Coronavirus: as a health economist, I’m not convinced the case for mass testing stacks up

Coronavirus: as a health economist, I’m not convinced the case for mass testing stacks up In 1974, a classic book, Who Shall Live?, was published. Written by Victor Fuchs, a Stanford University professor, it marked the birth of health economics. It arrived at a moment when the post-war era of continued growth in public services was becoming unsustainable – just as treatment options for patients were expanding and the public…

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Fuller for longer? How appetite research is used – and misused

Fuller for longer? How appetite research is used – and misused Shutterstock There are plenty of adverts and websites that promise to share secrets on how to suppress appetite, or which foods will keep hunger at bay. Protein drinks are frequently sold with the promise of meeting these expectations. Foods are often developed with the aim of increasing satiety or satiation, but what exactly is meant by these terms? Appetite is…

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Coronavirus: If we are in a war against COVID-19 then we need to know where the enemy is

Coronavirus: If we are in a war against COVID-19 then we need to know where the enemy is Panayu Chairatananond/Shutterstock The fight against COVID-19 has launched a thousand military metaphors in the British press. The “greatest challenge since the Second World War”, “the frontline”, the virus is an “invisible enemy”, and so forth. Us citizens feel besieged and under threat as we retreat to our foxholes. If this is a…

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Patient zero: why it’s such a toxic term

Patient zero: why it’s such a toxic term Stigma. Andrii Yalanskyi/Shutterstock Heightened fears surrounding COVID-19 have once again brought the idea of “patient zero” into public consciousness. Ever since it was coined by accident in the 1980s, this popular yet slippery term has regularly – and misguidedly – been applied to infectious disease outbreaks and public health efforts to control them. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, tweeted earlier this month…

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Sheep and bacteria are helping in the fight against coronavirus – here’s how

Sheep and bacteria are helping in the fight against coronavirus – here’s how Fotogrin/Shutterstock SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, works by infecting the respiratory system. If it gets into the lungs, it causes an immune reaction, which can lead to pneumonia and even death. At the University of Dundee, we have identified 28 proteins created by SARS-CoV-2 that produce an immune response in the body. These proteins are vital research tools for developing diagnostics and in helping to understand how the virus infects and attacks us. Viruses are encoded by genetic information called RNA, which serves as a blueprint for how they are put together. The “program” contains information on how to replicate and how to infect and attack their host. As scientists, we can learn this genetic code…

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Can Existing Drugs Fight Covid-19? AI Is On the Case

Can Existing Drugs Fight Covid-19? AI Is On the Case You’ve heard of chloroquine by now. Originally developed by German scientists in the 1930s, the anti-malaria drug is based on a natural compound present in the bark of certain South African trees. For nearly a century it’s been saving lives globally, but remained under the radar of countries where malaria isn’t a big problem. Thanks to Covid-19, chloroquine is back in the media spotlight as a potential treatment to reduce severe coronavirus symptoms. To be clear: we don’t know if it works. Chinese physicians threw the drug (along with a whole other bucketful) in a last-ditch attempt on severe Covid-19 sufferers who were dying. Some got better. Many didn’t. Without clinical trials—which are ongoing—positive effects could’ve been just wishful thinking.…

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Coronavirus and triage: a medical ethicist on how hospitals make difficult decisions

Coronavirus and triage: a medical ethicist on how hospitals make difficult decisions Syda Syda Productions/Shutterstock All healthcare resources are limited – staff, equipment, drugs, space and time can all run out. And these resources become even scarcer in cases of unprecedented demand, such as with COVID-19. Decisions about the use and allocation of scarce resources are regularly made in medicine. These include the allocation of donor organs for transplant, A&E triage and surgery waiting lists. These usually proceed on the basis of those with the greatest medical need being given priority. But the way these allocation decisions are made in crisis situations differs. This is because medical need is no longer adequate as a basis by itself – as there are more people in urgent need than resources available to…

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Breaking contracts over coronavirus: Can you argue it’s an ‘act of God’?

The NBA suspended its season on March 11, citing the coronavirus risk. A force majeure clause in the NBA contract means players could lose money with each canceled game. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli The coronavirus pandemic has prevented countless people from fulfilling their contracts, from basketball players to babysitters. Could all of these people be sued for breach of contract, or are they excused due to this extraordinary event? What about payments made in advance, such as tickets bought for a concert that has now been canceled or a dorm room leased at a college that is now closed? Wars, floods and other pandemics have undermined innumerable contracts over the years. In response, U.S. courts have established a fairly clear set of legal rules to answer these questions. As a contracts…

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Pregnant during the coronavirus crisis? Don’t panic

Pregnant during the coronavirus crisis? Don’t panic Svetlana Iakusheva/Shutterstock Pregnancy and birth continue in times of crisis. There may be no perfectly convenient moment to give birth but for women who are pregnant in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic this must feel like a most uncertain period. So, what does the current situation mean for pregnant mothers in the UK? Unlike other aspects of healthcare, maternity care cannot be postponed or cancelled. Maternity services are rapidly planning and adapting services to provide safe care while minimising the risk of spread of COVID-19. Maternity services will inevitably experience some staff shortages as some midwives, doctors and other healthcare workers become ill or are required to self-isolate. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called on NHS leaders to ringfence…

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Exercise addiction is a real mental health condition, yet still poorly understood

Exercise addiction is a real mental health condition, yet still poorly understood People with exercise addiction might feel withdrawal symptoms if they don't exercise. Sorapop Udomsri/ Shutterstock We might assume a person that goes to the gym every day is “addicted” to exercise. But in reality, exercise addiction is a complicated condition that researchers still don’t fully understand. Exercise addiction is different from going to the gym or for a run everyday. Rather, the condition is characterised by an obsessive or compulsive need to exercise, to the detriment of quality of life. For example, a person with the condition might skip a friend’s wedding because they “need” to train. Exercise addicts also experience strong withdrawal symptoms and train through injury, rather than following medical advice. One example of this is…

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