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With so many unknowns about omicron, when will we have answers?

iStock/georgeclerk(NEW YORK) -- The latest COVID-19 variant of concern, omicron, first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa last week -- and now detected throughout the U.S. -- continues to worry many Americans with still much unknown about the virus. Health authorities continue to urge calm as scientists across the globe search for answers. "Right now, we're really in a state of knowledge acquisition," said Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts. "We really need to know more. We need to know how pathogenic it is. We need to know how transmissible it is and we need to know whether or not it evades antibody responses   ... Read More

As delta continues to surge in Pennsylvania, hospital officials urge vaccination

iStock/Geber86(PENNSYLVANIA) -- Omicron has been making headlines as cases of the new COVID-19 variant continue to be detected in the United States. While the strain is concerning, health officials are heeding that delta continues to fuel widespread transmission and is a problem now. That's the current case in Pennsylvania, where the number of daily confirmed COVID-19 infections crossed 10,000 Friday for the first time since the state's winter wave. In the past week, the number of COVID-19 cases, case rates, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators have all gone up, according to state data. Amid its latest surge, Pennsylvania has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the U.S. "We continue to see a tremendous amount of COVID-19 patients," Dr. Eugene   ... Read More

Amy Coney Barrett raises adoption in abortion case hearing that poses challenge to Roe v. Wade

Bill Clark/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a headline-making line of questioning came from the court's newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett, a conservative justice appointed last year by former President Donald Trump, questioned whether adoption rather than abortion could resolve the “burdens of parenting” noted in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the two major Supreme Court rulings on abortion that protect a woman's right to end a pregnancy before fetal viability. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the Supreme Court has never allowed states to prohibit the termination of pregnancies prior to fetal viability outside   ... Read More

What is known about the omicron variant that’s arrived in the US

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As health officials expected, the United States has now confirmed several cases of the omicron variant, which was first identified in Botswana and has since been detected in at least 35 counties. The World Health Organization declared omicron a variant of concern on Friday. Earlier this week, the agency said the overall global risk is "very high" due to the variant's large number of mutations, including on the spike protein of the virus, though there are still many unknowns, including information on its transmissibility, severity and impact on immunity. Here's what we know so far about the variant in the U.S. First states to detect cases The first three cases of the omicron variant identified in the   ... Read More

Texas law restricting access to abortion pills goes into effect: What to know

ELISA WELLS/PLAN C/AFP via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court continues to weigh whether to leave Texas's unprecedented six-week abortion ban, SB8, in place, a new law that also restricts abortion access is going into effect in the state. Starting Thursday, people in Texas will have a narrower window in which they can receive abortion-inducing medication, including the two most commonly used medications, mifepristone and misoprostol. Senate Bill 4, or SB4, cuts the window in which physicians are allowed to give the medication from 10 weeks of pregnancy to seven weeks. The new law also prohibits mailing abortion-inducing drugs, a restriction that contrasts with a federal regulation enacted in April by the Biden administration that temporarily allows   ... Read More

What’s behind the ‘dire’ COVID-19 surge in Michigan?

Tempura/iStock(OKEMOS, Mich.) -- Michigan is in the midst of its fourth COVID-19 wave -- and there is no end in sight, hospital officials said. Cases and hospitalizations are rivaling levels seen in earlier parts of the pandemic, when vaccines weren't widely available. The surge also comes at a time when non-COVID-19-related patients are being admitted, flu cases are emerging and health systems are understaffed, Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, told ABC News. Unvaccinated people continue to make up the majority of those infected with COVID-19, including severe cases of the infection. Roughly around three-quarters of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths were in unvaccinated people from Oct. 21 to Nov. 19, according to state data. Around   ... Read More

How your ZIP code determines your lung health

Darren Riley, 29, is the CEO and Co-founder of JustAir, which uses small sensors to map air quality on a neighborhood level. - JP Keenen/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- This is the fourth and final episode of ABC News Digital's four-part series "Green New Future," which highlights innovators and environmental solutions. While climate change and poor air quality are global issues concerning all people, 29-year-old Darren Riley has found that the ZIP code people are born into can disproportionately put them in harm's way. Riley's father ended up in a coma in the ICU due to asthma-related illnesses in 2014, Riley told ABC News. It was his father's words from seven years before that made him realize the connection between a   ... Read More

