Army Public Health Weekly Update, 20 May 2022

Date Published: 5/20/2022
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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 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.

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Table of Contents

    ANNOUNCEMENTS

    Together for Mental Health: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

    13 May- Health is wealth, especially when dealing with mental well-being. Growing up, kids are taught if they are hurt physically in any area, to seek help. The same should go for anyone's mental health. Lt. Nicholas Grant, the embedded clinical psychologist for Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, expressed his thoughts on mental health. "Mental and physical health are interconnected. Mental health is a core component of overall health, and a holistic perspective is important in order to understand the relationship between these variables and allows individuals to deal with their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being head on," said Grant. When left untreated, mental health can have a negative toll on an individual's success, happiness, and safety. Therefore, the negative stigma around mental health must be fought by understanding, providing support, and educating members and families on the importance of asking for help. Despite how it may seem, Mental Health Awareness Month is a celebration of mental health. The purpose is to raise awareness of struggles people are dealing with and to commemorate their recovery and progress. Mental health is essential for an overall productive and happy life. However, in the military, there is a large stigma against seeking assistance due to the fear of being treated or perceived differently. "Military specific stigma of mental health has a lot to do with concern of change to one's duty status, including potential determination around fitness and suitability for duty, as well as how this might impact access to resources that comes with being on active duty. Folks may minimize symptoms due to these concerns. We must be thoughtful in the way we communicate around mental health and the importance of help seeking," said Grant. Due to the stigmas surrounding the topic and the lack of knowledge of resources, only 38 to 45% of people showed interest in receiving help, according to BMC Public Health. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic affected patients' physical health, but it has also played a role in their mental health. With the large increase in mental illness associated with the pandemic, society was forced to have those tough conversations about the negative implications of poor mental well-being. As a result, awareness has spread, and support has increased. Mental health has a direct impact on a person's quality of life. If neglected, other aspects of one's life can deteriorate. To get the most out of life, one must take care of themselves on a deeper level. It would be a disservice to overlook the struggles preventing someone from performing at their full potential. Society's mindset is changing everyday as the outlook on mental illness is becoming more accepted. Health.mil External Link

    U.S. MILITARY

    BAMC Auxiliary supports patient care through welfare grants

    12 May- The Brooke Army Medical Center Auxiliary held its annual Welfare Recognition Ceremony May 11. This year, the welfare committee approved 15 grants and four emergency requests totaling more than $24,000 to help support patient care at BAMC. “It's really special to be here with you today," said Army Col. Kimberlie Biever, BAMC commander. “I really want to thank you for all of your efforts and raising the spirits of our staff members, patients and families. Everything you do is all for the positive. I can't thank you enough for what you do." Grant recipients received funding for a variety of items including patient education materials, toys and stickers for pediatric patients, and clothing for patients in need. "Our welfare committee prioritizes grants that directly impact patient care and education," said Sarah Krell, BAMC Auxiliary president. This year the Mother and Baby Unit requested stand-alone tubs that enable immersion swaddle bathing for infants. “This is one I am particularity excited about," Krell said. “Because it will make BAMC the second military hospital to use this immersion bathing for its infants. There is not only research that shows immersion bathing more beneficial for the infant, but also allows for the teaching of families on how to properly bathe newborns." Some of the other more unique requests were a treasure chest for pediatric patients in the Emergency Department, a neonatal intubation training manikin for the Simulation Center, and a special stuffed animal designed by the American Childhood Cancer Association for children with cancer. “The Cozy Cat toy allows patients to have a friend that can go through these experiences with them," Krell explained. “Cozy has strategically placed patches that represent port access, bone marrow aspirate, spinal tap, etc. With Cozy as a guide, a child can see where a particular procedure will take place, and they can even watch Cozy have the procedure first. This can greatly ease anxiety and fear related to certain aspects of treatment." Krell thanked the Auxiliary Welfare Committee and Board for their efforts over the past year. DVIDS External Link

