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Less Prep, More Insights: GIDEON R for Epidemiology-Related Research

We are excited to introduce the GIDEON R Package, released this month as a beta test for our researchers worldwide. GIDEON R is an efficient plug-and-play statistical tool for all researchers to clean, analyze, and visualize their epidemiological data from the GIDEON database. There is no need to program your own REST API queries. 

In the past 3 years, 200+ research papers used GIDEON data

EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK FOR EXISTING GIDEON CUSTOMERS

  • All existing GIDEON customers get early access to experience and test the GIDEON R Beta package. Click here to download the package.
  • Let us know what you think! Email us at kristina@gideononline.com and tell us what you liked and what could be improved.
  • Your comments help us refine and launch the best version of GIDEON R for your research needs.
GIDEON R package in use
Image: GIDEON R package in use

 

Over 200 scientific studies that leveraged GIDEON’s (Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network) database were published in just the past three years. This number is rapidly growing as many researchers turn to the extensive infectious disease database for epidemiological insights and cross-discipline studies. 

The GIDEON database is a valuable web-based reference of infectious diseases and their global occurrences since the 1900s. As of 2020, researchers also get to customize and build their statistical tools to analyze data using the GIDEON API or Application Programming Interface (API). 

While GIDEON’s massive global database of infectious diseases and the GIDEON API are potent tools, GIDEON R allows you to boost your analytics to the next level. 

Why use GIDEON R?

R, the free, open-source programming language, has transformed how researchers prep, clean, and wrangle large databases to get good information. With minimal coding required, researchers can clean and set up their data faster and conduct reproducible steps during data analysis. 

R is quickly gaining in popularity with researchers. R programming is a part of the standard data analytics curriculum in universities like Harvard and the Imperial College in London. It is fast becoming a mainstay in Public Health and epidemiological research studies and reports. In the UK, the O Health foundation, an independent charity, developed an NHS-R community to help leverage the power of R for the NHS (National Health System). Teams of experts trained NHS analysts to use and embed R into the NHS to help improve the delivery of care.  

Using the GIDEON R package brings you more efficiency to:

  • Investigate 25,000+ ongoing and historical infectious disease outbreaks,
  • Produce granular outbreak maps for chosen diseases in a given year range
  • Study the emergence of zoonotic diseases in a particular country,   
  • Evaluate epidemiological situations around the globe, 
  • Retrieve a wealth of information on 360+ infectious diseases, 2,000+ pathogens, and 30,000+ trade names of drugs and vaccines.

The GIDEON R package brings all the convenience and efficiency of the free, open-source programming language R to the world of epidemiological research. 

Benefits of using GIDEON R include…

  • Simplicity: 

There is no need to learn how to work with a REST API client to parse the GIDEON database. With GIDEON R, you can hit the ground running and start crunching your data. 

Working with a GIDEON REST API offers you greater and complete control over how your program manipulates data. However, it requires users to possess programming skills and may also mean an investment in rigorous manual and automatic testing to ensure it functions well under pressure. Your team will need to spend considerable time testing, sequencing API calls correctly, validating parameters, and fixing any other issues before beginning the analysis. GIDEON R gives researchers familiar with R the ability to skip this part of the process and get straight to the analytics.  

  • Reproducibility: 

GIDEON R allows you to create scripts for your entire data analysis process and run a simulation. This way, even if you make a mild edit to the data, the whole process can be run again with the reassurance of reproducibility. As a researcher, you can then focus on developing and analyzing different runs without worrying about the analytical method changing. 

  • Flexibility

Epidemiological research is complex and challenging. No two studies will ever be precisely the same. R offers a considerable toolkit of statistical modeling tools that epidemiologists require, including logistic and Poisson regression and Cox proportional hazard models. 

  • Better Visualization

With R, data comes to life. Using R for data visualization is like the famous scene in the classic movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when Dorothy steps out of her dull black and white house and into the dazzling technicolor land of Oz. 

