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Looks like all those annoying Twitter and Foursquare users pulling out their phone in the midst of eating might actually be useful (full disclosure: we are also known to Tweet and Instagram our meals fairly often). University of Rochester researchers have devised a system, nEmesis, that compiles millions of Tweets to trace restaurant visits and coinciding food illnesses, tracking which restaurants are getting people sick.
For four months, the system collected 3.8 million tweets from 94,000 Tweeps in New York City; if the tweet is generated at a restaurant (combining the phone's GPS and the city's record of 24,904 restaurants), the system will track this person's tweets for 72 hours, scouring it for any mention of feeling ill. Of the 3.8 million tweets, the system found 23,000 at a restaurant, and 480 contained a report about food sickness (i.e. "stomach hurts," or "shouldn't have eaten that janky chicken. Gross").
The system then ranks the restaurants on how likely they are to get diners sick, and while individual tweets aren't always accurate, the researchers found that the rankings correlated with Department of Health grades. "The Twitter reports are not an exact indicator — any individual case could well be due to factors unrelated to the restaurant meal — but in aggregate the numbers are revealing," said Henry Kautz, co-author.
Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the world, and have known to affect even the best restaurants in the world (re: Noma). So using this data to create timely reports on the quality of food at restaurants, in addition to the more intensive inspections from the DOH, could help users make "informed decisions," Kautz said.
Sure the system only takes in the experiences of people who tweet, but compiling Twitter data can give nEmesis users an extra layer of monitoring. A "seemingly random collection of online rants becomes an actionable alert," Kautz said. So keep oversharing, Tweeps.
Scientists scramble to see why, in rare cases, even the vaccinated can get COVID-19
Carey Alexander Washington, 80, a practicing clinical psychologist, called his daughter in January as soon as he received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“He was just so excited that he had gotten it,” said Tanya Washington, 49, a resident of Atlanta who works at an investment firm.
Carey received his second shot Feb. 4. A little more than a month later, the South Carolina resident experienced shortness of breath. His internist did not test him for the virus. Carey, after all, was fully vaccinated. The doctor sent him to a cardiologist instead, who also didn’t test for the coronavirus.
On March 25, Carey died after nearly two weeks in the hospital, his final days in intensive care. COVID-19 had destroyed his lungs.
Carey was among a tiny proportion of people who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and then contracted the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that about .008% of the fully vaccinated have become infected and about 1% of them have died. Public health officials said such cases were expected and their number reassuringly few.
“No suit of armor is 100% effective,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley.
But the so-called breakthrough infections remain troubling, and the reported numbers are likely lower than the actual cases. They serve as cautionary tales to fully vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms for the infection and to continue to follow health guidelines.
In Carey Washington’s case, his daughter wondered if he might have survived if he had been tested early on for the coronavirus, after his symptoms appeared. Did his vaccination status deter his doctors from testing him?
As the pandemic continues, researchers want to know more about such cases, including the role different strains of the virus may play and whether infected people share traits or behavior that made them more vulnerable. The information could lead to modifications of the vaccine or how it is administered to certain people.
Doctors and other health experts weigh in on what they feel comfortable doing as coronavirus cases in California continue to plummet.
Stacia Wyman, a scientist at UC Berkeley who is sequencing the genome of the virus in breakthrough cases, said there should be a centralized place for gathering breakthrough genome sequences so patterns can be detected and information shared.
The virus will continue to evolve, and sequencing detects whether the virus is one of the already identified variants or whether a new one has emerged.
“This is information we need to combat the pandemic,” said Wyman, a computational biologist with UC Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute. “It is really quite frustrating that there is not a lot of organization around this. I don’t think we have a year to wait to get our act together with the breakthrough cases.”
As of April 20, the CDC reported 7,157 infections among 87 million Americans who had been fully vaccinated. Nearly half of the cases involved people 60 and older, and about a third of the infected had no symptoms. Nearly 500 were hospitalized, two-thirds because of COVID-19. Eighty-eight people died, 13% of them of causes other than COVID-19.
The CDC cautioned that the cases were likely underreported.
In California, the state Department of Public Health has identified 1,379 cases of infection among 10.7 million residents who have been fully vaccinated, which occurs 14 days after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. The department said it did not have any information yet on the number of vaccinated Californians who were hospitalized or died from the disease.
To better understand breakthrough infections, researchers said that it is important to know if the vaccines were properly stored, the underlying conditions and behavior of the “hosts” who got infected and the nature of the virus that infected them.
Were the people taking certain medications that blunted the effectiveness of the vaccines? Were they vaccinated at a time when they had little sleep or had been drinking excessively? Swartzberg asked. Could those factors interfere with the vaccine? “It is pure speculation,” he said.
He said the amount of exposure to the virus also may play a factor, overcoming the immunity one gets from the vaccine.
“The dose makes the poison,” he said. “In many cases with infectious diseases, the more virus you get exposed to in one setting, the more likely you are to be infected.”
Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco, said it was not surprising that some people who were fully vaccinated have died of COVID-19. It has been well known that the vaccines don’t offer 100% protection, he said, and frail and elderly people are particularly susceptible.
“Remember we vaccinated the oldest of the oldest at nursing homes first so if there were going to be breakthrough cases there, there was going to be mortality,” Rutherford said.
A CDC study published last week found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 94% effective in preventing adults 65 and older from getting sick enough to require hospitalization. The study looked at patients in 24 hospitals in 14 states from January through March 2021. “Vaccination is a critical tool for reducing severe COVID-19 in groups at high risk,” the study said.
Two other CDC studies of breakthrough cases at nursing homes showed the vaccines protected residents, even when the virus spread through the homes.
At a skilled nursing home in Kentucky, 18 residents and four staff members who had been fully vaccinated became infected during an outbreak caused by an unvaccinated employee. The culprit was a variant that had never been detected in Kentucky, an uncommon strain that is not on the CDC’s list of variants of concerns.
Vaccinated residents and staff were 87% less likely to have COVID-19 symptoms than the unvaccinated, the study found. Three residents died, two of whom were unvaccinated.
In the second study of skilled nursing homes, in Chicago, 22 possible breakthrough infections occurred among fully vaccinated persons. Two-thirds of the infected were asymptomatic. The others had mild to moderate symptoms and one person died.
Dr. Art Reingold, a UC Berkeley professor of public health, noted that the Biden administration has provided $1 billion to expand genome sequencing of the virus, which should make it easier to detect new variants and their role in infections.
“Where you measure has a big impact, and studies have shown the tear duct is the best place,” he added. “If you are looking at a crowd of people, are you getting an accurate reading?”
