White House says 1.6 million monkeypox vaccines will be available by the end of the year

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About 56,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine are being sent to clinics around the United States right now, and another 240,000 will be on the way in the coming weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday. 

“While monkeypox poses minimal risk to most Americans, we are doing everything we can to offer vaccines to those at high-risk of contracting the virus,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This new strategy allows us to maximize the supply of currently available vaccines and reach those who are most vulnerable to the current outbreak.”  

Another 750,000 doses will be made available over the summer, followed by another half a million doses later this year, HHS said. 

Bavarian Nordic is the only one in the world to have approval for a smallpox vaccine called Jynneos in the U.S. and Imvanex in Europe, which is also effective against monkeypox.

Bavarian Nordic is the only one in the world to have approval for a smallpox vaccine called Jynneos in the U.S. and Imvanex in Europe, which is also effective against monkeypox.
(REUTERS/Lukas Barth)

The vaccines will initially be available to those most at risk, including men who have sex with men and individuals who have recently had close contact with someone who has monkeypox. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET MONKEYPOX: SYMPTOMS, VACCINATIONS AND TREATMENTS 

New York City and Washington, D.C., were the first two big cities to start offering monkeypox vaccines in recent days, but health officials said they were already out of supply

The U.S has reported 306 monkeypox infections since the first case this year was found in Massachusetts last month. California has the largest outbreak with 66 cases, followed by New York with 63 and Illinois with 45, according to the CDC. 

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient's hand.

In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient’s hand.
(CDC/Getty Images)

The Jynneos vaccine requires two doses administered four weeks apart. The U.S. also has 100 million doses of the older ACAM2000 vaccine, but it is not recommended for everyone due to potentially serious side effects. 

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The CDC also said Tuesday that it is activating the Emergency Operations Center in response to the outbreak. 

“This action stands up the CDC’s command center for monitoring and coordinating the emergency response to monkeypox and mobilizing additional CDC personnel and resources,” the CDC said. 

What to do if you get Monkeypox: Symptoms, vaccinations, and treatments

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Over the last few months, the Monkeypox disease has spread across the world prompting government health agencies and hospitals to fear the worse as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease in the same virus family as smallpox and can be transmitted to humans and animals. The disease was first discovered in 1958 when two African colony monkeys began to develop pox-like symptoms. Despite its namesake, the exact source of this disease is not known, and various non-human primates may infect people with the virus. 

The virus is typically found in tropical environments in central and West Africa where the animals who carry the disease live. The 2022 global outbreak has been linked to the resurgence of international travel to countries where the disease is present. 

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What are the symptoms?

Monkeypox symptoms in humans include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blister rash that typically dries out the skin, according to the World Health Organization. Individuals may experience mild symptoms but the ability to carry the virus without symptoms is not known at this time. These symptoms typically last between 2 and 4 weeks from the initial exposure. 

A Monkeypox lesion on a woman's hand. 

A Monkeypox lesion on a woman’s hand. 
(CDC/Getty Images)

The WHO notes that signs of a rash usually start within 24 to 72 hours after the start of the fever and lesions may have filled with clear or yellowish fluid. The rash typically is concentrated on the face, palms, and soles of the feet but may also spread to the genitals, eyes, and mouth. 

Does a vaccine exist for Monkeypox?

Several vaccines used to treat smallpox add protection against Monkeypox and those who have been vaccinated against smallpox may have some protection as well, according to the WHO. Imvanaex is a vaccine developed for smallpox and was approved in 2019 to help prevent monkeypox, but the drug is not accessible to most of the public. 

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The WHO notes that the vaccines used to treat smallpox in 1980 are not available because it became the first disease to be fully eradicated. Health agencies are working to make newer smallpox vaccines more widely available to the public. 

What are the treatments?

Most symptoms of Monkeypox typically resolve by themselves without the need for extensive treatment or medical care. However, the WHO and CDC recommend you avoid scratching or touching sores on the mouth or eyes. 

