A Discussion on the Rankings of Masks during Covid-19

 

(1) This article from the New York post ranks popular face masks from most effective to least. Kirsten Fleming and Catherine Kast reference research done by Duke University. They describe the setup of the experiment as an individual repeats a phrase several times in the direction of a laser, a cellphone camera records the respiratory droplets produced and an algorithm calculates how many respiratory droplets escaped the mask. The article ranked masks from best to worst with N95 and surgical masks as the best, bandanas and neck gaiters as the worst, with several variations of masks made with cotton and/or synthetic material in between. The authors express a few times that outstanding variables like low loud someone speaks or how well the mask fits may affect the amount of respiratory droplets that pass through.

(2) This article from Duke University investigates facemask efficacy in filtering respiratory droplets expelled during speech with a replicable setup. The authors address that this study was designed to be a quick and affordable way to estimate the efficacy of a mask, that should be expanded upon. They identify the need for further research as they only studied 1-4 speakers per mask, did not account for speaker volume or speech patterns, and were limited by the camera quality (can only detect droplets larger than 0.5um). The results show masks ranked from medical N95 and surgical masks, to different varieties of cotton masks, and on to bandanas, no mask , and fleece gaiters. They represent their data in a figure showing the time evolution of droplet count and with box and whisker plots comparing the mean and standard deviation of each mask’s efficacy over 10 trials. They also include a figure regarding the light scattering properties of droplets, which reflected aspects of their setup.

(3) I think the science was used well in this NY Post article. The authors presented the overall findings of the data and accurately ranked the masks from best to worst. The authors did not discuss the variability of each mask or present the actual data (mean and standard deviation of respiratory droplets that the mask transmitted). However, they did a good job of ranking the masks and acknowledging that extraneous variables (like different speakers, speech volumes, etc) likely influenced results and could explain a lot of the variability among similar cotton masks. Overall I think it was important that the authors stressed the need to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while acknowledging that most of the types of masks commonly worn proved to be reasonably effective (except gaiters and bandanas).

 

Hannah Dillenbeck

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Pneumothorax or Punctured Lungs, A Possible Complication of Covid-19

(1) This article by Victoria Foster sheds light on a symptom of Covid-19 that surprised several medical professionals. Foster discusses the occurrence of pneumothorax or punctured lungs appearing in individuals hospitalized for Covid-19. Pneumothorax is usually most common in tall men or elderly individuals with lung disease. Doctors have reported these symptoms in individuals with Covid-19 that do not fit into those two groups and even extends to individuals with Covid-19 that were not put on a ventilator. A few UK doctors shared this concern on social media and found that other health care professionals were witnessing similar cases. A reported 63% of individuals who experienced a pneumothorax while suffering from Covid-19 survived. Pre-existing conditions, gender and age of these individuals were considered, elderly patients experienced a lower probability of survival with this complication.

(2) The focus of this study , was to analyze pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum and how they may cause complications in patients with Covid-19. Data was gathered from several healthcare systems and details of demographic, radiology, clinical management, lab results, and survival rates were included with the records. This study could not establish a causality relationship between pneumothorax and Covid-19. However, because of the relative frequency of the co-occurrence of Covid-19 and pneumothorax it is unlikely that all/most of these cases were coincidental. The pneumothorax cases that were studied were separated into groups: patients with acute presentation that may be a direct complication of covid-19, ward inpatients who developed pneumothorax while admitted at a hospital, and patients with pneumothorax who were on invasive ventilator support. While the association between pathologies is not fully understood, cyst-formation in the lungs that has been noted to occur with SARS may be involved. The findings allowed them to reasonably conclude that these cases of pneumothorax were likely a consequence of Covid-19.

(3) I think the science was used well and interpreted accurately in this article. It seems that the purpose of Foster’s story was to shed light on a new possible complication that may occur with Covid-19 patients. The connection and pathology of pneumothoraxes in relationship to Covid-19 are not fully understood yet, but studies surrounding this complication must evolve as research and time continue to reveal more about Covid-19 and how it effects human physiology. I think it is important to increase awareness of new complications surrounding Covid-19 and to share these findings with other healthcare professionals and with the public. I think that Foster does a good job in summarizing the details surrounding this research in an accurate way that the public could understand, while not misinterpreting the scientific details.

 

Hannah Dillenbeck

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A Discussion on Mental Disorders in popular and scientific articles

(1)Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All discusses research that calls attention to the root of mental disorders and questions whether they are truly disorders or more of an adaptation for defense in response to our environment and adversity.

