Current Events in March 2020

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2020

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    Researchers blame cardiovascular disease for stalling life expectancies in the U.S.

    The team says opioid deaths are not the main cause of stagnant lifespans

    The damaging effects of the opioid crisis have been well-documented. New studies frequently show that addiction to this class of drugs can have deadly consequences. However, researchers say that opioids aren’t to blame for stalling life expectancies in the U.S.

    A team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) say that no-longer-declining cardiovascular disease deaths are the main reason that lifespans are no longer growing.

    “While much attention is being directed at drug-related deaths, we demonstrate that the changing trajectory of CVD deaths has been the most consequential cause-specific trend for the post-2010 U.S. life expectancy stall,” the researchers said.

    Life expectancies stop growing

    From 1970 to 2010, life expectancies in the U.S. had been growing at a consistent rate of around 2 years per decade. The researchers attribute this to advances in surgical techniques and consumers adopting healthier lifestyles; these two factors helped cut CVD deaths in half between 1970 and 2002. 

    However, the team says that the decline in cardiovascular deaths stalled in 2010 and led to stagnant life expectancy numbers throughout the next decade. 

    The team says that this factor far outweighs the increase in opioid drug-related deaths that occurred over the 2010s. Researcher Mikko Myrskylä projected that life expectancy would only have increased by around five months if drug-related deaths had remained steady throughout the decade.

    “Without the aid of CVD mortality declines, future U.S. life expectancy gains must come from other causes -- a monumental task given the enormity of earlier declines in CVD death rates,” the researchers said. “Reversal of the drug overdose epidemic will be beneficial, but insufficient for achieving pre-2010 pace of life expectancy growth.” 

    The full study has been published in PNAS.

    The damaging effects of the opioid crisis have been well-documented. New studies frequently show that addiction to this class of drugs can have deadly cons...

    Acid reflux medication could increase kids’ risk for bone fractures

    Doctors should pay close attention to children who regularly take these medications

    Acid reflux is a condition that can affect consumers young and old, but researchers found that popular medications to treat it could put children at an increased risk of bone health issues. 

    The study found that over-the-counter medications that help with acid reflux, which are commonly known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), could increase kids’ risk for bone fractures. 

    “Our study highlights the need to limit the use of PPIs to individuals who are clearly benefiting and for the least duration necessary,” said researcher Dr. Thomas Attard. “Additionally, children who are on these medications long-term warrant ongoing follow-up.” 

    Keeping kids safe

    The researchers analyzed data from over 50 children’s hospitals across the country to understand how PPIs can pose a risk to kids. They compared medical data from over 32,000 kids taking PPIs to those not taking the medication. 

    The study revealed that around 1.4 percent of kids taking medication for acid reflux experienced bone fractures, most often in their arms or hands. Broken bones affected 1.2 percent of children not taking PPIs. 

    The researchers explained that though this difference may seem small, it would translate to an increased risk of a fracture for roughly 20 percent of all children taking PPIs. Moreover, while most of the fractures were in the arms or hands, the group taking the acid reflux medication was also more likely to experience fractures in other parts of the body. 

    Aside from the need for PPIs, the children involved in the study were otherwise healthy. This makes these findings all the more important because they highlight the risks associated with medications that are taken widely by young consumers who are in good health. 

    The researchers recommend that doctors pay close attention to young ones taking these kinds of medications and do their part to keep their patients safe and healthy. 

    “Proton pump inhibitors are effective medications and have an important role in the treatment of specific diseases,” said Dr. Nathan Robert Fleishman. “We should be aware of the potential side effects of these (and all) medications we prescribe. We owe it to our patients to ensure we are continually evaluating the risks and benefits of our treatments in the context of their disease course.”  

    Acid reflux is a condition that can affect consumers young and old, but researchers found that popular medications to treat it could put children at an inc...

    Volkswagen recalls model year 2019 Arteons

    The brake booster pressure rod may be installed incorrectly

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 732 model year 2019 Arteons.

    The electronic brake booster pressure input rod may be installed incorrectly, possibly causing an increased actuating force or a disconnected input rod.

    An increased actuating force or a disconnected input rod may affect braking, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and correct the mounting of the pressure rod only or replace the electronic brake booster and mounting of the pressure rod -- depending of the inspection results -- free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin May 5th, 2020.

    Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47P8.

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 732 model year 2019 Arteons. The electronic brake booster pressure input rod may be installed incorrectly, poss...

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      Honda portable generators recalled

      The unit may smoke or catch fire, posing fire and burn hazards

      American Honda Motor Company of Torrance Calif., is recalling about 340,000 Honda EB2200i, EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EU2200i Camo Portable Generators.

      About 200,000 were recalled in 2019.

      The inverter assembly can short circuit with the presence of salt water, causing the unit to smoke or catch fire, posing fire and burn hazards.

      The firm has received 13 reports of the generator’s inverter assembly short-circuiting while in use, including ten reports of fire. No injuries or property damage reported.

      This recall involves Honda EB2200i, EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EU2200i Camo portable generators.

      The recalled portable generators were sold with a red or Camo cover. The name “HONDA” and the generator model name are printed on the control panel.

      The serial number is located on a lower corner of one of the side panels of the generator. The model names and serial number ranges that are being recalled:

      Model Name

      Serial Number Range

      EB2200i

      EAJT -1000001 thru 1011342

      EU2200i

      EAMT-1000001 thru 2098790

      EU2200i Companion

      EAMT-1000001 thru 2098790

      EU2200i Camo

      EAMT-1000001 thru 2098790

      The generators, manufactured in Thailand, were sold at authorized Honda Power Equipment Dealers, The Home Depot and other home improvement stores nationwide, and online from February 2018, through January 2020, for between $1,100 to $1,300.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled generators and contact a local authorized Honda Power Equipment service dealer to schedule a free repair. Honda is contacting all known purchasers directly. Consumers who took part in the previous recall for these generators should also take part in this one.

      Consumers may contact American Honda toll-free at (888) 888-3139 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at https://powerequipment.honda.com/ and click on “Recalls and Updates” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      American Honda Motor Company of Torrance Calif., is recalling about 340,000 Honda EB2200i, EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EU2200i Camo Portable Generators....

      Ecoideas recalls chocolate cake mix and pancakes mixes

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Ecoideas Innovation is recalling its own brand of Chocolate Cake Mix, Brown Rice Pancakes Mix and Buckwheat Pancakes Mix.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There are no reported illnesses

      The following products, sold throughout Canada, are being recalled:

      BrandProductSizeUPCCodes
      EcoideasChocolate Cake Mix454 g8 75405 00243 6

      Lot # 43619305
      BB: 10/31/2021

      and

      Lot #: 43620050
      BB: 02/28/2022

      EcoideasBrown Rice Pancakes Mix454 g8 75405 00242 9Lot #: 42920034
      BB: 01/31/2022
      EcoideasBuckwheat Pancakes Mix454 g8 75405 00241 2

      Lot #: 41219304
      BB: 10/31/2021

      and

      Lot #: 41220030
      BB: 01/30/2022

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard or return them to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (888)735-7258 or by email at info@ecoideas.ca

      Ecoideas Innovation is recalling its own brand of Chocolate Cake Mix, Brown Rice Pancakes Mix and Buckwheat Pancakes Mix. The products may be contaminat...

      Airlines contemplate a complete shutdown of domestic service due to coronavirus

      A ban is not out of the realm of possibility

      After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines were grounded for several days and then saw a huge drop in business. The coronavirus (COVID-19) is creating a similar situation.

      Airlines have scrambled to cancel flights as consumers have increasingly shunned air travel over fears of getting the virus. Now, airlines are actually contemplating the idea of canceling all U.S. flights.

      In the last week, the U.S. government has taken steps to discourage, and even prevent, large congregations of people in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

      Such a ban on domestic air travel -- at least temporarily -- is not out of the realm of possibility. Airline executives interviewed by CNBC said they don’t believe a ban on air travel will happen anytime soon, but it’s something they’re taking into consideration.

      President Trump has said that Americans should avoid unnecessary travel. On Monday, the government increased its 30-day ban on most European travelers to the UK and Ireland. U.S. airlines have already reduced flights and are expected to park even more jets.

      Bookings in freefall

      Airlines have seen bookings plunge in the last two weeks. Last week, the CEO of JetBlue said the drop in business was worse than in the wake of 9/11. Other airlines executives agreed.

