Army Public Health Weekly Update, 12 February 2021

Date Published: 2/12/2021
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​The Army Public Health Update is a collection of articles taken from public sources to offer awareness of current health issues and the media coverage given to them. The articles do not necessarily represent U.S. Army Medical Command opinions, views, policy, or guidance, and should not be construed or interpreted as being endorsed by the U.S. Army Medical Command.

The Army Public Health Weekly Update does not analyze the information as to its strategic or tactical impact on the U.S. Army and is not a medical intelligence product. Medical intelligence is available from the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

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Table of Contents


    DOD announces use of masks, other public health measures

    9 February- On February 4, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III signed a memo that, effective immediately, directs all individuals on military installations and all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the Department from any location other than the individual's home, including outdoor shared spaces, to wear masks in accordance with the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Individuals must wear masks continuously while on military installations except:  (1) when an individual is alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls with a closed door; (2) for brief periods of time when eating and drinking while maintaining distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines and instructions from commanders and supervisors; (3) when the mask is required to be lowered briefly for identification or security purposes; and (4) when necessary to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability. Individuals must consistently wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth and that comports with all current guidance from the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Categorical or case-by-case exceptions to these requirements for Service members and their families in environments other than office spaces that are necessary for military readiness, that are related to living on a military installation, or that are related to mask wearing by children (so long as such exceptions are consistent with CDC guidelines for mask wearing by children) may be granted in writing by Department of Defense (DOD) Component heads and should include appropriate alternative safeguards whenever feasible, such as additional physical distancing measures or additional testing consistent with DOD testing protocols. DOD Components will comply with applicable labor relations obligations to the extent such obligations do not conflict with the agency's ability to conduct operations during this emergency. External Link


    JBLM hosts first ever Virtual Wellness Symposium

    8 February- JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (Jan. 29, 2021) – As our Department of Defense community is having to balance a lot more during this Covid-19 pandemic, I Corps and JBLM provided assistance to help alleviate some life stressors during their first ever JBLM Sound Living Virtual Wellness Symposium. The two-day event, from Jan. 27-28, was a free event designed to assist our military community build personal resiliency. During registration attendees created their own agenda for this customizable virtual experience by selecting from 16 unique dynamic workshops. These workshops presented by experts were designed to inspire and educate attendees on personal resilience, leveraging their strengths, building positive relationships, physical fitness, nutrition, volunteer opportunities at JBLM and family wellness. All of the sessions were fully interactive, free and open to all DoD ID Card holders to help them connect with base resources and subject matter experts based on their personal needs. All classes were broken into various sessions, having multiple broadcasts across Microsoft Teams and Facebook Live simultaneously, creating a 'choose-your-own-adventure' of sorts. One event that saw steady participation was the Soldier and Family Readiness Group (SFRG) Advisor Panel, which ran both days and provided tips and tricks on how units could improve their program to better serve the needs of our military Families. Throughout the panel, leaders and SFRG advisors provided a myriad of ways to maintain a personal touch with incoming Soldiers to ensure "buy-in" to the program. They also explained how each leader, at every unit level, can foster an environment that encompasses Family and Soldier wellness. "If they're important to you, they're important to us," said Lt. Col. Timothy Ferguson, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 5th Security Forces Assistance Brigade. "If the Soldier's important person wants to be a part of the organization and understand what's going on in their trooper's life, the SFRG one way we can reach out to them." With a program such as the SFRG, units and leaders have placed emphasis on ensuring Soldiers and their families are taken care of. The symposium also featured classes from the Department of Personnel and Family Readiness who also provide a myriad of resources available to help our community thrive and live healthy lives. External Link

    Protecting the force: Fort Campbell's Wilson Theater becomes immunization hub for workforce

    5 February- Garrison employees from across Fort Campbell lined up outside the Wilson Theater Jan. 22, clutching paperwork, wearing face masks and greeting one another from a distance, as they waited their turn to get the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations. Tori Coria, an infant and toddler child care specialist for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation was vaccinated Jan. 22 and was excited as she left the theater. "I take care of military Families and children," Coria said. "I actually am a grad student, studying public health, so I think it's really important that people listen to the science and the research they've done on the vaccine, so we can get back to our normal and keep people safe and healthy and stop the deaths."  Additional vaccination site. The movie theater at 95 Bastogne Ave. was recently opened as a mass vaccination site on Fort Camp-bell, capable of accommodating hundreds of people each weekday. "We planned for about two weeks to execute this," said Sgt. Maj. Chris Douglas, who is part of the operational planning team responsible for vaccine implementation at Wilson Theater. "That included everything from the logistics aspect of getting cold storage refrigerators into the theater, to ordering all the medical supplies and getting our medical professionals trained in both the administrative tasks and the actual administration of the vaccine," Douglas said. External Link