The real version of this technology goes something like this. One camera, one subject. Here’s my wife on our stoop.
I can point the camera at her, but to get a more accurate temperature reading, the cross hair needs to be right in the subject’s eye socket. A bit to the left or a bit to the right and you’ll see a different temperature. This is important because it changes the time it takes to get someone’s reading.
There are other factors to consider. “Core body temperature has slight variation from person to person,” Mr. Bainter said. “What’s normal for me might be different than you. And that can be driven by age, gender, ethnicity, diet or recent exercise. And then there’s some environmental factors. Throughout the day, your body temperature changes from the morning to the afternoon.”
The day I was filming in Maplewood, temperatures were around 95 degrees. Everyone was running hot. Some surfaces, like the bench below, were nearly 100 degrees.
The growing use of the technology has raised privacy and other concerns.
Civil liberties experts have warned about data being collected on employees and used without their permission. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed bills to help protect people’s information and privacy as data like temperature readings is collected, but the legislation has so far stalled in Congress.
“The road to hell is paved in good intentions, and the mass rollout of cameras should be seen for what it is: the mass rollout and further normalization of cameras,” said Ed Geraghty, a technologist at Privacy International, a British nongovernmental organization focused on privacy rights.
“We already see police repurposing streetlight cameras, put in place to monitor traffic and environmental data, in order to form criminal cases against those accused of vandalism — it would be naïve to believe the same will not be the case with these cameras,” he added.
All of this being said, could this technology work if used correctly? Yes. Is it better than nothing? It depends who you ask. But while we wait for a vaccine to be made, many see the benefits.
But will throwing infrared cameras up all over society make us safer from the virus? How might a grade school student react to seeing a classmate set off an infrared-based alarm walking into school? Will the time it takes to screen everyone trying to get into a building create problems for schools or offices? These are important questions that we will face in a post-quarantine world.
And some aren’t so hypothetical. Across the country in Mission, Texas, school administrators debated the merits of using infrared to screen students as they come in the door.
On June 15, during a board meeting for the Sharyland Independent School District, officials deliberated the use of the SafeCheck Walkthrough Body Temperature Detector, which measures temperatures from the wrist or forehead.
“In the event that we have to take each student’s temperature when they walk in to the door, that’s 700 kids, and we have one nurse, typically on staff, at each campus,” said the district’s chief financial officer, Ismael Gonzalez. “They are saying this can pick up 70 kids a minute.”
You are what you tweet: Tracking public health trends with Twitter
Twitter allows millions of social media fans to comment in 140 characters or less on just about anything: an actor's outlandish behavior, an earthquake's tragic toll or the great taste of a grilled cheese sandwich.
But by sifting through this busy flood of banter, is it possible to also track important public health trends? Two Johns Hopkins University computer scientists would respond with a one-word tweet: "Yes!"
Mark Dredze and Michael J. Paul fed 2 billion public tweets posted between May 2009 and October 2010 into computers, then used software to filter out the 1.5 million messages that referred to health matters. Identities of the tweeters were not collected by Dredze, a researcher at the university's Human Language Technology Center of Excellence and an assistant research professor of computer science, and Paul, a doctoral student.
"Our goal was to find out whether Twitter posts could be a useful source of public health information, " Dredze said. "We determined that indeed, they could. In some cases, we probably learned some things that even the tweeters' doctors were not aware of, like which over-the-counter medicines the posters were using to treat their symptoms at home."
By sorting these health-related tweets into electronic "piles," Dredze and Paul uncovered intriguing patterns about allergies, flu cases, insomnia, cancer, obesity, depression, pain and other ailments.
"There have been some narrow studies using Twitter posts, for example, to track the flu," Dredze said. "But to our knowledge, no one has ever used tweets to look at as many health issues as we did."
Dredze and Paul, who also are affiliated with the university's Center for Language and Speech Processing, have discussed some of their results in recent months at computer science conferences. They will present their complete study on July 18 in Barcelona, Spain, at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
In addition to finding a range of health ailments in Twitter posts, the researchers were able to record many of the medications that ill tweeters consumed, thanks to posts such as: "Had to pop a Benadryl&hellipallergies are the worst."
Other tweets pointed to misuse of medicine. "We found that some people tweeted that they were taking antibiotics for the flu," Paul said. "But antibiotics don't work on the flu, which is a virus, and this practice could contribute to the growing antibiotic resistance problems. So these tweets showed us that some serious medical misperceptions exist out there."
Of course, the vast majority of daily tweets have nothing to do with an illness. While a simple approach would be to filter for words that are tied to illness, such as "headache" or "fever," this strategy fails on such tweets as "High price of gas is a headache for my business" or "Got a case of Bieber Fever. Love his new song."
To find the health-related posts among the billions of messages in their original pool, the Johns Hopkins researchers applied a filtering and categorization system they devised. With this tool, computers can be taught to disregard phrases that do not really relate to one's health, even though they contain a word commonly used in a health context.
Once the unrelated tweets were removed, the remaining results provided some surprising findings.
"When we started, I didn't even know if people talked about allergies on Twitter," Paul said. "But we found out that they do. And there was one thing I didn't expect: The system found two different types of allergies: the type that causes sniffling and sneezing and the kind that causes skin rashes and hives."
In about 200,000 of the health-related tweets, the researchers were able to draw on user-provided public information to identify the geographic state from which the message was sent. That allowed them to track some trends by time and place, such as when the allergy and flu seasons peaked in various parts of the country. "We were able to see from the tweets that the allergy season started earlier in the warmer states and later in the Midwest and the Northeast," Dredze said.
Dredze and Paul have already begun talking to public health scientists, including some affiliated with Johns Hopkins, who say that future studies of tweets could uncover even more useful data, not only about posters' medical problems but also about public perceptions concerning illnesses, medications and other health issues.
Still, Dredze and Paul cautioned that trying to take the nation's temperature by analyzing tweets has its limitations. For one thing, most Twitter users did not comment more than once on their particular ailment, making it tough to track how long the illness lasted and whether it recurred. In addition, most Twitter users tend to be young, which would exclude many senior citizens from a public health study. Also, at the moment, Twitter is dominated by users who are in the United States, making it less useful for research in other countries.
Although social media sites allow users to expose lots of personal information to friends and strangers, Twitter-based research may only reach a certain depth.
"In our study," Paul said, "we could only learn what people were willing to share. We think there's a limit to what people are willing to share on Twitter."
Nevertheless, Dredze says there is still plenty of useful data left to plumb from Twitter posts. "The people I've talked to have felt this is a really interesting research tool," he said, "and they have some great ideas about what they'd like to learn next from Twitter."