In severe cases, the WHO recommends the use of vaccinia immune globulin (VIG), an antiviral made to treat smallpox that was approved for the treatment of Monkeypox back in January. Patients should also stay hydrated and eat food to maintain their nutritional status. 

Monkeypox cases may be more severe in children, pregnant or individuals who have compromised immune systems.

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How many cases?

Since the start of the outbreak in 2022, confirmed cases of Monkeypox across the world totals to 4,106 confirmed cases in 47 different countries as of June 23, according to data compiled by the CDC. Moreover, the number of cases in the US stands at 173 cases in more than 20 states.

WHO says monkeypox risk assessed as ‘moderate

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that the international monkeypox virus outbreak is assessed as “moderate” – even as the agency noted the actual number of cases “is likely to be underestimated.”

The United Nations (UN) health agency said in a release that, since June 22. 2022, there have been more than 3,400 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death reported to WHO from 50 countries and territories.  

The majority of those cases were reported from the WHO European Region, with the region of the Americas making up 11%. 

The death was reported in Nigeria in the second quarter of 2022. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET MONKEYPOX: SYMPTOMS, VACCINATION AND TREATMENTS

A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. 

A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. 
(CDC/Handout via Reuters.)

“The overall risk is assessed as moderate at [the] global level considering this is the first time that cases and clusters are reported concurrently in five WHO Regions,” the WHO said. “At the regional level, the risk is considered to be high in the European Region due to its report of a geographically widespread outbreak involving several newly-affected countries, as well as a somewhat atypical clinical presentation of cases. In other WHO Regions, the risk is considered moderate with consideration for epidemiological patterns, possible risk of importation of cases and capacities to detect cases and respond to the outbreak.” 

It highlighted that, for newly affected countries, this is the first time that cases have mainly been confirmed among men who have had recent sexual contact with a new or multiple partners.  

In addition, the WHO said the unexpected appearance of monkeypox worldwide indicates that the virus may have been circulating below levels detectable by the surveillance systems and that “sustained human-to-human transmission might have been undetected for a period of time.” 

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe at a monkeypox vaccination clinic run by CIUSSS public health authorities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 6, 2022. 

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe at a monkeypox vaccination clinic run by CIUSSS public health authorities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 6, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

The presentation of monkeypox cases associated with the outbreak has been “atypical,” including the presentation of only a few or even just a single lesion, the absence of skin lesions with anal pain and bleeding, lesion in the genital or perineal area that do not spread, lesions appearing at different stages of development and the appearance of lesions before fever, malaise and other constitutional symptoms.

“The actual number of cases is likely to be underestimated, in part due to the lack of early clinical recognition of an infection previously known in only a handful of countries and limited enhanced surveillance mechanisms in many countries for a disease previously ‘unknown’ to most health systems,” the WHO said, noting that health care-associated infections “cannot be ruled out.” 

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To respond, smallpox vaccines have received authorization in the U.S., Europe and Canada to treat monkeypox. 

Following a June 23, 2022, meeting, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee advised the WHO director-general that the outbreak did not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at this stage. 

However, the committee advised the event should be closely monitored and reviewed again. 

World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gives a statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, during a European Union - African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. 

World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gives a statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, during a European Union – African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool)

The WHO does not recommend that measures to restrict international traffic be adopted, but advised that any person who is considered a suspected or confirmed case of monkeypox avoid non-essential travel and that those who have developed a rash-like illness during travel or upon return should immediately report to a health professional.

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Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows there are now more than 240 confirmed monkeypox and orthopoxvirus cases in the U.S.

Adventurous childhood play may buffer against anxiety and depression: study

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Children who engaged in more adventurous play that elicited excited or fearful emotions had decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those who participated in unadventurous activities, according to a recent paper published in Child Psychiatry & Human Development.

 “We’re more concerned than ever about children’s mental health, and our findings highlight that we might be able to help protect children’s mental health by ensuring they have plentiful opportunities for adventurous play,” said lead author Helen Dodd, professor of child psychology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. 

“This is really positive because play is free, instinctive and rewarding for children, available to everyone, and doesn’t require special skills. We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural spaces, well-designed parks and adventure playgrounds, to support the mental health of our children.”