R can create any type of graph or charts – fast ones for analysis and even publication-ready charts with minimum code. R offers in-built functions and libraries to generate basic maps like bar charts, histograms, and scatter plots. It can also create advanced visualization tools like heat and mosaic maps, 3D graphs, or correlograms in vivid technicolor for your exploratory data analysis, presentations, and publications.

  • Compatibility

R runs on everything. R’s code is platform-independent – which means it does not matter if you use Windows, Mac, or any other system. So, with GIDEON R, you can be sure that your program is compatible with any type of platform you or your team use. This is a significant benefit when working with teams located in different regions and across the globe. 

GIDEON R optimizes how researchers use the GIDEON API to mine the GIDEON infectious disease database for epidemiological research. 

 

Want to be one of the first to try the new GIDEON R package?

  • If you are an existing GIDEON customer, click here to sign up for our beta test. Please give us your feedback at kristina@gideononline.com.
  • If you are not an existing GIDEON customer but would like to be, sign up for a free demo to get started.

 

GIDEON API

The GIDEON API allows medical professionals and researchers pressed for time and resources access to global data on hundreds of diseases, drugs, and bacteria – since 1348 AD. 

With the GIDEON API, you get a direct feed of infectious disease data from around the world at your fingertips. The GIDEON API is based on RESTful principles, and data is refreshed and updated every day, sometimes even multiple times a day. 

The best part? All institutional subscribers to GIDEON get access to the GIDEON API free of charge. 

 

Published articles that used GIDEON

Epidemic infectious disease outbreak with person analyzing virus strain and worldwide situation. SARS-CoV-2 pathogen causing coronavirus covid-19 pandemic disrupting social and economic life

According to Professor Rodolphe Desbordes, Professor of Economics at SKEMA Business School, France, and widely published in International Economics and Economic Development: 

GIDEON was the perfect database for the epidemiological project I had in mind <…> the information provided on each disease was crucial to a better understanding of disease-specific characteristics.

 

GIDEON has a rich history of partnering with researchers and scientists worldwide by offering a wide variety of resources on infectious diseases. You can find data going back to 1348 AD, track outbreaks on an interactive map, identify over 2000+ pathogens, diagnose and compare any number of infectious diseases, drugs, and microbes. 

The GIDEON database contains 23,600 country-specific notes with 3+ million words of text that outline the status of specific infections within each country. Also featured are over 250,000 linked references, 3,000 images, 34,000 graphs, and numerous interactive maps. 

There are more than 200 studies published in just the past three years that use GIDEON’s database to generate meaningful insights. Here are a few of the recent articles published that used GIDEON for their research: 

  • June 2021, Dengue: Alisa Aliaga-Samanez et al. from Spain published the first high-resolution analysis of biogeographic changes in dengue transmission risk. The study informs about the Dengue virus (DENV) making a home in previously low-risk areas and urges the global public health community to implement preventive measures [1]. 

 

  • June 2021, Foodborne Parasitic Diseases: F. Chavez-Ruvalcaba et al. published their review of foodborne parasitic diseases in the neotropics. Since more than one-fifth of the world’s population is infected by one or more intestinal parasites, the authors review the most common ones affecting countries in Central and South America [2]. 

 

  • June 2021, Lyme Borreliosis in Poland: Brzozowska et al. published their study about the tick-borne Lyme Borreliosis in Poland. They found the incidence to be equally significant in urban and rural communities and stressed the importance of widespread awareness and education. The study used GIDEON-generated data to compare Lyme Borreliosis prevalence across the globe [3].  

 

  • May 2021, Control of Intestinal Nematodes in African Green Monkeys (AGMs): A veterinary study by Katalina Cruz et al. tackled the efficacy of antiparasitic treatment and husbandry methods to control nematode infections in AGMs. The authors referred to insights from the GIDEON database to highlight that because AGMs regularly come in contact with humans on the island, they may play a role in the zoonotic parasitic infections commonly found on St. Kitts [4]. 

