(NEW YORK) -- The Delta variant, which was first detected in India and which now makes up 6% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States, has prompted recent calls from President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci for more Americans to get vaccinated.
While prevalence of the variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is still low in the U.S., its prevalence has doubled since last week, rising from 3% to 6%, according to a report from HHS.
In India, where the virus exploded in April and May and sparked a public health crisis, as well as in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant is now the dominant strain. "We cannot let that happen in the United States," Fauci said during a Tuesday news briefing.
"Get vaccinated," he added. "Particularly if you’ve had your first dose, make sure you get that second dose. And for those who have been not vaccinated yet, please get vaccinated."
As of Thursday, 52% of Americans had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 43% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While experts agree that vaccination is the best defense against all circulating versions of the virus, there are still many unanswered questions about the Delta variant. Here's what we know so far:
Is the Delta variant more transmissible than the original version of the virus?
Most likely, but some virologists say we need more information to be sure.
The World Health Organization classifies the Delta variant as a "variant of concern," meaning it may be associated with increased transmissibility.
Health officials in the U.K. went further, issuing a risk assessment in early June, indicating that they believe the Delta variant is more easily spread from person to person than the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the U.K. and spread rapidly there until the Delta variant took over. According to the assessment, "it is highly likely that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha."
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, doubled down on that message during an interview with ABC News' David Muir on Wednesday, calling the Delta variant "the most contagious variant we've seen so far."
Vincent Racaniello, a microbiology and immunology professor at Columbia University, argued that we should interpret the infectiousness of the Delta variant cautiously. The variant's rapid rise also has to do with human behavior and relaxed restrictions and shouldn't be strictly attributed to the virus being more transmissible.
"Preliminary results say you do see this increased transmissibility, but we still need to collect more information," said Nevan Krogan, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Most of the data we have on the Delta variant is in India, Krogan explained, which isn't tracking variants as closely as the U.K. There should be more data available now that the Delta variant is dominant in there.
"We need more data, and not just tracking and epidemiology data, but we also need molecular data," Krogan said. "The more we understand about this virus and how it mutates, the better off we're going to be in the future."
Krogan and his team are working to make that a reality. On Monday, the team posted their research online about the Alpha variant. Their research, which has not yet been published in a scientific journal, suggests that once the Alpha variant gets inside a cell, it suppresses the immune response compared to other variants. That could explain why the Alpha variant spreads so rapidly. Now Krogan's team is doing tests on the Delta variant to see if it has similar immune response suppression.
"We're actually running those experiments as we speak," he said. "We're going all in on all these variants."
Are vaccines effective against the Delta variant?
Yes and for those who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it's important to complete the two-shot regimen.
A study the British government conducted in April and May, which analyzed more than 12,000 sequenced COVID cases, found Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to be highly effective against the Delta variant, although efficacy was lower for the Delta variant than for the Alpha variant of the virus. According to the study, Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease two weeks after the second dose and the AstraZeneca vaccine was 60% effective two weeks after the second dose. Since the research was conducted in the U.K., the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine wasn't included.
"For those properly vaccinated, it looks like there isn't an issue," Krogan said.
But for people who only received one dose of the vaccine, "effectiveness was notably lower," the study authors note. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were about 33% effective against the Delta variant after one dose.
"There’s poor protection after a single dose," Fauci said on Tuesday, and stressed the important of getting the second shot for the two-dose vaccines.
As for the mechanism driving double-dose protection, Racaniello thinks the world has focused too much attention on spike protein mutations and antibody response, and not enough on T-cells, another part of the immune system which also defends the body against infection. "I don't care if you've got Alpha, Beta, Gamma or Delta, those T-cells are still going to be able to prevent serious disease and those T-cells are made by vaccination," he said.
Vaccination is also the key to stopping the virus from circulating and more variants from popping up, according to experts. The longer it takes to get the country and the world vaccinated the more chances the virus has to mutate.
"We're going to be dealing with these other variants in the future that the vaccines may or may not be able to control," Krogan warned. In his view, it's not time to be complacent. "We've got to get everybody vaccinated, but we need to understand how these viruses are mutating and overcoming our defense mechanisms," he said. "The virus has always been a couple of steps ahead of us. We've got to get a step ahead of it."
ABC News' Ivan Pereira, Brian Hartman Eric Strauss, Sony Salzman, Arielle, Mitropoulos, John Brownstein and Nadine Shubailat contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- After an initial drop in suicide-related emergency department visits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that suspected teenage suicide attempts rose in 2021, with the increase driven by a dramatic uptick among teenage girls.
The CDC said in a report released Friday that there was a 51% rise in suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 from Feb. 21 to March 20, 2021, compared to the same time period in 2019 -- prior to the pandemic.
Among boys, there was a 4% rise in suspected suicide attempts over the same period when comparing this year to 2019. The authors noted that this does not mean there was necessarily an uptick in suicide deaths.
Although Friday's CDC report did not speculate on why this might be the case, experts interviewed by ABC News said it could be due to gender differences in psychiatric manifestations, development and socialized behaviors.
Psychiatrists say it's not clear yet why the pandemic seems to have hit women's mental health harder, but it could be a combination of factors.
"Adolescent females have been spending more time at home due to physical distancing and remote schooling allowing them to express mental health distress and talk more about suicidal thoughts and behaviors than ever before," said Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "[This has prompted] adult figures in their lives to take them to the [emergency department]."
Those going through puberty, a crucial time in youth, may be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
"Before puberty, the rate of depression and anxiety is the same for males and females, but after puberty it increases for females," said Dr. Yalda Safai, a psychiatrist in New York City and contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit. "All the risk factors for depression have been exaggerated by the pandemic."