Children who spent more time playing outside had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Children who spent more time playing outside had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
(iStock)

The researchers conducted two studies. One Northern Ireland study in a sample of 427 parents, which they broadened into a second larger “nationally representative” sample of 1919 parents living in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) to investigate if the larger study would confirm the first study’s findings.

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They defined adventurous play “as child-led play where children experience subjective feelings of excitement, thrill and fear; often in the context of age-appropriate risk-taking.”

The study surveyed parents with children ages 5-11 years during the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The parents completed three different surveys: one about their child’s play, one regarding their child’s general mental health a few weeks prior to when the pandemic started and a third that assessed if their child had symptoms of anxiety or depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Exposure to adventurous activities can improve children's mental health.

Exposure to adventurous activities can improve children’s mental health.
(iStock)

After accounting for the child’s age, sex, parent employment status and parent’s mental health, both the smaller and larger studies found that children who spend more time playing outside had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, but the larger study showed a stronger correlation for children growing up in lower income households.

The researchers speculate the stronger correlation among lower-income families might be secondary to fewer opportunities in these households for structured activities like scouts, martial arts or adventure camps, which typically provide exposure to the feelings of uncertainty and coping.

They theorize that adventurous play in lower-income households becomes more emphasized since these structured opportunities are not as available. 

CANNABIS USE HAS RISEN WITH LEGALIZATION AND COVID LOCKDOWNS, U.N. REPORTS

The researchers also found unadventurous play was not associated with symptoms of anxiety or depression and noted the study had limitations because it relied on parental reports of play and mental health.

More play means more happiness and less anxiety and depression,” said Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children. 

“Every child needs and deserves opportunities to play. This important research shows that this is even more vital to help children thrive after all they have missed out on during the COVID-19 restrictions.”

Children play in the outlet of Lake Itasca Minnesota. 

Children play in the outlet of Lake Itasca Minnesota. 
((Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

In certain parts of the country, like New York City, however, it’s not always easy to find safe places for children to play outside, but one sports director is trying to change that.

“At City Parks Foundation, one of the leading nonprofits keeping youth active in New York City, we have seen firsthand that kids have had a tough year. We also know that creating fun outdoor environments for young people to play adventurously helps them forge positive connections, build confidence and stay active,” said Mike Silverman, director of sports for City Parks Foundation. 

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On July 9, he told Fox News that his foundation is partnering with the Life Time Foundation to host a Family Adventure Race in Queens to empower hundreds of parents and kids to reduce stress by participating in an exciting series of obstacles and activities together.

“This is also our first Family Adventure Race since the onset of the pandemic, which is particularly exciting, and I am pleased to share that we still have spots open for families who are interested in teaming up with their children for a fun hour of adventurous play,” Silverman added.

Monkeypox outbreak: CDC activates Emergency Operations Center to bolster agency’s response

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is activating its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to help “supplement” the agency’s ongoing response to the current monkeypox outbreak, according to a recent press release.  

“This action stands up the CDC’s command center for monitoring and coordinating the emergency response to monkeypox and mobilizing additional CDC personnel and resources,” the agency said. 

“CDC’s activation of the EOC allows the agency to further increase operational support for the response to meet the outbreak’s evolving challenges.” 

The EOC has more than 300 CDC staff who work with local, national, and international response partners on public health concerns.  

Test tube labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" is seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is activating its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to help "supplement" the agency’s ongoing response to the current monkeypox outbreak, according to a recent press release.  

Test tube labelled “Monkeypox virus positive” is seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is activating its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to help “supplement” the agency’s ongoing response to the current monkeypox outbreak, according to a recent press release.  
(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo)

WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET MONKEYPOX : SYMPTOMS, VACCINATIONS AND TREATMENTS 

A high number of monkeypox cases are occurring in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, according to early CDC data. 

Monkeypox is rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus that belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the virus that causes smallpox called variola virus. 

But monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. 

