Tag Archives: CDC

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.

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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. 

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Former CDC leaders say agency needs more funding and better communication to restore trust

Former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered for an online debate last week to discuss ways to retool the nation’s largest public health agency and regain the public’s trust.

Two years after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, only 44% of Americans say they trust the CDC for information about COVID-19, down significantly from April 2020 when 69% of Americans said they trusted the agency, according to this NBC News poll.  

There is a myriad of reasons why trust in the agency has eroded, including the botched rollout of COVID-19 testing at the very beginning of the pandemic, increased political polarization that has deepened distrust of federal institutions and scientists, lack of timely COVID-19 data and challenges within the agency in communicating public health guidance about the pandemic.

“Worldwide, people have lost faith in institutions,” William Roper, M.D., M.P.H., CDC director from 1990 to 1993, said during the April 5 webinar hosted by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “CDC is unfortunately a part of that.”

He added that the ongoing challenge for CDC is to do a better job of explaining the uncertainty of the scientific process, which, if detailed more clearly, could help restore the public’s trust.

“I’m not criticizing any decisions recently made or done or whatever,” he said. “But I think it’s important that each time CDC or any other health official makes a pronouncement, to say with humility…. ‘This is what we know today. And this is our best advice given what we know today. We may know [something different] tomorrow, and if it is different from what we know today, we will change our advice tomorrow.’”

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Understanding the CDC’s updated quarantine and masking guidance

Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H.

On Dec. 27, the CDC significantly shortened isolation and quarantine times for people who have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus or have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said the decision to decrease isolation and quarantine periods was based on both the known science about the coronavirus’s transmission and the expectation that surging cases could cause societal disruptions.

“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” she said. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

However, the CDC’s decision was met with confusion and mixed reactions among infectious disease experts.

For example, Ashish Jha, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the Brown University School of Health wrote on Twitter that it is “a step in the right direction,” while Michael Mina, M.D., Ph.D., epidemiologist, raised concerns that a large number of people may still be contagious five days after testing positive and therefore shouldn’t be leaving isolation.

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Put risk in context in covering latest on Delta variant and CDC mask guidance

Photo: Petra Wessman ia Flickr

I am sure many of you are scrambling to cover the latest about the Delta variant and the leak of data that informed the CDC’s change in mask guidance this week.

The data – leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post Thursday evening (July 29) – showed those vaccinated can still be contagious, and there are more vaccinated people becoming infected than expected: 35,000 a week of 162 million vaccinated.

It sounds scary, but the key thing to remember in your reporting is to put risks in context: “Vaccinated people can transmit Delta if infected, however the majority of transmission is still by UNVACCINATED – that is where the focus should be,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and an excellent health communicator, on Twitter Friday, July 30. Continue reading