Further research is needed to understand racial and ethnic trends in this patient population. Race and ethnicity data was not available when the study was conducted, according to the CDC.
"Certain communities and populations (i.e., American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ) have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and may be experiencing different suicide-related trends than the general population," said Moutier. "We need more data to identify and examine trends among these specific populations."
Friday's CDC report catalogued a significant increase in emergency department visits among teenage girls, though some of that could be explained by the fact girls are more likely to disclose suicidal thoughts and seek medical care.
"Females are more likely to self-report self-harm or suicide attempts than are males, which may lead to a reporting bias, and a disproportionate number of females coming to the ED for these events," said Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and adviser to Brightline, a behavioral health platform for youth.
Meanwhile, Chaudhary said, the CDC study included a broad range of self-harm and suicide-related issues that tend to yield emergency department visits -- not all of which are immediately life-threatening or true suicide attempts.
Regardless, psychiatrists agree that teens need more support. Care for at-risk teens should not be limited to the emergency room, Moutier said. Suicide attempts drop 30% when patients get the treatment they need, and health care providers check in on them periodically in the months after being discharged, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.
"It is critical to strengthen care transitions so once an individual leaves the ED they don't fall through the cracks," said Moutier.
The CDC is urging parents and families to watch out for the signs of suicide risk, limit access to harmful substances and firearms at home, and enroll youth in programs that increase social connections and teach coping skills.
"Youth across the world have been struggling with their mental health for a long time, with rates of anxiety and depression climbing at a faster pace since the onset of the pandemic," Chaudhary said.
As social connectedness is a key protective factor against suicide, it is important, now more than ever, to reach out to those who may be struggling.
"A simple phone call or text message letting them know you care may be just what they need," said Moutier.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also reach the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741741.
Natalie S. Rosen, M.D., is an internal medicine resident physician at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit. Sony Salzman is the coordinating producer of the Medical Unit.
Dr. Divya Chhabra, a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- Seattle has become the first U.S. city to fully vaccinate 70% of eligible residents.
In May, President Joe Biden set a goal for 70% of U.S. adults to receive at lease one dose of the vaccine by July 4 in the sprint to end the coronavirus crisis.
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced Wednesday that Seattle went a step further and became the first “major American city” to hit that percent with fully vaccinated residents, also adding that 78% of Seattle's population aged 12 and older have received their first dose of the shot.
"It would not have been possible without our residents’ commitment to protecting themselves, their loved ones, and our entire community," she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Denver has crossed the milestone of administering at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 70% of its population.
Denver passed the 70% threshold Wednesday morning, and a total of 61.2% of eligible residents aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment. Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a statement that thanks to the vaccination rate, "We've been able to responsibly reopen our city."
El Paso, Texas has also passed the milestone, with 72% of the county's eligible population aged 12 and up receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state's vaccine dashboard.
Some of the nation's largest cities, including San Francisco, San Jose and Boston, are also racing toward the threshold.
San Francisco is one of the cities with the most robust vaccination efforts, with 69% of the population 12 and older fully vaccinated and 79% with at least one dose, according to the city's COVID-19 tracker.
In Santa Clara County, California, which includes the city of San Jose, 68% of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 79% of residents are partially vaccinated, per county data. San Diego County has partially vaccinated 75% of its population aged 12 and up, and in Los Angeles County 64.9% of residents are partially vaccinated.
In Boston, 62.1% of the population 12 and older is partially vaccinated. In Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes Portland, 69.7% of the population 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per county data.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday the nation's capital is nearing the goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated -- with 68.3% of residents 18 and older inoculated -- as D.C. is set to fully reopen with no restrictions Friday, according to its vaccine tracker.
So far, 13 states have reached 70% of adult residents receiving at least one dose. They are: Pennsylvania, Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Washington, Maryland and California.
When it comes to states, Vermont is leading the nation in getting shots into the arms of its residents, with 54% of the state fully vaccinated, followed by Massachusetts at 53.18%, Connecticut at 51.06% and Maine at 49.83%. Rhode Island and New Hampshire follow behind, according to data from John Hopkins. That data reports Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi ranking the lowest among all states in percentage of fully vaccinated residents.
Nationally, 42.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and 51.8% has received at least one dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
(NEW YORK) -- Making sense of COVID guidance for children as summer starts
What to know about the latest vaccine trials and how the pandemic has affected kids’ mental health.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the nation last spring, millions of children across the country were forced to leave their classrooms and turn to remote learning. However, the shift resulted in the "disappearance" of thousands of students, who never logged on or re-appeared when classrooms reopened in the fall.
In March, ABC News reported on the troubling number of students "missing" from public school systems around the country, leaving educational experts and school officials deeply concerned about the trend and its potential long-term ramifications.
According to recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services, 51% of U.S. school districts are back to offering full-time in-person instruction, while 42% are offering hybrid in-person learning. Only 7% of districts are still operating fully remotely, a notable shift from January when over 30% of districts were still fully remote.
In the final weeks of the academic year, ABC News reached out a second time to education departments in all 50 states, to get an update on the status of student attendance.
Many state officials said they still do not have updated data on chronic absenteeism, while others said they will not know fall enrollment numbers until they are reported by the districts later in the year.
But still other officials say there are still hundreds, and in some districts, thousands, of students unaccounted for.
“We still have a sizable group of students that we just haven't been able to make contact with,” said Corey Harris, chief of schools at Boston Public Schools, who estimates the number to be in the range of 1,200-1,300, out of approximately 51,000 students. Most challenging, he said, is when the district is forced to dis-enroll students -- those who have not logged on for a certain number of days and for whom all means of contacting the family have been exhausted.