 

  • May 2021, Emerging Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens in Iran: As part of their study, Rahder et al. analyzed the reported prevalence of actinomycetes infections worldwide using published global prevalence data sourced from the GIDEON database. They identify infections in Iran affecting immunocompromised and other vulnerable patients and recommend continuous monitoring to better prevent infection and improve therapeutic methods to treat the infections [5]. 

 

  • March 2021, Brucellosis: Battikh et al. from Tunisia used the GIDEON database to analyze the rise in Brucellosis cases in their hospital. They found that osteoarticular involvement was the most common complication of brucellosis in their patient pool. The researchers recommended better animal control practices through vaccinations, occupational and personal hygiene, farm sanitation, and more to lower the number of cases [6]. 

 

  • March 2021, Global Empirical Assessment of Spatial Dynamics of Major Disease Outbreaks: Professor Rodolphe Desbordes presented the spatio-temporal dependence and mortality consequences of the top 15 disease outbreaks in developed or developing countries over ten years. In the article, he states that his team mainly relied on the “under-exploited GIDEON database that provides a worldwide coverage of all infectious diseases [7].”

    In an interview, Professor Desbordes talked about why having access to data added to his study. He mentioned, “As an applied economist, I value excellent data on a novel and interesting issue more than anything else. The GIDEON database allowed me to publish in an excellent journal and, most importantly, carefully model the spatial diffusion of infectious diseases in a globalized world.”

 

  • March 2021, Ecological Conditions That Increase Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases Outbreaks: Morand and Lajaunie published their findings on how global forest cover changes and oil palm expansions are associated with increased outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic disease outbreaks from 1990 – 2016. The authors state, “Here, we examine the global trends between changes in forest cover in recent decades and epidemics of human infectious diseases, using the GIDEON global database, which is the best available dataset on infectious diseases that has already been used in several studies [8].”

 

Want to be an early user and test GIDEON R?

  • All existing GIDEON customers get free access to experience and test the GIDEON R Beta package. Click here to start.
  • Let us know what you think! Email us at kristina@gideononline.com with what you liked and what could be improved.
  • Not an existing GIDEON customer? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Sign up here for a free demo to get started.

Conclusion

GIDEON is one of the most well-known and comprehensive global databases for infectious diseases. Data is refreshed daily, and the GIDEON API allows medical professionals and researchers access to a continuous stream of data. 

The GIDEON R package allows researchers to retrieve, clean, analyze, and visualize infectious disease data in real-time from the GIDEON database without the need to get familiar with API clients and learn to program your own API queries. This improves the efficiency and reproducibility of research methods and results and lowers the time and costs required to learn how to work with REST APIs.

 

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References

[1]  A. A.-S. e. al., “Worldwide dynamic biogeography of zoonotic and anthroponotic dengue,” PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis., vol. 15, no. 6, p. e0009496, 2021. 
[2]  F. Chávez-Ruvalcaba, M. I. Chávez-Ruvalcaba, M. K. Santibañez, J. L. Muñoz-Carrillo, C. A. León and R. R. Martínez, “Foodborne Parasitic Diseases in the Neotropics – a review,” Helminthologia, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 119-133, 2021. 
[3]  M. Brzozowska, A. Wierzba, A. Śliwczyński, M. Myśliwiec, K. Kozłowski and W. Wierzba, “The problem of Lyme borreliosis infections in urban and rural residents in Poland, based on National Health Fund data,” Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 277–282, 2021. 
[4]  K. Cruz, T. M. Corey, M. Vandenplas, M. Trelis, A. Osuna and P. J. Kelly, “Case report: Control of intestinal nematodes in captiveChlorocebus sabaeus,” Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, vol. 88, no. 1, pp. 2219-0635, 2021. 
[5]  H. A. Rahdar, S. Mahmoudi, A. Bahador, F. Ghiasvand, H. Sadeghpour and M. M. Feizabadi, “Molecular identification and antibiotic resistance pattern of actinomycetes isolates among immunocompromised patients in Iran, emerging of new infections,” Scientific Reports, vol. 11, 2021. 
[6]  H. Battikh, A. Berriche, R. Zayoud, L. Ammari, R. Abdelmalek, B. Kilani, H. Tiouiri Ben Aissa and M. Zribi, “Clinical and laboratory features of brucellosis in a university hospital in Tunisia,” Infectious Diseases Now, 2021. 
[7]  R. Desbordes, “Spatial dynamics of major infectious diseases outbreaks: A global empirical assessment,” Journal of Mathematical Economics, vol. 93, 2021. 
[8]  S. Morand and C. Lajaunie, “Outbreaks of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases Are Associated With Changes in Forest Cover and Oil Palm Expansion at Global Scale,” Front. Vet. Sci., vol. 8, p. 230, 2021. 
[9]  R. e. al., “Data proliferation, reconciliation, and synthesis in viral ecology,” bioRxiv, 2021. 

