New respiratory virus dashboard for Europe: Residents of about 50 European countries can now follow respiratory virus trends for their nations on a new dashboard developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The dashboard compiles data from patient visits to healthcare facilities, laboratory testing, and genetic sequencing of coronavirus variants, according to a press release by the ECDC. Viewers can find summary trends for influenza-like illness as well as specific trends for COVID-19, flu, and RSV. This dashboard is a great step forward for standardizing surveillance data across countries.
Medicaid unwinding update from KFF: This week, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) published an update to its Medicaid Enrollment and Unwinding Tracker, which follows the Americans who lost their health insurance following the end of a Medicaid rule tied to the federal public health emergency for COVID-19. At least 10 million people have lost Medicaid coverage as of November 1, KFF reports, though the researchers acknowledge that this number is likely an undercount due to limited data. While disenrollment rates vary by state, overall, 71% of people who lost Medicaid coverage did so for “procedural reasons,” i.e. paperwork issues, according to KFF’s analysis.
New Long COVID prevalence estimates: In a new paper, published this week in PLOS ONE, researchers at Dartmouth and University College London estimate Long COVID prevalence in the U.S. based on six months of data from the U.S. Census and CDC’s Household Pulse Survey. (Longtime readers may remember that this survey is one of my personal favorite sources for Long COVID data.) About 14% of respondents surveyed between June and December 2022 reported that they had experienced Long COVID at some point, half of them during the time they were surveyed, the researchers found. Americans with less education and lower incomes were more likely to report Long COVID symptoms, and the condition was correlated with physical and mental difficulties such as trouble dressing and bathing.
Vaccine confidence falling in the U.S.: A new study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania finds that vaccine confidence is declining for a variety of diseases, not just COVID-19. The researchers compared results from similar surveys conducted in October 2023 and in April 2021, both of which included about 1,600 people selected for a nationally representative sample. Confidence rates in COVID-19 vaccines dropped from 75% to 63%, while confidence rates that all vaccines approved in the U.S. are generally safe fell from 77% to 71%. At the same time, the researchers found that more survey respondents believed incorrect statements, such as that ivermectin was an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Reasons for masking in Japan: One more study that caught my attention this week, on a more positive note: a researcher at Osaka University examined Japanese use of masks for COVID-19. Among participants in the researcher’s online surveys, the majority reported still wearing masks in June 2023, even though COVID-19 guidelines in Japan became less strict earlier this year. Social norms in Japan contribute to this behavior, the survey found, as respondents reported that they continued to mask both to avoid infection and to appear “normal” in public spaces. The study provides data behind well-known social norms in Japan, while offering some hope to those of us “lone maskers” in places where the norms are quite different.