Army Public Health Weekly Update, 18 November 2022

Date Published: 11/18/2022
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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 Defense Health Agency opinions, views, policy, or guidance, and should not be construed or interpreted as being endorsed by the Defense Health Agency.

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Table of Contents

    ​ANNOUNCEMENTS

    Army Corps to host town hall on Jana Elementary contamination study​​

    14 November- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hosting a town hall meeting to present the results from sampling and testing at Jana Elementary School. The town hall will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 17. Members of the community are invited to come to the town hall to hear the results and ask questions.​ A special meeting was held with the Hazelwood School Board and the Army Corps of Engineers last week to go over the preliminary findings from the contamination study. At the meeting, the Corps said preliminary results showed no levels of radiation higher than “the level of radioactivity Mother Nature already provides.” “From a radiological standpoint, the school is safe,” Col. Kevin Golinghorst with the St. Louis District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. This comes weeks after the Boston Chemical Data Corporation released a report saying it found high levels of radioactive contamination within and around the school. The town hall meeting will be held at the Florissant Municipal Court at 4575 Washington St., Florissant, MO. KSDK​ External Link

    U.S. MILITARY

    Army public health, finance experts offer strategies to cope with #1 stressor of military families​​

    14 November- During the month of November, the Department of Defense celebrates the Month of the Military Family. While families are the backbone that sustain our fighting force, recent reports show that some military families are struggling. The 2021 Health of the Army Family report, published by the Army Public Health Center, cites financial stress as the number 1 stressor for military spouses. Lt. Col. Melissa Boyd, clinical psychologist in APHC’s Health Promotion and Wellness Directorate, says financial stress has been linked to other health issues, and it’s important for service members to be aware of resources available to help. “Financial stress has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, migraines, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure,” said Boyd. “Soldiers and Families who know about and take advantage of financial resources put themselves on a path toward a lifetime of solid financial stability and overall better health.” Managing finances for service members and their families can be challenging, particularly during times of transition to include PCS season, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, preparing for the holidays, and overall experiencing higher household expenses, said Boyd.​

    She offers some helpful tips to ease stress and anxiety, and obtain control of finances:

    - Get organized - Track spending by making daily lists of how money is spent.

    - Create a financial plan to include where money is spent and ways to reduce expenses or manage money more efficiently. Within a budget, it’s also important to include expenses for enjoyable activities and outings.

    - Recognize spending habits during times of stress. Some people relieve stress by engaging in activities that may temporarily lessen stress but in the long run contribute to financial strain. Activities such as emotional eating, drinking, shopping, and gambling or a few behaviors that are financial risks. Choose alternative social activities that minimize opportunities for impulsive spending.

    - Ask for support. Research shows that having a support system can help you reach your goals. Surround yourself with people you trust who will support your financial goals and want to help you succeed.

    - Ask for military discounts- Many businesses, especially those around military installations, offer discounts with valid military identification.

    Another area of focus for addressing financial readiness is leader engagement. Army.mil​ External Link

    Department of the Army updates Total Army COVID-19 vaccination statistics​​

    14 November- The U.S. Army updated COVID-19 vaccination rates and exemption requests for the Total Army as of 10 November 2022. Maintaining readiness continues to be among the Army’s highest priorities, and the COVID 19 vaccine helps ensure Soldiers are ready. Beginning July 1, 2022, as directed by the Secretary of Defense, members of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve who have refused the lawful DOD COVID-19 vaccination requirements without a temporary or permanent exemption (to include a religious accommodation) may not participate in federally funded drills, training, and other duty nor receive payment or retirement credit. However, unit commanders may place unvaccinated reserve component Soldiers in an appropriate duty status for limited administrative purposes, such as receiving the vaccine, processing their exemption requests, or conducting separation procedures. Soldiers could receive compensation and retirement credit for these service days. Army policy allows Soldiers to submit requests for temporary (up to 365 days) or permanent medical exemptions through medical channels. Soldiers may also request an administrative exemption from the vaccine requirement. Administrative exemptions include requests for religious accommodations.​ Army.mil External Link

    GLOBAL

    Brains of Black Americans age faster, study finds, with racial stressors a likely factor​​