The apps could prove vital to curtailing the virus’s spread as states reopen, but security fears may make them unpopular with users.
Care19, a contact tracing app used in North Dakota, had been leaking users’ location data to the digital marketing service Foursquare. The issue has since been fixed. | AP Photo/Stephen Groves
The push to use smartphone apps to track the spread of coronavirus is creating a potential jackpot for hackers worldwide — and the U.S. offers a fat, loosely defended target.
In the Qatar Covid-19 app, researchers found a vulnerability that would’ve let hackers obtain more than a million people’s national ID numbers and health status. In India’s app, a researcher discovered a security gap that allowed him to determine who was sick in individual homes. And researchers uncovered seven security flaws in a pilot app in the U.K.
The U.S. is just starting to use these contact tracing apps — which track who an infected person may have had contact with — but at least one app has already experienced a data leak. North Dakota conceded in May that its smartphone app, Care19, had been sending users’ location data to the digital marketing service Foursquare. The issue has since been fixed, according to the privacy app developer that discovered the leak.
To date, the public debate about whether to use contact tracing apps — a potentially crucial strategy for reopening economies during the pandemic — has centered mostly on what data to collect and who should have access to it, but cybersecurity insiders say the apps are also highly vulnerable to attacks that could expose data ranging from user names to location data.
And the U.S. has its own unique vulnerabilities: a fragmented collection of apps, tiny state cybersecurity budgets and stalled legislation in Congress that makes federal government rules unlikely anytime soon.
As the world has adapted to the coronavirus pandemic, other areas of life have already become magnets for massive hacking efforts: Hackers have exploited security gaps in videoconferencing software to “Zoom Bomb” meetings and tracked logins into companies’ secure networks to target employees working from home. Cyberattacks on the World Health Organization have more than doubled during the outbreak. And China has allegedly tried to steal U.S. vaccine research.
The drive to deploy many of the contract-tracing apps quickly enough to flatten the curve of the outbreak means developers haven’t always made stress-testing security their highest priority, while spotty government oversight means officials aren’t necessarily looking out for problems once apps are deployed.
“There’s no denying that contact tracing is integral to tracking and, ultimately stopping, the spread of Covid-19,” said Kelvin Coleman, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, a public-private partnership that works with the Department of Homeland Security. “While the apps are designed to help scale human efforts to do so, they’re also a double-edged sword when seen through a lens of individual privacy and security.”
It’s a trade-off that Americans may start to feel soon, as more states lift lockdown restrictions and deploy these apps as part of their efforts to identify disease hot spots and limit the spread of the virus.
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Cybersecurity experts and researchers say data from contact tracing apps could be a particularly attractive target for a range of groups. Agenda-driven “hacktivists” could try to take down the apps in a bid for notoriety. Cybercrime gangs could extract lucrative identity information. And nation states could use it as a covert surveillance tool.
“You can think of all sorts of potential abuses for this information: finding out who visited a psychiatrist regularly, who sat near the pro-democracy activists at university, who wasn't alone when they said they were,” said Vanessa Teague, a security researcher in Australia who found the vulnerabilities in the U.K.’s pilot app.
Cyber espionage is also a worry.
“If I want to target you, if you are someone with a high position, it's interesting to know your contacts,” said Baptiste Robert, a security researcher who discovered the Indian app’s flaws. “If you’re a lawyer, who are your clients? Or if you’re a politician. This kind of information is very valuable for an attacker.”
In one of the most extreme scenarios experts are tossing around in the U.S., foreign government hackers could attempt to disrupt the 2020 election by manipulating the apps to display a surge in cases in one area in order to dissuade voters away from a polling place.
So far, researchers have found that many of the apps lack basic security.
In a recent study of 17 government-sponsored apps, mobile app security firm Guardsquare found that less than a third had a kind of encryption that protects sensitive information in the source code, and less than half had the ability to detect when attackers access restricted data on the phone.
Among discovered app vulnerabilities, the Qatar app flaw had the most dire potential consequences: It would have allowed hackers to obtain sensitive information on more than one million users, including their names, national IDs, health status and location data.
In some cases, the rush may have been the problem. Local officials say that the fact that the North Dakota app was produced in a hurry led to its woes. After an app in the Netherlands exposed about 200 people’s names, email addresses and encrypted passwords, one of its co-developers said the breach was due to a rush to publicly release the app’s code.
“The speed and scale transitioned at such a rate that they didn't really consider security in the beginning,” Coleman said of apps rushed to market. “It was a topic for them, but not top of mind.”
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France is one of a handful of countries known to have done extensive hacking tests on their apps. The country held two “bug bounty" competitions in which security researchers tried to break into the app — one before its release, and one after with up to 2000 euros (about $2,250) in prize money.
Others have done little to test vulnerabilities before releasing the apps. For instance, researchers quickly found vulnerabilities in Australia’s app, which didn’t initiate a bug bounty program in advance.
In the U.S., security oversight is particularly weak. Congress has so far been unable to agree on security protocols and unlike many countries, the U.S. has no national app. Instead, states and cities are developing their own apps — each of which could have different security problems.
Major bug bounty operators Bugcrowd, HackerOne and Synack told POLITICO they weren’t running any programs for U.S. states to identify security vulnerabilities in their apps. And Coleman said that the U.S. tapestry of state-by-state apps means that no one’s focusing all their assets on ensuring the security of one offering.
Most states also have minuscule cybersecurity budgets. According to an organization that represents state chief information officers, most states allocate between zero and 3 percent of their IT budgets to cyber, compared to 10 percent in the private sector. Most also report flat cyber budgets or increases of less than 5 percent since 2014.
Tim Brookins, the Microsoft engineer who developed North Dakota’s app via his independent company ProudCrowd, said his security emphasis for that app was protecting the data server, which was not the source of the leak.
“It’s like Fort Knox,” Brookins said of the central server, which uses security offered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. He’s the only one with regular login privileges, he said. While there was no bug bounty program for the app, Brookins said he had informal consultations about protections for the app with a security expert he connected with via a New York Times journalist.
The one national coronavirus app that the U.S. government has put out — a symptom tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — sent unencrypted transmissions, according to a recent investigation by the International Digital Accountability Council. “Although we could not determine the content of the transmissions, metadata about the user’s activity can be correlated with the device metadata that we were able to observe (e.g., mobile carrier, operating system, device resolution, etc.),” the council said.
A CDC spokesperson said the unencrypted transmissions aren’t an issue to be fixed because it publicly disclosed that it communicated with third-party apps.
Infectious diseases have a few modes of transmission.