School districts are now doubling down on their efforts to track down students, many of whom come from disadvantaged populations, including going door-to-door to knock and providing incentives such as food pantries to try to entice them. They are also investing in services and programs to meet their needs as they attempt to make up for lost time.
Impacting those most vulnerable
The pandemic has laid bare the many inadequacies and challenges, inherent in the public education system, that are heightened for students of color, English language learners, children with disabilities and students from low-income communities, according to Denise Forte, Interim CEO of the Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to address the inequities in education.
“It's those same communities who have been under-resourced, and felt the brunt of history. Those who suffered more during the pandemic, were also those who had been impacted by all the systemic barriers that have prevented them from succeeding in the past,” Forte told ABC News. “Some young people who had to leave school because their parents were out of work, and they had to go find some part time work to support them, or they weren't able to fully participate in their own studies because they're supporting their younger siblings.”
According to Sara Sneed, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation, prior to the pandemic, chronic absence, defined as 10 or more days absent from school, particularly affected children from these vulnerable populations, and it only worsened during the pandemic.
Working to re-engage
Many states reported to ABC News that their school districts have been working hard to engage with students, and track down any that may not be engaging with school.
In California, the state superintendent has created a family engagement unit in its education department, to create strategies to reconnect with students. Although the total number of unaccounted students in California is unknown, statewide enrollment numbers dropped more than 160,000 students, this year, a 2.6% decline.
With a chronic absence rate of 20% this year, compared to approximately 10%-12% in years prior, Connecticut has launched an engagement and attendance program to reach K-12 students struggling with absenteeism. One initiative seeks to have personnel touching base with families and students through home visits, in the hope of encouraging them to return to school, and to help them with placements in summer camps and learning programs.
Similarly, in Mississippi, school attendance officers have worked with districts throughout the school year to ensure that all school-age children, who were not re-enrolled in local public schools, were registered in a learning environment, such as charter or private schools. By February, officers had track down all but 1,156 students, a number similar to previous years.
In Boston, teams have been knocking on doors to try to track down students, and through various engagement strategies include food pantry pop-ups, and resource initiatives, some students have begun to return to classroom.
And in Arizona, about 38,500 fewer students are enrolled in public schools this year, with about 40% of that decline among preschool and kindergarten students, opting to postpone enrollment. Others may have become disengaged with their public schools.
“We were really brought to our knees by this pandemic in the first 90 days, and that translated into some really hard hits. The first 40 days of school, we took a gut wrenching 2,800 in student loss. That was about 6% of our student body... that's a lot,” Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo told ABC News.
While some Tucson district families opted for other learning options such as charter and private schools, and others left the state altogether because of economic migration, the whereabouts of a "most troubling" third group of several hundred students -- who were not logging on or enrolled in any other school -- is still unknown by school officials.
“The academic losses are starting to mount every day that goes by where kids are not in school or getting any kind of instruction,” Trujillo added.
Since the district returned to school buildings in March, 800 “missing” students have returned, mainly families that were waiting for in-person learning, but several hundred students remain unaccounted, said Trujillo.
‘We haven't given up on them… that's going to be a major initiative of our team this summer and early fall, to track them down. Each case is individual, each case requires a little bit of investigative work. That's going to be very arduous and tedious work, but we don't want to lose any kid. We want to know that they're okay.”
These students will be tracked down with the help of 15 to 20 newly hired dropout prevention specialists, who will try to contact them all.
“Our goal is to make contact with every single young person, make sure they're safe, and offer them an opportunity to come home. Or, if Tucson Unified is no longer an option for them, help them continue their education and an option that works for them,” Trujillo said.
Addressing the gap
School districts are now working to readjust their curriculums in an order to address learning loss experienced during the pandemic.
Classrooms, in 2021-2022, are going to look tremendously different, says Forte, with some kids not at grade level, others with months' worth of unfinished learning, while a few may have actually thrived, and are above grade level.
Hence the need for “intentional and evidence-based strategies,” she said, such as intensive tutoring, with students working in small groups with one teacher, offering them instruction that's aligned with their curriculum, as well as the social/emotional support they may also need.
In Tucson, in addition to the regular curriculum, students entering first grade, for instance, will revisit key concepts and skills that may have been lost in kindergarten. And rigorous, five days a week, summer school will be critical to give students a head start for fall. Some 10,000 students have already enrolled.
Finding these students will be critical, officials agreed.
“School is the great equalizer in American society. Bad things happen when you don't graduate from high school, worse things happen when you don't even start high school,” Trujillo said. “These young lives matter, and we want them back in the only place that they need to be right now, and that’s school.”
(NEW YORK) -- Raven-Symoné is feeling better than ever after losing 30 pounds in just three months and she opened up about her journey in an exclusive interview with Good Morning America Friday.
"I'm not over here trying to be a little twig," the That's So Raven alum told GMA. "I'm not trying to be, like, 'Oh my God, look at me.' I have a goal in mind and it's not just weight loss, it's really complete body health."
The 35-year-old explained she's "low carb as much as I can be" and she does "very minimal exercise." One of her tricks is being "an avid faster," adding that she will make sure she has "a minimum of 14-hour fast" between dinner and breakfast.
Symoné also goes on longer fasts, a method she has carefully educated herself on, and she gets through them by drinking lots of water and electrolytes as well as having some bone broth if things get difficult.
"I don't try to speak for anybody else," she said, noting that this is her formula and what works for her.
Symoné has been in the spotlight since the age of 3, starring on The Cosby Show, being a Disney Channel teen sensation, and then co-hosting The View for three seasons as an adult. With that fame came stress and emotional eating.
The actress recalled a time in 2011 when she was had lost 70 pounds but felt that she couldn't celebrate her achievement.