Tracking Dengue: An Interview With Alisa Aliaga-Samanez

The rapid spread of Dengue could lead to a global pandemic, and so the geographical extent of this spread needs to be assessed and predicted. There are also reasons to suggest that transmission of Dengue from non-human primates in tropical forest cycles is being underestimated.

Alisa Aliaga-Samanez sitting by the computer
Alisa Aliaga-Samanez

 

Exactly one month ago, on June 7th, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases published a research article Worldwide dynamic biogeography of zoonotic and anthroponotic Dengue. The study is the first high-resolution analysis of how the risk of Dengue transmission has been changing geographically since the late 20th century, indicating the virus (DENV) has been making a home in previously low-risk areas, potentially due to global warming and deforestation. 

We spoke with the corresponding author Alisa Aliaga-Samanez, who worked alongside Marina Cobos-Mayo, Raimundo Real, Marina Segura, David Romero, Julia E. Fa, and Jesús Olivero, to learn more about the importance of this study and her experience working with GIDEON data. 

 

How did you find out about GIDEON?  

We got to know GIDEON thanks to an article published in PNAS by Kris A. Murray and colleagues entitled “Global biogeography of human infectious diseases.”

 

What were the reasons behind choosing the GIDEON database as one of your data sources?

We know that GIDEON is one of the most complete data sources worldwide on zoonoses, so we wanted to use it to build our database. For that reason, the project where I work at the University of Malaga funded our access to GIDEON.

 

What is the importance of biogeography studies like this one to public health management?  

Biogeographical studies, through modeling, applied to pathogens, allow us to understand the distribution of infectious diseases. The occurrence of disease cases is related to social factors but also to environmental variables that determine the degree to which certain environments favor the occurrence of disease, even where it has not been recorded. Thanks to the tool we use in our study, we are able to propose different management strategies depending on which factors favor the risk of transmission in different regions of the world. We took into account three possible biogeographical scenarios related to Dengue transmission risk: (1) zones with favorable conditions for viruses and vectors, (2) favorable conditions for virus only, and (3) favorable conditions for vectors only. Besides, our biogeographical approach helped us to analyze the extent of the areas where non-human primates could be involved in sylvatic Dengue cycles.

 

Do you believe the risks of the Dengue pandemic are exacerbated by global warming?  

We think global warming may be one of the factors that could be favoring vectors to adapt to new environments. A study published by Messina and colleagues in 2019 concluded that the World’s population at risk of Dengue could experience an almost 60% increase by 2080. In addition, they suggested that outbreaks could reach areas in continents such as Australia, Argentina, Japan, eastern China, and southern Europe.

Melting ice
Photo by William Bossen on Unsplash

 

In your experience, how effective study such as yours at influencing change in government and health policies, and do you think work like this will be taken more seriously following the COVID-19 pandemic?  

