Health Life

New paper describes use of geographic monitoring for early COVID-19 cluster detection

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In a new paper, researchers describe their development of a near-real time spatial assessment of COVID-19 cases to help guide local medical responses to clusters of outbreaks of the virus at the local level.

The paper, entitled “Geographic monitoring for early disease detection (GeoMEDD),” appeared in the Dec. 10 issue of Nature Scientific Reports and comes from researchers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine, University Hospitals (UH) Cleveland Medical Center, and Texas A & M University.

While developing a tracking system during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors realized that there was a need to refocus more traditional spatial mapping towards a more granular cluster detection methodology that provides syndromic surveillance, or early indicators of emergent disease by leveraging a health system’s access to data streams from various sources which account for location and timing of cases.

“Without such integration, there are missed opportunities for hospitals, health departments, and community leaders to mobilize early intervention activities and save lives. This information provides insights to targeted community testing opportunities, post-acute care intervention, and targeted community education in areas with community spread,” said lead author Andrew Curtis, Ph.D., Co-Director of the GIS Health & Hazards Lab and Professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at the CWRU School of Medicine.

“From a hospital and health system perspective, such disease propagation can rapidly tax capacity and resources. From a humanitarian dimension, being able to communicate with local communities, municipality or even building managers requires both time and space insights,” said Curtis.

The authors propose, for example, that positive COVID-19 test results could be analyzed in real time as they flow into a health system, which when combined with severity of the associated symptoms, details such as age and previous medical

Health article

Under the influence: NIH research shows teen vaping, social pressure on the rise

Vapes. E-cigarettes. E-hookahs. Mods. Vaporizer devices all have the same purpose: to heat liquids containing nicotine or marijuana that people can inhale or puff.

Vapes and e-liquids have often been touted as fun, fruit-flavored, and safe. But research shows a much different picture. One out of four high school seniors reported past-month nicotine use, according to a recent survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Also concerning is the near doubling of high school seniors reporting past-month marijuana vaping, from 7.5% in 2018 to 14% in 2019.  

To address the increase in youth vaping, NIDA is leading the charge toward prevention efforts, understanding why youth vape and how vaping nicotine or marijuana may lead to addiction. NIDA is also supporting studies aimed at uncovering the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes in both teens and adults; the types of vape devices people use; and the health impact of the various components used with vapes, including nicotine, marijuana, flavoring, and other chemicals.

Researchers are also studying the impact of advertising, social media, and peer pressure on teenagers. The results so far are concerning. Vaping devices are now the most common way for youth in the U.S. to use nicotine.

“The vaping studies have worried us enormously,” says NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D. “While teen smoking rates remain at historically low levels, more teenagers are embracing vaping and are being exposed to drugs that otherwise they may not have taken.”

Targeting teens

TV and social media ads target teens with the appealing flavors and brightly colored packaging of vapes. For instance, vapes come in colors that match the fruity flavors they contain, such as blue for blueberry and green for mint.

“Some teens don’t even know that e-cigs contain nicotine.”

– Lucy Popova, Ph.D.

And, on some social media channels,