A summary of important health news from the past week
Duke researchers are decontaminating N95 masks so doctors can reuse them to treat coronavirus patients
By: Scottie Andrew
The shortage of N95 respirator masks is driving physicians to wear used respirator masks while treating their patients, putting them at risk for infection. While N95 masks are not meant to be re-worn, a team of researchers at Duke University have found a way to decontaminate used N95 respirator masks, which could help hospitals that are low on supply. “Using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, the researchers can kill microbial contaminants that lurk on the masks after they’re worn.” It is a method that has been used before to decontaminate other equipment. The process does not damage the masks or make them less efficient. Given that Covid-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets, these N95 masks are crucial to protect healthcare workers from spit, coughs, and sneezes.
By: Dylan Scott
The coronavirus pandemic has made over 3 million Americans unemployed and without health insurance. Having access to health services during this ongoing health crisis is extremely critical. And it’s not surprising that the one’s suffering the most are low-wage workers in retail and service industries. While there are programs like the ACA and Medicaid that help people after they have been laid off, eligibility may vary state to state. Even those with health insurance are at risk for incurring high medical costs if they get hospitalized from the coronavirus.
Cases in rural America have so far been staying low. Experts have shown however that it may not stay that way in the near future. Rural counties in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado have already experienced some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates per capita in the nation. Rural areas may take the hardest hit due to their demographics and lack of resources. Additionally, 15% of rural America’s population are amongst those most vulnerable to contracting the virus. Rural populations tend to be older and face higher amounts of pre-existing illnesses. This article explores how telemedicine may be the answer to this emerging problem, as people living in these rural areas can get their hands on resources they may not have in their community clinics or hospitals.
By: Lisa Templeton
A team of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania is pioneering research on how to deliver oral insulin to people with diabetes–through the use of genetically modified lettuce. For decades, diabetes patients have used insulin injections made from modified yeast and bacteria. But these injections are often unaffordable, and difficult to store and transport. Producing insulin in lettuce leaves could be a more affordable and convenient alternative. A study of diabetic mice who were fed lettuce enriched with IGF-1, a protein that is similar to insulin, showed that the treatment increased bone volume and density in the mice.
By: Apoorva Mandavilli
The health of pregnant women and babies has been a big concern due to the coronavirus. Pregnant women are often more susceptible to respiratory infections such as influenza which could impact the health of the fetus. Nonetheless, babies have seemed to be unaffected by the coronavirus, but recent studies have suggested that the virus can penetrate the fetus in utero. This is dangerous because the virus may pose a risk to the fetus early in pregnancy, when the fetal brain is is very vulnerable. However, these studies are small and inconclusive on whether the virus can reach the fetus because “the placenta usually blocks harmful viruses and bacteria from reaching the fetus”, allowing in antibodies from the mother that can keep the fetus safe from pathogens.