood sugar levels for months after a single procedure. The group’s findings were recently published in Science Advances.

Muscle cells are among the main targets of insulin, and they are supposed to absorb sugar from the blood. In their study, Prof. Levenberg’s group isolated muscle cells from mice and engineered these cells to present more insulin-activated sugar transporters (GLUT4). These cells were then grown to form an engineered muscle tissue, and finally transported back into the abdomen of diabetic mice. The engineered cells not only proceeded to absorb sugar correctly, improving blood sugar levels, but also induced improved absorption in the mice’s other muscle cells, by means of signals sent between them. After this one treatment, the mice remained cured of diabetes for four months – the entire period they remained under observation. Their blood sugar levels remained lower, and they had reduced levels of fatty liver normally displayed in type 2 diabetes.

“By taking cells from the patient and treating them, we eliminate the risk of rejection,” Prof. Levenberg explained. These cells can easily integrate back into being part of the body and respond to the body’s signalling activity.

Currently around 34 million Americans, just over 1 in 10, suffer from diabetes, 90% of them from type 2 diabetes. An effective treatment – and one that is a one-time treatment rather than daily medication – could significantly improve both quality of life and life expectancy of those who have diabetes. The same method could also be used to treat various enzyme deficiency disorders.

This work was funded by Rina and Avner Schneur as part of the Rina and Avner Schneur Center for Diabetes Research.

80,000-180,000 Health Workers Killed By Covid

Covid has severely affected healthcare staff and may have killed between 80,000 and 180,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Healthcare workers must be prioritized for vaccines, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, and he criticised unfairness in the distribution of jabs. The deaths occurred between January 2020 and May of this year. Earlier, another senior WHO official warned a lack of jabs could see the pandemic continue well into next year.  There are an estimated 135 million healthcare workers globally.

“Data from 119 countries suggest that on average, two in five healthcare workers globally are fully vaccinated,” Dr Tedros said.  “But of course, that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.” Fewer than one in 10 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated in Africa, he said, compared with eight in 10 in high-income countries.  A failure to provide poorer countries with enough vaccines was highlighted earlier by Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior leader at the WHO, who said it meant the Covid crisis could “easily drag on deep into 2022”.

Less than 5% of Africa’s population have been vaccinated, compared with 40% on most other continents. The vast majority of Covid vaccines overall have been used in high-income or upper middle-income countries. Africa accounts for just 2.6% of doses administered globally.

The original idea behind Covax, the UN-backed global programme to distribute vaccines fairly, was that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool, including wealthy ones, writes BBC Global Affairs correspondent Naomi Grimley.

But most G7 countries decided to hold back once they started making their own one-to-one deals with pharmaceutical companies. Dr Aylward appealed to wealthy countries to give up their places in the queue for vaccines so that pharmaceutical companies can prioritise the lowest-income countries instead.

He said wealthy countries needed to “stocktake” where they were with their donation commitments made at summits such as the G7 meeting in St Ives this summer. “I can tell you we’re not on track,” he said. “We really need to speed it up or you know what? This pandemic is going to go on for a year longer than it needs to.”

The People’s Vaccine – an alliance of charities – has released new figures suggesting just one in seven of the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries. The alliance, which includes Oxfam and UNAids, also criticised Canada and the UK for procuring vaccines for their own populations via Covax.

Dr. V. K. Raju Receives Excellence in Medicine Award from GOPIO – Virginia Launches UK Chapter of The Eye Foundation To Prevent Childhood Blindness

Dr. Vadrevu K. Raju, a renowned ophthalmologist, president and founder of the Eye Foundation of America was awarded with the Excellence in Medicine Award by GOPIO – Virginia on Sunday October 3rd, 2021.

Dr. V.K. Raju, who was born in Rajahmundry, AP, India, is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Director of the International Ocular Surface Society, Director of the Ocular Surface Research and Education Foundation, Chairman of Goutami Eye Institute in Rajahmundry and is the President and Founder of the Eye Foundation of America, a non-profit organization dedicated to realizing a world without childhood blindness.

Dr. Raju who was recently appointed to the Faculty of Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University recently, traveled to London last month to chair the first Board Meeting of The Eye Foundation of America (UK).

Dr. Raju said, “A new beginning has been done in UK for the Eye Foundation. During a dinner meeting with the Board of Directors and the friends of The Eye Foundation of America (UK), I was encouraged by the warmth and enthusiasm shown by many about the nature and extent of the work the Eye Foundation has been carrying on across the globe, working tirelessly to make the world without childhood blindness.

The Foundation was fortunate to have Uzbekistan Ambassador, H.E Said Rustamov as an hnored guest. Dr. Raju was a special guest at the Embassy of Uzbekistan and had attended Uzbekistan’s 30th Independence Day celebrations at Lords.

Dr. Raju expressed gratitude to all the Board members of the Foundation in UK, particularly, Ashwini Misro, Radhika Misro, and Raj Koppada for their enthusiasm and generosity in helping realize the mission of the Eye Foundation in preventing and treating childhood blindness and beyond in Uzbekistan.

Dr. V.K. Raju’s crusade for the past four decades has been to achieve his vision of a world without avoidable blindness. Since 1979, the Eye Foundation of America has expanded its reach to over 25 countries, screened millions of patients, and provided hundreds of thousands of surgeries. As Dr. Raju points out, prevention is more beneficial than disease management, and lifestyle changes can be preventive. His organization’s programs, which aim at prevention through education and lifestyle modifications, include the 100,000 Lives campaign in India and the WV Kids Farmer’s Market Program in West Virginia.

In 1977, he began traveling home to India to offer his services as an ophthalmologist to those who could not afford, or access, desperately needed eye care. The Eye Foundation of America founded by an Indian-American physician, is entering a new phase in its mission of ending avoidable blindness by collaborating with GAPIO (Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) and AAPI (American Association of Physicians of India Origin).

These preventive services and medical and surgical interventions were delivered in the form of eye camps in the early days, and the EFA was initially founded to allow for easier transfer of state-of-the-art equipment and medicine from the United States to India. As the Foundation matured, it became so much more. The EFA is now a global organization responsible for treating millions of patients, performing hundreds of thousands of surgeries, and training hundreds of eye care professionals to join in the global fight against preventable blindness.

The EFA’s work spans 30 countries over several continents. One focus of current outreach efforts is in the prevention of diabetes. Diabetes-related complications typically strike during the prime of life and include the development of cataracts at an earlier age than normal, a two-fold increased risk of glaucoma, and small blood vessel damage (i.e., diabetic retinopathy). Retinopathy can cause blindness; however, early detection and treatment can prevent blindness in up to 90% of cases. The International Diabetes Foundation estimates that 20% of the diabetic world population resides in India, approximately 61.3 million diabetics.

In 2018, 34.2 million Americans had diabetes. There are 229,000 people with diabetes in West Virginia and 8.3% of adults are borderline diabetic. West Virginia is ranked the #2 state for deaths involving diabetes. According to Dr. Raju, the prevalence of diabetes among Indians in India and West Virginians in the United States continues to rise rapidly, and in many ways, the diabetes epidemic in West Virginia is similar to that of India, as the populations share similar characteristics: they tend to be rural, poor, and underserved. Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Raju earned his medical degree from Andhra University and completed an ophthalmology residency and fellowship at the Royal Eye Group of Hospitals in London.

Dr. VK Raju was among the class of 2017 inductees into the University of Toledo Global Medical Missions Hall of Fame, the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North America Telegu Society. Dr. Raju has published two books, seventeen chapters, and over 100 publications in scientific journals.

Dr. Raju has received numerous awards, including the AMA Foundation Nathan Davis Excellence in Medicine International Award, Four Time Awardee by The American Academy of Ophthalmology, Martin Luther King Jr Achievement Award from WVU, Distinguished Community Service Award from AAPI (American Association of Physicians from India), Pride of the Pride Award from Lions International District 29, Vaidya Ratna (conferred by Shankaracharya of Kanchi), Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Ophthalmologists of Indian Origin, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the WV State Medical Association.

Heart Disease Among South Asians Is Focus of AAPI Webinar

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and the nation spends over $500 billion on cardiovascular disease each year. Studies have shown that immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are experiencing a dramatic rise in heart disease. South Asians make up 25 per cent of the world’s population but they contribute 50 per cent to global cardiovascular deaths.

In this context, as part of an ongoing awareness and education campaign about high risk heart disease in South Asians, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States presented two eminent speakers and experts, Dr. Enas Enas and Dr. Amit Kera, discussing ways to create awareness on Heart Disease Among South Asians during a webinar on Saturday, October 16th, 2021.

In her welcome address, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, said, ” Today is World Restart a Heart Day. Today’s conference is being organized to educate and create awareness about the major health issue faced by South Asians and offer ways to mitigate Heart Disease.” Referring to the American Heart Association, Dr. Gotimukula pointed out that approximately 70 percent of Cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital. “Sudden Cardiac Arrest could be due to multiple reasons. Today’s CME is focused on Recent Advances in South Asian Heart Disease by 2 eminent Indian Americans who are in the forefront of research on this deadly disease.

In his lengthy and detailed presentation with anecdotes from his personal experiences in studying and treating patients with cardio issues, Dr. Enas Enas, provided a broader perspective on the “History and Magnitude of Heart Disease Among South Asians.” Sharing with the audience, how, during his early practice of Medicine, his personal experiences inspired him to get engaged in the research, treatment and prevention, dedicating his life for the cause of heart disease.

Dr. Enas referred to several research/studies around the world, showing high prevalence of CAD among Indians. “Indians have a big problem with premature heart disease,” Dr. Enas said and pointed out that 185,000 people of South Asian origin die of heart disease per year as against 15,000 Whites die of the same health issue. While referring to Mitigating Risk Factors, Dr. Enas recommended Indians to follow the American Heart Association developed Life Simple 7 with additional requirement for exercise and maintaining sugar level below 140.

Dr. Enas Enas, a cardiologist from Chicago and also Director of CADI  Coronary artery disease in Indians ) presented a historical perspective as to why the south Asians and especially, Indians have such high risk for heart disease, starting at very young age. Dr. Enas emphasized that traditional factors do not capture the entire risk and suggested that genetics especially LPA plays equally important role and advised all south Asians to get measurement of LP (a) at least once  in their life starting at young age.

A true pioneer, Dr. Enas is the first cardiologist to sound the alarm on the strikingly high rates and malignant nature of heart disease among Indians in the US and around the globe Dr. Enas is the first cardiologist to sound the alarm on the epidemic of coronary artery disease among Indians worldwide. As the principal investigator of the landmark CADI Study, he scientifically proved a 3-4 fold high rate of coronary artery disease among immigrants from India to the United States. He is also the first physician to identify and report a genetic predisposition to CAD in Asian Indians, mediated through lipoprotein(a) – a genetic variant of LDL cholesterol.

Dr. Amit Kera, a new rising star in Preventive Cardiology, built on that argument and presented genomic data to fill the gap and also pointed out that usual risk scoring has been done on Caucasians and cannot be extrapolated to south Asians. He advocated for the need for our own data  base and especially genomic data to go beyond coronary calcium score and use “ Polygenic score,” which can predict even  more accurately the risk of heart disease individually what he calls “Precision Medicine,” a futuristic concept, which he is working on as Associate Director at prestigious Broad institute affiliated with MIT and Harvard. Pointing to international studies that point to prevalence of Cardiovascular diseases high among South Asians, he said, Diabetes is diagnosed four times more among the Asians in comparison with Europeans.

Dr. Khera is a physician-scientist with expertise in epidemiology, clinical medicine, and human genetics. Among his scientific contributions, he developed a new approach to quantify genetic risk for common diseases, as well as the biomarkers that provide new biologic insights, and analyzed large-scale gene sequencing data to highlight key pathways underlying risk for coronary artery disease. His research program uses genetic variation as a tool to uncover new biology and enable enhanced clinical care informed by inherited susceptibility. He serves as the Associate Director, Precision Medicine Unit, Center for Genomic Medicine, MGH; Associate Director, Cardiovascular Disease Initiative, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Instructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; and, Cardiologist, Corrigan Minehan Heart Center, MGH.

Dr. Brahma Sharma, Senior Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh affiliated Medical Center,  a co-host and moderator of the event, said, “While we are still trying to figure out different mechanisms for this enigma, that should not prevent but rather motivate to follow more aggressively life style modifications and pre-empt and prevent this silent epidemic that is taking a toll on young Indians and South Asians globally.” Dr. Sharma who is serving as the Chair of AAPI South Asian Heart Disease Committee and as the Chair AHA/ AAPI Liaison.

Dr. Amit Chakrbarty, who was a co-host and moderated the discussions, said, “In addition to educational webinars, we also plan to take this knowledge to grass root level via conducting mini- health screening camps across different cities with help of local AAPI chapters throughout USA and invite Global South Asian diaspora to join hands in this mission to prevent heart attacks and save lives.”

In her concluding remarks, urging the need for “Prevention is better than cure,” Dr. Gotimukula said, “Heart disease is the number one Global Public Health problem. South Asians are at a four-times greater risk of heart disease than their western counterparts and have a greater chance of having a heart attack before 50 years of age. Heart attacks strike South Asian Men and Women at younger ages, and as a result, both morbidity and mortality are higher among them compared to any other ethnic group. They tend to develop heart disease ten years earlier than other groups. Efforts to raise awareness of heart disease and promote “Healthy Heart” lifestyles is essential.”  For more information on AAPI and its programs, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Democrat-Led States Have Stronger Response To COVID-19, Improving Health Outcomes

Newswise– States with Democratic leaders tended to have responded more strongly to COVID-19 and have seen a lower rate of the spread of the virus, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Binghamton University Professor of Political Science Olga Shvetsova and her colleagues wanted to gain a clearer understanding of how politics affect COVID-19 outcomes. The researchers used data on public health measures taken across the United States to build an index of the strength of the COVID policy response. They combined this index with daily counts of new COVID cases, along with political and other variables that they thought were relevant to the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic and governments’ response to it. Using this dataset, they assessed the effects of policies on the observed number of new infections and the difference between the policies adopted in Republican-led and Democrat-led states.

This study connects the aggregate strength of public health policies taken in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the U.S. states to the governors’ party affiliations and to the state-level outcomes. Understanding the relationship between politics and public health measures can better prepare American communities for what to expect from their governments in a future crisis and encourage advocacy for delegating public health decisions to medical professionals.

“The state governments led by Democrats, on average, took stricter measures than the state governments led by Republicans, and the states with stricter measures had the virus spread much slower,” said Shvetsova.

The difference between the policies made in Democrat-led states and those made in Republican-led states corresponded to an about 7-8 percent lower rate of the spread of the virus.

According to the researchers, these conclusions reinforce the findings of previous studies that application of public health policy was politicized for COVID-19, and this affected health outcomes.

“The main lesson of this research is that better public health requires a less partisan approach to the making of public health policies,” said Shvetsova.

Additional researchers and institutions on the study included: Andrei Zhirnov from the University of Exeter, Frank Giannelli from Rutgers University, Michael Catalano, and Olivia Catalano. 

The paper, “Governor’s party, policies, and COVID-19 outcomes: Further Evidence of the Effect,” was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

FDA Recommends Moderna Covid-19 Booster Shot

A 19-member committee has voted unanimously in favor of advising the FDA to recommend booster shots for people who have previously been vaccinated with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. It’s now up to the FDA to make a final decision, which the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will then consider shortly in coming up with the final recommendation for who should get the Moderna booster.

The COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna is the second to get the greenlight from a panel of experts assigned to advise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Moderna follows Pfizer-BioNTech, which, in September, received FDA authorization for its booster. The CDC followed up with a booster recommendation for anyone over 65 years old who received their last Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose at least six months earlier; and anyone aged 18 to 64 who is more vulnerable to complications of COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions or because they work in a higher risk setting including a hospital, grocery store or school.

The advisory committee unanimously voted in support of a booster of the Moderna vaccine; however, in a discussion following the vote members raised concerns about whether the data the committee and FDA have been reviewing so far are adequate to justify boosters for the wider population. Several committee members voiced their support of a booster dose for vulnerable populations, including those over age 65 and people with compromised immune systems, who are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 and its complications, but noted the dearth of data supporting the benefit among younger people, even those in jobs that might put them at risk of exposure. 

Still, the members voted to recommend the Moderna shot for a population that mirrors that currently eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster. (The same FDA committee had voted against recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for these groups, but CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky decided to include them so those who find themselves in high-risk settings have the option of getting an additional dose.)

Moderna booster dose would give younger people who mount adequate immune responses after the initial shots any extra protection. Indeed, FDA scientists presenting to the committee emphasized that the immunity from the original two doses remains strong enough to protect most people from getting sick enough to need hospitalization, or from dying of COVID-19. 

Dr. Patrick Moore, another committee member and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said he voted in favor of the booster “more from a gut feeling rather than based on really, truly serious data. The data itself is not strong, but [is] certainly going in the direction that is supportive of this vote.”

A Mobile App Could Save Lives In India

Newswise — A mobile app could help turn the tide of a rise in breast cancer in women as young as 30 in India, according to new research.

The disease is the most prevalent form of cancer globally and has become a major problem in India, where breast cancer accounts for 25% to 31% of all cancers.

There has also been a significant shift away from older women to those aged 30-50 developing the disease.

Dr Judith Fletcher Brown, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, says a mobile app used by on-the-ground healthcare workers might be the answer to reaching more women and teaching breast examination techniques.

She said: “India has emerged as a hub central to the development of new technology. It really is time the Indian government made a concentrated effort on raising awareness about the early warning signs of this disease as a preventative method.

“The rate of technological innovation and demand in India for mobile devices offer fresh possibilities for the health and wellbeing of the world’s largest democracy.

“It’s time to invest in innovative mobile technology to combat the rise in breast cancer statistics.”

Dr Fletcher Brown suggests a breast healthcare app could be used by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs). These on-the-ground healthcare workers are already accepted by the community, they overcome socio-cultural barriers as part of their normal day-to-day work, and they could encourage vulnerable target groups to engage with the breast cancer education mhealth technology.

Using a bespoke app (operated on a digital tablet with culturally-specific images) ASHAs could educate and demonstrate breast self-examination techniques to help identify the early warning signs of cancer. Similar technology is fast and simple to use.

In her previous research, Dr Fletcher Brown carried out fieldwork in New Delhi, India, and found the reason for such appalling statistics was a lack of awareness about the early warning signs of breast cancer by women. Macro environmental forces including weak political will to fund women’s health, combine with a society in which societal protocols which render discussion about cancer as culturally sensitive.

She said: “Tragically, the intense focus of the health service resources on Covid-19 patients, means late diagnosis at an advanced stage still remains the main challenge in the war against breast cancer.”

Dr Fletcher Brown’s latest research, with Diane Carter, Professor Rajesh Chandwani and Professor Vijay Pereira, reveals mobile health technology (mhealth) as an opportunity to improve cancer healthcare knowledge for women in India.

She said: “Smart technology such as mobile phones are a promising tool for disease control interventions in emerging economies and in India the dominant focus has so far concentrated on HIV/AIDS and diabetes education. We suggest broadening the scope of mheath technology to raise breast cancer awareness among Indian women.”

CDC’s Data On COVID-19 Cases Shows Deaths By Vaccine Type

Unvaccinated people are about six times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die from the illness compared to people who are vaccinated, though there are slight differences in risk based on vaccine type, according to newly released CDC data

The CDC published data Oct. 15 that breaks down the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths by vaccination status and vaccine type. The rates are based on data from 16 public health departments — representing about 30 percent of the U.S. population — and cover April through the end of August. 

Five notes: 

1. Overall, unvaccinated people had the highest COVID-19 case and death rates. 

2. The COVID-19 case and death rates were slightly higher among Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, followed by Pfizer recipients and then Moderna.

3. As of Aug. 15, there were about 737 cases per 100,000 population among unvaccinated people — the highest rate during the period for which data was collected.

4. The case rates as of Aug. 15 for J&J recipients were about 172 cases per 100,000, followed by about 136 cases per 100,000 among Pfizer recipients, and 86 cases per 100,000 among Moderna recipients. 

5. The death rates as of Aug. 15 were nearly 13 per 100,000 among unvaccinated people, 3 per 100,000 for J&J recipients, about 1.4 per 100,000 for people who got Pfizer’s shot, and 0.69 per 100,000 for Moderna recipients.

Patients Prefer In Person Over Telehealth Visits To Doctors

New Yorker Charlie Freyre’s sinuses had been bothering him for weeks last winter, during a COVID-19 surge in the city. It was before vaccines became widely available.

“I was just trying to stay in my apartment as much as possible,” Freyre says, so checking in with his doctor via an online appointment “just seemed like a more convenient option. And you know, it was very straightforward and very easy.”

The $20 copay was well worth it for the 26-year-old ad salesman, whose girlfriend also routinely relies on telehealth to see her nutritionist. “It’s a very easy way to get an expert opinion without having to necessarily leave your apartment,” fill out forms or spend idle time in waiting rooms, Freyre says. “We all know what going to the doctor can be like.”But now, Freyre has a sore knee — and he’s not content to to visit his doctor by phone or Zoom. “That’s something that I will 100% want handled in person.”

Freyre’s telehealth experience is fairly typical. Telehealth is continuing to have its breakout moment — transforming the way we receive routine medical care during the pandemic, when visiting medical centers has carried with it the risk of coronavirus infection. Yet even today, with that infection risk easing for those who have been vaccinated, many patients nevertheless prefer that doctors, nurses and other health workers be able to examine and talk to them in person.

That’s one finding from a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard that surveyed patients in August and September. Around 42% of respondents said someone in their household had used telehealth. Of those, 82% reported satisfaction, yet nearly two-thirds — 64% — would have preferred to see their nurse or doctor in person.

In-person visits can be more thorough

“I think people just really like that face-to-face visit,” says Rebekah Bernard, a Fort Myer, Fla., family physician, and a board member of Physicians for Patient Protection, which advocates for better patient care. Bernard, who runs a concierge medical practice that charges patients a flat monthly fee for services, says she started offering telehealth options to her patients five years ago, long before COVID-19 hit U.S. shores. Back then, not one of her patients used it. That changed during the pandemic, when patients told her having the telehealth option allayed their worries about getting safe access to health care.

That sort of shift in acceptance and how it’s used may have big implications for telehealth’s role in the U.S. in the future. It’s use by various physical and mental health specialties grew tremendously in 2020, as federal and state governments and insurance companies adopted emergency COVID-19 measures, relaxing restrictions on coverage, privacy controls and professional licensing, for example. Now, some of those rules regarding telehealth appointments are being reinstated.

Bernard, the physician in Florida, says the last year has also shown her the limits and downsides of telehealth: “You may be missing that opportunity to be talking with the doctor who’s going to say, ‘Hey, by the way, I see you haven’t had your mammogram or you haven’t had your pap [smear].’ ”

Both she and most patients prefer in-person visits, because it is both more personal, thorough and ultimately, she says, better for the patients’ health.

A lifeline in rural areas

But when and where such visits aren’t available, she says, telehealth can be critical. “What’s going to be important is offering patients options and finding out what makes the most sense in a certain area,” she says. “I’m sure in rural areas or places where, for example, they don’t have a lot of specialists like psychiatrists, we really need to make sure we have access to telehealth for those patients.”

Myriad telehealth companies are already investing to make that happen.

New York City-based TytoCare, helps medical centers and doctors gather data on patients remotely by distributing devices that can sensitively measure patients’ oxygen levels or take images of the inside of their throat, for example. David Bardan, a vice president at TytoCare, says that data is then transmitted to doctors, who use it diagnose medical problems.

Nursing homes in rural areas, for example, are heavy users of the service, he says. “This is way more convenient than having to potentially air-transport or even having to drive long distances, in many cases, to access those specialists,” he says. That’s the sort of circumstance where telehealth excels, Barden says — and he believes those applications of telehealth will endure.

Anthony Fauci Oks Mix And Match Covid-19 Vaccines For Booster Dose

Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said American drug regulator will consider whether those who have been inoculated with one dose of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should be administered an mRNA-based vaccine, like Moderna or Pfizer as a booster shot to help induce a higher number of antibodies.

“If you boost people who have originally received J&J with either Moderna or Pfizer, the level of antibodies that you induce in them is much higher than if you boost them with the original J&J,” Fauci told reporters during a television interview.

Fauci’s comment comes after a second dose of the J&J vaccine was recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 18 years and above as a booster shot. FDA also recommended a third dose of the Modern vaccine as a booster shot to high-risk adults.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech SE and Moderna vaccines are based on mRNA technology while the J&J shot uses adenovirus like India’s Covishield. Experts opine that mix-and-match of vaccines if sanctioned will give individuals greater flexibility in deciding which booster shot they should opt for to help battle waning immunity against the virus.

The infectious disease expert had said towards the end of September that efficacy data on the pairing of vaccines will be available in the first two weeks of October, months after the National Institutes of Health started a mix-and-match trial of Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J shots on roughly 150 adults on June 1. All the participants were given a booster shot of a different vaccine three to four months after completing their first vaccine regimen.

Fauci also said individuals will have the freedom to choose which booster shot they would like to go for. “I believe there’s going to be a degree of flexibility of what a person who got the J&J originally can do, either with J&J or with the mix-and-match from other products,” he said.

Mixing and Matching Covid Vaccine Is Effective

More COVID-19 boosters are likely on the horizon: Last week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommended a half-dose of Moderna’s vaccine for those over 65, as well as younger adults with certain health conditions and those who work in high-risk settings.

Subsequently, the committee unanimously voted to recommend boosters for Janssen/Johnson & Johnson recipients who are 18 or older, at least two months after their first dose. The FDA, which previously green-lit Pfizer boosters, is expected to follow both of the committee’s recommendations.

But when it comes to booster shots, one big question lingers: should people be mixing and matching by getting an extra dose of a vaccine other than the one they initially received?

A highly anticipated study of “mixing and matching” Covid-19 vaccines found the approach to be safe and effective, although the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were found to spark stronger immune system responses than Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. “Mixing and matching” refers to giving a booster dose of a vaccine different from the vaccine type that was used for the initial vaccination series.

According to the findings from the study by the National Institutes of Health, which was released last week, but has yet to be peer reviewed, participants who received a booster of a different vaccine than the one they originally got experienced antibody increases similar to or higher than those who received another dose of the same vaccine they were previously given.

The study found that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine produced stronger antibody levels after they got booster shots made by Moderna or Pfizer, compared to boosters from Johnson & Johnson. Those who were originally vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and received either company’s booster shot produced similarly strong immune responses, the researchers found.

Mixing and matching could help the booster rollout in the U.S., since people could receive whatever vaccine their pharmacy had on hand, rather than seeking out the shot they were originally given. As Alice writes, “The findings are encouraging because they suggest that it’s safe for providers to mix and match doses when it comes to boosters. … The ability to get any of the three vaccines will ensure that more people will get the additional shot.” However, at least for now, the FDA and CDC aren’t even considering whether to approve mixing and matching.

Dr. Mathai Mammen Honored By India Community Center At Annual Gala

Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of Research and Development for the Janssen Pharmaceuticals wing of Johnson & Johnson, has been honored with the India Community Center’s annual Inspire award for his work in developing the single shot J&J Covid-19 vaccine, at the organization’s annual banquet Oct. 2.

ICC’s 18th annual gala was held virtually for the second time, in keeping with Covid-19 safety protocols, which discourage gatherings of large groups indoors. A friendly-but-competitive live auction, followed by a lively pledge drive, quickly raised more than $257,000 to support the community center, a second home to many Indian American seniors and youth. “J&J, BioNTech, and Moderna had never created vaccines before. But everyone saw the public health crisis that was happening — as 10,000 people died each day — and wanted to help,” said Mammen, who was interviewed at the gala by Divya Ganesan, a Stanford University freshman, and co-founder of Real Talk Ed.

“To think of making a vaccine in such a short time was unthinkable. This would typically be a seven-year process,” said Mammen, noting that 600 people at J&J mobilized on a 24-hour/seven days a week schedule to develop a vaccine. “We broke all our normal processes,” said the Indian American. “We had invested in good science that we put into play.” “The journey was unlike anything we had ever seen. For 14 months, no one ever took a day off. I don’t think the world recognizes what it took to make this vaccine,” said Mammen.

Dr. Mammen’s mission is to work with the best research and development professionals in the world to make meaningful medicines that impact the lives of patients, their families and communities. Prior to joining Janssen in June 2017, Dr. Mammen was Senior Vice President at Merck Research Laboratories, responsible for research in the areas of Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Renal Diseases, Oncology/Immuno-Oncology and Immunology. Jointly with his team, he initiated numerous new programs and progressed eight into early clinical development. He also nucleated a new discovery site in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Prior to Merck, Dr. Mammen led R&D at Theravance, a company he co-founded in 1997 based on his work at Harvard University. Under his leadership, the Theravance team of 200 scientists nominated 31 development candidates in 17 years, created three approved products (Breo®, Anoro®, Vibativ®), two additional assets that have successfully completed Phase 3 studies and a pipeline containing 11 further development-stage compounds in 2016. In 2014, he and the Theravance Leadership Team separated Theravance into two publicly traded companies: Innoviva (INVA) and Theravance Biopharma (TBPH).

Dr. Mammen has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and patents and serves on various boards and advisory committees. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (HST program) and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry, working with George Whitesides. He received his BSc in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

World’s 1st Malaria Vaccine Approved

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it has recommended widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) for children in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the WHO, the vaccine is the result of 30 years of research and development by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the international non-profit organization Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and with a network of research centers in Africa.

The WHO said on Wednesday its recommendation is based on results from more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine that have been administered to more than 800,000 children in pilot countries Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the WHO, more than two-thirds of children in the three countries who were not sleeping under a bednet were benefiting from the vaccine, bringing about a 30 percent drop in severe malaria, even when introduced in areas where insecticide-treated nets were widely used and there was good access to diagnosis and treatment.

The vaccine has a favorable safety profile, the WHO said, with no negative impact on the uptake of bednets, other childhood vaccinations, or health seeking behavior for febrile illness. “It’s safe, it significantly reduces life-threatening severe malaria, and we estimate it to be highly cost-effective,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.

According to the WHO, “the vaccine should be provided in a schedule of four doses in children from five months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.” Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.

The WHO’s records show that malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from the disease annually. “This long-awaited malaria vaccine is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said Tedros. “This vaccine is a gift to the world, but its value will be felt most in Africa, because that’s where the burden of malaria is greatest.” (IANS)

Ranking Healthfulness Of Foods From First To Worst

New nutrient profiling system, most comprehensive and science-based to date, clears up confusion to benefit consumers, policymakers

Newswise — A scientific team at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts has developed a new tool to help consumers, food companies, restaurants, and cafeterias choose and produce healthier foods and officials to make sound public nutrition policy. Food Compass is a new nutrient profiling system, developed over three years, that incorporates cutting-edge science on how different characteristics of foods positively or negatively impact health. Important novel features of the system, reported Oct. 14 in Nature Food, include: Equally considering healthful vs. harmful factors in foods (many existing systems focus on harmful factors);

Incorporating cutting-edge science on nutrients, food ingredients, processing characteristics, phytochemicals, and additives (existing systems focus largely on just a few nutrients); and Objectively scoring all foods, beverages, and even mixed dishes and meals using one consistent score (existing systems subjectively group and score foods differently). “Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said the study’s lead and corresponding author, Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. “Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”

The new Food Compass system was developed and then tested using a detailed national database of 8,032 foods and beverages consumed by Americans. It scores 54 different characteristics across nine domains representing different health-relevant aspects of foods, drinks, and mixed meals, providing for one of the most comprehensive nutrient profiling systems in the world. The characteristics and domains were selected based on nutritional attributes linked to major chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer, as well as to risk of undernutrition, especially for mothers, young children, and the elderly. Food Compass was designed so that additional attributes and scoring could evolve based on future evidence in such areas as gastrointestinal health, immune function, brain health, bone health, and physical and mental performance; as well as considerations of sustainability.

Potential uses of Food Compass include:

Encouraging the food industry to develop healthier foods and reformulate the ingredients in popular processed foods and snacks;

Providing food purchasing incentives for employees through worksite wellness, health care, and nutrition assistance programs;

Supplying the science for local and national policies such as package labeling, taxation, warning labels, and restrictions on marketing to children;

Enabling restaurants and school, business, and hospital cafeterias to present healthier food options; Informing agricultural trade policy; and, Guiding institutional and individual investors on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment decisions.

Each food, beverage, or mixed dish receives a final Food Compass score ranging from 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy). The researchers identified 70 or more as a reasonable score for foods or beverages that should be encouraged. Foods and beverages scoring 31-69 should be consumed in moderation. Anything scoring 30 or lower should be consumed minimally.

Across major food categories, the average Food Compass score was 43.2.

The lowest scoring category was snacks and sweet desserts (average score 16.4).

The highest scoring categories were vegetables (average score 69.1), fruits (average score 73.9, with nearly all raw fruits receiving a score of 100), and legumes, nuts, and seeds (average score 78.6).

Among beverages, the average score ranged from 27.6 for sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks to 67 for 100% fruit or vegetable juices.

Starchy vegetables scored an average of 43.2.

The average score for beef was 24.9; for poultry, 42.67; and for seafood, 67.0.

Food Compass is the first major nutrient profiling system to use consistent scoring across diverse food groups, which is especially important for mixed dishes. For example, in the case of pizza, many other systems have separate scoring algorithms for the wheat, meat, and cheese, but not the finished product itself. Consistent scoring of diverse items can also be helpful in assessing and comparing combinations of food and beverages that could be sold and consumed together, such as an entire shopping basket, a person’s daily diet pattern, or a portfolio of foods sold by a particular company.

“With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices–helping guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and socially based investment decisions,” said last author Renata Micha, who did this work as a faculty member at the Friedman School and is now at the University of Thessaly. Additional authors are Naglaa H. El-Abbadi, Meghan O’Hearn, Josh Marino, William A. Masters, Paul Jacques, Peilin Shi, and Jeffrey B. Blumberg of the Friedman School.

The study is part of the Food-PRICE (Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness) project, a National Institutes of Health-funded research collaboration working to identify cost-effective nutrition strategies that can have the greatest impact on improving health outcomes in the United States. This work was supported by Danone and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers R01HL130735 and R01HL115189. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Please see the study for conflicts of interest.

AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit 2022 To Be Held In Hyderabad

The 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022, organized by the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, will be held at the prestigious Hotel Avasa in Hyderabad, India from January 5th to 7th, 2022.

“Harnessing the power of Indian Doctors worldwide, the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit platform has evolved with the support of prominent global and Indian medical associations,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI. “The theme for the Summit this year is, ‘Prevention Is Better Than Cure Through Technology, Telemedicine & Transformation’ and we want to coordinate and collaborate all our resources towards helping India emerge stronger and healthier.”

According to her, “Senior leaders from leading healthcare organizations such as pharmaceuticals, device and medical equipment manufacturers and major medical teaching institutions, hospitals and from the Ministries – Health, External/Overseas Affairs and regulatory bodies are collaborating with AAPI with the ultimate goal to provide access to high quality and affordable healthcare to all people of India.”

AAPI is hopeful that several international healthcare industry partners are looking for opportunities to participate at this event for greater collaboration on Research & Development and philanthropic engagements, Dr. Gotimukula added.  Chronic diseases, notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, and emerging ones – trauma and head injury, transplant and minimally invasive robotic surgeries are only some of those that are going to be covered during this Summit. An exclusive Healthcare CEO forum brings the healthcare industry perspective, with senior Government officials, both Union and State providing the legislative wisdom. Hands-on workshops provide supervised skill transfer.

“Physicians and delegates  from different parts of the world will come together, facilitating exchange of knowledge,  cutting edge technology  and best practices in protecting and promoting healthcare,” Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI GHS USA 2021 says. “In addition to continuing the ongoing projects commenced by past AAPI leaders, GHS will have new initiatives and innovative ideas. The GHS 2022 will focus on envisioning future digital health solutions, and preventive strategies with state of the art CMEs and  Symposiums with information on current and emerging issues and trends in healthcare.”While elaborating on the themes and areas that are going to be covered during the Summit, Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT, says, “In our efforts to realize the core mission of AAPI, which is to share the best from leading experts from around the world, to collaborate on clinical challenges, research and development, philanthropy, policy and standards formulation, the Summit in Hyderabad will have clinical tracks that are of vital to healthcare in India.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said, “Healthcare in India is one of the largest sectors, in terms of revenue and employment.  India is making significant improvements in the healthcare infrastructure and is building modern medical facilities throughout India. Indian doctors have made tremendous progress in the 21st century and India is now being touted as a medical tourism hub” While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, says, “This innovative Summit is aimed at advancing the accessibility, affordability and the quality of world-class healthcare to the people of India. Among other areas, the Summit will focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and share ways to truly improve healthcare transcending global boundaries.”

This international health care summit is a progressive transformation from the first Indo-US Healthcare Summit launched by AAPI USA in 2007. Since then, AAPI has organized 14 Indo – US/Global Healthcare Summits and developed strategic alliances with various organizations. “It is these learning and relationships that have now enabled AAPI and participating organizations to plan ahead and prepare for an outstanding event that is expected to have over 300 very prominent and talented physicians and surgeons of Indian origin from around the world and are very passionate about serving their homeland, Mother India,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, says.

According to Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, “With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India.”There are several AAPI leaders who are working very hard to make the GHS a memorable event, said Dr. Gotimukula. “Among them, I want to recognize Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education; Dr. Seema Arora, Women’s Forum; Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of CEO Forum; Dr. Soumya Neravetla, Chair of the popular Medical Jeopardy; Dr. Ayesha Singh and Dr. Shubham Anand, GAIIMS President, who are coordinating the Medical Students Research Symposium.”

“Being organized at this critical phase, GHS 2022 is aimed at exploring possibilities for greater collaboration and cooperation between the physicians and health care providers in India with those of Indian origin and major health-care providers abroad,” Dr. Gotimukula said. For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

A Cousin Of Viagra Reduces Obesity By Burning Fat

Newswise — Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that a drug first developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and sickle cell disease reduces obesity and fatty liver in mice and improves their heart function — without changes in food intake or daily activity.

These findings, published online Oct. 7 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, reveal that a chemical inhibitor of the enzyme PDE9 stimulates cells to burn more fat. This occurred in male mice and in female mice whose sex hormones were reduced by removing their ovaries, thus mimicking menopause. Postmenopausal women are well known to be at increased risk for obesity around their waist as well as at risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Inhibiting PDE9 did not cause these changes in female mice that had their ovaries, so female sex hormone status was important in the study.

“Currently, there isn’t a pill that has been proven effective for treating severe obesity, yet such obesity is a global health problem that increases the risk of many other diseases,” says senior investigator David Kass, M.D., Abraham and Virginia Weiss Professor of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What makes our findings exciting is that we found an oral medication that activates fat-burning in mice to reduce obesity and fat buildup in organs like the liver and heart that contribute to disease; this is new.”

This study follows work reported by the same laboratory in 2015 that first showed the PDE9 enzyme is present in the heart and contributes to heart disease triggered by high blood pressure. Blocking PDE9 increases the amount of a small molecule known as cyclic GMP, which in turn controls many aspects of cell function throughout the body. PDE9 is the enzyme cousin of another protein called PDE5, which also controls cyclic GMP and is blocked by drugs such as Viagra. Inhibitors of PDE9 are experimental, so there is no drug name yet.

Based on these results, the investigators suspected PDE9 inhibition might improve cardiometabolic syndrome (CMS), a constellation of common conditions including high blood pressure; high blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides; and excess body fat, particularly around the waist. CMS is considered a pandemic by medical experts and a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancers and COVID-19.

While PDE9 inhibitors remain experimental, they have been developed by several pharmaceutical companies and tested in humans for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and sickle cell. The current mouse study used a PDE9 inhibitor made by Pfizer Inc. (PF-04447943) that was first tested for Alzheimer’s disease, though eventually abandoned for this use. Between the two reported clinical trials, over 100 subjects received this drug, and it was found to be well tolerated with no serious adverse side effects. A different PDE9 inhibitor is now being tested for human heart failure.

To test the effects of a PDE9 inhibitor on obesity and cardiometabolic syndrome, the researchers put mice on a high-fat diet that led to doubling their body weight, high blood lipids and diabetes after four months. A group of female mice had their ovaries surgically removed, and most of the mice also had a pressure stress applied to the heart to better mimic cardiometabolic syndrome. The mice were then assigned to receive either the PDE9 inhibitor or a placebo by mouth over the next six to eight weeks.

In female mice without their ovaries (a model of postmenopause), the difference in median percent weight change between the drug and placebo groups was -27.5%, and in males it was -19.5%. Lean body mass was not altered in either group, nor was daily food consumption or physical activity. The PDE9 inhibitor lowered blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduced fat in the liver to levels found in mice fed a normal diet. The heart also improved with PDE9 inhibition, with ejection fraction (which measures the percentage of blood leaving the heart each time it contracts) relatively higher by 7%–15% and heart mass (hypertrophy) rising 70% less compared with the placebo. An increase in heart mass is evidence of abnormal heart stress. However, having this lowered by the inhibitor indicates stress on the heart was reduced.

The investigators found PDE9 inhibition produces these effects by activating a master regulator of fat metabolism known as PPARa. By stimulating PPARa, levels of genes for proteins that control fat uptake into cells and their use as fuel are broadly increased. When PPARa was blocked in cells or the whole animal, the effects from PDE9 inhibition on obesity and fat-burning were also lost. They found estrogen normally plays this role of PPARa on fat regulation in females, but when its levels fall like they do after menopause, PPARa becomes more important to regulate fat and so PDE9 inhibition has a greater effect.

“The finding that the experimental drug did not benefit female mice that had their ovaries shows that these sex hormones, particularly estrogen, had already achieved what inhibiting PDE9 does to stimulate fat-burning,” notes Sumita Mishra, the research associate who performed much of the work. “Menopause reduces sex hormone levels, and their control over fat metabolism then shifts to the protein regulated by PDE9, so the drug treatment is now effective.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of people living in the U.S. are obese; and 43% of American women over the age of 60 — long past menopause — are considered obese. Kass notes that if his lab’s findings in mice apply to people, someone weighing 250 pounds could lose about 50 pounds with an oral PDE9 inhibitor without changing eating or exercise habits.

“I’m not suggesting to be a couch potato and take a pill, but I suspect that combined with diet and exercise, the effects from PDE9 inhibition may be even greater,” says Kass. The next step would be testing in humans to see if PDE9 inhibitors produce similar effects in men and postmenopausal women. “PDE9 inhibitors are already being studied in humans, so a clinical obesity study should not be that far away,” Kass says. The other researchers involved in the study include Nandhini Sadagopan, Brittany Dunkerly-Ering, Susana Rodriguez, Dylan Sarver, Sean Murphy, Hildur Knutsdottir, Vivek Jani, Deepthi Ashok, Christian Oeing, Brian O’Rourke and G. William Wong from Johns Hopkins Medicine; Ryan Ceddia and Sheila Collins from Vanderbilt University; and John Gangoiti and Dorothy Sears from the University of California San Diego.

The Johns Hopkins University has filed a patent on behalf of investigators Kass, Mishra and a prior member of the Kass laboratory, D.I. Lee, for the use of PDE9 inhibitors to treat cardiometabolic syndrome.

Covid Claims 700,000 Lives, While Cases Begin To Fall

The United States reached its latest heartbreaking pandemic milestone, eclipsing 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 just as the surge from the delta variant is starting to slow down and give overwhelmed hospitals some relief, reports here suggest. It took 3 ½ months for the U.S. to go from 600,000 to 700,000 deaths, driven by the Delta variant’s rampant spread through unvaccinated Americans. The latest milestone is deeply frustrating to public health leaders and medical professionals on the front lines because vaccines have been available to all eligible Americans for nearly six months and the shots overwhelmingly protect against hospitalizations and death. An estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, providing kindling for the variant.

Health experts say the fourth wave of the pandemic has peaked overall in the U.S., particularly in the Deep South, where hospitals were stretched to the limit weeks ago. But many Northern states are still struggling with rising cases, and what’s ahead for winter is far less clear.  Unknowns include how flu season may strain already depleted hospital staffs and whether those who have refused to get vaccinated will change their minds.

An estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, providing kindling for the highly contagious delta variant.  “If you’re not vaccinated or have protection from natural infection, this virus will find you,” warned Mike Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Nationwide, the number of people now in the hospital with COVID-19 has fallen to somewhere around 75,000 from over 93,000 in early September. New cases are on the downswing at about 112,000 per day on average, a drop of about one-third over the past 2 1/2 weeks.

Deaths, too, appear to be declining, averaging about 1,900 a day versus more than 2,000 about a week ago. The easing of the summer surge has been attributed to more mask wearing and more people getting vaccinated. The decrease in case numbers could also be due to the virus having burned through susceptible people and running out of fuel in some places.

