Author Archives: Bara Vaida

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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.

Top 2023 policy stories: end of public health emergency and telehealth

“Public health legislation in the new Congress” session panelists Timothy McBride, professor of public health at Washington University in St. Louis.; Cara Tenenbaum, principal at Strathmore Health Strategy; Leann Chilton, vice president of government relations at BJC HealthCare (Photo by Zachary Linhares)

For journalists seeking important health care policy stories in 2023, look to the impact of the end of the public health emergency on Medicaid enrollment and how it may change the number of people who are uninsured, experts said on March 11 during “Public health legislation in the new Congress” session at Health Journalism 2023 in St. Louis. Federal action on telehealth and its impact on health equity and rural health care will also be key policy topics to follow during the year, they said.

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How the pandemic changed vaccine development

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum via pexels.

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred unprecedented public and private investment in vaccine research and proved that multiple vaccines could be developed, approved, and manufactured for billions of people within a year if there is funding and political will for it to be done.

But could it be done again and for what diseases? Where should research be directed to respond to the next pandemic? What are the lessons learned from the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines? What do we know now about our immune systems that we didn’t know before? 

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NIH leader highlights disproportionate impact of long COVID on Black and Hispanic adults

Gary Gibbons, M.D.

The disproportionate and long-term effect of COVID-19 on Americans of diverse racial and ethnic communities remains under covered, according to Gary Gibbons, M.D., head of the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Gibbons is one of several NIH leaders who oversee the NIH’s RECOVER initiative — a $1.15 billion federal research project that aims to provide a better understanding of who is at most risk of experiencing long COVID, why it occurs and how to treat it. (The definition of what constitutes long COVID is still evolving, but generally, patients describe it as having lingering symptoms, such as brain fog and fatigue, lasting for months, even years after initial infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.)

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Why journalists should follow bird flu closely in coming months

Photo by Italo Melo via pexels.

As you look for infectious disease stories (other than COVID-19), consider getting up to speed on avian flu, which could worsen this spring as birds migrate north with warming weather.

While the present bird flu virus hasn’t yet demonstrated the ability to spread among humans, it is extremely contagious among wild birds and chickens that lay eggs, playing a role in the rising price of eggs. And like all contagious viruses, there is a possibility that a genetic shift in the pathogen could make it dangerous for people at some point in the future. 

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Science writer addresses COVID-19 virus origin story in new book

David Quammen

Among the many controversies connected to the pandemic is the question: Where did SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, come from before it emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019?

Veteran science journalist David Quammen skillfully and artfully tackles this question in his recent book “Breathless: The Scientific Effort to Defeat a Deadly Virus.” It is a detective story about the source of the virus and what is known, as of 2022. It is also a great read for any journalist looking for context about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus likely emerged and who the knowledgeable scientists are to talk to as this story unfolds. 

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