    Regional Health Command Europe provides COVID-19 vaccine updates

    5 February- As Army Medical Treatment Facilities across Europe ramp up COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the U.S. military community, Regional Health Command Europe leadership is working hard to keep the community informed. U.S. Army installations throughout Europe are using a phased vaccine distribution process mandated by the Department of Defense. This process prioritizes those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and those who are most vulnerable to be among the first to receive vaccinations. DOD personnel in Europe should stay tuned to their Medical Treatment Facility's social media and web channels for the latest information on where the phased distribution process is at and when they will have the opportunity to be vaccinated. Updates on the distribution plan progress are provided every Monday by noon. "At first, we focused on vaccinating healthcare workers and first responders and our deployable forces here in Europe," said Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, RHCE's commanding general. "We are now vaccinating other mission essential personnel, including teachers and installation support personnel performing every-day crucial services. We are also starting to vaccinate beneficiaries over the age of 65 and others determined to be high risk by the U.S. Center for Disease and Control and our medical staff." The number of people in each priority group varies by location, so Thompson cautions that some locations might move through the population groups more quickly than at others. External Link


    Candida auris in the Americas during the COVID-19 pandemic

    7 February- In a Epidemiological Alert from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) published this weekend, they document the increase of healthcare-associated Candida auris outbreaks in the Region of the Americas and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They write that in 2020, seven countries documented cases of C. auris, for the most part, in patients with a history of COVID-19 infection: Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Panama, Colombia, and the United States (the first four reported their first isolates during this time). Outbreak News Today External Link

    Covid-19 antigen tests not counted among cases in some states, CNN analysis shows

    8 February- Antigen test results still are not included in the total count of Covid-19 cases for some states -- not even as probable cases, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Five states -- California, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri and Nevada -- publicly report only cases confirmed with PCR tests in their online tallies, according to a CNN analysis of health department dashboards across all 50 states. Some states only report polymerase chain reaction test results in their Covid-19 case numbers and exclude antigen test results since antigen tests are generally seen as less accurate. But as antigen testing ramps up in the United States, this exclusion could lead to potential miscounts. "Antigen tests are relatively inexpensive, and most can be used at the point of care. Most of the currently authorized tests return results in approximately 15 minutes," according to the US Food and Drug Administration, but also notes it's generally less sensitive than other types of tests. CNN External Link 

    Daily COVID-19 cases fall below 100,000, but CDC head says stay vigilant

    8 February- According to the COVID-19 case tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, the United States reported 86,928 new cases yesterday, and 1,268 deaths, marking the first time since Nov 2 daily case counts have fallen below 100,000. "But daily cases are still higher than the average during the summer peak," warned Rochelle Walensky, MD, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during today's White House coronavirus task force briefing. Walensky said hospitalizations were also still at record levels. There are 81,439 COVID-19 patients in US hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project. In total, the US has seen 27,057,411 COVID-19 cases, including 464,372 deaths. Walensky said now is the time to stay vigilant against the virus, and cautioned states against lifting mask requirements or allowing in-person events. "We are committed to wearing masks still for the 100 days of the presidency," Walensky said, referring to a national mask wearing plan President Joe Biden has touted. Walensky also said the CDC was conducting more sequencing of COVID-19 samples every day in an effort to detect the presence of variant strains in the United States. Per an update yesterday, the CDC recorded 79 more B117 cases for a total of 690 from 33 states (most still from Florida and California). There's also one more B1351 case and one more P1 case. CIDRAP External Link

    Doctors warn iPhone 12 could be risky to pacemakers due to magnets inside

    8 February- Almost every single electronic device typically generates electromagnetic fields but when it comes to the iPhone 12 series, the phone is said to contain actual magnets inside. The magnets are supposed to support Apple's brand new generation of the company's MagSafe wireless charging. However, this might have certain effects on other devices and objects that are said to rely on magnetism in order for them to function correctly. Apple had already issued a public warning regarding the phone's installed electromagnetic interface but still insisted that it does not carry additional risk than any of the other iPhones that came before. However, this is something that cardiologists have discovered to might not be the actual case, according to the story by SlashGear. According to Gurjit Singh, a cardiologist, along with his colleagues at the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute, they have published a report just last month revealing their findings that might raise more concerns regarding the newer iPhone 12. That is, at least for the specific users that have implanted medical devices like defibrillators or pacemakers. Tech Times External Link