In another promising development, Merck said its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half. If it wins authorization from regulators, it will be the first pill for treating COVID-19 — and an important, easy-to-use new weapon in the arsenal against the pandemic.

All treatments now authorized in the U.S. against the coronavirus require an IV or injection.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, warned on Friday that some may see the encouraging trends as a reason to remain unvaccinated. “It’s good news we’re starting to see the curves” coming down, he said. “That is not an excuse to walk away from the issue of needing to get vaccinated.”

Covid Symptoms Last Longer Than Previously Thought

One in three people infected with the coronavirus has had Covid-like symptoms persist or recur for three to six months after diagnosis, a new study says, suggesting the so-called “long Covid” is afflicting more people than previously thought.

The study, led by University of Oxford scientists, used anonymized data from millions of electronic health records, primarily in the United States, to compare 273,618 patients with Covid-19 with 114,449 patients with influenza. The researchers looked at such symptoms as chest/throat pain, abnormal breathing, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, depression, headaches, cognitive dysfunction and muscle pain over a period of time.

It found that about 36% of Covid patients still reported disease symptoms three and six months after diagnosis. Most previous studies estimated the so-called long-haul Covid to afflict 10% to 30% of patients. The researchers also found that of those who had long COVID three to six months after diagnosis, roughly 40% had no record of such symptoms in the prior three months.

There was a higher incidence of long-Covid features in the elderly, in more severely affected patients, and in women, the study notes. But long-Covid features were also recorded in children and young adults, and in more than half of non-hospitalised patients, confirming that they occur even in young people and those who had a relatively mild illness.

They say: “The results confirm that a significant proportion of people, of all ages, can be affected by a range of symptoms and difficulties in the six months after Covid-19 infection,” said Dr. Max Taquet, who led the analysis at the University of Oxford. The findings were published in the journal PLOS Medicine

A Phase 3 safety and efficacy trial, conducted in the US, Chile and Peru, of AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 Covid-19 vaccine — which is available as Covishield in India — said the vaccine “was safe, with low incidences of serious and medically attended adverse events and adverse events of special interest” demonstrating an “overall estimated vaccine efficacy was 74.0%.”

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted on more than 32,000 participants and found that in the age group of 65 years and above, the “estimated vaccine efficacy was 83.5%.”

The study, conducted between August 28, 2020 and January 15, 2021, reported that “119 serious adverse events occurred among 101 participants (0.5%)” who were administered the vaccine. In addition, “a total of 7 adverse events leading to death occurred in 7 participants in the AZD1222 group and 9 adverse events leading to 7 deaths occurred in the placebo group.”

However, the study does not attribute any of the deaths “to be related to the vaccine or placebo” and adds that while there were no deaths due to Covid-19 in the group administered the vaccine, there were two deaths due to the pandemic in the group that was given a placebo.

While it has been a long wait for AstraZeneca to get approval for use in the US, the company had in July said that rather than seeking emergency use authorisation, it would go in for a full approval from the USFDA. It is also exploring the possibility of supplying booster doses to people administered its own vaccine as well as those who have been administered either Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s vaccine

India’s Digital Health ID And You

The newly launched Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will involve a unique health ID for every citizen. How will it help you get treatment at hospitals across the country, and how can you register?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), saying it has the “potential of bringing a revolutionary change in India’s healthcare facilities”. The flagship digital initiative involves the creation of not just a unique health ID for ever

What is the unique health ID, and how does one get it?

If a person wants to be part of the ABDM, she must create a health ID, which is a randomly generated 14-digit number. The ID will be broadly used for three purposes: unique identification, authentication, and threading of the beneficiary’s health records, only with their informed consent, across multiple systems and stakeholders.

One can get a health ID by self-registration on the portal or by downloading the ABMD Health Records app on one’s mobile. Additionally, one can also request the creation of a health ID at a participating health facility, which may include government or private hospitals, community health centres, and wellness centres of the government across India.

he beneficiary will also have to set up a Personal Health Records (PHR) address for consent management, and for future sharing of health records. It is a simple self-declared username, which the beneficiary is required to sign into a Health Information Exchange and Consent Manager (HIE-CM). Each health ID will require linkage to a consent manager to enable sharing of health records data.

An HIE-CM is an application that enables sharing and linking of personal health records for a user. At present, one can use the health ID to sign up on the HIE-CM; the National Health Authority (NHA), however, says multiple consent managers are likely to be available for patients to choose from in the near future.

urrently, ABDM supports health ID creation via mobile or Aadhaar. The official website states that ABDM will soon roll out features that will support health ID creation with a PAN card or a driving licence. For health ID creation through mobile or Aadhaar, the beneficiary will be asked to share details on name, year of birth, gender, address, mobile number/Aadhaar.

Is Aadhaar mandatory?

No, it is voluntary. One can use one’s mobile number for registration, without Aadhaar.

Can I use my Aadhaar number if it is not linked to my mobile number?

If the beneficiary chooses the option of using her Aadhaar number, an OTP will be sent to the mobile number linked to the Aadhaar. However, if she has not linked it to her mobile, the beneficiary has to visit the nearest facility and opt for biometric authentication using Aadhaar number. After successful authentication, she will get her health ID at the participating facility.

Are personal health records secure?

The NHA says ABDM does not store any of the beneficiary health records. The records are stored with healthcare information providers as per their “retention policies”, and are “shared” over the ABDM network “with encryption mechanisms” only after the beneficiary express consent.

Can I delete my health ID and exit the platform?

Yes, the NHA says ABDM, supports such a feature. Two options are available: a user can permanently delete or temporarily deactivate her health ID.

On deletion, the unique health ID will be permanently deleted, along with all demographic details. The beneficiary will not be able to retrieve any information tagged to that health ID in the future, and will never be able to access ABDM applications or any health records over the ABDM network with the deleted ID.

On deactivation, the beneficiary will lose access to all ABDM applications only for the period of deactivation. Until she reactivates her health ID, she will not be able to share the ID at any health facility or share health records over the ABDM network.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi Honors Dr. Sreenivas Reddy On His Appointment To The White House Historical Association

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi [IL 8th-Dist] honored Dr. Sreenivas Reddy on his prestigious White House appointment to the National Council of the White House Historical Association representing the state of Illinois. U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi along with Keerthi Kumar Ravoori Event Co-Chair, FIA’s Founder President Sunil Shah, Ajeet Singh, President of the Indian American Business Council spearheaded the honoring ceremony. Several speakers praised and hailed Dr. Sreenivas Reddy for his extraordinary leadership during the height of the pandemic and for his exceptional humanitarian services during the challenging times.

Keerthi Kumar Ravoori C-Host of the event – in his remarks – praised Dr. Sreenivas Reddy as an illustrious community leader who passionately subscribes to health equity and espouses altruistic human spirit – as was demonstrated in recent pandemic phase where he was on the forefront rendering invaluable assistance to the vulnerable population.

Dr. Sreenivas Reddy profusely thanked Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and the hosts of the ceremony for honoring him and added that he will strive to represent the Indian Americans in his appointed position and extended his efforts as a physician to provide assistance wherever needed.  Dr. Sreenivas Reddy acknowledged that it has always been a team effort that yielded such recognitions and pledged to do his part vigorously to help the community and beyond especially the neediest and the disenfranchised.

Dr. Sreenivas Reddy is a reputed Vascular & Interventional Radiologist who was described as one of the most eminent physicians who rose up the ranks of leadership in the state of Illinois having been chosen as the Chair of the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Board who also serves on the Cook County Health Foundation Board and served as the past president of Illinois Medical Association. Dr. Sreenivas Reddy is a member of the Chicago Medical Society, Society of Interventional Radiology, American Society of Vein and Lymphatic Medicine, and Radiological Society of North America.  He is married to Dr. Lalitha Reddy, a practicing Dermatologist and has two teenage sons.

Is A Variant Worse Than Delta On The Way?

Somewhere in India last October, a person—likely immunocompromised, perhaps taking drugs for rheumatoid arthritis or with an advanced case of HIV/AIDS—developed COVID-19. Their case might have been mild, but because of their body’s inability to clear the coronavirus it lingered and multiplied. As the virus replicated and moved from one cell to another, parts of the genetic material copied itself incorrectly. Maybe the person lived in a crowded home or went out to buy food in a busy market, but wherever it happened, the altered virus was spread to others. Experts believe this singular situation in one individual is likely how the Delta variant now wreaking havoc in the U.S. and around the world was born.

In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of variants have been identified, four of which are considered “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, all closely tracked by scientists on websites such as GiSAID and CoVariants. Delta is by far the most contagious—some 97 percent more sothan the earliest circulating virus, according to European researchers. But is it the worst the world might see? Understanding how mutations develop can help us grasp whether more concerning versions may yet appear.

That turn of events in India—or others that may come in other places—was expected by microbiologists who study viruses, although they could not have predicted where it would happen, exactly when, and which lines of genetic code would shift inside the germ. “Every single time the virus gets in a cell it replicates its genome so it can spread to other cells, and this has the potential to make an error,” says Bethany Moore, chair of the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Michigan.

Mutations generally appear randomly and spontaneously, rather than in a systematic way.

Most mutations either kill the virus or they die out from lack of spread, victims of an infected person isolating or passing the germs to a small number of others who then stay home. But when enough mutations are created, some will get lucky (from the virus’s perspective) and catch hold, perhaps when an infected person attends a crowded sporting event or a large indoor gathering such as a wedding. “It’s like there’s an evolutionary windstorm over many smoldering embers of little hopeful mutants that might normally go extinct, but when you have rampant infection, natural selection gains the upper hand,” says Vaughn Cooper, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Coronaviruses more prone to mutations than other germs

Scientists always expected to see variants with SARS-CoV-2 because coronaviruses inevitably copy their genomes more sloppily than humans and animals, or even some other pathogens, replicate their own genetic codes. Rather than a double-helixed deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) carrying their genes, coronaviruses contain single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA). “Due to very ancient accidents of history, the enzymes that make new copies of RNA are more error-prone,” Cooper says, although he notes that coronaviruses don’t spin out as many mutations as other RNA viruses such as influenza because of a proofreading enzyme tasked with double-checking its work. “The majority of viruses that go into a patient and come out from that patient is the same,” Cooper says. For coronaviruses, the estimate is that one mistake happens in a million or more replicated units of RNA, Moore says.

But it doesn’t take many slipshod copies of a virus to wreak havoc on the world. “There’s a reason health professionals have always worried about pandemic respiratory threats,” says Sten Vermund, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. Germs transmitted when we breathe or talk spread faster than those requiring touch or sex or bad sanitation. The threat from this coronavirus is compounded by the fact that we can pass it, and its mutated versions, before we even know we have it.

So far, the genome, or complete set of genetic material, of more than a million SARS-CoV-2 viruses have been sequenced by scientists, who are keen to stay on top of how the virus is evolving in order to determine how best to protect people from it. Earlier this year the United Kingdom, a leader in this endeavor, launched a $3.5 million effort to study the effects of emerging mutations. Sequencing got off to a slow start in the U.S., but in fall of 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3)  program that contracts with universities and private laboratories to sequence the coronaviruses circulating here. Hundreds of thousands of genomes have already been sequenced under this program.

Sets of the random mutations found in a virus are classified as variants only when they give the pathogen an advantage, Moore says. Within each variant are subvariants (as indicated in the alternative naming system known as Pango, where Delta is known as B.1.617.2, the later numbers indicating sub-lineages). Still, the overall blueprint of the genome remains the same. Were SARS-CoV-2 to mutate in a way that changes its essential nature, it could become a new species, perhaps SARS-CoV-3, she notes.

Convergent evolution

Mutations that take hold survive for a reason, Cooper says, such as by helping the virus increase transmissibility, infectivity, virulence, or the ability to escape our immunity. But scientists are less concerned about any specific mutation than about similar changes arising in multiple independent variants, Cooper says, “because that suggests they make the virus more evolutionarily fit.” This phenomenon is known in evolutionary biology as convergent evolution.

For example, in all of the variants of concern, a common mutation occurs in one section of the spike protein, the protrusions dotting the surface of the virus that help it infect human cells. In position 614, one type of amino acid (called aspartic acid) has been swapped for another (glycine). This mutation, known as D614G, makes the virus more transmissible and infectious.

Another common mutation, L452R, flips the amino acid leucine to arginine, again on the spike protein. The fact that mutations in L452 are seen in more than a dozen separate lineages indicates that this mutation confers an important advantage to the coronavirus, researchers recently noted after sequencing hundreds of virus samples around the U.S. In addition to providing the virus with a stronger attachment to our cells, it may be that L452R helps infect people with some immunity.

Because the spike protein has been critical for developing vaccines and treatments, more research has gone into studying mutations there compared with other proteins in the coronavirus. But it’s important to pay attention beyond this area, says Nash Rochman, an evolutionary virology expert at the N.I.H.’s National Library of Medicine. Rochman coauthored a recent paper that concludes that while the spike protein is an important site, so is another part of the virus called the nucleocapsid protein, which makes up the coating that surrounds the virus’s RNA genome.

In fact, the two areas might be working together, Rochman says. “A variant with a mutation in the [spike protein] without any change in the nucleocapsid protein might behave very differently than another variant that has mutations in both regions.” Groups of mutations working in concert is a concept known as epistasis, and modeling by Rochman and colleagues show that a small group of mutations in various spots could collectively have the major impact of helping the virus evade antibodies and thus making vaccines less effective.

The mutations that appeared in the U.S. this year are the reason the pandemic is not under control. “Just as we were making progress with vaccination, Delta comes along,” Vermund says, and rather than the expected case reductions from the vaccine, rates rose because of Delta’s increased transmissibility. “If we had only circulation of Alpha at that time, the rise in cases would not have occurred,” he says.

That the virus could obtain mutations that help it escape vaccines is of course everyone’s biggest concern. Currently, all three vaccines authorized in the U.S. remain protective. (Mu, the newest “variant of interest” does seem to weaken vaccine effectiveness, but it is not widely spreading at this time.) Some people think the small percentage of vaccinated people testing positive or developing symptoms is a sign the virus is outsmarting the shots, but Vermund says that’s not so. “I hate the term ‘breakthrough infection,’ because it’s misleading on the science,” he says. Vaccines are not like power shields that deflect the Klingons, he says. Instead, they allow the enemy to get on the ship (hence the positive tests) but they are immediately surrounded by a well-armed crew.

With such a small part of the world’s population vaccinated (some 43 percent have gotten at least one shot, but only 2 percent of those in low-income countries have), the virus doesn’t yet have much incentive to outwit the immune system of those who’ve been innoculated. “Vaccine evasion isn’t what the virus is looking for right now,” Cooper says. It’s easier for the germs to seek new and improved ways to infect the billions of people who don’t yet have this immunity.

Still, no one knows what mutations lie ahead and how much damage they might do. Vermund points out that 95 percent of people on Earth can visit another place within 48 hours—within the incubation period of COVID-19—which is why a variant emerging even in a remote, low-population area can become a global problem.

“Mutations happen when there is viral replication. So the best way to stop future variants is to severely limit the amount of viral replication that is occurring in the world,” says David Peaper, a Yale Medicine pathologist who directs the Yale New Haven Hospital Clinical Microbiology Laboratory. That’s why getting everyone in the U.S. and the world vaccinated is the most important thing we can do, he says. “As long as there is SARS-CoV-2 anywhere in the world, there’s an opportunity for dangerous variants to emerge.”

Pfizer Is Set To Ask For Approval For Covid-19 Vaccine For Kids

Pfizer/BioNTech plans to ask for authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine for some children under 12 soon, bringing the US one step closer to offering protection to a population that has grown particularly vulnerable as the fall season gets underway. “It is a question of days, not weeks,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla told ABC News Sunday about when the company will submit data on children ages 5 to 11 to the FDA for consideration. Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only approved for children 12 and older, which has stirred concern among health experts as cases in children increase, school years begin and the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.

Nearly 26% of all Covid-19 cases nationwide are reported in children, according to recent data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And an average of 266 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 every day last week, according to Sunday’s data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once the data from Pfizer/BioNTech is in, it will have to go through two committees, one for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and one for the CDC, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Johnathan Reiner said Sunday. If the data comes in this week, it would likely be in committee by the end of October, he added. And there is a lot of data for them to look at, he said. “This is a vaccine for children, so getting the dose right — in terms of efficacy and side effects — is crucial,” Reiner said.

But even when a vaccine becomes available, a difficult task lies ahead in getting children vaccinated. Less than half of US adolescents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data. In response, officials need to do a better job educating the public about the importance of vaccination for the health of their children and their families as a whole, Reiner said. “If you want kids in school, the best way to keep them in school is to keep them from getting Covid,” he said.

Until vaccines are approved for younger children, the CDC has recommended mask wearing for students, teachers and visitors in schools from kindergarten through grade 12, along with improved ventilation, physical distancing and testing on a screening basis. “We know how to keep them safe,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CBS Sunday. “When we don’t use the proper mitigation, they’re more likely to have outbreaks.” Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he encourages parents to vaccinate their children when they can.

“This is a dangerous pathogen,” Gottlieb told CNN. “I wouldn’t be so cavalier about this virus, we know that this virus has long-term consequences in a lot of people who contract it, including children.”  Current surge likely to die down by Thanksgiving, Gottlieb says Gottlieb predicted Sunday the current surge of coronavirus spread is likely to worsen across parts of the country and then die down by Thanksgiving. “I think you’ll see a wave of infection sweep across the Northeast as kids go back to school, the weather turns cold and people move indoors,” Gottlieb told CNN’s Pamela Brown.

The virus won’t be gone, Gottlieb said, but hopefully it will reach more manageable levels — which he estimates to be about 20,000 cases per day. According to the CDC, the current seven-day average for new cases in the US is more than 114,000 new cases a day. The decline in cases will likely come from most people attaining immunity to the virus, Gottlieb said. “Some people will get a vaccination; some will challenge their immunity by no choice but getting the infection,” Gottlieb explained. “People who choose to go unvaccinated, they’re going to be vulnerable to getting infected through this Delta wave.”

As the US moves into flu season, Gottlieb said the demand for tests will pick up as people and their doctors try to determine if their flu-like symptoms are due to Covid-19 or influenza. “That’s why it’s so important to get diagnostic tests into the hands of consumers and doctors’ offices as well, things like where people can test in the home will make a difference between telling between Covid and other respiratory infections, especially as the flu picks up,” Gottlieb said.

But even if Covid-19 cases do come down by Thanksgiving, health experts are bracing for a difficult winter ahead. It isn’t clear yet what this year’s flu season has in store, but it could add additional stress to an already pressed health care system. “Flu is still a killer, not as much as Covid-19, but between 12,000 and 50,000 Americans lose their lives every year from flu,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Last year’s flu numbers were low, which health expert say could mean that upcoming seasons may be worse, as there has been little accumulation of immunity. “We’re in for a whopper of a flu season at some point,” Gottlieb said Sunday. Recommending booster for frontline workers a ‘scientific close call,’ CDC director says On Friday, Walensky recommended a booster dose for adults at occupational risk of infection — in addition to those with underlying conditions and those over 65 — a decision she said was a “scientific close call.” “And because of that close call, and because of all of the evidence we reviewed at the FDA and the CDC, I thought it was appropriate for those people to be eligible for boosters,” Walensky told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“So who are those people? People who live and work in high-risk settings. That includes people in homeless shelters, people in group homes, people in prisons. But, also, importantly, are people who work with vulnerable communities, so our health care workers, our teachers, our grocery workers, our public transportation employees,” Walensky said. Although the CDC’s vaccine advisers voted against recommending booster doses for people at high risk of infection because of their work or living conditions, Walensky went with the FDA’s authorization including those people.

The recommendation is not currently intended for the wider population, but there’s little fear of causing dangerous side effects from adding that third dose, Walensky said. “We have an extraordinary amount of safety data,” she said.

Nisha Foundation Honors Doctors, Warriors Against Covid

Nisha Foundation organized a salutation evening with for doctors and frontline workers in the presence of Faggan Singh Kulstey, the Union Steel Minster of State, and various monks from the DALAI LAMA’s organization, sisters and brothers from Brahmakumaris, Dr Roger Gopalu (Ambassador of Trinidad), Dr. Sandeep Marwah, CEO Film City Noida, Diplomats and 35 awardees doctors, nurses, managing staff and social workers.

The Governor of Sikkim, Ganga Prasad, praised the foundation initiative and congratulated all the awardees. He launched the stickers, “I Salute Doctors”, in the presence of all the dignitaries. He said Nisha foundation is working towards a wonderful mission for betterment of society. Kulstey said Nisha foundation initiative is great and he applaud this program and appreciated Nisha foundation for working in 173 countries in association of world Organization of peace for child education, sports and salutation evening in name of frontliners During his speech he said it’s important to do this kind of programs to uplift human consciousness and he expressed his concern for farmers.

Nisha Foundation organized a salutation evening with for doctors and frontline workers in the presence of Faggan Singh Kulstey, the Union Steel Minster of State, and various monks from the DALAI LAMA’s organization, sisters and brothers from Brahmakumaris, Dr Roger Gopalu (Ambassador of Trinidad), Dr. Sandeep Marwah, CEO Film City Noida, Diplomats and 35 awardees doctors, nurses, managing staff and social workers.

The Governor of Sikkim, Ganga Prasad, praised the foundation initiative and congratulated all the awardees. He launched the stickers, “I Salute Doctors”, in the presence of all the dignitaries. He said Nisha foundation is working towards a wonderful mission for betterment of society. Kulstey said Nisha foundation initiative is great and he applaud this program and appreciated Nisha foundation for working in 173 countries in association of world Organization of peace for child education, sports and salutation evening in name of frontliners During his speech he said it’s important to do this kind of programs to uplift human consciousness and he expressed his concern for farmers.

This program objective was to facilitate the awards to 20 Doctors and 10 Frontline Workers. Few of the honorees are Dr. Raja Marimuthu Chairperson of Covid in Chennai, Nurse Sita Ghimirey from AIMS, Dr. Vinay Bhasin – AIIMS, Dr. Mosin Ali, Nurse Monika Dhankar.

Nisha Foundation Chairperson Priyanka Kothari, an accomplished former Bollywood actress who has worked in various movies in Indian film industry. While travelling for her movie shoots to different rural areas, she felt that there is huge need to support and uplift unprivileged people in many aspects, sports, women empowerment and she left film industry and dedicated herself to the service of humanity. she is an actress turned philanthropist, Motivational speaker, and an accomplished yoga teacher. Her NGO supports other NGO’s as well to uplift and support child education, woman empowerment, sports, and other activities.

She is working in 173 countries with association of OMPP.  She is Secretory general of world Organization of peace (Asia).  Also, Nisha Foundation recently honored with Citation from Eric Adam who is a President of the Borough of Brooklyn, New York USA, for work to support “BETI BACHAO BETI PADHAO” and spreading peace and compassion to humanity.

She believes “our life’s journey is all about uplifting human consciousness and help each other to reach our maximum potential indeed that’s our destiny, Said we have learnt from this pandemic time that “life is too short and there is no time of hate”  We must spread love compassion peace to humanity and expressed gratitude for each and every frontline workers  with standing ovation she said this award ceremony not only for awardee list rather it’s for those unknown volunteers and helpers who served during pandemic.

Kothari Started Her speech with Sanskrit shloka and welcome all the Guest and Audience, furthermore she explained about the foundation objections and goals & she also Remembered the President and Co-founder of Nisha foundation Late Shri Bhasker Prakash Ji whom we lost in this Pandemic with having teary eyes Priyanka Ji bravely continued her speech.

COVID Has Killed More Americans Than The Spanish Flu Did In 1918-19

COVID-19 Pandemic has claimed as many as 696,867 lives in the United States, which is more than the number of people killed by the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19.

As of September 22nd, COVID-19 Pandemic has claimed as many as 696,867 lives in the United States, which is more than the number of people killed by the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19. As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Spanish Flu had killed 675,000 Americans a century ago. The Spanish flu’s U.S. death toll is a rough guess, given the incomplete records of the era and the poor scientific understanding of what caused the illness.

Across the world, the 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50 million victims globally at a time when the world had one-quarter the population it does now. Global deaths from COVID-19 now stand at more than 4.6 million. For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws. While the delta-fueled surge in infections may have peaked, U.S. deaths are running at over 1,900 a day on average, the highest level since early March, and the country’s overall toll topped 675,000 on Monday, September 20th, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University, though the real number is believed to be higher.

Winter may bring a new surge, with the University of Washington’s influential model projecting an additional 100,000 or so Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan. 1, which would bring the overall U.S. toll to 776,000. Historian and author John Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” writes, “It was considerably worse than we’ve seen now — there were special trains to carry away the dead,” during the century-old plague with its 675,000 deaths against the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a much bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time. Like the Spanish flu, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst. Instead, scientists hope it becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That could take time.  “We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.

The ebbing of COVID-19 could happen if the virus progressively weakens as it mutates and more and more humans’ immune systems learn to attack it. Vaccination and surviving infection are the main ways the immune system improves. Breast-fed infants also gain some immunity from their mothers. Under that optimistic scenario, schoolchildren would get mild illness that trains their immune systems. As they grow up, the children would carry the immune response memory, so that when they are old and vulnerable, the coronavirus would be no more dangerous than cold viruses.

The same goes for today’s vaccinated teens: Their immune systems would get stronger through the shots and mild infections. “We will all get infected,” Antia predicted. “What’s important is whether the infections are severe.” Something similar happened with the H1N1 flu virus, the culprit in the 1918-19 pandemic. It encountered too many people who were immune, and it also eventually weakened through mutation. H1N1 still circulates today, but immunity acquired through infection and vaccination has triumphed.

Getting an annual flu shot now protects against H1N1 and several other strains of flu. To be sure, flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans each year, but on average, it is a seasonal problem and a manageable one. Before COVID-19, the 1918-19 flu was universally considered the worst pandemic disease in human history. Whether the current scourge ultimately proves deadlier is unclear. In many ways, the 1918-19 flu — which was wrongly named Spanish flu because it first received widespread news coverage in Spain — was worse.

Spread by the mobility of World War I, it killed young, healthy adults in vast numbers. No vaccine existed to slow it, and there were no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. And, of course, the world was much smaller. Yet jet travel and mass migrations threaten to increase the toll of the current pandemic. Much of the world is unvaccinated. And the coronavirus has been full of surprises. Just under 64% of the U.S. population has received as least one dose of the vaccine, with state rates ranging from a high of approximately 77% in Vermont and Massachusetts to lows around 46% to 49% in Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Globally, about 43% of the population has received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, with some African countries just beginning to give their first shots. “We know that all pandemics come to an end,” said Dr. Jeremy Brown, director of emergency care research at the National Institutes of Health, who wrote a book on influenza. “They can do terrible things while they’re raging.” COVID-19 could have been far less lethal in the U.S. if more people had gotten vaccinated faster, “and we still have an opportunity to turn it around,” Brown said. “We often lose sight of how lucky we are to take these things for granted.”

The current vaccines work extremely well in preventing severe disease and death from the variants of the virus that have emerged so far. It will be crucial for scientists to make sure the ever-mutating virus hasn’t changed enough to evade vaccines or to cause severe illness in unvaccinated children, Antia said. If the virus changes significantly, a new vaccine using the technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna shots could be produced in 110 days, a Pfizer executive said Wednesday. The company is studying whether annual shots with the current vaccine will be required to keep immunity high.

One plus: The coronavirus mutates at a slower pace than flu viruses, making it a more stable target for vaccination, said Ann Marie Kimball, a retired University of Washington professor of epidemiology. So, will the current pandemic unseat the 1918-19 flu pandemic as the worst in human history?

Pfizer Vaccine Has “Robust” Immune Response Among 5-11 Year Olds

While it’s true that younger kids generally don’t suffer serious illness from COVID-19, anything we can do to protect our kids—and help prevent them from spreading the virus to others—is a good thing. So far, about 5 million U.S. children have tested positive, per the American Academy of Pediatrics, while nearly 500 have died.

The US, where Covid-19 is now officially the deadliest epidemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918 with over 675,000 deaths, has also seen a rather high number of infections among children. For the week ended September 9, new infections among children totaled 243,000 and constitute 30% of all new infections in the country. Up until January this year, children made up just 15% of new Covid-19 infections in the US.

Some of that long-awaited good news arrived this morning: After several months of waiting, Pfizer has announced that the Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech generates a “robust” immune response among 5-11 year olds, according to data released by the company on September 20th — moving a step closer to start of vaccination of sub-12 year olds by the end of next month.

Pfizer said today that the vaccine it makes alongside BioNTech is safe and effective in kids aged 5-11, and it will soon seek approval from U.S. regulators to start doling out shots for that age group. The pediatric version of the shot contains just one-third the dose of the adult version, but still generates a strong antibody response with only minor, if any, side effects, Pfizer Senior Vice President Dr. Bill Gruber told the Associated Press. “I think we really hit the sweet spot,” Gruber said. (Vaccine maker Moderna is also testing its shot in children, and data from studies on kids as young as six months could be available before year’s end.)

There are limitations to Pfizer’s data. For one thing, the company only studied about 2,300 kids. That’s enough to show vaccinated kids were producing similar antibody levels as inoculated teens and adults—which is seen as a decent proxy for performance—but there weren’t enough cases among the participants to judge performance directly. Furthermore, the data has yet to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Still, Pfizer plans to formally submit its 5-11 year-old vaccine for U.S. approval by the end of September. It will then take regulators at least a few weeks to make a decision. But if all goes well, kids aged 5-11 could be eligible for their first dose by Halloween—a treat, indeed.

The results, which were based on a clinical trial of over 2,200 children, involved administering 10 microgrammes of the vaccine — which is one third of the amount of dose administered to teens and adults — three weeks apart.

However, even as the company claims the side effects observed in children were similar to those observed in adults, such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea, it has not yet made public all details of side effects experienced by children in the trial, including whether or not they experienced myocarditis, a rare heart condition affecting some teens and adults.

The final nod from the US FDA is expected to take four to six weeks after it receives and reviews all the data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech, whose vaccine is already approved for use in children above 12. Pfizer also expects to submit data for clinical trials among children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years by the end of next month.

FDA Recommends Covid Booster Doses For Vulnerable Population Only

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee voted unanimously Friday, last week to recommend booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for those over age 65 and those at higher risk of exposure to the virus, including healthcare, frontline and essential workers, under emergency use authorization, but stopped short of recommending boosters for the general population.  Pfizer-BioNTech had originally requested that the FDA consider full approval of a booster dose for all people who have been vaccinated with its shot. The 18 members of the committee voted initially 16 to 2 against that move, citing the lack of strong enough data on safety and effectiveness of boosting the general population at this time. The FDA then reworded Pfizer-BioNTech’s original request to include only those at highest risk of COVID-19, which earned a unanimous vote in favor.

Although the result wasn’t what Pfizer-BioNTech expected, Kathrin Jansen, senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement that “these data, and the larger body of scientific evidence presented at the meeting, underscore our belief that boosters will be a critical tool in the ongoing effort to control the spread of this virus. We thank the committee for their thoughtful review of the data and will work with the FDA following today’s meeting to address the committee’s questions, as we continue to believe in the benefits of a booster dose for a broader population.”

The FDA’s acting commissioner, Janet Woodcock, will take the committee’s recommendation into consideration before making a final decision. If the FDA follows the advice, then the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will review the data and make a recommendation to doctors and health care workers about how the booster will be administered. One important question the ACIP must address, for example, is whether Pfizer-BioNTech’s booster dose should be limited to those who have already received two doses of the companies’ vaccine, since the data reviewed by the FDA committee only included a small subset of those recipients and not people who received the other authorized shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson-Janssen.

The committee advised that most of the U.S. population will have to wait to get a booster dose, guidance that directly contradicts the recommendation by U.S. President Joe Biden’s health team, which planned to start widely rolling out boosters on Sept. 20, pending FDA authorization or approval. The decision heightens the growing tension over the booster question, as public health officials, infectious disease specialists and policy makers disagree about exactly how useful another dose of COVID-19 vaccine can be. The FDA committee members noted that while there is evidence that vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time, giving fully vaccinated people another dose of vaccine will likely have little impact on actually controlling the pandemic in the U.S., since most new cases and severe illnesses are driven by the unvaccinated.

The White House, however, escalated the debate when it announced in August that it supported rolling out a booster dose for the general population beginning Sept. 20, even before the FDA had reviewed the safety and efficacy of doing so. It was a surprising pre-emptive move that the administration said was primarily an attempt to get ahead of the logistics of administering another dose, and to prepare states and local health authorities, but many felt was more driven by political rather than scientific justification. Over Friday’s day-long meeting, the committee members debated the strength and quality of data showing waning protection among everyone who has been vaccinated so far, and what it means for controlling transmission and spread of COVID-19. The panel members heard from Israeli public health officials, who have the most in depth, although still incomplete, data on waning immunity and the impact of a booster dose, as well as U.S. CDC researchers who understand the dynamics of the U.S. pandemic.

In making its case for a booster, Pfizer-BioNTech acknowledged that about a month after the second of the two doses in the regimen, its vaccine is 96% efficacious in protecting people from symptoms of COVID-19. About two to four months later, that efficacy slips to 90%, and by six months, it drops to 84%—about a 6% decline every two months. And while Pfizer-BioNTech provided data showing an additional dose of its vaccine could increase levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it did not provide answers to questions about how well that protection could stop transmission of the disease, among other things, to the committee’s satisfaction. The lack of adequate safety data of the third dose among younger people, who are at higher risk of developing rare inflammation of heart tissue, was also among the reasons the committee decided not to recommend the booster at this time for the general population, citing the need for more evidence to support safety, to guide mixing and matching doses, and the impact a booster dose would have on transmission of the virus.

The information on mixing and matching doses is coming shortly from various studies investigating what types of immune reactions people generate if they receive one type of vaccine and get boosted with another; the results have been submitted to a journal but not published yet. Data on the safety could be collected in coming months as more younger get vaccinated and are followed, and scientists in Israel are also studying how a third dose affects transmission of the virus in the population.

Pfizer-BioNTech maintains that protection from its vaccine remains high enough to shield people from severe illness and in most cases, hospitalization and death; most vaccinated people who get infected experience mild disease. But there are worrying signs that with the Delta variant, the more transmissible variant that is now the dominant virus behind new infections, even that trend is changing. In Israel, more vaccinated people getting breakthrough infections are also getting more severe disease. Pfizer scientists say that the data suggest not that Delta is finding ways to escape the vaccine defenses, but that the protection from the vaccine is weakening.

The data showed that overall, after the first dose of the two-dose regimen, levels of antibodies that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 remain low, which is why the company and the FDA initially recommended a second dose, three weeks later, when the vaccine was first authorized in Dec. 2020. The first dose helped to prime the immune system and educate immune cells to recognize the COVID-19 virus, while the second dose activated those cells more robustly.

Taken together, Pfizer-BioNTech maintained the data, as well as the continuing threat of Delta and potentially other new variants, warrant a booster. The FDA, however, countered that existing protection, especially against more severe disease, remains sufficient, and that the data don’t show that the decline in immunity necessarily puts people at risk. Members of the panel also raised concerns about the strength of evidence supporting a booster dose at this time, at least for the general population, noting the relatively small number of people in the Pfizer-BioNTech study and the short period of follow up especially for younger people. “It feels like there is a lot of data circulating that would be helpful to our discussion but is not available at this moment because it will be presented soon, so at this moment it is difficult to make a decision on [general] booster doses today,” said Dr. Steven Pergam, medical director at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

The committee members noted that because the recommendation is under EUA, it could be revised as more data come in to support the need to broaden the groups eligible for a booster dose. For now, they say, the focus should be on continuing to reach people who haven’t been vaccinated at all; that will likely have the biggest impact on slowing the spread of the virus and ultimately getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

Dr. Bellamkonda K. Kishore-Led Team Releases Summer Edition of JAAPI

The summer edition of the peer-reviewed scientific Journal of the AAPI (JAAPI) has been released in September 2021. Dedicated to Edward Jenner, FRS, Father of Immunization, the 2nd ever issue of JAAPI, has been acclaimed as among a leading journal with a variety of articles benefitting the larger section of physician community around the world.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI while congratulating the Editorial Team of JAAPI said, “This is the fruit of our teamwork and it’s a good opportunity for the members of AAPI to contribute scientific articles, and make it better as we move on. JAAPI is a peer-reviewed medical and health journal published by the AAPI. In line with the vision and mission of AAPI, JAAPI is dedicated to facilitate physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research, and thus pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs. JAAPI is open to contributions from physicians and scientists of all backgrounds and from all over the world.” In his introductory note, the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed JAAPI, Dr. Bellamkonda K. Kishore, who is an outstanding academician, innovator, and entrepreneur, writes, “ We are pleased to present you the Summer issue of peer-reviewed JAAPI. It is made possible with the unconditional support of AAPI President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and the Executive Committee Members, the relentless work of Members of the JAAPI Editorial Board, Editorial Advisors, and Reviewers as well as Ms. Vijaya Kodali, the Chief Operations Officer of AAPI.”

The summer issue of JAAPI has “excellent contributions by eminent physicians and scientists, and has come out in an outstanding manner. We are committed to maintain the same standards in the future. Excellence and thoroughness are our motto,” says Dr. Kishore. Acknowledging that JAAPI has only made a small beginning, Dr. Kishore says, “Our goal is to make JAAPI as the passport of AAPI, and thus to elevate AAPI on par with other premier medical associations such as AMA, AHA, ASN, ADA, ACP etc.”

“This is a historical milestone in the annals of AAPI. The foundation for this milestone was laid one year ago in February 2020 by our visionary leaders, Drs. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda and Suresh Reddy,” said Dr. Kishore, said.  Describing the vision and the efforts that have given shape to the launching of JAAPI, Dr. Kishore said, “A Peer Review Journal needs group synergy and cultivation of the culture of peer-review process and publication. It is like agriculture – crop after crop. But the very fact that we are able to assemble a passionate and diligent team of editorial board members, and developed the required group synergy and culture bringing out the journal as planned, itself is a sign that AAPI has reached a level of academic maturity, capability and perfection.”

Describing the importance of JAA{I, Dr. Kishore says, “The doctors who save lives of their patients are not always made in medical schools. They often create themselves through diligent practice of Evidence-based Medicine in the community. The real test a doctor faces is not the one administered in the medical school, but the one s/he has to face when standing between the life and death of patients. What empowers a doctor in those critical moments is right knowledge, despite technological superiority of modern medicine – Knowledge is Power of the Noble Profession that has the potential to elevate a
Nation.”

JAAPI has already found recognition among leading physicians community. “The American Association of Nephrologists of Indian Origin (ANIO) has shown interest in using JAAPI as a platform for publishing synopsis of their webinar on Kidney Disease and Vascular Risk in South Asian Populations. Like wise JAAPI has the potential to cater publication needs of the specialty societies of Indian American physicians,” Dr. Kishore points out.

After one or two years of publication, JAAPI will be registered with MEDLINE so that it will be indexed in PubMed and other databases. JAAPI is a fully Open Access journal with no manuscript submission or publication charges. And we welcome articles by authors from all over the world without any restrictions. We are also open to eminent academicians wishing to join the editorial board. Details are provided in the journal. JAAPI follows next generation peer-review model by which it discloses the identity of editors and reviewers after publication, but the review process itself is blind. This will give due credit to editors and reviewers, and also ensures fair review process. The cover page is designed to reflect the heart of AAPI, an association of Indian American Physicians – with colors of the flag of India, our motherland, on top and the red and white stripes of American flag, over which the AAPI emblem rests, indicating the way we adopted this Great Land.

In order to achieve the lofty goals, on behalf of Editorial Advisors, Deputy Editors, Editorial Board Members of JAAPI, Dr. Kishore urges the AAPI fraternity to help and support JAAPI by doing one or more of the following. (1) Submit your own articles or solicit articles from experts in your field and circle; (2) Promote JAAPI by forwarding its PDF copies and sharing them with your colleagues and friends; (3) Display hard copies of JAAPI at your meetings and conventions (contact us for hard copies); (4) Submit synopsis of your CME programs to JAAPI; and (4) Solicit advertisements from the pharma industry or organizations and businesses that cater the interests or needs of physicians. “Together we can reach new heights,” he promises AAPI members. For more information on AAPI and to read, contribute and sponsor JAAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Commemorating National Suicide Prevention Week, AAPI’s Webinar Offers Effective Ways To Prevent Suicide

“National Suicide Prevention Week, which begins on September 5 and ends on September 11 this year, is an annual campaign observed in the United States to educate and inform the general public about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) during a webinar on “Precision Medicine for Mental Health: How to Save and Improve Lives” organized by AAPI in collaboration with MindX Sciences Inc., on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2021.

The educational webinar attended by dozens of AAPI members from around the nation was organized in observance of the National Suicide Prevention Week, “which aims to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and encourage the pursuit of mental health assistance because going to therapy should be as normalized as going to the gym.” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI moderated the session, which had eminent speakers, including Dr. Jerome Adams, former United States Surgeon General and Dr. Alexander Niculescu, co-founder of Mindx Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Neuroscience at Indiana University School of Medicine; and Sunil Hazaray, CEO of MindX Sciences.     In his introductory remarks, Dr. Koli drew the attention of the audience to the fact that “Almost 800,000 people die every year due to suicide, which means one death every 40 seconds, according to the WHO.” He said, “Mental health issues like depression are known to be the leading cause for attempting suicide. Suicide often occurs in a moment of unbearable pain or deep despair. Millions of Americans consider suicide, make a suicide plan, or attempt suicide every year — especially young Americans for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death.” By drawing attention to the problem of suicide in the United States, the campaign also strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic, as well as encourage the pursuit of mental health assistance and support people who have attempted suicide,” Dr. Kolli, a certified psychiatrist told the AAPI members.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General under President Trump, while addressing the audience on “Precision Medicine for Mental Health: The Time Has Come” drew attention of the participants to the reality that how mental health and social disparity are leading healthcare needs around the nation. “In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 34,” Dr. Adams pointed out. While commemorating World Suicide Prevention Week, “We remember the many lives that are lost and those who survived suicide attempt and we strive to create hope through action,” said Dr. Adams.

Dr. Adams referred to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), and his call as the Surgeon General of the United State to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. “More than 20 years ago, Surgeon General David Satcher issued the landmark report The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, recognizing suicide as a major public health issue and calling for a national response. The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (National Strategy), first released in 2001 and updated in collaboration with the Action Alliance in 2012, identifies 13 goals and 60 objectives that address every aspect of suicide prevention—from fostering healthy and empowered individuals, families, and communities to providing effective prevention programs and clinical care,” Dr. Adams said.

Dr. Adams pointed out that “we know more about suicide and how it can be prevented today than we did in 1999. We understand that like other public health problems, such as obesity and cancer, suicide is influenced by many factors. As a result, suicide prevention efforts must engage all sectors, including public health, mental health, health care, social services, our military and Veterans, business, entertainment, media, faith communities, and education. These efforts must be informed by data, guided by the needs of the groups affected, and shaped by the voices of people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, plans, attempts, and losses.”

“Suicide is preventable and it continues to remain a growing public health issue,” he said. As many as 43,000 died of suicide in 2019 in the United States. While the suicide rate decreased in 2020, overdose attempt increased by 30%. Suicide is a burden on the nation, costing $93 billion annually. Early detection is cheap. They are preventable. Precision medicine needs to be embraced by assessing the symptoms which will help in decreasing uncertainty, he said. “Never has the need been a greater need and more tools available today than ever,” Dr. Admas said.

Dr. Adams referred to the vast and highly effective research and ongoing programs led by MindX Sciences, which has established a Mental Health Transformation Advisory Board, being co-led by Dr. Jerome Adams, who provides strategic advice on maximizing societal impact, addressing health disparities, and helping improve military mental health. In his address, Dr. Alexander B Niculescu III, focused on “Precision Medicine for Mental Health: From Dream to Science to Clinical Practice,” the tools available today, how we can access them and save lives. MindX Scinces offers “a complete set of tools to assess, diagnose, prevent suicide and treat mental health issues that lead to suicide,” he said.

Over 10 million people in US have suicidal thoughts, he said. How do you know among these 10 million, who will attempt and how many will die of suicide? “We need better tools to identify risk factors and how to decrease the risks and effectively intervene and of the ways to prevent suicide.” In this context, MindX’s research in identifying the tools and resources that will address the needs and help clients in real world will be enormously effective, he said. Dr. Alexander referred to a new study from the Indiana University School of Medicine that has found a way to test someone’s blood to gauge a patient’s depression, the risk of them developing severe depression in the future and the risk of future bipolar disorder, and thus opening the door for changes in diagnosing and treating mental illness.

