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Study finds postpartum mental health visits increased during pandemic

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Study finds postpartum mental health visits increased during pandemic

New mothers sought mental health treatment more often during the coronavirus pandemic, a study found, with higher rates observed within three months after childbirth.

Findings published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) on Monday stemmed from data on more than 137,000 postpartum mothers in Ontario, Canada. Patients under study were about 31 years old on average.

Researchers affiliated with the Toronto-based Women’s College Research Institute compared clinical visit rates from 2016-2020, pre-pandemic baseline rates, to data from March-November 2020 to determine any increase.

Postpartum mental illness is said to affect up to 1 in 5 mothers, with detriments in mom-baby interactions potentially resulting in long-term social, cognitive and behavioral consequences for children, as well as suffering for the mother, study authors wrote.

Nine months into the pandemic, researchers found an approximate 30 percent uptick in visits; by November observed visits exceeded expected rates at 51.5 per 1000, compared to 40.9 per 1,000, or a 25.9 percent increase. 

The elevated visits were seen in primary and psychiatrist care for anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders, persisting through November 2020.

“Increases in visit rates were more marked for individuals 0–90 days postpartum, especially from April through July 2020, than for those 91–365 days postpartum,” study authors wrote.

“Over the first 9 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical visits for postpartum mental illness were significantly more frequent than would have been expected from pre-pandemic patterns,” the study reads. “Increased visit rates began in March 2020, although the state of emergency was declared only midway through the month, suggesting that distress related to the pandemic translated into an increased need for care very quickly. Whether the sustained elevation in service use is because of a true increase in mental health burden cannot be ascertained from these data.”

Researchers suggested expanded access to virtual care may explain the trends, potentially easing complex schedules owing to infant feedings, child care, travel to appointments and stigma.

Further, researchers expected the greatest uptick in visit rates among low-income patients, given the disproportionate impact felt among this group during the pandemic, but results indicated the smallest increases instead, compared to other income groups.

“This raises some concern about the potential for unmet need because low-income patients may have greater barriers to accessing care, including difficulty affording the required technology or finding private space to attend virtual appointments (e.g., crowded homes), or less opportunity to attend ‘live’ appointments because of employment in front-line jobs.”

“Health systems should focus proactively on patients from high-risk groups, monitor waiting lists for care and explore creative solutions to expand system capacity, with special attention to postpartum patients who may be experiencing barriers to care,” study authors advised.

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Interstellar object was aliens’ spy ship

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Interstellar object was aliens' spy ship

Earthlings may not be the only beings gathering intel on other planets.

Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb suggested that recent intelligence reports of unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) maybe provide evidence to alien ships sent to spy on our homeworld.

There is “fresh scientific evidence that we are not the only intelligent species in the cosmos,” theorized Loeb in his op-ed published in the journal Scientific American.

The astronomer, who is known for floating far-fetched theoretical hypotheses, posited that an extraterrestrial civilization had implanted the Earth with sensors collecting info on areas of our galaxy hospitable to life, Futurism reported. He deduced that “Oumuamua” — our solar system’s first-ever interstellar object discovered in 2017 — was a reconnaissance craft dispatched to decipher the data.

The evidence for this is allegedly supported by the recent NASA investigations into clips of supposed UAPs, the most startling of which depicted Navy aircraft encountering objects flying at speeds and in directions not possible for human-made flight.

Linking the so-called “UFO” sightings to a fragment from a far-off planet might seem like a conspiracy theory. However, the astronomer surmised that the state-sponsored UFO investigations wouldn’t be made public if the objects posed security threats like spyware dispatched by China or Russia. As such, the sightings are either natural phenomena or extraterrestrial spacecraft, per the study.

He thought that Oumuamua, in particular, sported spacecraft-evoking characteristics, most notably a large flat shape capable of picking up the signals transmitted by the scout sensors. Not to mention that the implied abundance of Oumuamua-like entities is unreasonably large for an object of alleged natural origin, per the report.

However, Loeb thinks astronomers need to gather more data before we can confidently say that aliens are spying on us.

