This is ‘most deadly phase’ yet

An internal memo from Dr. Deborah Birx that circulated among top officials in President Trump’s administration pokes holes in the his claim that the country is “rounding the corner” in the fight against the coronavirus and will soon have defeated it.



Donald Trump, Deborah Birx are posing for a picture: Internal memo shows Birx contradicting Trump on pandemic: This is 'most deadly phase' yet


© getty: White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx
Internal memo shows Birx contradicting Trump on pandemic: This is ‘most deadly phase’ yet

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” Birx said Monday in a memo reported by The Washington Post. “This is not about lockdowns – It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

Trump has repeatedly attempted to reassure voters that his administration is helping the country “round the corner” and suggested the virus would soon disappear with or without a vaccine for widespread use.

Birx, a leading member of the coronavirus task force led by Vice President Pence, has served as the nation’s top expert on COVID-19 data and appeared almost daily on television and during briefings with reporters during the pandemic’s early days.

A top administration official told The Post that Birx has become increasingly frustrated by what she has characterized as feeling “ignored” by White House officials as she and others have warned against a potentially deadly second and third wave of the virus this fall and winter.

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The Monday memo specifically referenced Trump’s recent campaign rallies, many of which have involved little social distancing and mask wearing by attendees.

Late on Sunday, Trump, who downplayed the dangers of the virus in the spring before contracting it himself last month, encouraged a crowd of supporters who chanted for him to “fire Fauci.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci is another leading member of the task force and a close colleague of Birx’s with whom Trump has publicly broken with.

“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump said of Fauci. “He’s a nice man, but he’s been wrong on a lot.”

Brix’s memo reportedly insists on a “much more aggressive action from messaging, to testing, to surging personnel around the country before the crisis point.”

For weeks, several states in the upper Midwest and rural south have reported spikes in coronavirus cases, in many cases a trend public health officials attribute to loosened lockdown regulations and smaller family gatherings ahead of the holiday season.

“This is about empowerment [sic] Americans with the knowledge and data for decision-making to prevent community spread and save lives,” the memo said.

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Researchers find new deadly inflammatory disease, NIH says

National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers reported a newly discovered deadly inflammatory disorder last week.

“We had many patients with undiagnosed inflammatory conditions who were coming to the NIH Clinical Center, and we were just unable to diagnose them,” Dr. David Beck, a clinical fellow at NHGRI and lead author of the paper, said in a news release. “That’s when we had the idea of doing it the opposite way. Instead of starting with symptoms, start with a list of genes. Then, study the genomes of undiagnosed individuals and see where it takes us.”

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The team examined over 2,500 people with undiagnosed inflammatory diseases and assessed over 800 genes involved in cells’ regulatory processes, per the release.

In doing this, they found one mutated gene, UB1, causing the syndrome dubbed VEXAS for “vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory and somatic syndrome.”

Nearly half the patients under study died from the serious condition, researchers said. (iStock)

Nearly half the patients under study died from the serious condition, researchers said. (iStock)

“So far, 40% of VEXAS patients who the team studied have died, revealing the devastating consequences of the severe condition,” per the release. The disease involves blood clotting, repeated fevers, heart issues and problems with blood cells, called myeloid cells.

Findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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“Our objective was to see if any of the 2,560 patients shared variations in the same gene,” Dr. Daniel Kastner, scientific director of the Intramural Research Program at NHGRI and a senior author of the paper, said in a news release. “Instead of looking at clinical similarities, we were instead taking advantage of shared genomic similarities that could help us discover a completely new disease.”

Of the 2,560 patients, researchers said 1,000 had repeated fevers and widespread inflammation. Three men had the mutated gene in the X chromosome; men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, while women have two X chromosomes.

Researchers found “mosaicism” among the affected patients, which happens when some cells carry the gene in its mutated form, and other cells carry the gene in its normal form, per the release. Ultimately, 25 total men across other NIH databases showed to have the mutated gene with similar symptoms: blood clotting, repeated fevers and heart issues, among others.

“By using this genome-first approach, we have managed to find a thread that ties together patients carrying all of these seemingly unrelated, disparate diagnoses,” Kastner concluded.

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Trial targets deadly lung cancer

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IMAGE: Associate Professor Sonja Klebe, leader of Asbestos Associated Disease research at Flinders University
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Credit: Flinders University

With more than 650 Australians diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma last year, Flinders University is leading new research to discover alternatives to chemotherapy and even prevent deaths by early detection in future.

