Welcome to our newest column, a snackable source of newsy health bits. I’m your host, Jennifer Chesak, a medical journalist and fact-checker, giving it to you straight up with a side of Greatist-y sass.
I will be focusing heavily on COVID-19, because hey, we’re still in a pandemic. But I’ve got other health clicks for you. For starters: What’s a bear plank? Drop and give me 1. Grrr! You got this. Speaking of animals…
I really don’t wanna talk about it, but we need to. And yes, I am totally having a cow right now because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually had to tweet to the masses: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.“
You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021
This is all because people are actually poisoning themselves with ivermectin. *Pauses to give dog his monthly dose of Heartgard.*
Yeah, so if you have a bestie fur bud, you likely give your floof a heartworm preventive medication. Some of these preventives have ivermectin in them. The medication is also used as an antiparasitic in livestock.
It is FDA-approved in small doses in hoomans only for very specific uses, such as for certain intestinal infections and skin conditions.
What you should definitely NOT do is use ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to the FDA (and lots of doctors out there who also don’t want you to do this). Ivermectin can interact with other medications, cause severe health issues including seizure or coma, and lead to allergic reactions. And you can overdose and die from taking it.
For the love of all that is Takis Fuego, what wave are we even in? The fourth wave is a Delta doozie. This chart from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows you the height of the beast.
But let’s look at the numbers and why they’re so baaaad.
|Wave||When||7-day average daily new cases|
|bad winter wave||Jan 2021||250,000+|
|best trough ever||June 2021||12,000+|
We’re quickly on our way back to where we were during one of the worst times of the pandemic. But because of the extreme jump in hospitalizations, especially in areas with low vaccination rates (*clears throat at Alabama, Mississippi…*), doctors are calling this surge the worst one yet.
We were. Sigh. Aside from a mini spring-break bump, that CDC chart shows a nice ski slope (weeeeeeee!) of declining cases from mid-January to mid-June. Vaccination rollout helped because it began to curb transmission. But then vaccination rates dropped off and the Delta variant took over.
Delta is like that person you know who is super extra.
Delta showed up on the scene and couldn’t just behave like the ol’ SARS-CoV-2 virus scientists had been studying for what feels like forever now. Instead, it decided to be twice as contagious as other variants. And research shows that unvaccinated people infected with Delta are more likely to be hospitalized with severe COVID-19.
P.S. More than 90 percent of cases in the United States are now the Delta variant. So if you have COVID-19, you’ve got the dang Delta.
The age group with the largest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is now ages 18 to 49. And it has been since May. That’s a reversal from winter, when the age group with the most hospitalizations was 65+.
The older folx among us, those ages 50 and up, took notice back then, and they went out and got their arms poked. They now have the highest vaccination rates, with those ages 65+ really nailing it at 82 percent fully vaxxed. But we need waaaaay better vaccination coverage among the younger whippersnappers.
We know that breakthrough infections do and are expected to occasionally occur in people fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And we know that fully vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant to others. But that doesn’t change the fact that vaccines are doing their job of preventing severe disease and death.
As of mid-August, out of 168 million fully vaccinated people, 7,517 had been hospitalized for or died of COVID-19. That’s about 0.005 percent. Compare those numbers to the 90,000+ people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 right spankin’ now.
So, vaccination is still your best protection against a COVID-19 case severe enough to lead to a hospital bed or a coffin.
Fine, we can talk about brighter things, like how to get period stains out of your undies.
Moderna has started human clinical trials on two versions of a potential HIV vaccine. This is seriously big stuff since we just marked 40 years of the HIV epidemic this June. It’s interesting because HIV research helped pave the way for COVID-19 vaccines. And now COVID-19 research is helping pave the way for new frontiers with HIV.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, but I’ll be back. Stay safe and healthy out there!