Anthony S. Fauci, MD returns to JAMA’s Q&A series to discuss the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, including the continued importance of nonpharmaceutical interventions (masking, handwashing, physical distancing) for managing rising case numbers in the US and globally.
Recorded October 28, 2020.
Topics discussed in this interview: 0:00 Introduction 0:20 NAM Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership 1:19 COVID-19 numbers and excess deaths 4:05 National masking mandate 5:55 How to get people to accept masking 7:07 Herd Immunity and the Great Barrington Declaration 9:51 The holidays and airplane travel 13:44 Therapies update 17:54 Vaccines update 20:08 Vaccine distribution 22:00 Vaccine safety 24:42 How Australia has dealt with COVID-19 spikes 27:00 Acknowledgements and baseball
In this cross-sectional study of 5364 couples consisting of employees and spouses (or domestic partners) undergoing an annual employer-sponsored health assessment, 79% of the couples were in the nonideal category of a CV health score. This within-couple concordance of nonideal CV health scores was associated mostly with unhealthy diet and inadequate physical activity.
The study included 10 728 participants (5364 couples): 7% were African American, 11% Hispanic, 21% Asian, and 54% White (median [interquartile range] age, 50 [41-57] years for men and 47 [39-55] for women). For most couples, both members were in the ideal category or both were in a nonideal category.
Concordance ranged from 53% (95% CI, 52%-54%) for cholesterol to 95% (95% CI, 94%-95%) for diet. For the CV health score, in 79% (95% CI, 78%-80%) of couples both members were in a nonideal category, which was associated mainly with unhealthy diet (94% [95% CI, 93%-94%] of couples) and inadequate exercise (53% [95% CI, 52%-55%] of couples). However, in most couples, both members were in the ideal category for smoking status (60% [95% CI, 59%-61%] of couples) and glucose (56% [95% CI, 55%-58%]).
Except for total cholesterol, when 1 member of a couple was in the ideal category, the other member was likely also to be in the ideal category: the adjusted odds ratios for also being in the ideal category ranged from 1.3 (95% CI, 1.1-1.5; P ≤ .001) for blood pressure to 10.6 (95% CI, 7.4-15.3; P ≤ .001) for diet. Concordance differed by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.
Herd immunity occurs when a significant portion of a population becomes immune to an infectious disease, limiting further disease spread.
Disease spread occurs when some proportion of a population is susceptible to the disease. Herd immunity occurs when a significant portion of a population becomes immune to an infectious disease and the risk of spread from person to person decreases; those who are not immune are indirectly protected because ongoing disease spread is very small.
The proportion of a population who must be immune to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. For example, a disease that is very contagious, such as measles, requires more than 95% of the population to be immune to stop sustained disease transmission and achieve herd immunity.
How Is Herd Immunity Achieved?
Herd immunity may be achieved either through infection and recovery or by vaccination. Vaccination creates immunity without having to contract a disease. Herd immunity also protects those who are unable to be vaccinated, such as newborns and immunocompromised people, because the disease spread within the population is very limited. Communities with lower vaccine coverage may have outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases because the proportion of people who are vaccinated is below the necessary herd immunity threshold. In addition, the protection offered by vaccines may wane over time, requiring repeat vaccination.
Achieving herd immunity through infection relies on enough people being infected with the disease and recovering from it, during which they develop antibodies against future infection. In some situations, even if a large proportion of adults have developed immunity after prior infection, the disease may still circulate among children. In addition, antibodies from a prior infection may only provide protection for a limited duration.
People who do not have immunity to a disease may still contract an infectious disease and have severe consequences of that disease even when herd immunity is very high. Herd immunity reduces the risk of getting a disease but does not prevent it for nonimmune people.
Herd Immunity and COVID-19
There is no effective vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) yet, although several are currently in development. It is not yet known if having this disease confers immunity to future infection, and if so, for how long. A large proportion of people would likely need to be infected and recover to achieve herd immunity; however, this situation could overwhelm the health care system and lead to many deaths and complications. To prevent disease transmission, keep distance between yourself and others, wash your hands often with soap and water or sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wear a face covering in public spaces where it is difficult to avoid close contact with others.
The US Surgeon General’s office has released a report emphasizing the importance of making hypertension control a national public health priority. Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the 20th US Surgeon General, discusses the report’s background and recommendations.
2020 American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines recommend that after a trial of metformin, doctors add additional drugs based on the presence of cardiovascular and kidney-related comorbidities, risk of weight gain and hypoglycemia, and cost. In this video, Irl B. Hirsch, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, explains the rationale for starting insulin next for patients with persistent HbA1c elevation above 9-9.5% despite lifestyle changes and metformin.
“Numerous studies have linked insufficient sleep with significant health consequences. Yet, many people ignore the signs of sleep problems or don’t allow enough time to get adequate sleep,” said lead researcher Eileen Leary. She is a senior manager of clinical research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
“REM sleep appears to be a reliable predictor of mortality and may have other predictive health values,” Leary said. “Strategies to preserve REM may influence clinical therapies and reduce mortality risk, particularly for adults with less than 15% of REM sleep.”
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when dreams occur and the body repairs itself from the ravages of the day. For every 5% reduction in REM sleep, mortality rates increase 13% to 17% among older and middle-aged adults, researchers report.
For the study, Leary and her colleagues included more than 2,600 men, average age 76, who were followed for a median of 12 years. They also collected data on nearly 1,400 men and women, average age 52, who were part of another study and were followed for a median of 21 years.
Poor REM sleep was tied to early death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular and other diseases, the researchers found.
“There’s an aging population, and there’s a lot of skin out there,” said Dr. Isaacs. “One in five people in the country develop skin cancer, but there is a plethora of benign skin conditions that also require the expertise of the dermatologist. So, you have increasing demand and a limited supply of dermatologists.”
A basic example of how the TPMG teledermatology program works involves a patient who is concerned about a suspicious lesion or mole on their body. The patient can take a picture of the location in question and send it to their primary care physician for review. The physician can request the patient come in for a more thorough evaluation, or if the physician determines that a dermatologist should be involved, they can send the photo to an on-call dermatologist to review.
If the patient does an in-person evaluation, the physician can also take a higher-quality image and forward that to a dermatologist. The dermatologist can then decide whether there is a problem, if a prescription is needed, or if there should be an in-person evaluation and potential biopsy.
A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2019 found that when TPMG dermatologists had the chance to look at well-photographed skin lesions, they were able to identify nearly 10% more cancers with almost 40% fewer referrals to the dermatology department.
Even limited hearing loss might be associated with cognitive decline. If true, early intervention with hearing aids might help people have better cognitive performance.
Michael Johns III, MD, online editor for JAMA Otolaryngology, speaks with Justin Golub, MD, MS, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Columbia University, whose research has shown that very mild hearing loss can be associated with cognitive disability.
Food and medicine shopping is essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, but requires getting out and standing close to strangers at a time when social distancing and sheltering-in-place are recommended to slow spread of disease.
David Aronoff, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, explains how to minimize COVID-19 risk while shopping.