I Bought a CO2 Monitor, and It Broke Me
The Atlantic » Health
by Katherine J. Wu
2d ago
A few weeks ago, a three-inch square of plastic and metal began, slowly and steadily, to upend my life. The culprit was my new portable carbon-dioxide monitor, a device that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for months. I’d first eyed the product around the height of the coronavirus pandemic, figuring it could help me identify unventilated public spaces where exhaled breath was left to linger and the risk for virus transmission was high. But I didn’t shell out the $250 until January 2023, when a different set of worries, over the health risks of gas stoves and indoor air pollution, reached a ..read more
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The Age of Vaccine Pessimism
The Atlantic » Health
by Daniel Engber
3d ago
The world has just seen the largest vaccination campaign in history. At least 13 billion COVID shots have been administered—more injections, by a sweeping margin, than there are human beings on the Earth. In the U.S. alone, millions of lives have been saved by a rollout of extraordinary scope. More than three-fifths of the population elected to receive the medicine even before it got its full approval from the FDA. Yet the legacy of this achievement appears to be in doubt. Just look at where the country is right now. In Florida, the governor—a likely Republican presidential candidate—openly pu ..read more
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The FDA’s New ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Policy for Blood Donation
The Atlantic » Health
by Benjamin Mazer
3d ago
For decades now, gay men have been barred from giving blood. In 2015, what had been a lifetime ban was loosened, such that gay men could be donors if they’d abstained from sex for at least a year. This was later shortened to three months. Last week, the FDA put out a new and more inclusive plan: Sexually active gay and bisexual people would be permitted to donate so long as they have not recently engaged in anal sex with new or multiple partners. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, the first Senate-confirmed transgender official in the U.S., issued a statement commending the proposal ..read more
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We’re Bungling the COVID Wind-down
The Atlantic » Health
by Katherine J. Wu
3d ago
Stephen B. Thomas, the director of the Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland, considers himself an eternal optimist. When he reflects on the devastating pandemic that has been raging for the past three years, he chooses to focus less on what the world has lost and more on what it has gained: potent antiviral drugs, powerful vaccines, and, most important, unprecedented collaborations among clinicians, academics, and community leaders that helped get those lifesaving resources to many of the people who needed them most. But when Thomas, whose efforts during the pandemic helped t ..read more
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Someday, You Might Be Able to Eat Your Way Out of a Cold
The Atlantic » Health
by Katherine J. Wu
4d ago
When it comes to treating disease with food, the quackery stretches back far. Through the centuries, raw garlic has been touted as a home treatment for everything from chlamydia to the common cold; Renaissance remedies for the plague included figs soaked in hyssop oil. During the 1918 flu pandemic, Americans wolfed down onions or chugged “fluid beef” gravy to keep the deadly virus at bay. Even in modern times, the internet abounds with dubious culinary cure-alls: apple-cider vinegar for gonorrhea; orange juice for malaria; mint, milk, and pineapple for tuberculosis. It all has a way of making ..read more
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Psychedelics Open Your Brain. You Might Not Like What Falls In.
The Atlantic » Health
by Richard A. Friedman
5d ago
If you’ve ever been to London, you know that navigating its wobbly grid, riddled with curves and dead-end streets, requires impressive spatial memory. Driving around London is so demanding, in fact, that in 2006 researchers found that it was linked with changes in the brains of the city’s cab drivers: Compared with Londoners who drove fixed routes, cabbies had a larger volume of gray matter in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial to forming spatial memory. The longer the cab driver’s tenure, the greater the effect. The study is a particularly evocative demonstration of neuroplasticity: the ..read more
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Outdoor Dining Is Doomed
The Atlantic » Health
by Yasmin Tayag
5d ago
These days, strolling through downtown New York City, where I live, is like picking your way through the aftermath of a party. In many ways, it is exactly that: The limp string lights, trash-strewn puddles, and splintering plywood are all relics of the raucous celebration known as outdoor dining. These wooden “streeteries” and the makeshift tables lining sidewalks first popped up during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when restaurants needed to get diners back in their seats. It was novel, creative, spontaneous—and fun during a time when there wasn’t much fun to be had. For a w ..read more
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Airplane Toilets Could Catch the Next COVID Variant
The Atlantic » Health
by Betsy Ladyzhets
6d ago
Airplane bathrooms are not most people’s idea of a good time. They’re barely big enough to turn around in. Their doors stick, like they’re trying to trap you in place. That’s to say nothing of the smell. But to the CDC, those same bathrooms might be a data gold mine. This month, the agency has been speaking with Concentric, the public-health and biosecurity arm of the biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, about screening airplane wastewater for COVID-19 at airports around the country. Although plane-wastewater testing had been in the works already (a pilot program at John F. Kennedy International A ..read more
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Scientists Tried to Break Cuddling. Instead, They Broke 30 Years of Research.
The Atlantic » Health
by Katherine J. Wu
1w ago
Of the dozens of hormones found in the human body, oxytocin might just be the most overrated. Linked to the pleasures of romance, orgasms, philanthropy, and more, the chemical has been endlessly billed as the “hug hormone,” the “moral molecule,” even “the source of love and prosperity.” It has inspired popular books and TED Talks. Scientists and writers have insisted that spritzing it up human nostrils can instill compassion and generosity; online sellers have marketed snake-oil oxytocin concoctions as “Liquid Trust.” But as my colleague Ed Yong and others have repeatedly written, most of what ..read more
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The Flu-ification of COVID Policy Is Almost Complete
The Atlantic » Health
by Katherine J. Wu
1w ago
For all the legwork that public-health experts have done over the past few years to quash comparisons between COVID-19 and the flu, there sure seems to be a lot of effort nowadays to equate the two. In an advisory meeting convened earlier today, the FDA signaled its intention to start doling out COVID vaccines just like flu shots: once a year in autumn, for just about everyone, ad infinitum. Whatever the brand, primary-series shots and boosters (which might no longer be called “boosters”) will guard against the same variants, making them interchangeable. Doses will no longer be counted numeric ..read more
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