    Future of nursing: Telehealth, more innovation and maybe some robots

    13 May- The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked many changes to the Military Health System and forced all providers – especially nurses – to innovate at near-quantum speed with agility and flexibility. Nurses are the backbone of daily health care operations. In the future, nurses will continue to play a vital role in the evolution of modern health care. "Nursing will take on more leadership and strategic roles to transform the health care system, better advocate for nursing personnel, and integrate across care to enhance the multi-disciplinary team," said Defense Health Agency Chief Nursing Officer Air Force Brig. Gen. Anita Fligge. As the DHA observes Nurses' Week for 2022, Fligge and other top Defense Health Agency nursing officers talked about changes on the horizon for military nursing and the details of how the career field will evolve in the coming years. They said the pandemic has underscored the connection between health and readiness. Virtual health care options will continue to expand. Robotics may play a prominent role in standardized care in the future. And continued education for nurses will be essential to maintaining a ready medical force. Working in a joint environment within the integrated DHA workforce will improve efficiencies for nurses, allowing them to spend more time on patient care by having standardized policies, procedures and tools across the services, Fligge said. She pointed to the collaboration already underway in the local health care markets. For example, she said, Navy nurses in the Puget Sound market help backfill at the Madigan Army Medical Center and vice-versa. The same collaboration is ongoing in the Colorado Market, she said. Air Force nurses are assisting at the Army's Ft. Carson Evans Army Community Hospital. The pandemic "has opened the doors for nursing to see what could change as to how we care for patients in the future, using technology in a new way, and using data to assist in bed expansion or use of resources more effectively," said Army Col. Jenifer Meno, DHA's deputy chief nurse officer. The pandemic has "required more precision and flexibility, including virtual health care, remote patient monitoring, and touchless medication refills to optimize care delivery," Fligge said. Health.mil External Link

    Keris strike food, water inspection is vital to soldier readiness

    16 May- Veterinarians assigned to Public Heath Activity, Guam are ensuring the safety of U.S. service members by conducting food and water risk assessments ahead of Keris Strike, a bilateral exercise in Malaysia. The food protection mission is the responsibility of Army Veterinary Corps Officers like Capt. Samantha Warner, Officer in Charge of Boller Veterinary Treatment Facility, who spent nearly three weeks inspecting catering facilities in Malaysia for potential risk of food or water contamination. Keris Strike is an annual, bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific and hosted by the Malaysian Armed Forces focusing on partner land force capacity and capabilities and exchange best practices for jungle operations and company and below tactics according to Thanh Wallace, Keris Strike 2022 Mission Planner. “The veterinarian serves as an essential part of the exercise by ensuring that the caterers and the meals are safe for consumption for U.S. Soldiers," said Wallace. “Without this capability and support, the exercise could potentially be at risk causing sever risk to U.S. Soldier's health." This summer marks the 26th iteration of the Keris Strike exercise, with over 300 participants from Malaysia and the U.S. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it's been two years since we've conducted any live event in Malaysia. Captain Warner has revamped the safety and standards to ensure safe practices and policies are followed by our host nation to support U.S. exercises," added Wallace. Army.mil External Link

    Sunnier days are here – LRMC provides skin cancer screenings

    10 May- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, making it is the most common cancer in the U.S. To help raise awareness of protecting and preventing skin cancer, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center's (LRMC) Dermatology Clinic provided free skin cancer screenings for 240 DOD civilians, retirees, and dependents during May as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. While the clinic regularly screens and treats Service Members, DOD civilians, retirees and family members often rely on space-available care for the clinic, making early detection complicated. "These patients typically have the highest skin cancer burden in our community and need to be seen by a dermatologist," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Shannon Buck, officer in charge at the LRMC Dermatology Clinic. "Getting in to see a dermatologist at the MTF or on the economy can be challenging due to access. We want to reach as many patients as possible." Judy Srey, a military spouse who said her family has a history of the skin cancer melanoma, participated in the screenings. She said that everyone should have these medical resources to help identify potential warning signs. "This is a great opportunity for people who have concerns and don't have access to a provider here in Germany," she said. "My family has had melanoma in the past, and I want to make sure that I don't have to go through the treatment they did." During the screenings, LRMC dermatologists discussed the proper use of sunscreen, sun avoidance, skin cancer types, and how to conduct checks at home. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days. It also encourages wearing clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun, such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brim hats. If you can, limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are the most intense. The LRMC Dermatology Clinic provides care to diagnose and treat all forms of inflammatory and neoplastic conditions of the skin, hair, and nails. The clinic provides consultative services to the U.S. European Command area. "LRMC's goal is to provide high-quality, compassionate, and safe patient care," Buck said. "This not only applies to our active-duty population, but also to civilians, retirees, and dependents. If those individuals' medical needs aren't taken care of, then the mission and readiness can suffer." Health.mil External Link

    GLOBAL

    COVID test kits now available for third order, and it is still free courtesy of the government

