Health Security Headlines
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Today's Headlines: June 13, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases 

Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Kenya Puts Health Workers on Alert for 'Ebola-like' Symptoms ( The Telegraph) An Ebola-like haemorrhagic disease classified by the UN as among the most likely viruses to trigger a global pandemic has killed 5 people in Kenya. The first significant outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in East Africa for more than a decade claimed its first casualties in northern Kenya's Wajir County last week, when an 18-year-old man died after 3 days of internal and external bleeding. Go to article

Nigerian Cholera Outbreak May Spread into Cameroon, Says WHO ( Outbreak News Today) The World Health Organisation says the cholera outbreak in the Nigerian state of Adamawa may mutate into a West African regional public health hazard unless urgent measures are taken to suppress it locally and prevent it spreading across the border into Cameroun. Go to article

No, Killer Dog Flu Isn't the Next Human Pandemic ( National Geographic) A study about a new strain of canine influenza made waves this week. Here's why claims about it triggering a human pandemic should give you pause. Go to article


Global Health & Security

Tuberculosis, War, and Refugees: Spotlight on the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis ( PLOS Pathogens) Tuberculosis is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The spread of this fatal disease increases in crisis-affected populations. The ongoing Syrian civil war has led to significant damage to the national healthcare system and forced millions of Syrians to take refuge in neighboring countries, where the majority face miserable conditions. These circumstances increase the risk of TB development and spreading among Syrian refugees and their host communities. Go to article

'We Are Still at War' with Ebola: WHO Chief ( Reuters) The head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday cautioned against declaring victory too early in Congo's Ebola epidemic, despite encouraging signs that it may be brought under control. "The outbreak is stabilizing, but still the outbreak is not over," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists on a visit to Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa. "We are still at war, and we need to continue to strengthen our surveillance and...be very vigilant." Go to article

See also: At One-month Mark in Ebola Outbreak, the Focus Shifts to Remote Areas ( WHO) One month into the response to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the focus has moved from urban areas to some of the most remote places on earth. The shift comes after a series of unprecedented actions that have led to cautious optimism about the effectiveness of the response. Go to article

Paraguay Eliminates Malaria, Sets Example for the Region ( The Global Fund) The certification of Paraguay's elimination of malaria is a recognition of more than five decades of hard work. It also demonstrates the highest level of commitment to public health, and is testament to the results that can be achieved with integrated management strategies, such as increasing surveillance, training health professionals and involving the most affected communities. Go to article


Government Affairs & National Security

Today's Life-saving Ebola Vaccine Was Spurred by the 2001 Anthrax and 2004 Ricin Attacks ( Forbes) A few years ago, in the 2014 West African Ebola epidemic, outbreaks in urban areas quickly spread to 10 countries, with a case showing up as far away as Dallas, Texas. There was no vaccine available then, and laboratory confirmation of diagnosis took three months. More than 28,600 people were infected and 11,000 died. Thankfully, today a safe and highly effective vaccine was deployed within 10 days of the outbreak, a vaccine developed thanks to a US anti-terrorism project that started - for me - with white powder in a Senate office. Go to article

SECURE Act Funding Supports CDC Efforts to Recruit Physicians to Respond to Disease Outbreaks ( Homeland Preparedness News) Officers in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have for seven decades tackled some of the most pressing public health challenges in the US and abroad. However, student loans might deter many potential EIS officers, who are discouraged from applying to the CDCs two-year disease-fighting program. As new physicians they have the promise of better pay in private practice or at other medical organizations. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

The State of the Antivaccine Movement in the United States: A Focused Examination of Nonmedical Exemptions in States and Counties ( PLOS Medicine) According to the 2015 National Immunization Survey, only 72.2% of children aged 19 to 35 months in the US were fully vaccinated as per guidelines from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Due to parental concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy, many families choose to opt out their children from vaccinations required for school entry by obtaining nonmedical exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs. Go to article

