The Weekly Dose
August 26, 2020
Welcome to The Weekly Dose! Each week, we will review one scientific article, summarizing the research and providing key takeaways. Our goal in this endeavor is to make science understandable and accessible to all.
This week, we reviewed a research letter, published on August 24 in JAMA, which assessed preliminary data from a second outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in China, this time in Beijing. As in the first outbreak, in Wuhan, this event was found to be linked to a food market. The data analysis highlights the importance of public-health interventions and response to contain additional outbreaks of the virus.

After 56 consecutive days without a local transmission event in Beijing, a man who began having symptoms on June 4 was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 on June 11. The incident was promptly reported, an outbreak alert was triggered that same day, and community-containment measures were implemented within 24 hours. Public health investigators quickly discovered that the man, in addition to a second confirmed case, was linked to an agricultural wholesale market (a so-called “wet market”) within the prior 14 days. The market was shut down on June 12 and all workers, recent visitors, close contacts of cases, and residents of the surrounding community were sought out for testing. A total of 368 cases were diagnosed, among them 33 asymptomatic cases. All cases were isolated and treated in Beijing Ditan Hospital. About three-fourths of the cases had epidemiological links to the market; among them, roughly half were workers, with the remainder nearly equally divided between visitors and close contacts. Seafood vendors were the predominant market-worker class, followed by dried-fruit-and-vegetable vendors, and meat vendors. No cases were detected after July 5.
Key Takeaways: 

  • Even in the absence of SARS-CoV-2 cases, community-level public-health officials must actively monitor the health-services environment for signs of reemergence. 
  • Sensitive surveillance, immediate investigation, and rapid public-health response are critical to containing another outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and avoiding another major crisis.
  • Although the Beijing outbreak has been linked to a wet market, this does not necessarily mean that the virus originated among the live animals sold there. Additional research is necessary to determine the root cause of the outbreak.
Who is VSC?

Vital Statistics Consulting (VSC) is a healthcare consultancy that specializes in the evaluation of policies and programs and provides independent, rigorous, innovative analysis to support data-driven recommendations that improve healthcare quality and organizational efficiency.
What's New at VSC?
BIG NEWS!!! We are beyond excited to announce the launching of our podcast, Unbiased Science, later this summer! Our CEO, Dr. Jessica Steier, will be co-hosting the podcast with Dr. Andrea Love, a former college classmate who is now an immunologist and was a prominent contributor to our recent COVID-19 virtual summit. On each episode, our co-hosts will discuss one or more topics drawn from recently published studies that apply to listeners’ everyday lives. They will objectively and critically appraise the research and translate the findings for consumption by non-scientists. Included among our goals for this “passion project” is the promotion of scientific literacy, which is ever more important in the age of filtered information and rapidly disseminated news. The podcast will be broadcast on all major platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher. For updates on the podcast, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @unbiasedscipod. 
Employee Spotlight

Each week, The Weekly Dose will introduce readers to one of our team members.

This week, Dr. Andrea Love, VSC Immunology and Microbiology Consultant, is in the “spotlight.” We have asked her three questions, the answers to which reveal some of her professional and personal inspiration for working in the field of health science.  

Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?

I've always been a self-proclaimed science nerd, even as a child. My late brother and I would collect animal and plant specimens in the woods behind our house, identify, and catalog them. I was fascinated with critters, especially those that were considered "gross" to other people. I was fortunate to be part of a creative-classroom program at my elementary school with a heavy focus on self-guided research projects. Through that framework, I was able to explore my fascination for science, and performed research projects on topics such as leeches, lice, and the life cycle of cat parasites. Not only did I devour scientific information, but I was very much obsessed with the shock value sharing those tidbits would have on others.
The transition to a more formal interest in microbiology and immunology started around the age of 9. While my mom was completing her graduate work in teaching at Eastern Connecticut State University, I got my hands on a copy of "Physician's Guide to Arthropods of Medical Importance," a medical textbook found at the ECSU library that details the vectors and pathology of arthropod-borne diseases. I would walk around, lugging that near-500 page textbook, reading excerpts to anyone I could convince to sit and listen. My interest in science and microbiology blossomed in high school, with the encouragement of my 10th grade Honors Biology teacher, Mark Ambruso. I took a microbiology course with him again in 11th grade, and completed an independent study on the epidemiology of bacterial meningitis and the implications of a national vaccination mandate with him in 12th grade. By then, I had already written my college essays, detailing my comprehensive career progression from my Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology to a career in biomedical research. I have to say, I did not deviate too much from the plan I had outlined in 11th grade, but was also fortunate to have many other mentors over the years.  
What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up? 

It's funny, as fascinated as I was with science, the environment, entomology, and microbiology, I never could select a definitive career when I was asked as a young child. Sometimes I would tell people I wanted to study forensics, sometimes entomology, but it was always a biological science field. I suppose if you had met me you would have probably been able to guess where my interests fell, as I read you a passage describing how tsetse flies transmit the parasite that causes sleeping sickness, while you grimaced and tried to back away from this small but assertive youngster. 

What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now?  

Something that is critical but lacking in the science field is effective communication skills - both internally amongst our peers and especially when conveying complex information to the general public. We are seeing the real-time effects of this deficit during a global pandemic, where some of the world's best experts flounder with the best way to communicate information, or stumble upon delivery of it to the general public. I've been fortunate to have been empowered with the resources needed to hone those skills, which have been critical to my success. Today, as we see the consequences of the dearth of good communication in science, I would tell myself 3 years ago to not underestimate the power of that asset, and to utilize it to my full ability. As I look to the future, I would tell myself to make sure to impart that skill set to others. Outreach and training for young scientists is top-of-mind for me, and something I plan to prioritize in order to set the new generation of scientific minds up for success.
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