One of these is large-droplet transmission, Alexander L. Greninger M.D., assistant director of the University of Washington Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory, tells SELF. This refers to the droplets sick people expel when they cough, sneeze, or talk. If someone else inhales those secretions, they can get sick too. Illnesses like the flu, the common cold, and pertussis (whooping cough) are thought to mainly spread this way. Same goes for COVID-19.
Then there are infections that fall into the airborne-transmission category, like measles, tuberculosis, and chickenpox. Unlike large droplets, which need to quickly come into contact with someone’s mucous membranes in order to cause an infection, airborne transmission allows potential pathogens to remain suspended in the air for some time after someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. (Remember, not all germs are actual pathogens that can make you ill.) Then someone else can breathe in those particles and get sick.
Some illnesses can infect people via both forms of transmission. For instance, the flu mainly spreads through large droplets, but the CDC notes that it can be airborne as well. And there’s some preliminary research that suggests that COVID-19 has the potential to hang out in the air for a few hours as well, although more research is needed.
There’s also the potential to get sick through touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with that virus now on your fingers. That’s one way that people suspect COVID-19 is transmitted—the study mentioned above found evidence that the virus lasts for up to four hours on copper surfaces, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. If someone sneezes or coughs and those droplets get on something you then touch (or if they have the virus on their hands from touching their face or blowing their nose and then touch something that you then touch), that could be a potential way to contract the disease.
Infectious diseases can also of course spread in other ways, such as through direct contact (like if you kiss someone who’s sick). But since we’re talking about how far germs spread through the air, we’re going to focus on large-droplet and airborne transmission.
The important thing to understand here is that scientists really only have estimates for how far coughing and sneezing can spread germs, not hard numbers. Some of this might even depend on how forcefully a person coughs or sneezes. (Scream sneezers, we’re looking at you. But we also know it’s not your fault.)
Large respiratory droplets containing pathogens like influenza can travel up to six feet when a sick person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC. A 2014 study by MIT scientists published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics suggests this number may be way higher for smaller airborne particles. Researchers used high-speed video upwards of 1,000 frames per second to record sprays of mist as well as human coughs and sneezes, finding that smaller droplet particles traveled as far as 2.5 meters horizontally through the air. That’s more than eight feet.
The study also recorded smaller airborne droplets spraying 13 to 20 feet vertically in the air, which researchers noted was theoretically high enough to enter and travel through some ceiling ventilation systems in some buildings. The researchers posit that this impressive (and kind of nauseating) distance is because smaller pathogens can travel as part of a buoyant cloud that extends their reach.
The problem with airborne pathogens isn’t just how far they can spread, it’s also how long they can hang out in the air and on objects. A lot of this depends on the pathogen in question. Measles, for instance, can live for up to two hours in the air and on surfaces, according to the CDC. This illness is so contagious that 90% of people who are close to a person with measles but who aren’t immune (like through vaccinations) will catch the illness. That’s especially scary considering the recent measles resurgence happening in some parts of the United States.
For COVID-19, the study mentioned above found that coronavirus particles were detected in the air for a median of about 2.7 hours. That said, more research is needed.
It’s normal to feel completely grossed out by how far germs may be able to travel—and right now to feel really scared by it.
Yes, someone who is ill sneezing or coughing on or near you can boost your chances of getting sick. This is true even if you hold your breath. “The particles will stay there for many minutes, and in some cases many hours, and you can’t hold your breath that long,” Keith Roach M.D., associate professor in clinical medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Or you could rush away from the scene, but the particles may still be on your clothes, which you might touch later. You get the picture.
The reason that COVID-19 is so contagious is because it has never existed before, which means that no one has immunity to it. But with diseases that have been around for a while, like colds and flus, the good news is that even if someone sick sneezes or coughs around you, factors like your past exposure to viruses and your vaccination record could end up protecting you from that illness, depending on the strain in question. (Make sure you’re up to date on your flu vaccine every single year. Is it 100% effective? No. Does it still slash the death toll and number of hospital visits linked with the flu each year? Yes.)
If you have good hygiene habits, that’s another point in your corner.
Good hygiene is essential. Wash your hands, people! Soap and water are most effective at preventing transmission of illnesses like COVID-19, the cold, and the flu, but Dr. Roach recommends keeping alcohol-based hand sanitizer at the ready for the times you can’t wash your hands. Your sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol in order to be as effective as possible. Even with great hand hygiene, you should also try very hard to avoid touching areas like your mouth, nose, and eyes, since those are possible portals for pathogens. That’s always true, but especially important right now.
And if someone in your household is obviously sick or has what you suspect might be COVID-19, make sure that they’re isolating in a separate room in the house if at all possible, and that you’re sanitizing high-touch surfaces (like doorknobs, light switches, bannisters, and so on) on a regular basis. Here’s more information about how to keep your house clean in case of the coronavirus, as well as how to care for someone with a suspected case of COVID-19.
Finally, Dr. Greninger recommends prioritizing lifestyle measures that can help your immune system work as well as possible, like getting adequate sleep. Eating in a way that fuels you and trying to manage stress are good ideas too (when possible, since we know it’s not always—especially right now).
If you’re sick (with anything, COVID-19 or otherwise), cover your face when you sneeze and cough. This can definitely be helpful in sparing others from your illness, Dr. Greninger says. Just don’t cover your face with your hands, because that makes it all too easy to spread those germs around. Instead, the CDC recommends coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then throwing it away, or sneezing into your upper shirtsleeve or elbow, completely covering your nose and mouth.
Unfortunately, even the best cough and sneeze etiquette can’t fully stop the spread of disease, Dr. Roach explains. A small 2013 study of 31 people published in BMC Public Health found that some droplets—especially smaller ones—still spread when the participants were practicing good cough etiquette, including coughing into their shirtsleeve or elbow.
As the scientists explained, this is because some particles manage to find the path of least resistance around whatever is blocking them. But pure physics dictates that putting an obstacle in the way of any pathogens is preferable to just spewing them into the air without any barriers. Even though covering your nose and mouth isn’t foolproof, it’s definitely better than nothing—which is precisely why the CDC recommends it.
In addition to following proper sneeze and cough etiquette, you should wash your hands thoroughly and frequently when you’re sick. (Especially if you slip up and cough or sneeze into your hands.) It’s also important to keep your distance from people when you’re ill and to frequently disinfect surfaces you’re always touching. Find out what else you should do if you think you have COVID-19 here.
After finding the bugs, the researcher tried to responsibly disclose the bugs to the vendors. However, he noticed that the firm had no specific vulnerability disclosure program. He reached out to them via email.
However, out of caution, and fearing that the bugs could “jeopardize the US food security supply chain”, he even reported the matter to the US DHS.