      “We are working night and day on support and ideas to keep as much pay as we possibly can flowing to you — even if [it] gets worse from here and demand temporarily plummets to zero,” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby said in a joint statement.

      To understand the damage that has been done so far, United says its March revenue may be as much as $1.5 billion lower than a year earlier. The company said it will slash capacity by 50 percent in April and May, cuts it expects to extend to the summer travel season. 

      Meanwhile, United is trying to reduce its expenses. It’s reportedly in talks with union officials to find ways to reduce its payroll.

      The airlines say they have to take some steps to deal with the plunge in business. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said capacity might have to be cut another 40 percent in the coming months. He’s hoping for help from the government.

      “We are in discussions with the White House and Congress regarding the support they can provide to help us through this period. I’m optimistic we will receive their support,” Bastian said. “That said, the form and value is unpredictable, and we can’t put our company’s future at risk waiting on aid from our government.”

      Pilots seek government help

      In a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders, Joseph DePete, president of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), asked for a coordinated response to bolster the airline industry and pledged the union’s assistance.

      “ALPA members recognize that stabilizing the U.S. airline industry and restoring its indispensable role as a driver for America’s economy and supply chain is critical—as is protecting the hard-working Americans who make it possible,” he wrote. 

      But DePete also said any economic relief package must contain strong labor protections for the airline employees affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

      After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines were grounded for several days and then saw a huge drop in business. The coronavirus (COVID-...

      Trump administration pitches $850 billion stimulus package to stave off coronavirus-driven economic downturn

      Lawmakers are working diligently to ensure that consumers have access to essential goods and services

      The White House is calling on Congress to give its OK to an economic stimulus package totaling nearly $850 billion in hopes of stemming the economic nosedive produced by the coronavirus pandemic.

      Officials familiar with the particulars of the package told the Washington Post that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will make the Trump administration’s pitch to Senate Republicans later Tuesday.  

      The Post’s contacts said the package would be focused mainly on pumping cash into the economy, possibly via a payroll tax cut. Some $50 billion is earmarked exclusively for the hard-hit airline industry. Also on the table, according to officials, is financial assistance for small businesses and their employees.

      Got your calculator handy?

      If you’re following the bouncing decimal point the Administration is exercising to try and keep life as usual, the proposed $850 billion comes on top of the previously announced $8.3 billion plan to combat the virus and the proposed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was designed to give U.S. citizens food assistance, unemployment benefits, and free healthcare on anything related to the coronavirus.

      On Monday, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) introduced additional legislation in the House aimed at providing more than $3 billion in emergency funding to help education programs ranging from early childhood through college so they can be insulated from interruptions like access to meals and technology caused by the pandemic. 

      The White House is calling on Congress to give its OK to an economic stimulus package totaling nearly $850 billion in hopes of stemming the economic nosedi...

      FDA cuts more red tape to speed coronavirus testing

      Test kit marketers can sell their products before getting FDA approval

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is revising more regulations to speed the development of test kits to detect the coronavirus (COVID-19).

      The new rules will allow private companies to immediately begin marketing test kits to the public before getting permission from the FDA, as previously required. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said the agency will review the companies’ applications and supporting test data after the fact -- something he admits carries some element of risk. But he says these are extraordinary times.

      “We are taking steps to support diagnostic development considering the urgent need,” Hahn said in a statement. “We urge state authorities and commercial developers to take all necessary steps to ensure the availability of accurate tests. Inaccurate diagnoses during a pandemic can impair prevention efforts and delay appropriate treatment for sick patients.”

      Hahn compares the latest regulatory step to one the agency took earlier when it allowed the New York State Health Department to take responsibility for testing within its borders. The new rules extend that same authority to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

      More state control

      States will now be able to authorize the use of specific tests without the laboratories having to engage with Washington. The goal is to get as many test kits into the hands of the public as quickly as possible.

      The FDA has recognized the urgent need for more testing. Last week, it granted emergency approval to a kit developed by Roche Holdings AG, which has already been distributed to laboratories and is now in use.

      “We believe the unprecedented policy set forth in today’s updated guidance, which addresses laboratories and commercial manufacturers, will help address these urgent public health concerns by helping to expand the number and variety of diagnostic tests, as well as available testing capabilities in health care settings, and reference and commercial laboratories,” Hahn said.