The disease is endemic in Africa, but since May 2022 monkeypox cases have been identified in approximately 25 states in the U.S. among people returning from international travel and their close contacts domestically. 

The cases are unusual because prior to the 2022 outbreak, almost all monkeypox cases in people who lived outside Africa were linked to either international travel to countries where the disease is endemic or through imported animals that harbor the virus.  

There are currently 244 monkeypox cases in the United States and 4357 cases globally in 48 locations, as of June 27.  

“In the United States, evidence of person-to-person disease transmission in multiple states and reports of clinical cases with some uncharacteristic features have raised concern that some cases are not being recognized and tested,” the agency said.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 04: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 04, 2021, in Washington, DC. The CDC is tracking cases, but currently the threat to the general population is low and does not spread easily between people without close contact, per the agency.  

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 04: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 04, 2021, in Washington, DC. The CDC is tracking cases, but currently the threat to the general population is low and does not spread easily between people without close contact, per the agency.  
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The CDC is tracking cases, but currently the threat to the general population is low and does not spread easily between people without close contact, per the agency.  

The CDC expanded the monkeypox case definition on June 1 with a “suspected case” defined as someone with the characteristic rash or someone who meets one of the epidemiologic criteria and has a high clinical suspicion of having the disease, per the agency’s website.  

A “confirmed case” is defined as demonstrating the presence of monkeypox virus DNA by one of two specific lab techniques or isolating the virus in culture from a clinical specimen.  

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe at a monkeypox vaccination clinic run by CIUSSS public health authorities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 6, 2022. The CDC encouraged health care providers who come across a patient with a rash that resembles monkeypox or a rash that is similar to chickenpox, shingles or syphilis to be evaluated for monkeypox.  

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe at a monkeypox vaccination clinic run by CIUSSS public health authorities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 6, 2022. The CDC encouraged health care providers who come across a patient with a rash that resembles monkeypox or a rash that is similar to chickenpox, shingles or syphilis to be evaluated for monkeypox.  
(REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

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The agency also defines a probable case as someone without a recent orthopoxvirus exposure (such as receiving the smallpox vaccine) and demonstrating the presence of the virus by one of several lab techniques, such as detectable antibody levels after the rash starts. 

The CDC encouraged health care providers who come across a patient with a rash that resembles monkeypox or a rash that is similar to chickenpox, shingles or syphilis to be evaluated for monkeypox.  

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“Last week, CDC began shipping orthopoxvirus tests to five commercial laboratory companies, including the nation’s largest reference laboratories, to quickly increase monkeypox testing capacity and access in every community,” per the press release. 

“This development will facilitate increased testing, leverage established relationships between clinics, hospitals and commercial laboratories, and support our ability to better understand the scope of the current monkeypox outbreak.” 

Pilates for Tight Hips and Shoulders | 30 Min Stretch & Flow Session


Join me for a 30 minute pilates workout to release tight hips and shoulders. This is a full body workout with an emphasis on releasing tension in the hips and shoulders to improve your movement and reduce any stiffness in the joints as well as give you a great workout session. I highly recommend this one for anyone working from home or looking for an active recovery session. It will both stretch and strengthen hips, shoulders and chest muscles. It features exercises to really open up the front of the chest, stretch the hip flexors and thigh muscles and as always contains a healthy dose of core strength exercises too.

I do a live class every Friday at 10am to keep people feeling motivated as well as mindful of taking care of their body. All the exercises are low impact with an emphasis on building core strength and flexibility So do press the notifications bell to give you a gentle reminder when I have a new workout coming up.

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COVID-19 may increase risk of Alzheimers, Parkinsons, stroke: study

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A new Danish study found COVID-19 outpatients had a higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and bleeding into the brain when compared with COVID-19 negative patients, but most neurological disorders were not more frequent after COVID-19 than after other respiratory infections, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology this June.  

“More than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the precise nature and evolution of the effects of COVID-19 on neurological disorders remained uncharacterized,” said lead author Dr. Pardis Zarifkar, member of the Department of Neurology at Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.  