“Blood biomarkers are emerging as important tools in disorders where subjective self-report by an individual, or a clinical impression of a health care professional, are not always reliable. These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment,” said Dr. Niculescu, who led the study and is a professor of psychiatry at the school.  “Through this work, we wanted to develop blood tests for depression and for bipolar disorder, to distinguish between the two, and to match people to the right treatments,” he told the audience. “This is part of our effort to bring psychiatry from the 19th century into the 21st century. To help it become like other contemporary fields such as oncology. Ultimately, the mission is to save and improve lives,” Dr. Niculescu added.

The Life x Mind App by MindX Sciences is meant to be a dashboard for your Life and Mind, a way to track how you feel and what you do, and see how they impact each other, he said. This will help you Know Thyself, Improve Thyself, as the ancient philosophers dreamed of, and live a happier, more hopeful, and more meaningful life. This app can also be used by doctors, psychologists, and coaches with their clients. Ten percent of the proceeds from each app will be donated to mental health support organizations. The SX Prevent Digital Test by MindX Sciences helps doctors and health organizations to identify and reduce suicide risk. It is based on solid research. Studies describing its components have been published in peer reviewed scientific and medical journals, Dr. Niculescu added.

Sunil Hazaray, CEO of MindX Sciences spoke on “how can my patients access Midx Precision Medicine for Mental Health products.” He provided practical logistics of finding and accessing the services by Minx and the cost as well as ways to access their services. “The MindX Dashboard by MindX Sciences is an optional product that helps doctors and health organizations track and integrate de-identified test information from other MindX products,” he said. MindX Blood Tests by MindX Sciences are being performed in a CLIA setting to track and identify suicidality risk, pain, PTSD, mood (depression/bipolar), memory/Alzheimer’s, and longevity. Efforts are being carried out to code the treatment and have them covered by the Insurance companies, thus reducing out of pocket expenses to clients/families, and thus helping prevent suicide and live healthier and safer lives.

In her closing remarks, Dr. Gotimukula, reminded AAPI fraternity of the importance of National Suicide Prevention Week, which “is an annual week-long campaign in the United States to inform and engage health professionals and the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. She urged all “AAPI members, community organizations, the state and families to work together to work together in creating hope through action and committing to preventing suicide across America and around the world.” American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States, representing nearly 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States. For more details on AAPI and its programs, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Indian Americans Launch Global University Of Vedic Wellness

Dr. Santosh Kumar, an Indian American Community leader has announced that an International University of Vedic Wellness is being established in Greater Chicago on the solemn occasion of her father Shambu Dayal Kulshresthra’s 48th death anniversary, September 9. The mission of this Vedic University is to teach, preserve and advance the ideals and values of Santana Dharma by integrating the ancient practices with the global Hindu philosophy in this digital age.

Dr. Santosh Kumar said that this brick-and-mortar University is being built on a 38 plus acre campus and will offer Certification, Associate, Bachelor, Masters and PHD degree courses in a formal setting. Dr. Santosh Kumar said that with this giant step, she is fulfilling her lifelong dream to globally promote the precious knowledge of Vedic Scriptures, Science of Upanishads and Hindu Philosophy to all. Dr. Santosh Kumar said that initial funding of this University will be from her late husband Pramod Kumar’s Trust fund and her family personally.

Dr. Santosh Kumar reiterated the need to clear the misconception in the context of Hindu/Hindutva and offer the opportunity to learn about Vedic Sciences to all in North America which will enable them to live their life to the fullest. Dr. Santosh Kumar acknowledged Dr. Vijay G. Prabhakar’s relentless crusade to safeguard India’s secularism in this digital age and drew inspiration from Dr. VGP’s inclusive, pragmatic leadership in confidently launching this giant initiative.

Dr. Vasavi Chakka, Executive Director, Board of Regents, International University of Vedic Wellness, Chicago, USA in her introductory remarks congratulated Dr. Mrs Santosh Kumar for her foresight in establishing this full-fledged university at a time when twenty ” so called universities ” are launching a scathing attack on Hinduism in America by hosting a ” Dismantling the Global Hindutva Agenda ” in Washington D.C. from today Sept 9- Sept.11.

Dr. Chakka said that the more, we Hindu Americans are provoked, we only would respond by doing more good to our fellow citizens. That is our Hindu Dharma and teachings. The birth of this major University is a direct response to this dastardly attack today on the Hindu faith and Hindutva religion perpetuated by vested interests cloaked as academicians, she added.

Dr. VGP donates $100,000 dollars to Vedic wellness university to establish Danny k. Davis inter faith chair.  Dr. Vijay G Prabhakar, Community Activist & Renowned Public Health Physician announced a contribution of $100,000 to the International University of Vedic Wellness Chicago, an Independent registered educational society in State of Illinois to establish an Inter Faith Chair in the name of U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis to teach the Hindu Philosophy of religious tolerance and also basic tenets of other faiths in this Vedic University. In making the contribution, Dr. Prabhakar stressed that we minorities hailing from India must not ever forget what India gave us Christians and other minorities, that which we still are receiving without any bias, the freedom to practice our faiths, prosper and co-exist like nowhere else in the world.

U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis graciously accepted the honor of having the University’s Inter Faith Chair endowed in his name. Acharya Rohit Joshi of North Eastern Illinois University gave the invocational prayer and said that such a full-fledged Vedic University is the first of its kind in North America. Rohit Joshi appealed to all, to make this International University of Vedic Wellness Chicago, a World class institution by contributing financially, academically, and volunteering with your skills sets and talents.

Leaders from across the country who were present and spoke at the press meet which was live streamed included Dr. S. V. Anchan, CEO, Safe Sea Group, New Jersey, Dr. Clarence Beals, CEO, Jordans Dreams, Chicago, Dr. Rani Youseffzai, Vice Chair, Congressman Danny Davis’ Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force, Dr. Andre Ellis, CEO, No Adults Left Behind, Chicago, Neil Khot, National Chair, Indian American Business Coalition, USA, Dr. Ravi Govindaraj, Vice President, World Federation of Tamil Youth, USA, Dr. Anasha Holiday, Chief Community Outreach, The Global Eye-Digital Monthly and Anica Dubey, Global Outreach Chair, American Multi Ethnic Coalition, USA . Dr. Roger Richardson, President, Rhema University, Florida presented the Rhema University’s Red Ribbon Honor Award to Dr. Santosh Kumar, an alumnus of Rhema University for her indefatigable efforts to ground break this historic International University of VEDIC WELLNESS Chicago.

Lion Hina Trivedi, International Woman Activist roared in her closing remarks that all Hindu Americans must wake up and stand up for the Hindu Dharma and Values. Hina Trivedi said that this opportunity will not present itself again, it is now that we all unite and act together while we speak, sign petitions, do pooja, visit temples which are all great but only we can protect and preserve our Santana Dharma which is the basic tenet of Hinduism. Hina Trivedi saluted the Community leaders from different faiths and ethnicities who joined the Visionary Dr. Santosh Kumar today in this bold, giant step in establishing a permanent brick & mortar University to teach HINDUTVA globally beyond our lifetime.

Texas’ Abortion Ban Is Most Restrictive Ever

Texas law that bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy took effect at midnight on Wednesday after the Supreme Court failed to act on emergency requests from abortion providers. Nearly 24 hours later, the court said late Wednesday night it split 5-4 and denied the providers’ emergency request to block the law. The unsigned order, issued by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, said their decision focused on procedural issues and did not amount to a ruling on the constitutionality of the law, and that other appeals could be pursued.

However, even if the ban is ultimately blocked, it will have a lasting impact on Texas and provide a roadmap for other conservative states to enact similar abortion restrictions. Senate Bill 8, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bars abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is often before many people know they are pregnant. The ban would prevent at least 85% of abortions sought in Texas, according to abortion rights advocates and providers. It is now the most restrictive abortion law in the nation; at least 12 other states have passed six-week abortion bans, but all have been blocked from going into effect.  “Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said shortly before the law went into effect, referring to the landmark 1973 decision that established the constitutionally protected right to abortion before a fetus is viable.

The Texas law uses a different tactic than many of the other abortion restrictions passed by Republican state legislatures in recent years—which is precisely what has made it difficult for courts to block it. The law signals a new frontier in the national fight over abortion and could mark a critical new legal strategy for conservative legislatures in how they write restrictive abortion laws in the future. John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, which helped write the legislation, says he has already heard from other states that are interested in copying this approach and the group is drafting legislation for some of them already. “This promises an alternative to that typical path that pro-life laws go down,” he says. “This is a valid public policy tool and we’re excited to see how it works.”

Instead of allowing government officials to enforce the abortion ban as they do with most laws, this law says that private citizens can step in by suing abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” a patient obtaining an abortion after six weeks. That means clinics and their staffs could be sued, as well as patients’ family members, or anyone who drives someone to a clinic, provides financial assistance, offers religious or genetic counseling or even “intends” to do any of those actions. The plaintiffs do not need to have any connection to the person they suspect of violating the law, and if they win, the law says they are entitled to damages of at least $10,000 plus legal fees. Because so many people can now legally bring these abortion lawsuits in Texas, courts could theoretically be overwhelmed with cases. “It does open the floodgates to lawsuits, and even frivolous lawsuits, just to harass abortion providers,” says Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU, which is part of the coalition of abortion providers and advocates challenging the law.

But the way the law is written also makes it difficult to challenge. Usually, when a state passes a new law restricting abortion access, abortion rights groups and providers sue state officials alleging they are violating people’s constitutionally protected rights. In this case, there is no specific individual tasked with enforcing the law, so there was no obvious entity for the providers to sue. The ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights and a collection of other groups and abortion providers filed suit this summer against a slew of officials they said would be responsible for enforcing the law, but a series of complex procedural developments left them asking the Supreme Court for a last-minute intervention.

“The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn’t apply against private individuals,” says Laurence Tribe, a leading constitutional law expert at Harvard. “That’s what makes this really dangerous. It’s a kind of vigilante justice, circumventing all of the mechanisms we have for making sure that the law is enforced fairly, and that it’s not enforced in a way that violates people’s rights.” Even if the courts temporarily block the law, complications remain. The law includes a provision that says providers could still be sued for violating the law if a court decision is eventually reversed and the law goes back into effect, meaning providers could be sued over an action that was technically legal at the time.

For now the law stands in Texas. Texas Right to Life has set up a website to solicit tips about people who allegedly violate the law and collect information from those who want to help the group enforce it. The website has been flooded with fake information from those who support abortion rights, but Seago says that has not hampered the group’s efforts. “We’ve set up the tip line, we’ve built the networks, we’ve been working with pro-life attorneys and activists around the state, so that if [providers] decide that they’re going to try to commit illegal abortions anyway, we will be prepared to do what the law authorizes us to do, which is to bring private lawsuits holding them accountable,” Seago says.

The law will “immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas,” the group of providers said in its emergency filing to the Supreme Court on Monday. “Patients who can scrape together resources will be forced to attempt to leave the state to obtain an abortion, and many will be delayed until later in pregnancy. The remaining Texans who need an abortion will be forced to remain pregnant against their will or to attempt to end their pregnancies without medical supervision.” The Supreme Court’s five most reliably conservative justices voted to reject the emergency filing. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan each wrote separate opinions saying they would have blocked the law because it is an unconstitutional ban on abortion.

Abortion providers and abortion rights advocates say the law will disproportionately impact low-income patients who already often struggle to access health care. The average distance a Texas patient will have to travel to obtain an abortion will now rise from 12 to 248 miles, a 20-fold increase, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Is Breakfast Really Good For You?

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But you’ve also probably heard that it’s fine to skip. A 2019 research review published in The BMJ only adds to the debate: It analyzed 13 breakfast studies and found that eating a morning meal was not a reliable way to lose weight, and that skipping breakfast likely does not lead to weight gain. So should you say goodbye to your eggs and toast? Here’s what the science says about breakfast.

Does eating breakfast help you lose weight?

The weight-loss question has been central to the breakfast debate for years, in part because several high-profile studies — some of which were funded by cereal companies, including Quaker and Kellogg — claimed that eating early in the day was necessary for controlling weight. When looking at research that isn’t funded by the food industry, however, the answer is less clear. Some studies have found that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than people who skip the meal and burn more calories throughout the day. But it’s possible that lifestyle and socioeconomic factors may be driving forces here, making a person more likely to eat breakfast and also have better overall health. For example, making time for breakfast is easier for people with 9-to-5 jobs than it is for night shift workers (who research has shown face a range of health risks). Other research, including the new review, has found no strong connection between breakfast and weight loss. One paper from 2017 actually found that skipping breakfast may lead to more calorie burning — but also higher levels of inflammation in the body.

Despite all the back and forth, Sharon Collison, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a clinical instructor in nutrition at the University of Delaware, says she’s not aware of any studies that have shown that eating breakfast can make you gain weight — so there’s likely no harm in eating it. Anecdotally, Collison says she’s seen from her clients that “people who struggle with weight tend to eat more of their calories later in the day and less earlier in the day. People who don’t eat enough earlier in the day may have increased hunger and increased cravings later in the day and will end up eating more.” But more research is needed.

Is it unhealthy to skip breakfast?

Weight loss aside, Collison says she’s “totally pro-breakfast” and encourages the vast majority of her clients to eat it, for a range of reasons. “People who consume breakfast regularly often have increased physical activity. They have better dietary profiles and lower intake of snacks,” Collison says. “Skipping breakfast is associated with increased disease risk — not only obesity but diabetes, heart disease and just lower dietary quality.” One small study from 2017 suggested that breakfast-eating could improve a range of metabolic health markers, potentially improving the body’s ability to burn fat and fight chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes — at least among people who were already lean. More research is needed to know how different types of people respond to fasting, the scientists say. But what if you’re truly not hungry in the morning? Collison says that may be indicative of other problematic eating habits, like snacking at night. “If you eliminate that snacking and then wake up hungry and eat a good breakfast, your overall dietary pattern is going to be so much better, and your health status is going to be better,” Collison says.

What’s the healthiest breakfast?

Even if you’ve decided to eat breakfast, a question remains: what should you eat? A donut and coffee, Collison says, are not going to give you the same benefits as a well-balanced plate. Collison says a good morning meal incorporates four things: protein, whole grains, healthy fat and a fruit or vegetable. Research has shown that protein and fat can increase satiety and cut down on unnecessary snacking later, while whole grains and produce add nutritious fiber, vitamins and minerals. Collison recommends Greek yogurt with nuts, berries and whole-grain cereal or farro; scrambled eggs with veggies, plus toast with avocado and fruit on the side; or oatmeal made with milk, nut butter and fruit. Generally, she says she steers clients away from smoothies or juices. “I do encourage people to eat their breakfast, because you just don’t get the same sense of fullness” with a liquid.

When should you eat breakfast?

The exact timing will vary depending on a person’s needs and schedule, but Collison says a good rule of thumb is to eat within an hour of waking. “It’s kind of like putting gas in your car,” Collison says. If you’re going to work out in the morning, plan to eat something beforehand. “The quality of your workout could be compromised if you don’t fuel your body before,” Collison says. “The closer it is to the physical activity, the more you want carbohydrates and less fat and fiber, because that will take longer to digest.” Collison recommends a banana, oatmeal or cereal. If you’ve done a vigorous workout, like running, for 45 minutes or more, you’ll likely need to eat again afterward for recovery. Something that replenishes fluid, carbs and protein — like chocolate milk — is a good option, as is a banana with peanut butter or cheese, crackers and fruit. A recovery meal probably isn’t necessary if you’ve done lighter exercise, like walking, Collison says.

COVID-19 Vaccines Are Effective At Reducing Severe Illness And Hospitalization

New evidence on breakthrough infections indicates people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after 1 or 2 vaccine doses had significantly lower odds of severe disease, hospitalization, or Long COVID than unvaccinated. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00460-6/fulltext

  • After two vaccines doses, the odds of hospitalisation were reduced by more than two-thirds and breakthrough infections were almost two times more likely to be completely asymptomatic.
  • The odds of long COVID-19 (symptoms continuing for 28 days or more after testing positive) were also reduced by more than half for people who received two vaccine doses.
  • People over age 60 who were frail or had underlying conditions had higher odds of a breakthrough infection, especially after only one dose.
  • The findings could have implications for health policies around timing between vaccine doses, potential COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, and for continuing personal protective measures, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

People who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after one or two vaccine doses had significantly lower odds of severe disease or hospitalisation than unvaccinated people, according to a large-scale study investigating COVID-19 breakthrough infections published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.   Researchers also found that the odds of experiencing long COVID (illness lasting 28 days or more after a positive test) were cut in half for people who received two vaccines doses.

People most vulnerable to a breakthrough infection after their first vaccine dose included frail older adults (60 years and older), and older adults living with underlying conditions such as obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, and lung disease. In all age groups, people living in deprived areas, such as densely populated urban settings, were more likely to experience a breakthrough infection. These factors were most significantly associated with a post-vaccination infection after receiving the first vaccine dose and before receiving a second dose.

“We are at a critical point in the pandemic as we see cases rising worldwide due to the delta variant. Breakthrough infections are expected and don’t diminish the fact that these vaccines are doing exactly what they were designed to do—save lives and prevent serious illness. Other research has shown a mortality rate as high as 27% for hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

We can greatly reduce that number by keeping people out of the hospital in the first place through vaccination. Our findings highlight the crucial role vaccines play in larger efforts to prevent COVID-19 infections, which should still include other personal protective measures such as mask-wearing, frequent testing, and social distancing,” says study co-lead author Dr Claire Steves of King’s College London, UK. [1]

Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy: A Global Champion Of Resuscitation Medicine

World Heart Day is being observed on September 29th this year with the objective of raising awareness of heart disease and promoting “Healthy Heart” lifestyles. “Human heart disease is the number one Global Public Health problem,” says Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy. He is an advocate of Community and Physician resuscitation education. And training for more than three decades in the USA and India. “It is disheartening to see patients with reversible health conditions die suddenly due to lack of both Community Health Awareness and Timely Emergency Care based on Evidence-based Resuscitation Practices”.

An alumnus of Guntur Medical College, Guntur and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (General Surgery), and a former Chairman of Anesthesiology Department at West Suburban Medical Center, Oak Park, Illinois, as a “Pioneer of Resuscitation Medicine in India” Dr. Murthy hailed. Also the reputed leader of organized medicine in the USA, Dr. Murthy has served as the President of the Chicago Medical Society and the Indian American Medical Association, Illinois.

Heart disease Indian CPR ProjectAffiliated with various US medical organizations and institutions, the soft-spoken Dr. Murthy is a Resuscitation Educator and Researcher, Advisor to Resuscitation Training Centers, Champion of Community Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and a Leader of US Organized Medicine.  His Mission has been “Saving Lives” in Sudden Cardiac Arrests and common heart issues.

Global evidence-based and heart disease newspaper articles information has proven that Bystander CPR is life-saving in sudden cardiac arrest. The latter can be recognized by the sudden collapse of the person without any breathing, pulse, or consciousness.   According to the articles about the heart of the American Heart Association, there are more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually in the U.S. Nearly 90% of them are fatal. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival. Heart attack news articles say that in the majority of cases, immediate Hands-only CPR may have similar survival outcomes. And it is comparable to the conventional CPR performed with both chest compressions and breaths.

Dr. Murthy is a guide and co-investigator of a ground-breaking Indian Resuscitation Research Project and Cardiac Arrest Registry, Warangal Area Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Registry 2018, based on an international format. He contributed to “CPR” and “Women’s Heart Health” videos and educational articles in news media and actively involved with Indo-US collaborated comprehensive Cardiac Care Projects.

Quoting evidence-based studies done, Dr. Murthy, a past President of the Chicago Medical Society and current adjunct faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, points to the fact that South Asians are at a four-times greater risk of heart disease than their Western counterparts and have a greater chance of having a heart attack before 50 years of age. Heart attacks strike South Asian Men and Women at younger ages. As a result, both morbidity and mortality are higher among them compared to any other ethnic group. They tend to develop heart disease ten years earlier than other groups.

Heart disease Dr. VemuriThe Founder of Chicago Medical Society’s Community CPR Project Saving More Illinois Lives through Education (SMILE,) Dr. Murthy, takes upon himself the life-long mission of saving lives through effective preventive measures. He says, “Almost one in three among South Asians may die from heart disease before 65 years of age.”

What causes heart problems in India? Heart disease remains the number one cause of death. Common risk factors are smoking and a diet high in sugar, salt, refined grains, and fat. A large number of South Asians appear to have “insulin resistance”, a condition in which the body does not utilize insulin efficiently, resulting in Diabetes, which leads to a significant number of heart-related problems and serious heart conditions. Lack of adequate exercise, stress, and genetic predisposition are also contributing factors,” adds Dr. Murthy, a distinguished Chicago Physician.  Illinois offers Project SMILE programs at various community events. International dignitaries, Members of the US Congress, Illinois Governor, and Legislators, and Indian Consul Generals commend it by.

A Visiting Professor of Indian Medical Universities, Dr. Murthy has been promoting resuscitation courses for nearly three decades in India. Indian Instructor Faculty trains thousands of physicians, medical students, and nurses with his guidance. He pioneered an “Indian Medical University Resuscitation Education and Training Model” at Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences, Andhra Pradesh (2012). He conducted simulation-based advanced Resuscitation Workshops with international faculty and guided mass community CPR events. He chaired several Resuscitation Conventions in India and organized workshops at prestigious Indian Medical Institutions such as AIIMS, New Delhi.

Heart disease Vemuri S MurthyDr. Murthy served the American Heart Association in different capacities. Such as National and International Faculty, Member of the International Committee, and Advisor to AHA International Training Centers, Also as  AHA Liaison to Medical Organizations in the USA too. He co-chaired programs at the AHA Scientific Sessions and delivered Resuscitation-based lectures at prestigious US medical institutions.

He also contributed to AHA’s “Saving Children’s Lives” project in Gujarat, India.  AHA leadership recognized his decades of service: “For Volunteer Leadership in Support of Lifesaving Mission of the AHA and its Emergency Cardiovascular Care Programs”. Dr. Murthy has been actively involved with AAPI as the Chairman of the “AAPI-AHA Liaison Committee”, “Global Resuscitation Committee”, and “Editorial Board Advisor” of the peer-reviewed Journal of AAPI (JAAPI). He also initiated an International AAPI Webinar Continuing Medical Education (CME) program (2020), an IAMA, IL Community CPR Project (2015), and an Indo-US CPR Research Project involving Resident Physicians from US Medical Universities (2016).

In a recent interview for a heart health article 2020, Dr. Vemuri Murthy shared his thoughts and concerns regarding the current status of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and diminishing bystander resuscitation help during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Bystander CPR with Defibrillation is a Blessing of Contemporary Medicine enhancing the survival of Sudden Cardiac Arrest Victims. Saving Lives with Best Practices should be the top Healthcare Priority for every Nation,” says Dr. Murthy, who hails from the state of Andhra Pradesh. He has devoted his entire life towards learning and sharing his knowledge and expertise with the noble cause of Heart Education.   Dr. Vemuri Murthy’s contributed to Global Health, Resuscitation Medicine, and Community Service. And this have been widely recognized through the numerous awards and recognitions that have been bestowed on him.

Dr. Murthy was honored with a Medal from US Congressmen as “Global Champion of Resuscitation,” “Lifetime Achievement Award” and “Distinguished Physician Award” from the Indian American Medical Association, Illinois.”

Chicago Medical Society gave the “Henrietta Herbolsheimer Public Service Award” and “Leadership Award” to Dr. Murthy. Also, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin bestowed on him the “Pioneer of Resuscitation Medicine in India” and “Most Distinguished Service” Awards. And, he received the “Global Champion of Health Award” from the Global Health Consortium, USA and the “Paul Harris International Service Award” from the Rotary Club and “Global Humanitarian Award” from The Institute of Medicine of Chicago “for providing voluntary, longstanding, and International Humanitarian Health Services” along with commendations from Indian Medical Universities and Medical Societies such as Indian Medical Association and Cardiological Society of India.

Indeed, Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy is truly a “Global Champion of Resuscitation Medicine!”

America’s Failure To Deliver Sufficient Vaccines Worldwide Will Cost The U.S. Its Global Leadership

Since the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and Japan after World War II, the U.S. has exhibited global leadership on many different fronts. But failure by the U.S. to distribute sufficient Covid-19 vaccines worldwide is costing the country its global reputation — and there will likely be economic fallout, as well. The loss of the U.S.’s global leadership could have lasting impacts on global peace and prosperity. Madeleine Albright famously called the U.S. “the world’s indispensable nation” during her tenure as Ambassador to the United Nations. However, when we look at the U.S.’s track record thus far in dispensing doses of Covid vaccines to the developing nations, the country no longer fits that description. Instead, China has taken the lead on sharing doses of its vaccines with the developing world. This is a propagandistic victory for China, even though vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm reportedly have lower efficacy than the vaccines from Pfizer PFE +0.3% and Moderna.

China plans to export two billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this year, including 770 million doses it says it has shipped already. In contrast, the U.S. has shipped 110 million doses worldwide. In addition, in June, the U.S. pledged to donate 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer to lower-income countries. Compared to a global population of nearly 8 billion people, the U.S.’s pledge falls far short of what is needed. According to Our World in Data, 30.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19, and only 15.6% is fully vaccinated. In low-income countries, however, just 1.1% of the population has received one dose.

Vaccine inequity is a global reality. While the U.S. is trying to incentivize Americans to get vaccinated, people in developing countries are protesting a lack of access. As Forbes observed, Covid vaccine distribution has been “extremely uneven.” The U.S. needs to step up its global vaccine sharing, not only to keep pace with China, but also to ensure Covid-19 inoculations do not become yet another divide between “have” and “have-not” nations.

The vaccine divide is producing an uneven map of global economic recovery, “a lopsided global recovery” that is widening the economic gap between rich and poor countries, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Overall, the IMF projects a global economic growth rate of 6 percent in 2021, but that is largely due to the economic recovery in larger, developed nations; the expected 2021 growth rate for low-income, developing countries is only 3.9 percent. IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, has called for “multilateral action” to promote “rapid, worldwide access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.” Among the benefits of such actions, Gopinath added, would be adding “trillions of dollars to global economic growth.”

The IMF has put forth a proposal to end the pandemic that calls for vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population of every country by year-end, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022. To reach this goal, at least one billion vaccine doses would need to be shared this year. Other steps include vaccine producers prioritizing deliveries to developing countries and removing trade restrictions on vaccine inputs and finished vaccines. Importantly, regional vaccine capacity would need to be established to ensure sufficient production and distribution in markets around the world. Increasing global access to vaccines clearly falls on the shoulders of the U.S. and other developed nations. One way to achieve quicker global vaccine distribution would be for developed nations to support COVAX, a partnership of several global health organizations, which could accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines and improve fair and equitable access worldwide.

The U.S. government could also apply pressure on the major Covid vaccine makers to release their patents and share their technology, allow regional production of the vaccines to improve global access, and also lower the price of their vaccines. Pharma companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have been reaping windfall profits from the sale of vaccines. To illustrate, in the first three months of the year alone, Pfizer generated $3.5 billion in revenue from the Covid vaccines—nearly one-quarter of its total revenue. Moderna’s revenues from the vaccine totaled $1.73 billion in the first quarter of 2021, and it has projected Covid-19 vaccine sales of $19.2 billion this year. International business leaders have a role as well, particularly to help employees and their dependents around the globe to get vaccinated. From a humanitarian perspective, such efforts will help secure greater equity in vaccine supplies worldwide. From a business perspective, it could very well help preserve the security of the global supply chain and contribute to worldwide economic growth.

The U.S. has a history of global leadership and distributing the vaccine as widely as possible would add to that legacy. While the U.S. has lagged China in dispensing vaccines to developing countries, there is still time to pick up the slack. Everyone would benefit from wide vaccine distribution in the global community, in terms of health, wellness, and economic growth.

Dr. B.K. Misra First Indian Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from American Association of Neurological Surgeons

Well-known Mumbai-based neurosurgeon Dr. B.K. Misra has been conferred the prestigious American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ ‘International Lifetime Achievement Award in Neurosurgery’, an official said here Aug. 26. Misra is the head of the Department of Surgery and Division of Neurosurgery and Gamma Knife Radiosurgery at the P.D. Hinduja Hospital here. He received the International Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) at its Annual Scientific Meeting 2021, Orlando. He is the first Indian ever to be bestowed with this award. The felicitation ceremony was conducted through an online event amidst the pandemic. AANS is the world’s apex body of neurosurgeons. “We have the best of tech, infrastructure and skills at par with the best in the world to treat the most complex neurosurgical conditions and even have the potential to become the destination for neurological treatment,” Misra said on receiving the award.

The hospital’s CEO, Gautam Khanna, lauded Misra’s medical accomplishments and accolades as a testament to his dedication and treating thousands of patients under his care. Misra, president of the Asian Australasian Society of Neurological Surgeons and the World Federation of Skull Base Societies, is also first vice president of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies. AANS, the world’s most prestigious apex body of neurosurgeons, has bestowed its highest international distinction honoring Dr. Misra’s lifetime of achievements in neurosurgery in India and globally. Dr. Misra is Honorary President of Asian Australasian Society of Neurological Surgeons (AASNS), is the 1st Vice President of World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS), and President of the World Federation of Skull Base Societies, all leading international neurosurgical societies.

Dr. Misra has a long list of “firsts” to his name. He was the first to execute Image-Guided Aneurysm Microsurgery globally and the first in South Asia to perform Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Acoustic Neuroma Surgery, Vascular Neurosurgery (Aneurysm, AVM), Skull Base Surgery, Pituitary Surgery, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, Awake Craniotomy, Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery, and Surgery of Complex Brain and Spine Disorder are among Dr. B. K. Misra’s areas of expertise in neurosurgical patient care. He was the first neurosurgeon to do Awake Craniotomy for brain tumours in India. He’s also the recipient of the prestigious Dr. B C Roy National Award as Eminent Medical Person of the Year, 2018 (the Highest Medical Award in India).

On the occasion of receiving the award, Dr. B K Misra said, “It’s my privilege and honor to receive the International Lifetime Achievement award from AANS. A recognition like this, from peers, means a lot to me personally and professionally and inspires me further. I would like to express my gratitude to my family and P.D Hinduja Hospital for their constant support and to my patients for having bestowed their trust on me. Today in India, we have the best of technology, infrastructure and skills, at par with the best in the world, to treat the most complex neurosurgical conditions. We have the potential to become a destination for neurological treatment .” With a long string of credits and firsts, he was the first in the world to execute an Image-Guided Aneurysm Microsurgery, first in South Asia to perform a Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, and first in India to perform an Awake Craniotomy for brain tumors. Earlier, Misra received the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award-2018, and contributes through numerous publications to improve the quality of education in neurosurgery and facilitate spreading the treatment for neurosurgical patients in poor countries globally.

AAPI Launches Adopt-A-Village, A Rural Health Initiative In India Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu & Consul Generals From All 5 Consulates In US Applaud AAPI’s Efforts

Continuing with its magnificent efforts to help their motherland, members of American Associati9on of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the premier medical organization in the United States initiated Adopt-A-Village, a Rural Health Initiative in India during a virtual launch event on Friday, August 27, 2021. Chaired by, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the much needed and popular program has Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Dr. Jagan Ailinani and Dr. Ram Singh as members of the Committee.

In a rare show of support for AAPI, honorable Consul Generals of Chicago, New York, Houston, Atlanta and the Deputy CG of San Francisco participated live during the launch of this noble initiative. Ambassador of India to US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu joined the meeting with his message and lauded the numerous efforts of AAPI for India, especially during the pandemic.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President, AAPI, in her welcome address, referred to the objectives of Adopt-A-Village. “A lot of efforts is being put into this initiative, “Adopt a Village” Project where AAPI in collaboration with Global TeleClinics, Inc., plans to adopt 75 villages in honor of 75 years of India’s independence,” she said.  “As India celebrates her 75th anniversary Independence Day celebrations, AAPI has planned to adopt 75 villages in India spread across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, where the rural people of India will be offered ‘Free Health Screenings in 75 Rural Villages’ for Anemia (CBC), DM (HbA1C), High Cholesterol, CKD, Malnutrition, Kidney Disease, Malnutrition, Obesity, and Hypoxemia.  Results analyzed by GTC and further action recommended by their team of experts will be also, followed up. This is a small contribution from AAPI to Mother India in celebration of Azadi Ka  Amrut Mahotsav.” Dr. Anupama thanked the AAPI members for their generous support for this noble work of AAPI and for sponsoring their ancestral villages and going back to their roots.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Chairman of AAPI’s Adopt A Village Program pointed out about the need for this noble initiative. He said, India has nearly 700,000 villages. Three out of four Indians and about 77 percent of the poor live in villages. The majority of the population has no access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The needs in these rural areas are unlimited and the scope to work are endless. “By adopting one village at a time and working with the government and NGOs, NRIs can make a difference,” he said. Dr. Kathula referred to some of the programs in place in several rural villages, including supply of Cloth mask, clean drinking water and free health care screening that has benefitted thousands of people Across India.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “While India has made substantial progress in health care as evidenced  by the fact that life expectancy in India at birth now is 71 years as opposed to 58 years in 1990 and 41 years in 1960, there are significant gaps and divergence in health metrics in different regions in India. India, thus needs to redouble and continue its efforts and dedicate resources to tackle these perennial challenges. The post graduate training of physicians specializing in Family Medicine in every teaching institution will create a motivated and well trained family physicians to address these deficits and deliver accessible, affordable, economical and continuous preventive and primary care to rural as well urban poor populations to raise health outcomes substantially all across India,” he said.

“An individual can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many in India by adopting a village,” said Dr. Jagan Ailinani, who was instrumental in founding this noble program and set an example by adopting his own birth village in the state of Telangana in India. “A majority of the NRI’s hail from villages and would like to do their part to bring progress to villages in our state and country.”

Dr. Ram Singh said: “NRIs can adopt the village they hail from originally and make a significant contribution towards its development. There is a real will and desire on the part of governments, both at the state and the center to work with NRIs and NGOs to bring development to rural India.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT said, “Many of these projects and programs need regular funding, and management of resources. We are grateful to dozens of AAPI members who have committed to Adopting a village in India with an ongoing commitment for investment.”

Ambassador Taranjit Singh, in his message to AAPI members, said, “As India is entering 75th year of independence, honoring men and women, who fought for the freedom, we rededicate ourselves to build an India where the dreams and aspirations of India’s 13 billion people are realized.” He urged the Diaspora community to come forward to honor INDIA by joining in the year-long celebrations.

Dr. Jayesh Shah, past President of AAPI, introduced Consul General of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan. In his address on “Indo-US Relationship In Healthcare -Rural Health Perspective” Ambassador Mahajan told the AAPI members: “You are true the heroes and partners with us, and you make us proud, especially during the critically vital Covid times.” Urging the Diaspora to contribute towards strengthening of India’s partnership with the US, Mr. Mahajan focused on India-US partnership on various health related issues, while stressing the many healthcare initiatives by the Government of India. “AAPI can play a big role in rural health, which has been a priority for the Government of India,” he said. He thanked and appreciated the many Doctors, who are already doing similar noble initiatives, helping the rural communities have access to clean drinking water. “We can work together, collaborating and sharing of knowledge and expertise, including Medical Education,” he told AAPI.

Dr.  Suresh Reddy, past President of AAPI and currently an elected Trustee of Oakbrook Village in Illinois, after introducing the Consul General of India in Chicago, Amit Kumar, announced that he is adopting his native village in the state of Telengana. In his address, Mr. Kumar spoke about “Rural Health In India, The Current Situation,” and focused on technological areas in healthcare development in the rural parts of India. “Your activities and the message to spread awareness on Covid and for providing PPEs to India are highly appreciated,” he told AAPI members, pointing to the fact that India has vaccinated over 600 million people and he hoped that India will offer vaccines to majority of India’s vast population soon.

Introduced by Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, immediate past President of India, Consul General of India in Atlanta Dr. Swati Kulkarni focused on “How AAPI and Doctors can Help India.” She said, “It’s important and laudable that you have undertaken to help India during the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. Dr. Kulkarni shared her views on how AAPI and the government of India can collaborate in: Diplomacy for development, where “India needs overseas expertise, and you are best suited to offer,” she said, while calling upon Indian American Doctors to be part of India’s efforts to enhance the GDP. “India’s healthcare industry is growing rapidly there is more scope for growth with expanded pharma industry and medical tourism. She stressed the need for AAPI’s role in enhancing India-US political partnership, where AAPI is “a major stake holder,” she said.

Dr. Mukesh Nigam introduced Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal. In his address on “Rural Health in India: The Challenges and Solutions” Ambassador Jaiswal said, “This noble initiative by AAPI has become more meaningful especially during the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.” Reminding AAPI members of Modi’s call to rebuild a new India, he said, “AAPI’s initiative is even more meaningful and fits well into PM’s vision for India.” He said, ‘We applaud and thank AAPI for coming forward to help India, especially during the covid pandemic.”

Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, a renowned cardiologist introduced Deputy Consul General of India in San Francisco, Rajesh Naik. While speaking on “Rural Health, What India can learn from Developed Nations” Mr. Naik said, “AAPI has provided tremendous support as India and Indian community were struggling with the challenges of Covid. You rose to the occasion and came forward to help and support, which have been highly appreciated by the Diaspora.” During the 2nd Covid surge, AAPI stepped forward and have sent out Millions of Dollars of medical supplies to Indi, he said. While pointing to the many challenges of healthcare in rural India, Mr. Naik urged how AAPI could offer tele medical consultation in rural India, especially focusing on the preventive aspect of health in India. .

Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, “By adopting one village at a time and working with the government and NGOs, NRIs can make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people in India. Each project will involve a tripartite partnership between the NRI, state government and a local NGO.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI pointed out, “The cost for adopting a village depends on various factors, including the population of the villages, the services that are required and what one is willing to commit to for the welfare and progress of the village one is committing to adopt.”

Dr. Lokesh Edara, chair for AAPI’s global initiative, while focusing on International medicine and how India is lagging behind in medical care, while urging the Government of India, pointed to how India needs to focus on Post Graduate Medical professionals rather than having Doctors with under graduate degree alone.

Dr. Gokula Murthy spoke about “Adopt-A-Village” by Global tele-clinics and shared with the audience as to how his firm has strived on ‘Blending medicine and technology,” while pointing to the “great opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of tele-health through awareness, education and sustainable development in all villages.”

There is no instant solution for rural India’s myriad problems. But by adopting one village at a time and working with the government and NGOs, NRIs can make a difference. Over time, an improved village could lead to an improved region, state and country.

Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. They have excelled in their fields of medicine, and thus have earned a name for themselves through hard work, commitment and dedication to their profession and the people they are committed to serve. Not satisfied with their own professional growth and the service they provide to their patients around the world, they are in the forefront, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others, especially those physicians and leaders in the medical field from India.

Dr. Gotimukula, urged “AAPI members to consider joining this movement and adopt a village. May be your own village of origin. AAPI will work with you in coordinating the efforts and through the support system we have in several states, will help you achieve this goal of giving back to our motherland.” AAPI members/families can sponsor a Village by emailing to: [email protected] and [email protected].  For more details, please do visit: www. aapiusa.org

Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order

The COVID-19 pandemic killed millions, infected hundreds of millions, and laid bare the deep vulnerabilities and inequalities of our interconnected world. The accompanying economic crash was the worst since the Great Depression, with the International Monetary Fund estimating that it will cost over $22 trillion in global wealth over the next few years. Colin Kahl and Thomas Wright’s Aftershocks offers a riveting and comprehensive account of one of the strangest and most consequential years on record. Drawing on interviews with officials from around the world and extensive research, the authors tell the story of how nationalism and major power rivalries constrained the response to the worst pandemic in a century. They demonstrate the myriad ways in which the crisis exposed the limits of the old international order and how the reverberations from COVID-19 will be felt for years to come.

The COVID-19 crisis is the greatest shock to world order since World War II. Millions have been infected and killed. The economic crash caused by the pandemic is the worst since the Great Depression, with the International Monetary Fund estimating that it will cost over $9 trillion of global wealth in the next few years. Many will be left impoverished and hungry. Fragile states will be further hollowed out, creating conditions ripe for conflict and mass displacement. Over two decades of progress in reducing extreme poverty was erased, just in the space of a few months. Already fragile states in every corner of the globe were further hollowed out. The brewing clash between the United States and China boiled over and the worldwide contest between democracy and authoritarianism deepened. It was a truly global crisis necessitating a collective response—and yet international cooperation almost entirely broke down, with key world leaders hardly on speaking terms.

Meanwhile, international institutions and alliances already under strain before the pandemic are teetering, while the United States and China, already at loggerheads before the crisis, are careening toward a new Cold War. China’s secrecy and assertiveness have shattered hopes that it will become a responsible stakeholder in the international order. Aftershocks is both a riveting journalistic account of one of the strangest years on record and a comprehensive analysis of the pandemic’s ongoing impact on the foundational institutions and ideas that have shaped the modern world. This is the first crisis in decades without a glimmer of American leadership and it shows—there has been no international cooperation on a quintessential global challenge. Every country has followed its own path—nationalizing supplies, shutting their borders, and largely ignoring the rest of the world.

The international order the United States constructed seven decades ago is in tatters, and the world is adrift. None of this came out of the blue. Public health experts and intelligence analysts had warned for a decade that a pandemic of this sort was inevitable. The crisis broke against a global backdrop of rising nationalism, backsliding democracy, declining public trust in governments, mounting rebellion against the inequalities produced by globalization, resurgent great power competition, and plummeting international cooperation.

And yet, there are some signs of hope. The COVID-19 crisis reminds us of our common humanity and shared fate. The public has, for the most part, responded stoically and with kindness. Some democracies—South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, among others—have responded well. America may emerge from the crisis with a new resolve to deal with non-traditional threats, like pandemic disease, and a new demand for effective collective action with other democratic nations. America may also finally be forced to come to grips with our nation’s inadequacies, and to make big changes at home and abroad that will set the stage for opportunities the rest of this century holds. But one thing is certain: America and the world will never be the same again.

Praise for Aftershocks

“COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the international order, and Aftershocks is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what that means for the future. Written by two of America’s leading strategists, this ambitious and engaging book puts the pandemic in historical context and makes an important case for how, in the wake of this crisis, we can build a better international system.” —Madeleine K. Albright

“Colin Kahl and Tom Wright are two of our nation’s leading analysts of geopolitics and American foreign policy. Aftershocks will provide a vital first take on the global response to COVID-19, the worldwide consequences of the pandemic, and what it all means for the future of international order.” —Susan Rice

“US Physician Larry Brilliant once said, ‘Outbreaks are inevitable. Epidemics are optional.’ Aftershocks is a timely, gripping, and necessary call to action, showing the steps governments, international organizations and citizens must take to provide a more reliable and sustainable security for us all.” —Samantha Power

“If you want to understand how and why the pandemic is reshaping the international order and revealing the dangers of unchecked nationalism, Aftershocks is the place to start. Informed by history, reporting, and a truly global perspective, this is an indispensable first draft of history and blueprint for how we can move forward.“ —Ben Rhodes

“A timely, insightful and sobering book by two of the most astute current observers of the United States role in international affairs. The analysis should give everyone who cares about the conduct of American foreign policy pause for thought. Their recommendations offer a critical path forward for future U.S. Administrations.” —Fiona Hill

“The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated and exposed the pre-existing conditions of an already-fading international order. I can’t think of two better observers to help us understand this profound moment of transition, or what it means for American strategy, than Colin Kahl and Tom Wright. Aftershocks promises to be an extraordinarily valuable book, as important as it will be timely.” —William J. Burns

How Kids Can Stay Safe While Walking To School

Newswise — With back-to-school season upon us, kids and parents are naturally excited for some return to normalcy. In addition to putting together school supplies and mapping out schedules, there’s another thing parents should do: teach kids how to walk to school safely. “Some of the most unsafe areas for children are right around their school or their home,” says Helen Arbogast, DrPH, MPH, CPSTI, Manager of the Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “That’s because kids tend to feel comfortable around places they frequently visit and don’t always pay attention to cars that may be moving in a parking lot, down the road or in a drop-off line.” This school year especially presents safety risks because many kids haven’t walked to school since the pandemic began, if ever, and parents may be a little rusty in their drop-off and pick-up habits.

“Kids are going to be excited and anxious and all of that can lead to distractions,” says Dr. Arbogast who recommends practicing walking to school ahead of the big day. And if you drive, visit the school beforehand and teach kids how to safely get in and out of the car. It’s also a good idea for parents to talk to school administrators about creating a drop-off zone. Schools should have a “safety valet,” a person responsible for directing cars and making sure kids are not in the path of moving vehicles. If the drop-off gets crowded, consider parking a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way, Dr. Arbogast says. “The younger children are, the more practice they should get,” she adds. Here are more tips on how to keep children of all ages safe.