"The way people were treating me while I was bigger was emotionally damaging," she said. "So when I lost weight ... and I remember the moment I went on the red carpet and in my head I was cussing everyone out. I'm like, 'Wow, now you want to look at me because I'm skinny, thanks.'"
Symoné said losing weight this time isn't about fitting into smaller-sized jeans -- it's about being healthy now to ensure a healthier future for herself and her life with wife Miranda Pearman-Maday.
"Every time I lost weight in the past, it was about size," she said. "I've been a part of the Hollywood industry machine and I didn't understand why every time I dieted I would gain weight later."
The Raven's Home star said she didn't want to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes as a result of her weight, adding, "I want to make sure that my body is healthy and prepared to deal with old age, ultimately, and I have to start now."
"I believe that anyone can do it and I believe when you understand why, you have great willpower," she continued. "I feel like this is something that will sustain my life for a lot longer."
Symoné's wife, whom she married last summer, is there to support her along the way -- and the two are embarking on a new journey together: Letting fans into their lives with their new YouTube channel, titled 8PM.
"You're going to see exercise and movement, you're going to see cooking and you're going to see celebrity guest friends," Pearman-Maday teased of what kind of content everyone can expect.
Symoné chimed in, "You're going to be seeing what a life with a lesbian, multiracial couple looks like -- and it looks normal, you guys. It looks pretty normal."
These days, the three-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee is also putting her talents to use behind the camera, having directed a powerful episode of Disney Channel's Sydney to the Max that explores the social impact of microaggressions.
(NEW YORK) -- A new blood test seeks to change the game in cancer management.
Signatera, a "tumor-informed" blood test developed by Natera, can detect circulating tumor DNA in the bloodstream for certain types of cancers.
"What makes the tumor DNA different is that it has certain mutations that actually lead to the uncontrolled cell growth that became the cancer," Solomon Moshkevich, the general manager of oncology at Natera, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "And by virtue of analyzing a sample of the tumor, from the patient, we actually know what the mutations are in that cancer and we know exactly what we're looking for when we go analyzing the blood sample."
The blood test works by looking at over 20,000 genes from the patient's tumor and comparing it to normal genes. Once a unique fingerprint of that tumor is identified, a personalized blood test is created that is unique to that person's cancer.
Signatera, which works best for solid cancers such as lung, colon, bladder and breast cancer, has proven to detect disease recurrence of some cancers at the microscopic level as much as two years earlier than a scan, according to the company.
"Having that inside information, that huge heads up, can be the difference between life and death," said Dr. Kristi Funk, a breast cancer surgeon and the medical director for Pink Lotus, a leader in breast health and cancer care.
Funk said her patients have been using the test for the past six months, including Mariel Leibowitz, who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at 32 and underwent a double mastectomy in 2019.
"I'm actually able now to take a test and see if there are active tumor cells in my body," said Leibowitz. "And then, you know, if it did come back, there's maybe something I can do to get ahead of it."
The positive attitude Leibowitz has toward taking a Signatera test is something Funk sees in many of her patients.
"I've seen it dramatically impact the emotional response that patients have to their own cancer journey," she said. "It's so empowering to get a negative test. But if you get a positive one, and you know that you can intervene at the earliest possible moment in time to eradicate a potential stage for recurrence, that's also empowering. So I'm so excited to add this to the armamentarium of what we have to defeat cancer."
(NEW YORK) -- There is troubling news for those infected with the COVID-19 virus. New studies have found that the virus may cause diabetes in addition to pneumonia and other health problems.
Most people will recover from COVID without longer-term problems, but doctors have noticed that some patients go on to develop diabetes.
Now, new research is finding that the virus may infect and destroy certain cells that are crucial for keeping diabetes at bay. Armed with this new knowledge, scientists are now racing to understand how to best prevent this from happening in patients with COVID-19.
Diabetes already contributes to 10-15% of deaths in the United States. In 2017, nearly 34.2 million people, or 10.5% of the U.S. population, had diabetes. Per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Of those with diabetes, nearly 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that attacks pancreatic beta cells to reduce insulin production.
“There is a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN, who was not involved in the studies. “[In] type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin. In type 2, there is enough insulin but it is not working properly.”
As insulin causes cells to take up sugar in the blood, a decrease in insulin production or a resistance to insulin causes high levels of sugars or glucose in the blood. This high level of glucose, termed hyperglycemia, is the hallmark of diabetes.
“Earlier lab studies had suggested that [the COVID-19 virus] can infect human beta cells,” said Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a recent blog post. “They also showed that the dangerous virus can replicate in these insulin-producing beta cells to make more copies of itself and spread to other cells.”
New research from Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine confirmed the association between COVID-19 and diabetes. By analyzing autopsy samples from people who died of COVID-19, both studies illustrated the virus’ ability to infect pancreatic beta cells, decrease insulin secretion and effectively yield type 1 diabetes.
“The virus actually destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin,” said Ashton. “[This] decreases insulin levels and then leads directly to high sugar and type 1 diabetes.”
Experts say these particular cells may be especially vulnerable to being attacked by the virus as they contain certain receptors known to bind to COVID-19.
Once invaded, these cells were transformed into different types of cells with a lower expression of insulin. According to experts, this shows that SARS-CoV-2 could change the fate of a cell.
Encouragingly, one study showed that specific drugs might be able to reverse this fate. Those findings will need to be confirmed in larger, more rigorous studies, researchers say.
Unfortunately, the virus might damage the pancreas and cause diabetes in ways that aren’t as easily reversed with medication. Due to the destruction of pancreatic cells, patients could potentially become dependent on diabetes medications, such as insulin, long after they finish their battle with COVID-19.
“More study is needed to understand how SARS-CoV-2 reaches the pancreas and what role the immune system might play in the resulting damage,” said Collins.