We have seen that governmental bodies such as WHO or CDC rely on scientific studies to manage risk areas, but we feel that this work is being limited in Africa, for example. On the other hand, some diseases already have a vaccine available, such as yellow fever, but its application might not be well managed in some African countries, where large outbreaks occur. In the case of Dengue, a vaccine has already been developed, but it is only licensed for people aged 9-45 years in some countries. The WHO recommends that the vaccine should only be administered to people with confirmed previous Dengue virus infection. As we show in our paper, Dengue is currently spreading together with its vectors. The COVID-19 pandemic should serve to demonstrate that global pandemics are possible and, so, must be prevented.

 

What value did having access to global spatio-temporal data add to your study?  

GIDEON helped us to get quick access to the available information on the disease. This allowed us to build our databases in a short time and to validate our models with recent cases in order to assess the reliability of the tool we use and to predict new areas favorable for new Dengue cases.

 

What are your thoughts regarding data availability on sylvatic transmitted Dengue?  

Most of the available data on human cases do not differentiate whether they were caused by sylvatic or urban transmission. Some research studies in certain local areas may be able to determine this, but globally there is no such information. Our biogeographic outputs related to Africa and Asia are consistent with the scarce information available and provide the context in which on-the-ground prospections on sylvatic Dengue should be addressed. This is especially important in South America, where sylvatic Dengue has not been detected yet (although the presence of sylvatic Yellow Fever and other evidences are starting to suggest its existence).

Aedes aegypti Mosquito. Close up a Mosquito Mosquito on leaf,Mosquito Vector-borne diseases,Chikungunya.Dengue fever.Rift Valley fever.Yellow fever.Zika virus.
Aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector of Dengue

 

What areas do you think GIDEON could improve to make our data more useful to you in the future?  

We appreciate the great work GIDEON does in collecting data globally. We found the new GIDEON interface very useful. Perhaps it would make it easier in the future, if it is possible, to distinguish between imported and autochthonous cases within the database. It is true that in many cases the database does mention it but not for all countries.

 

About Alisa:

Alisa Aliaga-Samanez has a degree in Biology from the Federico Villarreal University (Peru) and a Master’s degree in Biodiversity and Environment from the University of Malaga (Spain). Currently, she is working at the Animal Biology Department of the University of Malaga, being part of the Biogeography, Diversity and Conservation Group,  developing her Ph.D. thesis. The thesis is focused on the study of primate biogeography, applied to conservation and human health. She is currently mapping vector-borne zoonotic diseases through global distribution modeling. 

Aliaga uses high-resolution global maps and the most up-to-date databases to analyze geographical changes in the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. In addition, in these analyses, she considers the biogeographical contribution of primates in increasing the risk of transmission. She seeks to determine the potential natural range of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases in the world, with the aim of suggesting specific management strategies according to the spatial distribution of risk factors.

Click here to read the open-access article: Worldwide dynamic biogeography of zoonotic and anthroponotic Dengue 

 

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Dr. Oli prepares medical students for real-life situations

Multi ethnic group of medical students in uniform looking on the x-ray sitting at the desk in the modern classroom
Dr. Oli has created the “GIDEON diagnostic game” where students take on different roles to diagnose a disease

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, universities all over the world had to accelerate their digital teaching programs. This has created a greater need for online tools that support the challenges of preparing students for life after graduation. This is especially true when teaching medical students – it is critically important future health professionals are taught practical and critical thinking techniques that are based on real-life situations.

Dr. Monika Oli has been speaking with Times Higher Education about the challenges of teaching microbiology online and how GIDEON can bring value to the virtual classroom. Dr. Oli explains that traditional teaching techniques may focus on identifying a few pathogens found in most laboratories, which can create “a completely artificial scenario which would never happen in the real world”.

How can a future medical doctor learn to differentiate between diseases with similar symptoms, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease? In a real-world scenario, you can’t “just open page 510 of the textbook and diagnose the patient…You have to think outside the box” and this is where Dr. Oli brings GIDEON in.

