Author Archives: Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Put risk in context in covering latest on Delta variant and CDC mask guidance

Photo: Petra Wessman ia Flickr

I am sure many of you are scrambling to cover the latest about the Delta variant and the leak of data that informed the CDC’s change in mask guidance this week.

The data – leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post Thursday evening (July 29) – showed those vaccinated can still be contagious, and there are more vaccinated people becoming infected than expected: 35,000 a week of 162 million vaccinated.

It sounds scary, but the key thing to remember in your reporting is to put risks in context: “Vaccinated people can transmit Delta if infected, however the majority of transmission is still by UNVACCINATED – that is where the focus should be,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and an excellent health communicator, on Twitter Friday, July 30. Continue reading

Pandemic, closed clinics drove rise in drug overdoses and STDs, data show

Photo: G Witteveen via Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 16 published data showing drug overdose deaths soared 30 percent in 2020. Public health experts say infectious diseases connected to illicit drug use, such as HIV, hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases and endocarditis, likely rose as well.

The increase is considered linked to pandemic-related shutdowns of health care facilities that provide testing for infectious diseases and treatment for substance use disorder last year. Physicians also say they are observing a spike in substance misuse and an increase in new cases of HIV and other infections connected to drug use. Continue reading

Science writer follows the trail of tick bites and a meat allergy

Photo: Jakub Steiner</a> via Flickr

Photo: Jakub Steiner via Flickr

A feature story exploring how some ticks can cause people to develop an allergy to meat was one of the winners of AHCJ’s 2020 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Its author, freelance journalist Bianca Nogrady, looked closely at this allergy — called Alpha-gal syndrome — which is on the rise in multiple countries, though the number of people who have developed it is unknown.

Nogrady spoke with AHCJ about the story and her advice to journalists covering this subject. Continue reading

Covering HIV angles and updated HIV and AIDS resources tip sheet

National HIV Testing Day, June 27Most of our attention over the past year has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, but AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) remain global threats.

June marks the 40th anniversary of the first cases of what would later be known as AIDS being reported by the CDC. Since then, 32 million people have died around the world.

Public health leaders have made a lot of progress in slowing the spread of HIV, but there are still thousands of Americans infected with the virus annually. Many of them aren’t aware they’re infected. The CDC reported that in 2019, there were 34,800 newly diagnosed HIV infections, down from 37,800 in 2015. About 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. Continue reading

Science journalist Siri Carpenter says ‘follow the money’ to combat misinformation

Siri Carpenter

Siri Carpenter

Among the biggest challenges for health and science writers over the past year is how best to respond to misinformation.

Siri Carpenter, co-founder of The Open Notebook, a science journalism non-profit, suggests focusing on the business side of misinformation and who’s profiting by pedaling false narratives to the public.

“I think it’s … important to recognize that we’re up against moneyed interests that are extremely invested in that this [false] information,” Carpenter said in a ‘How I Did It.’ “Misinformation isn’t out there by accident. It wasn’t just accidentally created, and then other people stumbled onto it.” Continue reading