Both works highlight the possibility of COVID-19-induced diabetes and stress the need for awareness in those infected with the virus.
“The key is if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have any classic signs or symptoms of type 1 diabetes, get tested for diabetes,” said Ashton.
Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 should be on the lookout for symptoms of diabetes, Ashton added.
“We’re talking about extreme thirst and increase in urination, unintentional, significant weight loss, or fatigue, just to name a few,” she said.
Added Collins: “This work provides yet another reminder of the importance of protecting yourself, your family members, and your community from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already -- and encouraging your loved ones to do the same.”
Prior to the last Brood X emergence in 2004, University of Maryland graduate student Dr. Jenna Jadin wrote a cookbook full of recipes that use cicadas, called Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas.
“I thought it was a great way to make these cicadas, which people seem to be afraid of, less scary,” says Jadin. “Because when you can pluck something off the ground and eat it, it’s a little bit less terrifying.”
The cookbook, which is available online, includes a variety of recipes ranging from Cicada Dumplings, to “El Chirper” Tacos, to “Chocolate Chip Trillers.”
“The ones I’ve eaten the most are the pecan tartlets, or I’ve even made them into full pecan pies,” Jadin tells ABC Audio.
She adds that the insects work better in dishes with more flavorful ingredients because the bugs taste bitter on their own.
“They’re pretty tannic, because they’ve been living underground and drinking sap from plants and trees for years, so they are quite bitter,” she says.
Periodical cicadas spend 13 to 17 years maturing underground, surviving only on nutrients from the surrounding soil and trees. Once the ground reaches the right temperature in their final year, the baby cicadas, or “nymphs,” dig themselves out of the dirt, shed their skin and set about their next task.
“Once they come out as adults, they have one basic job and that’s to mate,” says George Washington University biology professor Dr. John Lill.
Brood X is the biggest group of periodical cicadas, which is why they are so prominent this year.
But the cookbook is intended to go beyond tacos and pecan pies. Dr. Jadin is a science program manager for the United Nations, where she focuses on issues of food insecurity, specifically “insects, in general, as a food source.”
She says a big part of stamping out hunger could come from resisting the urge to stamp out bugs.
“Overall they are a much more sustainable way of feeding the planet - whether that be in western societies, developing countries, or wherever,” she notes.
Relatively speaking, insects can convert food into protein more efficiently than other animals. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates crickets can produce the same amount of protein as cattle with just a sixth of the feed.
“You’re putting a lot fewer resources into getting much more protein. You’re also putting less water in, you’re generally putting in less energy,” says Jadin.
When it comes to cicadas, Jadin advises against simply grabbing a handful off the ground for a snack.
“Really, when we talk about eating insects, it’s about ones that are farmed sustainably, that are easy to replicate,” she says. “I wouldn’t necessarily encourage going out to eat a ton of a wild insect because we’re threatening their populations.”
And even if one is inclined to get cooking with some cicadas, Jadin warns that some of her recipes haven’t stood the test of time.
“Some of them I would definitely rewrite now. Cicada rhubarb pie -- don’t do that one,” says Jadin.
(NEW YORK) -- Since the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, experts have worried that the virus may have developed mutations allowing it to outmaneuver existing vaccines.
Early laboratory studies proved worrisome, showing vaccines seemed to produce far fewer virus-fighting antibodies against some of the newer variants. But real-world experience didn't match those concerns -- people seemed to develop good protection, even when exposed to new variants.
Now, after months of research, vaccine experts across the globe are learning that vaccines still mostly work -- even when those antibodies fail to show up in great numbers -- thanks to other crucial parts of the body's immune system.
"One of the reasons why the vaccines are holding up against variants is they do raise a broad array of immune responses," said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "We speculate that multiple immune parameters may contribute to the protection observed by this vaccine against variants."
In a recent study, Barouch and some colleagues showed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prompted all different parts of the immune system to react. Crucially, the study helped reinforce the importance of so-called "killer" T-cells in defending against viral variants, including the worrisome "Beta" variant first identified in South America.
"Killer T-cells are important because they can actually identify an infected cell and get rid of it, and so they're very good at mopping up infection," said Dr. Paul Goepfert, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an expert in vaccine design.
The body's ability to harness multiple parts of the immune system following immunization against the original strain of COVID-19 is still leading to robust protection against multiple variants.
Back in December, when news first emerged about a worrying variant in the U.K., now called the Alpha variant, some vaccine experts worried the new version of the virus might undercut vaccines.
The news was even more troubling as currently available vaccines had only just been authorized. In the weeks that followed, the world learned of the Beta variant from South Africa and the Gamma variant from Brazil.
Vaccine companies started gearing up to test new booster shots that specifically targeted these variants, but in the real world, vaccines still appeared to offer relatively good protection to people living in countries where new variants were widespread.
Barouch's new research offers some clues as to why.
The human immune system is made up of multiple components that help fight viral infections by making antibodies, a protein created to neutralize foreign objects, and also seeking out infections, destroying them and remembering them so it can fight better and faster the next time.
Like prior studies, this study showed that the variants have mutations that are not well recognized by the antibodies generated following vaccination or infection. In fact, antibody levels from the J&J vaccine were 5.0-fold lower against the COVID-19 Beta variant first identified in South Africa, and 3.3-fold lower against the Gamma variant first identified in Brazil, which is similar to what is seen in other vaccines.
But antibodies don't tell the whole story.
"We are not relying necessarily on the amount of antibody in our blood at the time that we're exposed to something to protect us," said Dr. Anna Durbin, an infectious disease physician and professor of global disease epidemiology and control at Johns Hopkins. "We have a memory immune response so that when we see that pathogen again, our body produces more antibody, produces T cells in response to that. It really gears up to control that infection."