This Forbes article argues that science has never “proven” the heritability of mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It also highlights that areas of the world with increased conflict tend to have higher rates of mental disorders and while treatments have increased universally, no reduction in the frequency of these mental disorders has been seen. The author also argues that there are negative implications of labels and their effect on treatment; “mental disorders” must be managed with medicine, but “responses to adversity” could be overcome and relieved with social/educational reforms.

(2) The research in Mental health as biological health: Why tackling “diseases of the mind” is an imperative for biological anthropology in the 21st century discusses how, as medicine continues to decrease the stresses that infectious diseases have on our population, the need to address a rise in mental illnesses and deepen our understanding of their causes continues to rise. The best way to understand these complex mechanisms of mental illnesses is in an integration of biomedical, sociocultural, and evolutionary knowledge. Understanding the biomarkers, neurotransmitters, physiological symptoms, and genetics of mental disorders can only do so much if the cause of some of these disorders actually lies in a “response to adversity” caused by social circumstances. Furthermore, some illnesses may be rooted in the adaptations of humanity, or a “mix-match” in traits and the shift from ancestral to modern environments.

An incredibly wide array of mental illnesses are grouped into these categories for possible causes and analyzed intensively. The array of mental disorders includes but is not limited to OCD, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, depressions, anxiety, PTSD, dementia, Alzheimer’s, other neurological disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc.

(3) The scientific researchers offer an extensive analysis with a clear attempt to discuss the wide array of several known mental disorders. Meanwhile, the Forbes article focuses on a few disorders and exaggerates the idea of “doubt” in the biological side of mental disorders.

The author of the Forbes article does address the importance of biology but appears to have selectively chosen aspects of the research to ‘frame’ their argument in a certain light. The scientific research continues to respect, address and discuss the deeply biological side of many of these disorders but analyzes the complex relationships of these disorders and calls for a more multi-disciplinary approach to understand the causes of and effective treatments for mental illnesses (that incorporates a sociocultural and evolutionary understanding in addition to, not in spite of, the biological research).

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Greta Thunberg wins Time Person of the Year

Recently Greta Thunberg won the Time person of the year for her climate change advocacy. I was very inspired that she won this award because she has been making bold moves to highlight one of the biggest issues facing our world today. I admire her brave and extreme ways she attempts to get the world to focus on climate change more than it is currently. I am amazed by all the incredible ways she has raised awareness at such a young age. I think she was incredibly deserving of the honor and I hope that by her receiving this award, more people begin to realize just how important climate change is.

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Peter Singer’s “A Life You Can Save”

I recently read a book by a controversial philosopher Peter Singer called The Life You Can Save. The book is not solely focused on international issues but brings an interesting perspective on how people choose to spend their money. Peter Singer brings up an interesting thought experiment. In it, he asks if you were walking by a pond and saw a child drowning, would you save the child even if you were wearing an expensive suit. Most people clearly save the child in this situation. He then proposes the idea that we make a decision like this every day. There are a lot of people facing extreme poverty throughout the world and at the same time, there are many effective charities that can prevent the loss of life to basic problems such as malaria or inadequate nutrition. Singer suggests that since most people in developed countries have a surplus of income and resources, we should be contributing a much higher proportion of our income to the extremely poor. Singer brings up an interesting point; people are much more willing to help people in need that we see but are unable to think abut the extreme poverty in other countries. This simple argument caused me to change my whole perspective as I go into my future career and caused me to rethink my giving when it comes to global poverty.

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Rafiki Screening

On October 17th, I attended the screening of the film Rafiki at the Black Box Theatre. The film is about two women who fall in love in Kenya. In Kenya, homosexuality is criminalized and so the film was very controversial. Originally, the court blocked the film from being shown in Kenya. However, after the director sued the courts, they allowed the film to be shown for one week in Kenya. This is primarily because in order to be considered for an Oscar, films must be shown for at least one week in their home country. The fact that a film of this nature was created in Kenya seems to show a potential change in attitudes towards homosexuality. Remembering that not only is same sex marriage is not allowed in other countries, but homosexuality in general is civilized in other country is sobering. It reminds me how much progress the world still needs to make on some of these social issues. In general, I enjoy watching films that have an interesting plot but still have some sort of message or agenda and so I really enjoyed watching Rafiki.