    14 November- The brains of Black adults in the U.S. age more quickly than those of white and Hispanic adults, showing features linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as early as mid-life, according to a new study. The study, published Monday in JAMA Neurology, analyzed the MRI scans of nearly 1,500 participants from two racially and ethnically diverse cohorts. It found that Black adults in mid-life — on average, in their mid-50s — were more likely than white or Hispanic adults of the same age to have a higher prevalence of white matter lesions, markers of cerebrovascular disease that are associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research has established stark racial disparities in Alzheimer’s​ disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans. Hispanic people are 1.5 times more likely to have the disease than white people, while Black people are twice as likely to have the disease compared to those who are white. The new study strengthens the case that vascular disease may be especially detrimental to brain health in Black populations, and may start to affect the brain far earlier in life than previously thought.​ STAT News​ External Link

    New Covid Booster Strengthens Immune Response Against Subvariants, Moderna Says ​

    14 November- A new study by Moderna suggests that its updated coronavirus booster strengthens a key component of the immune system's defense against the Omicron subvariant that currently accounts for nearly one in three infections in the United States. The company announced the findings in a news release on Monday. The underlying data has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, but it has been reviewed by federal regulators. The data indicates that Moderna's new booster generates significantly higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against BA.5. And its sister subvariant of Omicron, BA.4, than the previous booster. BA.5 accounts for about 30 percent of infections in the United States. In the study, 511 participants received the updated booster and about 300 received the previous booster, Moderna officials said. That makes the study the largest to date of the updated boosters, which the federal government introduced in September. While federal officials said they were heartened by the findings, they emphasized the problem in chasing a virus that invents new defenses against immunization faster than vaccine manufacturers can design and produce modified shots. The government is confronting a crowded landscape of fast-moving Omicron subvariants that threaten to evade the population's immunity from vaccinations and previous infections. When the government first decided on the makeup of the new booster this past summer, it targeted BA.4 and BA.5, which together were by far the most prevalent versions of the coronavirus. But another fast-moving Omicron subvariant, BQ.1.1, could become dominant by Thanksgiving, said Dr. Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna. Dr. Hoge said that the company's lab tests suggested that the new booster also produced robust levels of antibodies against that surging subvariant, although far fewer than against BA.4 and BA.5. Dr. Hoge also cautioned that the BQ.1.1 tests were preliminary and involved only 40 participants. Pfizer announced similar findings this month about the antibodies produced by its updated booster against BA.4 and BA.5. But while Pfizer's study also showed that its shot could increase antibodies that defend against the subvariants, neither Pfizer nor Moderna could say whether its new booster resulted in less disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is overseeing studies of the vaccines' effectiveness, but those take significantly more time than studies of antibodies that form the body's first line of defense. Results from the C.D.C. studies are not expected for months. Public acceptance of the new boosters has been dismal: Only 10 percent of Americans ages 5 and older have received updated doses since the government began offering them in September. The lack of interest deeply worries federal and state health officials as winter approaches and people spend more time indoors and gather for the holidays. Influenza shots are updated every year in much the same way as coronavirus vaccines are. But some outside scientists have questioned whether federal officials gambled correctly in buying billions of dollars' worth of updated doses, suggesting that the previous booster might have protected equally well against severe disease and death. The previous booster was called monovalent because it targeted the original version of the coronavirus; the new booster is called bivalent because it targets the original version as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. The New York Times​ External Link

    Shortage of key drugs amid flu, RSV surge leaves doctors worried about access​​​

    14 November- In the thick of RSV and flu season, pediatricians and families across the country are raising concerns about difficulty getting access to common pharmaceuticals that are essential during this time of year. "After you have a population, a generation of children who are raised in masks and during lockdown, they have really no immune system and they are just catching every single cold that's out there," Dr. Dyan Hes told FOX Business’ Madison Alworth Monday. "So when they need amoxicillin for an ear infection and they don't have it, it's very frustrating because we have to choose something a little stronger." With so many shortages in the United States occurring over the past year or more, there is yet another shortage for American parents to know about: amoxicillin, an antibiotic used to treat many bacterial infections. Amoxicillin is a commonly prescribed medication for children's infections, according to Verywellhealth.com, a health information website. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added amoxicillin to its list of drugs that are currently experiencing shortages on Oct. 28, its website reports. The shortage announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports upward trends of respiratory virus (RSV) positive tests and detections nationwide.​ Fox Business​ External Link

