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The Filtrate: Coughing Kids, a Game of Worms, and Fourth Estate Follies

We begin this week’s Filtrate with an important public service announcement: get your flu shot. Pharmacies all over your area probably have signs advertising this service, but if you still have trouble finding the vaccine, you can use this site to locate a nearby flu clinic. I just got mine today (Sanofi Fluzone Quadrivalent, thanks for asking).

School of hard coughs

School has resumed across the US, and most public school districts are either restarting in-person sessions or trying to figure out whether and how they should. A trio of reports in this week’s issue of MMWR paints a stark picture of the risks.

First, there’s a collation of the data on COVID-19 incidence in school-age kids nationwide, confirming once again that children can catch and carry SARS-CoV-2, and have been doing so since the start of the pandemic. After peaking in July, their infection rates were on a downward trend until September. As school resumed, those rates started climbing again.

At the college level, the rush to resume in-person classes this Fall already led to a spate of new outbreaks. This report on college-associated case clusters in North Carolina illustrates the problem.

Finally, we get more figures showing the cruel intersection of COVID-19 and poverty, in this case looking at data from Utah. Consistent with earlier reports, these numbers confirm that poor folks are at much higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection than middle-class or rich folks.

We could be facing a bleak winter if these trends continue.

Chute the worm

Maybe we should all just stay inside and play board games. That’s what these folks did with Nigerian kids to combat another major public health threat: soil-transmitted parasitic worms. Specifically, they developed a board game called “Worms and Ladders,” which uses gameplay to educate players about avoiding helminth infection. See Figure 2 of the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases paper for a copy of the game board, which is played exactly like “Snakes and Ladders.”

Kids who were assigned to play “Worms and Ladders” were significantly better-educated about risks and prevention strategies for helminthiasis, compared to controls who played “Snakes and Ladders.” They were also significantly less likely to get worm infections later, showing that the intervention worked.

Savvy suckers

We’ll conclude with a brief jaunt into political journalism, because even though this is a science blog, the insanity of current US politics is impossible to ignore. This week, Jay Rosen published another of his incisive commentaries on the journalism business, this time dissecting what went wrong with American political coverage, and how the “savvy style” of commentary contributed to our current situation. It’s an enlightening read.

That’s all for this week. If you have a story you think will fit through our filter, please let us know directly or post a comment below.