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Diwali Night 2019

On October 28th, I attended Diwali Night at the University of Oklahoma because a friend has invited me to join. I had never heard of Diwali before so I’m glad I could learn about one of the most popular holidays in India. The event consisted of dancing, singing, and lots of good food. While watching the performances, I was amazed at how engaged and loud the crowd was. Many people shouted encouragement and were very enthusiastic even as the performances were taking place. My favorite part of the night was the food they had served. I had just become a vegetarian this semester and Indian food has many vegetarian options. I’m glad I experienced Diwali this semester.

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Arabic Film Club – Fall 2019

This semester, I have been involved in Arabic Film Club. Although I have never taken an Arabic class before, I have a few friends in the club who convinced me to join. This semester, they have started to send out interesting vocabulary before some of the screenings, so I have been able to learn a few words in Arabic while watching the films. My favorite film we watched was Barakah meets Barakah. It is romantic comedy that is about a guy and girl named Barakah who fall in love. The guy is a middle class civil servant while the female Barakah is an Instagram star that shares messages about fashion and women empowerment. At the beginning of the movie the two don’t know where to meet because it is not customary in Saudi Arabia for unrelated men and women to meet in public. While this is a comic part of the movie, it also criticizes the cultural norms that make it difficult for men and women to meet in public. As always, I’m glad I participated in Arabic Film Club because it gave me the opportunity to learn some Arabic words and I got to watch film from another culture.

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Classes :)

I have really come to enjoy the classes that I am enrolled in. I speak only German, as that is the language of instruction. I have kept up reasonably well with the assignments despite maintaining an active night life and frequent travel schedule. The instructors are great and offer a nice balance of grit and humor to make the subjects approachable. I really want to continue taking German when I return to OU but I am not sure how that will work with my graduation plan. Classes are a great way to meet other international students and I have made friendships by meeting up with them after class for lunch or a fun filled night at the local bar strip. I really enjoy casualness with which I can meet other students. A simple walk down the main strip and I am bound to run into someone I know. I wish OU had that same type of dynamic where the entire city of Norman was walkable and integrated well with university life.

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Arabic Flagship Talent Show

At the last minute, I was invited by my friend to attend the Arabic Flagship Program’s annual talent show. I went to take a break from studying, and was so happy that I did! My friend was actually this year’s host, and I was glad to be able to be there to support her and the other flagship program members that put on this great show.

The event was catered by the local Lebanese restaurant Sisters, which my friend informed me provided more than enough food each year. Sure enough, there was so much food left over at the end of the show that the hosts were begging guests to take some home. The pita, hummus, and baba ganoush were amazing, but the highlight of the show was the entertainment. Various student organizations and Arabic classes at OU created pieces for the talent show, giving us an entertaining array of videos and live performances. As someone who knows virtually nothing about the Arabic language, I found the talent show both fun and very informative.

The first act was a video created by the OU Belly Dance Club and the OU Film Club. I thought it was great that these two organizations teamed up to contribute to the talent show. The video consisted of a brief instructional segment demonstrating a few moves, and then a traditional dance by members of the Belly Dance Club. Next, there was a poem reading by a member of the flagship program. She read the poem “Who Am I” in both its original Arabic and in English, for the audience members not fluent in Arabic.

My personal favorite act (and the one that got the most laughs) was an advanced Arabic class’s take on the infamous “Panda Cheese” commercials that aired several years ago in Egypt. I remembered seeing these ads on Facebook, so I understood the reference. Essentially, in each commercial skit, someone asks for “Panda” brand cheese, and upon being told there is none a panda appears and destroys everything in its path. The talent show skit, done in Arabic, had the same premise but took place at different locations on campus.

Other acts included the singing of a lovely song by one of the colloquial Arabic classes, and a recorded telling of a Moroccan folktale by the Moroccan Dialect Club (thankfully, they provided English subtitles). One member of the flagship program also presented some stunning Arabic calligraphy poems. These poems were composed of Arabic words in shapes that illustrated the subject matter of each poem. The three pieces she showed were stunning and creative, ranging from words in the shape of each fruit in a bowl of fruit to a depiction of the sun and moon.

I loved being able to both see and hear Arabic, as I had so little previous exposure to this beautiful language. I began to understand why my friend was so in love with her Arabic major, and was impressed by her proficiency in a language so unlike our own in both alphabet and pronunciation. The talent show made for a lovely and educational evening—I’ll certainly be looking out for it next year!

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