Infants

Many injuries occur from strollers tipping over and the baby falling out, according to Dr. Arbogast. It’s important to remember to buckle your baby into the seat, whether it’s a stroller with harness straps or the kind that has a car seat that attaches to it, and to double check that the seat is properly attached to the frame. Another thing to keep in mind: Don’t hook your dog’s leash to the stroller. Even the most well-behaved dogs can run off, taking the stroller—and baby—with them. And lock the wheels while pausing with the dog or doing anything else. “A lot of times the stroller is the first thing that leaves the sidewalk into the street,” Dr. Arbogast says. Avoid streets without sidewalks and walk during times where there is less traffic. Most strollers are quite dark and can’t be seen well when the sun goes down. Put reflective stickers on the outside and consider wearing bright-colored clothes so drivers can see you. Dr. Arbogast also points out that some companies sell stroller wheels that light up when they are in motion—something older children will find fun to walk next to as well.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Routine is key to getting kids 5 and under to do things safely. Dr. Arbogast suggests starting out by teaching young children pedestrian safety in a non-busy area such as in a pathway at a park. Talk to them about holding your hand, looking both ways before crossing any road and staying away from cars. For toddlers who try to run into the street, a safety leash will keep them close to you. Short walks are best for this age group. And consider making tiny tikes visible to big cars by outfitting them in bright colors and putting reflective stickers on their clothes. Dr. Arbogast shares a trick she uses with her 3-year-old daughter: She asks her to carry a plush animal with reflective stickers when they go for a walk. “Toddlers are less likely to run when they are holding something,” she says.

Ages 6 to 9

Children in this age group seem more mature, but they haven’t yet developed the capacity to gauge speed and distance. Many injuries in this age group occur from children darting out into a street, such as to collect a ball, and thinking a car is traveling much slower than it is. They also tend to freeze when seeing a car backing out of a driveway. Dr. Arbogast has observed through her research that when children are walking with their parents, they almost never look both ways before crossing the street and instead defer to what their parents are doing. “We deliberately teach kids so many things, but not when walking with them,” Dr. Arbogast says. “If they aren’t watching us when we’re crossing a street, they may miss that we looked left and right and left again. They might think, ‘Mom stepped out so I’m going to step out.’”

It’s important, therefore, to narrate the safe things you are doing while walking, and to teach children the following practices:

  • Cross only at crosswalks.
  • Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Wave to drivers to make yourself visible.
  • Look completely left, right and left again before crossing a street.
  • Pause at driveways and check if a car is pulling out.
  • Stay close to an adult when walking through parking lots.
  • In addition, although many kids ride scooters for fun, they are never a good way to travel to and from school. “It’s too much for them to manage. They are having to balance themselves and keep up speed,” says Dr. Arbogast. “They are not thinking about stopping before driveways or crosswalks.”

Ages 10 to 12

At age 10, some children may be ready to walk to school without an adult, Dr. Arbogast says. She encourages these children to walk in groups of three or more because two kids walking together tend to focus on their conversation and could get distracted. “The more the better. It’s like a walking school bus,” Dr. Arbogast says. Clothes with reflective stickers are probably not going to be too popular with older kids, but you can put the stickers on their backpacks. Parents should also identify a consistent route in a less busy area for children to use. As for music, tell tweens no music while walking. “It keeps you from being able to hear some of these really quiet electric cars,” Dr. Arbogast says. Finally, teach your kids this favorite motto from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: Heads up, phones down.

Teenagers

This is the age group at most risk for being injured on the street. Children ages 12 to 19 are almost four times more likely to get hit by a car than younger kids, Dr. Arbogast says. “We take for granted that they are older and make some assumptions about their ability,” she says. Teens often venture out on routes that take them beyond their school. Advise them to walk through residential neighborhoods and to try to avoid large, busy streets. Repeat safety advice and be specific when doing so. “Before they go, don’t say something general like, ‘be safe,’ because what does that mean?” Dr. Arbogast says. “Your advice could instead be, ‘Make sure you are really careful before crossing Santa Monica Boulevard because you know people run that light.’” Most importantly, parents should always mirror the behavior they want their kids to follow. “Cross at intersections even if means walking a little further, and put the phone down,” Arbogast says.

US Unsure On Covid Origins

The US intelligence community has failed to reach a consensus on the origin of Covid-19 disease, while ruling out the possibility that China developed the virus as a biological weapon, according to key takeaways from a classified report delivered to President Joe Biden this week. Biden had, in May, ordered the country’s intelligence community “redouble their efforts” and report the origins of the pandemic within 90 days. Their report was delivered to the White House on Tuesday. While most of the new information gathered remains classified, some was released this week as an unclassified summary of assessment on Covid-19 origins.

The intelligence community “assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019,” said the unclassified summary, compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “We judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon,” it added. Majority of agencies also assessed with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way.

One intelligence agency said it assessed with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, while four agencies noted with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was caused naturally. The report did not name the agencies. “After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of Covid-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident,” the report said.

The report also noted that China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of Covid-19 emerged. At the same time the agencies also noted a lack of clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest Covid cases. “If we obtain information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or occupational exposure, it may alter our evaluation of hypotheses,” the agencies added in the report. The agencies asked for more cooperation from China to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of Covid-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the US.

“These actions reflect, in part, China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration that the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China,” the agencies wrote in the report. Meanwhile, China’s foreign minister has dismissed the report as “anti-science”. In a statement after the report was published, Biden criticized China for not cooperating with the investigation. “Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it,” Biden was quoted as saying. “The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them,” he added.

COVID-19 Is Most Transmissible 2 Days Before And 3 Days After Symptoms Appear

Newswise — Each wave of the pandemic has underscored just how gravely contagious COVID-19 is, but there is less clarity among experts on exactly when—and to what extent—infected individuals are most likely to spread the virus. Now, a new study co-led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher has found that individuals infected with the virus are most contagious two days before, and three days after, they develop symptoms. Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the study also found that infected individuals were more likely to be asymptomatic if they contracted the virus from a primary case (the first infected person in an outbreak) who was also asymptomatic.

“In previous studies, viral load has been used as an indirect measure of transmission,” says Dr. Leonardo Martinez, assistant professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, and who co-led the study with Dr. Yang Ge, research assistant in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of Georgia College of Public Health. “We wanted to see if results from these past studies, which show that that COVID cases are most transmissible a few days before and after symptom onset, could be confirmed by looking at secondary cases among close contacts.”

Martinez and colleagues conducted contact tracing and studied COVID-19 transmission among approximately 9,000 close contacts of primary cases in the Zhejiang province of China from January 2020 to August 2020. “Close” contacts included household contacts (defined as individuals who lived in the same household or who dined together), co-workers, people in hospital settings, and riders in shared vehicles. The researchers monitored infected individuals for at least 90 days after their initial positive COVID test results to distinguish between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases. Of the individuals identified as primary cases, 89 percent developed mild or moderate symptoms, and only 11 percent were asymptomatic—and no one developed severe symptoms. Household members of primary cases, as well as people who were exposed to primary cases multiple times or for longer durations of time, had higher infection rates than other close contacts. But regardless of these risk factors, close contacts were more likely to contract COVID-19 from the primary infected individual if they were exposed shortly before or after the individual developed noticeable symptoms.

“Our results suggest that the timing of exposure relative to primary-case symptoms is important for transmission, and this understanding provides further evidence that rapid testing and quarantine after someone is feeling sick is a critical step to control the epidemic,” Dr. Martinez says. In comparison to mild and moderate symptomatic individuals, asymptomatic primary individuals were much less likely to transmit COVID to close contacts—but if they did, the contacts were also less likely to experience noticeable symptoms. “This study further emphasizes the need for vaccination, which reduces clinical severity among people that develop COVID,” says Dr. Martinez.

The study’s senior authors were Dr. Ye Shen of the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UGA College of Public Health, and Dr. Feng Ling of the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hangzhou, China. The study was co-authored by researchers at SPH, UGA, the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Texas School of Public Health, and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Founded in 1976, Boston University School of Public Health is one of the top five ranked private schools of public health in the world. It offers master’s- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations—especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable—locally and globally.

Dr. Vivek Murthy Defends US Booster Shot Plan

By now, many public health experts, and the public for that matter, have accepted that vaccinated people may need another dose (US Booster Shots) of whichever COVID-19 shot they received in order to better protect against new variants of COVID-19.

US Booster Shot COVID-19U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has defended the Biden administration’s plans to begin rolling out vaccine boosters shots for Americans as early as next month, despite criticism from the World Health Organization and others that the U.S. should not offer shot boosters to Americans while many countries lag in vaccine access.”We have to protect American lives and we have to help vaccinate the world. Because that is the only way this pandemic ends,” Murthy told ABC “This Week” co-anchor, Martha Raddatz.

Murthy conceded that — assuming vaccine supply does not change — “taking more vaccines for Americans in the form of boosters will take away from the rest of the world,” but said the focus has been on increasing the supply and pointed to the U.S. donation of more than 120 million vaccine doses to other countries and its 500-million-dose commitment.

It is recorded the highest daily COVID-19 America active case count in nearly seven months last week, with just over 163,000 new cases reported, according to the CDC.

While only US booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna have been announced, Murthy said they are waiting on efficacy data for a second Johnson & Johnson shot. “We anticipate the people who receive J&J will likely need booster shots as well,” Murthy said.

Asked about the safety of taking a third US booster shot. Murthy emphasized that the booster vaccine shots distribution plan is “contingent on the (Food and Drug Administration). And the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Advisory Committee doing their full and independent evaluation”. “Safety is absolutely essential in this process. And we would not execute a plan if the FDA did not weigh in. And say that that third booster shot was. In fact, safe,” Murthy said. “But again, keep in mind this — that we have a tremendous amount of experience with these vaccines so far.”

Amid the surge, U.S. vaccination rates have also increased. White House COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar said Saturday marked the third day in a row. And that the U.S. has administered more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The White House announced the news on Friday. It is that at least 200 million Americans can vaccinate with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. The FDA has yet to determine that US booster shots are both safe and needed. But Fauci stressed that staying ahead of the virus as well as preparing for booster shots is the best way to tamp down the growing threat of the Delta variant. “If you wait for something bad to happen before you respond to it. Then you find yourself considerably behind in the full capability of your response,” he said. “You don’t want to find yourself behind and playing catch up. Better to stay ahead of it than chasing after it.”

The data on which health officials based their updated US booster shot recommendation included results from a New York City study that showed the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2 dropped from 91.7% in May to 79.8% by the end of July, by which time the Delta variant was the dominant strain in the area.

In another national study of nursing home residents conducted by the National Healthcare Safety Network, researchers found that vaccine effectiveness in protecting people from getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 was 74.7% prior to the emergence of the Delta variant, but dropped to 53.1% by the end of July. In addition to the data generated within the U.S., health officials have also been poring over information from Israel, which has been serving as a vaccination bellwether for the world. Since health officials, there were able to quickly vaccinate a significant percentage of the population.

The idea of the US booster dose is to bring people’s immune defenses—specifically antibodies—back up to the level generated soon after the last vaccine dose. It’s a well-established principle in immunology that antibodies tend to decline in number over time. Whether it is after people get vaccinate or get naturally infect with a virus. The vaccines has never designed to protect completely against the virus. It is only for from getting severely ill after get infect.

The FDA is pushing to issue full approval for Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, further expediting an earlier timeline for licensing the shot. Dr. Murthy said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the FDA issue a full approval of the Pfizer vaccine soon. Even that approval may convince some individuals on the fence about vaccination. And this is for getting the shot and encouraging companies and schools to implement vaccine mandates.

“I think you’ll see more universities and workplaces. Those were considering putting in requirements for vaccines to create safer places to learn and work. You’ll see more of them likely moving forward on their plans to require vaccines in the workplace and school,” Dr. Murthy said.

On rising pediatric cases and hospitalizations, Dr. Murthy encouraged adults to get vaccinated to protect children who are ineligible and highlighted measures schools can take to limit the likelihood of COVID transmission. “I really feel strongly that it is our moral responsibility. As this society to do everything we can to protect our children,” Murthy responded.  “And that means that number one, all of us got vaccinate as adults and adolescents is important because kids who are too young to get vaccinate. But it’s also why making sure we are taking every measure possible in schools. And to ensure that our kids are safe is so important,” Murthy added. “Those include masks, improving ventilation, doing regular testing, and ensuring that our children are outdoors as much as possible.”

AKMG’s 42nd Annual Convention Held in Atlanta

(Atlanta, GA: August 25, 2021) The 42nd annual Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) convention was held from Friday, August 13 to Sunday, August 15. It was held at the Inter-Continental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta, GA. Attended by 425 fully vaccinated Doctors of Kerala origin and their families from the US and Canada. The annual convention was the best forum for friends to get together, converse, reminisce about their past medical college campus life. Also, it includes singing old and new songs, network and be enriched and entertained.

AKMG annual conventionIn his presidential address, while expressing gratitude to the members of AKMG “for giving me the opportunity this year to be the President of our wondrous organization”. Dr. Subrahmanya Bhat said, “I worked very hard to make sure that this year’s AKMG was the best it could be. Likewise, our executive team has worked very hard to make sure the convention would be successful and profitable. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

Enumerating some of the accomplishments under the current leadership, Dr. Bhat said, “We have added close to 400 new life members to the AKMG organization. We have started a mentorship program for young physicians who are working on improving their craft,” said. Pointing to the several charitable events and programs AKMG has organized, Dr. Bhat said, “We have supported several food banks that have fed the hungry. In addition, our teams raised enough funds to feed 10,000 homeless people last Christmas.”

Back home in Kerala, with the generous contributions from AKMG members, Dr. Bhat and his team have “raised over $200,000 for Covid relief in Kerala. And provided PPEs and Pulse oximeters to Healthcare workers and Hospitals in Kerala. Furthermore, we have started a new telehealth service called Dronacare, in partnership with Innovation Incubator Inc. This is with the intent of providing free healthcare consultation to people in Kerala. ” In addition, AKMG has initiated the steps to bridge Kerala CDC and Atlanta CDC under the direction of Dr. MV Pillai, Past President of AKMG.

AKMG membersWhile inaugurating the convention with the traditional lighting of the lamp, in her keynote address, Dr. Swathi Kulkarni, Consul General of India in Atlanta, described the Indian American Physician community as a “Testament to the greatest growth story”. While emphasizing the role of physicians during the pandemic, Dr. Kulkarni praised their contributions and achievements. Dr. Kulkarni shared with the audience about the many programs and plans offered by the Government of India. Those are to alleviate the sufferings of the people of India during the pandemic. In addition, Dr. Kulkarni stressed the importance of the Indo-US Strategic Alliance, especially in the health sector. While pointing out India’s contributions to providing the world with quality drugs for lower prices.

Dr. Vikas Kapil from the CDC delivered the keynote address. Dr. Asha Thomas, an IAS officer and head of Health and Human Services and Medical education in Kerala, attended the convention.  Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, and the Chief Minister of Kerala sent best wishes and greetings to the delegates at the convention.  In his message, Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi style=”float: left; margin: 0px 15px 15px 0px;”Vijayan, praised the achievements of the Indian doctors using the knowledge gained from India. He also congratulated AKMG for being the oldest medical organization with 42 years of history. And for its members being the ambassadors of Kerala.

AKMG Association awardsBeing away from home, the participants were led to celebrate Onam with traditional festivities. It including a reception to King Mahabali with thalapoli and chenda melam followed by an Onam feast. The Fashion show, choreographed by Anu Bhat, displayed the best of Indian attire elegantly adorned by beautiful young women as they cat walked to the audience’s delight. Mamta Mohandas, a famous actress from the Malayalam Cinema world, was an added attraction during the Fashion Parade.

The Campus Comedy Night, which has come to be known as an integral part of the annual event since it had started way back in 1986, was a treat to the hearts and souls of the participants during the AKMG Convention in Atlanta as it showcased the diverse talents in music, art and acting by the members of AKMG fraternity. “The AKMG, the pioneering organization of Indian physicians in the US, formed three years earlier than the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AKMG inspired the formation of AAPI,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Immediate Past President of AAPI, said.

An elegantly done annual Souvenir was released during the convention. Dr. Annapurna Bhat, Chair of the AKMG Convention Souvenir Committee Chair, said, “I am most honored and delighted to be a part of AKMG, or the Association of Kerala Medical Graduates, North America, a wonderful secular organization serving and empowering Indian healthcare professionals of Kerala origin in USA and Canada.”

Annual convention colleaguesDr. Sunil Kumar, Chair, AKMG Humanitarian Services, thanked AKMG members as they “stepped up to the plate when our motherland was crying for help. I have always been proud of AKMG’s commitment to charity and even more today with your actions. As you know, when the COVID second wave started threatening India, we came together and helped our people prevent a catastrophe. As a result, we were able to reach an agreement with the international charity organization GLOBAL MEDIC to match our donations with $100,000 worth of PPE equipment.”

Dr. Lizy Thaliath, AKMG Convention Chair 2021, said, “As the convention committee chair, it is my honor to welcome all distinguished guests, family members, and participants of the AKMG 42nd convention in Atlanta. We have gone through a pandemic that has destroyed millions of lives and upended many global economies, and for the brunt of it, we healthcare workers have been fighting on the frontline. We pay respect to all who lost their lives in this fight in the hope of keeping the fight going strong.”

At the fabulous Saturday Nite Gala, Dr. Bhat handed over the charge to incoming president Dr. Nigil Haroon, who in his inaugural address, said, “I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve as your president for its 42nd year. As I undertake to represent the AKMG as its President for 2021-22,” he said and promised to work to strengthen the organization and enhance its relationship with organizations of other medical professionals. As always, AKMG will continue focusing on charitable activities and helping the medical colleges back in Kerala. For more details, please visit www.akmg.org.

Dr. George M. Abraham, President Of ACP, Praised By AAPI Leadership

It is matter of great pride for all of us that Dr. George Abraham has been elected president of American College of Physicians (ACP) the largest association of American internal medicine physicians with a membership of nearly 170,000 physicians,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) the largest ethnic medical association in the United States.

A resident of Shrewsbury, MA, Dr. Abraham is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Chief of Medicine and Emeritus President of the Medical staff at Saint Vincent Hospital, and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services.

Prior to his term as President-elect, he recently served as Chair of ACP’s Board of Governors and as Governor of ACP’s Massachusetts Chapter prior to that. Dr. Abraham is a Fellow of ACP (FACP), an honorary designation that recognizes ongoing individual service and contributions to the practice of medicine. Dr. Abraham had served as a WHO fellow in HIV disease in Uganda, as well as an ID fellow at the Communicable Disease Center in Singapore. In the past, he has volunteered with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and also has led medical mission trips to rural Louisiana and Mexico, with his church.

Several AAPI leaders and past Presidents of AAPI, including Dr. Naresh Parikh and Dr. Narendra Kumar, who hails from the same state of Kerala in India as Dr. Abraham, have expressed their congratulations to Dr. Abraham. Dr. Kumar said, “In its long 105 years history, George Abraham is the first physician of Indian origin to have this honor and lead ACP. We express our congratulations, want to wish him the very best and offer our support in his endeavors.”

“The election of Dr. George Abraham to be the President of ACP is a testament to the leadership qualities, vision and passion Indian American physicians have come to be asscociuated with in the United States,” added Dr. Naresh Parikh. “I am proud of our community of Indian physicians for all the progress that we have made over the years,” said Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT. “In patient care, administration, leadership, or academics, we have excelled in the respective fields, holding important positions across the United States and the world.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, that represents over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin in the United States, said, “We are proud of Dr. Abraham and his many accomplishments and look forward to working with him and ACP, as the nation and the entire world seeks to find best possible solutions to tackle the pandemic that has taken the lives of millions of people around the world.”

Lauding Dr. Abraham “who has been a key advocate on Covid and infectious diseases,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI said, “Dr. Abraham’s commitment, ethics, quiet leadership style and impeccable credentials make him the smart choice for this leadership role.” “Dr. Abraham represents the over 100,000 Indian American physicians,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said. “Having a wide range of experiences and passion for science-based approach, Dr. Abraham will bring in new perspectives to the many healthcare issues that require immediate attention and concrete action plan to tackle the pandemic.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, while offering fullest cooperation from the Indian American Physician community, said, “We at AAPI, look forward to working closely with Dr. Abraham and ACP, especially in our collective efforts to end this deadly pandemic.” George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, has been named President of the American College of Physicians (ACP) representing nearly 170,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. His term began on May 2nd at the conclusion of ACP’s Annual Business Meeting.

Dr. Abraham earned his medical degree from the Christian Medical College in India and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.  He completed his internal medicine residency and chief residency at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester and then earned an MPH in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Medical Specialties in Infectious Disease. He is also certified by the American Board of Ambulatory and Urgent Care Medicine, and the American Association of Medical Review Officers. Dr. Abraham’s areas of professional interest and expertise include internal medicine and infectious disease.

Dr. Abraham has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, as well as at national and international meetings. He has also written prolifically on issues of public health in the media. He has lectured on healthcare issues throughout Central Massachusetts. Dr. Abraham is a past-president of the Worcester District Medical Society. He also serves as a Trustee of the Massachusetts Medical Society, as the Secretary/Treasurer for the American College of Physicians and as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. Additional memberships include the American College of Physicians (where he is a Fellow), the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society.

As the Medical Director of Central MA Independent Physician Association (CMIPA) for 7 years, till 2012, he has worked extensively on health IT, quality management and care coordination issues. Dr. Abraham is a past-president of the Worcester District Medical Society. He also serves as a Trustee of the Massachusetts Medical Society, as the Governor-Elect for the American College of Physicians and as the Immediate Past-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. Additional memberships include the American College of Physicians (where he is a Fellow), the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society. Dr. Abraham, who maintains a practice at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA, also volunteers at a number of free clinics in the city of Worcester.

“Dr. Abraham has been an integral physician leader at Saint Vincent Hospital for years and his work during the COVID-19 pandemic was invaluable,” said Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson. “The Saint Vincent Hospital team is proud of Dr. Abraham and his contributions to the medical community and the patients we care for. He is incredibly deserving of this appointment and will serve the American College of Physicians well.” Founded in 1915 to promote the science and practice of medicine, and since then has supported internists in their quest for excellence, American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. With the mission to enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine. ACP is a diverse community of internal medicine specialists and subspecialists united by a commitment to excellence.

The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world. For more details on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

“Food Without Fear,” A Book By Dr. Ruchi Gupta Presents A Groundbreaking Approach To Food Allergies And Sensitivities

One in five people in the United States have food intolerances or sensitivities, and while these can be debilitating, they are chronic and can also be life-threatening in the long-term. Every day, more than five hundred people in the US go to the emergency room following a bad allergic reaction to food; 1 in 10 people have food allergies — and they are acute, alarming, and can be life-threatening. These are just a few of the statistics that prove what most of us know anecdotally. Food allergies are on the rise. But allergy itself is just the tip of the iceberg — and it’s not just a problem for kids. There is a whole spectrum of food-related conditions, including sensitivities, intolerances, and challenges.

The spectrum of these ailments is wide and deep, with many tricky “masqueraders” in the mix creating confusion, potential misdiagnoses, and faulty or poor treatment, and causing immeasurable suffering for millions of people. Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a world-renowned researcher and physician on the front lines of this silent epidemic, in her first book, shares revolutionary research from her lab to address the entire spectrum of food-related health conditions.

“FOOD WITHOUT FEAR: Identify, Prevent, and Treat Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities,” a newly released book by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an young and talented Indian American, illuminates what she has coined the food reaction spectrum—a revolutionary way to look at food-related conditions—and offers a new approach to managing adverse responses to food with a practical plan to end the misery and enjoy eating with ease.

Considered as the very first book to identify the entire spectrum of food-related health conditions, from allergy to sensitivity, and what we can do about it, Dr. Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a clinical attending at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, promises hope, help, and food freedom to the individuals and their families who so need it. In FOOD WITHOUT FEAR you’ll learn the STOP method, a way for families to track their symptoms and gain the tools to identify, manage, and treat their unique condition to prevent future reactions.

With more than 17 years of experience as a board certified pediatrician and health researcher and currently serving as the founding director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR) at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Dr. Gupta known to be a curating revolutionary researcher, this young Indian American’s panoramic view debunks common myths, such as the misconception that an allergy and an intolerance are the same thing, but both can have life-threatening consequences, and she empowers you to know what questions to ask your doctor to get the correct diagnosis. In the book, Dr. Gupta details: The differences between an allergy and an intolerance or sensitivity; What “masqueraders” are and how to identify them; Which health conditions are mistaken for food allergies—or can be triggered by them; The surprising allergies on the rise (think red meat and exercise; and, The issues with allergen labeling on food and drugs FOOD WITHOUT FEAR’s assessments, information on the most up-to-date treatments, and practical tips will help welcome anyone suffering from food-related health conditions back to the table.

The book has won excellent reviews from well-known authors. David Perlmutter, MD, Fellow, American College of Nutrition, author, #1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain and Brain Wash, wrote of the book:  “Food Without Fear explores how our individual uniqueness plays into how we respond to the information that our food choices purvey. And the dichotomy between “good” and “bad” foods is explored through the lenses of both leading edge science as well as our food-related responses. Both these data sets empower the reader with tools to optimize food choices and pave the way for a healthier life.”

Dr. Gupta is world-renowned for her groundbreaking research in the areas of food allergy and asthma epidemiology, most notably for her research on the prevalence of pediatric and adult food allergy in the United States. She has also significantly contributed to academic research in the areas of food allergy prevention, socioeconomic disparities in care, and the daily management of these conditions. Dr. Gupta is the author of The Food Allergy Experience, has written and co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed research manuscripts, and has had her work featured on major TV networks and in print media. Kristin Loberg has a lengthy list of successful collaborations with multiple New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers to her credit. Kristin earned her degree from Cornell University, and lives in Los Angeles. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, PEN, and teaches an intensive proposal-writing workshop at UCLA annually.

Published by Hachette Books, (ISBN-13:92 78030684650) “FOOD WITHOUT FEAR: Identify, Prevent, and Treat Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities” is available on all major bookstores and online, including at Amazon and Barnes And Nobles. For more details, please visit: https://foodwithoutfearbook.com/

 

Several US Cities Mandate Vaccination Proof For Indoor Activities

Many US cities have made it mandatory for citizens to show their Covid-19 vaccination proof for indoor activities in a renewed effort to curb the further spread of the disease, according to authorities.

 

In New York City, the ‘Key to NYC Pass’ mandate began on Monday, which requires diners to show proof of at least one vaccination dose in order to dine indoors at restaurants, reports Xinhua news agency.

 

New York City was amongst the first in the US to announce that public indoor venues, such as restaurants, bars, gyms and performance and entertainment facilities, would require proof of vaccination.

 

Full enforcement however, won’t kick in until September 13, while San Francisco and New Orleans have since followed suit. “The move comes as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the country, and the battered hospitality industry figures out a way to recover from a year of shutdowns and countless regulatory changes,” catering website ny.eater.com said on Monday.

 

As for New York State, governor Kathy Hochul said on Sunday that she was not ruling out the possibility of mandating a vaccine for indoor activities amid a surge in Covid-19 cases brought about by the Delta variant. “I’m open to all options,” she told CNN. “I’ll be looking at the possibility of mandates, but not saying they’re in or out until I know all the facts.”

 

She also clarified her support of mask mandates for children in school as a necessary safety step for helping New York get through a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

 

A lagging vaccination campaign and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant are driving a surge in Covid-19 hospitalisations in the US, reported The New York Times on Monday.

The trend is particularly notable among children and younger adults. From August 5 to 11, 263 children were admitted to hospitals every day on average, compared to 217 in early January, the last peak.

 

Average daily admissions rose to a record among 18- to 49-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, the country has administered 356,433,665 doses of Covid-19 vaccines till date and distributed 415,957,645 doses, said the CDC, adding that 198,088,722 people have received at least one dose while 168,362,058 people are fully vaccinated. (IANS)

Pope Francis Calls COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Act Of Love’

Pope Francis issued a message on Wednesday (Aug. 18) encouraging Catholics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it “an act of love,” as part of a global effort to reduce the onslaught of the pandemic and convince vaccine skeptics.

“Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together,” the pope wrote in the message addressed to all people on the vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love,” he added.

He added that the vaccine has political and social value as well. “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable,” the pope wrote, voicing his hope that “everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love.”

Francis’ vaccine promotion comes amid a growing debate among U.S. Catholics over vaccines. In late July, the Archdiocese of New York sent a letter to area priests telling them that “there is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” and that doing so anyway amounts to “acting in contradiction to the directives of the pope” and “participating in an act that could have serious consequences to others.”

Shortly thereafter, the Colorado Catholic Conference produced a template for Catholics who seek a religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination, with a group of area clerics arguing that “in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are convicted that the government should not impose medical interventions on an individual or group of persons.”

San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy, in turn, railed against the idea a few days later in a letter to clergy under his purview, similarly arguing that there is no basis in Catholic teaching to offer such an exemption.

“I ask that you not venture down this pathway that merges personal choice with doctrinal authenticity, and to caringly decline such requests from your parishioners to sign the Colorado statement or other public declarations concerning the actions of specific individuals rejecting vaccine mandates on religious grounds,” McElroy wrote.

Other dioceses have since followed suit. Last week the Diocese of Honolulu announced it “will not be granting religious exemptions from vaccine mandates imposed by others,” and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — overseen by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Archbishop Jose Gomez — reportedly told priests it also does not intend to back such religious exemptions.

On Tuesday, Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, went further, declaring  in a statement that diocesan staff will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “as a condition of their employment” beginning Sept. 1.

“This is an urgent matter of public health and safety. There is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called this a moral obligation,” Stowe wrote. “The health care system is now overwhelmed by a crisis caused primarily by those who refuse to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated. This is unacceptable, and our diocese now joins those employers who have already made this basic commitment to the common good a requirement.”

The pope’s message, which was translated into several languages, was prompted by the “It’s Up To You” campaign, organized by the nonprofit organization Ad Council and COVID Collaborative, a U.S. panel of experts created to promote vaccine compliance.

In addition to Gomez, five other prelates are taking part in the initiative: Archbishop José Horacio Gómez Velasco of Los Angeles, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes of Sao Paolo, Brasil, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez of San Salvador, El Salvador and Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Perú.

“To the world’s billion-plus Catholics, the Pope is one of the most trusted messengers and holds unparalleled influence,” wrote Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, in a press release published on Wednesday. “We are extremely grateful to him and the Cardinals and Archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines.” The project was created in collaboration with the Vatican’s Department for Integral Human Development, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson

“Food Without Fear,” A Book By Dr. Ruchi Gupta Presents A Groundbreaking Approach To Food Allergies And Sensitivities

One in five people in the United States have food intolerances or sensitivities, and while these can be debilitating, they are chronic and can also be life-threatening in the long-term. Every day, more than five hundred people in the US go to the emergency room following a bad allergic reaction to food; 1 in 10 people have food allergies — and they are acute, alarming, and can be life-threatening. These are just a few of the statistics that prove what most of us know anecdotally. Food allergies are on the rise. But allergy itself is just the tip of the iceberg — and it’s not just a problem for kids. There is a whole spectrum of food-related conditions, including sensitivities, intolerances, and challenges.

The spectrum of these ailments is wide and deep, with many tricky “masqueraders” in the mix creating confusion, potential misdiagnoses, and faulty or poor treatment, and causing immeasurable suffering for millions of people. Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a world-renowned researcher and physician on the front lines of this silent epidemic, in her first book, shares revolutionary research from her lab to address the entire spectrum of food-related health conditions.

“FOOD WITHOUT FEAR: Identify, Prevent, and Treat Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities,” a newly released book by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an young and talented Indian American, illuminates what she has coined the food reaction spectrum—a revolutionary way to look at food-related conditions—and offers a new approach to managing adverse responses to food with a practical plan to end the misery and enjoy eating with ease.

Considered as the very first book to identify the entire spectrum of food-related health conditions, from allergy to sensitivity, and what we can do about it, Dr. Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a clinical attending at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, promises hope, help, and food freedom to the individuals and their families who so need it. In FOOD WITHOUT FEAR you’ll learn the STOP method, a way for families to track their symptoms and gain the tools to identify, manage, and treat their unique condition to prevent future reactions.

With more than 17 years of experience as a board certified pediatrician and health researcher and currently serving as the founding director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR) at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Dr. Gupta known to be a curating revolutionary researcher, this young Indian American’s panoramic view debunks common myths, such as the misconception that an allergy and an intolerance are the same thing, but both can have life-threatening consequences, and she empowers you to know what questions to ask your doctor to get the correct diagnosis.

In the book, Dr. Gupta details: The differences between an allergy and an intolerance or sensitivity; What “masqueraders” are and how to identify them; Which health conditions are mistaken for food allergies—or can be triggered by them; The surprising allergies on the rise (think red meat and exercise; and, The issues with allergen labeling on food and drugs FOOD WITHOUT FEAR’s assessments, information on the most up-to-date treatments, and practical tips will help welcome anyone suffering from food-related health conditions back to the table.

The book has won excellent reviews from well-known authors. David Perlmutter, MD, Fellow, American College of Nutrition, author, #1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain and Brain Wash, wrote of the book:  “Food Without Fear explores how our individual uniqueness plays into how we respond to the information that our food choices purvey. And the dichotomy between “good” and “bad” foods is explored through the lenses of both leading edge science as well as our food-related responses. Both these data sets empower the reader with tools to optimize food choices and pave the way for a healthier life.”

Dr. Gupta is world-renowned for her groundbreaking research in the areas of food allergy and asthma epidemiology, most notably for her research on the prevalence of pediatric and adult food allergy in the United States. She has also significantly contributed to academic research in the areas of food allergy prevention, socioeconomic disparities in care, and the daily management of these conditions. Dr. Gupta is the author of The Food Allergy Experience, has written and co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed research manuscripts, and has had her work featured on major TV networks and in print media.

Kristin Loberg has a lengthy list of successful collaborations with multiple New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers to her credit. Kristin earned her degree from Cornell University, and lives in Los Angeles. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, PEN, and teaches an intensive proposal-writing workshop at UCLA annually.

Published by Hachette Books, (ISBN-13:92 78030684650) “FOOD WITHOUT FEAR: Identify, Prevent, and Treat Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities” is available on all major bookstores and online, including at Amazon and Barnes And Nobles. For more details, please visit: https://foodwithoutfearbook.com/

With Fears Of 200,000 Covid Cases A Day In 4th Wave In US, The Unvaccinated Are More Vulnerable

The United States could soon see more than 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day as the Delta variant spreads at a rapid rate, especially among unvaccinated people, the director of the National Institutes of Health predicted.

“I’ll be surprised if we don’t see 200,000 cases a day over the next two weeks, and it’s heartbreaking considering we never thought we would be back in this space,” said Dr Francis. Collins on Fox News Sunday, August 15th.

“It was January, February, it shouldn’t be August. But here we are with the Delta variant, which is so contagious, and this heartbreaking situation where 90 million people are still unvaccinated, which are ducks sitting for this virus, and that’s the mess we’re in.” Collins pleaded anew for unvaccinated Americans to get their shots, calling them “sitting ducks” for a Delta variant that is ravaging the country and showing little sign of letting up.

On Saturday, August 14th, the United States had an average of about 129,000 new cases every day in the past 7 days, a number that has increased daily since July 5, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The country recorded an average of more than 200,000 cases per day in January, before COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.

In five states—Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Oregon—the current number of daily new COVID-19 infections, averaged across seven days, has surpassed that winter peak, even with a substantial percentage of the population having received a complete dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine (though not nearly as many as public officials would prefer).

How many people have been vaccinated? Health experts say the solution is to vaccinate as many people as possible, as vaccines provide good protection against serious illnesses. As of Sunday, 50.6% of the total United States population was fully vaccinated. That’s 59.2% of people eligible to receive a vaccine, according to CDC data.

Does the vaccine protect against the Delta variant? People remain highly protected from Covid-19, including the Delta variant, but federal health officials have been actively looking at whether extra shots may be needed.

The United States Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized an additional dose of the vaccine to be given to people with weakened immune systems, who may not have an adequate immune response to the vaccine.

CDC vaccine advisers voted unanimously on Friday to recommend the extra dose for some immunocompromised people. CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky quickly approved the vote, which means people can get those third doses right away.

Booster injections could also soon be available for others, such as the elderly, people in retirement homes or the general population. Some officials fear that the Delta variant may escape some of the vaccine’s protection.

AAPI’s National Blood Donation and Bone Marrow Drive Launched, Honoring Fallen Covid Warriors

“I am grateful to the dozens of local AAPI Chapters who have initiated and organized Blood Donation Drives, Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Registration across the nation, in honor of Fallen Heroes of Covid-19, and as India is celebrating 75 years of our Independence, in our efforts to do National AAPI Blood Donation Drives in 75 cities,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States.

“On the occasion of the 75thIndependence Day of India, we the physicians of Indian origin serving every 7th patient in the United States, is excited to launch this unique and noble initiative in collaboration with Bitcare, ‘AAPI Blood Donation and Stem Cell Drive”  in 75 cities across the United States,” Dr. Gotimukula added.

The launch event of the Blood Drive was organized in Chicago on August 7th under the leadership of Dr. Meher Medavram, Chair of AAPI’s Blood Donation Initiative. “Several cities that have organized the Blood Donation Drive, include Dayton (OH); Oakbrook village (IL); Ridgeland, Mississippi;  Dallas (Tx), Ridgeland ( MS); and Columbus (SC). Dozens of other cities have planned to organize similar events across the nation,” she said.

“AAPI has launched 75 city blood donation drive to commemorate India’s 75th Independence Day. It only takes 15 minutes of one’s time and can save and sustain 3 lives with each pint of blood. So let us all be the heroes and life savers. We all are one humanity and one family, Vasudhaiva Kutubakam,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI.

Describing the benefits of Blood Donation, Dr. Gotiumukula said, a single donation can save three lives. Each blood component of whole blood transfusion can help up to three different people. Pointing to the fact that Blood cannot be manufactured, The President of AAPI said, “Despite medical and technological advances, blood cannot be made, so donations are the only way we can give blood to those who need it.”

Blood saves lives. Blood is needed every two seconds. Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused in the U.S. every year. While not everyone is able to donate blood, Dr. Gotimukula pointed out that only 37 percent of the country’s population is able to donate blood. On why she and the AAPI leadership chose this as a priority\, Dr. Gotiumuka said, “The 3rd Covid Wave is causing increased ICU admissions again. There is a dire need for blood. Your friends or family may need your blood someday. And this noble cause helps save many lives.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI, said “As the pandemic has exhausted all the resources, especially the lifesaving and much needed Blood across the nation and the world, AAPI is in the forefront, once again, spreading the message for the need to donate blood and save lives.” Dr. Anjana  Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, who herself has experienced the ordeal with Covid -19, and has come out stronger,  resilient and tenacious, quoting Red Cross said, “Blood is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.”

“With the ongoing pandemic, the United States and the world need the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI. “It is very difficult to find a matched stem cell donor for Southeast Asians should they need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant and this drive will help increase the number of potential donors.” Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI said, “Blood donation helps save lives. Since blood has a limited shelf life, the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.”

Describing the benefits of Blood Donation, Dr. Gotiumukula said, a single donation can save three lives. Each blood component of whole blood transfusion can help up to three different people. Pointing to the fact that Blood cannot be manufactured, The President of AAPI said, “Despite medical and technological advances, blood cannot be made, so donations are the only way we can give blood to those who need it.”

Blood saves lives. Blood is needed every two seconds. Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused in the U.S. every year. While not everyone is able to donate blood, Dr. Gotimukula pointed out that only 37 percent of the country’s population is able to donate blood. On why she and the AAPI leadership chose this as a priority\, Dr. Gotiumuka said, “The 3rd Covid Wave is causing increased ICU admissions again. There is a dire need for blood. Your friends or family may need your blood someday. And this noble cause helps save many lives.”

“It’s a humble and a noble initiative by AAPI to help save lives. While we thank those who have done Blood Drives, I urge others to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks.”  For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager at: [email protected]. For more details on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa,org

Why Hospitals And Healthcare Organizations Need To Take Cybersecurity More Seriously

The fuel shortages and rising gas prices generated by the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in May foreshadow the disastrous and far-reaching effects of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. SolarWinds, JBS, Kaseya, and a torrent of other high-profile cyber incidents have captured the attention of the American public and the highest levels of government, leading to a flurry of federal actions, including the nomination of the first-ever National Cyber Director, formal attribution of the SolarWinds attack to Russia, the release of an executive order imposing new security standards for software on federal procurement lists, and a host of legislative proposals to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.

Though these prominent cyber incidents have triggered several cybersecurity initiatives, policymakers have paid relatively little attention to the considerable potential cyber risks in the healthcare sector. The WannaCry ransomware attack which took down the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 2017 served as a wake-up call to healthcare organizations around the world, illuminating the urgent need for proactive investments in cybersecurity. And yet, healthcare organizations in the U.S. remain a vulnerable target, lagging behind other industries on key measures of cyber-readiness.

As the resurgence of COVID-19 cases stretch hospital capacity to the limit, it provides a fresh reminder of just how critical it is for our healthcare infrastructure to be resilient in times of crises. With the sharp uptick in ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations during the pandemic, and the first death attributed to a ransomware attack in 2020, it is clear that that malicious actors are capable of compromising mission-critical healthcare infrastructure, from the automated refrigerators that store blood products for surgeries to the CT scans that are vital for triaging trauma patients.

Indeed, the recent surge in cyberattacks on healthcare organizations prompted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release a joint advisory warning of “an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” At the same time, many hospitals are once again reaching surge capacity due to the Delta variant, making cybersecurity more important than ever before.

The Poor State of Healthcare Cybersecurity

In 2017, the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity (HCIC) Task Force established by HHS issued a report to Congress in which they claimed that healthcare cybersecurity is in “critical condition.” Four years later, the Task Force’s assessment still rings true. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of ransomware attacks has soared across all industries, and healthcare has been the disproportionate target of such attacks. The 2020 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey revealed that 70% of hospitals surveyed had experienced a “significant security incident” within the past twelve months, including phishing and ransomware attacks that resulted in the disruption of IT operations (28%) and business functions (25%), as well as data breaches (21%) and financial losses (20%).

Healthcare organizations are an inviting target for financially motivated threat actors because their broad attack surfaces make it relatively easy for cybercriminals to find vulnerabilities and monetize their exploits. The passage of the HITECH Act in 2009 incentivized investments in health information technology to modernize the U.S. healthcare system, leading to unprecedented connectivity and an expansion in the usage of medical devices. Today, Electronic Health Record systems are the heart of the healthcare organization, connecting medical devices with other applications to provide a more wholistic picture of patient well-being. Additionally, the U.S. boasts an average of 10 to 15 networked medical devices per hospital bed, meaning large healthcare organizations face the herculean task of securing tens of thousands of medical devices, many of which are quite easy to hack. The digitization of healthcare infrastructure catalyzed major advancements in patient care, but also created major opportunities for attack. A single vulnerable asset can provide a threat actor with a foothold into the organization and compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient data and medical services.

At the same time, protected health information is far more lucrative than credit card information. Criminals can garner anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per stolen medical record, depending on their completeness. This combination of a broad attack surface and strong financial incentives make healthcare organizations an appealing target for threat actors.

To make matters worse, cybersecurity is underprioritized by many healthcare organizations due to competing priorities and finite resources. The 2020 HIMMS Cybersecurity Survey reveals that “cybersecurity professionals may not necessarily have access to the security solutions and other tools they need in order to fully secure the environment” due to tight and stagnant IT budgets. Moreover, researchers have found that the average healthcare organization spends about 5% of its IT budget on cybersecurity, while the rest is devoted to the adoption of new technologies. Alarmingly, this means that organizations are expanding their attack surface despite lacking the tools to adequately defend their digital estate.

Consequently, the healthcare industry has fallen behind many other sectors in its ability to detect, prevent, and mitigate cyberattacks. For example, healthcare organizations take an average of 236 days to detect a data breach and 93 days to mitigate the damage, compared to an industry average of 207 days to identify and 73 days to contain an attack. Due to their failure to proactively invest in cybersecurity, healthcare organizations hit with cyberattacks have paid steep costs to mitigate the threat. IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report revealed that the healthcare industry had the highest cost of a data breach for the eleventh year in a row, with an average cost of $9.23 million in 2021. Studies have demonstrated that proactive investments in cybersecurity lead to long-term saving, but cybersecurity spending can be hard for healthcare administrators to justify when faced with other compelling priorities, like staff increases to meet the demands of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

The Path Forward

With an ever-increasing attack surface, compelling financial incentives for attackers, and under-budgeted, substandard cybersecurity operations, the US healthcare system is indeed in critical condition. Public-private partnerships and increased investments in healthcare cybersecurity will be key to shoring up the healthcare industry and safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Just as handwashing is a foundational element of modern medicine, cyber hygiene must be regarded as a basic and essential component of a functioning medical system. At present, healthcare systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks and opportunistic threat actors are increasingly taking advantage of the industry’s weak security posture to exfiltrate patient data and disrupt key medical systems. With the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient data, medical devices, and entire healthcare systems at stake, healthcare organizations must undergo a paradigm shift, placing greater value on cybersecurity and proactively investing in security protections.

