Category Archives: Infectious diseases

How to use COVID-19 rapid tests to avoid misleading results

Photo by Jernej Furman via Flickr.

Rapid antigen tests are now the standard way for people to determine if they have COVID-19, but studies show they are less sensitive than laboratory tests and can result in a false negative for infection, creating public confusion about about how to use rapid tests.

Continue reading

Fauci to step down, says he’s ready for the ‘next chapter’

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, M.D. (Photo courtesy of NIAID)

Anthony Fauci, M.D., is ready to give up the federal job that put him at the helm for nearly four decades of the nation’s responses to infectious diseases ranging from AIDS to COVID.

Fauci, 81, officially announced he is departing from his role as director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in December. He was appointed to the job in 1984.

Continue reading

“Many Tuskegees” occur daily in the U.S. 

Epidemiologist Dara Mendez, Ph.D., M.P.H., pediatrician Diane Rowley, M.D., epidemiologist Theresa Chapple-McGruder, Ph.D., and epidemiologist Bill Jenkins, Ph.D., who blew the whistle on the experiment at Tuskegee while working at the U.S. Public Health Service, gather at the 2017 meeting of the American Public Health Association. (Photo courtesy of Theresa Chapple)

When writing about the 50th anniversary of the revelation of the U.S. Public Health Service study at Tuskegee, I reached out to several Black health care professionals to ask for their perspectives on the study’s legacy a half-century later. Five women — an epidemiologist, two psychiatrists, a surgeon, and an HIV primary care physician — offered their insight. This post shares two of those perspectives, one focused on the man who blew the whistle on the experiment and the other on how the legacy of the experiment at Tuskegee is playing out with monkeypox.

Key takeaways

  • The whistleblower who ensured the world found out about the U.S. Public Health Service study at Tuskegee, Bill Jenkins, Ph.D., has also been a role model to Black epidemiologists in showing how to stand up to racism within the system.
  • Although the “Tuskegee study” is a convenient shorthand, it’s more appropriate and accurate to refer to the experiment as the ”U.S. Public Health Service study at Tuskegee” to keep the blame on the perpetrators rather than the victims.
  • The experiment at Tuskegee lives on in a collective memory of those in the Black community even when they don’t necessarily know the details of the specific study.
  • The distrust many in the Black community have toward the health care system is less about this one experiment than is “the everyday interactions” they have today, as “many Tuskegees” are occurring all the time.
  • The rollout of the monkeypox vaccine demonstrates how treatment is being denied to Black communities that need it.

Continue reading

Monkeypox experts to follow on social media

The monkeypox story has been evolving quickly this year, moving from a pathogen that wasn’t on the radar for most people to a global outbreak that led the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency on July 23.

To boost your reporting on this topic, use social media and create a Twitter list to help focus your coverage. Use the platform to contact experts for comment, a lesson I learned from covering COVID-19. 

In March 2020, I created a Twitter list of COVID-19 experts to help me cut through the clutter of voices on social media and shared it with AHCJ members. At that time (and frankly, this continues to be the case), there were many people on Twitter without training in infectious diseases, virology and immunology opining on what was happening. (See Tara Haelle’s post on how important it is to seek out people who specialize in infectious diseases, not just any physician)

Over the past two and a half years, I have added and removed names from the list depending upon the person’s social media presence. Overall, I have found it a helpful lens for understanding what is going on as the pandemic has evolved.

This week, I created another Twitter list for covering monkeypox. There is a crossover of experts between the COVID-19 and monkeypox list, as the world of trusted infectious disease experts who are also helpful on social media isn’t huge. I also may have missed people that should be on the list, so please send a note (Email me at bara@healthjournalism.org) if I have missed someone. 

Continue reading

How to use health equity data to cover access to COVID‑19 rapid tests

Victoria Knight

When the Biden Administration rolled out two COVID-19 rapid tests programs in mid-January, Kaiser Health News reporters Victoria Knight and Hannah Recht were separately researching the initiatives, including one that allowed Americans to get free tests through the U.S. Postal Service. Their reporting included interviewing experts and gathering U.S. Census Bureau data about health equity measures such as home-based internet subscription rates. 

The behind-the-scenes reporting illustrates how some stories are rooted in social media serendipity and collaboration. In this “How I Did It,” Knight and Recht explain how the article came together and why the data they compiled suggested that millions of Americans — mainly Black, Hispanic and Native American, and Alaska Native people — could face significant challenges in getting the rapid tests. (The following conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.)

Continue reading