Health Highlights: July 17, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

No Sail Order for Cruise Ships Extended to Sept. 30

A No Sail Order for cruise ships has been extended through Sept. 30 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the order, cruise ships that can carry at least 250 passengers are not allowed to operate with passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

From March 1 through July 10, there were 2,973 COVID-19 or COVID-like illness cases on cruise ships, in addition to 34 deaths, in 99 outbreaks on 123 cruise ships, according to the CDC.

As of July 3, nine of 49 ships under the No Sail Order have ongoing or resolving coronavirus outbreaks. As of July 10, there are 67 ships with 14,702 crew onboard, according to U.S. Coast Guard data.


CDC Will Again Post COVID-19 Hospitalization Data

In a quick policy reversal, the Trump administration on Thursday told the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to once again post data about COVID-19 hospitalizations on its website.

Earlier in the week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered the CDC to stop posting the data because it was doing so too slowly. Instead, HHS would manage the data, CNN reported.

Health experts slammed the HHS decision.

“Given how political the response has been to date, it’s a step backwards to have these data going directly to HHS in Washington,” former CDC interim director Dr. Richard Besser told CNN.

The CDC removed some of the data from its website Wednesday evening, but HHS told the CDC on Thursday morning to re-post the data.


Scientists Call for ‘Challenge Trials’ to Hasten Coronavirus Vaccine Development

The U.S. government should make immediate preparations for clinical trials in which volunteers are exposed to the new coronavirus to speed development of a vaccine, more than 100 top scientists say in a letter to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The scientists, including 15 Nobel laureates, said such “human challenge trials” were of “vast importance” in speeding up the testing of vaccines being developed worldwide, CNN reported.

“If challenge trials can safely and effectively speed the vaccine development process, there is a formidable presumption in favor of their use, which would require a very compelling ethical justification to overcome,” according to the letter sent to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

The scientists said preparations for human challenge trials should include “supporting safe and reliable production of the virus and any biocontainment facilities necessary to house participants.”

The letter was also signed by more than 2,000 challenge trial volunteers, CNN reported.


Russian Hackers Trying to Steal Coronavirus Vaccine Research: Officials

Spear-phishing and malware are being used by Russian hackers in an attempt to steal coronavirus vaccine research from American, Canadian and British organizations, say intelligence officials in the three countries.

A hacking group called Cozy Bear, which is associated with Russian intelligence, is believed to be the perpetrator, according to the U.S. National Security Agency, The New York Times reported.

It “has a long history of targeting governmental, diplomatic, think-tank, health care and energy organizations for intelligence gain so we encourage everyone to take this threat seriously and apply the mitigations issued in the advisory,” said Anne Neuberger, the NSA’s cybersecurity director.

“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” said Paul Chichester, director of operations for Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, The Times reported.