“Previous studies have established an association with neurological syndromes, but until now it is unknown whether COVID-19 also influences the incidence of specific neurological diseases and whether it differs from other respiratory infections.” 

The study, which was recently presented at the 8th European Academy of Neurology Congress, found 43,375 individuals tested positive for COVID-19 while 876,356 individuals tested negative for the disease out of a total of 919,731 participants. 

Small pea-sized human midbrain-like organoids – which are essentially three-dimensional, multicellular, in vitro tissue constructs that mimic the human midbrain – are grown from human stem cells to enable scientists to study how the human brain develops and communicates. A new Danish study found COVID-19 outpatients had a higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and bleeding into the brain when compared with COVID-19 negative patients, but most neurological disorders were not more frequent after COVID-19 than after other respiratory infections, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology this June.  

Small pea-sized human midbrain-like organoids – which are essentially three-dimensional, multicellular, in vitro tissue constructs that mimic the human midbrain – are grown from human stem cells to enable scientists to study how the human brain develops and communicates. A new Danish study found COVID-19 outpatients had a higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and bleeding into the brain when compared with COVID-19 negative patients, but most neurological disorders were not more frequent after COVID-19 than after other respiratory infections, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology this June.  
(Hyunsoo Shawn Je, Duke-NUS Medical School)

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The study used electronic health records that covered approximately 50% of Denmark’s population, which has an estimated population of 3 million. 

The study analyzed those who tested positive for COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonia in hospital-based facilities between February 2020 and November 2021, as well as reviewed influenza patients from the corresponding pre-pandemic period between February 2018 and November 2019. 

Out of the 43,375 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, 35,362 were outpatients while 8,013 were hospitalized.  

The researchers found the outpatients who tested positive for COVID-19 had a 3.5 times the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 2.6 times increased risk with Parkinson’s disease, 2.7 times increased risk with ischemic stroke and 4.8 times increased risk with intracerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the brain.  

But when the researchers compared the relative risk of neurological disorders with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, the increased risk of most neurological diseases was not higher in COVID-19-positive patients compared to those diagnosed with other respiratory illnesses – with one exception.  

Brain disease diagnosis with medical doctor seeing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) film diagnosing elderly ageing patient neurodegenerative illness problem for neurological medical treatment. But when the researchers compared the relative risk of neurological disorders with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, the increased risk of most neurological diseases was not higher in COVID-19-positive patients compared to those diagnosed with other respiratory illnesses -- with one exception.  

Brain disease diagnosis with medical doctor seeing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) film diagnosing elderly ageing patient neurodegenerative illness problem for neurological medical treatment. But when the researchers compared the relative risk of neurological disorders with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, the increased risk of most neurological diseases was not higher in COVID-19-positive patients compared to those diagnosed with other respiratory illnesses — with one exception.  
(iStock)

The researchers found the risk for ischemic stroke increased among COVID-19 hospitalized patients when compared to inpatients with influenza. 

The study was limited because it did not account for potential confounding variables like socioeconomic, lifestyle, pre-existing comorbidities and length of hospitalization. 

Medical illustration of a brain with stroke symptoms. The researchers found the risk for ischemic stroke increased among COVID-19 hospitalized patients when compared to inpatients with influenza. 

Medical illustration of a brain with stroke symptoms. The researchers found the risk for ischemic stroke increased among COVID-19 hospitalized patients when compared to inpatients with influenza. 
(iStock)

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Although the study included a large population, it was only able to review a subset of the country’s absolute number of tested individuals as only COVID-19 tests performed in the hospital facilities are registered in the Danish electronic health record system that the study used to analyze the records. 

“While the risk of ischemic stroke was increased with COVID-19 compared to influenza, reassuringly, most neurological disorders do not appear to be more frequent after COVID-19 than after influenza or community-acquired bacterial pneumonia,” the researchers concluded.  

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“Frequencies of multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome and narcolepsy did not differ after COVID-19, influenza and bacterial pneumonia,” the study added.  

“These findings will help to inform our understanding of the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the body and the role that infections play in neurodegenerative diseases and stroke,” Zarifkar said. 

