Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
Possible Links Between COVID Shots and Tinnitus Emerge
Thousands of people say they’ve developed tinnitus after they were vaccinated against COVID. While there is no proof yet that the vaccines caused the condition, theories for a possible link have surfaced among researchers.
Shaowen Bao, an associate professor in the physiology department of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson, believes that ongoing inflammation, especially in the brain or spinal cord, may be to blame. Bao, a longtime tinnitus sufferer and a representative of the American Tinnitus Association’s scientific advisory board, has studied tinnitus for more than a decade.
A Facebook group of people who developed tinnitus after getting a COVID vaccine convinced Bao to look into the possible link. He ultimately surveyed 398 of the group’s participants. Along with ringing in their ears, participants reported a range of other symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, vertigo, ear pain, anxiety and depression. Significantly more people first developed tinnitus after the first dose of the vaccine, compared with the second.
As of Sunday, at least 16,183 people had filed complaints with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they’d developed tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, after receiving a COVID vaccine. The CDC has not, however, made those reviews public, as it did after looking into other possible vaccine side effects, such as inflammation of the heart or myocarditis — frustrating leading vaccine expert Dr. Gregory Poland, founder and director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota.
“Why has the CDC not done all of the research that they should do on this and published it?” Poland said. Poland, who was stricken with tinnitus after he received his COVID vaccines two years ago, suggested that the CDC remains “unconcerned” about these reports of tinnitus.
Dentists: Unexplained Pain, Tooth Loss and Bone Problems May Be Linked to COVID Vaccine
Before business owner and busy mom Alana Parker experienced severe oral pain and facial swelling after receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, she had good dental health with never so much as a cavity. When her symptoms progressed and an ulcer had grown to the point where the bone was protruding, causing her to lose large fragments of her jawbone, Parker knew she was in serious trouble.
Dr. Amy Hartsfield, a private practice dentist in Homewood, Alabama, obtained her specialization from the American Board of Orofacial Pain and the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine after practicing 14 years of general dentistry.
Parker isn’t the only patient she’s seen with severe facial pain issues. Since the vaccines were rolled out, Hartsfield has seen an exponential increase in patients with head and facial neurovascular and myofascial pain, including headaches, toothaches not caused by the tooth, osteonecrosis of the jaw, sleep issues, tinnitus, and oral and facial autoimmune conditions.
Lawmakers Push Back on Chinese Efforts to ‘Interfere’ in COVID Investigation
House lawmakers investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday called for the Chinese government to make available scientists and military officials to testify in Washington, pushing back on what they said are efforts by China’s embassy to interfere in their probe.
The request was made in a letter exclusively obtained by The Hill. The letter was sent by the chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the chair, criticized the embassy as seeking to “interfere” in the investigation, in a letter to committee members sent on April 14 by Li Xiang, a counselor with China’s embassy.
Wenstrup, in his letter, said China’s “interference is unacceptable and will not impede the Select Subcommittee’s efforts. We encourage you to cease and, instead, cooperate with the numerous international investigations into the origins of COVID-19.” He also said China should make at least five Chinese officials connected to the state’s health administration, military and the Wuhan Institute of Virology available to the probe.
Disability Denied: Unable to Work, COVID Long Haulers Face Barriers to Benefits
Marie, who left a corporate job in Missouri after contracting COVID-19 in the first wave and then developing what came to be known as long COVID, received five months of short-term disability through her employer. It was “a lifesaver,” she said. But in 2022, she caught COVID again, and this time it’s taken much longer to recover from the long COVID that followed.
Not knowing when or if she’ll be able to go back to work, Marie (who asked that only her middle name be used for fear of reprisal from the Social Security Administration) began pursuing long-term disability coverage and is also applying for disability coverage through Social Security.
Marie and other COVID “long haulers” must navigate a disability claims system that was already difficult before the pandemic, with sometimes years-long wait times and no clear guidance on how to prove their disability. Long COVID has supercharged those problems for many by adding additional hurdles.
Although the federal government has said that long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the healthcare system doesn’t have a clear way to diagnose it. There is no single test to identify long COVID, and not having a positive test of the initial COVID infection can be a barrier to qualifying for disability, long haulers say.
