Ferrets and monkeys and mice, oh my! What’s the best coronavirus animal model?

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: zoofanatic via Flickr

Mice and rats are the most common lab mammals for scientific research, But depending on the question being asked, and if relevant, the intervention being tested, they are not necessarily always the most appropriate animal to use.

When it comes to studying interventions for human diseases, scientists in translational research must usually find animal models in whom the disease acts as similarly as possible to the way it does in humans. For example, when FDA researcher Tod Merkel conducted a study to test the effectiveness of the acellular pertussis vaccine in preventing infection, he used baboons because the disease process of pertussis is similar in baboons as it is in humans. The research cannot be perfectly translated, but it can come close enough to explain trends that researchers had identified in epidemiological data. Continue reading

More data coming online to track COVID-19 in nursing homes

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Eric.Ray via Flickr

CMS has finally posted a database of reported deaths by facility for approximately 30,000 nursing homes. The data is updated weekly and provides confirmation of the awful toll this disease is taking on our most vulnerable population. As of June 1, more than 40,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19. And that number is most certainly an undercount.

Information is still disjointed, in part because some states include group homes in their reports to CMS, and others only provide data for institutional long term care settings. Assisted living facilities are not part of the dataset since they’re not federally regulated. But any way you look at it, the numbers are staggering. Continue reading

Webcast to highlight how coronavirus has hit Native American tribes

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJDonald Warne, M.D., M.P.H.

The novel coronavirus has affected underserved communities and people of color at disproportionately high rates, including taking an extraordinary toll among Native Americans as measured in rates of infections and deaths.

To assist health care journalists covering the pandemic’s effect on Native Americans, the Association of Health Care Journalists will host a webinar with Donald Warne, M.D., MPH, at 1:30 pm ET on Wednesday, June 10. Continue reading

Proceed with caution in covering the road to a COVID-19 vaccine

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 outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

“Curb your enthusiasm” is important advice for journalists covering the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to panelists at recent AHCJ webcast.

More than 120 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are being tested worldwide, with about a dozen having reached the human clinical trial stage. It’s perhaps the fastest ever that scientists and drug companies worldwide have mobilized to create a vaccine to fight a virus. Continue reading

Freelancers, be wary of assignment scams by email

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Trending Topics 2019 via Flickr

In recent weeks, many freelance writers have received the same email — a consultant says she needs help with a writing project for an upcoming workshop. She wants to create an article on a specific health topic that will be given to the workshop attendees as a handbook. She’s already drafted an outline, and she wants to know if you can help.

I received this email, as have several AHCJ members, and a few of us responded to this email. The request looks both legitimate but also suspicious based on the phrasing and vague details. If you respond, the consultant often replies with additional information, including the word count, a $1/word rate, and a deadline. Continue reading

Fate of COBRA reforms in the HEROES Act

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: Jernej Furman via Flickr

Democrats in Congress have several ways that they’d like to address the millions of newly unemployed and uninsured Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, including widely opening enrollment for the Affordable Care Act.

One measure that made it into the recent $3 trillion stimulus bill known as the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) would subsidize COBRA. That would enable newly unemployed people keep the insurance they had gotten on the job without having to shoulder the entire cost as typical. Taking over the entire premium can be considerable: Employer premiums average $7,188 for a single person and $20,576 for a family of four, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and COBRA adds a 2% surcharge. Continue reading