    17 May- The COVID-19 Test Kit from President Joe Biden's initiative to have it accessible to U.S. citizens is still available, and users can order it for the third time, using the same address and name. It is still available for free and they can use it for whatever they want or need, with no questions asked by its website and the country's health agency. Return to offices is happening nationwide, and many companies are observing either a hybrid work setup or having their employees report on-site already in a full blast. Some that do not have vaccines have a requirement to fulfill, and it is to report on-site with a negative COVID-19 test kit to ensure the spread of the virus. Previously "COVIDtestkits.gov," now, the COVID.gov/tests offers a place for users to order the free testing kits that will help them determine if they are safe from the virus or got infected by it. It is a rapid test that people have to insert up their nasal passage and up to the wall that separates it from the mouth and throat. Tech Times External Link

    How vaccine misinformation made the COVID-19 death toll worse

    16 May- As the U.S. nears one million deaths from COVID-19, analysis finds nearly a third of those deaths could have been prevented — if people had been vaccinated. American flags continue to fly at half staff in memory of those who've lost their lives to COVID. At one point, 1 million deaths seemed unthinkable. Now, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID tracker, we're nearly there. It comes as cases and hospitalizations are again on the rise. And what makes the number more gut-wrenching is that many of these COVID deaths were preventable. NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us now. Allison, you've covered this pandemic from the very, very start. NPR External Link

    HPV Immunizations benefit most everyone

    17 May- An analysis published today in the peer-reviewed Annals of Internal Medicine showed an increasingly positive impact of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations for women and men.HPV vaccination was associated with an 85% to 90% reduction in four types of cervical HPV infections in sexually active women. And the vaccine effectiveness was about 51% from 2013 to 2016 for males. Furthermore, these cancer-preventing benefits are extended to 'herd' protection. For unvaccinated women in the study, HPV vaccinations produced a 74% impact against quadrivalent HPV vaccine-type prevalent infection, possibly because they benefited from 'herd effects or indirect protection. 'These findings are good news since HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. However, these researchers issued a caution in a related editorial. "As herd protection increases and prevalence among unvaccinated person decreases, vaccine effectiveness might be difficult to estimate. "We do not believe these findings raise concerns about waning immunity; multiple studies show long-lasting protection after HPV vaccination." Precision Vaccinations External Link

    Patients with type 2 diabetes and CKD face poor COVID outcomes

    15 May- Certain factors were highly predictive of severe COVID illness in hospitalized patients who had type 2 diabetes (T2D) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), a researcher reported. In a single-center study of patients with T2D and CKD hospitalized with COVID-19 infection, having hyperglycemia upon admission was tied with more than a 10 times higher risk of severe COVID illness (OR 10.49, 95% CI 3.09-35.60), according to Ella Burguera-Couce, an MD candidate at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Also, patients with stage 5 CKD, or were on dialysis at the time of hospitalization, had over four times higher risk for a severe course of COVID illness (OR 4.67, 95% CI 2.25-9.71), she reported in a presentation at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE) annual meeting. "Our data suggests that the combination of progressive CKD and T2D amplifies their individual impacts by magnitudes," she said. These associations were controlled for age, gender, race/ethnicity, obesity status, hypertension, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease. Severe illness was defined as a composite outcome of ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation, and in-hospital mortality. Data on patients with COVID came from the LifeSpan Health System in Rhode Island. More than half the cohort was white, while another 23% were Hispanic/Latino and 2% were Black. Most had commercial health insurance (46%), followed by Medicare (30%), Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (18%), Medicaid (4%), and self-pay (2%). MedPage Today  External Link

    Pfizer COVID booster for children 5 to 11 gets FDA authorization

    17 May- Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE gained US emergency use authorization for their COVID vaccine booster shot for kids ages 5 to 11, a move to bolster protection in school-aged kids as contagious omicron subvariants spread across the country. The Food and Drug Administration clearance allows the use of the booster at least five months after children receive the second of their first two shots. The companies submitted data to the agency in late April showing the third shot could bolster antibodies in the age group. Side effects of the booster shot in kids included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, the FDA said in a statement. The booster “is effective in helping to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19 in individuals 5 years of age and older," Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. No COVID vaccine has yet been authorized for kids under 5. The FDA has held several dates in June for its advisers to discuss data from Pfizer and its rival Moderna Inc. on COVID vaccines for the youngest kids. Stripes External Link