Within 72 hours, the firm fixed the bugs, as the researcher noticed.
John Deere has also confirmed the same to Motherboard via a statement.
We were recently made aware of two code misconfigurations in separate online applications. We immediately investigated, and the misconfigurations were remediated. Neither misconfiguration enabled access to customer accounts, dealer accounts, or sensitive personal information.
Yet, the researcher didn’t have a good experience with John Deere who also attempted to downplay his findings. As he explained to Motherboard,
I could see sensitive [Personal Identifying Information]… The fact that they’re trying to discredit me just shows how incompetent they are.
Anyhow, for the users, the threat (apparently) remains no more since John Deere has fixed the bugs.
Yet, the overall case explains the need for this sector to focus on cybersecurity and develop with the security community.
Is Dirty Electricity Making You Sick?
Too many electromagnetic fields surrounding us&mdashfrom cell phones, wifi, and commonplace modern technology&mdashmay be seriously harming our health. Here's how to minimize your exposure.
In 1990, the city of La Quinta, CA, proudly opened the doors of its sparkling new middle school. Gayle Cohen, then a sixth-grade teacher, recalls the sense of excitement everyone felt: "We had been in temporary facilities for 2 years, and the change was exhilarating." But the glow soon dimmed. One teacher developed vague symptoms&mdashweakness, dizziness&mdashand didn't return after the Christmas break. A couple of years later, another developed cancer and died the teacher who took over his classroom was later diagnosed with throat cancer. More instructors continued to fall ill, and then, in 2003, on her 50th birthday, Cohen received her own bad news: breast cancer. "That's when I sat down with another teacher, and we remarked on all the cancers we'd seen," she says. "We immediately thought of a dozen colleagues who had either gotten sick or passed away." By 2005, 16 staffers among the 137 who'd worked at the new school had been diagnosed with 18 cancers, a ratio nearly 3 times the expected number. Nor were the children spared: About a dozen cancers have been detected so far among former students. A couple of them have died.
Prior to undergoing her first chemotherapy treatment, Cohen approached the school principal, who eventually went to district officials for an investigation. A local newspaper article about the possible disease cluster caught the attention of Sam Milham, MD, a widely traveled epidemiologist who has investigated hundreds of environmental and occupational illnesses and published dozens of peer-reviewed papers on his findings. For the past 30 years, he has trained much of his focus on the potential hazards of electromagnetic fields (EMFs)&mdashthe radiation that surrounds all electrical appliances and devices, power lines, and home wiring and is emitted by communications devices, including cell phones and radio, TV, and WiFi transmitters. His work has led him, along with an increasingly alarmed army of international scientists, to a controversial conclusion: The "electrosmog" that first began developing with the rollout of the electrical grid a century ago and now envelops every inhabitant of Earth is responsible for many of the diseases that impair&mdashor kill&mdashus.
Milham was especially interested in measuring the ambient levels of a particular kind of EMF, a relatively new suspected carcinogen known as high-frequency voltage transients, or "dirty electricity." Transients are largely by-products of modern energy-efficient electronics and appliances&mdashfrom computers, refrigerators, and plasma TVs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs and dimmer switches&mdashwhich tamp down the electricity they use. This manipulation of current creates a wildly fluctuating and potentially dangerous electromagnetic field that not only radiates into the immediate environment but also can back up along home or office wiring all the way to the utility, infecting every energy customer in between. With Cohen's help, Milham entered the school after hours one day to take readings. Astonishingly, in some classrooms he found the surges of transient pollution exceeded his meter's ability to gauge them. His preliminary findings prompted the teachers to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which in turn ordered a full investigation by the California Department of Health Care Services.
The final analysis, reported by Milham and his colleague, L. Lloyd Morgan, in 2008 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine: Cumulative exposure to transients in the school increased the likelihood a teacher would develop cancer by 64%. A single year of working in the building raised risk by 21%. The teachers' chances of developing melanoma, thyroid cancer, and uterine cancer were particularly high, as great as 13 times the average. Although not included in the tabulations, the risks for young students were probably even greater.
"In the decades-long debate about whether EMFs are harmful," says Milham, "it looks like transients could be the smoking gun."
The Case against EMFs
Cancer and Electricity&mdashcould a disease whose cause has long eluded scientists be linked to perhaps the greatest practical discovery of the modern era? For 50 years, researchers who have tried to tie one to the other have been routinely dismissed by a variety of skeptics, from congressional investigators to powerful interest groups&mdashmost prominently electric utilities, cell phone manufacturers, and WiFi providers, which have repeatedly cited their own data showing the linkage to be "weak and inconsistent." Recently, however, in addition to the stunning new investigations into dirty electricity (which we'll return to), several developments have highlighted the growing hazards of EMF pollution&mdashand the crucial need to address them.
The Evidence showing harm is overwhelming.
In 2007, the Bioinitiative Working Group, an international collaboration of prestigious scientists and public health policy experts from the United States, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and China, released a 650-page report citing more than 2,000 studies (many very recent) that detail the toxic effects of EMFs from all sources. Chronic exposure to even low-level radiation (like that from cell phones), the scientists concluded, can cause a variety of cancers, impair immunity, and contribute to Alzheimer's disease and dementia, heart disease, and many other ailments. "We now have a critical mass of evidence, and it gets stronger every day," says David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and coauthor of the public-health chapters of the Bioinitiative report.
Fears about the hazards of cell phones seem justified.
"Every single study of brain tumors that looks at 10 or more years of use shows an increased risk of brain cancer," says Cindy Sage, MA, coeditor of the report. A recent study from Sweden is particularly frightening, suggesting that if you started using a cell phone as a teen, you have a 5 times greater risk of brain cancer than those who started as an adult. The risk rises even more for people who use the phone on only one side of the head. While defenders of cell phone safety claim no scientist can explain why EMFs may be harmful in humans, a body of reliable and consistent animal research shows that electromagnetic fields, equal to those generated by mobile phones, open the blood-brain barrier, causing blood vessels to leak fluid into the brain and damage neurons. Ironically, that research (by renowned Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif G. Salford, MD, PhD) began with the goal of finding a way to deliver chemotherapy to brain tumors. (See the worst time to use a cell phone.)
Other countries are revising exposure standards.
Members of the European Union, which has led the way on EMF investigations, are moving quickly to protect their citizens, particularly children and pregnant women. In the past 2 years alone, France, Germany, and England have dismantled wireless networks in schools and public libraries, and other countries are pressing to follow suit. Israel has banned the placement of cellular antennae on residences, and Russian officials have advised against cell phone use for children under 18.
Electrical hypersensitivity (EHS) is becoming more widespread.
