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Today's Headlines: February 15, 2017

Zika Virus

Persistence of Zika Virus in Body Fluids--Preliminary Report ( The New England Journal of Medicine) To estimate the frequency and duration of detectable Zika virus RNA in human body fluids, we prospectively assessed a cohort of newly infected participants in Puerto Rico. Go to article

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

Eight Die of Lassa Fever in Nasarawa ( H5N1) The Nasarawa State Government has said that no fewer than 8 people have so far died following the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in the state. Go to article

China Bird Flu Deaths Surge in What Could Be the Worst Season Ever ( Reuters) As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China last month, the government said, stoking worries that the spread of the virus this season could be the worst on record. Go to article

Government Affairs & National Security

Removing the Viral Threat: Two Months to Stop Pandemic X From Taking Hold ( DARPA) DARPA is now launching the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program, aimed at developing that foundational work into an entire system capable of halting the spread of any viral disease outbreak before it can escalate to pandemic status.  Go to article

Global Health Security

How to Manage Global Catastrophic Risk ( Brookings) On February 15, Governance Studies at Brookings will host an event to discuss the management of global catastrophic risk. For decades, international organizations such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank have helped national, regional, and global leaders tackle these challenges. However, many believe that new approaches and fresh thinking are needed in the global governance arena. Go to article

Twelfth Meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2015) Regarding the International Spread of Poliovirus ( WHO) The twelfth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations regarding the international spread of poliovirus was convened via teleconference by the Director General on 7 February 2017. Go to article

Warren Buffett's Best Investment ( Gates Notes) Our 2017 annual letter is addressed to our dear friend Warren Buffett, who in 2006 donated the bulk of his fortune to our foundation to fight disease and reduce inequity. A few months ago, Warren asked us to reflect on what impact his gift has had on the world.  Go to article

Yellow Fever Vaccination Recommendations for International Travellers Related to Current Situation in Brazil ( H5N1) In view of the evolving situation, and considering that travellers for the Carnival in the next few weeks may take side tours outside the main cities, the current advice by the WHO Secretariat for international travellers going to areas of Brazil deemed to be at risk. Go to article

US-Mexico Cooperative Agreement for Biosurveillance and Laboratory Capacity ( Global Defense) The close geographic and socioeconomic relationship between the US and Mexico has profound public health implications for the health systems of the 2 countries. Go to article

More on Today's Interdepartmental Meeting on H7N9 ( Avian Flu Diary) Earlier today, in Hong Kong Ramps Up Biosecurity Against H7N9, we looked at a report on an interdepartmental meeting on H7N9 that focused primarily on testing, and protecting, local poultry from the H7N9 virus. Go to article

Medicine & Public Health

Effect of Mass Paediatric Influenza Vaccination on Existing Influenza Vaccination Programmes in England and Wales: A Modelling and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis ( The Lancet Public Health) For this cost-effectiveness analysis, we used a transmission model of seasonal influenza calibrated to 14 seasons of weekly consultation and virology data in England and Wales. Go to article

How Best to Prepare for Epidemics? Strengthen Primary Care ( The Conversation) With Zika and Ebola, much of the attention has focused on the need for more effective vaccines, faster deployment of staff and resources in response and better diagnostics. And all of these are vitally important. But relatively little attention is paid to rebuilding the underresourced and underperforming primary health care systems in the places most vulnerable to epidemic disease. Go to article

I Was Skeptical That the Anti-Vaccine Movement was Gaining Traction. Not Anymore. ( Vox) On March 31, anti-vaccine activists plan to march on Washington to defend what they call their "legal right to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices." So far, very few people have signed up to join this group of pseudoscience promoters, thankfully. But the "call to action" at this moment in history signals something alarming. Go to article

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Says He Expects Trump Vaccine Panel Will Move Forward ( STAT News) Prominent vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Wednesday that he expects the Trump administration to move forward with a vaccine safety commission and that President Trump pledged that he was "not going to back down" if the drug industry objected to the commission. Go to article

Science & Technology

Can Ebola Virus Evolve to be Less Virulent in Humans ( bioRxiv) Understanding Ebola Virus virulence evolution is not only timely but also raises specific questions because it causes on the most virulent human infections and it is capable of transmission after the death of its host. Go to article

The Biotechnological Wild West: The Good, the Bad, and the Underknown of Synthetic Biology ( Global Biodefense) Amid the myriad panels and posters on Ebola and Zika, the 2017 American Society for Microbiology Biothreats conference also featured a panel on emerging biotechnologies. A panel of 3 distinguished scientists and policy-makers provided an overview of the current state of synthetic biology, its applications in the health and defense domains, and the policy conundrums that need to be addressed. Go to article

Patent Office Hands Win in CRISPR Battle to Broad Institute ( MIT Technology Review) The dispute between researchers at UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute over the invention of the powerful gene-editing technique has been decided. Go to article

Other 21st Century Threats

Russia Deploys Cruise Missile in Violation of Arms Treaty: Report ( The Hill) Russia has deployed a cruise missile in violation of a landmark arms treaty with the US, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The deployment of the missile would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Go to article

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