    Study: Chemicals in common products linked to uterine fibroid tumors​

    ​14 November- A new scientific study released Monday connects an increase in women suffering from uterine fibroids and everyday consumer products that use environmental phthalates. The study by scientists at Northwestern Medicine, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said uterine fibroids are the most common tumors among women. Today, up to 80% of all women may develop a fibroid tumor during their lifetime. Tumors can lead to uncontrolled bleeding, anemia, miscarriages and infertility among women. Environmental phthalates can be found in shower curtains, car upholstery, lunchboxes, shoes, food and other common items. "These toxic pollutants are everywhere, including food packaging, hair and makeup products, and more, and their usage is not banned," corresponding study author Serdar Bulun, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, said in a statement. "These are more than simply environmental pollutants. They can cause specific harm to human tissues." The study found women with high exposure to certain phthalates such as DEHP [Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate] -- used as a plasticizer to increase the durability of products such as shower curtains, car upholstery, lunchboxes and more -- have a high risk for having a symptomatic fibroid.​​ UPI​ External Link

    Study finds ‘huge’ increase in children going to the emergency room with suicidal thoughts​​​

    14 November-  There has been a steady increase in the number of children who are seen in emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts, according to a new study – and the increase started even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought record high demand for psychological services for children. The pandemic’s effects drew renewed attention to suicide in teens and young children. In June, the Biden administration called the recent rise in rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among kids an “unprecedented mental health crisis.” The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, used data from hospitals in Illinois. The researchers looked at the number of children ages 5 to 19 who sought help for suicide in emergency departments between January 2016 and June 2021. In that period, there were 81,051 emergency department visits by young people that were coded for suicidal ideation. About a quarter of those visits turned into hospital stays. The study found that visits to the ER with suicidal thoughts increased 59% from 2016-17 to 2019-21. There was a corresponding increase in cases in which suicidal ideation was the principal diagnosis, which rose from 34.6% to 44.3%. Hospitalizations for suicidal thoughts increased 57% between fall 2019 and fall 2020.CNN​​ External Link 

    Taking 10K steps may be associated with reduction in risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease deaths: study​​​

    8 October- Taking up to 10,000 steps every day may be associated with a reduction in the risk of deat​h from cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality, as well as the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. A group of international researchers found in a Sept. 12 study that higher step intensity may provide additional benefits. The group used UK Biobank study data from 2013 to 2015, including 78,500 individuals in the study population, who included adults ages 40 to 79 years old in England, Scotland and Wales. Participants – 55% of whom were women with an average age of 61 years, and the majority of whom were White – were invited by email to partake in an accelerometer study. The UK adults wore Axivity AX3 wrist accelerometers, which measured daily step count and established cadence-based step-intensity measures. Their health monitored was a median of seven years.  Morbidity and mortality were ascertained through October of last year, and data analyses were performed in March 2022. Fox News​ External Link

    This Houseplant Can Clean the Air Better than Air Purifiers​​​

    ​​13 November- It is common knowledge that plants help us breathe cleaner air by converting the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen through photosynthesis. Plants are also able to remove toxins from the air we breathe, according to research. This Paris-based startup has developed a genetically modified houseplant that performs the same job but with the power of 30 air purifiers. Many people add houseplants to their homes to bring life into rooms and to create unique home designs. This houseplant is not only visually appealing, but it can also act as an air purifier. BGR reports that these genetically engineered houseplants are from a company called Neoplants. How did they come up with this? The same report tells us that the company modified a pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum) and its root microbiome to enhance the plant's natural air-cleaning properties. The company is calling its creation the Neo P1, and the genetically modified plant is now available for the public to buy. Neoplants currently has a waiting list for people who want to get their hands on their very own Neo P1.​ Tech Tim​es​ External Link

    ​INFLUE​NZA 

    CDC: Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

    Key Updates for Week 44, ending November 5, 2022:​

    - Influenza activity continues to increase. Regions 4 (Southeast) and 6 (South-Central) are reporting the highest levels of flu activity, followed by regions 3 (Mid-Atlantic) and 9 (south-central West Coast).

    - Three influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported this week.

    - CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 2.8 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 1,300 deaths from flu.

    - The cumulative hospitalization rate in the FluSurv-NET system is higher than the rate observed in week 44 during every previous season since 2010-2011.

    - An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu.

    - CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine annually.

    - There are also prescription flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness; those need to be started as early as possible. CDC​ External Link

    VETERINARY/FOOD SAFETY

    Cronobacter prompts infant formula recall in Slovakia​​

    15 November- A brand of infant formula has been recalled in Slovakia because of Cronobacter sakazakii contamination. The Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic (UVZSR) said the issue was detected as part of official food controls by authorities. No related illnesses have been reported. The affected goat’s milk infant formula was made in the Czech Republic by Goldim. The product is “Naše mléko 1” with a date of Oct. 31, 2023, and lot number L430. It is intended for infants up to 6 months of age. The production date is Feb. 26, 2022. The product was analyzed in an accredited regional public health authority (RÚVZ) laboratory and it did not comply with the microbiological legislation for Cronobacter sakazakii. UVZSR said this means the formula is considered not to be safe and should be withdrawn from the market. The agency added Cronobacter sakazakii can cause serious illness and strongly recommended that consumers do not purchase or use the implicated products and advised people to return them to the point of sale.​ Food Safety News​ External Link

    Tim Hortons chicken noodle soup recalled over insects in product​​​

    11 November- La Cie McCormick Canada is recalling Tim Hortons Soup Base Chicken Noodle because of the presence of insects. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recall alert, the recalled product has been sold in Ontario and Alberta, Canada. Consumers, hotels, restaurants and institutions should not use, sell, serve or distribute the affected product. Food ​Safety News​​ External Link

    ​​WELLNESS

    The health benefits of a random act of kindness​

    13 November- Spreading kindness not only helps others feel better about themselves — it can also boost the giver’s health and happiness, according to research. It’s a win-win for all. Putting the well-being of others before our own without expecting anything in return — or what is called being altruistic — stimulates the reward centers of the brain, studies have shown. Those feel-good chemicals flood our system, producing a sort of “helper’s high.” Volunteering, for example, has been shown to minimize stress and improve depression. That's not all: The same activity can also reduce the risk for cognitive impairment and even help us live longer. One reason for this, experts say, is because kindness contributes to our sense of community and belonging. And that, studies have found, is a key contributor to a healthy, longer life. Giving donations to others, or “prosocial spending,” has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. One study asked a group of hypertensive people to spend $40 on themselves, while another group of people with high blood pressure were told to spend the money on others.CNN​ External Link ​​

    USAFRICO​M

    Donors must act now to save East Africa from famine, IRC says​​​

    16 November- Donors need to provide cash now to save lives and not wait for famine to be declared in parts of East Africa where tens of millions of people are going hungry, the head of the International Rescue Committee said on Tuesday. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are suffering their worst drought in 40 years, the region faces a fifth consecutive failed rainy season, and the United Nations has said it expects a famine to be declared in parts of Somalia before the end of the year. "I would implore the international community not to be frozen waiting for the declaration," IRC President David Miliband told a virtual media briefing following a visit to the region. He said only the United States had increased its financial support for East Africa, as the crisis in Ukraine has diverted donor cash. "Elsewhere there is the great sucking sound of money coming out of East Africa," Miliband said. Half of all deaths in Somalia's last famine, in 2011, occurred before famine was declared, he added. East Africa's drought has been compounded by climate change and soaring global food prices, experts say. The IRC estimates nine million cattle have died across the region while Baidoa, a southern Somali city, has seen its population soar as hunger-stricken families flee villages in search of food and water.​​ Reuters​ External Link

    USCENTCOM

    Lebanon cholera update, WHO Regional Director’s statement on cholera outbreaks​​

    6 November- The Lebanon Ministry of Health reports in an update today that the cholera outbreak that began in early October has expanded to 2709 total (suspected and confirmed) cholera cases, including 436 confirmed cases. The cholera death toll now stands at 18. WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Ahmed Al Mandhari released a statement on cholera last week: After decades without a single case of cholera, the outbreaks that have been recently declared in Lebanon and Syria mark an unwelcome comeback in those countries.  In fact, this is part of a worsening pattern across the Region, and the globe, as 8 of the 22 countries in our Region are grappling with outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea. Moreover, there are now 29 cholera outbreaks worldwide – the highest number on record. We know that cholera can cross borders, placing neighboring countries at increased risk and heightening the need for urgent control. This is a wake-up call for all of us. Outbreak News Today​ External Link ​

