The Daily Dose: A heartbreaking letter from Chinese nurses

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Nurses from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the rapidly expanding COVID-19 outbreak, have published a heartbreaking letter in the Lancet. In it, they relay the difficulties facing healthcare workers, from dangerous supply shortages to physical ailments affecting their overworked bodies. They also discuss the emotional aspects: “In addition to the physical exhaustion, we are also suffering psychologically. While we are professional nurses, we are also human. Like everyone else, we feel helplessness, anxiety, and fear. Experienced nurses occasionally find the time to comfort colleagues and try to relieve our anxiety. But even experienced nurses may also cry, possibly because we do not know how long we need to stay here and we are the highest-risk group for COVID-19 infection.” It’s a reminder to everyone playing politics with the virus. The COVID-19 outbreak is a human tragedy that transcends borders. Get it together.

Science has taken shots at the Japanese handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been quarantined for what feels like ages, labeling it as a “fiasco”. They aren’t far off, though. Confusion has certainly held sway. As per Science, “As of today, eight public servants who worked on the ship to support the quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, and more may follow. Most of the roughly 90 health ministry employees who visited the ship during the first 2-week quarantine that ended on 19 February initially returned to their normal work duties, but in light of the infections, the health ministry yesterday revised its policy and now those potentially exposed to the virus on the Diamond Princess are self-quarantining at home for 14 days, according to a ministry official who asked not to be identified.” Hopefully, the government will properly consult with public health officials moving forward.

The European Center for Disease Control issued an optimistic assessment of the current COVID-19 situation on the continent. According to the ECDC situation report, “The risk associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered to be low to moderate.” They point out isolated clusters in Northern Italy and the efforts currently undertaken to contain it. The report goes on to warn, “The risk of the occurrence of similar clusters, similar to the ones in Italy, associated with COVID-19 in other countries in the EU/EEA and the UK is currently considered to be moderate to high.”

In an interview Monday with Yang Lan, a special correspondent for Caixin, American epidemiologist Walter Ian Lipkin said that “his team is trying to transfer sequencing capture technology to make the tests cheaper, faster and more sensitive. Lipkin is the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University.” Prof. Lipkin indicated that the new test will soon be sent to China. Maybe he can also save a few for the U.S. who is struggling to produce a minimally functional diagnostic kit?

On a lighter note… People of a certain age will remember depictions of dinosaurs that resembled modern day reptiles more than anything else. Of course, as paleontologists understanding of dinosaurs has changed so have depictions of the extinct creatures. An article in PNAS explores how artists have changed with the times and data. As per PNAS, “Today’s paleoart interpretations are informed by an unprecedented level of detail related to dinosaur skin, scales, fat, and feathers, thanks to hundreds of new fossil discoveries since the 1990s.”

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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