    INFLUENZA

    Bald Eagles die from Avian Influenza Infection

    18 May- The Avian Director at the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka recently reported a third eagle was exhibiting symptoms of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus (HAPI). Jennifer Cedarleaf informed local media on May 17, 2022, that an eagle that died in the Sitka National Historical Park this month tested positive for HAPI. And a second dead eagle was also tested for the virus, and results are pending. Cedarleaf commented other bald eagles have also tested positive for HAPI in Dutch Harbor, two in Anchorage, and one in the Mat-Su Valley.  In response to these cases, the Alaska Raptor Center suspended bird rescue and onsite rehabilitation services as of May 10, 2022. In addition to bald eagles, the ongoing HAPI outbreak in North America has infected red foxes. On May 12, 2022, both Michigan and Minnesota confirmed HPAI in wild fox kits. Previously, Canada confirmed two wild fox kits in Ontario tested positive for the virus on May 2, 2022. The Eurasian H5N1 strain first appeared in North American wild birds in January 2022. Since then, the U.S. CDC's data indicates that 38 states have reported HAPI cases in various birds. These are the first detections of HPAI A(H5) viruses in the U.S. since 2016. In addition to North America, HAPI infections have recently been confirmed in China and the United Kingdom. As of early May 2022, the U.S. CDC believes that the general public's health risk from HPAI A(H5N1) virus in the U.S. is low. Precision Vaccinations External Link

    CDC: Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

    Key Updates for Week 18, ending May 7, 2022:

    - Seasonal influenza viruses continue to circulate and activity is increasing in parts of the country.

    - The majority of influenza viruses detected are A(H3N2). H3N2 viruses identified so far this season are genetically closely related to the vaccine virus. Antigenic data show that the majority of the H3N2 viruses characterized are antigenically different from the vaccine reference viruses. While the number of B/Victoria viruses circulating this season is small, the majority of the B/Victoria viruses characterized are antigenically similar to the vaccine reference virus.

    - The percentage of outpatient visits due to respiratory illness remained stable (change of ≤ 0.1%) compared to last week and remains below baseline. Influenza is contributing to levels of respiratory illness, but other respiratory viruses are also circulating. The relative contribution of influenza varies by location.

    - The number of hospital admissions with laboratory confirmed influenza that were reported to HHS Protect remained stable compared with the previous week.

    - Due to late-season activity during the 2021-2022 season, FluSurv-NET surveillance has been extended beyond the typical end date of April 30 (MMWR Week 17). For this reason, comparisons between end of season rates for prior seasons and cumulative hospitalization rates beyond week 17 of the 2021-2022 season should be interpreted with caution and comparisons with similar late-season weekly rates is not possible since similar data from prior seasons is not available. The late-season activity has also resulted in noteworthy, high, late-season weekly hospitalization rates. In fact, the weekly rate for the 2021-22 season during MMWR week 17 was the highest weekly rate observed during that week since the 2010-2011 season.  A graph showing weekly rates beyond week 17 has been added to FluView. For MMWR week 18 while the cumulative hospitalization rate for the 2021-22 season is lower than the end of-season rates observed during the 4 seasons preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, additional data (“backfill") may change that rate subsequent to this report.

    - No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported this week. There have been 24 pediatric deaths reported this season.

    - CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 65,000 hospitalizations, and 4,000 deaths from flu.

    - An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination can prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. CDC continues to recommend that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine as long as flu activity continues.

    - There are also prescription flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC External Link

    VETERINARY/FOOD SAFETY

    Infant formula producer says it will reopen manufacturing facility if court OK's consent decree

    16 May- As parents across the country struggle to feed their babies, Abbott Nutrition has reached a consent decree with the FDA that should allow the company to resume operations at its main production plant for powdered infant formula. The company, which has a 40 percent market share of the powdered infant formula in the United States, closed down its production plant in Sturgis, MI, because of an investigation into an outbreak of cronobacter infections in infants. Four infants were confirmed sick and two died. Abbott officials said there were five strains of cronobacter found in the production plant, but that none were an exact match for those that infected the babies. The company recalled massive amounts of infant formula under the Similac, EleCare and Alimentum brands on Feb. 17 because of the investigation into the outbreak. Officials with the Food and Drug Administration said the recall was voluntary. The investigation of the Sturgis plant is ongoing, but nationwide shortages of the infant formula — especially the top selling Similac — are fueling outage among consumers and politicians. Food Safety News External Link

    Prosecutors open criminal inquiry into French E. coli outbreak linked to Nestlé pizza

