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COVID-19 in Italy: lessons learnt and points for immediate discussion

These notes are strictly personal but express ideas which are shared by a vast community of researchers, including epidemiologists, clinicians, immunologists and lab scientists. This is meant to be a working document.

Epidemiology from obituaries

Image from da A deluge of death in northern Italy, Reuters graphics, 25 March 2020.

The number of deaths from Covid reported yesterday (26 March 2020) by the Civil Protection was 662 [1]. The whole of Italy, however, wants to know another fact: the all-causes mortality per day compared to the previous year. This number, indeed, seems to show us the effects of the epidemic much better than the deaths for and with Covid. 

Gender integration in Horizon 2020

Article published on the ASSET website

Gender is considered a main issue in Horizon 2020, the largest ever EU Research and Innovation programme, with €80 billion worth of funding available over seven years. The European Commission has identified seven priority areas of societal challenges, with the goal targeting investment in research in these fields. They are:

Compulsory vaccination and rates of coverage immunisation in Europe

Article published on the ASSET website

High rates of vaccination coverage in childhood are main indicators for public health. However, reaching and maintaining such a target is not always an easy task for public health institutions, and the spread of vaccine refusal and hesitancy is making this even harder.

WHO launched an app against Zika

Article published on the ASSET website

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) developed an application that allowed people to share information on the spread of the contagion, which proved to be very useful to monitor the situation. Now that the Zika virus outbreak is raising concerns, would it be possible to use a similar approach?

Is Zika a lose-lose game for WHO?

Declaring an emergency is a dirty work, but someone has to do it. When facing a serious threat to global public health, even if complete evidence is lacking, someone has to take the responsibility to push the red button that activates a chain of coordinated actions (such as cooperation among states and research of vaccines). Choosing to do this, the risk of giving a false alarm is unavoidable. On the other side, one could decide to wait until something more is known, with the awareness that, in this way, it is possible to act when it is too late.

Lifepath: how we will use biomarker research

Quality of life and life expectancy are not the same for all individuals. Dramatic differentials in these traits, as well as in many other health features, represent one of the biggest challenges for our society. Social and economic factors play a major role in determining these differences, as it has been proved that people from higher socio-economic groups are more likely to live longer and in better health conditions.

The epigenetic link between inflammation and socioeconomic status

Health and wellbeing are complicated matters. The list of factors that may influence them is long, with social and economic circumstances being far from its bottom. It is well established that people from disadvantaged subgroups of the population are more prone to diseases and unhealthy ageing, especially now, under the ongoing economic crisis.

Health inequities in the European Region

Europe is on track to achieve the Health 2020 target to reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus and chronic respiratory diseases by 1.5 percent annually until 2020. However, there are other challenges for the European Region, like those concerning health inequalities among countries.

Intimate partner violence against migrant women

In the European Region, one in four women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and one in ten has experienced non-partner violence. Violence between partners is endemic and widespread, but for immigrant women it is even worse, especially because of the conditions in which they often live in the host country.

The European fight against food frauds

“Nutrition is the principle of life”, and to defend it the Conference on Food Fraud has been opened in Rome on 23rd October. Conceived as a platform to discuss how to strengthen the communication and collaboration among all actors involved in the fight against food frauds and fraud-related crime, the conference has gathered together top experts from food law enforcement authorities, police, customers, judicial authorities, industry stakeholders and researchers.

Just one move to ward off flu. An Italian discovery

As every year, the winter season is synonymous of influenza viruses causing health problems and significant economic losses for public and private companies. One small, but not negligible, percentage will incur in complications and, potentially, there will also be an increase in mortality for new-borns and elderly patients, caused by the same virus. The vaccine against the seasonal influenza virus strain protects with an effectiveness estimated between 75 and 80 percent – therefore quite good – but not complete. Besides, the vaccination must be

Pathogens and fear: the double epidemics

From bats to horses, from insects to chimpanzees, a lot of deadly viruses originated in an animal host. In his last book, Spillover, the American science writer David Quammen tells the stories of some of these viruses. We reached him at the Festival della Scienza in Genoa, where he was going to present the book, and asked him some questions.

What Ebola taught us about risk communication

Each outbreak has some lessons to teach to those involved in health crisis management, especially in terms of risk communication. In fact, any infectious disease can become much more dangerous when supported by wrong or missing information. On the one hand, misinformation can spread far and fast, especially online, often crossing geographic borders before local organisations have ramped up their response to an outbreak. On the other hand, the lack of proper information about, for instance, how people get infected, may slow down efforts to contain the diffusion of the disease.

Migration and public health in Europe

Talking about public health in Europe today also means talking about migration. Nowadays, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 73 million migrants are estimated to be living in the European Region, accounting for nearly 8 percent of the total population, and 11 million immigrants have arrived in Europe in 2013. The point is that the word immigration has several meanings: it means people who choose to come and live in Europe for study and work; it means the difficult stories of those who have to leave their families to come to work as a domestic worker; last but not

Health in Europe. Improvement through cooperation

Talking about the European Region does not mean speaking of a homogeneous situation, also from the point of view of health. To realize how complex and articulated the European scenario is, just think that in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Turkey twice as many children die before the age of five if the figures are compared with so-called industrialized countries. Not to mention the infectious diseases, the use of alcohol and tobacco, which reflect a Europe still deeply layered and with several countries still extremely dependent on their history.

An overview on the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic

In a review on the New England Journal of Medicine, Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine and chair of an international committee requested by the World Health Organization (WHO), analyzed the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, giving particular attention to the function of the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) and the performance of the WHO.

How many B antigens should a good influenza vaccine have?

The vaccine against seasonal influenza is called trivalent, because it contains viruses representing three influenza strains: one A/H1N1, one A/H3N2, and one B. the single B-lineage antigen included is the one that is predicted to circulate in the related season. However, this means that some mismatch between the B antigen in the vaccine and the B antigen actually circulating may occur, this being a problem since cross-protection by immunization against the other lineage is expected to be low.

New flu virus watched by the social network

From the East comes not only the threat of a Korean nuclear attack but also worrying news from China of a new avian flu epidemic, provoked by a virus which had never before affected mankind, called H7N9. But exactly ten years after the SARS emergency, which brought on thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths throughout the world (amongst which the Italian medic Carlo Urbani, the first to have discovered the corona virus which is responsible for this flu), new

Id card of the new avian flu virus

The genetic heritage of the new H7N9 influenza virus is 100% of bird origin; to this day April 16, 2013, this virus has caused 60 influenza cases and made 13 victims, at least according to official data provided by Chinese authorities. Spreading from the eastern regions around Shanghai, it has already reached Beijing. The in-depth genetic analysis of the first three cases,

Global Burden of Disease: satisfaction for Italian results

The burden of diseases (BoD), i.e. the impact of diseases in terms of mortality and disability, has gained unprecedented visibility as a health topic on such a prestigious scientific journal as Lancet. The entire December 2012 issue, a total of 7 articles and 8 editorials, was in fact dedicated to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010). At the beginning of March 2013, other data were subsequently published, in particular

"Pill" pollution

We can define it "pill pollution”. Yes, we're talking about just that, the “birth control pill” which, in the last fifty years has modified our sexual behavior and, as a result, the lives of hundreds of millions of people, making it possible to dissociate between sexuality and reproduction. Right now at least 100 million women are using the birth control pill. The problem is that this drug contains ethinylestradiol (EE2), a substance that goes from the waste water directly into rivers and lakes,