    Does the world need new COVID vaccines? 'Jury is out', Oxford's Pollard says

    9 February- It is not yet clear whether the world needs a new set of vaccines to fight different variants of the novel coronavirus but scientists are working on new ones so there is no reason for alarm, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said on Tuesday. South Africa has paused a planned rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccines after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection among young people from the dominant variant there, stoking fears of a much longer battle with the pathogen. AstraZeneca and Oxford University aim to produce a next generation of vaccines that will protect against variants as soon as the autumn before the Northern Hemisphere winter, AstraZeneca's research chief said this month. "There are definitely new questions about variants that we're going to be addressing. And one of those is: do we need new vaccines?," Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, told BBC radio. "I think the jury is out on that at the moment, but all developers are preparing new vaccines so if we do need them, we'll have them available to be able to protect people." Reuters External Link

    FEMA launches COVID-19 super vaccination sites

    8 February- Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter on February 8, 2021, 'Texas is working with FEMA to create Super Sites for COVID-19 vaccinations. Initially, there would likely be 2 sites with up to 6,000 additional vaccinations per day, 7 days a week for 8 weeks. The FEMA program would likely start (vaccinations) in Houston & Dallas, with possible expansion to other locations.' The state of Texas has already administered 3,322,062 COVID-19 vaccinations. Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston, has a population of about 4.7 million residents and has confirmed 4,506 fatalities related to COVID-19 during the pandemic. FEMA previously announced on February 3, 2021, it would pay 100% federal funding for the costs of activities that have previously been determined eligible, from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020 to September 30, 2021. Precision Vaccinations  External Link


    CDC: Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

    Key Updates for Week 4, ending January 30, 2021

    Influenza-Associated Hospitalizations: The Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET) conducts population-based surveillance for laboratory-confirmed influenza-related hospitalizations in select counties in the Emerging Infections Program (EIP) states and Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Project (IHSP) states. A total of 155 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations occurring between October 1, 2020, and January 30, 2021, were reported by FluSurv-NET sites for an overall cumulative hospitalization rate of 0.5 per 100,000 population. This is lower than average for this point in the season and comparable to the overall rate seen at this point during the 2011-12 season. Hospitalization rates stratified by age will be presented once case counts increase to a level that produces stable rates by age.

    Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality: No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to CDC during week 4. CDC External Link

    WHO: Influenza Update

    01 February 2021, based on data up to 17 January 2020:

    - The current influenza surveillance data should be interpreted with caution as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has influenced to varying extents health seeking behaviors, staffing/routines in sentinel sites, as well as testing priorities and capacities in Member States. The various hygiene and physical distancing measures implemented by Member States to reduce SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission have likely played a role in reducing influenza virus transmission.

    - Globally, despite continued or even increased testing for influenza in some countries, influenza activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of the year.

    - In the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, influenza activity remained below baseline, though sporadic detections of influenza A and B viruses were reported in some countries.

    - In the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere, influenza activity was reported at inter-seasonal level.

    - In the Caribbean and Central American countries, low influenza detections were reported in Haiti. Severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) activity increased in Costa Rica.

    - In tropical South America, there were no influenza detections reported in this period.

    - In tropical Africa, influenza activity continued to be reported in Western Africa.

    - In Southern Asia, sporadic influenza detections were reported across reporting countries.

    - In South East Asia, influenza detections were reported in some countries in this reporting period.

    - Worldwide, influenza B detections accounted for the majority of the very low numbers of detections reported. WHO External Link


    Dips, salads recalled for lack of inspection

    5 February- An Illinois company is recalling dip, potato salad and pasta salad that contain meat because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection. The 6,800 pounds of products were produced from Nov. 9, 2020, through Jan. 29, 2021, by Food Evolution, a Schiller Park, IL, establishment, according to a recall notice posted by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The products have use-by dates through Feb. 6. They have the establishment number "EST. 34309" inside the USDA mark of inspection. Consumers can determine whether they have the products by looking for the following label information:

    - 31-oz. container containing "Taco Dip With Refried Beans, Chili, Sour Cream, Cheddar, Onions, Black Olives, Jalapenos, & Red Pepper thoughtfully handmade —fresh to you — Fresh, Fast, Gourmet."

