Each week, KHN finds stories worth your time reading over the long weekend. This week’s selections include stories on covid, antidepressants, racism, transgender athletes, mifepristone, and more.
The New York Times:
An Undiscovered Coronavirus? The Mystery Of The ‘Russian Flu’
In May 1889, people living in Bukhara, a city that was then part of the Russian Empire, began sickening and dying. The respiratory virus that killed them became known as the Russian flu. It swept the world, overwhelming hospitals and killing the old with special ferocity. Schools and factories were forced to close because so many students and workers were sick. Some of the infected described an odd symptom: a loss of smell and taste. And some of those who recovered reported a lingering exhaustion. (Kolata, 2/14)
Before COVID, TB Was The World’s Worst Pathogen. It’s Still A ‘Monster’ Killer
Until the emergence of COVID-19, tuberculosis was the deadliest infectious disease in the world. How did it evolve from a terrible disease to a largely controlled one to the horrific plague it is now? That’s the question that science journalist Vidya Krishnan explores in her new book, Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History, released this month. It traces the spread of TB from the U.S. and Europe in the 19th century to lower-income countries — including Krishnan’s country of India — where it continues to flourish today. (Brink, 2/13)
What Covid Taught This Mid-Sized City About Ending Homelessness
At the start of 2020, right before the Covid-19 pandemic, Rockford, Illinois was poised to eliminate homelessness. That milestone was the result of more than five years of dedicated work to rethink how to tackle what often seems like an intractable problem, one that doesn’t just affect big cities like New York or Los Angeles. Like other mid-sized U.S. cities, Rockford had been dismayed by the numbers of the unhoused in its community and had begun several interventions to house them, including a collaboration with local eviction courts to keep those with precarious housing stable and safe. And it had seen results: It had housed all its homeless veterans, then all the people who were chronically homeless. Next it turned to singles, youth, families. (Kenen, 2/15)
The Wall Street Journal:
Why Your Antidepressants Seem To Stop Working—And What To Do
You’ve been on the same antidepressant for years. Then suddenly, the medication seems to stop working. The problem can hit people even when a drug has worked well for a decade or more. Symptoms such as persistent sadness and a loss of interest in favorite activities resurge. Identifying the right solution can be difficult and largely trial-and-error: Some patients may need a higher dose of the same medication, while others may need to try a new drug or a new combination of drugs, doctors say. (Petersen, 2/16)
The Washington Post:
She Was Headed To A Locked Psych Ward. Then An ER Doctor Made A Startling Discovery.
The 23-year-old patient arrived in the back of a police car and was in four point restraints — hands and feet strapped to a gurney — when emergency physician Elizabeth Mitchell saw her at a Los Angeles hospital early on March 17. Chloe R. Kral was being held on a 5150, shorthand in California for an emergency psychiatric order that allows people deemed dangerous to themselves or others to be involuntarily confined for 72 hours. (Boodman, 2/12)
A Mother Wanted Her Daughter To Have Allergy-Friendly Cookies. She Was Rejected By 86 Investors Before Finding Success.
Denise Woodard knows rejection when it comes to getting investors for her business — it’s happened at least 86 times. I took it pretty personal,” Woodard told CBS News. But her mission was personal, too. Years ago, her baby, Vivienne, ate a snack and ended up in the emergency room. Woodard found out her daughter was allergic to corn. … In 2016, Woodard launched Partake Foods, a line of allergy-friendly cookies, so that children with allergies wouldn’t feel left out. But the company struggled until Woodard, the daughter of Black and Korean parents, connected with Black investors, including Rihanna and Jay-Z’s venture capital fund.
Today, 8,000 retailers nationwide carry her products. (Quijano, 2/14)
Google And Twitter Don’t Want Us To Talk About Racism
Earlier this week Health Affairs published an entire issue dedicated to the topic of racism and health. As Health Affairs is a peer-reviewed health policy journal, this issue aligns with our mission to serve as a high-level, nonpartisan forum to promote analysis and discussion on improving health and health care, and to address such issues as cost, quality, and access. … [But] as I write this article, all our paid media ads on Google and Twitter that promote our racism and health content have been placed on hold. (Sweet, 2/11)
After An Award-Winning Conductor Was Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder, He Started His Own Orchestra To Erase Stigma Of Mental Illness
There have been plenty of high and low notes in life for the musicians of the Me2/Orchestra, but as they perform together at Boston’s storied Symphony Hall, there is simply harmony. Ronald Braunstein was once a music director at The Juilliard School and conducted around the world. “I was able to learn and memorize complete symphonies overnight,” he told CBS News. “Music brings to my life everything.” But then, the award-winning conductor was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which he says cost him work. “It was a constant up and down, up and down until I realized I just want my own orchestra, and I just want an orchestra with people like me,” Braunstein said. (Chen, 2/15)
The New York Times:
Trans Swimmer Revives an Old Debate in Elite Sports: What Defines a Woman?
At the Ivy League women’s swimming championships this week, many eyes in the crowd will be fixed on Lia Thomas, a star of the University of Pennsylvania team. In recent months, Thomas has made headlines not only for her speed — handily winning one Ohio race that went viral — but also for her gender identity. In 2019, while competing on the men’s team, Thomas began to medically transition, taking testosterone blockers and estrogen. Although her swim times slowed considerably, she’s still a top competitor in several women’s events, raising questions about the role of testosterone in athletic performance. (Ghorayshi, 2/16)
Abortion Pill Mifepristone Is Safer Than Tylenol And Almost Impossible To Get
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone 21 years ago, it was known as RU-486 and hailed as the most important advance in reproductive health since the birth control pill. Time magazine had called it “The Pill That Changes Everything.” It was supposed to provide an attractive alternative to surgical procedures, which can involve sedation, a visit to a health-care facility, and obviously a great deal of medical expertise. At the time, the abortion battleground was, by and large, women’s health clinics. The pill, in theory, could allow women to bypass clinics, and throngs of protesters, almost entirely. (Koons, 2/17)