    USEUCOM

    Next-Gen Protein-Based Adjuvanted COVID-19 Booster Approved in Europe​​

    14 November- After the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use adopted a positive opinion for VidPrevtyn® Beta, the European Commission (EC) approved the vaccine on November 10, 2022, as a booster for the prevention of COVID-19 in adults. VidPrevtyn Beta is indicated as a booster for active immunization against SARS-CoV-2 in adults who have previously received an mRNA or adenoviral COVID vaccine. Next-generation COVID-19 vaccines are based on a variant-adapted approach, using a strain other than the parental strain of SARS-CoV-2 (D614 strain). In the collaboration between the two companies, Sanofi provides its recombinant antigen and will be the marketing authorization holder. And GSK contributes with its pandemic adjuvant, both established vaccine platforms that have proven successful against influenza. Designed to provide broad protection against multiple coronavirus variants, the protein-based​ COVID-19 booster vaccine is based on the Beta variant antigen and includes GSK's pandemic adjuvant. Thomas Triomphe, EVP, Vaccines, Sanofi, commented in a related press release, "Today's (EC) approval validates our research in developing a novel solution for the COVID-19 pandemic." Precision Vaccinations​​ External Link

    USINDOPACOM

    China Covid: Beijing eases some curbs despite rising cases​​

    11 November- China has slightly relaxed some of its Covid restrictions even as case numbers rise to their highest levels in months. Quarantine for close contacts will be cut from seven days in a state facility to five days and three days at home. Officials will also stop recording secondary contacts - meaning many people will avoid having to quarantine. The slight easing comes weeks after Xi Jinping was re-instated as party leader for a historic third term.​ Mr. Xi held his first Covid meeting with his newly elected Standing Committee on Thursday. China's zero-Covid policy has saved lives in the country of 1.4 billion people but also dealt a punishing blow to the economy and ordinary people's lives. There is increasing public fatigue over lockdowns and travel restrictions. Stories of suffering and desperation have also circulated on social media, fueling many outbursts of civic anger. China's National Health Commission (NHC) insisted the changes did not amount to "relaxing prevention and control, let alone opening up", but were instead designed to adapt to a changing Covid situation. The NHC also said it would develop a plan to speed up vaccination.​ BBC News​ External Link

    USNORTHCOM

    U.S. hospital flu cases hit 10-year high as vaccinations fall​​

    11 November- U.S. influenza hospital admissions have hit the highest rate in a decade as vaccinations sag, US officials say. They said adults have received five million fewer influenza jabs this year compared with the same time last year. Health experts are worried a so-called tripledemic of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and coronavirus could swamp hospitals this winter. At least 730 people have died of flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While older people are the most vulnerable age group, at least four children are among the dead. CDC data shows there have been at least 1.6 million flu cases overall and some 13,000 people have been taken to hospital. This season's severity has not been matched at this point in the year since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit the US in 2009. "There's no doubt we will face some challenges this winter," Dawn O'Connell, the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said at a media briefing on Friday. Flu season in the US typically peaks in December and January but has surged early and rapidly this year. Health officials said the coronavirus pandemic had sharply curbed the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses, So many young children are now encountering them for the first time, but may have little to no immunity, said the officials. The early arrival of flu season has been compounded by a rise in Covid hospital admissions, fueled by the spread of different Omicron subvariants. It has also coincided with a country-wide surge in RSV, a cold-like infection that is estimated to claim more than 14,000 lives annually in the US, mostly among older Americans.​ B​BC​ External Link

    USSOUTHCOM

    Cholera update in Haiti​​

    9 November- The Haitian Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (MSPP) is now reporting as of November 6, a total of 6,446 suspected cases in 7 departments of the country, including 639 confirmed cases, 5,628 hospitalized suspected cases, and 130 registered deaths. After not reporting any cholera in the country for three years, Haiti saw the first two confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae​ O1 in the greater Port-au-Prince area on October 2. Outbreak News Today​​​ External Link ​