“Just as handwashing is a foundational element of modern medicine, cyber hygiene must be regarded as a basic and essential component of a functioning medical system”

Policymakers can encourage proactivity by providing matching funds to organizations that seek to engage in risk-based planning and bring their practices up to par with state and federal regulations. Additionally, policymakers can simplify and strengthen the regulatory environment for healthcare security to develop a more unified and comprehensive set of standards that healthcare organizations can easily navigate. Federal agencies must also continue to collaborate with healthcare industry partners to develop robust contingency plans to avert catastrophe in the event of a serious cyber incident.

In the end, however, the fate of healthcare security comes down to whether organizations are willing to make significant investments in cybersecurity. If the healthcare sector is to move the needle on cybersecurity, industry leaders must begin to treat digital assets as they would patients. Just as a responsible healthcare professional seeks to identify and treat patients’ underlying chronic conditions before they cause a serious medical emergency, so too must responsible healthcare organizations address vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure to prevent cyberattacks. After all, even computers are not immune to viruses.

(IBM is a general, unrestricted donor to the Brookings Institution. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions posted in this piece are solely those of the authors and not influenced by any donation)

Vax India Fundraiser Raises Over $5 Million For India’s Fight Against COVID-19

Anuradha Palakurthi Foundation’s Vax.India.Now, the virtual fundraiser to support India in its fight against Covid-19, has raised more than 5 million dollars. The event, which had attracted many celebrities from around the world, was livestreamed globally last month. UNICEF and American India Foundation (AIF) are beneficiaries of the fundraiser.

“We are grateful for the generosity of large and small donors from around the globe who came together to support this lifesaving campaign – Vax.India.Now,” said Anuradha Juju Palakurthi, one of the key organizers of the event, and who took the initiative to launch this fundraising campaign.

Ms. Palakurthi said that the dedicated, multi-national 160-person organization team is proud to have raised meaningful resources in India’s battle against this awful pandemic.

Hasan Minhaj hosted the July 7th event. Liam Neeson, Annie Lennox, A.R. Rahman, Pia Toscano, Zubin Mehta, Gloria Estefan, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, David Foster, Norwegian DJ Alan Walker, Asif Mandvi, Nishat Khan, Ranjani Gayatri Sisters and Matteo Bocelli all took part in the momentous event.

“I am grateful to the celebrities for lending their time and talent – in particular, the immediacy of their response and commitment to the cause,” said Ms. Palakurthi, an Indian-American singer and founder of Juju Productions. “Special thank you to the Indian team that had to work through a national lockdown. The campaign is still open at VaxIndiaNow.com Give today! We are all together in this and must continue to vaccinate individuals, to prevent more variants, and stop Covid 19. It is not over until it’s over.”

Along with the musical performances, Vax.India.Now spotlighted what’s really happening on the ground in India and educated viewers on how they can help save lives and make a real impact. The viewers responded. Proceeds will support UNICEF’s efforts to ensure millions of crisis-affected and vulnerable children and families in India have access to life-saving assistance and services and help COVID-19 vaccines make their way from airport tarmacs to arms.

Covid-19’s impact on India has been nothing short of catastrophic. A second wave of Covid-19 has consumed India breaking the Global record with more than 400,000 cases in one day and leaving over 377,000 dead. Vax.India.Now represents a global effort to bring attention and resources to India on a massive scale. Vaccines are the answer and we need to get them to the people of India now.

Vax.India.Now is the brainchild of Ms. Palakurthi, who runs her own foundation out of New England that supports the promotion of Indian culture. She was moved by the carnage inflicted in India by a different mutation of the virus. Many of her friends and family members became sick – some died. She knew that the only long term solution was mass vaccinations, like in the US. Driven by this purpose, she turned to The Giving Back Fund and together the idea for Vax.India.Now was born.

Vax.India.Now was Globally livestreamed by CNN and Dreamstage.live on July 7. The event is still available for viewing on both vaxindianow.com and CNN’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/CNN. To view a trailer of Vax.India.Now click here: https://youtu.be/f5M6hrpXC60

Vax.India.Now is sponsored by Anuradha Palakurthi Foundation, a project of The Giving Back Fund, an IRS approved 501©3 public charity (EIN 04=3367888).

The Giving Back Fund is the main benefactor of Vax.India.Now. Says President and Founder Marc Pollick, “When our longtime Board member Prashanth Palakurthi proposed doing something truly significant on a worldwide scale to help his native India at this critical time, we jumped at the chance to help. This is what we are built for –to mobilize quickly and provide assistance and philanthropic administration to help those in need. At this moment in time, the need in India must become the center of the universe.”

Vax.India.Now is being produced by JuJu Productions, Charles Goldstuck, Marc Johnston and Erich Bergen and Wizcraft International Entertainment and Neelesh Misra of Gaon Connection.

Wizcraft International Entertainment is India’s leading communication and entertainment companies, integrating strategy, creativity and technology to craft memorable experiences. Since, its inception in 1988 Wizcraft has emerged as pioneers in Events, Exhibitions, Brand Activation, Television production, PR, Digital Marketing and Virtual Events. Headquartered in Mumbai and with offices across India the company has grown tremendously and also has several liaison offices across the world. Wizcraft is globally renowned for its flagship media & entertainment IP – IIFA (International Indian Film Aacdemy), an event that has travelled the world building bridges across cultures, communities, businesses and geographies using the platform of Cinema to create a global alliance.

Anuradha Palakurthi Foundation supports the promotion of Indian culture primarily in New England by providing financial support to programs, artists and organizers of events where Indian culture is performed/exhibited. Funds raised from events and performances will go to support carefully vetted public charities with an emphasis on charities aiding returning veterans. The Anuradha Palakurthi Foundation is a donor-advised fund at The Giving Back Fund.

The Giving Back Fund is a National nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates charitable giving by professional athletes, celebrities, high net worth individuals, existing nonprofit organizations, corporations and others who truly desire to give back. We Provide philanthropic consulting, management and administrative services while operating as a flexible convenient vehicle for establishing individual foundations and fiscally sponsored projects under a governance structure like that of a community foundation. By offering a straightforward and cost-effective approach to philanthropy, high-level expertise and professional services, and carefully targeted giving opportunities, The Giving Back Fund helps those who want to give back to society and to the communities that have nurtured them.

A Galaxy of Women Leaders In Lead Roles At AAPI

(Chicago, IL: August 4, 2021) “It’s been truly historic and a very proud moment for American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to have a majority of the current leadership of this noble organization being held by Women Leaders,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, declared here today. “Never has there ever been such a strong representation of women leaders in AAPI’s leadership positions. It’s been a privilege and a challenge to lead AAPI as AAPI celebrates 40 years of dedicated service to the United States, India and the world.”

 

Dr. Gotimukula, only the 4th woman president of AAPI in the 40 years old history of AAPI has a strong and dynamic leadership of women leaders at AAPI for the year 2020-21. Dr. Kusum Punjabi serves as the Chair of AAPI Board of Trustees; Dr. Soumya Neravetla is the President of Young Physicians Section (YPS,) while Dr. Ayesha Singh is the President is the Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section (MSRF.) Dr. Anjana Samadder, who serves as the Vice President of AAPI is in succession for the top AAPI leadership position in the year 2023-24.

 

A resident of San Antonio, TX, Dr. Gotimukula is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, has been an active member and leader of AAPI over a decade.

As a Healthcare Leader, Dr. Gotimukula recognizes that “AAPI has power. We have legitimate respect and trust of our communities in every corner of America. AAPI will leverage that power of our purpose and networks to help address specific challenges related to affordable healthcare delivery.”

 

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, a very young and energetic leader of AAPI, assumed office as the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI on July 4th. The youngest to date to be holding this position in AAPI’s 40 years long history and the first person to go to medical school in the USA, Dr. Punjabi says, “My goal as Chair of the Board is to develop long lasting programs within AAPI that promote professionalism, unity, mentorship and inclusivity. I hope to clearly re-define AAPI’s mission of service, academic achievement and supporting Indian Physicians working in America through advocacy and leadership. I want patients to know the value of the care they receive from our ethnic group and our mission of promoting the safest and best healthcare practices for our patients.”

 

Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI says, “My journey with AAPI in the past 20 years taught me lots of lessons, skills and molded me to take more responsibility in the organization. I will bring to the organization the level of commitment, hard work, experience and skill set needed to accomplish the various goals for AAPI and its members.”  Her vision for AAPI is “to help build an ethically strong, morally straight and fiscally responsible organization. It is also vitally important to bring much needed diversity to keep AAPI thriving.”

 

A second generation Indian American, born, raised and educated in the US, Dr. Soumya Neravetla, president of YPS, is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon actively engaged in the welfare of physicians of Indian Origin and the general public. She has extensive Trans catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) experience including launching and directing TAVR programs.  She has also directed and spearheaded Robotic Thoracic Surgery and lung cancer related programs. In spite of her busy work schedule, she collaborates with her father, Dr. Surender Reddy Neravetla (author of Salt Kills), in his mission to spread awareness about prevention of cardiovascular disease, which disproportionately affects physicians and people of Indian Origin. She is a popular medical speaker and has given several talks to medical communities and the general public, including an invitation to personally speak to the Governor of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Health.

By her example, Dr. Neravetla wants to motivate physicians of her generation to engage in their communities and AAPI. She has been an active member of AAPI, serving on many committees over the years with the hope of helping AAPI evolve into a meaningful organization for future generations. “Empowering Indian physicians and fostering career growth have been passions of mine,” says the multi-talented dynamic leader of AAPI. In her role, she hopes “to increase career networking and mentorship opportunities, and arm physicians and physicians in training with tools to better navigate their careers.  In addition, I am working to amplify AAPI’s virtual presence by enhancing website features and introducing an app.”  Understanding the current challenging situation due to the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Neravetla says, “We hope new activities like virtual job fairs, interactive chat functions and amplifying our social media presence will engage current and future generations.

 

Ayesha Singh, a 4th year medical student at the University of Louisville (Louisville, KY), had joined AAPI in 2017 and held her first leadership position on the MSRF board as Secretary in 2018. In 2019, she was elected as MSRF Vice President. She is passionate about her clinical research in atherosclerosis and spends most of her free time volunteering as Director of Patient Services for a free cardiovascular specialty clinic in the Louisville area. Ayesha is currently applying for Internal Medicine residency with plans to pursue a career in Interventional Cardiology.  Singh’s vision for MSRF is “to connect, inspire, and grow our community. I hope to further our reach to Indian American medical students by developing the mentorship program, providing research and academic opportunities, and hosting student-specific events on Step 1/2/3 prep, residency/fellowship applications, interview workshops and more.”

 

The young and aspiring Medical Professional is grateful to AAPI as “AAPI has enriched my life professionally, socially, and personally. I’ve found mentors, role models, and friends that share my heritage, passion for medicine and commitment to community service. I believe aggressive outreach that highlights AAPI’s vast network, resources, and benefits will inspire membership among young professionals and future leaders that will be dedicated to preserving the legacy of this organization.”

 

Other leaders who constitute the current executive committee include: Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect, who will be the President of AAPI in 2022-23; Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary and Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI.

Dr. Ravi Kolli is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serves as Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services. “While in the 176 years of American Medical Association (AMA) there have been only five women Presidents,” Dr. Ravi Kolli noted. “AAPI, now only in its 40th year, has the 4th female president. Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and a galaxy of women leaders are leading all the sections of AAPI, including BOT, YPS and MSRF. This is a proud moment for AAPI and a testimony of AAAPI ‘s commitment to diversity and equality in all aspects of its functioning.”

Quoting statics, Dr. Kolli pointed out that in the United States, women physicians comprise of nearly 37.8 % of all practicing physicians (390,202 of 1,058,628) and their numbers are rising fast. The proportion of female physicians under the age of 35 in the US is 60.6% and in the age group of 35-44, it is 51.5%. So, there will be a welcome sea change in the leadership of Health Care in the USA going forward. The good news is that patients hospitalized under the care of female physicians had better outcome and lower re-hospitalization rate according to a 2016 Harvard study (December 19, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine). Dr. Kolli said, “American Health care and its leadership is in safe hands, and I am so proud to support them in any way in my capacity as the President-Elect of AAPI.”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula is a clinical professor of medicine at Wright State University- Boonshoft School of medicine, Dayton, Ohio. “Honored to work with these highly talented and dedicated women leaders of AAPI, who work so hard to take AAPI to the next level.” Dr. Krishan Kumar is a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the New York region. “We are proud of our women’s leadership.  They are well balanced and open minded doctors and serve the AAPI with their heart and soul,” said Dr. Kumar.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.

“Fortunate to be leading AAPI with this amazing group of dedicated women leaders,” says Dr. Gotimukula. “We at AAPI have so much more room to grow and serve. I challenge myself, my Executive Committee to rise up to the task of building on our accomplishments and successes over the last several decades. My team, along with the dynamic group of women leaders has defined several goals for this year to further AAPI’s mission.”  For more details, please visit: www.appiusa.org

Potential Dangers of Cannabis

The stigma encompassing marijuana has been steadily declining with states legalizing it for both medical and recreational use. On March 31st, New York became the 15th state to legalize cannabis. There are currently 18 states in the U.S. that legalized recreational cannabis and the number of states are only expected to increase with time. As cannabis continues to grow in popularity, it’s important to understand the potentially harmful consequences that come along with the drug.

According to Fiona Clement, a health-policy researcher at the University of Calgary’s Cummings School of Medicine, multiple studies have shown associations between marijuana and possible adverse effects. These side effects include the risk of impaired driving, increased chance of stroke and testicular cancer, brain development changes that may affect learning and memory, and mental illnesses involving psychosis.

After the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, cases of acute injuries and various illnesses linked to cannabis use began to rise. Research shows that cannabis-related visits to hospitals in Colorado increased around 40%, from 824 per 100,000 visits to 1,146 per 100,000, in the years between 2012 and 2014. Many of those cases were related to mental illnesses, which were found to be diagnosed in individuals who use cannabis five times more than those who choose to abstain.

Mental illnesses were not the only concerning cases related to cannabis use that the Colorado hospitals had to handle. Unfortunately, cases of marijuana use leading to cyclic vomiting syndrome also increased, with some hospitals doubling in these diagnoses. There have also been several occurrences where children, under the age of 10, were accidentally poisoned by cannabis. These incidents of marijuana-related visits to the children’s hospital nearly doubled after the legalization of cannabis, suggesting that there are real risks even to individuals who are not consuming the drug.

The potential adverse outcomes have evidently not abated the popularity of cannabis. However, the age restriction for the use of marijuana should be strictly adhered to. Minors are prone to sustaining long-term damage as their brains are still in the process of developing. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which play an important role in neurotransmitter release. These receptors should increase during adolescence, as they are vital for the genetic expression of neural (brain) development. Regular use of marijuana could significantly alter these neurodevelopmental systems, leading to poor cognitive and emotional outcomes in adulthood.

There are clear risks with cannabis use and it’s important to be transparent about these consequences. “Cannabis is not the root of all evil, nor is it the cure for all diseases,” Monte says. “You’ve got to understand what the good is and what the bad is, and then make a balanced decision.”

Dr. Deepak Chopra To Host ‘Mind Body Zone’ Podcast Launching September 16

Indian-American wellness expert and integrated medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra has turned podcast host with his upcoming Audible Original title ‘Deepak Chopra’s Mind Body Zone: Living Outside the Box’ releasing September 16 this year. It will have twelve 30-minute episodes.

The exclusive podcast features thought-provoking conversations between Chopra and a mix of influential leaders, including Oprah Winfrey, Jon Batiste, X Gonzalez, Jenny Odell and more, exploring how connecting the mind to the body can promote physical and emotional well-being, creativity, inspiration and conflict resolution, Audible said in its announcement of the multi-project development deal with the author.

Each of its 12 episodes will be tied to a specific theme, including embracing the unknown, self-acceptance, white privilege, and overcoming trauma and addiction, and will be accompanied by a guided meditation, creating a holistic experience for listeners as they reflect upon each episode’s key learnings. “Additional projects forthcoming from the development deal include a short-form memoir about Chopra’s quest for inner freedom, as well as a poetry project featuring notable guests and friends of Chopra,” reveals the audio storytelling platform.

“Over the course of my life, I’ve had the privilege of learning from brilliant friends and inspiring individuals, while discovering how to connect with my deeper self,” says Deepak Chopra.

“I believe that there is immense power behind the spoken word. Emotions are tethered to the human voice. This is why I chose to share my insights and experiences through the audio medium, and develop passion projects with Audible. Through storytelling, shared dialogue and guided meditations delivered in my own voice and the voices of others, I hope to create a deeply intimate, sensory listening experience for audiences — as if we are all in the room together, learning together and reflecting together,” he adds.

Chopra is the author of 90 widely-translated books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. For the last 30 years, he has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his 91st book, ‘Total Meditation’ (Harmony Books) helps to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living.

Zola Mashariki, SVP, Head of Audible Studios at Audible notes: “We’re seeing the appetite for wellness and meditation content grow at a rapid pace, with audiences continuing to turn to Audible for unique, new ways to ground themselves and work on their overall state of well-being. There is no one better suited to help guide listeners on their personal development journey than Deepak.” (IANS)

Dr. Fauci Warns Of ‘Things Going to Get Worse’ With the Delta Variant

The U.S. is now in the midst of another COVID-19 surge driven by the delta coronavirus variant and those who refuse to take the vaccine. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says, the situation will get worse before it gets better—but he doesn’t expect to see new lockdowns.

“I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter,” Dr. Fauci said on a new episode of ABC’s This Week, referring to the massive post-holiday surge. “But things are going to get worse. If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially.”

Indeed, as the highly transmissible delta variant spreads across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in a day increased by 64% since last week (from an average of 40,597 cases in a day to 66,606). And while just over 60% of adults are fully vaccinated so far, that leaves many people—including children under the age of 12—who aren’t yet vaccinated.

The most vulnerable are those who are still unvaccinated, said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical advisor on COVID-19. And the fact that there are so many people in the country who aren’t vaccinated is prolonging the pandemic.

“From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering, and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness for the most part,” he explained. “But when you look at the country as a whole in getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated by not being vaccinated are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak, which ultimately impacts everyone.”

With so many unvaccinated people getting infected, the virus is allowed to continue to spread. That impacts other people “from the standpoint of having to wear masks, from the standpoint of the safety of the kids in school, from the standpoint of being able to open up everything the way we were when we were normal,” Dr. Fauci said.

Just last week the CDC adjusted its guidelines to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of the country with a substantial or high amount of coronavirus transmission. That’s due in large part to new research suggesting that fully vaccinated people who develop a rare breakthrough infection can spread the virus and, therefore, should wear a mask to prevent that from happening. Although the decision to get vaccinated may seem like something that only impacts you, “the fact is if you get infected, even if you are without symptoms, you very well may infect another person who may be vulnerable, who may get seriously ill,” Dr. Fauci said. “So in essence, you are encroaching on their individual rights because you’re making them vulnerable.”

The way out of this surge, ultimately, is to continue using the public health tools we are very familiar with now—starting with getting vaccinated. Wearing a mask (particularly indoors in areas of the country with a lot of COVID-19 spread) as well as avoiding crowds and washing your hands frequently can all help reduce the chances that you’ll be infected with the virus and that you’ll pass it on to other people. Taking these measures now will help us get through the current delta surge and make it less likely that another concerning variant will pop up in the future.

J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine Works Well Against Delta Variant

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine helps prevent severe disease among those infected with the Delta variant, according to a trial involving almost 480,000 health workers in South Africa. The study, known as Sisonke, provides the first large-scale evidence that the J&J vaccine works against this dominant variant, according to trial co-lead Glenda Gray. It’s probably more protective against Delta than it was with the earlier beta strain, she said in a presentation Friday.

The single-dose shot was 71% effective against hospitalization and as much as 96% effective against death, she said. It also demonstrated durability of eight months. “These results show there is no need for a booster yet,” said Gray, who is president of the South African Medical Research Council.

While the J&J vaccine is a key element to South Africa’s vaccination plan, the country temporarily paused its use in April after the U.S. decided to suspend the shot because of its link to rare blood clots. Other data have raised questions about how well the shot holds up against the highly contagious strain that has driven renewed outbreaks in countries including the U.S. and China.

One U.S. study released last month showed the J&J shot produced relatively low levels of antibodies against Delta. J&J said that analysis, which hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, had examined only one aspect of protection and didn’t consider long-lasting responses among immune cells stimulated by the vaccine. The drugmaker’s researchers have said their own data indicated that the vaccine neutralizes the variant and that additional doses weren’t needed.

Africa’s Rollout

Earlier this year J&J agreed to supply as many as 400 million vaccines to the African Union through the end of 2022, delivering a boost to a continent trailing most of the world in the race to inoculate. The dose’s requirement for just a single shot is seen as beneficial for Africa, where vaccine distribution to more than 1 billion widely dispersed people is likely to present a challenge.

In the study, the vaccine was administered to the health workers at 120 sites in both urban and rural areas from Feb. 17 to May 17. Analysis of a third data set is expected in coming days. There were two cases of the rare clotting disorder thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome among participants, with both making a complete recovery, Gray said.

 

What The Delta Variant Means For COVID-19 Spread And Vaccines

News wise — If you check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 data tracker, which tracks cases in each state, much of the country is colored bright red, indicating a high rate of transmission of COVID.

A large chunk of the population is still unvaccinated against COVID-19, fewer people are wearing masks, and more people are getting together—all while the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

Last week, the CDC recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high rates of transmission to try to turn the tide and reduce cases. That recommendation was based in part on data gathered from a July 4th holiday COVID outbreak in Provincetown, MA that seemed to indicate that even vaccinated people could spread the virus. The news left many confused and concerned about just how well they are protected.

There is danger in reading too much into this case, however, said Adam Lauring, M.D. Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist at Michigan Medicine.  “While this is clearly something to pay attention to, in the CDC report, they are pretty clear in the discussion about the limitations and what they are saying and not saying. Of course, not everyone made it that far,” noted Lauring. For example, as more people are vaccinated, it follows that more cases detected will be in vaccinated individuals.

Lauring also noted that a nasal swab COVID test measures how much viral RNA is present in a person’s nose but can’t measure how much of that virus is infectious. “The amount of genome present is a marker, but it is not the same thing as saying these people are equally as infectious,” said Lauring.

Another important point is that a swab is taken at one moment in time. “You could picture a situation where vaccinated people with Delta have a really steep rise and then a really steep fall in the amount of virus shed, whereas an unvaccinated person would have a steep rise that would remain high for longer.”

Even with all the unknowns, what was true before Delta is true now: the majority of cases will be in unvaccinated people. But, he added, “the big change is before, we were thinking vaccinated people would not transmit that often, whereas it appears that vaccinated people with the Delta variant will transmit more often than with other variants,” said Lauring.

What does this mean practically? This means that it will take additional measures, like wearing masks in certain situations—such as indoor spaces with a lot of local cases—in addition to vaccines to stop the spread of COVID.

Early data show that the vaccines are still more than 80% effective at preventing severe illness and death and are still reducing transmission. As far as boosters go, said Lauring, “I’m more concerned about people who have not been vaccinated at all.” And in the U.S., case counts continue to be highest in areas with low vaccination rates, evidence that the vaccines are working against all variants.

What about kids under 12 who don’t yet have an approved COVID vaccine?

Lauring noted that the risk of severe illness and death is low for children and that hasn’t changed, even with Delta. But as more adults become vaccinated, more of any future cases will be in unvaccinated people, including kids.

“The more transmissible the virus is, the higher the percentage of immune people you’ll need to shut down transmission.”

The best thing to do to protect kids, immunocompromised individuals and to reduce the chance for the emergence of even more transmissible variants remains to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible to safely approach herd immunity.

Lauring noted that COVID is probably here to stay.

“My sense is people are coming to grips with what that means. From a policy level, we’ll have to figure out what level of circulation and hospitalization we are comfortable with,” he said.

Back To School: FSU Center Offers Resources For Families To Help Young Learners

News wise — As children across the country prepare to go back to the classroom — some for the first time since the COVID-19 global pandemic began — the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) at Florida State University has launched a resource section specifically for families navigating those crucial early years of learning.

The “For Families” section of the FCRR website contains a diverse array of videos, instructional materials and even a comic book series to give parents, caregivers and families resources to support their children’s reading.

“The pandemic continues to present so many challenges to children’s learning in school and at home,” said FCRR Director Nicole Patton Terry. “The picture that is emerging is distressing, especially among our students who were already more vulnerable to experiencing difficulty in school. Now more than ever, teachers and families are searching for solutions. The very least we can do is make sure they have access to evidence-based resources and support to help their children.”

As researchers across the country are still trying to understand how the pandemic has impacted student learning, emerging evidence suggests that many students did not experience the learning gains that schools would have hoped for last year. The disparities between student groups are pronounced, with reports of many students with disabilities, students who are growing up in poverty, and students in race-, ethnic-, and language-minority groups experiencing even greater challenges to learning.

FCRR was established in 2002 by the Governor’s office and the Florida Legislature to improve reading — and thus learning — through the latest research. Over the past two decades, they have produced evidence-based resources for children, families, schools and communities.

As more families supported their children’s learning at home over the past 18 months, FCRR created and adapted materials geared toward that learning environment. The “For Families” page is an extension of that work and includes resources developed by faculty-sponsored projects and initiatives including the Regional Education Laboratory Southeast, the National Center on Improving Literacy and more.

FCRR faculty and students also have been actively involved in helping support educators.

The FCRR website features additional resources specifically geared toward educators and provides activity pages, screening assessments and the latest research on different educational issues.

On a local level, this summer, FCRR faculty and students offered sessions at the Florida Department of Education’s Summer Literacy Institute and provided training in reading instruction for teachers in Leon County Schools.

“We’re working with Leon County Schools to connect the dots so that educators, families and communities have access to the evidence-based tools and resources they need and so that we can develop new solutions that can address the needs they’ve identified for their students,” Patton Terry said.

The Florida Center for Reading Research is an interdisciplinary research center at Florida State University. Drawing from multiple disciplines, FCRR investigates all aspects of reading and reading-related skills across the lifespan. Through rigorous and robust research, innovation and engagement, FCRR advances the science of reading to improve learning and achievement from birth through adulthood.

When Will FDA Give Full Approval of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine as Delta Variant Surges?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun accelerating the process to fully approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, facing pressure to add resources from those who believe the lack of full approval is hampering efforts to get more Americans vaccinated.

“We recognize that for some, the FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines may bring additional confidence and encourage them to get vaccinated,” Abigail Capobianco, a spokeswoman at the FDA, said in a statement on Aug. 4. “Acknowledging the urgency related to the current state of the pandemic, we have taken an all-hands-on-deck approach, including identifying additional resources such as personnel and technological resources from across the agency and opportunities to reprioritize other activities, in order to complete our review to help combat this pandemic surge.”

President Joe Biden said last week he expects a fully approved vaccine by the early fall, but the FDA would not comment on the time frame.

Data show that being vaccinated dramatically reduces the risk of hospitalization or death following a COVID-19 infection. More than 192 million Americans have gotten at least one dose of the three vaccines that have been given emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S., made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, without widespread side effects, data show. But now the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has begun to stall with about 92 million people over age 12 still unvaccinated, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Meanwhile, the more contagious Delta variant of the virus is spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated population.

The spike in COVID-19 cases in states that have low vaccination rates has threatened to claw the U.S. back into the worst of the pandemic, and it creates a looming political liability for Biden. On Aug. 3, Biden gave a sober speech from the East Room of the White House, saying the country’s “best line of defense” against the virus “is the vaccine.” “It’s as simple as that. Period. The vaccine,” he said.

But as Biden attempts to mount more aggressive vaccination efforts to stave off the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the fact that the FDA has yet to fully approve any of the vaccines is threatening to slow progress. About 30% of unvaccinated people say they would be more likely to get a shot with full FDA approval, according to recent polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation. While the pollsters warn that may be a “proxy for more general concerns,” some doctors and public health experts in areas with low vaccination rates also say they frequently hear the FDA’s emergency authorization cited as a reason people remain hesitant to get the shot.

The Biden Administration has said all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing, and many hospital systems and universities, as well as a number of large private employers like Walmart, Google, and Disney, have begun to follow suit.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel recently released an opinion saying federal law does not prohibit companies from requiring vaccines even if they are under emergency authorization, and courts have generally upheld vaccine mandates.

But some employers and organizations have been reluctant to make similar requirements while the vaccines are still under emergency authorization. A number of public educational institutions—including the State University of New York and Colorado State University systems—have said they will mandate vaccination for students once a vaccine is fully approved. In other parts of the country, Republican politicians have used the lack of full approval to block vaccine requirements from being put into place. In Texas, for example, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on July 29 preventing any organization that receives state funds, including public universities, from requiring vaccines under emergency use authorization.

Health systems have also taken a mixed approach. Mass General Brigham, which employs 80,000 workers in Massachusetts, said it will require employees to get vaccinated once the FDA issues its full approval for at least one of the vaccines, as did Beaumont Health, the largest health care system in Michigan. Other large health systems like Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Health, and Christus Health have not put in place vaccine requirements and say they are still monitoring the situation.

“We need to see a full approval before we’ll do another evaluation of thinking about a requirement in the future,” says Dr. Sam Bagchi, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Christus. He notes that the health system is already facing “unprecedented staffing challenges” due to many health care workers quitting or taking early retirement during the pandemic. If his hospitals required workers to get vaccinated now, he fears it would push workers away at a time when they need more staff due to rising COVID-19 cases.

Long-term care facilities are in a particularly precarious position. LeadingAge, the national trade group for non-profit nursing homes and other aging services, recently called for its members to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as vaccination efforts have stalled in places where the virus devastated residents and staff last year. But Katie Smith Sloan, the group’s president and CEO, says she knows many of her member facilities can’t afford to lose staff who aren’t ready to get vaccinated. “We’re already facing acute shortages, particularly nursing assistants and nurses in long-term care, home health, nursing homes, and assisted living,” she says. She hopes that an FDA approval will make more workers volunteer to get vaccinated and encourage more facilities to require it.

Even the U.S. military is still weighing what to do. It has not yet required that its 1.3 million active duty personnel be vaccinated, and senior military medical officials are watching the FDA approval process closely. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is consulting with medical experts and still weighing whether to request approval from Biden to require vaccines, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Aug. 3.

The FDA typically completes a priority review, like it is conducting for Pfizer, in six to eight months. Pfizer says it submitted a rolling application in May and Moderna—which manufactures one of the other approved COVID-19 vaccines—says it submitted a rolling application in June, meaning both companies could turn in portions of their applications while continuing to collect data. The process is “moving forward as rapidly as possible in keeping with the high-quality complete assessment that the public expects from the FDA,” said FDA spokeswoman Capobianco.

The COVID-19 pandemic was the first time that the FDA granted emergency use authorization to a vaccine for widespread use. The EUA designation was developed after the Sept. 11 attacks and originally intended for potentially lifesaving medicines or other products during an emergency like a terrorist attack or a more acute disease outbreak. To get an EUA for the COVID-19 vaccines, manufacturers had to follow special guidelines that included submitting two months of clinical trial data, along with information about the quality and consistency of the vaccines—and the FDA had to establish that the “potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks” of the vaccine.

For full approval, the FDA must review significantly more data and make a larger determination that a vaccine is ready to be licensed, according to Dr. Jesse Goodman, former chief scientist at the FDA and a professor at Georgetown University. This involves analyzing hundreds of thousands of pages of material about the clinical trials, manufacturing processes and how the vaccines have functioned in the real world since the agency authorized it for emergency use. Regulators will check the vaccine manufacturer’s data and perform their own analyses to verify the vaccine’s efficacy, how that efficacy might decline over time and any evidence of potential side effects. They will also inspect manufacturing plants to ensure high levels of quality control—a particularly complex job given that these vaccines used new technology, Goodman says. He notes the FDA “has historically been under-resourced” and that there are a limited number of people with the appropriate expertise to review these new vaccines.

While all that can take time, public health experts are calling for more transparency from the agency as the U.S. struggles to convince a significant portion of its population to take the lifesaving shot. “It’s been a black box,” says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Particularly since we’re dealing with a pandemic and the taxpayers of the United States are paying for this vaccine, I think having the leadership of the FDA be more explicit about what the process is, and why it’s taking so long, would be at the very least instructive.”

But some worry hastening the approval process could backfire. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, warned in a letter to the New York Times last month that “any vaccine approval without completion of the high-quality review and evaluation that Americans expect the agency to perform would undermine the F.D.A.’s statutory responsibilities, affect public trust in the agency and do little to help combat vaccine hesitancy.”

Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at University of Michigan who chairs the committee of outside experts that advises the FDA on vaccines, including for COVID-19, agrees. “They’re trying as hard as they can,” he says, “given the constraints that they’re working under.”

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last week that he was hopeful the Food and Drug Administration will give full approval to the coronavirus vaccine by month’s end and predicted the potential move will spur a wave of vaccine mandates in the private sector as well as schools and universities.

Moderna’s Vaccine Is 93% Effective After 6 Months

Moderna said its COVID-19 vaccine remained 93% effective through six months after the second shot, as it reported second-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations. A final analysis of the company’s late-stage study, described in a statement on Thursday, suggests the vaccine’s protection remains stable for long after recipients complete the standard two-dose regimen. The 93% effectiveness level is just short of the shot’s initial efficacy of 94%.

Concern that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines could wane has stoked talk of booster shots, and some countries have begun to offer vulnerable people third doses. However, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on such measures on Wednesday until more people in the developing world are inoculated. The recommendation could limit the reach of Moderna’s shot, called Spikevax.

The shares fell 2.9% as of 8:28 a.m. before U.S. markets opened Thursday. COVID-19 vaccine-maker Pfizer lost 0.6%, while its partner BioNTech shed 3.8%.

Moderna’s latest efficacy data hasn’t been published in a medical journal and further details weren’t released. Despite the apparent endurance of its vaccine, Moderna is exploring options for supplemental shots that could fend off emerging strains of the virus.

All three of the company’s booster candidates produced “robust antibody responses” against delta and other variants of concern in a phase 2 human study, Moderna said in its statement. The boosters are being tested at a 50 microgram dose, or half what is used in the current shot. That data has been submitted to a journal for publication, the company said.

Seeking Approval

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna also said it expected to complete its submission for full Food and Drug Administration approval for its vaccine this month.

The agency is already reviewing the submission for a rival messenger RNA vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and is under growing pressure to complete the process quickly. With the delta variant sparking a new wave of cases, advocates say an approval could help convince more people to get a shot.

Moderna, which reported its first profit earlier this year, had net income of almost $2.8 billion in the quarter ending June 30 on revenue of $4.4 billion, almost all of which is from its COVID-19 shot. Diluted earnings per share of $6.46 easily beat analysts expectations, according to a survey of analysts by Bloomberg, while revenue only slightly exceeded expectations.

The company said in the release it has signed $20 billion worth of COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreements for 2021, up from the $19.2 billion it announced in May. For 2022, it already has signed agreements for $12 billion in vaccine sales with options for $8 billion more. Moderna didn’t increase its forecast that it will produce 800 million to 1 billion COVID vaccine doses this year.

Seeking Deals

Moderna’s views for total sales of its COVID-19 vaccine pale in comparison to the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, which has a higher manufacturing capacity for its shot. Last month, Pfizer boosted its vaccine sales forecast for 2021 to $33.5 billion.

Moderna’s shares have quadrupled since the beginning of the year, and the company hit $100 billion in market value for the first time July 14. The stock was made part of the S&P 500 last month and is the index’s best performer this calendar year.

As the biotech seeks to grow further, it will look opportunities to acquire or license technologies that could enhance its platform. Moderna, which has more than $12 billion in cash and investments, will focus on nucleic acid technologies, such as mRNA, gene editing, and gene therapy, the company said in a presentation.

Moderna has also built out its suite of leaders to double down on its commercial franchise. In the last quarter, the company hired Paul Burton, a former Johnson & Johnson executive, to serve as chief medical officer, and Ogilvy’s Kate Cronin as chief brand officer.

Why WHO Wants The World To Hold Off On Booster Dose?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon wealthy nations to halt their plans for administering booster doses till at least end of September in order to ensure enough vaccine availability for the less developed and poor nations.

The agency said the halt should last at least two months, to give the world a chance to meet the director-general’s goal of vaccinating 10% of the population of every country by the end of September.

“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low income countries,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.

The request is part of Ghebreyesus’ plan to vaccinate 40% of the world by December, according to his senior advisor, Dr. Bruce Aylward.

According to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world needs “an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low income countries” in order for at least 10% of each country’s population to be vaccinated by end of September and 40% of the world’s population by December.

While booster doses are now accepted as a reality as most vaccines’ efficacy wanes after some months, very few countries have started administering booster shots given that even the first two doses of double-dose vaccines have not yet been given. Countries that have started administering boosters include Dominican Republic, which is not exactly in the club of wealthy nations and has a population of less than Delhi’s. Israel is another country to have announced its decision to administer booster doses to its geriatric population. In the US, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital have said they would allow booster dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is a single shot vaccine.

Experts have blamed cornering of vaccines by high income countries for the vaccine inequity. High-income countries administered around 50 doses for every 100 people in May, and that number has since doubled, according to WHO. Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people.

The European Union (EU), with a population of around 448 million, has ordered enough vaccines to inoculate each EU resident with 6.9 doses. The UK has ordered 8.2 doses per citizen. The US, with a population of 328 million, has ordered enough to administer each of its citizens with 4.6 doses. The case of Canada is even more glaring — for a population of around 38 million, it has ordered enough doses to administer each citizen with 10.5 doses.

Contrast that with countries like Haiti, which only recently received its first batch of vaccines, to administer the first dose. The African Union, on the other hand, has ordered just enough to administer 0.4 doses per citizen.

Added to that is the export restrictions that were imposed by several wealthy nations on vaccines, many of which were being manufactured there. In cases like that of India, the country’s prioritization for vaccinating its own population first coupled with production capacity constraints that have still not been resolved has led to India not being able to fulfil its global obligations for vaccine supply.

Why Food Could Be The Best Medicine Of All

When Tom Shicowich’s toe started feeling numb in 2010, he brushed it off as a temporary ache. At the time, he didn’t have health insurance, so he put off going to the doctor. The toe became infected, and he got so sick that he stayed in bed for two days with what he assumed was the flu. When he finally saw a doctor, the physician immediately sent Shicowich to the emergency room. Several days later, surgeons amputated his toe, and he ended up spending a month in the hospital to recover.

Shicowich lost his toe because of complications of Type 2 diabetes as he struggled to keep his blood sugar under control. He was overweight and on diabetes medications, but his diet of fast food and convenient, frozen processed meals had pushed his disease to life-threatening levels.

After a few more years of trying unsuccessfully to treat Shicowich’s diabetes, his doctor recommended that he try a new program designed to help patients like him. Launched in 2017 by the Geisinger Health System at one of its community hospitals, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides healthy foods—heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options—to patients in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and teaches them how to incorporate those foods into their daily diet. Each week, Shicowich, who lives below the federal poverty line and is food-insecure, picks up recipes and free groceries from the Farmacy’s food bank and has his nutrition questions answered and blood sugar monitored by the dietitians and health care managers assigned to the Farmacy. In the year and a half since he joined the program, Shicowich has lost 60 lb., and his A1C level, a measure of his blood sugar, has dropped from 10.9 to 6.9, which means he still has diabetes but it’s out of the dangerous range. “It’s a major, major difference from where I started from,” he says. “It’s been a life-changing, lifesaving program for me.”

\Geisinger’s program is one of a number of groundbreaking efforts that finally consider food a critical part of a patient’s medical care—and treat food as medicine that can have as much power to heal as drugs. More studies are revealing that people’s health is the sum of much more than the medications they take and the tests they get—health is affected by how much people sleep and exercise, how much stress they’re shouldering and, yes, what they are eating at every meal.

Food is becoming a particular focus of doctors, hospitals, insurers and even employers who are frustrated by the slow progress of drug treatments in reducing food-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. They’re also encouraged by the growing body of research that supports the idea that when people eat well, they stay healthier and are more likely to control chronic diseases and perhaps even avoid them altogether. “When you prioritize food and teach people how to prepare healthy meals, lo and behold, it can end up being more impactful than medications themselves,” says Dr. Jaewon Ryu, interim president and CEO of Geisinger. “That’s a big win.”

The problem is that eating healthy isn’t as easy as popping a pill. For some, healthy foods simply aren’t available. And if they are, they aren’t affordable. So more hospitals and physicians are taking action to break down these barriers to improve their patients’ health. In cities where fresh produce is harder to access, hospitals have worked with local grocers to provide discounts on fruits and vegetables when patients provide a “prescription” written by their doctor; the Cleveland Clinic sponsors farmers’ markets where local growers accept food assistance vouchers from federal programs like WIC as well as state-led initiatives. And some doctors at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco hand out recipes instead of (or along with) prescriptions for their patients, pulled from the organization’s Thrive Kitchen, which also provides low-cost monthly cooking classes for members of its health plan. Hospitals and clinics across the country have also visited Geisinger’s program to learn from its success.

But doctors alone can’t accomplish this food transformation. Recognizing that healthier members not only live longer but also avoid expensive visits to the emergency room, insurers are starting to reward healthy eating by covering sessions with nutritionists and dietitians. In February, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts began covering tailored meals from the nonprofit food program Community Servings for its members with congestive heart failure who can’t afford the low-fat, low-sodium meals they need. Early last year, Congress assigned a first ever bipartisan Food Is Medicine working group to explore how government-sponsored food programs could address hunger and also lower burgeoning health care costs borne by Medicare when it comes to complications of chronic diseases. “The idea of food as medicine is not only an idea whose time has come,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It’s an idea that’s absolutely essential to our health care system.”

Ask any doctor how to avoid or mitigate the effects of the leading killers of Americans and you’ll likely hear that eating healthier plays a big role. But knowing intuitively that food can influence health is one thing, and having the science and the confidence to back it up is another. And it’s only relatively recently that doctors have started to bridge this gap.

It’s hard to look at health outcomes like heart disease and cancer that develop over long periods of time and tie them to specific foods in the typical adult’s varied diet. Plus, foods are not like drugs that can be tested in rigorous studies that compare people who eat a cup of blueberries a day, for example, with those who don’t to determine if the fruit can prevent cancers. Foods aren’t as discrete as drugs when it comes to how they act on the body either—they can contain a number of beneficial, and possibly less beneficial, ingredients that work in divergent systems.

Doctors also know that we eat not only to feed our cells but also because of emotions, like feeling happy or sad. “It’s a lot cheaper to put someone on three months of statins [to lower their cholesterol] than to figure out how to get them to eat a healthy diet,” says Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

But drugs are expensive—the average American spends $1,400 a year on medications—and if people can’t afford them, they go without, increasing the likelihood that they’ll develop complications as they progress to severe stages of their illness, which in turn forces them to require more—and costly—health care. What’s more, it’s not as if the medications are cure-alls; while deaths from heart disease are declining, for example, the most recent report from the American Heart Association showed that the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% in 1999–2000 to 37.7% in 2013–2014, and 40% of adults have high total cholesterol.

What people are eating contributes to those stubborn trends, and making nutrition a bigger priority in health care instead of an afterthought may finally start to reverse them. Although there aren’t the same types of rigorous trials proving food’s worth that there are for drugs, the data that do exist, from population-based studies of what people eat, as well as animal and lab studies of specific active ingredients in food, all point in the same direction.

The power of food as medicine gained scientific credibility in 2002, when the U.S. government released results of a study that pitted a diet and exercise program against a drug treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program compared people assigned to a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt that included lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables with people assigned to take metformin to lower blood sugar. Among people at high risk of developing diabetes, those taking metformin lowered their risk of actually getting diabetes by 31% compared with those taking a placebo, while those who modified their diet and exercised regularly lowered their risk by 58% compared with those who didn’t change their behaviors, a near doubling in risk reduction.

Studies showing that food could treat disease as well soon followed. In 2010, Medicare reimbursed the first lifestyle-based program for treating heart disease, based on decades of work by University of California, San Francisco, heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish. Under his plan, people who had had heart attacks switched to a low-fat diet, exercised regularly, stopped smoking, lowered their stress levels with meditation and strengthened their social connections. In a series of studies, he found that most followers lowered their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also reversed some of the blockages in their heart arteries, reducing their episodes of angina.