AstraZeneca gets EU backing for targeted breast cancer therapies

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AstraZeneca said on Monday two of its existing therapies were recommended for treating patients with some forms of high-risk breast cancers in the European Union, in a boost to the company’s oncology portfolio.

Lynparza, a cancer drug developed jointly with U.S.-based Merck, was backed for standalone use or in combination with endocrine therapy in adults with a form of genetically mutated early-stage breast cancer.

The drug, which has received a similar recommendation in the United States in March, is a key asset for AstraZeneca. It was recommended in patients with low-to-normal levels of a protein known as HER2 that is the target of several new therapies.

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The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., March 22, 2021.

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., March 22, 2021.
( REUTERS/Rachel Wisniewski/File Photo)

Enhertu, developed jointly with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, was the other drug that was endorsed by the European Medicines Agency for treating an aggressive form of breast cancer characterized by a high rate of HER2.

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Enhertu is seen as a major growth driver for AstraZeneca, with some analysts expecting peaks sales of $10 billion. The drug is also expected to be cleared for patients with low levels of HER2 this month after the recent success of a trial.

Cannabis use has risen with legalization and COVID lockdowns, U.N. reports

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Places including U.S. states that have legalized cannabis appear to have increased its regular use, while COVID lockdowns had a similar effect, raising the risk of depression and suicide, a U.N. report said on Monday.

Cannabis has long been the world’s most widely used drug and that use is increasing while the cannabis on the market is getting stronger in terms of its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual World Drug Report.

Various U.S. states have legalized non-medical use of cannabis, starting with Washington and Colorado in 2012. Uruguay legalized it in 2013, as did Canada in 2018. Others have taken similar steps but the report focused on those three countries.

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Highland Cafe's first customer Rittipomng Bachkul holds up a piece of cannabis at the Highland Cafe on the first day of removing it from the narcotics list under Thai law in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 9, 2022. 

Highland Cafe’s first customer Rittipomng Bachkul holds up a piece of cannabis at the Highland Cafe on the first day of removing it from the narcotics list under Thai law in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 9, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

“Cannabis legalization appears to have accelerated the upwards trends in reported daily use of the drug,” the Vienna-based UNODC’s report said.

While the prevalence of cannabis use among teenagers “has not changed much”, there had been “a pronounced increase in reported frequent use of high-potency products among young adults,” it said.

“The proportion of people with psychiatric disorders and suicides associated with regular cannabis use has increased.”

The report said roughly 284 million people, or 5.6% of the world’s population, had used a drug such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines or ecstasy in 2020, the most recent data available. Of those, 209 million used cannabis.

“Periods of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic drove increases in the use of cannabis … in 2020,” it said.

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Cocaine production hit a record in 2020 and trafficking by sea is growing, it added, with 2021 seizure data suggesting an expansion outside the two main markets of North America and Europe into Africa and Asia.

Emergency contraception, like Plan B, unscathed after SCOTUS reverses Roe v. Wade: report

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In the aftermath of the divisive Supreme Court decision that ended the constitutional right to abortion in the United States, people across the country still have access to emergency contraception such as Plan B, according to reports.

People across the U.S. can still buy and access contraception, USA Today reported. In his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “Overruling Roe does not mean the overruling of” precedents involving the right to contraception, though Democratic-nominated justices and legal analysts disagree.

Deciding the best option for emergency contraception depends on several factors: 1) time lapsed after unprotected sex, 2) a woman’s weight, 3) if a woman is breastfeeding, 4) cost and 5) which type is most easily accessible, according to Planned Parenthood. 

Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy within 5 days after unprotected sex that works by preventing sperm from meeting an egg, according to the non-profit’s website.  

The two ways to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex are via an intrauterine device (IUD), which is typically a small T-shaped device inserted into the uterus, or an emergency contraception pill, also referred to as the “morning-after pill.”

Holding an IUD birth control copper coil device in hand, used for contraception - side view.