      Hahn said the FDA has engaged with more than 100 test developers since the end of January and provided templates and advice about the process. He said more than 80 developers have reached out to the agency for assistance with the development and validation of their products.

      Health agencies around the country have complained about a shortage of test kits, particularly in states with a large number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is revising more regulations to speed the development of test kits to detect the coronavirus (COVID-19).The new...

      Consistently consuming protein can help seniors maintain healthy muscles

      Researchers say older consumers need protein even more than others

      While recent studies have warned consumers about the health risks associated with consuming too much protein, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham found that it can be beneficial for older consumers’ muscle health. 

      Their work revealed that balancing protein consumption throughout the day, as opposed to cramming it all into one meal, can help older consumers maintain strong muscle mass. 

      “We know that older people show a blunted response to muscle building when consuming a certain amount of protein,” said researcher Dr. Benoit Smeuninx. “Therefore, older individuals need to eat more protein to get the same muscle building response as younger and middle-aged people.” 

      The benefits of balance

      To better understand how consumers can use protein to their advantage in their diets, the researchers had 120 participants from varying age groups participate in the study. For three days, the participants kept a record of everything they ate, which gave the researchers insight into their typical protein intake. 

      The study revealed that all of the participants were consuming the right amount of protein each day, but not necessarily at the right times. 

      While a balance of nutrients is important for a healthy diet, the researchers explained that protein is essential for maintaining strong muscles. Perhaps more importantly, muscles tend to weaken as consumers enter into older age, meaning that protein is even more valuable.

      According to the researchers, protein consumption is best for older consumers when it’s balanced evenly throughout the day. One meal or snack shouldn’t comprise the entirety of a consumer’s protein intake for the day. 

      This study found that the majority of older participants were lacking protein during their midday meal. The researchers say that older consumers need to be more mindful of their diets, and make sure that their food choices are doing what’s best for their bodies. 

      “Most people are reaching the Recommended Daily Allowance of protein, but our results show that a one-size-fits-all guideline for protein intake isn’t appropriate across all age groups,” said Dr. Smeuninx. “Simply saying older people should eat more protein isn’t really enough either. We need a more sophisticated and individualised approach that can help people understand when and how much protein to consume to support muscle mass.” 

      While recent studies have warned consumers about the health risks associated with consuming too much protein, a new study conducted by researchers from the...

      FAA mounts investigation of Boeing 737 after 12-inch crack appears on the fuselage’s skin

      The problem has happened before on older 737 aircraft

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an investigation after an in-flight episode involving one of Southwest’s Boeing 737 jets.

      As a result of a Las Vegas-Boise flight losing cabin pressure, the FAA’s inspection of the aircraft uncovered a 12-inch crack on the fuselage’s crown skin.

      The area where the crack was located is subject to mandatory inspections every 1,500 flight cycles. A flight cycle is the operation of an engine from the time an aircraft leaves the ground until it touches the ground at the end of a flight. A report in the Wall Street Journal claims the FAA was investigating the likelihood of structural problems affecting other Boeing 737 jets. 

      “The aircraft was taken out of service and is currently in maintenance receiving repairs,” Southwest said in a statement responding to the situation.

      A repeat performance?

      Boeing has been through an eerily similar situation before -- not only with its 737 but also with 757 model aircraft.

      In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that a factory error led to a crack in the fuselage skin of a Boeing 757, causing a sudden mid-flight decompression with 160 people aboard. 

      In 2011, a similar situation on a Southwest flight involving a 737 led the NTSB to discover fatigue cracks “emanating from at least 42 of the 58 rivet holes connected by the fracture,” according to FlightSafety.org. That particular jet had close to 40,000 flight cycles at the time. After that incident, a Southwest Airlines investigation found that three other 737s also showed “crack indications.” 

      As a result of those incidents, FlightSafety said Boeing called on the airlines to do a further inspection of fasteners in the crown skin area. The FAA followed that move by mandating an inspection.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an investigation after an in-flight episode involving one of Southwest’s Boeing 737 jets.As a resu...

      Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators with manual transmissions recalled

      The clutch pressure plate may overheat

      Chrysler is recalling 33,237 model year 2018-2020 Jeep Wranglers and model year 2020 Gladiators with manual transmissions.

      The clutch pressure plate may overheat and fracture.

      The overheated clutch components may increase the risk of a fire. Additionally, damage to other nearby components can result in debris falling onto the road or a loss of drive, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin April 22, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is W12.

      Chrysler is recalling 33,237 model year 2018-2020 Jeep Wranglers and model year 2020 Gladiators with manual transmissions.The clutch pressure plate may...

      Sentury Tire Thailand recalls tires with sidewall weakness

      The sidewall may separate from the tire

      Sentury Tire Thailand is recalling 6,188 of the following tires:

      • Delinte DX11 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 3617 through 2219;
      • Lionhart Lionclaw HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 2518;
      • Lexani LXHT206 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 5018;
      • Patriot Patriot HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 2518 through 2618;
      • Landsail CLX11, tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 2917 through 1618;
      • Wild Spirit Wild Spirit HST tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4617 through 2618; and
      • Pantera Supertrac HT tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 4717 through 2418.

      Due to a manufacturing issue, the sidewall may separate from the tire.

      Sidewall separation can lead to tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Sentury Tire will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin by April 27, 2020.

      Owners may contact Sentury Tire at (866) 305-2750. Sentury Tire's number for this recall is 2750.

      Sentury Tire Thailand is recalling 6,188 of the following tires: Delinte DX11 tires, size LT275/65R20 with DOT date codes 3617 through 2219; Lionha...

      Yamaha Guitar Group recalls digital wireless equipment for electric guitars

      The lithium-ion battery can overheat

      Yamaha Guitar Group of Calabasas, Calif, is recalling about 86,700 Line 6 Relay G10 Digital Wireless Guitar Systems and USB charging cables sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The lithium-ion battery can overheat and the battery cover can separate with force, posing fire and injury hazards.

      The firm is aware of four incidents worldwide of the battery cover separating forcefully from the transmitter, including one report of minor property damage. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Line 6 Relay G10, G10S (G10SR), and G10T Digital Wireless Guitar System (G10 Family of Products) that allows an electric guitar to be connected wirelessly to an amplifier.

      The system consists of a transmitter, a receiver, and a charger. The receivers have both a 1/4” and XLR output to connect to an amplifier or other audio equipment. The products are black in color.

      The Relay G10T transmitter is stamped “Relay G10” and has a four-digit date code followed by a six-digit individual serial number.

      G10

      G10S (G10SR)

      G10T

      Serial ####

      Serial ###

      Serial ###

      6601000001

      6736000001

      6640000001

      The Relay G10T transmitter, manufactured in China, was sold at Guitar Center, Sweetwater Sound, Musicians Friend, Sam Ash, and other small retailers nationwide and online at Amazon.com from March 2016, through December 2019, for about $180 for the G10, $250 for the G10S, $100 for the G10T and about $15 for the USB charging cable.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled products and contact Yamaha to receive a free repair for the G10 Family of Products, and a full refund for the G10T USB charging cable.

      Consumers may contact Yamaha toll-free at (877) 865-4636 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT), Monday through Friday, or online at www.line6.com and click on “Relay 610 Corrective Action” at the bottom of the page or www.line6.com/g10recall for information on how to download a firmware update for the G10 Family of Products and to get a refund for the charging cable.

      Yamaha Guitar Group of Calabasas, Calif, is recalling about 86,700 Line 6 Relay G10 Digital Wireless Guitar Systems and USB charging cables sold in the U.S...

      GM recalls Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s

      The brake calipers bolts may break

      General Motors is recalling 20,352 model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s.

      The bolts used to attach the front and/or rear brake calipers may have not been heat treated and may break under load.

      Broken caliper bolts can reduce brake performance or interfere with wheel rotation and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake caliper bolts free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 13, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020 or GMC customer service at (866) 522-9559. GM's number for this recall is N202294420.

      General Motors is recalling 20,352 model year 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s. The bolts used to attach the front and/or rear brake ...

      Are those symptoms an allergy or the coronavirus?

      An allergy and immunology specialist explains the difference in symptoms

      One catalyst of the fear that has gripped much of the world over the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the fact that the outbreak coincides with the flu season. People who think they’re coming down with something might wonder whether it’s a cold, the flu, or COVID-19.

