Health Officials Call it ‘Variant Of Concern’

The subvariant omicron BA.2 has health officials’ attention, just as COVID restrictions have eased up. It has been classified as a “variant of concern,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This variant is also called “stealth” omicron because its genetic mutations could make it difficult to distinguish from the delta variant using PCR tests as compared to the original version of omicron, according to the American Medical Association.

WHO said in a recent statement “initial data suggest that BA.2 appears inherently more transmissible than BA.1, which currently remains the most common Omicron sublineage reported.”

Emergency department physician Dr. Fred Davis told Fox News that so far “It is not currently being seen that the BA.2 variant causes more severe illness or carries an increased risk of being hospitalized.” Davis, who is the associate chair of emergency medicine at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York, also told Fox News, “Early evaluations similarly show that vaccinations and boosters have been shown to be up to 77% of preventing severe disease requiring hospitalization.”

Davis, who is an emergency physician who treated patients throughout the pandemic, also said, “Symptoms are consistent with the previous omicron variant, which have been milder symptoms than the original COVID. They consist of fever, headaches and muscle aches that typically last a few days.”

According to the recent WHO statement about the subvariant, studies evaluating the risk of reinfection with BA.2 compared to BA.1 found that reinfection with BA.2 following infection with BA.1 has been documented, however, initial data from population-level reinfection studies suggest that those infected with BA.1 had stronger protection against reinfection with BA.2.

The WHO report also said that preliminary laboratory data from Japan using animal models without any immunity to SARS-CoV-2 showed that BA.2 might cause more severe disease in hamsters compared to BA.1. The report then said, real-world data about clinical severity gathered from South Africa, Denmark and the United Kingdom, where there are high levels of immunity from vaccination or natural infection, found there was no reported difference in severity between BA.2 and BA.1.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in New York, and a spokesperson for the American Society of Infectious Diseases, told Fox News, “BA.2 is more contagious but not more severe than BA.1.” The epidemiologist warned that areas that did not experience predominate cases of BA.1 are more likely to see BA.2 infections in significant numbers. “Almost nobody gets a second BA 1 or 2 infection,” Glatt told Fox News. Glatt also said preventative measures could be taken to avoid being infected by this latest variant and told Fox News, “Being boosted and vaccinated are still the best ways to prevent serious illness from BA.2.”

According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “stealth” omicron variant accounts for nearly a quarter of new infections nationally. Another subvariant of omicron, BA.1, made up approximately 66 percent of all cases in the U.S., while omicron is nearly 11 percent of all cases, according to media reports citing data gathered for the week ending March 12.

How your sleep position can have an impact on your health and how you look

When you lay down to sleep, the position you take can affect your health and even how you look.

“Side sleeping will actually increase the number of wrinkles you have because side sleeping, you push your face against the pillow and that can actually increase the wrinkles, especially if you lay on one side all the time,” said Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for United Healthcare in the Missouri-Illinois area.

Being well rested supports good health in myriad ways. How your body is positioned can help promote the best beneficial sleep.

Johar is an OB-GYN by training. He said dealing with so many sleep issues and questions during pregnancy led him on a personal quest to learn more about it.

Whichever way you sleep — on your back, belly or side — Johar said try not to bend your neck or spine too much.

“Whatever you can do to help keep your body and your spine aligned into a straight line is really beneficial,” he said.

Sleeping on your stomach puts pressure on breathing and bends the spine and neck in somewhat abnormal positions that can cause pain in the joints and muscles.

“If you sleep best on your stomach, you want to put a pillow under your pelvis to keep the lumbar neutral position to help with low back pain and things of that sort,” he said.

Sleeping on your side can cause neck and shoulder pain.

“Because the pillow [can] elevate your neck up into not the most normal positions and through the night that can cause issues. Switching from side to side throughout the night can help prevent putting too much pressure on one side of the body,” Johar said.

The fetal position is good for circulation, helps prevent snoring and is good when pregnant, but Johar warns against bringing legs up too close to the chest, which can cause difficulty with breathing and soreness and stiffness. It’s not recommended for people with arthritis.

Back sleeping is easy on the musculoskeletal system because the body settles into a fairly neutral position. But, it might increase snoring and aggravate sleep apnea symptoms.

“It does let your tongue drop back to the back of the throat and that obstructs your breathing,” he said. “When that happens, you start to snore. And you start to have difficulty getting breathing in and actually can stop breathing sometimes, which is what sleep apnea is, and that can cause all kinds of problems through your life.”

Sleep apnea should be taken seriously, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which states that “people with sleep apnea characteristically make periodic gasping or ‘snorting’ noises, during which their sleep is momentarily interrupted.”

As a nurse faces prison for a deadly error, her colleagues worry: Could I be next?

Four years ago, inside the most prestigious hospital in Tennessee, nurse RaDonda Vaught withdrew a vial from an electronic medication cabinet, administered the drug to a patient and somehow overlooked signs of a terrible and deadly mistake.

The patient was supposed to get Versed, a sedative intended to calm her before being scanned in a large, MRI-like machine. But Vaught accidentally grabbed vecuronium, a powerful paralyzer, which stopped the patient’s breathing and left her brain-dead before the error was discovered.

Vaught, 38, admitted her mistake at a Tennessee Board of Nursing hearing last year, saying she became “complacent” in her job and “distracted” by a trainee while operating the computerized medication cabinet. She did not shirk responsibility for the error, but she said the blame was not hers alone.

“I know the reason this patient is no longer here is because of me,” Vaught said, starting to cry. “There won’t ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I did.”

If Vaught’s story had followed the path of most medical errors, it would have been over hours later, when the Tennessee Board of Nursing revoked her license and almost certainly ended her nursing career.

But Vaught’s case is different: This week, she goes on trial in Nashville on criminal charges of reckless homicide and felony abuse of an impaired adult for the killing of Charlene Murphey, the 75-year-old patient who died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in late December 2017. If convicted of reckless homicide, Vaught faces up to 12 years in prison.

Prosecutors do not allege in their court filings that Vaught intended to hurt Murphey or was impaired by any substance when she made the mistake, so her prosecution is a rare example of a health care worker facing years in prison for a medical error. Fatal errors are generally handled by licensing boards and civil courts. And experts say prosecutions like Vaught’s loom large for a profession terrified of the criminalization of such mistakes — especially because her case hinges on an automated system for dispensing drugs that many nurses use every day.

The Nashville District Attorney’s Office declined to discuss Vaught’s trial. Vaught’s lawyer, Peter Strianse, did not respond to requests for comment. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has repeatedly declined to comment on Vaught’s trial or its procedures.

Vaught’s trial will be watched by nurses nationwide, many of whom worry a conviction may set a precedent — as the coronavirus pandemic leaves countless nurses exhausted, demoralized and likely more prone to error.

Janie Harvey Garner, a St. Louis registered nurse and founder of Show Me Your Stethoscope, a nurses group with more than 600,000 members on Facebook, said the group has closely watched Vaught’s case for years out of concern for her fate — and their own.

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