One novel approach, using natural therapeutic benefits of curcumin, a key component of the spice turmeric, will be put to the test in a clinical trial in 2021 as part of world-leading research at Flinders University.

While asbestos is now banned from being used for new buildings, many houses still contain asbestos, so exposure during renovations is common. Australia has one of the highest per-capita rates of asbestos-related disease in the world.

Flinders University researchers are studying the safety and feasibility of using a form of intrapleural liposomal curcumins to benefit patient survival and quality of life – with fewer toxic side-effects than chemotherapy.

“That’s why it’s important to explore alternative therapies and facilitate early diagnosis to reduce suffering and support early intervention measures,” says Flinders University lead researcher Associate Professor Sonja Klebe.

As well, the researchers are looking for early diagnostic methods with a special lung fluid test. “In most cases, malignant mesothelioma is not diagnosed until it is in the late stages,” she says. “We’re hoping to find a way to test for the disease before it becomes invasive.”

Patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos exposure, experience poor survival of 6-12 months following diagnosis and a five-year survival of less than 5%. Therapeutic options are limited due to high resistance rates to chemotherapy and the advanced age of patients (median age 75).

Associate Professor Klebe’s team will test the safety and feasibility of intrapleural liposomal curcumin to benefit patient survival and quality of life. Future treatments are expected to have fewer toxic side-effects than chemotherapy.

In addition, the researchers are investigating methods to facilitate early diagnosis, using novel techniques on the lung fluid that is drained in the early stages of diagnosis.

“In most cases, malignant mesothelioma is not diagnosed until it is in the late stages,” she says. “We’re hoping to find a way to test for the disease before it becomes invasive.”

In time for Asbestos Awareness Month in November, the experts warn the high number of cases could persist for years with hundreds more cases of the deadly disease possible after latency of more than 30 years from work-related (builders, plumbers, gasfitters, mechanics and marine engineers) or other exposure. Firefighters may also be at risk after the devastating bushfires razed old buildings and sheds across Australia.

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See the latest research publications:
‘Malignant mesothelioma in situ: diagnostic and clinical considerations’ (2020) by E Pulford, DW Henderson and S Klebe published in Anatomical Pathology (Vol 52, Iss 6, page 635-642)
DOI: 10.1016/j.pathol.2020.06.010

See also:
The potential utility of GATA binding protein 3 for diagnosis of malignant pleural mesotheliomas (2020) by S Prabhakaran, A Hocking, C Kim, M Hussey and S Klebe has

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Deadly Black Widow Spiders Feast on Males after Mating with Them and Liquefy Their Prey

Black widows spiders are notorious for their powerful venom and gruesome mating habits, which sometimes involves the females killing and eating the males after procreating.



a close up of a spider: Stock image of a black widow spider. Female black widows often eat their male counterparts after mating.


© iStock
Stock image of a black widow spider. Female black widows often eat their male counterparts after mating.

There are 31 species of these spiders, which all belong to the genus (group of species) Latrodectus, data from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) shows.

Black widows are found around the world in temperate regions, including parts of the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa.

They live solitary lives until the mating season comes around and it is time to pair up with a member of the opposite sex.

The spiders are named after the predilection of the females for killing their male counterparts after mating. The females often eat the males after killing them, with scientists speculating that this act provides them with a source of protein.

In the wild, black widows can live for up to three years, although the males tend to have much shorter lives as a result of this bizarre mating behavior.

Adult female black widows measure around half an inch in length and are usually more than double the size of the males of their species, although they can sometimes be up to 20 times larger, according to a report entitled “Black Widow Spider Toxicity” published this year by scientists from The Brooklyn Hospital Center and St. Luke’s University Health Network.

The females can be easily identified by their shiny black bodies and the characteristic hourglass-shaped mark located on the lower side of the abdomen, which can range in color from yellowish orange to red, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Males can be grey or black in color and feature red or pink spots on the upper side of the abdomen.

Only the female spiders pose a risk to humans, with venom that is thought to be around 15 times more potent than that of a rattlesnake. Indeed, black widows are considered to be the most venomous spiders in North America.

But despite the popular perception, black widow bites are rarely fatal. In the United States, around 2,600 black widow bites on humans are reported every year, with only 1.4 percent of these cases experiencing severe symptoms, data from the Black Widow Spider Toxicity report shows.