Symptoms of EHS, a recently identified condition, include fatigue, facial irritation (resembling rosacea), tinnitus, dizziness, and digestive disturbances, which occur after exposure to visual display units, mobile phones, WiFi equipment, and commonplace appliances. Experts say up to 3% of all people are clinically hypersensitive, as many as one-third of us to a lesser degree.
Electrical pollution is increasing dramatically.
"For the first time in our evolutionary history, we have generated an entire secondary, virtual, densely complex environment&mdashan electromagnetic soup&mdashthat essentially overlaps the human nervous system," says Michael Persinger, PhD, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University who has studied the effects of EMFs on cancer cells. And it appears that, more than a century after Thomas Edison switched on his first lightbulb, the health consequences of that continual overlap are just now beginning to be documented.
A History of Harmful Effects
Until Edison's harnessing of electricity, humans' only sources of EMF exposure were the earth's static magnetic field (which causes a compass needle to point north) and cosmic rays from the sun and outer space over our long evolution, we've adapted to solar EMFs by developing protective pigment. "But we have no protection against other EMF frequencies," says Andrew Marino, PhD, JD, a pioneer in bioelectromagnetics who has done extensive EMF research and a professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at the Louisiana State Health Sciences Center. "How quickly can we adapt our biology to these new exposures? It's the most important environmental health question&mdashand problem&mdashof the 21st century."
Research into the hazards of EMFs has been extensive, controversial&mdashand, at least at the outset, animated by political intrigue. A sampling:
- The Russians first noticed during World War II that radar operators (radar operates using radio frequency waves) often came down with symptoms we now attribute to electrical hypersensitivity syndrome. In the 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, they secretly bombarded the US embassy in Moscow with microwave radiation (a higher-frequency RF used to transmit wireless signals), sickening American employees. Radio wave sickness&mdashalso called microwave sickness&mdashis now a commonly accepted diagnosis.
- When television (also radio wave) was introduced in Australia in 1956, researchers there documented a rapid increase in cancers among people who lived near transmission towers.
- In the 1970s, Nancy Wertheimer, PhD, a Denver epidemiologist (since deceased), detected a spike in childhood leukemia (a rare disease) among kids who lived near electric power lines, prompting a rash of studies that arrived at similar conclusions.
- In the 1980s, investigators concluded that office workers with high exposure to EMFs from electronics had higher incidences of melanoma&mdasha disease most often associated with sun exposure&mdashthan outdoor workers.
- In 1998, researchers with the National Cancer Institute reported that childhood leukemia risks were "significantly elevated" in children whose mothers used electric blankets during pregnancy and in children who used hair dryers, video machines in arcades, and video games connected to TVs.
- Over the past few years, investigators have examined cancer clusters on Cape Cod, which has a huge US Air Force radar array called PAVE PAWS, and Nantucket, home to a powerful Loran- Cantenna. Counties in both areas have the highest incidences of all cancers in the entire state of Massachusetts.
- More recently, the new findings on transients&mdashparticularly those crawling along utility wiring&mdashare causing some scientists to rethink that part of the EMF debate pertaining to the hazards of power lines. Could they have been focusing on the wrong part of the EMF spectrum?
Transients: The Post- Modern Carcinogen
Some earlier, notable&mdashalbeit aborted&mdashresearch suggests this may be the case. In 1988, Hydro-Quebec, a Canadian electric utility, contracted researchers from McGill University to study the health effects of power line EMFs on its employees. Gilles Theriault, MD, DrPH, who led the research and was chair of the department of occupational health at the university, decided to expand his focus to include high-frequency transients and found, even after controlling for smoking, that workers exposed to them had up to a 15-fold risk of developing lung cancer. After the results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the utility decided to put an end to the study.
That research commenced at a time when energy-efficient devices&mdashthe major generators of transients&mdashwere beginning to saturate North American homes and clutter up power lines. A telltale sign of an energy-efficient device is the ballast, or transformer, that you see near the end of a power cord on a laptop computer, printer, or cell phone charger (although not all devices have them). When plugged in, it's warm to the touch, an indication that it's tamping down current and throwing off transient pollution. Two of the worst creators of transient radiation: light dimmer switches and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Transients are created when current is repeatedly interrupted. A CFL, for instance, saves energy by turning itself on and off repeatedly, as many as 100,000 times per second.
So how does the human body respond to this pulsing radiation? "Think of a magnet," explains Dave Stetzer, an electrical engineer and power supply expert in Blair, WI. "Opposite charges attract, and like charges repel. When a transient is going positive, the negatively charged electrons in your body move toward that positive charge. When the transient flips to negative, the body's electrons are pushed back. Remember, these positive-negative shifts are occurring many thousands of times per second, so the electrons in your body are oscillating to that tune. Your body becomes charged up because you're basically coupled to the transient's electric field."
Keep in mind that all the cells in your body, whether islets in the pancreas awaiting a signal to manufacture insulin or white blood cells speeding to the site of an injury, use electricity&mdashor "electron change"&mdashto communicate with each other. By overlapping the body's signaling mechanisms, could transients interfere with the secretion of insulin, drown out the call-and-response of the immune system, and cause other physical havoc?
Some preliminary research implies the answer is yes. Over the past 3 years, Magda Havas, PhD, a researcher in the department of environmental and resource studies at Trent University in Ontario, has published several studies that suggest exposure to transients may elevate blood sugar levels among people with diabetes and prediabetes and that people with multiple sclerosis improve their balance and have fewer tremors after just a few days in a transient- free environment. Her work also shows that after schools installed filters to clean up transients, two-thirds of teachers reported improvement in symptoms that had been plaguing them, including headache, dry eye, facial flushing, asthma, skin irritation, and depression.
Transients are particularly insidious because they accumulate and strengthen, their frequency reaching into the dangerous RF range. Because they travel along home and utility wiring, your neighbor's energy choices will affect the electrical pollution in your house. In other words, a CFL illuminating a porch down the block can send nasty transients into your bedroom.
Something else is sending transients into your home: the earth. From your high school science texts, you know that electricity must travel along a complete circuit, always returning to its source (the utility) along a neutral wire. In the early 1990s, says Stetzer, as transients began overloading utility wiring, public service commissions in many states told utilities to drive neutral rods into the ground on every existing pole and every new one they erected. "Today, more than 70% of all current going out on the wires returns to substations via the earth," says Stetzer&mdashencountering along the way all sorts of subterranean conductors, such as water, sewer, and natural-gas pipes, that ferry even more electrical pollution into your home.
