Category Archives: Uncategorized

A closer glance at long COVID: What to know

Photo by Liza Summer via pexels.

Long COVID, long haulers, post-COVID syndrome, post-acute sequelae of COVID — from the early days of the pandemic — there have been news stories about people who don’t recover from the virus in 10 to 14 days. Instead, they are still ill weeks or months after their original infection and more than two years on, and no one completely understands why.

The uncertainty, combined with the millions affected, makes long COVID a trendy (but crucial) topic for health journalists to cover. 

In a panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin moderated by independent journalist Margaret Nicklas, two physicians and two long COVID researchers presented a primer on what we know about the condition and what remains a mystery.

The physicians’ perspective

Michael Brode, M.D., internal medicine specialist at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and medical director of UT Health Austin’s Post-COVID-19 Program, sees the symptoms of patients with long COVID as fitting into three categories:

  • Damage from the virus itself (usually correlated with the severity of the disease).
  • Post-viral lingering symptoms such as cough or chest pain.
  • Dysregulated post-immune response and neuroinflammatory syndrome.

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New tip sheet addresses uptick in Lyme disease cases

Photo by Erik Karits via unsplash.com.

Lyme disease, caused by bacteria carried by black-legged ticks, is more common than previously understood and is on the rise.

AHCJ’s new tip sheet will aid in your reporting on this illness and other tick-borne diseases.

According to a new meta-analysis study published in the June 2022 issue of BMJ Global Health, about 14% of the world’s population likely has had Lyme disease. The analysis of antibodies in laboratory blood samples taken between January 1984 and December 2021 revealed that about 20.7% of people in central Europe, 15.9% in East Asia, and 13.5% and 9% in North America had been infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease. 

“There are more tick-borne disease cases every year,” said John Aucott, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, during a June 8 AHCJ webcast. “This is an insidious epidemic. It hasn’t been as dramatic as COVID-19, so it has crept up on us.”

Ticks are emerging earlier from winter hibernation and staying active longer because of climate and deforestation, according to public health experts. As a result, Americans’ risk of infection from pathogens carried by the outdoor pests is rising. According to the CDC, the total number of tick-borne diseases reported to the agency rose by 125% to 50,865 in 2019 from 22,527 in 2004.

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Some communities may be unprepared for July launch of 988 hotline

Photo courtesy of SAMHSA.

A new report from RAND Corp. suggests many communities may not be prepared to fully implement the vision of the 988 hotline. RAND recently released the results of its survey of 180 behavioral health professionals. The survey, conducted from Feb. 8 to March 17, was intended to assess how well communities have prepared for the 988 implementation. 

Only 16% of survey participants reported that their agency had established a budget for the transition and long-term support of the 988 hotline. More than half —51% — of survey participants said they had not been involved in the development of a strategic plan related to the launch.

“Our findings have confirmed what many advocates and experts feared: communities throughout the U.S. have not had the time or resources to adequately prepare for the debut of the 988 hotline number,” said Ryan McBain, co-lead of the research project and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, in a statement.

Journalists can find interesting stories by investigating how well their states and local agencies have prepared for the official July 16 launch date for the new three-digit mental health emergency hotline (988).

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New baby formula shortage tip sheet spotlights health and economic disparities

Photo by Lucy Wolski via Unsplash.

By the end of this month, the U.S. baby formula shortage — caused in part by the shutdown of an Abbott plant due to contamination concerns — will have affected millions of families for a quarter of the year. Although the announcement that production has restarted at the closed plant may be a light at the end of the tunnel for desperate parents and caregivers, the crisis continues  to highlight disparities in maternal and infant health.

For starters, socioeconomic factors and geography affect access to basic nutrition. These stories from The Washington Post and the The 19th are among articles that explain why low-income families, particularly those living in rural areas, have been hit hardest by the food supply scarcity. 

Beyond the supply chain delays that may impact less populated parts of the country, cash-strapped American parents and caregivers in those areas may feel the pain of the crisis harder because they purchase formula through government assistance programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC.  

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Serving on AHCJ’s Board is so rewarding. Will you join us?

AHCJ board president

Felice Freyer, AHCJ board president (Photo courtesy of Paola Rodriguez)

Have you enjoyed learning and networking at AHCJ’s annual conferences or fellowship programs? Made use of our tip sheets, webinars, listserv — or otherwise found value and fun in being a member of AHCJ? Or have you had some thoughts on how we can improve what we do? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, now is the time to consider volunteering to help govern this organization. I highly recommend it. 

The annual AHCJ Board of Directors election is under way, and professional category members have until June 15 to declare their candidacy. Every year, six of the twelve seats are up for grabs, and board members serve two-year terms. 

I’ve been a board member since 2009 and consider it among the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. (But it doesn’t feel just “professional” — because I’ve made so many good friends along the way.) Let me walk you through what’s involved. 

Why should you join the board?

For starters, because we need you. To keep this organization vital and responsive, we need new people and fresh ideas. 

Serving on the board will give you an opportunity to contribute to the continued success of AHCJ and work to elevate the quality of health care journalism.

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