While they are rarely fatal, a bite from these spiders can still be a painful experience. The venom can cause strong muscle pain, nausea, profuse perspiration, increased blood pressure, fever and mild paralysis of the diaphragm, which can make it difficult to breathe.

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Pain from the bite can persist for between eight to 12 hours, while some symptoms may last for several days—although most people make a full recovery.

Those most at risk from black widow bites are small children, the elderly or people who are very sick.

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Kansas nursing home faces severe federal penalties after deadly coronavirus outbreak

By the time the viral firestorm had finished sweeping through the nursing home, all 63 residents were infected and at least 10 had died. Medicare moved Monday to terminate the Andbe Home from its program, cutting it off from federal dollars and imposing thousands of dollars in fines.

Government inspectors found that infected residents were separated from their healthy roommates by little more than a privacy sheet. Communal dining continued for two days. Multiple staff members failed to wear masks — even after the outbreak took hold.

In an email Tuesday to The Washington Post, the nursing home administrator disputed some of the findings outlined in the report and stood by the response to the outbreak, saying the facility had immediately quarantined infected residents and that staff wore full personal protective equipment, including goggles, masks and gloves.

“This is a terrible virus, but I am proud of how our staff has battled COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, coming to work every day under extenuating circumstances, and caring for all of our residents,” Mapes wrote. “I am also proud of and thankful for the mutual support between Andbe Home and our community during trying times for everyone.”

The Medicare report, however, said the facility’s failures had “placed all residents in immediate jeopardy by the spread of Covid-19 to all residents.”

The virus’s rampage through the nursing home came amid a surge of infections in Kansas’s Norton County, which led the nation in per capita case increases between Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 and ranked second this week, according to a Post analysis. Before Oct. 13, the county near the Nebraska border had been spared virus-related deaths.

Now, there are clusters of cases at the nursing home, where 55 of 70 staff members tested positive for the virus, as well as at a correctional facility and a bank. City offices are closed to the public, municipal court is postponed and multiple businesses have temporarily shut their doors. The funeral home has posted a wave of obituaries for people who lived at the Andbe Home: a stained glass artist with pieces displayed around town, a onetime staffer turned resident, a skilled home cook known especially for “fried chicken with all the fixins.”

Like many parts of rural America, the county of about 5,000 had resisted masks and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The city police department was cheered in June after announcing it would not enforce a mask mandate imposed by Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat.

“For months, many have mistakenly shared the idea that this virus would never reach our rural and lower-population communities,” the governor said during a news conference last week. “Now, it is worse in those towns and counties than it is in our cities.”

She called the deaths at the Andbe Home “a stark reminder” of the threat posed by the virus.

Medicare inspection reports suggest resistance to masks at the nursing home, a sprawling, single-story facility that was rated as

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Work by Minnesota researchers reveals deadly combo: COVID and major heart attacks

Complications from COVID-19 can make the most dangerous kinds of heart attacks even more deadly, according to a new study.

The finding has special implications for African American and Hispanic residents, as well as diabetics, since those three groups are at greater risk of having severe heart attacks and contracting COVID-19.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, a group of North American heart hospitals examined nearly 600 patients and found a surprisingly high death rate among COVID-19 patients with the most severe heart attacks, caused by complete blockage of an artery supplying oxygen to the heart muscle.

“These patients are at very high risk,” said interventional cardiologist Dr. Santiago Garcia, primary investigator at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, where the data are being analyzed. “Mortality for heart attack patients … should be in single digits. We’re seeing mortality here that is 32%.”

The findings, announced at a medical conference this month, were the public’s first glimpse of results from the ongoing project known as NACMI, an international consortium compiling data from COVID-19 patients who have a so-called “STEMI” heart attack involving a completely blocked blood vessel.

The study examined 594 STEMI patients treated at 64 hospitals during the pandemic in Canada and the U.S. through Oct. 4 and found those with confirmed cases of COVID died in the hospital at almost triple the rate as those who tested negative for the viral illness.

About 20% of all heart attacks are thought to be STEMI.

The study also documented an increased risk of in-hospital strokes among COVID-positive heart-attack patients.

The NACMI findings aren’t published in a journal yet, but the initial data were presented Oct. 14 at the annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference.