Strangers donate breast milk after mom of newborn dies of COVID-19

Courtesy Brittany Eppenauer(OAK GROVE, Mo.) -- Megan Richards, a mom of six, had planned to provide breast milk for her youngest child, 5-month-old Myles, through his first birthday. Richards died last month due to complications from COVID-19, and now her family is trying to fulfill her wish by collecting donations of breast milk. "It was one of the things that she wanted the most for the baby, and it was important to her, so it was important to me," said Megan's husband, Michael Richards. "Even when she got sick and I was trying to keep her in bed, and just try to get her to rest, I talked to her about it maybe being time to stop pumping -- she'd   ... Read More

Amid spread of omicron variant, CDC expected to require negative COVID-19 test 1 day before flying to US

ronstik/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration is preparing to implement new travel guidelines that would require proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of flying into the U.S., including for vaccinated people, a spokesperson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed. The expected change comes as the country beefs up surveillance for the omicron variant, the first case of which in the U.S. has been identified in California, the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health said Wednesday. The CDC said the person traveled from South Africa on Nov. 22. Omicron has been deemed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization and had been detected in over 20 countries as of Tuesday. "CDC is   ... Read More

What to know about new COVID-19 variant omicron

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Global health authorities said they're monitoring a new COVID-19 variant first identified in southern Africa, with the World Health Organization saying Friday the new strain, called omicron, is a variant of concern. On Monday, the WHO said the overall global risk is assessed as "very high" due to the variant's mutations although there are still many unknowns. The WHO urged countries to step up monitoring and surveillance. The global health agency said it's still not clear whether the variant is more transmissible or causes more serious illness, or if it affects vaccines. Such studies will take time. The first confirmed case in the U.S. was identified in California on Wednesday in a vaccinated individual, but the person's   ... Read More

As concerns over omicron variant grow, experts say don’t wait to get a booster

(NEW YORK) -- Amid a renewed surge of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations across the country, and concerns surrounding the newly discovered omicron variant, health experts are again pleading with Americans to get vaccinated, and if fully vaccinated and eligible, to get a booster. "Do not wait. Go get your booster if it's time for you to do so," President Joe Biden said earlier this week during an address at the White House. "If you are not vaccinated, now is the time to go get vaccinated and to bring your children to go get vaccinated." Although it is still unclear whether the omicron variant is more transmissible, if it causes more serious illness or impacts vaccine effectiveness, the World Health Organization   ... Read More

World AIDS Day: A time for remembrance, a time for hope

(NEW YORK) -- World AIDS Day, celebrated every Dec. 1, is a day to raise awareness of and mourn the more than 32 million people who've lost their lives to the virus. But HIV researchers also say it's a day to celebrate hope: Since the discovery of the virus in 1983, significant scientific headway has been made in diagnosis and treatments. "We've made a lot of progress in this area over the past 10 to 15 years," said Dr. Paul Sax, director of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital, "with the proportion of undiagnosed people with HIV dropping from around 30% to 15% today. This has been accomplished by making HIV testing a routine part of preventive care for   ... Read More

Breaking the stigma of painful periods: ‘They should not be debilitating’

Moyo Studio/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Period pain is a fact of life for many women, yet many don't know that what they are experiencing might not be normal. "When it comes to period pain, a lot of people just don't know what they don't know," Dr. Nita Landry, a Los Angeles-based OBGYN, said. "Which makes sense, because the only period that you've ever had is your period." In some cases, people may expect their period to be painful based on what they've seen on social media or heard repeated in pop culture -- that experiencing pain is just part of having a period. In other cases, it may be because their mom or grandmother or aunt told them that painful periods   ... Read More

Vaccine makers optimistic about producing omicron-specific shots if needed

Bill Oxford/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Vaccine makers say they are in the midst of testing their shots' effectiveness against the newly discovered omicron coronavirus variant, and they remain optimistic that a new variant-specific vaccine could be produced and rolled out quickly if needed. When asked about the new omicron variant that was first detected in southern Africa, Paul Burton, Moderna's chief medical officer, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" on Monday that vaccine manufacturers around the world, including Moderna, "are testing samples from people who have received our vaccines against the strains." Burton said that while the company thinks "vaccine effectiveness may come down, based on the mutation seen in this in this virus," he added that with booster shots of   ... Read More

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