WHO Watching XBB.1.16, Dubbed Arcturus on Social Media, as a Coronavirus Variant of Interest
The World Health Organization has elevated the fast-growing Omicron sublineage XBB.1.16 as a new variant of interest and says it is out-competing the previously dominant XBB.1.5 in many regions.
XBB.1.16 is a descendant of the recombinant XBB, which is a mashup of two BA.2 sublineages. On social media, the variant has been nicknamed Arcturus, like the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. Currently, it is the dominant variant in India, where it is causing a wave of mostly mild illnesses. But it has been spotted in 32 other countries, including the United States.
WHO says that while this variant seems to be spreading faster than previous variants, and escapes immunity — even in people who’ve recently had the XBB.1.5 strain — it does not seem to be causing more severe illness. Therefore, the WHO says the risk from this variant is low.
Last week in the United States, XBB.1.16 accounted for an estimated 10% of COVID-19 cases nationally, up from about 6% the week prior. The XBB.1.5 variant continues to be the dominant cause of new infections in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pinkeye Cases Rise in Allergy Season. It Might Be a COVID Symptom, Too.
Pinkeye — an inflamed, itchy and painful eye — is common during allergy season. But now some doctors are concerned the ailment may also be associated with a new coronavirus subvariant.
Health experts say they have not conclusively linked the condition, formally called conjunctivitis, to the subvariant Arcturus. But anecdotal reports suggest the subvariant may produce fever and conjunctivitis, mainly among children.
Pinkeye can be caused by allergies, injury, bacterial infections or viral infections (not just COVID), and can occur in both children and adults.
Medical professionals say although people who are diagnosed with covid do sometimes present with conjunctivitis, it is too early to tell whether there’s a greater chance of pinkeye associated with the new subvariant.
Virtual Communication Left Seniors Feeling Anxious, Depressed During Pandemic, According to Brigham and Women’s Study
Older adults who frequently used technology to connect with friends, family, and healthcare providers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic reported feeling more anxious and depressed than those who sought in-person visits, according to a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Among Americans over 65, virtual interactions — e-mail, phone, and video calls — were associated with increased mental health concerns, according to the study, which analyzed national survey data and was released earlier this month.
“What we found that makes this a little bit interesting is those that were able to maintain face-to-face connections actually reported less risk,” said Rebecca Robbins, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard and associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Division of Sleep and Circadian disorders.
Robbins, the study’s lead author, said that while communications technology was heralded as a “panacea” for loneliness during the pandemic, it failed to meet the needs of some older adults unfamiliar with digital platforms. Robbins and other researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, an annual home survey of Medicare beneficiaries. The study included a supplemental COVID-19 survey between June and October 2020, from which her team pulled data.
About 20% of those surveyed reported feeling depressed, and 25% reported feeling anxious about the pandemic, according to the study.
Vaccine Uptake Among Children in England Has Fallen Since Start of Pandemic
“In recent years, we have seen vaccine uptake fall due to the challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Dr. Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Uptake of the jab that protects against the bacteria which lead to meningitis fell significantly last year, the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said. The number of youngsters given a shot against polio, diphtheria and tetanus, also known as the three-in-one jab, also fell, it added.
Researchers Detect 2 New SARS-CoV-2 Strains on Polish Mink Farms
Researchers identify two novel SARS-CoV-2 strains most closely related to variants circulating in humans more than 2 years earlier on two mink farms in Poland, the possible result of long-term, undetected circulation in the animals.
SARS-CoV-2 monitoring on Polish mink farms began in May 2020. Starting in December 2021, all Polish mink farms were monitored when mink showed signs of disease or died in higher-than-expected numbers.
On two farms, the researchers uncovered two novel SARS-CoV-2 variants most closely related to the B.1.1.307 strain that circulated in humans in late 2020 and early 2021. The new variants, however, had at least 40 polymorphisms, which the authors said suggests that they originated in an unknown or undetected animal reservoir. The mink did not show symptoms.
The researchers noted that the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in humans and susceptible wildlife at farms carries the risk of viral spillover and the establishment of novel wildlife reservoirs. “It seems that relying only on passive surveillance in response to symptomatic outbreaks could result in many cases being overlooked,” they wrote.