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November 11, 2021 (San Diego's East County) -- Our Health and Science Highlights provide cutting edge news that could impact your health and our future.



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Pfizer says its COVID-19 pill cuts disease's worst risks by 89% (NPR)

Pfizer says that its COVID-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%, in a clinical trial that tested the drug in adults with the disease who were also in high-risk health groups.  The oral medicine is called Paxlovid. Similar to Merck's new pill that was approved in the U.K. Thursday, Pfizer said its drug showed good results when administered within the first five days of the first COVID-19 symptoms. Based on the strength of the trial's results, Pfizer says it will stop enrolling people into more clinical trials for the pill and will instead send the results it has so far to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to seek emergency use authorization.

 The C.D.C. adds mental health conditions to its high-risk Covid list. (New York Times)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has amended its website to add mental health illnesses, including depression and schizophrenia, to its list of health conditions that make people of any age more likely to become severely ill from Covid-19…Preliminary research has shown an association between mental health disorders and hospitalization and severe sickness from Covid. A study published in January in JAMA Psychiatry found that Covid patients with schizophrenia were nearly three times more likely to die from the virus, although people with mood and anxiety disorders were not at an increased risk of death from coronavirus infection.

This New Test Can Detect 50 Types of Cancer from a Single Blood Draw (Healthline)

Galleri is a new blood test that has the ability to detect more than 50 types of cancer through a single blood draw.  Forty-five of those cancer types don’t currently have another recommended screening. Experts say Galleri has the opportunity to revolutionize cancer screening, potentially leading to reductions in the human and economic toll of cancer. Select U.S. health systems have begun to offer Galleri as a complement to single cancer screening tests.

Surgical masks reduce COVID-19 spread, large-scale study shows (Stanford Medicine)

A large, randomized trial led by researchers at Stanford Medicine and Yale University has found that wearing a surgical face mask over the mouth and nose is an effective way to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19 in community settings.  It also showed that relatively low-cost, targeted interventions to promote mask-wearing can significantly increase the use of face coverings in rural, low-income countries. Based on the results, the interventional model is being scaled up to reach tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia and Latin America over the next few months.

Cannabis vaping among teens has grown sharply in recent years  (NPR)

Teen vaping of marijuana doubled between 2013 and 2020, indicating that young people may be swapping out joints, pipes or bongs for vape pens, according to a new study. Researchers also found that adolescents who say they vaped cannabis within the last 30 days increased 7-fold — from 1.6% to 8.4% — during the same period….This may be due to the more intense high that can be achieved by cannabis oils, which contain higher levels of THC…"Regular use of high THC products could increase the risk of dependence, other substance use and many other health, social and behavioral problems later in life," study author Carmen Lim, a doctoral candidate in health and behavioral sciences at the University of Queensland in Australia, told NPR.

Scientists used a tiny brain implant to help a blind teacher see letters again (NPR)

A former science teacher who's been blind for 16 years became able to see letters, discern objects' edges — and even play a Maggie Simpson video game — thanks to a visual prosthesis that includes a camera and a brain implant, according to American and Spanish researchers who collaborated on the project. The test subject had the implant for six months and experienced no disruptions to her brain activity or other health complications…

How SARS-CoV-2 in American deer could alter the course of the global pandemic (NPR)

Scientists have evidence that SARS-CoV-2 spreads explosively in white-tailed deer, and the virus is widespread in this deer population across the U.S. Researchers say the findings are quite concerning and could have vast implications for the long-term course of the global pandemic.

Lung Transplant Patient and Father of 18 Encourages First Responders to get COVID-19 Vaccine (NBC San Diego)

Corcoran questions why so many police officers and firefighters across the country are refusing to get vaccinated.


Facebook Renames Itself Meta (New York Times)

The social network, under fire for spreading misinformation and other issues, said the change was part of its bet on a next digital frontier called the metaverse.

European Parliament Calls for Bans on AI-based Biometric Recognition in Public Spaces, Predictive Policing, and Social Scoring (Privacy News Online)

Back in April, Privacy News Online reported on an important set of proposals from the European Commission to regulate the use of artificial intelligence within the EU. It contained some good ideas, and warned that AI-based facial recognition systems were “high risk”. But that didn’t go far enough for the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EPDS... Responding to the European Commission’s proposals on AI, the EDPB and EDPS called for a ban on the “use of AI for automated recognition of human features in publicly accessible spaces”.

Facebook to delete users' facial-recognition data after privacy complaints (NPR)

Facebook said it will shut down its face-recognition system and delete the faceprints of more than 1 billion people. "This change will represent one of the largest shifts in facial recognition usage in the technology's history," said a blog post Tuesday from Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence for Facebook's new parent company, Meta. "Its removal will result in the deletion of more than a billion people's individual facial recognition templates."



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