Dr. Oli has created the “GIDEON diagnostic game” where students take on different roles – epidemiologist, doctor, microbiologists, etc. – and use GIDEON’s Bayesian analysis-driven diagnostic tools to help create the list of likely diseases. This is followed by exploring the database to determine the best treatment plan and even speculating whether the patient would have survived or not in a given scenario!

The game proved to be very popular with students. But Dr. Oli didn’t stop there, she further encouraged future medics to analyze issues relevant today by building an exam around secondary infections of COVID-19.

“Many COVID-19 patients get secondary infections that are bacterial, so I built my whole exam around it. Students were given data and had to use GIDEON to analyze the secondary infection, how it should be treated, whether it will contribute to COVID-19 resistance, so the role play continued even during the exams.”

If you are a teacher looking for new ways to engage and challenge your students, GIDEON might be the right tool for the job. Try it free!

Read the original Times Higher Education article here

 

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‘It’s not just COVID-19’ – Dr. Berger on Outbreak News Today podcast

HazMat team in protective suits decontaminating public transport, bus interior during virus outbreak

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has rightly taken center stage in media and scientific journals but overshadowed other concerning outbreaks that could do with some attention. GIDEON co-founder Dr. Stephen A. Berger has been speaking with Outbreak News Today to discuss the diseases that are flying under the radar in the media but are still being tracked and reported by GIDEON. 

Listen to the podcast or watch a video recording here.

In 2020, significant outbreaks of Cholera in Yemen, Dengue in Brazil, and neighboring South American countries have been recorded in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, Chikungunya, Plague, and Monkeypox have broken out in regions of Africa and Asia in recent years as well. Ebola and Monkeypox have proved a persistent threat in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with thousands of cases in the last couple of years alone. Meanwhile, Lassa fever cases in Nigeria in 2020 were the highest recorded by any country in history (nearly 7,000). The disease spreads through rodents, leaving many of its surviving victims deaf.

These and other diseases have historically been considered tropical or exotic and don’t trouble the western population too much, however, the spread of COVID-19 has proven that diseases can and will spread given the opportunity. For instance, Monkeypox, Plague, and West Nile Fever have all had outbreaks within the US in the past. 

Tune in to Outbreak News Today and hear from Dr. Berger and Robert Herriman on this timely subject.

Haven’t got a GIDEON account yet? Sign up for a free trial here.

 

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Dr. Berger speaks with CNN about dining out during pandemic

Christmas eve holiday party decorated table set with disposable medical mask and alcohol hand sanitizer bottle. Coronavirus (Covid 19) spreading prevention concept. Christmas micro led lights wire.

 

As the festive season approaches, the temptation of treating yourself to a dinner in your favorite eatery could become too much. But before you give in to your cravings, be sure to heed the advice of our co-founding doctor, Dr. Stephen Berger, who has been speaking with CNN about the risks of dining out during the ongoing pandemic, especially in cities.

2020 has been a tough year for everyone across the world. The local and state-wide lockdowns have forced us to stay at home and business to close their doors for what feels like forever. While takeaways have mostly stayed open, it is perfectly normal to miss the buzz of your favorite restaurant. 

Even though it may have opened the doors again and taken measures to protect you and their staff, we must not forget the virus is still at large. The risk of contracting COVID-19 remains, especially within the cities and built-up areas, so consider your acceptable levels of risk. The virus is particularly dangerous if you or anyone in your family or social group are immunocompromised. 

 

Why is it risky?

Restaurants are easy places for the virus to spread as there are multiple contact points (cutlery, napkins, plates, glasses, etc), often an enclosed space with recirculated air, where you are also generally close to fellow diners and staff. Most importantly, you will need to take off your mask.

“Eating means having to take off your mask, and that’s the golden rule of avoiding coronavirus,” Dr. Berger told CNN. When combined with the other risk factors, the decision to dine out is not one you should make idly. “Think twice about going to a restaurant,” said Dr. Berger. And if you live in a big city, make it “three times.”