    17 May- French authorities have stepped up their investigations related to an E. coli outbreak in the country linked to pizzas made by Nestlé. The latest figures from Santé publique France show 56 cases and two deaths from Buitoni brand Fraîch'Up pizzas. The Paris prosecutor's office opened a criminal inquiry into the incident this past week. Charges include the involuntary manslaughter of one person, the injuring of 14 others and marketing a product dangerous to health. An investigation had already been launched on March 22 and searches of the Nestlé factory in Caudry took place, authorized by the public health department of the Paris prosecutor's office, on April 13. A judicial inquiry is led by an investigating judge and was opened at the request of the public prosecutor to carry out such a highly complex investigation. Of the 56 infections, 54 were caused by E. coli O26 and two by E. coli O103, according to Santé publique France, the country's public health agency. Warnings were issued about the potential presence of E. coli O26 in dough used to make the pizzas but it is unclear why the two E. coli O103 cases are linked to the outbreak. All but one of the patients are children from 1 to 17 years old with a median age of 6. In France, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) surveillance is based on HUS in children younger than 15, so it only catches the most severe cases of E. coli infection. People fell sick from Jan. 18 to April 5 and from the 55 children sick, 48 have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections that can result in lifelong, serious health problems and death. Consumer complaints have also mentioned the Four á Pierre pizza brand, which is made at the same plant and the Bella Napoli mark, produced in Italy, according to French media reports but there has been no official confirmation these pizzas have made anyone sick. Santé publique France, the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF), and Directorate General for Health have been investigating the increase in HUS and E. coli since early February. Food Safety News External Link

    WELLNESS

    How stress can damage your brain and body

    26 April- We all know what stress feels like physically — though the symptoms vary by person. Some people experience shakiness or a racing heart, while others develop muscle tension, headaches or stomach aches. But what we might not realize is that our physiological responses to life's stresses and strains can have deeper, less obvious repercussions for just about every organ and system in the body. “I think people really underestimate just how big the effects are," said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University's College of Medicine. When you experience stress, your brain triggers the release of a cascade of hormones — such as cortisol, epinephrine (a.k.a., adrenaline) and norepinephrine — that produce physiological changes. These changes, called the stress response or the fight-or-flight response, are designed to help people react to or cope with a threat or danger they're facing. The trouble is that these changes can and do occur in response to stressors that are not life-threatening — work deadlines, traffic jams, financial pressures, family strife — and, over time, they can take a toll on the body and mind. “People understand big stressors, but they don't pay attention to smaller, accumulating stressors that make a difference, too," Kiecolt-Glaser said. The Washington Post External Link

    USAFRICOM

    WHO reports COVID cases down everywhere but Africa, Americas

    12 May- The World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of new global COVID-19 cases has continued to decline across the world except for the Americas and Africa. The WHO's pandemic dashboard reports 675,952 new cases worldwide over the last 24 hours. In the U.S., the WHO said there have been more than 156,200 new daily cases. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports 163,335 new cases and 949 new deaths, as omicron sub-variants continue to spread across the nation. In its weekly report, the United Nations (U.N.) health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%. Comparatively, infections rose in the Americas by 14% and Africa by 12%. Also, some of the biggest increases in cases were seen in China, with a 145% spike in the last week. Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea announced its first outbreak and imposed a nationwide lockdown. Fox News External Link

    USCENTCOM

    Pakistan reports 3rd wild poliovirus case nationally and in North Waziristan this year

    15 May- A one-year-old boy has been paralyzed by wild polio in North Waziristan, in the third case to be reported from Pakistan this year, according to the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme today. The child had an onset of paralysis on 2nd May in Miranshah, while the case was confirmed from the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the NIH, Islamabad on Saturday 14th May. “Another child will live with lifelong physical disabilities because of this preventable disease. As a country, we must understand the human cost of not finishing polio from Pakistan. Every polio case is a huge tragedy," Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said. “In the absence of any cure for poliovirus, the only way to protect children from life-long physical disabilities is to vaccinate them in each campaign," the health minister added. “After the first child was paralyzed, we feared that there would be more polio cases because of how infectious this virus is. Unfortunately, there may be more until every child is reached by the vaccine," said Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja. Since January, we have taken emergency measures in the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to save children from wild polio and these measures have been further extended and intensified, he added. The six districts in southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been identified by the polio program as the area most at risk and an emergency action plan was initiated that is allowing the program to reach more children than before. Outbreak News Today External Link