So even with fewer antibodies produced, other parts of the immune system are ready to recognize and fight the infection, she added. And even if a vaccinated person gets re-infected, the severity of the illness is likely to be blunted.
"The J&J vaccine is inducing really good Killer T-cell responses, and so even though they may become infected, these Killer T cell responses can help get rid of that infection very, very quickly," Goepfert said.
Real-world data cited by Durbin shows that vaccination provides "… really excellent protection against severe hospitalized COVID caused by the variants, and I think that's probably due to the memory immune response that we have, and the T-cell response that we have, that's able to clear that virus if we are infected."
(NEW YORK) -- The United States government has agreed to purchase $1.2 billion worth of an experimental COVID-19 treatment from Merck if the drug is approved by regulators, the pharmaceutical company announced Wednesday. This purchase would provide enough medication to fully treat 1.7 million people with the new drug.
Molnupiravir, which is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials, is being tested on study participants who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, aren't hospitalized and have one or more risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity or old age, associated with worse outcomes from the disease.
If the 1,850-patient global study shows promising results, meaning it reduces participants' risk of hospitalization or death, Merck plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization in the second half of 2021. The company expects to have enough of the drug available by the end of the year to fully treat 10 million people.
"In addition to this agreement with the U.S. government, we are actively engaged in numerous efforts to make molnupiravir available globally to fulfill Merck’s commitment to widespread access," Rob Davis, Merck's president, said in a statement.
How the drug works:
Molnupiravir is an oral antiviral treatment taken early in the course of COVID-19 infection, which some researchers have compared to how Tamiflu is used to treat influenza. Molnupiravir is meant for mild-to-moderate COVID and needs to be given within five days of developing symptoms.
Later this year, Merck also plans to study whether molnupiravir can be used to prevent COVID-19.
The drug works by introducing errors into the virus' RNA, which stops it from replicating in the body. Clinical trial data so far suggest that molnupiravir may reduce replication of the SAR-CoV-2 virus. Previous studies have demonstrated that molnupiravir can inhibit virus reproduction for influenza, Ebola and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, but the FDA has not approved it as treatment for any of these diseases.
In January, Merck announced that it was giving up on its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which the company said generated a less robust immune response than rival vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. Instead, the company said it would focus on developing treatments, one of which was molnupiravir. In April, Merck ended its trial of molnupiravir as a treatment for hospitalized patients, when the drug did not prove effective for those with advanced disease.
ABC News' Eric Strauss contributed to this report.
(NEW YORK) -- During the coronavirus pandemic, TikTok became a platform of learning for many stuck indoors. Some learned how to cook, knit and even remodel their living rooms thanks to experts who shared their knowledge with others on the app.
And for children struggling at home during the pandemic, the social video app became a source in helping them learn how to read or solve math problems and more.
But what about parents who struggled to be a parent during the pandemic? Well, there’s a TikTok video for that too.
As parents took on the roles of teachers and tutors too, some were looking for guidance. And thanks to Charles Lewis, help was never far away.
When the pandemic hit, Lewis -- who goes by “Mr. Chazz” on TikTok -- an education specialist from Virginia, began creating videos to help parents and teachers.
“I saw how much, especially in the beginning, how much parents were really struggling with this new challenge that they were facing,” he told ABC News' Good Morning America. “I was listening and I was like, I totally have a lot of knowledge and wisdom and experience that I can share.”
As an education specialist, Lewis works with directors and teachers having a hard time in the classroom.
“Whenever there was a challenge or something, they would call me to kind of assess the situation and help the child and the teacher be successful in that environment,” he said.
He’s helping parents tackle sensitive subjects like parental punishments and breaking the cycle of some parenting techniques.
Here’s some of his advice when it comes to parenting:
Stop saying ‘don’t’ and say ‘do’
While parents may have a tendency to say “no” or “stop,” Lewis urges not to use those terms for everything.
One example he shared was if your child is coloring on the walls and you tell them to stop. While they can’t express it, Lewis says that a child has a need to color on the walls.
“That is a need. They have it in their bodies and you’re just telling them, ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ ‘don’t,’ then it’s going to be really stressful for you,” said Lewis. “It’s going to be really stressful for the child.”
Instead of saying “don’t” or “stop,” Lewis said to understand why your child needs to color on the walls and what their behavior is that they’re trying to communicate.
“Let’s observe their underlying needs and learn skills and start from there,” he added.
Don’t ignore their needs
Instead of saying something along the lines of “don’t color on the walls,” Lewis said to tell your child what to do that meets your need of them not coloring on the walls anymore, which will also not ignore their needs of coloring on the walls.
“This is, let’s find another way to meet that need that’s more appropriate for the situation, right?” said Lewis.
In this situation, you can get them some crayons and a piece of paper or paper propped up on an easel to color on instead.
Don’t be a perfectionist, be an ‘improve-inist’
While parenting is not always easy and takes practice, Lewis says it’s counterproductive in this process to be a perfectionist.
“Don’t focus on being perfect every day and comparing yourself to other people or parents or even your child,” said Lewis. “The goal isn’t to be perfect every day. The goal is to improve a little every day.”
(WASHINGTON) -- COVID-19 variants are still threatening to spread in the U.S., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday, saying the possible threat of variants is a reason more Americans need to get vaccinated.
Case rates have continued to decline in the U.S. as more Americans get vaccinated, overall cases have declined 94% since January and the number of new cases is at the lowest amount since March 2020.
But Fauci said that doesn't mean there isn't a risk of variants like the one that devastated India and spread to the U.K., causing more serious illness and increased risk of hospitalizations in the U.S.