    - 18-oz. container containing "Taco Dip With Refried Beans, Chili, Sour Cream, Cheddar, Onions, Black Olives, Jalapenos, & Red Pepper thoughtfully handmade —fresh to you — Fresh, Fast, Gourmet."

    - 7-oz. container containing "Tri-Colored Italian Style Rotini Pasta Salad with Salami thoughtfully handmade — fresh to you — Fresh, Fast, Gourmet."

    - 8-oz. container containing "German Style Potato Salad with Bacon thoughtfully handmade — fresh to you — Fresh, Fast, Gourmet."

    "These items were shipped to retail locations in Illinois," according to the recall notice. "The problem was discovered during routine FSIS verification tasks. FSIS personnel discovered that the establishment produced amenable product at an off-site facility without the benefit of federal inspection, then repackaged and labeled the products with the USDA mark of inspection at the federal establishment. Food Safety News External Link

    Popular baby foods contain toxic heavy metals, congressional report finds

    5 February- Commercial baby foods are often tainted with "significant levels" of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury — which could lead to "irreversible" brain development issues, according to a congressional report released Thursday. "The Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have declared them dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects," the report said. "Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development," added the report, which was released by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The committee on Nov. 6, 2019, requested internal documents and test results from seven of the largest manufacturers of baby food in the US after reports alleging high levels of toxic metals. The seven companies were:

    - Nurture, which sells Happy Family Organics, including products under the name HappyBABY.

    - Beech-Nut.

    - Hain, which sells baby foods under the brand name Earth's Best Organic.

    - Gerber.

    - Campbell, which sells baby foods under the brand name Plum Organics.

    - Walmart, which sells baby foods through its private brand Parent's Choice.

    - Sprout Organic Foods.

    Four of the companies — Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber — responded to the Subcommittee's requests. Fox News External Link

    Sweden investigates rise in Yersinia infections

    6 February- Swedish public health officials have reported an increase in Yersinia infections in recent weeks. Since the second week of January, more than twice as many people have fallen ill with yersiniosis compared to the same period in past years. An increased number of patients has been observed in the regions of Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Halland, which account for 33 of 48 cases reported since Jan. 11. Most of those sick are between the ages of 11 and 40 years old and are women. Five girls and one boy aged zero to 10 years old have also been infected. Folkhälsomyndigheten, the Swedish Public Health Agency, and local infection control units in affected regions are trying to identify the source of infection by interviewing patients. The agency is also collecting samples and has detected Yersinia isolates from patients in these regions. The isolates will be subject to whole genome sequencing to clarify if people have been affected by a common source of infection. A recent Yersinia enterocolitica O3 outbreak in Norway that affected 10 people was traced to salad. Between 200 and 300 Yersinia infections are reported annually in Sweden. In mid-2019, more than 20 people fell ill in the country in a Yersinia outbreak. A few months earlier, another outbreak, that also affected Denmark, sickened 37 people and was linked to imported fresh spinach from Italy or Spain. Food Safety News External Link


    Black coffee can be good for your heart, studies show

    9 February- It's another home run for coffee consumption -- as long as it's black and caffeinated, that is. Drinking one or more cups of plain, leaded coffee a day was associated with a long-term reduced risk of heart failure, according to a review of diet data from three major studies using analytic tools from the American Heart Association. The benefit did not extend to decaffeinated coffee. Instead, the analysis found an association between decaf coffee and an increased risk for heart failure. Heart failure occurs when a weakened heart fails to supply the body's cells with enough blood to get the oxygen needed to keep the body functioning properly. People with heart failure suffer fatigue and shortness of breath and have trouble walking, climbing stairs or other daily activities. "While unable to prove causality, it is intriguing that these three studies suggest that drinking coffee is associated with a decreased risk of heart failure and that coffee can be part of a healthy dietary pattern if consumed plain, without added sugar and high fat dairy products such as cream," said registered dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton, immediate past chairperson of the American Heart Association's Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council Leadership Committee, in a statement. She was not involved with the research. CNN External Link


    New Ebola case reported in North Kivu Province

    7 February- On Sunday, February 7, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ministry of Health reported a new case of Ebola has been detected in Butembo, a city in North Kivu Province, where a previous outbreak was declared over in June 2020.  Ebola virus was confirmed in samples taken from a patient with Ebola-like symptoms who had sought treatment at a local health center. The woman was the wife of an Ebola survivor. She has since died. The World Health Organization (WHO) says Butembo was one of the epicenters of the previous Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC. It is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak. WHO epidemiologists are on the ground investigating the case. Already more than 70 contacts have been identified. Disinfection of sites visited by patient is also ongoing. The DRC's 10th Ebola outbreak which lasted for nearly two years was the second largest in the world and by the time it ended there were 3481 cases, 2299 deaths and 1162 survivors. Outbreak News Today External Link