A Pragmatic Proposal
Of course, these small studies&mdashfrom Milham, Hydro-Quebec, and Havas&mdashhardly constitute a blanket indictment of transients. "We're still early in this part of the EMF story," says Carpenter. Does that mean as evidence of their harm accumulates, officials will raise a red flag? Not likely, if past EMF debates are any indication. Power companies have successfully beaten back attempts to modify exposure standards, and the cell phone industry, which has funded at least 87% of the research on the subject, has effectively resisted regulation. One good reason has had to do with latency&mdashhow long it takes to develop a particular cancer, often 25 years or more. Cell phones have been around only about that long.
But does that mean we avoid any discussion of their possible dangers? Again, if the past is a guide, the answer appears to be "probably." American scientists worried about the hazards of smoking, the DES (diethylstilbestrol) pill (given to pregnant women, it caused birth defects), asbestos, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)&mdashthe list is lengthy&mdashbut officially warned about exposure only after they could say with absolute certainty that these things were harmful. As for protecting ourselves from toxic radiation, we have a lax&mdashand laughable&mdashhistory. In the 1920s, just a few years after medical imaging devices were invented, physicians were known to entertain their guests by x-raying them at garden parties. In the 1930s, scientists often kept radium in open trays on their desks. Shoe stores used x-ray machines in the 1940s to properly fit children's feet, and radioactive wristwatches with glowing hour hands were popular in the 1950s.
All of which means that, absent prudent safety standards from both public officials and manufacturers (adding a protective filter would add 5 cents to the cost of making a CFL and $5 to the cost of a laptop), you'll have to protect yourself from EMFs. Here's a reasonable proposition: Practice what is known in Europe as the precautionary principle, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Don't expose yourself unnecessarily to EMF hazards. Don't buy a home next to a WiFi tower. Get a corded telephone instead of a cordless one. Don't let your teenager sleep with a cell phone under her pillow. Don't use your laptop computer in your lap. Treat your EMF-emitting devices with the same cautious respect you do other invaluable modern devices, like your car, which is also dangerous&mdashand can kill. You don't drive in an unnecessarily risky fashion&mdashat high speed or while talking on a cell phone (right?).
The sad truth is that until we have more epidemiologic evidence&mdashwhether from disease clusters like the ones at La Quinta and on Cape Cod or from long-term analyses of the health of the world's 4-billion-and-growing cell phone users&mdashwe won't know definitively whether electrical pollution is harming us. And even then, we are unlikely to know why or how. "In this country, our research dollars are spent on finding ways to treat disease, not on what causes it&mdashwhich is to say, how we can prevent it," says Marino. "And that's a tragedy."
But that's also another story.
The Opposing View: "No need for regulation"
In 1993, the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy began an extensive review of all studies on the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields. six years later they completed their project, called the Electric and Magnetic Fields research and public Information Dissemination (EMF RAPID) program, and reported their findings to Congress: scientific evidence of human health risk from EMF exposure is "weak," they concluded.
While acknowledging a link between both childhood and adult leukemias and EMFs, the researchers' laboratory studies with cells and animals failed to identify a mechanism&mdashthat is, how EMFs might cause cancer. (read the EMF RAPID report at prevention.com/links)
To longtime EMF investigators such as David Carpenter, MD, the NIH dismissal of EMF hazards was patently absurd then and even more so now, given the spate of new findings. "We don't know the mechanism for most carcinogens," he says. "there's this idea that anything that causes cancer must directly damage DNA, which is nonsense because most carcinogens don't directly damage DNA. and physicists are adamant that the energy in everyday EMF exposure is so low, it couldn't possibly do anything to biological systems. It's like saying the Earth is flat because you can't see over the edge."
In fact, biological impacts of EMFs&mdashtherapeutic ones&mdashare well known. Low-level frequencies are commonly used to promote healing of wounds and bone fractures, and experimental studies show positive effects of pulsed EMFs in treating pain and depression. recently, Michael persinger, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Laurentian University, found that pulsed magnetic fields also halted the growth of melanoma cells in mice.
In a neat twist of logic, many scientists believe that the more we document beneficial effects of EMFs, the better we'll understand their hazards. "If EMF at low intensities can heal," says environmental consultant Cindy sage, "then when we are constantly and randomly exposed to it from multiple sources, it may also be harmful, like any medicine used indiscriminately."
What was wrong with the La Quinta School?
According to epidemiologist Sam Milham, MD, the middle school was rife with the usual suspects&mdashfluorescent lighting, electronic devices&mdashwhose toxic effects were exacerbated by an electrical supply overloaded with high-voltage transients.
Substandard wiring in the new school also undoubtedly played a role officials have since added protective shielding to the electrical room. Milham also measured transient pollution along the transmission lines that fed power to the school. "I found it all the way from the substation to the school&mdashmore than a mile," Milham says. "There are three other buildings along the route that also serve children. I've reported it to the FCC and the utility, but they ignore the problem."
How electrical pollution harms
Here, a partial spectrum of the electromagnetic fields that surround us, from strong (waves of extremely high frequency and short length) to weak (waves of extremely low frequency and long length). In each category, you'll find sources that generate the EMF, and associated health risks from overexposure.
The Grilling Mistake That Could Make You Seriously Sick
We’re likely all on the same page here: Burgers, steak, chicken, vegetables and even some fruits simply taste better fresh off the grill. And it can be a healthy option — especially if you’re watching portion sizes and throwing on a few veggie skewers, too. But there are some serious health hazards associated with our beloved outdoor cooking method. Check out the most common grilling mishaps below, plus cooking tips for for a safer, healthier barbecue.
7 Grilling Mistakes That Could Be Making You Sick
Mistake #1: You don’t make time for marinades.
Often made with spices and juices full of polyphenolic compounds (an antioxidant), marinades can act as a barrier against dangerous grilling byproducts. Studies show marinating meat, poultry and fish for at least 10 minutes can reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a cancer-causing compound formed when meat cooks at high temperatures.
So which one do you grab? One study suggests certain marinades are more effective than others. A Caribbean mixture decreased HCA content by 88 percent, an herb marinade cut 72 percent and Southwest reduced 57 percent. Another recent study found marinating meat in beer reduces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — the carcinogenic byproduct of grilling meats over an open flame. Black beer varieties, aka dark lagers, were found to reduce PAH formation the most (though pilsners were a close second).
Anything that coats the meat and protects it from burning — like oil for instance — is key to keep away the carcinogens that can form when meat burns, says Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, and author of CancerDietitian.com. “I always recommend making your own, to avoid additives you don’t need,” she says. Whip up marinades with fresh herbs, healthy oils and citrus juices. “If homemade isn’t an option for you, be sure to read the ingredient list and choose a marinade that doesn’t have a lot of simple sugars, salts and artificial food ingredients in it,” Lanford says.
