A new Alzheimer's drug, combined COVID and flu vaccine update, and salmonella concerns. 3 health stories you may have missed — and why they matter

Hypodermic needle and medicine bottle.
What to know about this week's new health stories, from vaccines to Alzheimer's medication. (Getty Creative)

Hello, health and wellness enthusiasts. My name is Kaitlin, your guide to the news you may have missed this week and how it could impact your life.

Here’s what my team explored:

☀️ It's a salmonella summer

Bummer news: cookie dough, cucumbers and bearded dragons (yes, the one you always wanted for a pet) have all been linked to salmonella outbreaks this month. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness (like diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps) and typically is seen in undercooked eggs, or meat and poultry. It’s particularly dangerous for immunocompromised people, the elderly and young children, who can suffer more severe symptoms like high fevers, lethargy and blood in the urine or stool.

What it means for you: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) stated this week that nearly 30,000 cases of cookie dough have been recalled across 21 states due to potential salmonella contamination after Rise Baking Company originally issued the recall in early May.

While it's never fun to throw out cookie dough, check your fridge for the products below, and toss accordingly:

  • Costco Chocolate Chunk Frozen Cookie Dough

  • Member’s Mark Chocolate Chunk

  • Panera Chocolate Chipper Cookie

  • Rise Baking Jumbo Chocolate Chunk

  • Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie cookie doughs

Cucumbers contaminated with salmonella should no longer be in stores, per the CDC, but you can check the agency's website to see if you have any in the fridge that should be tossed. (If they haven’t already gone fuzzy and moldy, that is … and make sure to check your freezer too!)

As for bearded dragons, the CDC may have some bad news for your family because the agency’s website says these reptiles “are not recommended as pets for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems because these people are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that reptiles carry.”

Want more? Read the guide I put together on foodborne illnesses.

⚕️ A new Alzheimer's drug just moved forward

The new Alzheimer's drug Donanemab, from Eli Lilly, has been backed by FDA advisers, indicating that it may soon be approved for treating mild dementia caused by Alzheimer's. The panel unanimously agreed that the drug’s benefits — a 35% reduction in progress of the disease in 18 months, in people between 60 and 85 — outweighed the risks, such as brain swelling and bleeding.

Why it matters: So far, there’s only one drug on the market — Leqembi — that is shown to slow memory problems and cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s. Leqembi, from the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai, received full approval from the FDA last summer, which means Medicare now covers it. However, it’s important to note that while this treatment can give people more time before the disease progresses — potentially allowing them to retain independence and increase time with loved ones for months longer than they would have without it — it’s not a cure, and neither is Donanemab.

As for Donanemab, it wasn’t an easy approval process: The FDA had concerns about the study design because Eli Lilly grouped patients based on their levels of a brain protein (called tau) which might require complex brain scans before prescribing the drug. Additionally, the study's protocol for stopping treatment when amyloid levels (indicating plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease) dropped raised questions about the best time to stop or restart the drug.

Ultimately, however, there aren’t many medical options for those suffering from Alzheimer’s — and one more drug on the market should be, for many people, a hopeful step forward.

💉 Moderna's combo shot wins over separate ones

Moderna’s latest medical innovation is packing a one-two punch. The pharmaceutical company announced that its new combination vaccine for COVID-19 and flu generated a stronger immune response in adults ages 50 and over when compared to taking separate shots for each virus. The company aims to launch this combo vaccine by the 2025 respiratory disease season, pending FDA approval.

What it means for you: If you skip your flu shot each year, there’s good news: Moderna found that its combo shot showed similar side effects (like injection site pain and fatigue) when compared to existing flu vaccines on the market.

While this double shot won’t do anything to combat vaccine hesitancy, it’s possible that the combination may move the needle for people who only get one of these shots each year, especially if they have perceived notions about poor side effects from getting two shots sequentially. (For example, an FDA study previously looked into whether combining the two shots led to a higher risk of stroke for older adults, but experts say there’s no definitive conclusion.)

Experts do agree that it’s important to get your COVID and flu vaccinations if you want your body to have the best chance of fighting off these viruses. The World Health Organization announced in January that it saw “incredibly low” COVID and flu vaccination rates last year, even as cases across the globe surged.