Roundup: Monkeypox Declared Public Health Emergency; Benefits of Exceeding Exercise Guidelines; and More

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August 5, 2022

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U.S. Declares Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency; Here’s What That Means

The White House has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a move that gives the federal government more resources to mobilize treatments and other necessary medical supplies to fight a growing number of cases nationwide.

“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters during a briefing Thursday.

Rochelle Walensky, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the declaration will provide resources, increase access to care and broaden the CDC’s ability to share data. The declaration also enables the CDC to access the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund “to prevent, prepare for, or respond to an infectious disease emergency.”

There have been more than 6,600 cases identified across the U.S., but that is likely an undercount, experts say. Most cases in the U.S. are concentrated in the gay community, primarily among men who have sex with men. However, it’s possible for the virus to spread through face-to-face interactions with someone or from touching a contaminated surface or material.

Governors in California, New York and Illinois have already declared state of emergencies in response to the monkeypox outbreak. Last week, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency, with cases reported in more than 70 countries.

By declaring a public health emergency, the federal government can provide grant funding and open up other resources to enter into contracts for treatments and any necessary supplies and equipment. That includes support for emergency hospital services. Public health emergencies last 90 days but can be extended by the secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services.

The CDC states that monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, often skin-to-skin, contact, including:

  1. Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
  2. Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
  3. Contact with respiratory secretions.

Here’s more from the CDC on the monkeypox outbreak and common signs and symptoms.

Exceeding Minimal U.S. Exercise Guidelines Can Help You Live Even Longer, Major Study Says

Combining the U.S. guidelines for minimal exercise throughout the week with a healthy diet is a sure-fire way to better health. But can life be extended further if you exceed those exercise recommendations? A major new study published by the American Heart Association (AHA) says: Yes.  

The U.S. government and the AHA recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity — or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least 2 days per week, the guidance states. 

Doubling to quadrupling that minimum amount of weekly physical activity recommended for U.S. adults may “substantially lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes,” states a news release on the study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.   

Researchers emphasized the importance of starting with the minimal amount of exercise recommended. Those people who followed the minimum for moderate or vigorous physical activity lowered their risk of dying from any cause by as much as 21 percent. But adults who exercised two to four times the minimum might lower their mortality risk by as much as 31 percent, the study found.  

“Our study provides evidence to guide individuals to choose the right amount and intensity of physical activity over their lifetime to maintain their overall health,” study author Dong Hoon Lee said in a news release. Lee is a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. 

“Our findings support the current national physical activity guidelines and further suggest that the maximum benefits may be achieved by performing medium to high levels of either moderate or vigorous activity or a combination,” said study author Dong Hoon Lee in a news release. Mr. Lee is a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. 

Researchers reviewed 30 years of medical records and mortality data for more than 100,000 adults enrolled in two major studies: the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and all-male Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The data utilized involved self-reported measures of physical activity, including intensity and duration. The average age of participants was 66.  

In the study, moderate physical activity was defined as walking, lower-intensity exercise, weightlifting and calisthenics. Vigorous activity involved jogging, running, swimming, bicycling and other aerobic exercises. 

Here’s How Many COVID-Infected Patients are Still Struggling With Loss of Smell or Taste 

About 5 percent of those who have recovered from initial infections from COVID-19 — about 27 million people worldwide — are still dealing with a loss of the sense of smell or taste, a new review of data has found.    

In the new analysis published in The BMJ (the medical journal of the British Medical Association), researchers reviewed 18 previous studies on smell and taste loss across several nations, in in a range of demographic groups. The vast majority, about three quarters, of people affected by a loss of taste or smell after COVID regained those senses within 30 days.

However, about 5 percent of people reported “persistent dysfunction” six months after their infection with the coronavirus. The study’s authors conclude that the loss of smell and taste could be a prolonged concern that requires more research and health resources for patients struggling with long-term symptoms. 

Most concerning, the study’s authors say, is that much remains unclear about the duration of these symptoms and “exactly what proportion of patients develop persistent dysfunction.” Moreover, more studies are needed to determine precise risk factors – and how much of a role do age, gender, and specific underlying health issues play in the potential risks of losing the sense of taste or smell.

“These factors raise important clinical questions relevant to patients and doctors, as persistent smell and taste dysfunction could be considered a focal neurological deficit and can have an impact on quality of life and general health long after recovery from COVID-19,” the study noted.

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