    Iran starts COVID-19 vaccinations with Sputnik V

    9 February- Iran has launched its vaccination programme against COVID-19 with Russia's Sputnik V. By order of President Hassan Rouhani, front-line healthcare workers are the first to receive the vaccine on Tuesday. However, the son of Minister of Health Saeed Namaki, Parsa Namaki, who is not a health professional, became the first recipient of the vaccine in an effort to quell public distrust towards the Russian jab. Last week, news that Iran approved Sputnik V for emergency use sparked a vaccine debate in the country that even pitted top health officials against each other in a standoff over the safety of the Russian shot. "To the dismay of many who can't bear to see it, we will give the vaccines to our own families so everyone will know we consider people's health above our own," the health minister said on TV at the time. Parsa Namaki told the president on Tuesday, "Father wanted to test the vaccine on himself but I really insisted so he let me do it," after he received the vaccine during a live conference call that was also aired by state television. Rouhani said he is also ready to take the vaccine to show people that any vaccine officially approved in Iran is trustworthy. Last week, peer-reviewed results from Sputnik V's phase-three trials published in The Lancet journal showed the vaccine is 91.6-percent effective against COVID-19. Al Jazeera External Link


    Norway: 1st AstraZeneca vaccines arrive Sunday

    7 February- On Sunday night, Norwegian health officials report receiving  the first delivery of vaccines from Astra Zeneca, The shipment included 21,600 vaccine doses. Officials say first doses will be given to healthcare professionals under 65 years of age. "These vaccines will be given to people in Norway under the age of 65, as so far no such good effect of this vaccine has been documented for those over the age of 65", says Geir Bukholm. In February, a total delivery from Astra Zeneca is expected to be just under 200,000 doses, and in March we expect about 250,000 doses. The number for March has not yet been confirmed by AstraZeneca. Outbreak News Today External Link


    Leyte: African swine fever spreads in province

    7 February- In a follow-up to a report of African swine fever (ASF) in Leyte, Philippines, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported three more towns in Leyte- Tanauan, Palo, and MacArthur – have confirmed ASF cases. "To prevent the further spread of ASF virus, we have been asking local governments to implement strict border control, ensuring that no live hogs will be transported by land or by sea," DA Regional Executive Director Angel Enriquez said. Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said the province is eyeing to establish safe zones where raisers can continue their hog production despite the presence of the virus. Leyte is the first province in the Visayas to record a confirmed ASF infection in Abuyog. Pigs affected by ASF usually manifest high fever, distinct reddish areas on the skin of the neck, chest, and extremities, plus bleeding of internal organs that could lead to death within two to 10 days. Outbreak News Today External Link


    U.S.: UMass Amherst directs students to self-sequester due to surge in COVID-19 cases

    8 February- Officials at UMass Amherst raised the operational posture of the campus to "High Risk", up from "Elevated Risk" just two days prior after consulting with the Commonwealth's Department of Public Health due to an  increase in the prevalence of positive cases reported among students since Thursday. The new designation went into effect Sunday and will be in place for a minimum of 14 days. It will only be lifted when public health conditions improve substantially. Outbreak News Today External Link 


    Yellow fever: Three more monkey deaths in Paraná

    6 February- In a follow-up on epizootic yellow fever situation in Paraná state, Brazil, the State Department of Health reported three more deaths of infected monkeys (epizootics) that occurred in the municipality of Palmas, in the area of the 7th Regional Health, in Pato Branco, in the southwest part of the state. The epidemiological monitoring period for yellow fever in Paraná began in July 2020 and continues until June this year. The State has so far registered 104 reports of animal diseases in 23 municipalities. There were 14 monkey deaths confirmed due to the yellow fever virus; 7 are under investigation, 41 were discarded and 42 occurred for undetermined causes. Regarding yellow fever in humans, the period has no confirmed cases. There were 15 notifications; 11 already discarded and 4 are still under investigation. "Paraná is considered an area of viral circulation and that is why we monitor the presence of this virus daily, always remembering that the monkey does not transmit yellow fever. In the same way as humans, these animals also get sick and die when they are bitten by the mosquito ( Sabethes and  Haemagogus ) contaminated with the virus ", said the Secretary of Health, Beto Preto. Outbreak News Today External Link