Fauci said 6% of cases in the U.S. where the virus has been sequenced were a variant known as Delta which was first detected in India. The majority of cases in the U.K. are now that same variant which is primarily spreading in adolescents and young adults, which Fauci said is a reason it's even more important for Americans to get vaccinated.
"We cannot let that happen in the United States, which is such a powerful argument to underscore what Dr. (Rochelle) Walensky said, to get vaccinated, particularly if you've had your first dose, make sure you get that second dose," he said. "And for those who have been not vaccinated yet, please get vaccinated. This is the national month of action."
Fauci said two doses of vaccine have been shown to be effective against the variant but people who aren't vaccinated or who have only received one dose are still more at risk.
President Joe Biden tweeted about the risk from the variant saying "If you’re young and haven’t gotten your shot yet, it really is time. It’s the best way to protect yourself and those you love."
(NEW YORK) — Pfizer announced Tuesday it is moving forward with the final phase of clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine, meaning kids as young as five are one step closer to being able to be vaccinated.
Pfizer's new study of more than 4,500 children in four countries, including the United States, will see children ages 11 and under receive a smaller dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than adults.
Children in the trial will receive a 0.01mL dose of the vaccine, compared to the two doses of 0.3 mL each that kids ages 12 and older and adults receive.
In the coming weeks, Pfizer said it plans to launch a Phase 2/3 trial in children ages 2 to 4 years and then children ages six months to 2 years with an even smaller dose of the vaccine.
"We take a deliberate and careful approach to help us understand the safety and how well the vaccine can be tolerated in younger children," Bill Gruber, M.D., senior vice president of clinical research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement. "Children younger than 12 make up a significant portion of the total global population and can develop COVID-19 disease, and also can spread the virus to others. If successful, we believe vaccinating children will help further protect our communities and contribute to the evolving herd immunity.”
Pfizer has said it will likely seek an emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children ages 2 to 11 in September. Its COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for use in children ages 12 to 15 last month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The two other COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are currently available for anyone 18 years and older in the U.S.
Here is what parents may want to know about the COVID-19 vaccines and kids to help them make decisions.
1. What is the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, which does not enter the nucleus of the cells and doesn't alter human DNA. Instead, it sends a genetic "instruction manual" that prompts cells to create proteins that look like the virus -- a way for the body to learn and develop defenses against future infection.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus vector, Ad26, that cannot replicate. The Ad26 vector carries a piece of DNA with instructions to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that triggers an immune response.
This same type of vaccine has been authorized for Ebola, and has been studied extensively for other illnesses -- and for how it affects women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Neither of these vaccine platforms can cause COVID-19.
2. Why do kids need to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
While have not been as many deaths from COVID-19 among children as adults, particularly adults in high-risk categories, kids can still get the virus and just as importantly, they can transmit the virus to adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported this week that children now make up 22.4% of all new weekly cases, and over 3.7 million children have been diagnosed during the pandemic.
"There are really two big reasons why kids need to get the vaccine," explained Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent.
"One of them is that it is possible that they could be infected and then unknowingly pass COVID-19 to someone with a serious or underlying, pre-existing medical condition," she said. "And also, though it’s very uncommon and unlikely, it is still possible that children infected with COVID-19 could become seriously ill or worse. We have seen that."
"It’s important to think in ripple effects, outside the box," Ashton added. "It’s not just your home environment that you need to worry about."
3. Will kids experience the same vaccine side effects as adults?
Adolescents experienced a similar range of side effects as seen in older teens and young adults -- generally seen as cold-like symptoms in the two to three days after the second dose -- and had an "excellent safety profile," Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a press briefing announcing Pfizer's authorization.
"Based on all this available information, the FDA determined the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has met all of the criteria required to amend the EUA, which concluded that the known and potential benefits of this vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the vaccines known and potential risks," Marks said.
Marks encouraged parents who were hesitant to vaccinate their children to speak with their pediatricians, urging confidence in the trial and data.
Moderna said its COVID-19 study with teens ages 12 to under 18 identified no "significant safety concerns." The most common side effects from the vaccine were injection site pain, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and chills, according to the company.
The FDA will scrutinize Moderna’s clinical data before authorizing the use in anyone under 18.
4. How effective are the vaccines in children?
Pfizer announced in late March that its clinical trials showed the vaccine was safe and 100% effective in children ages 12-15, similar to the 95% efficacy among adult clinical trial participants.
Marks confirmed on May 10 that after a trial with over 2,000 children, Pfizer found no cases of infection among the children who had been given the vaccine and 16 cases of infection among the children who received a placebo.
No cases of COVID occurred in the 1,005 adolescents that received the vaccine, while there were 16 cases of COVID among the 978 kids who received the placebo, "thus indicating the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 In this trial," said Marks.
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in children ages 12 to under 18, the company said last month, in announcing results of their latest clinical trials.
Moderna's clinical trial of 3,732 adolescent participants ages 12 to less than 18 years resulted in no cases of COVID-19 in the vaccine group compared to four cases in the placebo group, according to the company.
In addition to its efficacy, the vaccine showed "no significant safety concerns" in the trial of more than 3,700 adolescent participants, according to Moderna, which said it plans to submit results of the trial to U.S. regulators and request authorization in June.
5. Will kids get the same dose of the vaccines as adults?
The FDA has authorized the same dosing for 12- to 15-year-olds as adults with the Pfizer two-dose vaccine.
Pfizer is currently testing smaller doses of the vaccine in children ages 11 and under.
6. What will fully vaccinated kids be able to do?
Children who are fully vaccinated will be able to follow the updated guidance for vaccinated people from the CDC.
That means not wearing a mask while outdoors, except in crowds, and not having to quarantine after known or suspected exposure to COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Kids who are fully vaccinated may also attend small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family, friends, or those who are unvaccinated, and dine at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households, according to the CDC.
