Healthcare workers had high rates of depression during early pandemic, Brazil data show

News brief

Exhausted nurseA new analysis of Brazilian healthcare workers (HCWs) shows 58.7% had depression, 59.7% had anxiety, and 61.7% reported stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is published in PLOS One.

Some previous studies have shown that about 25% of HCWs developed symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, or burnout during the pandemic, the authors said.

In the present study the authors calculated the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress from November 2020 through October 2021, via a survey administered to 1,522 healthcare workers in the central-west region of the Brazil.

Respondents were mostly female (82.6%) and White (52.7%), and 45.1% lived with a spouse.

"Professionals working in nursing (nurses and nursing technicians) reported higher frequencies of mental disorders; depression, anxiety, and stress were present in approximately 32% of nurses," the authors wrote. Physicians, meanwhile, had a 3.75 times greater risk of depression than other HCWs.

Changes in safety and protection guidelines ... led to emotional overload.

For all HCWs, most who reported significant increases in depression, anxiety, or stress also reported having had COVID-19 (64.22%, 63.30%, and 64.82%, respectively), and maintained social distancing outside of work (93.82%, 93.96%, and 93.72%).

HCWs who reported working in management administration and pharmacology were less likely than nurses and doctors to report mental health challenges.

A perception of being unsafe at work was related to increased mental distress, the authors said. During the study period, infection protocols changes several times as more was understood about virus transmission and as vaccines were introduced.

"Changes in safety and protection guidelines related to infection control and use of personal protective equipment were sudden, often changing several times in the same week, which led to emotional overload, especially among individuals with higher levels of education," the authors wrote.

Oklahoma reports its first CWD case in a wild deer

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White-tailed doe in field
Brad Smith / Flickr cc

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has reported the state's first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a wild deer, prompting it to activate the next stage of its CWD response strategy.

The white-tailed deer was found near Optima, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, after a Texas County landowner told the ODWC that it had been behaving abnormally. In response to a positive CWD test, the ODWC activated the next stage of its CWD response strategy, which it developed along with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

"While this is unfortunate news, it is not unexpected since CWD has already been detected in every state that borders Oklahoma," Jerry Shaw, ODWC wildlife programs supervisor, said in an ODWC statement. "We will be working through our response plan to ensure we can monitor potential spread and keep our state's deer herd healthy."

First identified in state captive elk in 1998

The ODWC has been monitoring hunter-harvested deer and elk, as well as road-killed deer, for CWD since 1999, processing tissue samples from more than 10,000 wild deer and elk.

The ODWC said it will continue monitoring for CWD and release more information, including how deer and elk hunters can help with detection and mitigation, as hunting seasons approach. It will also distribute more guidelines or management plans, if necessary, to further protect Oklahoma's cervids (members of the deer family).

In 1998, the ODWC confirmed CWD in a captive elk herd in Oklahoma County that had originally been imported from Montana.

CWD is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by infectious prions, or misfolded proteins, that affects cervids such as deer, elk, and moose. The disease creates cavities in the brain that resemble those of sponges. While CWD isn't known to infect humans, some experts fear it could mimic bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow" disease) and one day jump to people. 

PAHO warns of respiratory virus rises in South America

News brief

Young girl on nebulizerWith respiratory virus levels rising to prepandemic levels and increasing hospitalizations in children younger than 2 years, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday urged countries to strengthen their measures to tackle flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 and to take measures to avoid severe outcomes.

In an epidemiologic alert, PAHO said flu activity in the Americas' southern region has increased markedly over the past month, mainly due to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. RSV activity has also risen and is at medium levels, and so far COVID-19 levels remain low.

Mixed picture

The situation varies in the southern region. For example, Brazil has seen significant growth in RSV activity and hospitalizations since April, especially in kids younger than 2. Eleven child deaths from severe acute respiratory infections, mainly involving babies, have been reported since May 13 from children's hospital in Macapa, located in the north, according to O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper.

Argentina's flu season began early, and RSV cases are running 56% higher than in 2019, when the country experienced its most cases during the same period. Chile's flu season also started earlier than usual and is moderately intense, alongside a spike in RSV activity that has exceeded 2022 levels.

The Andean region of the Americas, which includes Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela, also reported elevated flu and RSV activity, with flu accounting for more than half of cases in younger adults, followed by RSV in children younger than 5 years.

The two viruses also rose, but to a lesser degree, in Central America and the Caribbean.

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