It’s hard to truly enjoy the unknown. The unwritten future — expansive and full of possibility — can be exciting, don’t get me wrong, but it’s scary, too. As regular people, we get to enjoy our fear and excitement in our own ways. When you’re the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization though, getting ahead of the science can have deadly consequences.
In today’s newsletter, health writer Katie MacBride interrogates why the CDC and WHO appeared to choose overconfidence instead of acknowledging their uncertainty about Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic. You can also read stories about a mysterious flying object, heart health, and pet food safety, too.
Covid-19 is a new virus, and because of that, it’s also rather difficult to predict. The experts don’t know all there is to know about it, but organizations like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control have seemed unwilling to admit that fact. This reluctance has consequences.
“On Wednesday, Nature published a story exploring why it took the WHO two years to admit what some experts were asserting as early as February 2020: The novel virus is primarily transmitted via the inhalation and exhalation of aerosolized particles,” writes Inverse health reporter Katie MacBride.
“There are a few reasons the CDC and WHO made this choice, and none of them good.”
MacBride suggests that the organizations wanted to keep public panic to a minimum and maintain their own composure, but in reality, their miscommunication on the virus likely led to preventable deaths.
“We’re adults, we can handle uncertainty,” writes MacBride. “But if you tell us you’re 100 percent convinced of something one day and 100 percent convinced of the opposite the next, it’ll be even harder for us to trust you the next time you need us to.”
In 2014, Barack Obama was president, Instagram filters thrived, and a space rock crashed down to Earth. Scientists know that a big meteor-like object burned up in the sky over Papua New Guinea that year, but Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb and his student Amir Siraj think there could be more to the story.
“They saw, in short, something from outside our Solar System,” writes Inverse editor John Wenz, but “nobody else saw what they did, and their paper on the object was rejected by the Astrophysical Journal Letters.”
Scientific opinion, however, is changing, and the U.S. Space Force might now be conceding that “Loeb and Siraj’s meteor, and not ‘Oumuamua, is the first detected interstellar visitor to Earth,” writes Wenz.
But in a press release, NASA says that it needs more evidence before it comes down either way. That won’t keep Loeb from other ambitious hypotheses, though, and the scientist has said that it’s even possible the object was made by an advanced alien civilization. Ultimately, it’s “all a lot of ifs,” writes Wenz.
To protect your heart, make a start by drinking more water.
“Maintaining a decent level of bodily fluids may [...] slow or prevent deterioration of the heart, according to a study published last month in the European Heart Journal,” Nick Keppler writes.
“Researchers used data from more than 5,000 people collected over 25 years,” he continues. “Those who had a higher level of a biomarker showing chronically low levels of bodily fluids in middle age were much more likely to — over the next 25 years — suffer heart failure as well as a dangerous thickening of the wall of the heart’s primary pump.”
Heart disease is scary and can be fatal. The study followed participants aged 44 and older, but everyone can benefit from drinking the recommended number of cups of water per day, which is 6 to 8 for women and 8 to 12 for men.
“There’s no argument that keeping up a water consumption habit of about that range has multifaceted health benefits,” writes Keppler, so don’t expect all your health problems to go away with better hydration.
“Dog owners, beware,” writes Inverse nature reporter Tara Yarlagadda. “Improper pet food handling could have serious implications for canine and human health, but most canine owners aren’t aware they’re even doing anything wrong.” A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, unfortunately, indicates that many dog owners are blindly running C-grade restaurants for their pets at home.
“While three-quarters of owners did some things right — such as avoiding raw food and tightly covering leftover pet food — only 22 percent reported washing pet food dishes weekly,” writes Yarlagadda.
The Food and Drug Administration also advises owners to store dry pet food in a cool place and wash their hands before and after touching pet food.
Don’t roll your eyes: “Cross-contamination of dog bowls and human food surfaces, as well as irregular washing of hands and dishes, could lead to the transmission of dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli,” writes Yarlagadda. Don’t make your pets eat in a way you wouldn’t.
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- On this day in history: NASA’s impressive white-and-orange space shuttle, Columbia, became the first such shuttle in space on April 12, 1981. The shuttle lived for 24 long years after that, but the reign came to a harrowing end on February 1, 2003. That day, Columbia disintegrated during its descent to Earth, resulting in the deaths of seven astronauts and prompting an investigation when it was discovered that the ship’s problems had been known about for years.
- Song of the day: “Decks Dark,” by Radiohead.