Being fully vaccinated -- a milestone achieved two weeks after a person’s final vaccine shot -- will also make it easier for children to travel internationally and gain entry into concerts or sporting events.
7. Could COVID-19 vaccines impact puberty, menstruation?
There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest the vaccines can have long-term effects on puberty or fertility, according to Ashton, a practicing, board-certified OBGYN.
Ashton noted that while there has been anecdotal discussion of the emotional event of finally receiving the vaccine temporarily impacting menstruation for adult women, the idea of the cause being from the vaccine itself "defies science and biology."
It is really important to understand basic biology here," Ashton said. "Women can have changes in their menstrual cycle and also have gotten the vaccine, that does not mean that one caused the other."
"Right now there is no puberty concern. There is no fertility concern," she added.
8. Will the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine be available for kids?
As of April, the trial was enrolling participants only in Spain and the United Kingdom, with plans to expand enrollment to the U.S., the Netherlands and Canada, followed by Brazil and Argentina.
9. Where will children access COVID-19 vaccines?
As with the distribution of vaccines to adults, the process of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to children differs by state.
The rollout is a "multi-pronged approach," including vaccination sites already in operation, major retail pharmacies, mobile health clinics, schools and family doctors, according to the CDC advisory panel.
CVS and Walgreens began giving the Pfizer vaccine to the newly eligible group on May 13, either with scheduled appointments online, through their apps or over the phone.
The Biden administration announced plans to ship Pfizer doses directly to pediatricians' offices, which they have stressed will be an important partner in this effort, encouraging governors to help enroll family practitioners and pediatricians "as quickly as possible."
If a child gets the vaccine at a mass vaccination site or pharmacy, their parent should alert the child's pediatrician’s office so they can keep the immunization record up to date.
Both the CDC panel and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have said it is okay for children to get other vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.
Later this summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will launch "back to school" partnerships to support vaccinations as part of annual physicals and sports physicals.
10. What are health groups saying about COVID-19 vaccines and kids?
The AAP has recommended that "all eligible children, teens, family and household members be vaccinated as soon as possible."
“This is truly an exciting development that allows us to protect a large population of children and help them regain their lives after a really rough year,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, said in a May 12 statement. “As a pediatrician and a parent, I have looked forward to getting my own children and patients vaccinated, and I am thrilled that those ages 12 and older can now be protected. The data continue to show that this vaccine is safe and effective. I urge all parents to call their pediatrician to learn more about how to get their children and teens vaccinated.”
“We’ve seen the harm done to children’s mental and emotional health as they’ve missed out on so many experiences during the pandemic,” Beers said. “Vaccinating children will protect them and allow them to fully engage in all of the activities—school, sports, socializing with friends and family— that are so important to their health and development.”
11. Are other countries giving COVID-19 vaccines to children?
Yes. Canada's health department authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children 12 to 15 years of age on May 5.
12. Will COVID-19 vaccines be required by schools?
It will be up to each state's government to decide whether a COVID-19 vaccine is required for school entry. Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have announced they will require students to be vaccinated from COVID-19.
ABC News' Sasha Pezenik and Jade A. Cobern, MD, a member of the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.
(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer is advancing Phase 2/3 clinical trials for young kids at lower doses than vaccines for adults, the pharmaceutical company announced Tuesday.
Based on safety, efficacy and tolerability data from Pfizer's Phase 1 trial, the company will use 10 micrograms of each vaccine dose for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 in Phase 2/3 trials, and 3 micrograms of each dose for those 5 and younger. People ages 12 and older received 30 micrograms in each dose.
In addition to studying vaccine safety and side effects in kids, the study will examine antibody response to ensure the vaccine produces enough immunity at lower doses.
The study will include up to 4,500 participants from the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain, according to Pfizer.
"Today marks an important next step in our efforts to understand the safety and immune response of our COVID-19 vaccine," Dr. Bill Gruber, senior vice president of clinical research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement. In the coming weeks, Phase 2/3 trials will start for 2- to 4-year-olds, as well as those as young as six months, according to Gruber.
"We take a deliberate and careful approach to help us understand the safety and how well the vaccine can be tolerated in younger children," Gruber said.
"Children younger than 12 make up a significant portion of the total global population and can develop COVID-19 disease, and also can spread the virus to others," Gruber added. "If successful, we believe vaccinating children will help further protect our communities and contribute to the evolving herd immunity.”
Pfizer anticipates having initial results of the Phase 2/3 trials in September for the 5- to 11-year-old group, with results for kids of 2 and 5 expected shortly after that. Results for children between the ages of six months and 2 years old are expected in October or November, according to a Pfizer spokesperson.
In every instance, Pfizer would potentially apply for emergency use authorization in the U.S. shortly after getting results, assuming they showed the vaccines to be safe and effective in those age groups at those doses.
(NEW YORK) -- Jesse Tyler Ferguson is spreading awareness about getting your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist.
On Monday, the Modern Family star shared a heath update and reminder to his nearly 3 million Instagram followers about the importance of taking measures to protect your skin.
"Reminder to stay up to date on your dermatology checks … especially if you’re fair like me," the 45-year-old actor wrote.
"I always wind up getting something taken from me, every time I go," the five-time Emmy nominee continued. "Today, they took a bit of skin cancer that they found. Don’t worry, I got it early and I’m gonna be just fine."
The Broadway star also reminded folks to take care of their skin between dermatologist appointments, stressing the importance of sunscreen.
"And, wear sunscreen," he added. "SPF 1000 for me."
Ferguson's husband, Justin Mikita, took to the comments section to respond, writing, "Gotta keep you around forever. Derm appointments once a month!"