Health Care — WHO to decide if monkeypox is a health emergency

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The World Health Organization is set to meet to decide if monkeypox is a global health emergency.

Welcome to Overnight Health Carewhere we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Panel to determine if monkeypox is an emergency

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency committee will meet next week to determine whether monkeypox is a “public health emergency of international concern,” it announced Tuesday, signaling an increasing level of concern about the outbreak.

“I think it’s now clear that there is an unusual situation, meaning even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “It’s also affecting more and more countries and we believe it needs also some coordinated response because of the geographic spread.”

Elevating monkeypox to a public health emergency of international concern would give it the designation that COVID-19 received in early 2020.

Important differences with COVID-19:

  • Monkeypox does not spread as easily as COVID-19. Monkeypox primarily spreads through direct contact with infectious sores, or through clothing or bedsheets. It can also spread through prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • There have also been no deaths reported among the newly-affected countries in the latest outbreak, though Tedros said the WHO is seeking to verify reports from Brazil of a potential death there.

Read more here.

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FDA recommends authorizing Moderna vax for kids

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday recommended the agency expand the authorization of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to children and teenagers ages 6 to 17.

The vaccine is currently approved for adults only.

  • The panel voted unanimously 22-0 to recommend authorizing Moderna’s two-dose vaccine for adolescents and teenagers ages 12 to 17. The panel similarly voted 22-0 to recommend authorizing the shot for 6-to-11 year olds.
  • The FDA is likely to follow the panel’s advice in the coming days, but there ultimately won’t likely be much of an impact on vaccination rates, since children and teenagers have had access to Pfizer-BioNTech”s vaccine since last year.

After the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consider the matter as early as Friday.

Moderna initially asked FDA to clear its vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 17 last June, but concerns over a rare heart condition led officials to delay authorization.

Read more here.

LYME DISEASE BECOMING MORE PREVALENT: ANALYSIS

Roughly 14 percent of the global population has been infected with Lyme disease, and its prevalence is only growing, according to a study published Monday.

Researchers said that the studywhich was published in the journal BMJ Global Health, is a first-of-its-kind analysis that examined more than three decades worth of studies on the tick-borne disease.

Researchers parsed through thousands of potentially applicable studies from three databases, eventually analyzing 89 studies conducted between 1984 and 2021 that involved a total of 158,287 participants.

But the study found that much of that research didn’t utilize a certain laboratory technique that separates and identifies proteins to confirm results, called western blotting, which reduces the risk of reporting false positives.

  • Lyme disease can cause symptoms like fever, headache, fatigue and a bullseye skin rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Most cases can be treated successfully in a few weeks with antibiotics.
  • Although it is rarely life threatening, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, potentially leaving permanent damage if left untreated, according to the agency.

Read more here.

CHICAGO OFFICIALS URGE MONKEYPOX PRECAUTIONS AT GATHERINGS

The Chicago Department of Public Health is encouraging residents to take precautions when gathering with others this summer as a handful of monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the city.

  • The department said in a release Monday that officials have been working with the organizers of large summer events to provide information about how to stay safe. Officials are recommending that if someone feels sick or has a rash or sores, they should not attend a gathering and see a health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Anyone attending a festival or other large summer event should consider how much close, skin-to-skin contact might occur, the release states.

“While the risk in Chicago remains low, CDPH wants the public to be able to make informed choices about gathering in spaces or participating in events where monkeypox could be spread through close or intimate contact,” Chicago public health department Commissioner Allison Arwady said in the release.

The city has identified seven cases as of Sunday and is working with the Illinois Department of Public Health and other local health departments to find other potential cases. Over 60 cases have been identified in the U.S. as of this week.

Read more here.

FDA approves alopecia treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a full-body treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that can cause hair loss and baldness occurring in patches on the body, for the first time.

The FDA announced in a release Monday that it has approved oral tablets called Olumiant as a treatment for adults with severe alopecia. The agency has previously approved treatments for the disorder that address specific parts of the body, but Olumiant is the first FDA-approved alopecia treatment that treats the entire body.

  • Alopecia affects more than 300,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the release.
  • In individuals with the disorder, the body attacks its own hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. The Olumiant treatment is designed to prevent that bodily response.

“Access to safe and effective treatment options is crucial for the significant number of Americans affected by severe alopecia,” Kendall Marcus, the director of the Division of Dermatology and Dentistry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the release. “Today’s approval will help fulfill a significant unmet need for patients with severe alopecia areata.”

Already being used: Olumiant had previously received approval from the FDA in 2018 as a treatment for patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, according to the release. It is also an approved treatment for COVID-19 for certain adults who are hospitalized.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Francis Collins on his new life as White House science adviser (Stat)
  • CTE is rare in brains of deceased service members, study finds (NPR)
  • How strong is your Covid immunity? A blood test could offer some insight (NBC)

STATE BY STATE

  • Free health care services provided on Kauaʻi this week during Tropic Care (Hawaii Public Health)
  • This Massachusetts doctor’s trips to Mississippi to perform abortions will end if Roe v. Wade is overturned (WBUR)
  • Oregon teens reporting ‘eco-anxiety’ from climate challenges, report finds (Oregon Capital Chronicle)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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