In recent years, other studies have shown similar benefits for healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet—which is high in good fats like olive oil and omega-3s, nuts, fruits and vegetables—in preventing repeat events for people who have had a heart attack. “It’s clear that people who are coached on how to eat a Mediterranean diet high in nuts or olive oil get more benefit than we’ve found in similarly conducted trials of statins [to lower cholesterol],” says Rimm. Researchers found similar benefit for people who have not yet had a heart attack but were at higher risk of having one.

Animal studies and analyses of human cells in the lab are also starting to expose why certain foods are associated with lower rates of disease. Researchers are isolating compounds like omega-3s found in fish and polyphenols in apples, for example, that can inhibit cancer tumors’ ability to grow new blood vessels. Nuts and seeds can protect parts of our chromosomes so they can repair damage they encounter more efficiently and help cells stay healthy longer.

If food is indeed medicine, then it’s time to treat it that way. In his upcoming book, Eat to Beat Disease, Dr. William Li, a heart expert, pulled together years of accumulated data and proposes specific doses of foods that can treat diseases ranging from diabetes to breast cancer. Not all doctors agree that the science supports administering food like drugs, but he’s hoping the controversial idea will prompt more researchers to study food in ways as scientifically rigorous as possible and generate stronger data in coming years. “We are far away from prescribing diets categorically to fight disease,” he says. “And we may never get there. But we are looking to fill in the gaps that have long existed in this field with real science. This is the beginning of a better tomorrow.”

And talking about food in terms of doses might push more doctors to put down their prescription pads and start going over grocery lists with their patients instead. So far, the several hundred people like Shicowich who rely on the Fresh Food Farmacy have lowered their risk of serious diabetes complications by 40% and cut hospitalizations by 70% compared with other diabetic people in the area who don’t have access to the program. This year, on the basis of its success so far, the Fresh Food Farmacy is tripling the number of patients it supports.

Shicowich knows firsthand how important that will be for people like him. When he was first diagnosed, he lost weight and controlled his blood sugar, but he found those changes hard to maintain and soon saw his weight balloon and his blood-sugar levels skyrocket. He’s become one of the program’s better-known success stories and now works part time in the produce section of a supermarket and cooks nearly all his meals. He’s expanding his cooking skills to include fish, which he had never tried preparing before. “I know what healthy food looks like, and I know what to do with it now,” he says. “Without this program, and without the support system, I’d probably still be sitting on the couch with a box of Oreos.” (Photographs By Zachary Zavislak)

Weight Gain During Covid-19: The Resulting Sleep Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and our lives in so many ways, and for so many of us, this time that was largely spent at home staying safe also meant indulging in comfort foods. As a result of this, many Americans have gained weight over the last year. One study of 3,000 Americans done by the American Psychological Association found that 61 percent of respondents had an unwanted weight change during COVID.

The thing is, yes, our bodies may have changed in ways we didn’t want them to, but the most important thing to remember is that our bodies also got us through a global pandemic, and that’s something to be grateful for. But with the new working-from-home lifestyle, elevated stress levels, and gym closures that we all faced during the pandemic, it means that some have put on a few pounds. Other than the extra weight being an annoyance, it can also lead to other lifestyle hiccups, like sleep, for instance. Weight fluctuations, believe it or not, can affect your sleep hygiene, so it’s important to understand how weight, stress, and sleep go hand in hand (in hand), so you can make sure you’re still getting enough sleep at night, even with a change in lifestyle and health.

If you’ve found that you’ve recently experienced a change in weight and your sleep has been affected as a result of it (or if you just want some assistance in finding better sleep), we’ve put together a guide on understanding your new body and how it can affect the rest of your lifestyle.

The Pandemic’s Negative Effects on Weight Gain and Healthy Sleep

The COVID-19 pandemic, to put it simply, has been awful. Not only has it had a huge, negative impact on the world as a whole, but it’s been incredibly stressful (and dangerous) for people everywhere. This stress over the past year has had a direct result on your sleep, whether you’ve realized it or not. Dubbed “coronasomnia,” this COVID-related sleeplessness has been difficult to battle, but stress is only one factor here.

Stress is actually related to why so many people have gained weight over the last year, along with lack of activity. While we were all playing it safe by staying home to avoid getting sick, many of us were also not moving very much. Suddenly many people are working from home and falling into a totally different lifestyle from what they were used to.

The APA survey found that the average amount of weight gain over the last year was 29 pounds, but answers varied greatly. The survey also asked about how the pandemic affected mental health, and many said they felt a negative impact. When your mental health suffers, so much can go right along with it, including your physical health. During this time, when there was so much uncertainty, many found comfort in things like food or curling up on the couch with Netflix. While those might provide immediate comfort, it also leads to weight gain, which can have further negative effects on your body.

Other pandemic habits that could have negatively affected your weight include:

Your work-from-home lifestyle: Working from home means you aren’t getting any movement you might have gotten from a commute. Even if you drive to and from work, you aren’t getting up in the morning and doing a morning routine, walking to your car, walking into work, and reversing it at the end of the day. A WFH lifestyle has been appealing for many because you got time back in your day, but it also meant less activity.

Being stuck indoors: For many people, their activity was an outdoor thing. For much of the last year, we’ve been staying indoors, which cut out outdoor activities that increased exercise. As the virus started to wane, people were able to get outside more and more, but that was only after several months of staying inside. The benefits of being outdoors are not only great for physical health but mental health, as well.

Gym closures: Gyms and fitness centers were closed for a long time, and if that was your only way of working out, you might have lost out on your exercise time. Not everyone has the space or means to work out at home, so maybe you took a break from calorie-burning. That’s okay!

Many things could have gone into your weight gain over the past year, and, again, the most important thing to remember right now is that you’re here, you’ve made it through this pandemic, and you want to live a healthy lifestyle, and that means making sure you’re paying attention to your sleep hygiene, even with a little bit of extra weight on you. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know.

How Weight Gain Can Impact Your Ability to Sleep

An unfortunate side effect of gaining weight is disrupted sleep. It can happen for a variety of reasons, but many of these factors can be tied back to a change in your weight. Just like other factors in your life can affect how you sleep at night, a change in your body in any form definitely can. Here’s a look at how weight affects your sleep hygiene.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is what occurs when you momentarily stop breathing while you’re asleep. Studies have shown that sleep apnea can occur for a number of reasons, one of which is an elevated weight. If you’re an older man, you’re also at a higher risk for sleep apnea, and weight gain can only make you more at risk for this sleep disorder. Sleep apnea can be very dangerous if left untreated, so if you have any suspicion that you’re dealing with this (snoring, insomnia, and morning headaches are all symptoms), check with your doctor for treatment.

Discomfort while sleeping

If you’ve put on a significant amount of weight, you might feel uncomfortable while sleeping. This can be from added strain on your body from the extra weight. Your joints probably aren’t used to some extra weight on them, and that can make you uncomfortable while you’re sleeping. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t sleep well. One way to combat this is with a more comfortable sleeping environment, like with a better mattress and supportive pillows.

Added stress

This is a vicious cycle. The pandemic has certainly added stress to your life, which may have contributed to your weight gain, and the stress and weight gain can make it more difficult to sleep at night. Without a good night of sleep, you’re more likely to make poor food choices during the day and be more stressed because you’re tired, continuing the cycle. Stress wreaks so much havoc on your sleep patterns, so it’s important to do whatever you can to cut back on stress in the way that works best for you.

A way to target all of these sleep issues is, of course, to work toward a healthy weight goal, but we know that’s easier said than done and not necessarily a priority for everyone. Studies have shown that a decrease in belly fat is linked to better sleep, but it’s virtually impossible to target belly fat when working out or eating healthy. While you can tone certain muscles with weight lifting, you can’t reduce fat on your body. So if you want to reduce belly fat, you simply have to eat healthily and exercise — the fat will come off everywhere, including your belly.

Your weight also factors into your Body Mass Index (BMI), and while this metric is often viewed as wildly outdated and irrelevant, studies have analyzed how it equates to sleep patterns. One study showed that people who had a lower BMI slept longer hours than those with a higher BMI. A healthy BMI range is considered to be about 18.5 to 25. While it can be a goal to aim for what is considered a healthy BMI on the scale, your better bet is to either consult your own healthcare provider on what a healthy weight is for you or simply work toward a level of health that is attainable and maintainable.

Tips for Achieving Better Sleep

No matter what your concern, there are always ways to improve your sleeping habits. It may take some trial and error to figure out what tips will work for you, but good sleep is worth the effort. Here are a few things you can try.

Set a consistent bedtime

This is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep. Create a routine for yourself that starts with bedtime preparation. Maybe it includes a warm bath, and maybe it includes reading a few pages, maybe it includes listening to some music. All of these can help you wind down, but whatever you have to do, make sure you’re climbing into bed around the same time every night. Ideally, you want to get in bed in enough time for a complete night of sleep (depending on age, this could vary from seven to 10 hours for people over the age of 13).

Consider what time you need to wake up in the morning and work your way back from there to set your bedtime, and stick to that. This routine will help get your body in the mode for bedtime on a regular basis.

Avoid snacking before bed

While some foods can help you sleep, eating the wrong foods before bed is more of a bad idea than a good one. Some foods can lead to indigestion or prolonged wakefulness. If you’re very hungry and it’s nearing bedtime, reach for foods with natural melatonin or things that will sit well in your stomach as you’re falling asleep.

Create a den of comfort

If your bed isn’t comfortable, you won’t sleep well, plain and simple. Make sure you have a mattress that’s appropriate for your sleeping style, as well as any bells and whistles you might need. These could be mattress toppers for more comfort, pillows that better support your neck, or even an adjustable bed base to elevate you. Though these changes in your bed can come with a price tag, there are plenty of affordable options for mattresses, pillows, and accessories. For the best sleep, it’s important to create a comfortable and supportive sleeping environment.

If your weight has changed, it might make your mattress feel completely different than it used to. Different mattress constructions will hold your weight differently, and if you’re heavier, you’ll sink into the mattress more. On some mattresses, that means you have less support than you once did.

It’s important to consider your weight when shopping for a mattress and understanding how different mattresses feel for different body types. Someone who is incredibly petite will have a different sleeping experience than someone who is of average weight. If you’re on the heavier side, you want to find a mattress that will support you for a long period of time and not break down or start to sag. There are mattresses on the market designed for people of larger stature so you can be sure you’re getting a supportive night of quality sleep. In general, these mattresses are hybrids made with coils or innersprings. Foam mattresses don’t provide proper support for larger people, which is why looking for a mattress with a spring or coil core is a better option.

If you’re struggling with sleep and think changing your mattress could help, it’s worth looking into a properly supportive mattress for your sleeping style or even your weight.

Consider the season

The time of year can absolutely affect how well you sleep. If it’s cold season, that can make it harder to breathe or sleep comfortably during the night. If it’s allergy season, you might also have a hard time breathing at night. While it can be tricky to really do much about something like a cold or allergies, it’s worth keeping them in mind if insomnia is knocking at your door. Do what you can to remedy any of these seasonal annoyances, like by using a humidifier or dehumidifier (depending on your concern) while you sleep or adding some melatonin into your bedtime routine to make sleeping easier.

Exercise

Yes, exercise will definitely help you sleep. You can look at it in a few different ways. One, exercise can be a great stress relief, and less stress usually means better sleep. Exercise also, quite simply, makes you tired. (Though you don’t want to exercise right before bed because your body doesn’t have enough time to cool down and head into the proper circadian rhythm.) Exercising during the day raises your heart rate and encourages the release of melatonin into the body, keeping your circadian rhythm running smoothly — which all contribute to a restful night of sleep.

And of course, we know exercise is a great way to burn off some calories, which can be helpful if you’re carrying a little extra weight that you don’t want. It doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up and break a sweat. Even a simple walk each day is beneficial for all these factors that contribute to better sleep.

Cut the screens

Ditch your phones, TVs, and tablets before bedtime. Though it’s not a big deal to use your gadgets earlier in the evening, once you get in bed, you should put them away or turn them off. The harsh light makes it harder to sleep, and we all know how addicting it can be to continuously scroll through social media. Put them away when you get in bed and reset your mind for sleep instead.

Closing

The most important thing you can remember from all of this is that your body got you through a pandemic. So maybe it looks a little different today than it did a year ago. Bodies change all the time, and you have to give yourself a little bit of grace. Though weight fluctuations can affect your lifestyle, including your sleep hygiene, it’s a manageable concern that you can definitely get through. You’re still here, and you’re open to finding ways to make changes. That’s what matters.

AAPI Raises Over $5 Million Towards Covid Relief Efforts In India

Provides 2300 Oxygen Concentrators, 100 Ventilators And 100 High Flow Nasal Canula Machines To 45 Hospitals In India

(Chicago, IL: August 1, 2021) The deadly Corona virus has claimed millions of lives and it has placed the entire healthcare sector both in India and the United States under tremendous stress. While the Indian American medical fraternity has been at the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic, American Association of physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the USA representing the interest of more than 100,000 physicians in the USA, has stepped up to the plate to deal with the crisis of India during its second deadly wave.

“The generosity of the members of AAPI and Indian community has been unprecedented,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI. “I want to thank the AAPI fraternity, for not only contributing $5 Million towards Covid Relief Funds, but has spent hundreds of hours in coordinating and disbursing the vital medical supplies to the most needed hospitals across India.”

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised almost $5 million in the past few months,” said Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT, who has dedicated her services at the Emergency Department, serving thousands of Covid patients in the New Jersey.

“During my entire year of presidency, impacted by the deadly pandemic, AAPI has initiated several efforts to help our Mother India,” recalls Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Immediate past-president of AAPI. “Aptly so, the annual Convention last month in Atlanta was a tribute to frontline healthcare professionals who have devoted their lives and work serving humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Many parts of India continue to face the deadly second wave of COVID-19. Number of reported Covid positive cases seems to be on the rise and thousands reportedly die daily. Hospitals and medical facilities face shortage of oxygen and ICU beds, with patients lacking in adequate care.

“We have been working very diligently  in sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators to India, to deal with the calamity in India and are in the process of helping to set up oxygen generator plants in different hospitals in India,” added, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI.

Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, AAPI’s Regionasl Director, who has been one of the many AAPI leaders who has been coordinating the efforts said, “Thus far, AAPI has provided 2300 Concentrators, 100 Ventilators and 100 High Flow Nasal Canula Machines To 45 Hospitals In India as part of the Covid Pandemic Relief Efforts.”

As some predict a 3rd wave of the pandemic in India, AAPI has been planning and collaborating with several agencies and the government of India to help reach the much needed care and supplies to the remotest places in India.  “AAPI will continue to use the remaining funds in preparation of the impending Covid 3rd wave,” said Dr. Anjana Samadder,” Vice-President  of AAPI.

 

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said, “AAPI has been coordinating several efforts, including tele-health to patients and Doctors in India. Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised over $5 million.” “The outbreak of Covid 19 has caused significant health-related social, political and economic consequences worldwide. AAPI members have  been working very hard in sending medical equipment to India,” Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI pointed out.

“We are discussing about coordinating efforts to make available the much needed vaccines in the Slum areas in Delhi And Hyderabad where compliance is very low and apart from life saving equipment for severe Covid patients management in ICUs,” said Dr. Anil Tibrewal, who has been in the forefront leading AAPI’s efforts to help India during the Covid.

As AAPI cannot direct its resources to specific areas and relies on government of India to distribute its supplies, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, past Secretary of AAPI and several other AAPI leaders have been working outside of the umbrella of AAPI for direct transfer of the essential material, focusing mainly on the peripheral hospitals who do not get aid readily.  HELP INDIA BREATHE is a part of ApShiNi ventures’ endeavor by a group of Doctors in helping individuals to donate Oxygen related supplies to India during this unprecedented calamity.

“The past year, while posing major challenges have also provided opportunities for AAPI to continue to work together in helping realize the mission of AAPI,” said Dr. Gotimukula. “We are proud that several Indian American physicians are recognized globally for their contributions to combat the deadly pandemic. We will continue our efforts and give our best to our Motherland in her fight against the deadly pandemic.” For more information on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Was US Money Used To Fund Risky Research Lab In China That Supposedly Is The Origin Of Coronavirus?

As the debate continues over the origins of the coronavirus, a heated political battle is taking place over virus research carried out in China using US funds. It’s linked to the unproven theory that the virus could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first detected.

A report released by Republican lawmakers cites “ample evidence” that the lab was working to modify coronaviruses to infect humans and calls for a bipartisan investigation into its origins.

Republican Senator Rand Paul also alleges that US money was used to fund research there that made some viruses more infectious and more deadly, a process known as “gain-of-function”.

But this has been firmly rejected by Dr Anthony Fauci, the US infectious diseases chief. What is ‘gain-of-function’ research? “Gain-of-function” is when an organism develops new abilities (or “functions”).

This can happen in nature, or it can be achieved in a lab, when scientists modify the genetic code or place organisms in different environments, to change them in some way.

For example, this might involve scientists trying to create drought-resistant plants or modify disease vectors in mosquitoes to make them less likely to pass on infections.

With viruses that could pose a risk to human health, it means developing viruses that are potentially more transmissible and dangerous.

Scientists justify the potential risks by saying the research can help prepare for future outbreaks and pandemics by understanding how viruses evolve, and therefore develop better treatments and vaccines.

Did the US fund virus research in China?

Yes, it did contribute some funds. Dr. Fauci, as well as being an adviser to President Biden, is the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This body did give money to an organization that collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That organization – the US-based Eco Health Alliance – was awarded a grant in 2014 to look into possible coronaviruses from bats.

Eco Health received $3.7m from the NIH, $600,000 of which was given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In 2019, its project was renewed for another five years, but then pulled by the Trump administration in April 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, Dr Fauci stated that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology”.

Senator Rand Paul asked Dr Fauci if he wanted to retract that statement, saying: “As you are aware it is a crime to lie to Congress.” Senator Paul believes the research did qualify as “gain-of-function” research, and referred to two academic papers by the Chinese institute, one from 2015 (written together with the University of North Carolina), and another from 2017. One prominent scientist supporting this view – and quoted by Senator Paul – is Prof Richard Ebright of Rutgers University.

He told the BBC that the research in both papers showed that new viruses (that did not already exist naturally) were created, and these “risked creating new potential pathogens” that were more infectious. “The research in both papers was gain-of-function research”, he said.

He added that it met the official definition of such research outlined in 2014 when the US government halted funding for such activities due to biosafety concerns. The funding was paused to allow a new framework to be drawn up for such research.

Why does Dr Fauci reject this charge?

Dr Fauci told the Senate hearing the research in question “has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain-of-function definition”. He also said it was “molecularly impossible” for these viruses to have resulted in the coronavirus, although he did not elaborate.

The NIH and Eco Health Alliance have also rejected suggestions they supported or funded “gain-of-function” research in China. They say they funded a project to examine “at the molecular level” newly-discovered bat viruses and their spike proteins (which help the virus bind to living cells) “without affecting the environment or development or physiological state of the organism”.

One of the US scientists who collaborated on the 2015 research on bat viruses with the Wuhan institute, Dr Ralph Baric from the University of North Carolina, gave a detailed statement to the Washington Post.

He said the work they did was reviewed by both the NIH and the university’s own biosafety committee “for potential of gain-of-function research and were deemed not to be gain-of-function”. He also says that none of the viruses which were the subject of the 2015 study are related to Sars-Cov-2, which caused the pandemic in 2020.

Ayurveda Tech Platform Nirogstreet Secures Funding Of $2.5 Million

NirogStreet, India’s first technology-led Ayurveda doctor platform, has secured $2.5 million in Series A funding from a series of investors including DoorDash executive Gokul Rajaram, Raj Mishra of Indea Capital, former Morgan Stanley CEO Ashutosh Sinha and Anuj Srivastava, founder of Livspace, among others.

Ram N Kumar, the founder of NirogStreet, has told the media that he was fortunate to find a clutch of investors from the US, who could not just invest but guide. “For me, if you get a person like Gokul to help you while building a company, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Kumar said.

The firm plans to use the funds to strengthen its technology offering for doctors and to start operations in more States. The start-up intends to create an engaging technology platform that will allow ease of access to Ayurvedic healthcare through technological interventions, while creating easy access to high quality medicines, avenues for income generation for doctors, and also helping SME medicine manufacturers to reach out to a larger base of doctors.

“Ayurveda has demonstrated its leadership in the time of Covid-19 and we played an important role in making Ayurveda mainstream. The focus of NirogStreet is to create tech-oriented data and solutions to create better opportunities for both doctors, manufacturers and customers,” NirogStreet founder Ram N Kumar, said in a statement.

“As a B2B2C technology-enabled and doctor-led platform, we are consistently focusing on identifying best practices to improve the supply chain of Ayurvedic services and medicine, giving Ayurveda its due share and the recognition that it deserves by empowering those at the centre of this universe – Ayurveda doctors – to create an experience that patients can trust,” he said.

Gokul Rajaram, top executive at Doordash and currently on the Pinterest and Coinbase boards as member said, “I’m incredibly excited to support Ram and the NirogStreet team in their mission to enable people globally to access and benefit from Ayurveda. He is doing a commendable job in nurturing the Ayurvedic fraternity in India as well as the sustainable healthcare ecosystem by capacity and knowledge building. We’re proud to back Ram and his team at NirogStreet.”

NirogStreet claims to work with over 50,000 doctors on its peer-to-peer learning, Electronic Health Record and B2B e-commerce platform, with a focus on strategic deployment of technology. Since the beginning of the pandemic, NirogStreet’s unique tech platform has also empowered ayurvedic doctors to consult patients across the globe via Tele-Ayurveda and offer solutions that were previously not available to them. It has also enabled doctors to dispatch medicines on time to their patients using NirogStreet.

 

Rajaram reportedly said that he was inspired by Kumar’s journey and compelling founding story. “He contracted hepatitis C and got cured through Ayurvedic treatments,” Rajaram said about Kumar. “As he started researching the space, he learned that there are more than 1.1 million non-allopathic practitioners in India alone, and many more globally. These doctors were poorly served by existing infrastructure, which led him to start NirogStreet, a B2B platform to help non-allopathic doctors order medicines, connect with patients, and overall run their business more effectively and serve their patients better.

“The company is doing well and growing rapidly,” Rajaram said. “What is interesting is how much interest they get from practitioners outside India. They have decided to stay focused on India in the near-term, but this is a global opportunity.”

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Ayurveda product market is at was at $3.5 billion at the end of FY18, pegged to grow at 16 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

NirogStreet [https://nirogstreet.com/], Kumar said, is the only company in India that has brought in 50,000 Ayurvedic practitioners globally to its platform and each doctor associated has the Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree. On top of this, the doctors who follow NirogSteet’s protocols and digital practice are also certified by NirogSteet.

“I come from a low middle class family, and so had to leave studies when I was in Grade 11 to look for work,” said Kumar, who traces his roots to Muzzaffarpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

In 2000, he founded his first business Techlus, that helped promote information about computers to people in the smaller towns of India. “I was 15-16 years old and was not even aware what entrepreneur means,” Kumar said over the phone with a hearty laugh.

He said was fascinated with the computer and he approached the computer center in town that had just one PC in a small room. Kumar offered to work there in exchange of lessons in JAVA. He eventually graduated in Computer Science from Sikkim Manipal University.

Kumar said he realized that “Ayurveda in India is an unorganized sector…. Also, what I observed was people have trust in Ayurveda but they don’t trust the medicines. There is no knowledge sharing.” He said that the Ayurvedic doctors are like small entrepreneurs but they are not tech savvy. They are legally allowed to sell medicines but there is no knowledge-sharing platform. Kumar said he saw a business model in that.

“Just an idea that I can create something where doctors can engage among themselves because a knowledge platform is not happening in Ayurveda like it is in western medicine,” Kumar said. He said the Ayurveda market was unorganized but vast. “India has close to 9000 licensed pharmacies but the challenge is enforcement [of rules and quality control] is very weak,” he said.

“When the threat to life is immediate people will go to allopathy and when threat to life is long they go to Ayurveda,” said Kumar. Asked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Ayurveda, he said: “Pandemic boosted the business, doctors are more open to technology … and actually it was a boost to us. Just in 12 months we grew 300 percent.”

He said: “What we are seeing with the Ayurveda is that at least it brings down the cost of treatment and Ayurveda makes you healthy, wealthy and wise. For better quality of life, Ayurveda is the only answer.”

Indian Women’s Nutrition Suffered During COVID-19 Lockdown

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – The 2020 nationwide lockdown India imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions that negatively impacted women’s nutrition, according to a new study from the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition.

Published in the journal Economia Politica, the study shows that women’s dietary diversity – the number of food groups consumed – declined during the lockdown compared to the same period in 2019. Most concerningly, the drop was due to decreased consumption of foods like meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits, which are rich in micronutrients that are crucial to good health and development.

“Women’s diets were lacking in diverse foods even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has further exacerbated the situation,” said Soumya Gupta, a research economist at TCI who coauthored the study along with Prabhu Pingali, TCI director; Mathew Abraham, assistant director; and consultant Payal Seth. “Any policies addressing the impact of the pandemic on nutritional outcomes must do so through a gendered lens that reflects the specific, and often persistent, vulnerabilities faced by women.”

The Indian government instituted a national lockdown to slow down the spread of COVID-19 on March 24, 2020. Disruptions to agricultural supply chains subsequently led to price fluctuations, especially for nonstaple foods. The lockdown was lifted on May 30, 2020, though some restrictions remained in certain areas of the country.

TCI analyzed surveys of food expenditures, dietary diversity and other nutrition indicators at the national, state and district levels in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. They found that food expenditures significantly declined during the lockdown, especially in less developed districts. Nearly 90% of survey respondents reported having less food, while 95% said they consumed fewer types of food. The largest drop in food expenditures was for micronutrient-rich fresh and dried fruits, as well as animal products such as meat, fish and eggs.

Expenditures returned to pre-lockdown levels in June 2020 at the national and state levels but remained low at the district level. Gupta and her co-authors said this suggests that underdeveloped regions were disproportionately affected by access and availability constraints.

Surveys also suggest a decrease in the quantity and quality of nutritious foods consumed by women during the pandemic. For example, some women said that during the lockdown they halved the amount of dal, or red lentils, that they prepared, or that they prepared thinner dals.

“The decline in women’s diet diversity combined with a likely decrease in quantities consumed points to a greater risk for micronutrient malnutrition as compared to before the pandemic,” Gupta said. “Due to the spillover effects of maternal malnutrition, that risk poses a threat not only to women’s productivity and well-being, but also that of their children.”

Nutrition security declined across the board during the lockdown, but researchers found reason to believe that women’s nutrition was disproportionately impacted. The number of women consuming vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables dropped by 42%.

While the data analyzed in the study does not allow for direct comparisons between women and other members of their families, a previous TCI study showed that Indian women eat less diverse diets than their households.

Many factors have been associated with gender differences in food allocation across the world, including income, bargaining power, social status, interpersonal relationships, tastes and preferences. Uneven food allocation within households has also been associated with the role of women in different family systems, including women eating after all other members have eaten.

“How food is distributed between members of the household depends in part on social norms, but also on how much food the household has to begin with,” Gupta said. “That in turn depends on income, access to markets and prices. All of these were adversely impacted during the early stages of the lockdown.”

The unequal burden on women was also caused in part due to the closure of India’s aanganwadi centers during the lockdown, the researchers said. The centers, which provide take-home rations and hot cooked meals to nursing and expecting mothers, are an important source of nutrition for women and children. According to the study, 72% of eligible households lost access to those services during the pandemic.

Policymakers should recognize the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and other disruptive events on women’s nutrition by bolstering safety-net programs to ensure they meet the needs of women and other marginalized groups, the researchers said.

The researchers also recommended market-oriented reforms, such as the removal of rules that restrict the movement of products between markets and state boundaries, commercialization of small farms, and investments in infrastructure like refrigerated supply chains.

“While it is a long-standing issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the relative lack of affordable nutritious foods in India to the fore,” Pingali said. “Broad reforms are needed to diversify the country’s food system and ensure that women and other marginalized groups have access to nutritious diets during the pandemic and beyond.”

TCI is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and hosted by the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Pingali is also a professor in the Dyson School, with joint appointments in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Global Development in CALS. The Division of Nutritional Sciences is shared by CALS and the College of Human Ecology.

Dr. Manisha Juthani Appointed As Commissioner Of Public Health In Connecticut State

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that he is nominating Dr. Manisha Juthani to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health July 26, 2021. Dr. Juthani will begin at the Department of Public Health on Monday, September 20, 2021, and becomes the first Indian-American ever to hold that post.

Dr. Juthani is an infectious diseases physician at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, where she specializes in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of infections in older adults. Her most recent area of interest is at the interface of infectious diseases and palliative care, including the role of antibiotics at the end of life, the press release from the Governor noted.

A graduate of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Juthani attended Cornell University Medical College, completed residency training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Campus, and was a chief resident at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

She joined Yale School of Medicine in 2002 for infectious diseases fellowship training and joined the faculty full-time in 2006. She assumed the role of infectious diseases fellowship program director in 2012.

“Dr. Juthani’s background in infectious diseases will be a tremendous benefit to the people of Connecticut as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen our vaccination efforts,” Governor Lamont is quoted saying in the press release. “When seeking candidates to serve in this role, Dr. Juthani came recommended by many top experts in this field, and I am thrilled to have her join our administration.”

“I am grateful to the civil servants at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Dr. Gifford, and Governor Lamont for leading us through this pandemic to date,” Dr. Juthani said. “Under Dr. Gifford’s leadership, I look forward to continuing their efforts related to COVID-19, mental health, health equity, health disparities, and access to healthcare going forward.”

Dr. Juthani will succeed Dr. Deidre Gifford as head of the state’s public health agency. When she takes over (Sept. 20), Dr. Gifford will transition back to solely leading the Department of Social Services, while maintaining a close connection with Dr. Juthani to provide counsel as the response to the pandemic continues, the press release said.

“I welcome Dr. Juthani to our team, and I am delighted to pass the reins of the Department of Public Health into her capable hands,” Dr. Gifford said. “She joins a dedicated and skilled group of leaders at the department, whose work and dedication to public health over the last year have been exemplary.”

Next-Generation Antibodies Could Neutralize Any COVID-19 Variant And Help Prevent Future Pandemics

In late May, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab. This new therapeutic weapon allows for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in patients over 12 years of age with positive outcomes. Its widespread use includes patients who are at a higher risk of more severe symptoms of COVID-19 such as individuals who are over 65 years old or those with certain medical conditions.

With a lead over the first-generation monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies for COVID-19, Sotrovimab is reportedly referred to as super-antibodies due to their broad neutralization capacity when encountered with viral pathogen variants.

Sequencing each version of the virus the patients are suffering from would not only be overly meticulous but also equally painstaking. Therefore, Sotrovimab’s large range in capabilities is enticing to physicians as stated by analysts and researchers.

 

When a person is infected with COVID-19, antibodies are typically produced to fight against the invading disease. These antibodies are unique to each individual, meaning that some antibodies are better than others at combating the virus. Thus, pharmaceutical companies study thousands of these antibodies to take advantage of the most effective ones with the highest barrier to resistance.

Out of these pharmaceutical companies, Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline derived the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab from patients who had SARS in 2003, which targets parts of the COVID-19 virus that it shares with the original SARS virus. By targeting these areas, it lowers the chance for the virus to mutate and should allow for the antibody to work against new variants.

According to data from clinical trials, sotrovimab showed positive results with a 79% reduction in risk of hospitalization or death, appearing to yield activity against the currently known problematic variants of COVID-19.

Sales for these antibody therapies were expected to diminish as vaccination rates continuously rose, however, analysts predict that the market for COVID-19 mAbs will endure to assist in treatments for those who are unable to receive their vaccination shots for medical reasons.

 

Alcohol Consumption Positively Correlates With Cancer Risks

Alcohol use in today’s society  is exceedingly widespread, taking place not only in bars but also in school dorms, households, and a variety of other locations. With alcohol being such a popular means of socializing, people often disregard the dangers that are associated with drinking.

According to a study published in Lancet Oncology, “fewer than one in three Americans recognize alcohol as a cause of cancer”. Harriet Rumgay, a researcher at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, continues, stating that this belief is “similar in other high-income countries, and it’s probably even lower in other parts of the world”.

This assumption was proven false by the study that found that at least 4% of esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver, and breast cancers diagnosed globally in 2020, which accounted for more than 740,000 people, can be traced back to alcohol consumption. Out of the 740,000 alcohol-related cancer cases diagnosed, men accounted for three-quarters, while the majority of the remaining 172,600 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2019, more than 44,000 people in the U.S. died of alcoholic liver disease, proving the conclusion that alcohol consumption can be lethal if not monitored.

While most people believe that drinking in moderation would not drastically damage their health, researchers found that the amount of alcohol consumed positively correlates with an individual’s cancer risk. Moderate drinking consists of one or two alcoholic drinks per day, which may not seem like a great deal, however, this lifestyle accounted for approximately 14% of alcohol-related cancers.

 

Cancers develop when there is unregulated cell division causing abnormal growth of tissue, resulting in tumors. Alcohol can induce this irregular growth by increasing hormone levels, such as estrogen, which leads to increased cell division and thereby providing more opportunities for cancers to develop. Alcohol also contains ethanol, an organic compound, which gets broken down into acetaldehyde, a toxic molecule that is known to damage DNA and interferes with cells’ ability to repair the damage.

What seems to be the “responsible” amount of alcohol consumption may actually be an agent for biological damage. Even the concerning evidence presented in the study, which links alcohol to cancer, is considered to be an underestimate. “That’s because we didn’t include former drinkers in our main analysis, even though they may have an increased risk of cancer,” as stated by Rumgay.

Since people don’t recognize alcohol as a potentially harmful substance that can be abused, it opens up more health complications that could have been avoided with the right guidance. Doctors like Amy Justice, a professor of medicine and public health at Yale University, are making an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related cancers by giving brief motivational information and consultations.

In the future, encouraging health care providers to talk with patients about alcohol use hopefully may reduce the number of alcohol-related cancer cases.

Enormous Benefits Of Basil

Basil scientifically called Ocimum basilicum, and also known as great basil, is a culinary herb from the Lamiaceae (mints) family. A common aromatic herb, it is usually used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may astonish one is that there are various health benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing properties.

Basil seeds or basil essential oil are proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most essential medical herbs known today. Basil has vitamin A, C, E, K and Omega 3 components including cooling components too. It also contains minerals like Copper, Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Zinc, and Potassium. An ancient Ayurvedic herb, basil has various proven benefits including being anti-inflammatory, ant-oxidant, immune-booster, pain-reducer, and blood vessel-protector.

This herb also contains cooling components thus making it really helpful for summers. It detoxifies the body and maintains one’s body temperature pace. Adding to the benefits Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils, which are considered hydrophobic, meaning they don’t dissolve in water and are light and small enough to travel through the air and the pores within our skin. Basil’s volatile essential oil is something that gives the herb its distinct smell and taste, but basil contains some great healing properties.

In the long history of Ayurveda, basil seeds were also called tukmaria seeds. These seeds may support one’s gut health, may complete one’s fibre quota, reduce blood sugar, help in weight loss, and also reduce cholesterol. There are more than 60 varieties of basil, with sweet basil being one of the most widely used. The herb has rounded leaves that are often pointed. It is a bright green plant, although some varieties have hints of purple or red in their leaves, basil makes a colourful and flavorful addition to many different dishes.

It has been observed that many of the cooks use basil to thicken their dessert instead of using any artificial/ unhealthy powder to do so. Sometimes people are not able to differentiate between Chia seeds and basil seeds, to make it clear basil seeds are different in nature they are larger and a bit duller in their colour. These herbs are used in various recipes as a cooling component in desserts, drinks and fruit juices for refreshment, also beating the summer heat.

For better digestion, weight loss and immune system, I suggest this simple recipe which can be easily made at home:

*Take 2 tsp of Basil seeds (sabja) + Add in 1/2 litre of water +10 mint leaves crushed

*1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + A little bit of sendha salt (pink Himalayan salt)

*Or to make a sweeter version one can add organic honey.

*Mix it well and drink it.

This recipe will help to flush out toxins from our body making it feel light and healthy. (IANS)

India, UK To Conduct Clinical Trials On ‘Ashwagandha’ For Covid Recovery

The Ayush ministry’s All India Institute of Ayurveda in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will conduct a study on ‘Ashwagandha’ for promoting recovery from Covid-19 in a boost to the traditional Indian medicine system.

Both the institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct the clinical trials of Ashwagandha on 2,000 people in three UK cities — Leicester, Birmingham, and London (Southall and Wembley), said the ministry in a statement.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), commonly known as ‘Indian winter cherry’, is a traditional Indian herb that boosts energy, reduces stress, and makes the immune system stronger.

It is an easily accessible, over-the-counter nutritional supplement in the UK and has a proven safety profile. The positive effects of Ashwagandha have been observed in Covid, which is a multi-system disease with no evidence of its effective treatment or management.

The successful completion of the trial can be a major breakthrough and give scientific validity to India’s traditional medicinal system. While there have been several studies on Ashwagandha to understand its benefits in various ailments, this is the first time the Ministry has collaborated with a foreign institution to investigate its efficacy on Covid-19 patients.

AIIA director Dr Tanuja Manoj Nesari, who is also a co-investigator in the project along with Dr Rajgopalan, Coordinator – International Projects, said that the participants have been randomly selected. Dr Sanjay Kinra of LSHTM is the principal investigator of the study.

The participants will have to take the 500mg tablets twice a day. A monthly follow-up of self-reported quality of life, impairment to activities of daily living, mental and physical health symptoms, supplement use and adverse events will be carried out.

“For three months, one group of 1,000 participants will be administered Ashwagandha (AG) tablets while the second group of 1,000 participants will be assigned a placebo, which is indistinguishable from AG in looks and taste. Both patients and the doctors will be unaware of the group’s treatment in a double-blind trial,” Dr Nesari

 

Honoring India At 75th Independence Day, AAPI Plans Blood Donation and Bone Marrow Drive Camps in 75 Cities In US

“As we the 75thIndependence Day of India, the nation which has made us to be what we are today, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States, representing nearly 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, is excited to launch a unique and noble initiative in collaboration with Bitcare, ‘AAPI Blood Donation and Stem Cell Drive” from August 15th onwards in 75 cities,” Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, President of AAPI announced here today.

A major initiative of Dr. Gotimukula-led new Executive Team which assumed charge of AAPI on July 4th during the AAPI Convention in  Atlanta, the Blood Donation campaign and free Antibody testing, is in response to the national need for blood, especially as the Covid Pandemic ravages the world.   “I want to thank the dozens of AAPI Chapters and in cities and towns across the United States, who have confirmed and have started planning to organize the event in several states,” said MeherMedavram, Chair of AAPI’s Blood Donation Initiative said. The launch event will be held in Chicago on August 7th, Dr. Medavaram announced.

Dr. Kusum Punjabi the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI, who is the youngest to date to be holding this position in AAPI’s 40 years long history and serving patients in the Emergency Department, said “As the pandemic has exhausted all the resources, especially the lifesaving and much needed Blood across the nation and the world, AAPI is in the forefront, once again, spreading the message for the need to donate blood and save lives.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serving as the Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, urged “potential blood donors to donate blood to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available for patients. Your donation is needed now to prevent delays in patient care. Help overcome the severe blood shortage!”

Dr. Anjana  Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, who herself has experienced the ordeal with Covid -19, and has come out stronger,  resilient and tenacious, quoting Red Cross said, “Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.”

“With the ongoing pandemic, the United States and the world need the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care,” said Dr. SatheeshKathula, Secretary of AAPI, a board certified hematologist and oncologist from Dayton, Ohio, practicing Medicine for nearly two decades. Dr. Kathula also said, “It is very difficult to find a matched stem cell donor for Southeast Asians should they need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant and this drive will help increase the number of potential donors.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, quoting studies done on the need and usefulness of Blood said, “Blood donation helps save lives. In fact, every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. Since blood cannot be manufactured outside the body and has a limited shelf life, the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.” The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. We the physicians of Indian origin are proud of our great achievements and contributions to our motherland, India, our adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world. “As we all know our blood banks are deprived of products and another wave of COVID is rapidly increasing,” Pointed out Dr. Gotimukula, who has vowed to make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, primarily focusing to improve and reform the current healthcare system and help towards making a better healthcare model for the patients.

“It’s a humble and a noble initiative by AAPI to help save lives. Please let us know if you are interested to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks.”  For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: VijayaKodali, AAPI Office Manager at: [email protected]. For more details on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa,org

US To Continue Travel Restrictions As Covid Spreads

The United States served notice this week that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant. It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The United States said it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant at home and abroad. “We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks. The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are unvaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.” The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates. “The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said. Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic. Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there. Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell. But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

US Going In ‘Wrong Direction’ On Covid-19 Cases

As Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to increase among the unvaccinated across the US, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that the country is “going in the wrong direction”, the media reported.
“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new cases, that it is among the unvaccinated. And since we have 50 per cent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem,” Fauci was quoted as saying to CNN on Sunday. The majority of deaths could be, thus, among the unvaccinated, Fauci said.

“So it really is, as (Rochelle) Walensky (Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has said many times and I have said, it is really a pandemic among the unvaccinated, so this is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated,” said the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

The warning from Fauci comes as the dangerous Delta variant of Covid-19, which has spread to 124 countries, is now sweeping across the US. Health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated to help curb its spread.

Every state in the US reported more Covid-19 cases in the week ending on July 23 than the week prior, data from the Johns Hopkins University revealed. Thirty states have yet to fully vaccinate at least half of their residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And as of July 23, the daily average of people becoming fully vaccinated was the lowest it had been since the end of January, the report said. Meanwhile, the CDC is also weighing the option of revising its Covid-19 guidelines to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, Fauci said.

He noted that some local areas where infection rates are surging are already urging individuals to wear masks in public regardless of their vaccination status.

The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 34,443,064 and 610,891, respectively, according to the latest update on Monday by Johns Hopkins University. Health experts have blamed the recent surges on the low vaccination rates and the accelerating Delta variant transmission.

Will US Follow France That Made Coronavirus Health Pass Required For Dining And Travel?

France’s parliament approved a law last week requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel and mandating vaccinations for all health workers. Both measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid new lockdowns.

The law requires all workers in the health care sector to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15, or risk suspension. It also requires a “health pass” to enter all restaurants, trains, planes and some other public venues. It initially applies to all adults, but will apply to everyone 12 and older starting Sept. 30. To get the pass, people must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. Paper or digital documents will be accepted. The law says a government decree will outline how to handle vaccination documents from other countries.

The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise version approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. The rules can be applied through Nov. 15, depending on the virus situation. Macron appealed for national unity and mass vaccination to fight the resurgent virus, and lashed out at those fueling anti-vaccine sentiment and protests.

About 160,000 people protested around France on Saturday against a special COVID-19 pass for restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted “liberty!” and said the government shouldn’t tell them what to do. Visiting a hospital in French Polynesia afterward, Macron urged national unity and asked, “What is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?”

While he said protesters are “free to express themselves in a calm and respectful manner,” he said demonstrations won’t make the coronavirus go away. He criticized “people who are in the business of irrational, sometimes cynical, manipulative mobilization” against vaccination. Among those organizing the protests have been far-right politicians and extremist members of France’s yellow vest movement tapping into anger at Macron’s government. More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France, which is registering about 20,000 new infections daily compared to just a few thousand earlier this month. Concerns for hospitals are resurfacing.

Scientists Urge Local Mask Mandates As Delta Sweeps The U.S.

Few places are considering renewals of the policy, but experts suggest it’s wise for everyone—including the vaccinated—to wear masks in public indoor spaces. Despite the predictions of an early fall surge, infections from the Delta variant have soared throughout the country and spread faster than health experts anticipated. In the past few weeks, every state except Vermont has seen a sudden steep climb in cases.

In response to the surge, Los Angeles County has led the way in reinstating a mask requirement for indoor spaces, even for vaccinated people, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that unvaccinated students—which includes all those under the age of 12 — wear a mask in school. On the state level, the California Department of Public Health has not changed its current guidance, which doesn’t require masks for vaccinated people, and a representative did not indicate whether an update was likely. So for now it’s unclear how many communities may follow L.A.’s example, even as local surges appear around the country.

“We’re seeing it pretty much hit everywhere all at once, which was a bit unexpected,” says Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio. She expected cases to emerge in the South, where people spend more time in air conditioning during the hot months, before moving northward. “That’s the tricky thing about exponential growth,” says Dominique Heinke, a postdoctoral epidemiologist in North Carolina. “It looks like a whole lot of nothing, and then out of nowhere, seemingly it just skyrockets, and getting it under control is going to be that much harder.”