 

Consider alternatives to dining out

Thankfully, many businesses are providing takeaway services, where perhaps they did not before, so if you can still get the food you want without compromising your safety and that of others – consider that option.

And if you are getting your food delivered, remember to be a little more generous with the tip if you can, as the staff and drivers are working hard to keep you fed and safe.

Should you decide to go and dine out nevertheless, then please head over to the CNN article and follow their collection of expert advice to keep yourself and others healthy and safe.

Read the ‘New Yorker’s guide to dining out safely during the pandemic’ here

 

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How to safely visit loved ones during COVID-19

Family wearing face masksSince COVID-19 arrived, there has been a constant stream of concern and curiosity about how to safely visit loved ones during the pandemic. Can I give them a hug? Should we enjoy a meal together? Are my elderly grandparents off-limits? 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, shares with Livestrong what to consider before planning an in-person visit with family and friends. 

First, it is important to acknowledge that keeping yourself safe is just as important as keeping those whom you are visiting safe.   

Secondly, realize that not everyone has obvious symptoms who may be carrying the virus. “It is possible to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19,” Dr. Berger told Livestrong.

Ideally, both you and those you are going to be with would isolate for 14 days prior to your get-together—especially if you each have already ventured outside your home. 

Make sure to have a frank talk with friends and family beforehand about any symptoms experienced or previous exposure to the virus, and do not feel guilty about rescheduling if there are any concerns. 

Dr. Berger also reminds us that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states those who are over 65 years and who have underlying health issues should avoid group gatherings altogether. He says the risks far outweigh the benefits of a visit. 

Some tips to help best protect you and your loved ones as you make plans to meet include:

  • Keep gatherings to a limited number of people.
  • Select somewhere outdoors, preferably a private setting like a backyard, where you can maintain a safe social distance of six feet apart. 
  • If meeting somewhere in public, try to keep touching of any objects or surfaces to a minimum, then avoid touching your face, and disinfect hands immediately afterward.  
  • Also, while in public, avoid using restrooms as much as possible. 

Dr. Berger also says to be sure and wear a mask, but remember that even masks have limitations because “extremely small particles, including the virus itself, might pass through the spaces that allow air to pass.” Evidence suggests that is essential to adhere to a combination of multiple, safe practices (mask-wearing, handwashing, social-distancing, etc.) to protect yourselves and loved ones from spreading the virus to each another. 

You can read the entire article in Livestrong here.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’ve got exciting updates about our new interface!

Catching COVID-19 In A Crowd (Even If You’re Outside)

Crowd protesting

Recent waves of crowd protests throughout the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death have set off alarming new concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 

Even though it is thought to be safer outside where the virus may be less contagious, those who are not practicing social distancing and congregating in close crowds could be putting themselves and others at risk. 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently explained in both Healthline and YahooFinance how easily COVID-19 could be transmitted in a crowd. 

“The center of a large crowd is no different than a sealed off, an unventilated room filled with potentially infected individuals — many holding large signs which will block the flow of clean air,” Dr. Berger said.   

Many protests document people not wearing masks or keeping a safe distance of six feet apart from one another. 

“If even one carrier of COVID-19 was present at these gatherings, we can expect to see a wave of cases appearing during the next 2 to 14 days,” explained Dr. Berger.

He adds that along with a potential spike in new cases attributed to protests, more spread could come during these summer months as businesses begin to open up and people grow tired of cautionary restrictions and guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing.  

He further recommends that those who participate in protests or other large summer gatherings should be vigilant about using a face mask and maintaining distance. Dr. Berger says that it is wise to “assume that the stranger next to you is spreading the virus.”

You can read the entire articles in Healthline here and YahooFinance here

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Dr. Berger On Face Shields: Are They Functional or Just Fashionable?

Face shield 3D medical visualization, Surgical equipment

Plastic face shields, or now “COVID visors,” are one piece of PPE still questionable as to how effective and necessary they are at protecting against the virus. 

