Category Archives: Infectious diseases

Science journalist: More evidence supports ‘spillover’
COVID-19 origin than lab leak

Jon Cohen

Science Magazine reporter Jon Cohen. Photo courtesy of Jon Cohen

During the pandemic, one of my go-to sources for context was science journalist Jon Cohen. Cohen is a long-time infectious disease reporter and a senior correspondent for Science magazine. He has written more than 100 deeply reported stories about all aspects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including how the virus impacts the body’s immune system and the global race to access vaccines.

Now that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, the story of where SARS-CoV-2 came from is gaining more prominence. Did it come from an animal? Or from a research lab? The answer remains elusive, though the greater share of evidence points to an animal.

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Webinar will focus on new book, the ‘lab leak’ theory
and keeping an eye out for hazards

author and book

Alison Young and her new book, “Pandora’s Gamble.” Young’s photo by Lisa V. Damico

For most of the past three years, I have been persuaded by the scientists and epidemiologists who said the assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of an accident at the Wuhan Virology Institute was just a conspiracy theory. But in the past year, questions have arisen that suggest scientists may have been too quick to dismiss the idea.

That’s why I found investigative journalist Alison Young’s new book “Pandora’s Gamble” an interesting read for health journalists. In the book, Young recounts the long history of accidents and leaks at pathogen research laboratories, which she backs up with years of in-depth reporting.

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Loneliness and health inequity are
post-COVID-19 stories to cover, reporter says

Fran Kritz

Reporter Fran Kritz

During the pandemic, one of the publications I relied on to answer my questions about SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) was NPR’s “Coronavirus FAQs”, which was a cornerstone of the news organization’s pandemic coverage. 

The section answered the latest and most pressing questions from the public as scientists’ and doctors’ understanding about the virus evolved. Freelance journalist Fran Kritz was one of the chief writers of these deeply reported FAQs, writing about topics such as the safety of ordering take-out food in April 2020 or if it was safe to fly without a mask in early 2023.  

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30 years after Jack in the Box scandal,
food safety issues still underreported

E. coli O157:H7

In 1993, hamburgers contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, pictured above, sickened hundreds and killed four children. Photo by Janice Haney Carr/CDC

Decades after fast food chain Jack in the Box served undercooked hamburgers, sickening 700 people and killing four children, lack of federal oversight of the nation’s food supply is still causing illness and death. Seattle-based food safety advocate and trial lawyer Bill Marler, who became nationally prominent on food safety issues after representing families in the Jack in the Box case in 1993, sees many of the same issues today.

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The threat of mpox returns:
How reporters should cover the disease

mpox examples

Image by CDC/NHS England High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network

A cluster of new mpox cases in Chicago has alarmed public health officials and prompted warnings of a potential outbreak this summer.

During Pride Month, covering the threat of mpox — formerly called “monkeypox” — may be especially important in communities where vaccination rates are low among those at highest risk of infection. According to the CDC, people who are primarily at risk for infection are gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Communities with the lowest vaccination rates include Jacksonville, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and Cincinnati, Ohio.

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