Mistake #2: You don’t preheat long enough.
Heat up that grill for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking to kill off bacteria and other pathogens leftover from past grill sessions to reduce the chances of foodborne illness. Though it’s easy to believe a little cook time on the almighty grill will destroy any scary stuff, a British study found the average grill contained twice as many germs as a toilet seat (yikes!). Better safe than sorry.
Mistake #3: You use only one cook method.
Though the grill is supposed to do all the work, there’s yet another quick, simple way to cut back on those grill-induced chemical compounds (like the ones mentioned above). Food purists might cringe, but researchers have found that proteins cooked briefly in a microwave before heading to the grill can reduce levels of HCAs. The quick zap (shoot for one to three minutes) reduces the time it takes to cook meat over an open flame, but you’ll still get that desirable grill flavor.
Mistake #4: Your grill is a flare-ups war zone.
To reduce flare-ups, which can expose the air and your food to those carcinogens, start by cutting down on fat. An easy way to decrease the amount of fat making it’s way on the grill is to choose leaner cuts of meat, such as loin, round, flank or boneless and skinless, and trim off any visible fat. Ditch any extra marinade, too. Pouring it over meat may cause spillover, resulting in a flare-up. If flames do reach meat and create charred portions, trim and discard those bits before eating.
Mistake #5: You don’t measure your temps.
It’s tempting to think grilling over an open flame will have dinner ready in no time. But while grilling is in fact a relatively quick cooking method, it’s important to judge a steak not just by its grill-marked outside, but by the temperature inside. The color of meat isn’t a reliable indicator of doneness, but a thermometer is just about foolproof.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking pork, beef, veal and lamb to 145 degrees, then allowing the meat to rest three minutes before cutting or eating. (The rest time allows the internal temperature of the meat to continue to rise slightly to destroy any remaining harmful bacteria). Poultry should reach at least 165 degrees and fish should come to 145 degrees at minimum. “When checking the temperature, it’s important to check at the thickest part of the meat,” Lanford says. Remember, it’s always safer to rely on a thermometer rather than eyeball it.
Mistake #6: You’re at risk of cross contamination.
Tongs, check. Spatula, check. Though a grill set generally includes only one of each utensil, there are two easy and important ways to cut down on cross contamination, or when juices from raw meats make contact with ready-to-eat foods. When placing uncooked meat on the grill, either wash utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water before using them again to remove the cooked meat, or have a second set of clean utensils on hand.
By the same token, use two separate plates — one for raw food, one for cooked — to prevent foodborne illness. And if you have leftover marinade, make sure to boil it if you plan on reusing it after it made contact with raw meat. Even easier — make extra marinade to douse on cooked food rather than save the initial liquid.
Mistake #7: You aren’t a clean freak.
“Cleaning a grill before and after use can help to ensure the safest food environment,” Lanford says. It’s important to scrape down grill grates to clear off potentially harmful residue that builds up over time and reduce exposure to bacteria growth. Coffee, because it’s acidic, can help cut cooked-on grease in a snap. Plus, since it’s something many of us ingest anyway, it’s a healthy alternative to other common grill cleaning products, such as ammonia.
Two other tried-and-true non-chemical cleaning tools are a stiff wire grill brush and tongs. Carefully brush down the grates while they’re still hot — and the grease and any food particles are loose. Then, wad up a piece of paper towel dampened with a little vegetable oil (that’ll keep it from burning). Use tongs to rub the towel along the grill grates to pick up any remaining particles. If you’re in need of a good de-gunking before cooking (and maybe you forgot to clean the grill after the last use) preheat for 15 minutes, then scrape and employ the paper towel method.
Why we're tracking every US health worker who dies from coronavirus
This project aims to document the life of every US medical worker who dies from Covid-19 after helping patients during the outbreak. If you have a colleague or loved one we should include, please contact us here.
An illustration of a frontline medical worker during the time of coronavirus. Photograph: Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News
An illustration of a frontline medical worker during the time of coronavirus. Photograph: Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News
Last modified on Fri 10 Jul 2020 23.57 BST
Lost on the frontline is a project by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News that aims to honor every healthcare worker in the US – from doctors to hospital cleaners and from nursing home aides to paramedics – who dies from Covid-19 during the pandemic.
These are the frontline health workers who risk their own lives to care for the sick. In some states, medical staff account for as many as 20% of known coronavirus cases. But no reliable national database exists to track their deaths. As of 10 July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 510 deaths among health workers – but our reporting shows that is likely an undercount.
Some of these deaths are preventable. Across the world, healthcare workers face a disproportionate risk of severe infection from coronavirus due to their high exposure to sick patients. But in the US, a lack of preparedness for the pandemic increased that risk. Inadequate access to testing among the general population, a nationwide shortage of protective gear such as N95 masks, and lack of basic supplies like hand sanitizer are driving up the death toll among health workers.
Collectively, our healthcare workforce has already saved thousands of lives. And in the face of a pandemic so dangerous that families can’t visit sick relatives, these workers are often the last people to comfort the dying. But some won’t make it themselves. While we can’t profile everyone in depth, our goal is to mark every death that we can confirm. The nationwide database we create will allow us to identify patterns and find new stories about the unfolding pandemic and its impact on healthcare workers, shedding light on the workings, and failings, of the healthcare system.
Our count will include any healthcare worker who was likely exposed while helping patients with Covid-19 during the pandemic. That includes nurses, paramedics, doctors and other medical workers who treat patients, operate ambulances and take X-rays. It includes nursing home staff and home health aides who are caring for patients outside of hospitals. It includes cleaners, porters, administrators and other on-site staff who are disinfecting hospital rooms, washing linens and managing crucial operations to help our healthcare system function in crisis.
We hope this project will become a collective memorial to honor their sacrifices. But we can’t do it alone. We’re asking the family members, friends and colleagues of healthcare workers to contribute by sharing information, photos and stories about their loved ones and co-workers who died while taking care of patients infected with coronavirus. You can share information here.
We’re also inviting news organizations across the country to partner with us. We will link to local newsroom stories about workers in their communities who have died, and we will invite them to co-publish our stories. We will also work with partners to produce content in multiple languages to reflect the rich diversity of America’s healthcare workforce and reach the many communities in America experiencing loss.
Because of the scope of the project, and the many categories of workers we’ve chosen to include, this database may never be completely comprehensive. It will function as an imperfect work in progress – and grow over time.
You can reach the editors of this project at [email protected]
We hope this project will honor those lost to the pandemic – and spark ideas for positive change in our healthcare system.