This celestial research “can be done by deploying state-of-the-art cameras on wide-field telescopes that monitor the sky,” wrote the astronomer. “The sky is not classified; only government-owned sensors are.”

He added, “By searching for unusual phenomena in the same geographical locations from where the UAP reports came, scientists could clear up the mystery in a transparent analysis of open data.”

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Cancer-like parasitic worm disease on the rise in Canada

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Cancer-like parasitic worm disease on the rise in Canada

Reports of a rare, but potentially fatal, parasite are on the rise in Canada.

The disease alveolar echinococcosis (AE) occurs regularly in certain areas of Europe and Asia, but had been virtually undocumented in North America before the 2010s, Gizmodo reported. 

Humans generally contract the rare disease by consuming microscopic tapeworm eggs which can then implant themselves into organs and become difficult to detect. However, if not treated, it can eventually turn into lethal tumor-like growths.

Now, however, University of Alberta scientists are sounding the alarm that the west Canada province has seen a disturbing amount of cases in recent years. Between 2013 and 2020, researchers report that they’ve seen 17 instances of AE, the symptoms of which are often similar to those of liver cancer, in Alberta, according to a case review this year.

In all 17 cases, antiparasitic drugs — a secondary approach when surgery does not sufficiently get rid of the growth — were used to treat the individual’s AE. One person died as a result of complications from surgery. 

Researchers aren’t sure what caused the recent rise in cases.

“Why it is most apparent in Alberta, by far, at the present time, is somewhat speculative,” Stan Houston, a University of Alberta infectious diseases expert and the lead author of the case review, told Gizmodo. “I think some mix of factors of where the parasite was first introduced and/or favorable wildlife ecology are most likely.”   

The researchers believe that the increase in the still very rare disease in Alberta may be correlated with a rise in dog ownership in the area.

“Of course it could, and in fact, what we know so far suggests that the parasite has been remarkably successful, achieving considerably higher prevalence in Alberta coyotes than in its natural reservoir, the red fox in Europe,” Houston said. “It is unequivocally new as a human disease in the Western Hemisphere. The explanation very clearly seems to be the introduction of the more virulent European strain of the parasite into our wildlife ecology.”

Washing your hands after touching dogs or other wildlife and other basic good hygiene routines can help lower your risk of contracting the disease.

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Ohio to name 5th Vax-a-Million winners as vaccinations stall

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A woman walks into Ohio's COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic at Cleveland State University in Cleveland. Ohio plans to announce its third pair of Ohio Vax-a-Million winners Wednesday evening, June 9, 2021, even as the initial bump from the incentive program fades and the vaccination numbers continue to drop.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state prepared to announce the fifth and final pair of Ohio Vax-a-Million winners Wednesday evening as Ohio tries to reach the 50% mark for vaccinations statewide.

More than 3.5 million Ohioans entered their names for a shot at the $1 million, up a little from the 3.4 million who had registered for last week’s drawing. About 155,000 children age 12-17 entered their names for the scholarship, an increase of about 4,700 from the previous week.

The state will name the winners at the end of the Ohio Lottery’s Cash Explosion TV show.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s May 12 announcement of the incentive program had the desired effect, leading to a 43% boost in state vaccination numbers over the previous week. But numbers of vaccinations have dropped since then.

About 5.5 million people in Ohio have received at least one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or about 47% of the population. About 5 million people, or 43% of the population, have completed the process.

Last week, DeWine held a news conference at Thomas Worthington High School in suburban Columbus along with students and coaches urging middle and high school children who play sports to get vaccinated.

In this still image, taken from video by the Office of the Ohio Governor, eighth grader Joseph Costello, center, of Englewood, Ohio, the winner of the Ohio Vax-a-Million, full college scholarship vaccination incentive prize, is interviewed during a news conference, Thursday, May 27, 2021.
In this still image, taken from video by the Office of the Ohio Governor, eighth grader Joseph Costello, center, of Englewood, Ohio, the winner of the Ohio Vax-a-Million, full college scholarship vaccination incentive prize, is interviewed during a news conference, Thursday, May 27, 2021.
AP

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