Holding an IUD birth control copper coil device in hand, used for contraception – side view.
(iStock)

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IUDs, which can be placed within 5 days of unprotected sex, are the most effective type of emergency contraception, but it may not be possible to get an appointment in time for a health care professional to place one.

The IUDs, under such brand names as Paragard, Mirena and Liletta, work as well on the first day as on the fifth day after unprotected sex. 

“The Paragard IUD doesn’t have hormones. It’s wrapped in a tiny bit of copper, and it protects you from pregnancy for up to 12 years,” per Planned Parenthood’s website. 

“The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin is very similar to the hormone progesterone that our bodies make naturally. Mirena works for up to 7 years. Kyleena works for up to 5 years. Liletta works for up to 7 years. Skyla works for up to 3 years.” 

There are two types of emergency contraception oral pills: a pill with ulipristal acetate that only has one brand called Ella, and a pill with levonorgestrel under several brand names including: Plan B One Step (which is what many refer to as “Plan B”), Take Action, My Way, Option 2, Preventeza, AfterPill, My Choice, Aftera, and EContra, according to the Planned Parenthood website. 

Levonorgestrel is a similar type of progestin like in birth control pills, whereas Ella is a progestin blocker, according to USA Today. 

Even though it is often referred to as the “morning-after pill,” emergency contraception pills can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but they are most effective when taken as soon as possible, ideally within 3 days. 

An abortion pill 'PiDaNa from HRA Pharma' in a rumpled bed.

An abortion pill ‘PiDaNa from HRA Pharma’ in a rumpled bed.
(Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images)

Levonorgestrel pills reduce pregnancy risk by 75-89% if taken within 3 days, but the generic and brand names are equally effective regardless of cost, according to Planned Parenthood.  

Levonorgestrel pills that can be purchased without a prescription at the local drugstore, pharmacy or online, but if a woman weighs more than 165 pounds, it may not work as well. 

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“It doesn’t matter how old you are and it doesn’t matter what your gender is.  Sometimes the morning-after pill is locked up or kept behind the counter, so you may have to ask the pharmacist or store clerk for help getting it — but you don’t have to have a prescription or show your ID,” per Planned Parenthood’s website.  

Side effects are not common, but sometimes a woman may get an upset stomach, experience dizziness, complain of tender breasts for a “short while” after taking the pill, or experience a different menstrual cycle for their next period, per Planned Parenthood. 

Ella, the oral pill that contains ulipristal acetate, is the most effective emergency contraceptive pill, but it requires a prescription and may not be effective for women who weigh more than 195 pounds.  

Ella can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 85% if taken within 5 days, per Planned Parenthood. 

And if a woman is breastfeeding, Plan B and IUDs won’t affect the breast milk, but a breastfeeding mother will need to “pump and dump” breast milk for 36 hours after taking Ella. 

Plan B’s typical cost is $40 to $50, but in some states patients can often get morning-after pills for free with many insurance plans, including Medicaid, according to USA Today. Going through health insurance usually requires a prescription, however.

Containers of the medication used to end an early pregnancy sit on a table inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, Oct. 29, 2021, in Fairview Heights, Ill.

Containers of the medication used to end an early pregnancy sit on a table inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, Oct. 29, 2021, in Fairview Heights, Ill.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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Dr. Meera Shah, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic in New York, recommends buying one or more morning-after pills beforehand in case of an emergency. 

Some states, however, have “conscience clauses” that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill contraception prescriptions if doing so violates their religious or personal beliefs, per the news outlet.  

Emergency contraceptives, like the IUD and the oral pills, “won’t have an impact on an existing pregnancy, they prevent a pregnancy from occurring,” Shah told USA Today. 

Some experts, however, worry if the reversal of Roe v. Wade could eventually lead to restrictions beyond abortion rights. 

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Americans’ right to privacy comes from several parts of the Constitution, “but it evolved out of a right to contraception access. And from that we got a whole slew of sexual privacy rights,” Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University College of Law, told USA Today in May. 

“So, if you unravel one string in that fabric of doctrine, it could potentially unravel the other rights or at least open them up to greater attack.”