This is especially true as states pour their energies into vaccination outreach while leaving mask mandates behind. Many public health experts believe the CDC jumped the gun in loosening its mask recommendations. The nation’s largest nurses union sent a letter on July 12 to CDC director Rochelle Walensky asking the agency to reinstate the recommendation for everyone to wear masks in public or when physically near people outside their household. During a recent webinar for health journalists, Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine and director of Scripps Research Institute, and Vaughn Cooper, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Pittsburgh, both said they thought the relaxed guidance was premature.

Smith agrees. “I think the CDC rescinded that too early,” she says. The evidence base conclusively shows that masks substantially reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others and reduce the risk of contracting it.

Mask fatigue

“There is a real COVID fatigue, so it’s harder to sell [mask-wearing] today than it was a year ago,” says George Turabelidze, the state epidemiologist for Missouri, which in June became the first state to see a surge hit. He says Missouri, which has never had a statewide mask requirement during the pandemic, is unlikely to issue one because the governor supports decision-making at the local level. Missouri’s cases continue to rise, particularly in rural areas, with a 20 percent increase from last week to this week. “We do not anticipate any improvement anytime soon,” Turabelidze says, adding that it’s hard to justify mandates for everyone.

“There is no scientific evidence proving that someone who is vaccinated and infected could transmit the infection to others,” he says. He explains that there have been indications suggesting it’s possible for vaccinated people to infect others, but no studies so far have clearly shown it’s happening. Without clear evidence that vaccinated people who develop a breakthrough infection can transmit the virus to others, he believes the science doesn’t justify requiring vaccinated people to wear masks. “But because nobody can rule it out, [transmission from vaccinated people] is still possible, probably at much lower level.”

He suspects that such a possibility is L.A. County’s rationale, but it may not be enough for other cities or regions. Still, he says it’s wise for vaccinated people to mask up when around higher-risk people, such as those who are immune-compromised or have underlying medical conditions. Turabelidze and his colleagues have been working hard to counter disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines to increase vaccination rates. Missouri had been lagging most of the country in vaccination rates, but recently surpassed 40 percent of all vaccine-eligible people.

Experts encourage masking, but states won’t require it

In some states, counties can’t require masking, even if they want to. For example, eight states so far have made it illegal to require masks in school, even in lower grades where students are too young to be vaccinated—and even though the CDC has advised all unvaccinated students to wear masks. One of those states is Arkansas, which currently has the second highest cases per 100,000 people in the U.S.

While recent Arkansas legislation prohibits requiring masks in any government spaces, “we are still recommending and strongly encouraging it for people who are not vaccinated, and many people who are fully vaccinated are choosing to wear masks,” says Jennifer Dillaha, the Arkansas state epidemiologist and medical director for Immunizations and Outbreak Response at the Arkansas Department of Health.

Arkansas is making a big push for vaccinations, but it’s difficult in such a rural state. Pharmacies are the only vaccine sites in most communities, but the state will soon offer vaccines at Dollar General stores. One barrier is that many people still don’t know where to get vaccinated, and many lack internet access, so the state is advertising the number 1-800-985-6030 for finding a site. “We’re strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated now, because with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it takes five to six weeks to become fully protected, and they need both doses to be well protected from the Delta variant,” she says.

In Florida, another state seeing a rapid rise in cases, Governor Ron DeSantis is not considering any mask mandates or lockdowns, according to Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. She says DeSantis predicted a rise in summer cases for months, but he “emphasized that we are in a much better place than we were last summer, with a high rate of immunization among the most vulnerable population—senior citizens—which is reflected in lower hospitalization rates compared to last summer,” Pushaw says.

Instead, the state is focused on increasing immunizations through the state’s online vaccine locator and multiple synchronized messaging campaigns in several languages with statewide billboards and radio, digital, social media, and streaming media, according to WeesamKhoury, the communications director for the Florida Department of Health.

The Delta variant 

The higher transmissibility of Delta and its ability to evade some antibody protection means more opportunities for breakthrough infections, Heinke says. “If you’ve got this variant sending out so many more viral particles, proper mask wearing becomes more important,” she says. While breakthrough cases are rare, they do happen, Smith says, which is particularly concerning for those worried about potentially transmitting the disease to unvaccinated family members.

“I think it’s wise for many of us to continue to mask for those just-in-case scenarios, especially with unknowns about vaccine effectiveness with the Delta variant and others that may emerge,” she says. “At least until everyone in the population has had a chance to get vaccinated, which includes children who aren’t even eligible for the vaccines yet.” Although she doesn’t expect many places to implement mask mandates, she says it’s important to call for them, if only for the historical record. “We need to know some of the places where we erred, and I think this is going to be one of them,” Smith says. “Masks are such a simple intervention that not using them more definitively to protect individuals has been a misstep.”

Mixed mask messaging

As an epidemiologist, Heinke would like to see more places require indoor masking. “I think we’ve let our guard down too quickly,” she says. The CDC’s guidance was that vaccinated people can remove masks indoors. “But with no way to verify that, it pretty much gave permission for everyone to take off their masks indoors, so that means you have a good number of unvaccinated people unmasked in these spaces where SARS-CoV-2 spreads incredibly efficiently.”

6 Factors That Will Determine The Severity Of The COVID-19 Surge In The U.S This Fall

Here we go again. The United States is now experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19, with very rapidly rising infections. The surge in new daily cases is driven by the Delta variant, which makes up 83% of sequenced samples in the U.S. and which is estimated to be twice as transmissible as the original strain. One of the reasons that Delta spreads more easily is that a person infected with this variant has a viral load 1,000 times higher than someone infected with the original version of SARS-CoV-2.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, though more slowly than cases, reflecting the fact that 49% of all Americans are fully vaccinated. Even with Delta, COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness and death. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor on COVID-19, estimates that over 99% of people dying in the U.S. from the illness are unvaccinated. But the levels of vaccination are not high enough in some areas to prevent new surges among those who are not inoculated. And with growing infections among the unvaccinated, some vaccinated people are not surprisingly getting breakthrough infections because no vaccines are 100% effective. So, what happens next? How is the pandemic likely to play out into the fall and winter? Here are six factors that are likely to drive the shape of the pandemic in the coming months.

First, local vaccination rates will continue to be the most important factor in determining what will happen

The U.S. now has a patchwork pandemic, in which communities with low vaccination rates are likeliest to see surges in infection. One recent analysis found that 463 U.S. counties now have high rates of new infection—at least 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past week, which is over five times the overall U.S. rate. In 80% of these counties, less than 40% of residents are fully vaccinated. The five states with the lowest rates of full vaccination—Alabama (34%), Arkansas (35%), Louisiana (36%), Mississippi (34%), and Wyoming (36%)—are all experiencing major surges.

In these five states, while 4 out of 5 people aged over 65 have had at least one shot, the vaccination rate is much lower in the 18-65 age group, and lower still in adolescents (those aged 12-17). Few adolescents in these states have had at least one dose: just 24% in Arkansas, 16% in Alabama, 17% in Louisiana, 15% in Mississippi, and 19% in Wyoming. This leaves young people highly vulnerable to the fast-spreading Delta variant. Compare these numbers with a highly vaccinated state like Vermont, where almost 100% of those aged over 65 and 68% of those aged 12-17 have had at least one dose—and cases and hospitalizations are less than 3 and 1 per 100, 000, respectively.

It is also clear that the uptake of vaccines has slowed down and in some places almost stagnated, particularly in the southern states. The U.S. went from administering more than 3 million doses a day in mid-April to only around 500,000 doses a day right now. If you live in a poorly vaccinated community—and especially if vaccination rates are stagnant or barely rising—your community is at an elevated risk of a surge. Data from this week suggest that in some states affected by surges the rate of vaccinations is increasing, but it is unclear if this trend will continue.

In highly vaccinated states, an influx of unvaccinated visitors can also create a potential set up for local outbreaks. We saw this in Provincetown, Mass., where a super-spreader event presumed to be from a large influx of unvaccinated visitors led to a major cluster (430 confirmed cases as of July 23, 2021). Of the Massachusetts residents affected in this outbreak, 69% reported that they were fully vaccinated. And it would have been much worse had the vaccination levels of the Provincetown community not been so high. But the secondary impact of these types of clusters on pockets of unvaccinated children and on high risk or immunocompromised adults will in part depend on the amount of transmission from vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections.

Moving forward, we think a few policy and social aspects will have a huge impact on whether vaccination rates increase in this country—in particular, whether there is a concerted effort to depoliticize vaccines (political affiliation appears to be driving differences in vaccination uptake) and whether more businesses and schools start to require vaccinations for participation and employment.

Second, whether public health measures are reinstated will affect how long those surges continue

In communities facing a surge related to the Delta variant, the right public health response is to restore control measures such as community-wide indoor mask mandates, social distancing rules, scaling up test and trace, and intensifying workplace and school mitigations (including improved ventilation) until vaccination rates increase. Los Angeles county, for example, recently reinstated an indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to help curb its rapid spread of the Delta variant. Similarly, last week San Francisco Bay Area health officials urged residents of seven counties and the city of Berkeley to resume wearing masks indoors. Sound pandemic management requires tailoring measures to the local situation on the ground.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a significant roadblock to such tailored management when it changed its mask guidance in May, saying vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors—this guidance had no nuance to account for community transmission levels or outbreak status. The guidance basically gave local governments and businesses the cover to drop mask mandates and indoor limits for both vaccinated and unvaccinated, leading both to change their behavior and putting other unvaccinated people, including children under 12, at risk. We agree with former Surgeon General Jerome Adams when he says, “the CDC urgently needs to revise its guidance to vaccinate and mask in places where cases are rising yet vaccination rates remain low.” CDC should consider releasing specific metrics for on-ramping and off-ramping public health measures that local and state public health bodies can take into consideration. Such guidance would lead to less confusion and build more public trust. Many schools are reopening in five weeks, and we think there is an urgency for the CDC to provide more specific guidance on masks, testing, and other mitigations against COVID-19 in schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all students over 2 years old, and all teachers and staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19—that could help, though the need for masking should be tailored to local community transmission levels.

University and college campuses will also need to grapple with the challenges that Delta brings. A new study by Yale University researchers David Paltiel and Jason Schwartz found that colleges where over 90% of all students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated can safely return to normalcy, but campuses below this vaccine coverage may need measures such as distancing and frequent testing of the unvaccinated.

Third, the local pattern of COVID-19 could be influenced by how much protection is provided by past infection.

Research suggests that if you have had COVID-19, you acquire some degree of immunity. In theory this might mean that if your community has low vaccination rates but a high proportion of people were previously infected, the chances of a surge from the Delta variant are lower. But we need to be careful about jumping to any conclusions. The science suggests that the immunity from past infection may be partial and short term, which is why the World Health Organization, CDC, and other public health agencies recommend that people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 still get vaccinated. Additionally, a new analysis from Public Health England found that reinfection is more likely with the Delta variant compared to the Alpha variant—further argument for even those who have had and recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated.

A fourth factor is whether vulnerable Americans will need booster shots and if some decrease in immunity will lead to seasonal increases in cases, similar to the way influenza rates rise every winter

Last week, Israel’s health ministry released data raising the possibility that the protection that the Pfizer vaccine provides against infection may wane over time. We need to be very cautious about the data: they are preliminary and based on small numbers, and other nations have not seen a similar waning. There are also supportive data based on lab studies that say that for most people, vaccine-induced immunity may last years (at least against the current variants), although such immunity may wane for those who are more advanced in age or have weakened immune systems.

After previously ruling out the need for boosters, the Biden Administration has now signaled that it is looking into recommending a booster (a third shot of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine) for people 65 and older or those with weakened immune systems. Experts are also considering whether those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster shot of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. At a recent senate hearing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that her agency is following large cohorts of vaccinated residents in nursing homes as well as cohorts of vaccinated frontline health workers with weekly testing to understand how efficacy against vaccines may be changing over time. Such data will likely help determine whether and when boosters are needed.

Some infectious disease experts, such as the German virologist Christian Drosten, believe that COVID-19 could become a “seasonal epidemic,” with an annual rise in cases in the winter. If it turns out that immunity from the vaccine does decline over time among the elderly and immune compromised and that COVID-19 is seasonal, this combination would provide a strong case for giving these vulnerable people boosters ahead of winter.

Fifth, we don’t know exactly how common it is for vaccinated people to become infected and transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others, though so far it appears to be relatively uncommon

The good news is that all the authorized vaccines greatly reduce your chances of becoming infected (e.g. the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines reduce this risk by 91%)—and reduce the risk of becoming severely ill, hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19 at an even higher rate. But no vaccine is 100% effective. So we would still expect a small proportion of fully vaccinated people to get infected and sometimes transmit the virus to others.

Research is underway to try and determine just how common it is for vaccinated people to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others and how the Delta variant impacts this risk, and the results will have a bearing on the next phase of the pandemic.

Sixth, another new variant of concern could arise

All viruses change (mutate) over time, and such mutations are more likely when a virus is circulating widely. Most mutations don’t change the ability of the virus to cause infections and disease, but some canThat means that, as long as SARS-CoV-2 is spreading, there’s a possibility that new variants of concern could arise, which could again change the trajectory of the pandemic.

The good news is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against all known variants. Scientists are also confident that if a new variant arises that evades the protection of current vaccines, vaccine manufacturers will be able to quickly reformulate and test vaccines against these new variants. But currently, half of America and most parts of the rest of the world are not vaccinated; in Africa, for example, just 2% of people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Globally, cases and deaths have gone up by 25% over the last two weeks and these continued surges are giving the virus ample opportunity to evolve. As new variants evolve, it won’t be our ability to create reformulated vaccines that will limit us. Instead, the main hurdle will be to turn those new vaccines into vaccinations here in the U.S. and worldwide.

During the 1918 influenza pandemic, one third of the world’s population was infected and society was vulnerable to consecutive waves with minimal number of tools to combat them. In 2021, we have extremely powerful vaccines in addition to tried and true non-pharmaceutical measures such as masks that can help us shape our destinies to a greater measure than was possible a century ago. But the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that even with these tools, there are significant social and political challenges that are delaying our recovery.

2 Doses Of Pfizer,Astrazeneca Vaccines Effective Against Delta Variant

A full course of two of the most widely available coronavirus vaccines is about as effective against the more contagious delta variant as it was against a previously dominant version of the virus, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offer 88 percent protection against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant, compared to 94 percent against the alpha variant that was first discovered in Britain and became dominant across the globe earlier this year, the study said.

A double dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was 67 percent effective against delta, according to the British researchers, down slightly from an efficacy rate of 75 percent against the alpha variant.

Here are some significant developments:

  • China said Thursday that it will not accept the World Health Organization’s suggested plan for the second phase of investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. A senior Chinese health official criticized the agency’s proposal to include the lab-leak hypothesis as a research priority.
  • Officials announced that some 200 million people or more than half of all adults in the European Union have now been fully vaccinated.
  • The United States has extended restrictions on nonessential travel at the borders with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 21. The Department of Homeland Security said the decision was made because of the “continued transmission and spread of [the virus] within the United States and globally.”
  • Australia’s most populous state Thursday reported its highest number of new, locally transmitted cases for the year, even as much of the country remained under lockdown to stem an outbreak of the more contagious delta variant. New South Wales, which includes Sydney, recorded 124 new infections, health authorities said.
  • Tunisia’s president has ordered the military to oversee the country’s coronavirus response as the North African nation battles its worst outbreak of the pandemic. Earlier this week, the health minister was fired for bungling Tunisia’s vaccine rollout as the virus spread.
  • The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced 12 new coronavirus cases among accreditation holders, including two unnamed athletes who were living in the Olympic Village. Eight athletes have tested positive since arriving in Tokyo for the Games.

The authors of the new study said a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was significantly less effective against the delta variant than two doses. One dose of the vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer with German partner BioNTech was just 36 percent effective, the study found, while a single shot of the vaccine from Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca offered 30 percent protection.

“Absolute differences in vaccine effectiveness were more marked after the receipt of the first dose,” the authors wrote. The research confirmed earlier data released by Public Health England that suggested the two vaccines offered similar levels of protection against the delta variant when administered as a full course. It also offered some hope to those nations struggling to beat back outbreaks caused by the delta variant, which the World Health Organization says has reached at least 124 countries.

The study stood in contrast to preliminary data made public by Israel’s Health Ministry earlier this month that said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only 64 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infection caused by the delta variant. Some public health experts warned that the data from Israel was observational and not the result of a controlled study.

Why COVID-19’s Origins Must Be Investigated

The theories vary widely in credibility and likelihood, but no one is really sure how COVID-19 became the world’s worst health crisis. But researchers should dig deeper into the origin of the virus that has caused the world pandemic to prepare for future viral outbreaks, according to Peter Hotez, MD, PhD. He is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for vaccine development in Houston.

COVID-19 is not the first serious viral outbreak in the 21st century and it is unlikely to be the last, he said during a recent episode of “AMA COVID-19 Update.” To be prepared for the next outbreak, medical researchers need to understand the development and growth of current one, he said. Ongoing research over the past 10 years actually helped the medical research community respond quickly to the pandemic with treatment and vaccines, Dr. Hotez said. COVID-19 marks the third “major coronavirus epidemic” of the 21st century, he explained.

“We had SARS, the original coronavirus pandemic/epidemic. Severe acute respiratory syndrome rose out of Guangdong province in South China in 2002 and then spread to Toronto and caused a lot of deaths and havoc in the city of Toronto, shut down the city for a while in 2003. “Then we had MERS, Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, in 2012 and that has lasted a few years. It went into South Korea and caused a hospital-associated outbreak there. Again, very high mortality and a lot of deaths,” he said.

In aftermath of other epidemics

As a result, researchers expected another coronavirus epidemic or pandemic, though not necessarily one as bad as the COVID-19 outbreak. “This was the worst by far,” he said. Researchers anticipated the initial outbreak from China where the preceding epidemics occurred, but were surprised it came from Central China, not Southern China, as was the case with the 2002 SARS epidemic, he said.

The biggest surprise, however, was the public reaction and the belief that the disease did not arise naturally, but from some sort of laboratory leak or manipulation. He said that charge didn’t make sense because the other similar outbreaks were clearly natural, not the result of laboratory issues. “Look, it’s not impossible, but here’s what we need to do. The most important thing is to uncover the origins and the only way you are really going to do that, whether it’s lab leak or otherwise, is to do an outbreak investigation. And we know how to do this,” he said. Visit the AMA COVID-19 resource center for clinical information, guides and resources, and updates on advocacy and medical ethics.

More investigation in China

“We need to bring in a team of scientists that are working Hubei province—international scientists, U.S. scientists, working with Chinese scientists to collect saliva, blood samples from bats, from other potential secondary animal sources, from humans and really trace the origins of COVID-19.”

Why bats, rather than other common animals?

“We know bats have an important role because coronaviruses are found naturally in bats. Bats are natural hosts to other catastrophic viruses. … So, the point is that understanding how the bat ecology interfaces with other animal reservoirs as a second intermediate host, or how the viruses jump from bats to people or bats to another animal to people,” he said. All of this is critical to evading the next coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“I don’t see how you could think about designing prevention strategies without having some understanding of that,” he said. While Dr. Hotez has pushed back on “outrageous conspiracy theories of sending infected Chinese abroad” to intentionally spread SARS-CoV-2, he added that the role of the Chinese government and its researchers should be examined. The slow flow of information and lack of transparency in the early days of the pandemic may have led to a slower medical response.

Get the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, variants and more reliable information directly from experts and physician leaders with the “AMA COVID-19 Update.” You can catch every episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or the audio-only podcast version.

Healthcare Insurance Rate Rises As Marketplace, Medicaid Enrollment Rises

The uninsurance rate may be declining and the American Rescue Plan Act’s changes may be partially responsible for this shift, according to a Commonwealth Fund report. The report pulls its data from a survey conducted by SSRS. The researchers interviewed over 5,400 adults in a primarily online survey from March 9 through June 8, 2021.

In the first half of 2021, approximately one in every ten American adults was uninsured. Populations between the ages of 19 and 34, populations with incomes that were less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and Latinx or Hispanic communities had the highest shares of uninsurance—13, 16, and 20 percent respectively. The researchers noted that this uninsurance rate for the first half of 2021 is lower than the uninsurance rate for 2020. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey released in August 2020, the adult uninsurance rate for the first half of 2020 was 12.5 percent. Additionally, two out of every five adults had unstable healthcare coverage.

The report outlined four possible reasons that the uninsurance rate would drop. First, it is possible that pandemic-related coverage losses were not pervasive.  Previous studies have demonstrated that coronavirus-related job loss was largely concentrated among low-income individuals, who were less likely to receive healthcare coverage through their employer.  Additionally, many employees were furloughed, instead of losing their jobs altogether. Of those who were furloughed, a previous survey indicated that 53 percent continued to receive employer-sponsored health plan benefits.

The Commonwealth Fund survey found that 54 percent of adults who lost their healthcare coverage experienced a coverage gap of only three months or less. Those who did lose their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage might have found healthcare coverage elsewhere. This is particularly possible in light of the second and third possible motivators for this shift in uninsurance. The second potential cause is that the Biden administration—along with many states that have state-based exchanges—initiated an Affordable Care Act marketplace special enrollment period.

When it started in mid-February 2021, the enrollment period was supposed to last for a couple of months but the Biden administration soon extended it to August 15, 2021. The current administration has also promoted the Affordable Care Act marketplace health plans much more broadly than the previous administration. Third, increased subsidies for the Affordable Care Act marketplace along with COBRA subsidies may have bolstered interest in marketplace plans, drawing greater enrollment and improving coverage rates.

Temporary advance payments of premium tax credits have substantially lowered costs for some enrollees on the Affordable Care Act marketplace since the American Rescue Plan Act was passed in March 2021. Some enrollees can access health plans with premiums of $10 per month or less if they are eligible for tax credits. Individuals whose incomes are at over 400 percent of the federal poverty level can also receive subsidies. And those who lost their healthcare coverage due to the pandemic may have their COBRA premiums fully covered. Finally, the Medicaid maintenance of eligibility standard that the federal government implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic may have enabled lower uninsurance. This mandate will lift with the public health emergency, however.

As a result of these rules which make healthcare coverage more affordable, enrollment in Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act marketplace has increased. In a separate study, experts from Avalere noted that the boost to enrollment on the Affordable Care Act marketplace could have unforeseen ramifications for payers.  The influx of new enrollees and potential enrollees could place a greater strain on payer customer service offerings. Additionally, the higher volume of members may have an impact on payers’ risk adjustment and medical loss ratios projections.

India Among Top 10 Countries In Pharma, Healthcare

India is among the top 10 countries in pharma and healthcare sector with exponential growth recorded in the last five years, according to a report by Sagacious IP, a global IP research and consulting firm. The report stated that patents with Indian publication having Indian priority grew from 2,548 in 2015 to 7,399 in 2020. Such numbers are indicative of increased patent filing activity by Indian companies and MNCs with research centers based in India. The pharma and healthcare sector has also seen massive growth in global patent filings in the last five years, from over 24,000 in 2015 to over 1,50,000 in 2020.

In terms of the origin of patent applications in the pharma sector globally, India is among the top 10 countries, followed by Italy, Australia, Taiwan and Sweden. The applications originating from India are majorly filed in the US, European Parliament and APAC region. The top Indian filers who filed patents in India during the last five years (2015-2020) include the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), ITC Life Sciences, Lovely Professional University, Colgate Palmolive (India), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Limited, IIT Bombay, Cadila Healthcare, Lupin, Amity University, and Wockhardt Limited, the report said.

CSIR, a research institute, leads in these filings. Among companies, ITC (ITC Life Sciences and Technology Centre) is on top. The report stated that pharmaceutical companies face major challenges dealing with IP rights and the competition provided by the generics. Further, the biggest challenge in developing approved drugs is the long time spent in research and the investments required for the same.

Also, due to increased awareness and digital connectivity, self-medication has been rampant, which does not go down well in terms of returns on R&D and IP investments in drug discovery. Recently, the industry has shown a focus shift towards preventive healthcare and therefore the players must align with this shift. Lastly, stringent guidelines by governments globally and low returns on generics are the other few limiting factors to R&D in this sector.

On a positive side, India is notably a preferred destination and market for healthcare innovation as is evident by global companies securing many of their global patents in India, it said. India is one of the largest manufacturers of generic medicines and vaccines, holding 20 per cent and 62 per cent volume share, respectively. (IANS)

Pandemic Leaves Indians Mired In Massive Medical Debts

NEW DELHI (AP) — As coronavirus cases ravaged India this spring, Anil Sharma visited his 24-year-old son Saurav at a private hospital in northwest New Delhi every day for more than two months. In May, as India’s new COVID-19 cases broke global records to reach 400,000 a day, Saurav was put on a ventilator.

The sight of the tube running into Saurav’s throat is seared in Sharma’s mind. “I had to stay strong when I was with him, but immediately after, I would break down as soon as I left the room,” he said. Saurav is home now, still weak and recovering. But the family’s joy is tempered by a mountain of debt that piled up while he was sick. Life has been tentatively returning to normal in India as new coronavirus cases have fallen. But millions are embroiled in a nightmare of huge piles of medical bills. Most Indians don’t have health insurance and costs for COVID-19 treatment have them drowning in debt. Sharma exhausted his savings on paying for an ambulance, tests, medicines and an ICU bed. Then he took out bank loans.

As the costs mounted, he borrowed from friends and relatives. Then, he turned to strangers, pleading online for help on Ketto, an Indian crowdfunding website. Overall, Sharma says he has paid over $50,000 in medical bills. The crowdfunding provided $28,000, but another $26,000 is borrowed money he needs to repay, a kind of debt he has never faced before. “He was struggling for his life and we were struggling to provide him an opportunity to survive,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I was a proud father — and now I have become a beggar.”

The pandemic has devastated India’s economy, bringing financial calamity to millions at the mercy of its chronically underfunded and fragmented healthcare system. Experts say such costs are bound to hinder an economic recovery. “What we have is a patchwork quilt of incomplete public insurance and a poor public health system. The pandemic has shown just how creaky and unsustainable these two things are,” said VivekDehejia, an economist who has studied public policy in India. Even before the pandemic, healthcare access in India was a problem. Indians pay about 63% of their medical expenses out-of-pocket. That’s typical of many poor countries with inadequate government services. Data on global personal medical costs from the pandemic are hard to come by, but in India and many other countries treatment for COVID is a huge added burden at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs have vanished.

In India, many jobs returned as cities opened up after a severe lockdown in March 2020, but economists worry about the loss of some 12 million salaried positions. Sharma’s job as a marketing professional was one of them. When he asked his son’s friends to set up the campaign on Ketto to raise funds, Sharma hadn’t seen a paycheck in 18 months. Between April and June this year, 40% of the 4,500 COVID-19 campaigns on the site were for hospitalization costs, the company said. The pandemic has driven 32 million Indians out of the middle class, defined as those earning $10 to $20 a day, according to a Pew Research Center study published in March. It estimated the crisis has increased the number of India’s poor — those with incomes of $2 or less a day — by 75 million.

“If you’re looking at what pushes people into debt or poverty, the top two sources often are out-of-pocket health expenditure and catastrophic costs of treatment,” said K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. In the northeastern city of Imphal, 2,400 kilometers (1,490 miles) away, Diana Khumanthem lost both her mother and sister to the virus in May. Treatment costs wiped out the family’s savings, and when the private hospital where her sister died wouldn’t release her body for last rites until a bill of about $5,000 was paid, she pawned the family’s gold jewelry to moneylenders.

When that wasn’t enough, asked her friends, relatives and her sister’s colleagues for help. She still owes some $1,000. A health insurance scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 was intended to cover around 500 million of India’s 1.3 billion people and was a major step toward easing medical costs. But it doesn’t cover the primary care and outpatient costs that comprise most out-of-pocket expenses. So it hasn’t “effectively improved access to care and financial risk protection,” said a working paper by researchers at Duke University.

The program also has been hobbled by disparities in how various states implemented it, said ShawinVitsupakorn, one of the paper’s authors. Another paper, by the Duke Global Health Institute and the Public Health Foundation of India, found costs of ICU hospitalization for COVID-19 are equivalent to nearly 16 months of work for a typical Indian day laborer or seven to 10 months for salaried or self-employed workers.

Meager funding of healthcare, at just 1.6% of India’s GDP, is less, proportionately, than what Laos or Ethiopia spends. At the outbreak’s peak in May, hospitals everywhere were overrun, but public facilities lacked the resources to handle the floods of patients coming in. “The result is a suffering public health system, where the provision of care is often poor, prompting many to flock to private hospitals,” said Dehejia.

A public hospital treated Khumanthem’s mother, but her sister Ranjita was admitted to a private one that cost $1,300 per day. Ranjita was the family’s only earner after Khumanthem left her nursing job last year to return home during the first wave of the virus. She’s now hunting for work while looking after her father and her sister’s 3-year-old son. At her home in Imphal, Khumanthem grieved for her mother by remembering her favorite food — chagempomba, a type of gruel made with vegetables, rice and soybeans. Every few minutes, she looked toward the front gate.

“This is usually the time Ranjita would return home from work,” she said. “I still keep thinking she could walk through the gate any moment now.” Back in New Delhi, Sharma sighed in relief as an ambulance brought his son home from the hospital last week. Saurav needs physiotherapy to build up his weakened muscles, a daily nurse and a long list of medications. It may be weeks before he will be able to stand on his own, and months before the ambitious lawyer who graduated among the top of his class will be able to go to court again.  The costs will continue. “Our first priority was to save him,” Sharma said. “Now we will need to figure out the rest.”

During COVID-19, Nurses Face Significant Burnout Risks, Reports American Journal Of Nursing

Newswise — July 22, 2021 – Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40 percent of nurses and other health care workers had risks associated with an increased likelihood of burnout, reports a survey study in the August issue of the American Journal of Nursing(AJN). The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

The study identifies risk factors for poor well-being as well as factors associated with greater resilience – which may reduce the risk of burnout for hands-on care providers, according to the new research by Lindsay Thompson Munn, RN, PhD, and colleagues of a North Carolina healthcare system. They write, “The insights gained from this study can help health care leaders to target these risk factors and develop strategies that allow organizations to better support well-being and resilience among clinicians.”

New evidence of pandemic’s impact on well-being in health care workers

The researchers conducted an online survey of nurses and other non-physician health care workers (HCWs), and received responses from 2,459 participants who provided direct patient care. The survey focused on risk factors for decreased well-being: a key contributor to the epidemic of burnout among health care professionals. The survey also evaluated aspects of resilience. Defined as the ability to cope with and adapt positively to adversity, resilience is an important contributor to well-being. Data were collected in June and July 2020, providing a snapshot of well-being and resilience among HCWs a few months into the pandemic.

At that time, 44 percent of HCWs surveyed had “at risk” well-being, which is associated with increased risk of burnout, fatigue, and patient care errors. Analysis of the responses identified several factors associated with increased odds of poor well-being, including:

  • Having low scores on a measure of resilience
  • Believing that supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were insufficient
  • Feeling that the organization did not understand health care workers’ emotional support needs during the pandemic
  • Believing that workload had increased
  • Believing that staffing was inadequate to safely care for patients
  • Having a lower degree of psychological safety (feeling that the work environment was conducive to vulnerability and interpersonal risk-taking)

In contrast, opposite levels of some of the same factors were associated with higher scores for resilience:

  • Feeling that the organization did understand emotional support needs
  • Believing that staff were being redeployed to areas of critical need
  • Having a higher degree of psychological safety

Less than one-fourth of health care workers had used available resources to support their well-being and resilience (such as meditation apps, employee assistance programs, and counseling). Perhaps reflecting high levels of stress early in the COVID-19 pandemic, those who used such resources were more likely to have “at risk” well-being.

Dr. Munn and coauthors believe their study has practical implications for health care leaders to promote well-being and resilience among health care workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. “While it may seem obvious that nurses and other HCWs would sustain burnout and poor well-being after dealing with providing care under arduous circumstances, it’s important to establish the contributing factors and to learn how some were able to mitigate the effects of the stressors,” notes Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN, Editor in Chief of AJN. “We’re in serious need of successful strategies to support frontline caregivers.”

The researchers discuss steps that may help to support resilience while addressing modifiable factors that negatively affect well-being in the health care work environment. “[L]eaders can take crucial steps toward optimizing workers’ well-being by paying careful attention to workload and staffing, creating a culture of psychological safety within teams and units, and recognizing and actively addressing the unique challenges posed by the pandemic,” Dr. Munn and colleagues conclude.

Covid May Have Claimed As Many As 5 Million Lives In India

India’s actual death toll from covid-19 could range between 1.3 million to a staggering 5 million, with even the most conservative estimate putting its tally at more than double the U.S., the highest recorded in the world so far. The numbers, derived from research models and local authority data, range from three to 10 times the country’s official count, adding to evidence that the true cost of India’s outbreak has been massively under-reported. As corpses floated in the Ganges, a river sacred to millions of Hindus, and crematoriums and graveyards were overwhelmed, skepticism grew over the death toll of around 420,000 recorded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has used the ostensibly low mortality rate to defend India’s covid track record.

Bloomberg approached authorities in about half of India’s 28 states and territories seeking death data from April and May for the last two years and analyzed figures from researchers and experts. The result is clear: the real toll has been vastly underestimated because of a combination of under-counting, a backlog in the civil registration system and a lack of testing leading to covid deaths being classified as other conditions like heart disease. The findings dovetail with estimates from researchers around the world. Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, has devoted much of the past year to modeling India’s pandemic. Her studies suggest the death toll is around 1.3 million up to June 15.

Rukmini S, a leading data journalist, has written that the numbers she’s gathered suggest a death toll closer to 2.5 million. A report from the Washington-based Center for Global Development think tank released Tuesday, July 20, 2021, studied data from three different sources, finding that excess deaths – a term public health experts use to describe mortality from all causes during a crisis that is above what would have been expected in ‘normal’ conditions – likely ranged between 3.4 million to 4.9 million.

“Regardless of source and estimate, actual deaths during the covid pandemic are likely to have been an order of magnitude greater than the official count,” said the report, co-authored by Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic adviser to the Indian government and two other researchers. “True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence.”

The federal Health Ministry in a July 14 press release called media reports on higher covid death counts “speculative.” India’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament Tuesday that “detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by Union Health Ministry to all states and union territories.” The ministry did not respond to written questions from Bloomberg – instead it released a statement Thursday, July 22, saying reports of higher death tolls were misleading. “Given the robust and statute based death registration system in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of infectious disease and its management, missing out on the deaths is unlikely,” it said.

Despite widespread reporting on oxygen shortages across India as the second wave of infections hit the country in April and May, the minister added that “no deaths due to lack of oxygen has been specifically reported” by local governments. The states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha combined have close to 300,000 excess deaths in the six months to June, according to all-cause mortality numbers analyzed by Bloomberg – more than 5.5 times their official covid death data of about 53,000. That already represents three-quarters of India’s official toll, though they are just four among 28 states and territories and 17% of the nation’s 1.4 billion people.

State government officials say in most cases that people who had not been tested or had tested negative – but showed coronavirus symptoms – were not counted in the official toll. In rural areas, many people went untested, untreated and ultimately uncounted, contrary to federal government guidelines. At least six states did not respond to requests for all-cause death data. The figures paint a very different picture to the narrative presented by Modi, who has said that India handled the outbreak better than any other country, pointing to its low mortality rate as evidence. Modi’s popularity has fallen as the country’s health infrastructure almost collapsed: his government’s approval ratings dropped from 75% in 2019 to 51% this year, according to polling company LocalCircles’s survey released May 29. While under-reporting of covid fatalities is a global phenomenon, the problem is aggravated in India because deaths were already poorly counted before the pandemic. Only 92% of all deaths are registered and only a fifth of those are properly medically certified.

“Not capturing a death is dishonor to a life,” said Mukherjee. “Without relating the deaths and hospitalizations to vaccine and variant data, we will never be able to grasp the effectiveness of vaccines or clinical lethality of the variant.” Historically India has published ‘all-cause’ mortality data every two years, Rukmini said, but noted that she and other reporters have recently accessed this data via local sources. It is “available and should be made public. We don’t need to wait for two years.”

Across some of India’s most populous states, local reporters and non-governmental organizations have pieced together a more accurate picture of the pandemic. The eastern state of Bihar saw nearly 75,000 unexplained deaths in the first five months of 2021, most during the deadly second wave of the pandemic. That represents almost 10 times the state’s official covid death figure, the news channel NDTV reported. “In Madhya Pradesh, the state bulletin gives one figure, while the district bulletin gives an entirely different number, while crematoriums are telling a different story,” said Amulya Nidhi, the national co-convener of Jan SwasthyaAbhiyan or People’s Health Movement. His organization’s data shows that in April and May, about 14,695 people lost their lives to covid-19 in 20 of the state’s 51 districts, while the official figure is only 2,425.

From January to May this year, Andhra Pradesh excess deaths may have jumped as much as 34 times, the Hindu reported, citing civil registration data. Unaccounted deaths also have been reported from Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Even the capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, where record-keeping is generally better, have large unexplained death numbers. In May and June, some states including Bihar and Maharashtra reconciled their death data, pushing the country’s cumulative mortality toll up.

Not all ‘excess deaths’ have to be covid-19 deaths, but most of them likely are because they occurred during the virus surge, said ChinmayTumbe, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and author of the book ‘The Age of Pandemics (1817-1920): How they shaped India and the World.’ “The problem of course is that the government is going to maintain that we have a great reporting system,” Tumbe said. “I’m afraid that what the data shows is that’s clearly not true.”

Southeast Asia Struggles With Fast-Spreading Delta Variant

Growing concerns become alarming with the ever-increasing spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 in the Southeast Asia region, leading to record levels of infections and deaths.

When accounting for the slow administration of vaccines along with a population of more than twice the US, Southeast Asia’s outbreak was to be expected. The devastating third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is challenging regions like Indonesia and Myanmar, which are countries struggling with low vaccination rates, overcrowded hospitals and limited oxygen supplies. These countries in Southeast Asia surpassed the previously concentrated epidemic centers such as Latin America and India, largely due to their low testing capacities and low vaccination rates. According to the CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies) Southeast Asia Covid-19 Tracker, Indonesia alone has jumped to 33,772 cases in the last 24 hours, ranking fifth in the world, with Thailand and Malaysia following behind with 13,002 and 11,985 new cases respectively.

 

Source: CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies), Southeast Asia Covid-19 Tracker

Note: Data as of Jul 21, 2021

Overall, Southeast Asia has jumped to 69,884 cases in the past day, with deaths increasing at a concerning rate of 39% in the past week, marking the quickest pace globally and is expected to rise even further as spikes in deaths are commonly followed by surging cases. As shown in CSIS Covid-19 Tracker, vaccination rates in Southeast Asia are lagging far behind the US, with the exception of Singapore. Southeast Asia’s overall vaccination rate of 9% is concerning when compared to regions like North America and Western Europe, where more than half the population is fully vaccinated. Fed up with how certain officers controlled the pandemic, places like Thailand have had recent protests in hopes of change. On Sunday, more than 1,000 protesters marched to Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s office, in anger at how the pandemic was poorly handled.

According to CNN, the police used tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, resulting in eight officers and at least one reporter injured, along with 13 protesters arrested.  Multiple provinces in Thailand are now consolidating lockdown measures in concentrated zones to help reduce the spread of the virus and will be enforced until at least August 2nd.

Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated’ Spreads In US, Fueled By Delta

Fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, Covid cases are rising in almost all the 50 states in the United States, and with less thanhalf the US population fully vaccinated, public health chiefs warned of an “extraordinary surge” coast to coast. Covid are going up, so are the number of hospitalizations and deaths.  Data compiled by the New York Times showed that the average rate measured over the past 2 weeks was rising in all 50 states – varying from a dramatic 373% in Tennessee to 10% in Maine. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases official, said there had been an extraordinary surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19 – which is more transmissible – around the world, including in the US.

Jeff Zients, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus team, confirmed that unvaccinated Americans “account for virtually all recent Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths”. Four states that are currently seeing high increases in Covid-19 cases have accounted for over 40% of the total Covid cases seen in the country this past week, Zients said. One in five cases occurred in Florida, in which about 50% of the state is fully vaccinated. “Each Covid-19 death is tragic, and those happening now are even more tragic because they are preventable,” he said. Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada are also seeing surges in infections in many parts.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and research scientist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan has pointed to a compelling preprint study out of China recently that showed people who were exposed to the Delta variant got sick fast. The study has found that people infected with the Delta variant are shedding way more virus, which could explain why it’s so contagious. Rasmussen says the good news is that it still transmits in the same way as the original strain, so all of those mitigation tools like masking and handwashing and social distancing – all of those still work to block Delta. And the vaccines are still highly effective against this variant.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that new COVID-19 cases are on a sharp rise, up 70%, fueled by the Delta variant. Officials expect more spread in the nation’s unvaccinated population. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far below last winter’s peak and vaccines are effective against Delta. But rising cases prompted the official, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to declare in a briefing on July 16th that the trend is clear. Unvaccinated people are at risk. She pleaded with Americans to get fully vaccinated.

Describing the new trend across the nation, Walensky says it’s a little bit of a mixed picture. Cases are rising in some places like California and New York that have pretty good vaccination rates. But she says by far, the most spread is happening in places where not many people are vaccinated. In fact, 97% of people who get so sick with COVID-19 that they have to be hospitalized are unvaccinated. Officials are concerned by these numbers and point out that sickness and death is avoidable. COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease, and people who’ve been holding out should get vaccinated.

During the press briefing, Walensky said that in places that are hot spots where there’s low vaccination rates, it may make sense for local officials to consider masking requirements until the vaccine campaign can catch up. The Los Angelus County has mandated indoor masking, including vaccinated people, and  so we’ll have to see if other places follow suit. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. Communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” she said.

Dr. Sreeni R. Gangasani Appointed To The Georgia Composite Medical Board

Dr. Sreeni R. Gangasani,  a practicing Cardiologist in Lawrenceville, Georgia for over 20 years, has been appointed to the Georgia Composite Medical Board by the Governor of Georgia Hon. Brain Kemp. The Georgia Composite Medical Board protects the health of Georgians through the proper licensing of physicians and enforcement of the Medical Practice Act. The Georgia Composite Medical Board is comprised of sixteen members (15 voting members and one ex-officio) appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

Dr. Gangasani is Board Certified in Cardiovascular disease, Echocardiography, Nuclear cardiology, Heart failure and transplantation.  He is a founding partner of Cardiovascular Group based in metro Atlanta. He was past president of Georgia Association of physicians of Indian heritage (GAPI), past board of trustee and Vice Chair of American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), Chair of 37th and 39th AAPI convention in Atlanta in 2019 and 2021, Chair of AAPI Global Health Summit, 2019-20 in Hyderabad, India.

Born in Andhra Pradesh, India, Dr. Gangasani attended Kurnool Medical College (AP University of Health Sciences) from where he graduated in 1991. He was awarded State and National Merit Scholarships as well as Gold Medals and Merit Certificates in Pharmacology, Forensic Medicine, Social and Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine for being a top- of- the- class student. He went on to win first place in Indian Academy of Pediatrics Quiz Competition. Later, in the U.S. he won Internal Medicine Quiz Competition as first year resident for internal residency program in 1994. He was also recognized Outstanding Resident in 1995. He won the first place in 1997 for presentation (Scientific paper Award) at Annual meeting of Michigan Association of Physicians from India.

Despite busy schedule, Dr. Gangasani has contributed research papers to various Medical publications. An active and hard working member of several Medical Associations, he is committed to serve the community beyond his medical practice, devoting time to help the needy here in the US and in India. Imbued with a ‘Giving back to the community’ spirit, Dr.Sreeni’s compassionate heart has helped many worthy causes in both India and the U.S. In India, he has conducted a Health Fair in Hyderabad, India as secretary of APNA (Andhra Pradesh Physicians of North America) Foundation. He has donated stents and balloon catheters worth about $250,000 to hospitals and free pacemakers for needy people in Hyderabad. In the U.S. he has participated in various Health Fairs; volunteered at Gwinnett Community Clinic; and performed physical examinations for student athletes.

Dr. Gangasani was the past chair of Department of internal medicine at Northside Gwinnett Hospital, past board member of Gwinnett Medical Center foundation and current director of GAPI Volunteer clinic, immediate past Chair of Board of directors, ATMGUSA (Association of Telugu Medical graduates of USA). He served as the Chair of AAPI Awards committee for year 2020-2021. He is a graduate of Physician leadership academy. As the Covid pandemic ravaged India, Dr. Gangasani, with his wife Madhavi’s help, has been working with other volunteer doctors from the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and the non-profit Sewa International, providing virtual house calls for COVID-19 patients through the new online platform eGlobalDoctors, which Gangasani co-founded.