Unlike fabric face masks which are recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in many situations and settings, there are no official guidelines or suggestions for wearing face shields. 

This begs the question: are face shields merely just in fashion at the moment – with many style influencers on social media sporting them — or are they actually functional? 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, answers questions about face shields for a recent article in InStyle magazine. 

“Theoretically, the virus of COVID-19 could arrive at the eyes and travel down through our tear ducts into the nose and throat,” says Dr. Berger. In this scenario, a face shield could protect the eyes from infected respiratory droplets potentially entering the body. 

However, there is still little to suggest that someone going about their everyday business would need to wear one. A protective fabric mask that fits snuggly over the mouth and nose is still the better option. “Plastic visors and shields do not filter air, and at most, prevent larger droplets of infectious material from arriving at our face directly,” Dr Berger explains. 

Additionally, face masks could lend a sense of false security with the wearer getting too close to someone else or feeling confident in attending large gatherings which are still considered unsafe. 

To help prevent the spread of the disease, the best protection remains wearing a cloth face mask, social distancing, and practising good hand hygiene.

Medical experts concede that the few instances when it may be helpful to wear a face shield are when working out and it is difficult to breathe in a tighter mask, or when it is necessary for someone who is hearing impaired to read lips and see facial expressions. 

The full article from InStyle is available here.  

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Dining Out Amid COVID-19: Dr. Berger speaks with Healthline

Family dining in a restaurant with face masks on

Missing dining out in your favorite restaurant? As businesses have begun to reopen, many are wondering if it is safe to eat out again.

GIDEON Founder and infectious disease and microbiology specialist, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently answered questions about safe dining amid COVID-19 for Healthline

One of the most important things to take into consideration, Dr. Berger says, is whether a restaurant is set up for safe social distancing and keeping the designated six-foot separation between tables. 

Also, he says, “before sitting down and asking for a menu, check to confirm that the restaurant staff is wearing masks and that these masks cover their noses and mouths.”

Dr. Berger reminds those venturing to dine out that any number of objects found in a restaurant could potentially be contaminated with the virus–such as tablecloths, menus, salt shakers, credit card machines, chairs, and doorknobs—but it is only harmful if it then gets into the body. Scrupulous attention to basic hygiene (handwashing and sanitizing) before and after eating must be followed. 

Other ways you can check if a restaurant is working hard to keep the spread of the virus to a minimum are if they offer disposable menus and silverware, hand sanitizer for guests, contactless payment, and strictly adhere to limited seating.  

Finally, Dr. Berger suggests it might be better to opt for a table outside if possible, or a spot that is “large, open, and ventilated.” 

You can read the entire article in Healthline here

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Do gloves protect you from COVID-19?

Can gloves protect you from COVID-19? Blue surgical gloves hanging on clothesline string with clothespinThere have been many recommendations set forth over the past few months by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gloves have also been suggested as a way of preventing the spread, there are no official recommendations on wearing them.

Because the virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets and not through the skin, the jury is still out on whether or not gloves are beneficial at all. 

Our co-founder and infectious disease expert, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently commented on the efficacy of gloves for an article in InStyle magazine. He says “there is no evidence that gloves can protect us from acquiring COVID-19.”

Dr. Berger adds that, if anything, they are more likely to prevent someone from passing the virus to others rather than protecting one’s self from getting it. 

It is also important to remember that wearing gloves can potentially promote a false sense of security in the event you touch something thinking it’s safe while wearing them and then inadvertently touch your face.

Along with Dr. Berger, most medical experts agree that gloves are not necessary unless you are an essential worker (perhaps somewhere like at a grocery store) or a medical professional. 

Frequent and thorough hand washing is still recommended as the best defense against the virus, but for those who still want to cover their hands, some tips for best use include: 

1. Opt for disposable latex versions and throw them in the trash after each use. 

2. Wait until the last possible moment to put gloves on before going out. 

3. Minimize touching your face while wearing gloves. 

You can read the entire article from InStyle here.

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