      Complicating this even more, we’re entering into allergy season in much of the U.S. when pollen can trigger respiratory symptoms. But Dr. Henry Fishman, an immunology and allergy specialist practicing in Washington, DC, says there are clear distinctions.

      “Allergies cause itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and sneezing,” Fishman told ConsumerAffairs. “The coronavirus tends to cause more severe illness like a bad case of the flu. You get tired, run-down, achy, high fever, and shortness of breath. So the symptoms are a bit different.”

      Two basic concerns

      It may be more difficult to tell COVID-19 from the common cold, which after all is a type of coronavirus. Cold symptoms include a stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, and sneezing.

      People who get symptoms but aren’t sure what’s causing them should get tested as the public health system gears up to deal with the outbreak. Fishman says there are two basic concerns about the coronavirus.

      “First, the death rate is two to three times higher than the seasonal flu,” Fishman said. “If you have underlying major illnesses, you’re more likely to die than someone who gets the average flu virus. Number two, there’s a major concern about the impact on public health. If it spreads too widely, it could overwhelm the health system, and there won’t be enough ICU beds or respirators.”

      But when it comes to getting the virus, Fishman says not everyone is the same. He says younger people are getting the disease less often and far less severely than older people. 

      “They’re doing much better with the illness than older folks who have an underlying health condition,” he said.

      Fishman may soon find himself at the front lines in the battle against the virus because many of his patients are among those who may be most vulnerable to COVID-19’s more severe effects. 

      “Many of the patients I take care of are concerned because they have immune difficulties or asthma, which is a chronic respiratory illness,” Fishman said. “So those folks would be among the higher risk population that might have a more serious problem with the virus.”

      Advice for asthma patients

      He’s particularly concerned about patients suffering from asthma because it affects lung health. He urges patients with asthma to continue to seek medical care from their provider and not avoid the doctor’s office.

      “Your doctor’s office is a fairly safe place so if you have appointments to maintain your lung health, you should keep them,” Fishman said.

      Fishman has practiced medicine for nearly four decades. In the early 1980s he treated AIDS patients before most people really understood the disease. He also provided care for his patients during the swine flu outbreak a decade ago. Then, as now, he says a lack of knowledge led to fear.

      “With this virus we don’t know what’s going to happen, how many people it’s going to affect and whether it’s going to become seasonal or go away,” he said. “That lack of knowledge can lead to fear.”

      One catalyst of the fear that has gripped much of the world over the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the fact that the outbreak coincides with the flu season. Pe...

      Experimental coronavirus vaccine has begun clinical trials

      A research volunteer received the first test vaccination Monday

      Any vaccine to protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19) is many months away, but work has already begun.

      Researchers in Seattle -- the epicenter of the virus in the U.S. -- administered a beta version of a vaccine to a volunteer Monday. Jennifer Haller, a clinical trial volunteer, received the first-ever injection of the investigational vaccine for the coronavirus at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute (KPWHRI). 

      The experiment is described as the first stage of the project aimed at developing an effective vaccine.

      “We are proud that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) selected us to conduct this innovative trial,” said Dr. Lisa Jackson, senior investigator at KPWHRI. “We’re well prepared and focused on helping to address this evolving health situation.” 

      Forty-five test subjects are taking part

      Jackson is leading the research for the study, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The open-label trial will enlist 45 healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 and observe them over approximately 6 weeks. 

      The scientists will evaluate different doses of the experimental vaccine for safety and its ability to induce an immune response in participants. NIH says there will be other steps in the clinical trial process for evaluating the potential benefit of the vaccine. 

      The experimental vaccine has been given the name mRNA-1273 and was developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and its collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc. 

      The project also got support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which produced the vaccine candidate for the Phase 1 clinical trial.

      ‘Record speed’

      “Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

      Under normal circumstances, it takes a year to 18 months to achieve approval for any new drug or vaccine. But as we have seen so far, government regulatory agencies have been cutting red tape to speed up action on a variety of fronts. Still, officials say a working vaccine is almost certainly months away.

      Any vaccine to protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19) is many months away, but work has already begun.Researchers in Seattle -- the epicenter of th...