The hope, he says, is to shift some of the burdens away from overwhelmed physicians and hospitals in India. “The system is not set up to take care of so many patients at one time,” Gangasani says. “So, the goal was to get patients treated at home, if possible, to avoid the hospitalizations. The doctors volunteer to take calls for 4 or 5 hours at a time, many of them working after they have finished their regular work hours. The consultations are free and open to anyone who needs help. Since they launched the online platform in May, Dr. Gangasani estimated they have helped about 2,000 COVID-19 patients in India.

Dr. SreeniGangasani is a gifted physician with caring, healing hands and a tender heart who strives unceasingly to help others. “In the past two decvades, working as a cardiologist in Metro Atlanta, I have met many nice people and cherish many wonderful experiences with them. Its heart-warming to receive ‘Thank you’ notes from patients and their families. I am planning on participating in health camps/eye camps in India and the US whenever I can and inspire others with a ‘Can do’ spirit.”

Losing 10 Family Members To Covid, US Surgeon General Warns Against Health Misinformation

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy revealed during the White House news briefing on July 5th that he’s lost 10 family members to the coronavirus. Murthy, who joined the briefing in an effort to urge Americans to get their shots amid lagging vaccination rates, was candid about his own experience during the pandemic. His family members who died were in both the U.S. and India. He said it was “painful” to know that “nearly every death we are seeing now” from Covid-19 in the U.S. could have been prevented with vaccines.

Murthy said misinformation has been a significant contributor to vaccine hesitancy. He said roughly two-thirds of people who haven’t gotten the vaccination believe, to some degree, common myths about the shots. Some of this misinformation has been amplified by social media, he said. He warned against health misinformation saying that falsehoods spreading quickly online have subjected large numbers of Americans to avoidable illness and death. Murthy called on social media companies to step up their efforts on the issue, arguing that technology firms “have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users.”

“They’ve allowed people who intentionally spread misinformation – what we call disinformation – to have extraordinary reach,” Murthy said of tech companies. “They’ve designed product features such as ‘like’ buttons that reward us for sharing emotionally-charged content, not accurate content. And their algorithms tend to give us more of what we click on, pulling us deeper and deeper into a well of misinformation.” The surgeon general’s advisory Murthy issued comes amid a rise in coronavirus cases, as some Americans resist getting inoculated against the coronavirus despite the widespread availability of vaccinations in the United States.

The advisory is the most high-profile action the Biden administration has taken to date to stem the tide of falsehoods spreading on social media. It’s a major reversal from the Trump administration, when the former president’s own baseless claims about the virus often tested the social networks’ covid-19 misinformation policies. Murthy’s advisory calls for the tech platforms to make investments to address disinformation, including building in more suggestions and warnings to make it harder for people to spread false information about vaccines or the virus. He also recommends that the companies make greater investments in content moderation, especially in languages other than English.

Murthy also called on the platforms to prioritize the detection of “super spreaders” and repeat policy offenders. The advisory Murthy issued on Thursday has a broad list of recommendations. It advises Americans to check whether a source is trustworthy before forwarding information. It also recommends that health and educational institutions work to improve information literacy and calls on media organizations not to give a platform to newsmakers who spread misinformation.

American Academy Of Pediatrics Recommends Masks In Schools For Everyone Over 2, Regardless Of Vaccinations

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new Covid-19 guidance for schools on Monday that supports in-person learning and recommends universal masking in school of everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status — a stricter position than that taken this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in all circumstances,” the guidance says. One of the main interventions put forward by the AAP is that all students over the age of 2 and all school staff should wear masks at school unless they have a medical or developmental condition that prohibits this.

Reasons for this recommendation include but are not limited to: a significant proportion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccination; masking protects those who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 and reduces transmission; and potential difficulty in monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who are not vaccinated. “There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” Dr. Sara Bode, chair-elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, said Monday in a statement. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well. It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”

The AAP’s recommendation on universal masking is different from guidance by CDC, which also prioritized in-person learning but advised that fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff don’t need to wear masks at school. AAP’s more cautious mask guidance is understandable, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “When you have a degree of viral dynamics in the community and you have a substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated, you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile, to make sure that there is not a lot of transmission, even breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals,” Fauci told CNN on Monday.The differing guidance could cause some confusion, Fauci acknowledged while noting the CDC’s guidance allows for local states, cities and other agencies to make their own judgments. “I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics (is) a thoughtful group. They analyze the situation, and if they feel that that’s the way to go, I think that is a reasonable thing to do,” he said.

Over 740,000 Cancers A Year Linked To Alcohol Use

At least 4% of the world’s newly diagnosed cases of esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver and breast cancers in 2020, or 741,300 people, can be attributed to drinking alcohol, according to a new study. The link between smoking and cancer is well-documented and widely known. But alcohol? “Fewer than one in three Americansrecognize alcohol as a cause of cancer,” says Harriet Rumgay, researcher at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization. “That’s similar in other high-income countries, and it’s probably even lower in other parts of the world.”

A new study shows just how much of a risk drinking can be. At least 4% of the world’s newly diagnosed cases of esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver and breast cancers in 2020, or 741,300 people, can be attributed to drinking alcohol, according to a study in the July 13 edition of Lancet Oncology. Men accounted for three-quarters of alcohol-related cancers. Of the 172,600 alcohol-related cancer cases suffered by women, the vast majority, or 98,300 cases, were breast cancer. It’s the first time, Rumgay says, that research has quantified the risks of different levels of drinking. “Our study highlights the contribution of even relatively low levels of alcohol to the risk of new cancer cases,” says Rumgay.

What’s the connection?

There are a few biological pathways that lead from alcohol consumption to a cancer diagnosis, according to the study. Ethenol, the form of alcohol present in beer, wine and liquor, breaks down to form a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and interferes with cells’ ability to repair the damage. Alcohol can also increase levels of hormones, including estrogen. Hormones signal cells to grow and divide. With more cell division there are more opportunities for cancer to develop. Alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to absorb certain cancer-protective nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D, E and folate.

What’s more, the combination of drinking and smoking might indirectly increase the risk of cancer, with alcohol acting as a kind of solvent for the carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco. The more a person drinks, the greater the likelihood of biological damage. To come up with their statistical estimate, researchers crunched three sets of data: estimated global alcohol consumption estimates, specific cancer risks from alcohol, and estimates of the global incidence of those cancers in 2020. They found that the more alcohol people drink, the higher their risk of an alcohol-related cancer. Drinking at least two, and more than six, drinks a day, defined as risky to heavy drinking, posed the greatest risk of a future cancer. Even moderate drinking, two or fewer drinks a day, accounted for an estimated 14%, or 103,000 cases, of alcohol-related cancers, according to the study.

The study’s authors suggest that the numbers of alcohol-related cancers are probably even higher than their estimates. “That’s because we didn’t include former drinkers in our main analysis, even though they may have an increased risk of cancer,” says Rumgay. Instead, they looked at countrywide estimates of current drinkers. They also looked only at cancers where the risk factor has been scientifically shown to increase with alcohol use. They didn’t include cancers that emerging evidence suggests are likely linked to alcohol, such as pancreatic and stomach cancers.

When they further analyzed their data incorporating former drinkers and including the two cancers possibly linked to alcohol, the numbers went up significantly. “When we did the analysis and included former drinking, pancreatic and stomach cancers, the numbers increased to 925,000 alcohol-related cancers,” she said. That’s an additional 185,000 possible alcohol-related cancers, or 5% of all the world’s cancers. Some of the highest proportions of alcohol-related cancers were found in Moldova and Romania, she said. But recent changes in taxing policy, increasing the cost of alcohol in those countries, have caused a drop in alcohol sales. And that could foreshadow a future reduction in related cancers, she said.

On the other hand, economic growth in places like China, India and Vietnam might lead to increased alcohol use and related cancers down the road. The lowest rates of alcohol-related cancers in the world were found in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where religious-based policies ensure low rates of drinking. Drinking rates are relatively low in parts of Africa, but that seems to be changing. “Drinking trends show that alcohol use is increasing in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We predict that the number of cases of cancer in Southern Africa will increase by two thirds over the next 20 years, and in Eastern Africa cases will double,” says Rumgay.

What that means is that nations in those areas of Africa should be thinking now about strategies to control drinking. “Currently, only 16 of 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have national alcohol strategies,” says Rumgay. Those strategies could include increasing taxes on alcohol and adding cancer warning labels to alcohol similar to warnings now on cigarette packages. While such public policies are effective and necessary, says Dr. Amy Justice, professor of medicine and public health at Yale University, we need to go further. Justice wrote a commentary in Lancet Oncology accompanying the alcohol-related cancer study. She agrees with the authors that the results are, if anything, an understatement of the impact of alcohol on cancer cases. And she has suggestions to reduce the burden of alcohol-related cancers that go beyond governmental action.

“I’m a doctor,” she says. And as a physician, she thinks about the things she can say individually to a patient, one on one, to encourage them to reduce their drinking. “There’s pretty good data that you can get people to decrease their alcohol consumption with brief motivational information,” she said. That might mean teaching doctors around the world to talk about alcohol use as a possible cause when a patient complains of sleep or memory problems or has the beginning signs of liver disease. “You tailor the information to the personal concerns of the patient in front of you,” says Justice.

(Susan Brink is a freelance writer who covers health and medicine. She is the author of The Fourth Trimester and co-author of A Change of Heart.)

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula-Led Leadership Vows To Take AAPI Newer Heights

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI)has vowed to  make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, primarily focusing to improve and reform the current healthcare system and help towards making a better healthcare model for the patients;  create awareness projects on major chronic diseases burdening our health care system through Lifestyle modifications; establish a support system to members going through racial discrimination in the US; support AAPI legislative efforts to make healthcare better and affordable to all and promote charitable activities globally.

During a solemn ceremony attended by hundreds of AAPI delegates from around the nation, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and a new executive committee, consisting of Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect; Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President; Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary; Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer;  Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair, Board of Trustees; Dr. Soumya Neravetla- President, Young Physicians Section; and, Dr. Ayesha Singh, President, Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section;assumed charge of AAPI during the 39th annual Convention at the at the fabulous and world famous Omni Atlanta at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center on July 4th.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, the outgoing President of AAPI passed on the gavel to Dr. Gotimukula, who will lead AAPI as its President in the year 2021-2022, the largest Medical Organization in the United States, representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, serving the interests of the Indian American physicians in the US and in many ways contributing to the shaping of the healthcare delivery in the US for the past four decades.  A resident of San Antonio, TX, Dr.Gotimukula  is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, is affiliated with Christus Santa Rosa, Baptist and Methodist Healthcare systems in San Antonio. After graduating with distinction from Kakatiya Medical College, NTR University of Health Sciences in India, she did Residency at University of Miami & University of Illinois, and Fellowship in Pediatric Anesthesiology at University of Michigan.

As a Healthcare Leader, Dr. Gotimukula recognizes that “API has power. We have legitimate respect and trust of our communities in every corner of America. AAPI will leverage that power of our purpose and networks to help address specific challenges related to women and the numerous challenges women face.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, a very young and energetic leader of AAPI, assumed office as the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI on July 4th. The youngest to date to be holding this position in AAPI’s 40 years long history and the first person to go to medical school in the USA, Dr. Punjabi completed her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in Biology and Economics and graduated with high honors as a Henry Rutgers Scholar. She, then completed MD/MBA program from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers Business School.

Holding leadership roles while a student, Dr. Punjabi says, “I was the Class President in medical school and got the Deans Award that year. I then went to Philadelphia and completed my residency in Emergency Medicine from Drexel University – Hahnemann University Hospital. For the past 12 years, I work as an Emergency Physician at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson university hospital in NJ serving our local community and teaching at the Medical school as Assistant Professor in Emergency Medicine.”

Dr. Punjabi has “served many board positions at American Medical Association (AMA,) women’s section and young physicians section and at the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) for past 12 years starting in the Young Physician sections. I have led community service projects, organized webinars and conferences, written in AAPI newsletters and journals. I have won several national elections of AAPI before being unanimously elected as Chair of the Board.”

Dr. Punjabi says, “My goal as Chair of the Board is to develop long lasting programs within AAPI that promote professionalism, unity, mentorship and inclusivity. I hope to clearly re-define AAPI’s mission of service, academic achievement and supporting Indian Physicians working in America through advocacy and leadership. I want patients to know the value of the care they receive from our ethnic group and our mission of promoting the safest and best healthcare practices for our patients.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serves as Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services. A former Clinical Asst. Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University, Dr. Kolli had served as the President-Elect in 2020-21, Secretary of AAPI 2019-20, Regional Director of AAPI 2017-18, Past President of Pittsburgh Chapter of AAPI (TAPI), Past President of Rangaraya Medical College Alumni of North America and as the Past President of Association of Telugu Medical Graduates in USA.

“In my role as the President-Elect of AAPI, I will be working closely with the entire AAPI leadership to make AAPI a more dynamic and  vibrant organization playing a meaningful and relevant part in advocating health policies and practices that best serve the interests of all patients  and  promoting the  physician’s role   as  the  leaders of the  team based health care delivery,” Dr. Kolli says. “We will work together to promote our values of professionalism, collegiality, excellence in patient care and enhance AAPI’s reputation as a premiere professional organization offering educational programs and advocacy.”

Dr. Kolli wants to “focus on battling the stigma of mental illness and access to quality mental health care broadly. I will be forming liaison with mental health professionals in India and globally and bring awareness of various biopsychosocial therapeutic options  to promote wellness and recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.  We will also actively promote physician wellness and self care to address the challenges of physician burnout and suicide.”

Dr. Anajana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, “My journey with AAPI in the past 20 years taught me lots of lessons, skills and molded me to take more responsibility in the organization. My ordeal with Covid -19 was hard, but it also made me strong, resilient and tenacious. I will bring to the organization the level of commitment, hard work, experience and skill set needed to accomplish the various goals for AAPI and its members.”

Dr.Anjana Samadder has shown great leadership qualities which she proved during her tenure as local chapter President (Central Ohio), Regional Director(Ohio and Michigan) and as AAPI National Treasurer. She has also served diligently in different capacities within AAPI including being National Coordinator for AAPI Annual Convention, 2018 in Columbus.  Dr. Smaddar served as the Chair, AAPI Women’s Forum and has organized first live conference of this year in Tampa, Florida (March 19 to 21,2021) with great success. Her vision for AAPI is “to help build an ethically strong, morally straight and fiscally responsible organization. It is also vitally important to bring much needed diversity to keep AAPI thriving.”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said, “I want to assure that I will sincerely work for the betterment of our beloved organization, AAPI.” A board certified hematologist and oncologist from Dayton, Ohio, practicing Medicine for nearly two decades, Dr. Kathula is a clinical professor of medicine at Wright State University- Boonshoft school of medicine, Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Siddhartha Medical College, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India in 1992. He has been actively involved in community service locally, nationally and internationally for the last two decades. He has been awarded with the “Man of the year-2018, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. ’”

Dr. Kathula has served in numerous capacities, before being elected as the Treasurer of AAPI-2020-21. He had served as the Chair, IT Committee- 2019-20; Editor, Enewsletter-2019-20; a member of AAPI’s Board of Trustees- 2014-17; and Regional Director- 2012-14, in addition t several roles at the local and regional level.  He has served as the President and founding member of Association of Indian Physicians from Ohio; President, Miami Valley Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; President, ATMGUSA; and has worked with Ohio State Medical Association on various issues.

A recipient of several Community Service/Awards, Dr. Kathula wants to “Make AAPI a mainstream organization and work on issues affecting physicians including physician shortage, burnout, and credentialing, while leveraging the strength of 100,000 doctors at legislative level.” Another area, he wants to work is to “Encourage and engage next generation/young physicians in AAPI activities. While working closely with other physician organizations such as AMA.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI said, “I am honored to be elected as the Treasurer of national AAPI. As an organization, AAPI is committed to increasing young physicians’ knowledge base, enhancing their careers, and empowering them to play a key role in healthcare advocacy and community service. I will continue my dedicated work of several years helping fulfil our mission.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar is a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Nassau University Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital. A recipient of the prestigious Parvasi Bharatiya Diwas Award, Dr. Krishan Kumar, served as the Chair and Program Director, Department of Pediatrics, Nassau University Medical Center, from January, 2017-April 2019. Dr. Kumar is a Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at NY College of Osteopathic Medicine and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at  NY College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has served as the Medical Director, Fire Police EMS Academy- County of Nassau, NY from 2000 to January 2019.

Dr. Kumar was recognized among America’s Top Pediatricians by Consumer’s Research Council of America- Excellence 2010. The Congressional Certificate of Merit Award- given by Peter King, Chairman, Home Land Security, for “In recognition of being awarded the 2011 community service and leadership award by the South Asian Political Action Committee   in October, 2011.

The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. We the physicians of Indian origin are proud of our great achievements and contributions to our motherland, India, our adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.

“As we look forward to the future beyond COVID-19, we at AAPI have so much more room to grow and serve,” Dr. Gotimukula said. “I challenge myself, my Executive Committee, and you all, my AAPI colleagues, to rise up to the task of building on our accomplishments and successes over the last several years. My team and I have defined several goals for this year to further AAPI’s mission, along three key dimensions.”  Dr. Gotimukula urged AAPI to “improve health equity; get rid of discrimination; fight South Asian racial bias; reduce physician burnout; and, improve the career trajectory of the younger generation of Indian American doctors who will be taking care of us as we age.”  For more details, please visit: www.appiusa,org

Dr. Fauci Favors In-Person School In The Fall

A surge in new coronavirus cases has gripped the U.S. as school officials weigh spring semester reopening plans against the backdrop of a global pandemic. The decision to bring students back for in-person instruction is chief among their concerns. But even as case numbers climb, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is in favor of keeping schools open. In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said to “close the bars and keep the schools open,” Business Insider reported.

“Obviously, you don’t have one size fits all,” he said. “But as I said in the past, the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school.” In the wake of new mask guidance from the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on CNN to talk about the emerging science surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations and what Americans can expect as society attempts a partial return to normal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that he agrees with new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends a return to in-person school for children this fall.“I think that the message from the CDC is clear and I totally agree with them,” Fauci told the media. “We want all the children back in in-person classes in the fall term.” CNN’s Jake Tapper concluded his interview Thursday with specific questions about the nation’s students and schools: “Both CDC Director Walensky and the president of the American Federation of Teachers are now saying that schools in the fall should be 100 percent open and in-person, five days a week. Do you agree — and if that’s the plan should it be formalized so schools and parents should start preparing? Yeah I agree with that,” Fauci replied. “I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before — that we really have to do that by the time we get to the fall.”

“The re-opening of schools was associated with very few COVID-19 outbreaks after easing of national lockdown in England,” Public Health England and other experts wrote in the report, according to the Post. A study issued in August by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control found something similar. Citing the study, The New York Times reported children accounted for fewer than 5% of all coronavirus cases reported in the European Union and Britain. The agency also said shutting down schools would be “unlikely to provide significant additional protection of children’s health.”

That’s in-part why schools in England stayed open when an influx of new COVID-19 cases prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to institute a second nationwide lockdown in October. The lockdown expires Dec. 2. Germany, which was looked to as a leader in COVID-19 testing and virus containment early in the pandemic, has done the same with its schools.

The guidance places in-person learning as the priority this fall even if not all mitigation measures can be implemented. It also encourages vaccination for all eligible people.“Obviously, depending upon the age of the children, some will be vaccinated, some not. Those who are not vaccinated should be wearing masks,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The CDC says they’d like to maintain the three-foot distance and if they can’t, they’re going to work around it, do other things, make sure there is good ventilation. The message is loud and clear: come the fall, we want the children back in school,” he added.

US Awaits India’s Nod To Dispatch Covid Vaccines

The United States has said it is waiting for the Indian government to give a green signal for dispatching the anti-Covid vaccines that the US is donating to several countries across the world. “We are ready to ship those vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, as reported by news agency PTI. US vaccines have reached Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. But for India, it is taking time as there are some legal hurdles for emergency import, Ned Price said.

The US earlier announced to share 80 million doses from its domestic stock with countries around the world. Under India’s share, it is supposed to get 3-4 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer from the United States. While Moderna has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India, Pfizer has not yet applied for an emergency approval in India yet.India has sought time to review its legal provision to accept vaccine donation, the United States has said as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh received vaccines from the US.

What are the legal hurdles?

“Before we can ship those doses, however, each country must complete its own domestic set of operational, of regulatory, and legal processes that are specific to each country. Now, India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations,” Price said.

Sputnik plans 300 million doses a year

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, was granted emergency use authorisation in India in May. Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) has added yet another brand to its growing portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines, unveiling plans on Tuesday to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V over the next two months. SII’s addition to a growing list of Indian partners for Sputnik V would enable the country to churn out over a billion doses of the Russian vaccine every year. It is also likely to help improve supply of the vaccine in India, where a soft launch has already taken place through vials imported from Russia but doses from most domestic manufacturers are still awaited.

SII, through its partnership with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), intends to produce over 300 million doses of Sputnik V per year, said Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in a statement. This takes India’s annual production capacity of this vaccine to nearly 1.2 billion doses a year. The Pune-headquartered vaccine maker has already received samples of the cell and vector — crucial components to make the vaccine — from the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology as part of the technical transfer process. The cultivation process has already begun.

“We hope to make millions of doses in the coming months with trial batches starting in the month of September,” said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. “We expect the ramp-up to be quite quick…we’ve actually been working with Serum for the last three months,” said RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

COVID-19 Spikes, Delta Variant Hit Almost Every State In USA

Most areas of the country are seeing a new surge in COVID-19 cases as variants of the virus serve as a painful reminder that the pandemic is not over despite eased restrictions. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have documented an increase in average daily cases over the past two weeks. But nine in particular, including seven in the South, have seen cases at least double in that time period, according to data from The New York Times.

The seven-day-average of new cases was 13,859 as of July 6, up 21% compared to two weeks earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cases attributed to the most recent days might rise further because of a reporting lag following the July 4 holiday weekend. The spike comes as the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than any previous strain, accounted for around 52% of cases in the two weeks ending July 3, according to the CDC. Despite having among the highest availability of vaccines of any country, America’s immunization campaign has dropped off steeply since April. President Joe Biden narrowly missed his goal of having 70% adults at least partly vaccinated by Independence Day, with the current figure at 67%. Regions in the Midwest and South with lower vaccination rates are experiencing higher case rates than regions with high vaccination rates such as the Northeast, a trend that has become increasingly clear in recent weeks.

A hospital in Springfield, Missouri, ran out of ventilators to treat hospitalized COVID patients over the weekend, local media reported. The city of 160,000’s two hospitals were treating 213 COVID-19 patients as of Monday, up from 168 on Friday and 31 on May 24, the Kansas City Star said. “The trajectory that we’re likely to see is two different flavours of the pandemic in the United States, one in which it’s more of a problem in places where there’s a high level of unvaccinated individuals,” Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told AFP.

“In other parts of the country, the pandemic is largely going to be something that’s managed as more of an ordinary respiratory virus,” he added. Mr. Adalja said that even with Delta becoming the dominant strain he envisioned a “decoupling” of hospitalisations and deaths from rising cases in highly vaccinated regions, as has been seen in Israel. “Increasingly, I think we have to start to shift our focus away from cases and really look at hospitalizations, because that’s what the vaccine was designed to do — it was designed to decouple cases from hospitalization,” he said.

Real world data has shown that the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines have retained high efficacy against severe COVID and the same is almost certainly true of the Moderna vaccine, according to experts. Most areas of the country are seeing a new surge in COVID-19 cases as variants of the virus serve as a painful reminder that the pandemic is not over despite eased restrictions. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have documented an increase in average daily cases over the past two weeks. But nine in particular, including seven in the South, have seen cases at least double in that time period, according to data from The New York Times.

In Los Angeles County, officials recorded more than 1,000 new cases for three consecutive days this week for the first time since March. Arkansas also reported more than 1,000 new cases for a third straight day Friday. “The majority of states have large swaths of population that are still not protected,” said Amber D’Souza, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She said that despite tremendous progress on vaccinations, the new data show the outbreaks are mostly hitting areas with lower vaccination rates. Those spikes are due in part to the spread of the more transmissible delta variant and loosened COVID-19 restrictions, D’Souza said.

“We expect to see continuing surges of infection until we are able to bring vaccination rates higher than they currently are,” she added. Overall, the U.S. is now averaging more than 19,000 new cases for the first time since the end of May, marking a 60 percent increase compared with two weeks ago. A third of those cases were documented in five states — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada — CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner told the network Monday.

Throughout the pandemic, rises in coronavirus cases have typically preceded spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. While the rate of COVID-19 deaths is still decreasing in the U.S., data from the Times shows an 11 percent increase in average daily hospitalizations over the past two weeks. During that same period, vaccination rates have plummeted to an average of 500,000 a day, the lowest level since President Biden took office.

Months after Biden declared vaccines were available to all Americans 18 and over, 58.9 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, as are 48 percent of all Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccination rates of the five states with the highest daily average of new coronavirus cases — Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Louisiana and Nevada — are all below the national percentages. D’Souza said government officials need to focus on localized data “because within a state often there really are different stories happening with vaccination and therefore with infection.” And even with the recent surge, she said the nationwide case count is not expected to reach 2020 levels, in large part because 79 percent of those 65 and older have been fully vaccinated.

“There are a lot of reasons for hope,” she said. “That being said, things have stalled this past month. We are seeing reduced vaccination and increased infection, and that is the worry of what that forebodes for the fall.” Experts have said that unvaccinated people are more at risk to develop serious illness and die from the delta variant that now makes up a majority of cases in the U.S. Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said last week that more than 99 percent of people who died of COVID-19 in June in the U.S. were not vaccinated.

Several polls have shown that Republicans are less likely to get vaccinated than Democrats. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the vaccination gap between counties that voted for former President Trump in 2020 and those that voted for Biden has nearly doubled in two months. Efforts to narrow that gap face stiff competition from some vaccine opponents.“The government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated. And it isn’t happening,” said conservative author Alex Berenson, drawing applause at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas.

Some officials are now weighing whether to take action to combat COVID-19 case surges. Los Angeles County and St. Louis County are recommending all people wear masks indoors, even if they are vaccinated. In Mississippi, the state’s Department of Health called on residents aged 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions to avoid all indoor mass gatherings. On Sunday, Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” that there should be more local mandates to prevent COVID-19 spread, calling it a “life and death situation.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Monday that the federal government will “certainly support” local leaders if they decide to institute restrictions “to keep their community safe.”Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told ABC’s “This Week” that he plans to travel to six cities in his state this week in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy. “We’ve got to overcome that mistrust because it — Republicans, Democrats, we all suffer the same consequence if the delta variant hits us and we’re not vaccinated,” Hutchinson said.

Dr. Meena Seshamani Appointed As Head US Centre For Medicare

President Joe Biden has appointed an Indian-American health policy expert who served on the leadership of the Biden-Harris transition Health and Human Services (HHS) agency review team. Dr. Meena Seshamani, 43, will be acting as Deputy Administrator and the Director of the US Centre for Medicare. She will lead the Centre’s efforts in serving the people 65 or older, people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease that rely on Medicare coverage.

She received her B.A. with Honours in Business Economics from Brown University, her M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and her Ph.D. in Health Economics from the University of Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She completed her residency training in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and practiced as a head and neck surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, an administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said, “Dr. Meena Seshamani brings her diverse background as a health care executive, health economist, physician and health policy expert to CMS.” Dr. Seshamani also brings decades of policy experience to her role, including recently serving on the leadership of the Biden-Harris transition HHS agency review team.

Brooks-LaSure added, “Providing quality health care to the people who rely on Medicare and advancing health equity as we do it is a priority for CMS. I am delighted to say Dr. Seshamani will bring her unique perspective on how health policy impacts the real lives of patients to her leadership role as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Centre for Medicare,” she said.

Seshamani most recently served as Vice President of Clinical Care Transformation at MedStar Health, where she conceptualized, designed, and implemented population health and value-based care initiatives and served on the senior leadership of the 10 hospital, 300+ outpatient care site health system, a media release said. The care models and service lines under her leadership, including community health, geriatrics, and palliative care, have been nationally recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and others.

Prior to MedStar Health, she was director of the office of Health Reform at the US Department of Health and Human Services, where she drove strategy and led implementation of the Affordable Care Act across the department, including coverage policy, delivery system reform, and public health policy, the statement said.

Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala – An Unparalleled Legacy

Arya Vaidyan P. K. Warrier, who led Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS) at Kottakkal to heights of fame and glory over the last six decades, turned 100 last month. Arya Vaidya Sala will conduct Dr. Warrier’s centenary celebrations in a limited way, adhering strictly to Covid protocols.

Established in 1902 at Kottakkal in Malappuram district by the late physician and philanthropist, Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier, Arya Vaidya Sala has grown into one of the pioneering institutions of Ayurveda in the country. The 119-year-old institution has branches in nearly all the main cities and towns in the country, and has more than 1,600 authorised dealers. It offers Ayurvedic treatments, medicines and therapies to patients from across the globe. The healthcare centre runs Ayurvedic hospitals at Kottakkal, Kochi and Delhi. The charitable institution has its drug-manufacturing units at Kottakkal, Kanjikode and Nanjangud, churning out more than 550 Ayurvedic medicines.

Apart from engaging in research activities, the centre publishes periodicals and books on Ayurveda, cultivates medicinal plants and organizes educational programmes. The founder, Dr P. S. Varier, started the Ayurveda Pathasala in 1917 which later became Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier Ayurveda College. AVS also runs a Kathakali academy, named P. S. V. Natyasangham, where the classical dance form is taught and performed.  P. S. V. Natyasangham is known for its strict adherence to the classical tenets of performance and meticulous training, and has produced talented artistes.  A museum that preserves the personal belongings of Dr. Varier and documents the milestones in the history of Arya Vaidya Sala was established in 2002. It also chronicles the renaissance in the field of Ayurveda and its history.

Dr. Varier also consecrated a temple for Lord Viswambhara in 1932. The idol installed at the temple was specially made at Agra, and is carved in white marble. The seven-day annual festival at the temple is known for its cultural importance, and renowned Kathakali artistes and musicians perform during the festival.

Getting there
Nearest railway station: Tirur, about 16 km away
Nearest airport: Kozhikode, about 28 km away

Contact
Arya Vaidya Sala
Kottakkal, Malappuram
Kerala – 676 503
Phone: +91 483 2742216, 2808000
E-mail: [email protected]

Heart Risk ‘Calculators’ Overlook Increased Risk For People Of South Asian Ancestry

Newswise — DALLAS, July 12, 2021 — People of South Asian ancestry have more than double the risk of developing heart disease compared to people of European ancestry, yet clinical risk assessment calculators used to guide decisions about preventing or treating heart disease may fail to account for the increased risk, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. About a quarter of the world’s population (1.8 billion people) are of South Asian descent, and prior research has shown South Asians experience higher rates of heart disease compared to people of most other ethnicities.

To better understand the variables surrounding the heart disease risk for people of South Asian ancestry, researchers evaluated data from a subset of participants in the UK Biobank study who did not have atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease when they enrolled in the study between 2006 and 2010. There were 8,124 participants of South Asian Ancestry and 449,349 of European ancestry included in this analysis. Their average age was 57 and they were followed an average of 11 years. People in the South Asian ancestry group were defined as those who self-reported being of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, or who reported other South Asian heritage, such as their country of birth as Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal or Sri Lanka. European ancestry was based on self-identification as being white British, white Irish, or any other white European background.

Researchers compared the rates of developing cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, or a procedure to restore normal blood supply to the heart) among people of South Asian ancestry to the rate among people of European ancestry. They found that 6.8% of participants of South Asian ancestry had a cardiovascular disease event, compared to 4.4% of those who reported having European ancestry. After adjustment for age and sex, this represents a more than two-fold higher risk for people of South Asian descent. The higher relative risk was largely consistent across a variety of age, sex and clinical subgroups. However, this increased risk was not captured by the clinical estimators used in the United States or Europe.

“Based on previous studies, we expected South Asians would have higher rates of heart disease – in fact, the American Heart Association now considers South Asian ethnicity a ‘risk enhancer’ beyond the standard risk calculator,” said senior study author Amit V. Khera, M.D., M.Sc., a cardiologist in the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center and leader of a research group within the Center for Genomic Medicine, both at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“We were surprised by the magnitude of the increased risk — even within contemporary clinical practice, it was more than double — and how much of it remains unexplained by traditional clinical or lifestyle risk factors,” he said. “Our current tools do not help us predict this extra risk in the South Asian population, likely because no South Asians were included in developing the U.S. tool, so we may be missing opportunities to prevent heart attacks and strokes in this group. Intensive control of risk factors like high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes are even more important in this population.”

A higher percentage of people in the South Asian study group did have more risk factors for heart disease, including Type 2 diabetes (even in the absence of obesity), high blood pressure and increased central adiposity (belly fat). However, even when researchers accounted for the known risks, the risk for people of South Asian ancestry was still 45% higher than for people of European ancestry.

“We need to dig deeper to better understand why South Asians are having heart attacks and strokes at higher rates even after accounting for these risk factors,” said Aniruddh P. Patel, M.D., lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Our ability to study South Asian and other populations in general in the United States using public databases has been limited because individuals are grouped together by race rather than ancestry. This makes recognizing and addressing these disparities among a fast-growing South Asian population in the U.S. more difficult. In addition to recruiting more South Asians in clinical trials and cohort studies, better reporting of ancestry in addition to race in hospital data systems and electronic medical records would help us better understand and target these disparities.”

The research does have some limitations. The study included adults between the ages of 40 and 69 living in the United Kingdom, thus the results may not be generalizable to younger individuals or those who live in other countries. Additionally, based upon the data, people who volunteered for the UK Biobank study were known to be healthier compared to the general population, thus, there were potentially reduced rates of heart disease in both ancestry groups. Further, medical records of study participants were reviewed electronically rather than manually, so underreporting may have occurred.

Khera and colleagues have assembled a team of international investigators to aggregate data and expertise needed to develop new genetic risk estimators for South Asian individuals as part of an NIH-funded consortium. As for the clinical risk estimator tools, South Asians have been severely under-represented to-date, accounting for only about 1% of studied individuals.

“AAPI Is Stronger And Is Going To Be In Safe Hands:” Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda Declares In Farewell Address

(Atlanta, GA; July 5th, 2021) “I am happy to declare that, AAPI is stronger and is going to be in safe hands, as I pass on the traditional gavel to Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, the new President of AAPI,” said Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda, the outgoing President of AAPI in his Farewell Address on July 4th at the famous OMINI Hotel in Atlanta, GA.

Dr. Jonnalagadda, who had assumed office a year ago during a virtual convention, told the AAPI delegates, “Despite the Covid pandemic and the many challenges AAPI had to face, “I am proud of the many accomplishments under my leadership. I am grateful for the immense and life changing moments, probably the best of my life ever, that came with my association with and leading AAPI.” Describing how his own life has changed over the past years, he said, “Working with many physicians motivated me to be a better physician myself. I understood the higher meaning of being a physician, especially even more now during the COVID pandemic. AAPI has given me so much — networking, advocacy, and education — and I am honored to serve this noble organization.  I sincerely appreciate the trust you placed in me as the President of AAPI, and I am deeply committed to continue to work for you.”

Dr. Jonnalagadda expressed gratitude to his executive committee members: Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, President-Elect; Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI; Dr. Satish Kathula,  Treasurer of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI’s BOT; Dr. Ami Baxi, YPS President; Dr. Kinjal Solanki, MSRF President; and Dr. SurendraPurohit, Chair of AAPI Charitable Foundation, for their cooperation, collaboration and leadership in helping AAPI meet the vision for AAPI.

Dr. Jonnalagadda enumerated several programs under his leadership AAPI had undertaken in the past one year. “AAPI and the Charitable Foundation has several programs in India. Under my leadership with the pioneering efforts of Dr. SurenderPurohit, Chairman of AAPI CF, we have been able to strengthen the programs benefitting our motherland, India.” AAPI has been actively involved in community awareness programs like Obesity prevention, sharing medical knowledge at the weekly webinars on team building activities such as the Share a Blanket program, medical education programs such as CPR training, and educating the public and creating awareness on healthcare issues through ZeeTV and ITV Gold, NDTV, BBC, and CNN. Almost all the ethnic publications from coast to coast across the US and several leading publications in India have run timely stories on AAPI‘s several initiatives and programs.

“AAPI’s Clinical Observership Program, the launching of JAAPI, a medical journal and the AAPI endowment Fund are some of the other initiatives under his leadership. However, the most important all was the numerous efforts he and his Team had undertaken to help India that is faced with the 2nd wave of the deadly covid pandemic. “AAPI has been coordinating several efforts, including tele-health to patients and Doctors in India,” Dr. Jonnalagadda said. “Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised over $5 million. They have been working very hard in sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators to India, to deal with the calamity in India and are in the process of helping to set up oxygen generator plants in different hospitals in India.”

AAPI has raised over $ 5 Million towards Covid relief funds for India and has purchased, shipped and coordinated with local authorities the supply and distribution of medical supplies to several parts of India. AAPI has shipped over a thousand Oxygen generators, masks, PPPs and essential supplies, and our pipeline will continue until the pandemic is overcome. As with anyone else, our doctors believe that they can best carry out our service to God through our service to our fellow humans.

“The year 2020-21 has been a year that has fundamentally challenged long established certainties about what we think is safe and what we believe is healthy in all areas of our lives. The innovative ways healthcare professionals have learnt and begun to practice Medicine gives humanity HOPE,” Dr. Jonnalagadd said. “AAPI will continue to be an active player in crafting the delivery of healthcare in the most efficient manner in the United States and India. We will strive for equity in healthcare delivery globally. We will be able to take AAPI to stability, unity, growth and greater achievements,” the out-going President said. “My message to the new Team led by Dr. Gotimukula: AAPI must be responsive to its members, supportive of the leadership and a true advocate for our mission.”

Delivering a spiritual discourse at the Convention, SadhviBhagawatiSaraswati, Author of “Hollywood to the Himalayas” led the AAPI delegates into an experience of peace and serenity. In her keynote address, Sadhviji inspired the participants to engage in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities professionals in the field of medicine. She emphasized the important and critical connection between mind and body by saying “As the Bhagavad Gita reminds us: the mind is the cause of all problems and the mind is, therefore, the solution.” She offered them a “Mantra” which she called, CURED, where C stands for Connections – Connect with your inner self; U stands for Understand that you are a tool in the hands of God; R stands for Reconnect with your inner self day in and day out; E stands for Equanimity – stay balanced in all you do; and, D stands for “Dhanyavad or Devotion” that is being grateful which will lead one to enjoy happiness kin life.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, CEO of Parikh Media introduced the keynote speaker, AnandibenMafatbhai Patel, an Indian politician serving as the 28th and current Governor of Uttar Pradesh. She also served as Governor of Madhya Pradesh. She has served as the former Chief Minister of Gujarat. She was the first female chief minister of the state, he said. In her virtual address, she congratulated AAPI for organizing the convention and thanked them for their selfless services to India, the US and the humanity. Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, Chair of BOT at American Medical Association shared with nostalgia his long association with AAPI, growing up as a child and now, be leading the largest Medical Association in the US. Aaishwariya A Gulani, Valedictorian from The International Bolles School and a 3rd year Medical Student having held leadership roles from academia as recognized by the United Nations to community service globally as the reigning Miss India USA participated in the Fashion Show.

The concluding day of the convention had the usual pomp and show displayed in music and dance by the local organizing committee of the Convention headed by Dr. SreeniGangasani, who and his team were praised for their hardwork, dedication and creative ideas in putting together aan amazing convention in less than three months. “We are delighted to have been able to plan and organize the convention in record time,” said Dr. Gangasani. Calling it a historic convention, the Cardiologist from Atlanta said, “For the first time ever, we had to stop registration as we had reached the required number of participants for the convention, disappointing many who wanted to come and join the annual meet. Thank you for joining the AAPI community as we celebrate the victory of science over calamity while paying tribute to all the fallen healthcare workers including some from AAPI family. We also want to show the world that we can start socializing with precautions once you are vaccinated,” added Dr. Gangasani.

During the BOT Luncheon on July 4th, Dr. Sajani Shah, the outgoing BOT Chair in her powerfuo message enumerated the numerous programs BOT under her leadership had initiated in the past one year. Dr. Shah invited all the past BOT Chairs onto stage and honored them for their leadership of AAPI. Research  & Poster Contest Winners were recognized with $2500 cash award.

AAPI recognized the current Executive Committee Members, BOT members and several others who have worked hard to make the vision and mission of AAPI come alive. Prominent among them are: Dr. Radhu Agrawal was bestowed with AAPI Lifetime Achievement Award; AAPI Most Distinguished Physician Award was given to Dr. DhanireddyRamasubbareddy; AAPI Most Distinguished Service Award was given to Dr. Suresh Gupta; AAPI Most Distinguished YPS Award went to Dr. Purvi Parikh; and, AAPI Most Distinguished  Community Service was bestowed on Dr. Sujatha Reddy. Dr. Raghu Lolabhattu, Convention Vice Chair shared with the delegates about how in a matter of less than three months the Atlanta Chapter has put together a fabulous convention. He later on called on stage every member of the convention committee, while Dr. Lonnalagadda and Dr. Gangasani recognized them with a plaque. The past Presidents of were called on state on the 2nd night’s gala and were recognized for their leadership and continued guidance.

In her inaugural address after she was administered the oath of Office, Dr. AnupamaGotimukula vowed to make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, primarily focusing to improve and reform the current healthcare system and help towards making a better healthcare model for the patients;  create awareness projects on major chronic diseases burdening our health care system through Lifestyle modifications ; establish a support system to members going through racial discrimination in the US; support AAPI legislative efforts to make healthcare better and affordable to all and promote charitable activities globally. For more details, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org/ www.aapiusa.org

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty Leads Efforts On CO VENTILLLATORS DONATION Project For India

India is facing a deadly second wave of COVID-19. Number of reported Covid positive cases seems to be on the rise and thousands reportedly die daily. Hospitals and medical facilities are running out of oxygen and ICU beds, with patients left outside hospitals waiting for care.

There are several groups and individuals are responding to the crisis in India, distributing and installing medical equipment at health centers, distributing PPE to frontline health workers, and providing food and cash to meet people’s immediate needs. HELP INDIA BREATHE is a part of ApShiNi ventures’ endeavor by Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Urologist in MO, USA and present Secretary of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, (AAPI) in helping individuals to donate Oxygen related supplies to India during this unprecedented calamity.

The American Association of physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the USA representing the interest of more than 100,000 physicians in the USA has stepped up to the plate to deal with the crisis of India.  “Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised almost $5 million in the past few weeks,” said Dr. Chakrabarty. “we have been working very hard in sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators to India, to deal with the calamity in India and are in the process of helping to set up oxygen generator plants in different hospitals in India. “

As AAPI cannot direct its resources to specific areas and relies on government of India to distribute its supplies, Dr. Chakrabarty has been working outside the umbrella of  AAPI for directed transfer of the essential material, focusing mainly on the peripheral hospitals who do not get aid readily.  With the help of an anesthesiologist from Dallas, Texas, (who prefers to remain anonymous) who acquired the donation of about 1500 co-ventilators from a Health Group based in Minnesota, United States, Dr. Chakrabarty helped to co-ordinate and facilitate transfer of these co-ventilators for use of primarily government and nonprofit hospitals all over India.  The team from Oxygen for India (https://oxygenforindia.org/) helped in local transportation and airfreight to India without any charge.

With the help of the source, an anesthesiologist from Dallas, Texas, who prefers to remain anonymous along with an army of volunteers from Oxygen for India Dr. Chakrabarty is coordinating donation of about 1500 co-ventilators from a facility United States to government and nonprofit hospitals all over India. “Based on solicited requests from hospitals sent on their letterhead, specifically stating that this would be used free and not-for-profit and will not be resold.  They have had more than 175 such requests, and still continue to get them,” Dr. Chakrabarty said.

ApShiNi volunteers have painstakingly verified the hospitals and put the information on Google sheets.  The first batch of 1152 Co-Ventilator’s have reached Delhi and is in the process of being delivered to the hospitals.  We expect more to be on the way,” Dr. Chakrabarty stated here. Volunteers from health cubed (www.healthcubed.com) and Bangla Worldwide http://www.banglaworldwide.com/) are handling local logistics and delivery in India, after doing additional scrutiny.

Explaining the strenuous process, Dr. Chakrabarty said, “We requested Indian Council of Critical Care (https://isccm.org/) to send the message to hospitals in India that are treating Covid 19 patients and solicited requests from their CEO on their official letterhead, specifically stating that this would be used free and not-for-profit and will not be resold.  We were overwhelmed to have received more than 175 such requests, and still continue to get them. This is a mammoth undertaking with work still in progress.

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