Health Highlights: May 18, 2021

Ohio Lottery Will Award $1 Million to Five Vaccinated Residents

In an effort to boost COVID-19 vaccination numbers, Ohio officials said they will hold a weekly lottery in which five adult residents who have received at least their first dose of a vaccine will receive $1 million each.

"Two weeks from tonight, on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars," Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tweeted Wednesday, CBS News reported.

All Ohio residents who are over the age of 18 and have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are eligible.

Also, there will be a separate lottery for scholarships for those under 18 who are vaccinated. It will select one winner a week for five weeks beginning May 26, CBS News reported.

"The winner will receive a full, four-year scholarship to our State of Ohio universities," DeWine said. "This will include tuition, room and board, and books."

He also announced Wednesday that the state's health department will lift social distancing and mask mandates on June 2, except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but he noted that individual businesses and schools will still be able to enforce their own rules, CBS News reported.


CDC Deputy Director Schuchat to Retire

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's principal deputy director is retiring after 33 years with the agency.

Dr. Anne Schuchat joined the CDC in 1988 and had key roles in many health crises, including the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, the Ebola crisis in 2014 and the 2001 bioterrorist anthrax response, NBC News reported.

She also helped develop guidelines to test pregnant women for group B strep, a common bacterium that can harm newborns if they are exposed during birth.

"That guidance, based on incredibly good public health science, has led to thousands of babies being born in the United States safely," said Dr. Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the CDC.

"When it comes to public health," Besser said, "Anne is a national and global treasure."

Schuchat said she looks forward to pursuing her creative passions, which include creative writing and poetry, once she is retired.

"After a long and fulfilling career in public health, infectious diseases, and epidemiology, it is the time for me to smell some roses," Schuchat said Monday, NBC News reported.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement that, "Anne embodies selfless public service, the pinnacle of scientific and intellectual standards, and has given her heart to our agency and the public health community. I will remain forever grateful that our paths crossed, even for just a short while."

Another former CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, echoed the sentiment.

Schuchat "is widely respected, and rightly so, for her profound dedication, incisive intelligence, and deep knowledge of public health," Frieden, said in a statement to NBC News.

Earlier this month, another high-profile leader at the CDC, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, announced her resignation. Messonnier was the first U.S, official to bluntly advise Americans in February 2020 to prepare for the impending coronavirus pandemic. The messaging enraged President Donald Trump at the time, and Messonnier was moved to a less public role, NBC News reported.


Experimental Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19 Highly Effective in Mice

An experimental antiviral treatment for COVID-19 has shown great promise in mice, researchers report.

American and Australian scientists used gene-silencing RNA technology to destroy the virus genome and prevent the virus from replicating, the Washington Post reported.

"These stealth nanoparticles can be delivered to a wide range of lung cells and silence viral genes," said researcher Nigel McMillan, from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.

The treatment reduced viral load in mice by 99.9%, according to early results published May 13 in the journal Molecular Therapy.

A number of COVID-19 vaccines are available, but there is no antiviral treatment specifically for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that works after people have become infected, the Post reported.

Research shows that some currently available antivirals, such as remdesivir, can shorten hospital stays for COVID-19 patients, but they don't significantly reduce the risk of death.

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