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Meet the team that’s tracking down sex partners to stop a surge in STDs




In northwest Oregon’s Clackamas County, health officials have decided to ask anyone who comes in with an STD who their sexual partners are — and then track those partners down.

That job falls to two women: registered nurse Mary Horman and disease intervention specialist Liz Baca. They do most of the work over the phone, telling people they’ve had a partner (no name is revealed) who has tested positive for gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia or syphilis.

It’s a difficult conversation. And many people can’t be reached via phone. So about once a week, Horman and Baca jump into a car and start knocking on doors.

Plenty of residents in the county’s outskirts own firearms, Baca said, and are comfortable displaying them if they feel they need to protect their property.

“I always try to make myself visible and not be fidgety,” she said. Her goal is to approach with as much warmth as possible, saying, “‘I have a nurse with me.’ Or, ‘My name is Liz, and I work for Clackamas County.’”

The women travel as a pair and never enter a home, she said. And they always carry a cellphone to keep the home office informed of their whereabouts.

On the afternoon I caught up with them, Horman and Baca had already been challenged by a dog and had to leave a trailer park empty-handed. They had the right location but didn’t know which door to knock on. And they couldn’t just ask around, because neighbours might guess why the health department is tracking someone down, and that would be a breach of medical privacy.

They next called on a 64-year-old labourer, whom we’re identifying only as Larry for those same privacy reasons. He agreed to talk with them, in hopes of warning other people about the substantial risks of syphilis.

Baca and Horman explained how some diseases, like syphilis, are “reportable” — meaning that as soon as Larry was diagnosed, the doctor had to inform the county, which is why they were at his door.

Larry told them he’s already had penicillin delivered intravenously and is healing fine.

The conversation got tougher as Baca tried to understand the extent of Larry’s infection by showing him graphic pictures of sores and rashes.

“So, another symptom of secondary syphilis is the loss of hair,” she explained. “So, you suddenly lose some hair. You’re thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ In a couple of weeks, it resolves. And you’re still infected. So do you recall any of these symptoms?”

“I do,” Larry said, smiling. “And I would probably say that the lesion, I think you called it, I think occurred — it was probably about 10 years ago.”

That means Larry was living with syphilis for at least a decade — without knowing it.

Many people who have syphilis are asymptomatic — meaning they are carriers of the bacteria but show no obvious symptoms. And that makes the infection tougher to fight.

Also, the fact that the disease was, for a time, nearly eradicated in much of the United States means some younger doctors don’t readily recognize the symptoms and signs.

Larry said that he used to have sex with multiple partners he found on Craigslist, but he can’t remember any names.

After such a long time, it’s too late to track down those people, Baca recalled, crestfallen. Still, she insisted, her time wasn’t wasted.

“Being out in the field, you find individuals and you get that public health intervention that is crucial,” she said.

David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, echoed that the efforts of fieldworkers like Baca and Horman are vital.

“Disease intervention specialists are doing heroic work,” he said. “They’re helping to navigate and get people into care.”

Twenty years ago, Harvey said, there were as many as 4,000 disease intervention specialists like Baca in the U.S. Now, because of public health costs, the number is down to about 1,400.

Baca said she’ll continue the work, prioritizing high-risk populations — like men who have sex with men and pregnant women.

The public health officer for Clackamas County, Dr. Sarah Present, said syphilis in newborns can cause serious neurological complications and even death.

“We have now multiple cases of congenital syphilis in our county — just in this year,” Present noted, “whereas that had been fairly unheard of for at least the last decade, if not more.”

Partly because of that surge in syphilis among babies, Clackamas now dedicates more resources to aggressively tracking down partners and encouraging testing, she said — even if those notifications might lead to family strife.

“We do our absolute best to have the first person diagnosed talk to their partners for us,” Present said. “We don’t want to have to be the bad guys. However, we can be a partner for people who have the infections, and help them figure out the best way to control the spread of the disease further.”

A study released by Clackamas County earlier this summer shows rates of syphilis have increased 1,300 per cent over eight years — in part because the numbers involved used to be so small.

“Within the last year, we have seen our numbers dramatically increase to the point I’m quite concerned about it,” Present said.

And Clackamas is no outlier. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over the past several years, the number of gonorrhea cases has risen 67 per cent, while syphilis cases are up 76 per cent.

The director of the CDC’s national centre for STDs, Dr. Jonathan Mermin, said the nation is sliding backward.

“It is evident the systems that identify, treat and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to the near breaking point,” he said.

Scientists say there are many reasons for the national increase — from the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to the ease of finding anonymous sex in an era of cellphone hookup apps.

Public health departments in the U.S. have substantial power. In their effort to prevent the spread of disease, they are allowed to inspect, treat and quarantine anyone — even without consent. That power originates in English common law, which finds the rights of an individual can be limited for the common good.

The most famous example is perhaps the Long Island, N.Y., cook, Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary.” She was an asymptomatic carrier — and transmitter — of typhoid in the early 1900s, and was forcibly isolated for years by New York public health officials.

Nobody’s advocating such draconian measures now, especially for sexually transmitted diseases. But public health departments can exercise significant power over certain infectious diseases (such as drug-resistant tuberculosis) that are more broadly contagious because they are airborne.

Clackamas County and the two other counties that make up the Portland metro area have received substantial state and federal grants to help pay for extra public health outreach.

They are taking several steps to stop the transmission of STDs — such as strengthening prevention activities, enhancing screening, testing high-risk populations and educating the public. The counties also try to better support people who test positive; expand investigations; and unite community leaders on this important issue.

As Baca and Horman visited with Larry on his front porch, the man thought back to when he first realized he was very sick. Once he found out why his health was failing, he said, he started to take the infection seriously. “Because, really truly, for me,” he said, “it was going to be a matter of life and death.”

Getting the chance to save lives is why Baca and Horman do this work, they said, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable.

A few minutes later, the women climbed back into the car they’d left parked in a spot where getting away would be easy — just in case Larry wasn’t so accommodating. They checked their map and the next name on their list.

“There are those areas where you’re entering a property and there’s no one in sight,” Baca said, “and dogs can be scary. You have to run very fast if you see them.”


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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high




(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine




(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states




In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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