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Today's Headlines: August 9, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

WHO Highlights Ongoing Hospital MERS Outbreak Threat ( CIDRAP) In a snapshot of MERS-CoV cases over the past year and an assessment of the global risk, the WHO said the epidemiology of the virus hasn't changed, but deep concerns persist about ongoing hospital-related outbreaks. Go to article


Domestic Preparedness & Response

Puerto Rico Cites Storm Death Toll of 1,427 in Damage Report ( AP) Puerto Rico is now estimating that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people, far more than the official death toll of 64, in a report to Congress seeking billions to help the island recover from the devastating storm. The government, relying on updated statistics it first reported in June, said there were 1,427 more deaths from September to December 2017 than the average for the same time period over the previous four years. Go to article


Global Health Security

War Zone Complicates Ebola Vaccine Rollout in Latest Outbreak ( Nature) Aid workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began giving an experimental Ebola vaccine to health workers on 8 August -- one week after the WHO declared an outbreak of the virus. First responders and public-health staff are scrambling to contain the outbreak while planning how to roll out the vaccine to communities in the middle of a conflict zone. Go to article

The Meaning of 'Emergency Assistance' ( The Trench) Article VII of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) belongs to the more obscure provisions. It reads as follows: Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to provide or support assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to the Convention which so requests, if the Security Council decides that such Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention. Go to article


Government Affairs & National Security

JAIC: Pentagon Debuts Artificial Intelligence Hub ( Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) In October 2016, the newly formed Defense Innovation Board released its first set of recommendations. (The board, an advisory body to senior leadership in the US Defense Department, contains representatives from the private sector, academia, and nonprofits.) One recommendation that stood out was the establishment of "a centralized, focused, well-resourced organization" within the Defense Department "to propel applied research in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning." Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

Active-Shooter Response at a Health Care Facility ( The New England Journal of Medicine) Active-shooter incidents have been on the rise throughout the US. Defining such incidents as situations in which "an individual [is] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," the FBI has identified 160 discrete incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, in which 486 people were killed and an additional 557 were wounded. Go to article

Health Protection: Military Concepts Applied to the Civilian World ( American Journal of Public Health) Military medicine has advanced US trauma and emergency care from the Civil War to the present day. What is less well known is that military medicine has profoundly influenced public health as well. In fact, the US military's contributions go back to the earliest days of our republic. Go to article

School District Crisis Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Plans -- United States, 2006, 2012, and 2016 ( CDC) Children spend the majority of their time at school and are particularly vulnerable to the negative emotional and behavioral impacts of disasters, including anxiety, depressive symptoms, impaired social relationships, and poor school performance. Because of concerns about inadequate school-based emergency planning to address the unique needs of children and the adults who support them, Healthy People 2020 includes objectives to improve school preparedness, response, and recovery plans. Go to article


Science & Technology

Large Deletions Induced by Cas9 Cleavage ( Nature) In a recent publication, Ma et al. reported the correction of a heterozygous paternally inherited MYBPC3 mutation in human zygotes using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. We read their work with interest, especially the interpretation that the wild-type maternal allele was used as template to repair the DNA break at the mutation site. Go to article

Did CRISPR Really Fix a Genetic Mutation in These Human Embryos? ( Nature) Biologists who last year made a blockbuster -- but controversial -- claim that they had fixed a disease-causing mutation in human embryos using CRISPR gene editing have released fresh evidence in support of their work. Critics argued that the researchers' evidence wasn't persuasive and that the feat did not seem biologically plausible, intensifying the existing controversy surrounding the use of gene editing in human embryos to prevent diseases. Go to article

When Working in Virtual Reality Makes You Sick ( Medium) Crescitelli is a VR designer and developer, the owner of Las Vegas-based Dreamland Entertainment, and the founder of VR Fest, a sprawling multiday event now in its fifth year. Yet even Crescitelli, a person with more than 10 years of experience with VR, says he occasionally has to force himself out of the virtual realm to ensure he doesn't suffer from headset fatigue (or VR arm syndrome). Go to article

Modeling Pathogenesis of Emergent and Pre-Emergent Human Coronaviruses in Mice ( Mammalian Genome) The emergence of highly pathogenic human coronaviruses (hCoVs) in the last two decades has illuminated their potential to cause high morbidity and mortality in human populations and disrupt global economies. Global pandemic concerns stem from their high mortality rates, capacity for human-to-human spread by respiratory transmission, and complete lack of approved therapeutic countermeasures. Go to article

Use of Big Data and Information and Communications Technology in Disasters: An Integrative Review ( Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness) Novel approaches to improving disaster response have begun to include the use of big data and information and communication technology (ICT). However, there remains a dearth of literature on the use of these technologies in disasters. We have conducted an integrative literature review on the role of ICT and big data in disasters. Go to article


Other 21st Century Threats

US to Issue New Sanctions on Russia Over Skripals' Poisoning ( New York Times) The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would soon impose new sanctions against Russia in response to the attempted assassination in March of a former Russian spy living in England and his daughter. Go to article

A Framework for Assessing Alternate Proliferation Pathways in the Age of Non-State Actors ( Nonproliferation Review) While the nonproliferation community has long acknowledged the possibility of nuclear terrorism, its prevention has become a central focus area in recent years. For decades it has been assumed that, with access to special nuclear material (SNM), the steps to indigenously develop an improvised nuclear device are within the reach of non-state actors. Go to article


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