Scientists widely believe COVID makes heart attacks and strokes more likely, and more dangerous, by causing changes in the heart, lungs and blood. The NACMI research can’t prove COVID triggers heart attacks and strokes — only that mortality rose when both were present.

But doctors say the correlation is noteworthy.

“Those are stunning numbers,” said Dr. Mladen Vido­vich, an interventional cardiologist and associate journal editor in Chicago who was not involved in the research. He said the death rate in the COVID group was similar to what was seen among heart-attack patients 50 years ago.

The risks are especially significant for African American and Hispanic patients, who tested positive for COVID more often than white and Asian patients in the first release of NACMI data. Organizers will be adding patients in Mexico and South America and tracking long-term outcomes.

Cardiologists say the early results underscore the longstanding recommendation that people feeling heart-attack signs should go to the hospital — even with hospitalizations for COVID-19 on the rise.

In Minnesota, 500 people have been admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 in the past week, including 106 cases sent to intensive care, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.

On Sunday, the Health Department added 1,684 new cases to the state’s tally, which now stands at 133,802. The deaths of 2,335 Minnesotans have

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Deadly listeria outbreak possibly linked to deli meat

Oct. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s investigating an outbreak of listeria possibly linked to deli-style meats that has caused at least one death.

The outbreak has sickened 10 people, all of whom were hospitalized, in Florida, Massachusetts and New York. The death was reported in Florida.

The CDC said all those who were sick reported eating Italian-style meats, including salami, mortadella and prosciutto. The sick said they purchased both prepackaged meats and those sliced at a deli counter.

“The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or common supplier linked to illness,” the agency said.

The CDC advised those who are at a higher risk of becoming sick with listeriosis to avoid eating deli meats unless they’re cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms. In pregnant women, the infection can cause early delivery or miscarriage.

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Is Walmart a villain or victim of America’s deadly opioid crisis?

As the opioid crisis ravaged communities across the United States two years ago, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas at the time, Joe Brown, set about fixing blame on Walmart, alleging its pharmacies were filling prescriptions from “pill mill” doctors facilitating drug misuse and abuse by overprescribing narcotics.

The Department of Justice has also had a long-running civil investigation into Walmart’s pharmacies. The Bentonville, Arkansas, retail behemoth is now preemptively suing the Department of Justice, asking a federal district court to untangle the contradictory laws that have left Walmart open to investigation. The “DOJ is threatening to sue Walmart for not going even further in second-guessing doctors,” Walmart said in a press release, while “state health regulators are threatening Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”

Walmart has been tightening its policies on filling opioid prescriptions, according to its “opioid stewardship initiative” – not just questioning particular scripts, but refusing to fill any prescription for controlled substances from doctors about whom the company had doubts. In part to appease federal regulators, Walmart applied various restrictions on controlled substances. But soon state authorities accused the company of violating state regulations – even of committing crimes – by blocking prescriptions or even just filling smaller quantities of drugs than doctors had specified. The company also received pushback from medical groups that accused Walmart of trampling on doctors’ prescribing prerogatives.

Walmart’s damned-if-you-fill-the-script, damned-if-you-don’t bind reflects the problems faced by large chain pharmacies, which also include CVS and Walgreens. They are among the chief targets in opioid-related lawsuits that may be some of the most complicated and expensive litigation in American history – the so-called National Prescription Opiate Litigation. The companies didn’t get there on their own: Contradictory regulations, demands, and threats from Washington and the states have combined to create a tangle trapping the pharmacies, leaving them exposed to plaintiffs’ lawyers in a massive “multi-district litigation” playing out in an Ohio court.

The nationwide tobacco litigation of the 1990s was complex enough, involving the states and a handful of cigarette manufacturers. By contrast, plaintiffs in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation – counties, boroughs, parishes, cities, townships, municipalities, and villages – number in the thousands. They are looking for just about everyone in the opioid business – manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – to pay for the opioid misuse that has been so costly to society. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking damages well into the billions.

The court case consolidated in 2017 was supposed to get rolling in November, but has recently been postponed to the spring out of concerns COVID-19 would spread through a crowded courthouse.

The “multi-district litigation” follows efforts by federal prosecutors who have tried to build both criminal and civil cases against pharmacies, including Walmart, for not acting soon enough in blocking all prescriptions written by doctors pharmacists had questions about.

Pharmacies, though, are a curious place to assign blame for the opioid epidemic. They don’t make the drugs: Controlled substances are

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