    USEUCOM

    Covid mask rule partially eased for EU air travel

    16 October- Face masks are no longer required for passengers flying to many EU destinations, but Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain are among countries keeping the mask rule. The EU's easing from Monday is in line with changing Covid guidance on public transport across Europe. France has lifted the face mask obligation on planes, trains and buses. But Italy requires passengers to keep wearing the more protective FFP2 masks on public transport until 15 June. In the 27-nation EU, the other countries that still require face masks on flights are: Portugal, Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The EU-wide easing was announced last week by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), whose executive director Patrick Ky said "it is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures". EASA says vulnerable passengers should continue wearing FFP2 masks and passengers generally should try to observe social distancing where possible. Face masks are no longer compulsory on flights to the UK and US. BBC News External Link

    USINDOPACOM

    North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID wave

    17 May- North Korea has mobilized its military to distribute COVID medications and deployed more than 10,000 health workers to help trace potential patients as it fights a sweeping coronavirus wave, state media outlet KCNA said on Tuesday. The isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak, which it confirmed last week, fueling concerns over a major crisis due to a lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure. The state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported 269,510 more people with fever, bringing the total to 1.48 million, while the death toll grew by six to 56 as of Monday evening, KCNA said. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19. The country has not started mass vaccinations and has limited testing capabilities, raising concerns that it may be difficult to assess how widely and rapidly the disease is spreading and verify the number of confirmed cases and deaths. "The numbers are simply unreliable, but the sheer numbers of people having fever are worrisome," said Lee Jae-gap, a professor of infectious diseases at South Korea's Hallym University School of Medicine. He said that the death count would surge over time, but that Pyongyang might be tempted to keep the publicly available numbers low to avoid a political crisis. "I don't think the North Korean regime can afford to release any surging death toll, which would sour public sentiment." Reuters External Link

    USNORTHCOM

    In 2021, U.S. drug overdose deaths hit highest level on record, CDC data shows

    11 May- Drug overdoses in the United States were deadlier than ever in 2021, according to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and about two-thirds of those deaths involved fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. Overdose deaths have been on the rise for years in the US, but surged amid the Covid-19 pandemic: Annual deaths were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019, CDC data shows. The spike in overdose deaths in the second year of the pandemic wasn't as quite as dramatic as in the first year: Overdose deaths were up about 15% between 2020 and 2021, compared with a 30% jump between 2019 and 2020. But the change is still stark. In 2021, about 14,000 more people died of overdose deaths in than in 2020, the CDC data shows. "This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The pandemic accelerated trends that were already heading in the wrong direction, and experts say that reversing course will require concentrated efforts -- and it will take time, both strategically and ideologically. In February, Katherine Keyes, an associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health whose research focuses on psychiatric and substance use epidemiology, told CNN that easing Covid-19 restrictions wouldn't mean an immediate change. "You won't see a reversal in the same way you saw the acceleration because these drug distribution networks and addiction become embedded in the community. And it's not like they turn off overnight," Keyes said. CNN External Link

    USSOUTHCOM

    Leishmaniosis cases skyrocket in Panama

    17 May- Last week, the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre reported that there has been an increase in cases of Leishmaniasis in the country, according to a El Siglo report. He detailed that to date more than 240 have been reported, a higher number compared to previous years. This skyrocketing of cases has triggered health alerts by authorities. In addition, Sucre said that the Metropolitan Health Region is the one that has registered the most cases to date with 31 people affected. He reported that leishmaniasis is transmitted by a vector and occurs in some areas where they are in greater contact with nature; for example, the regional areas in Nägbe Buglé, Cerro Azul, La 24 de Diciembre and even in Guna Yala. The head of the Minsa assured that at the moment a strategy is being made to reinforce the team to make more diagnoses and be able to attend to these people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that is found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. Leishmaniasis is caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread by the bite of infected sand flies. There are several different forms of leishmaniasis in people. The most common forms are cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores, and visceral leishmaniasis, which affects several internal organs (usually spleen, liver, and bone marrow). People with cutaneous leishmaniasis who develop clinical evidence of infection have one or more sores on their skin. The sores can change in size and appearance over time. The sores may start out as papules (bumps) or nodules (lumps) and may end up as ulcers (like a volcano, with a raised edge and central crater); skin ulcers may be covered by scab or crust. The sores usually are painless but can be painful. There is not a  vaccine available to prevent leishmaniasis. The best way is to avoid sand-fly bites. Outbreak News Today External Link