Federal health officials have eased guidelines for most regular folks on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, even as monkeypox cases and vaccination efforts for that viral illness keep increasing and the detection of once-controlled polio raises concern.
Indicators about the severity of the next influenza season also worry experts.
With the coronavirus, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shifted, putting “more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions to limit viral spread.” the Washington Post reported:
“No longer do schools and other institutions need to screen apparently healthy students and employees as a matter of course. The CDC is putting less emphasis on social distancing — and the new guidance has dropped the “six-foot” standard. The quarantine rule for unvaccinated people is gone. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them — not on the vast majority of people who at this point have some immunity against the virus and are unlikely to become severely ill.”
The pandemic persists and is taking a toll, still, the newspaper reported:
“The virus has killed more than 1 million people in the United States since it arrived in early 2020. About 42,000 people with covid are hospitalized and the daily death toll is close to 500, according to a Washington Post seven-day average of daily trends. Those numbers, though quite a bit higher than in early spring, do not approach the dire figures of last winter, and CDC officials have repeatedly pointed to greater protection against the virus because of high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, coupled with the rollout of effective treatments that have reduced severe illness.”
The menace of long Covid is not going away, either, affecting 1 in 5 adults infected with the disease, as well as 1 in 4 cases among seniors and children. The tight labor market and its inflationary pressures also have been worsened by 4 million workers being so debilitated that they are staying home and off the job.
As youngsters head back to school, health officials, educators, and pediatricians are urging parents anew to get themselves and their family members vaccinated and boosted, as recommended by the CDC. Vaccine makers have provided data to federal regulators that has been scrutinized by several levels of experts. But parents have proved to be wary and reluctant about getting shots for their kids. The shots include recently approved, lower doses for tots aged 1 to 5, or a broader range of vaccinations for kids up to age 18.
Quelling a pox outbreak
With monkeypox, vaccine makers lag still in trying to meet demand. Federal experts have approved a temporizing move allowing medical personnel to use a lower dose and to inject it in between upper layers of the skin, rather than deep into fat tissues below.
The vaccine making is increasing steadily and makers say that lots that they thought might have expired may still be usable. This could boost hopes for hundreds of thousands of at-risk patients to be vaccinated against the disease that has infected 9,000 in this country.
The cases, painful but without a recorded death so far, have mostly occurred among men who have sex with other men, often anonymously, in public settings, and involving many partners. The effort to contain this infection has grown complicated, as experts try to explain safeguards against the disease and how it can affect anyone, while also reaching affected populations and avoiding stigmatizing them or their private lives.
Experts have said it is vital to quell the monkeypox outbreak before it spreads to other communities.
Worries about polio and the flu
In scanning global health horizons, public health officials also have worries about polio and the flu. A polio case in an unvaccinated man in New York raised health alarms, as has detection of the highly contagious, debilitating, and even deadly virus in wastewater samples. Officials are urging people who have not gotten polio shots before to do so now.
As for the flu, epidemiologists, clinicians, vaccine makers, and public health officials see potential problems in a spike in the disease in Australia and the rest of the winter-bound Southern Hemisphere. Those regions typically forecast what will happen in the North in the next few months as the weather cools. Flu cases, which plummeted during the pandemic, are storming back, notably among kids.
The flu’s resurgence Down Under will increase the pressure on health officials to formulate the annual shot for maximum protection, to get many more folks to get it, and at the same time, likely to consider another coronavirus vaccination, likely targeted at the Omicron variants.
We are not done with the pandemic — and the infection doesn’t care how casual we wish to be about the death and debilitation it can cause. Those with heightened vulnerability — those who are older, immunocompromised, overweight, and with underlying conditions, or individuals from hard-hit communities of color — still should stay careful, including by keeping on their masks. One-way masking has protective benefits. The savvy will want to build up not discard their supply of masks, nabbing test kits, too. Just in case.
Those who are sexually active and at risk from monkey pox should heed their own doctors’ advice and counsel from responsible, experts in their community about safer sex practices. As vaccines become more plentiful, they should discuss with their doctors, if they should get these shots.
The vaccines remain life changers and life savers. If you have not gotten your coronavirus shots, please do so, boosters and all, pronto. Those who had hang-ups about the existing, novel shots, notably with their innovative underlying technology, soon may have access to a late-arriving vaccine made in more traditional ways.
If you haven’t chatted with your doctor for a bit, you should — especially about whether your individual health would benefit from an additional dose of vaccine and when might be the time to get it. Parents should discuss with pediatricians potential shots for and boosters for the little kids’ older siblings. (Get the young folks caught up on their shots now if you can, too.) If you have been exposed or think you have gotten infected, please get tested — and quarantine or isolate to protect yourself and others as recommended. Get in touch with your doctor, urgently, if you test positive to see if you may benefit, too, from treatments now available for the coronavirus.