Outpatient Antibiotic Use and the Need for Increased Antibiotic Stewardship Efforts ( Pediatrics) Antibiotic-resistant infections pose a growing threat to public health. Antibiotic use, regardless of whether it is warranted, is a primary factor in the development of resistance. In the US, the majority of antibiotic health care expenditures are due to prescribing in outpatient settings. Much of this prescribing is inappropriate, with research showing that at least 30% of antibiotic use in outpatient settings is unnecessary. Go to article

How Pharma Hides Data About Farm Antibiotic Use ( Wired) On Wednesday last week, the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council revealed that pig herds in the US receive almost as many antibiotics as people in this country do. That's bad news, especially since most of the pigs receiving antibiotics aren't sick, but instead are getting the drugs to prevent infections in intensive farming. Go to article

Antimicrobial Resistance Threatens Our Health Security - Both Domestically and Globally ( The Hill) Following the recent news that the new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reached an urban area where its spread can accelerate, congressional attention to reauthorizing the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act is timely. The re-emergence and spread of this disease in the country where it was discovered four decades ago should remind us all that domestic and global health security preparations are only as strong as their weakest links. Go to article

In the Battle Against Lyme Disease, the Ticks Are Winning ( Scientific American) In the space of two generations, the natural landscape in many American states has been slowly transformed from a place of refuge and peace to one of peril and menace. Blacklegged ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses inhabit half of US counties, where they infect some 300,000 people yearly in grassy meadows, urban parks, backyards and many other places. Go to article

Urbanization and Slums - Infectious Diseases in the Built Environment: Proceedings of a Workshop ( National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine) The urban built environment is a prime setting for microbial transmission, because just as cities serve as hubs for migration and international travel, components of the urban built environment serve as hubs that drive the transmission of infectious disease pathogens. The risk of infectious diseases for many people living in slums is further compounded by their poverty and their surrounding physical and social environment, which is often overcrowded, is prone to physical hazards, and lacks adequate or secure housing and basic infrastructure, including water, sanitation, or hygiene services. Go to article

Kids in These US Hot Spots at Higher Risk Because Parents Opt out of Vaccinations ( Washington Post) Public health officials have long known that the US has pockets of vulnerability where the risk of measles and other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases is higher because parents hesitate or refuse to get their children immunized. Eighteen states allow parents to opt their children out of school immunization requirements for nonmedical reasons, with exemptions for religious or philosophical beliefs. And in two-thirds of those states, a comprehensive new analysis finds a rising number of kindergartners who have not been vaccinated. Go to article


Science & Technology

CRISPR-Edited Cells Linked to Cancer Risk in 2 Studies ( Scientific American) Editing cells' genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn - a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies. Go to article

How to Slow Down Ebola ( Science Daily) The phylogenetic tree of the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic doesn't just tell us how the Ebola virus was able to evolve: it also reveals which events and preventive measures accelerated or slowed down its spread. These findings open up new perspectives for the containment of epidemics. Go to article

See also: Phylodynamic Assessment of Intervention Strategies for the West African Ebola Virus Outbreak ( bioRxiv) The recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa witnessed considerable efforts to obtain viral genomic data as the epidemic was unfolding. Such data are critical for the investigation of viral molecular epidemiology and can complement contact tracing by public health agencies. Analysing the accumulated EBOV genetic data can also deliver important insights into epidemic dynamics, as demonstrated by a recent viral genome study that revealed a metapopulation pattern of spread. Go to article


21st Century Threats

The Kilauea Eruption Flooded Hawaii's First Geothermal Plant. What Next? ( Daily Beast) This year, Kapalua Bay Beach on Maui topped a closely list as the country's best beach. But Hawaii also tops another not-so-glamourous list, according to the US Energy Information Administration - as the state with the most expensive electricity prices. But maybe not for long: In 2015, Hawaii's Governor David Ige signed the country's first state law mandating 100% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by the year 2045. One such renewable is geothermal. But the very thing that makes geothermal an attractive source of clean energy in Hawaii just shut down the only geothermal power plant in the state - KÄ«lauea volcano. Go to article

Americans Are Unprepared for a Nuclear Attack ( Politico) Let's say it's 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and you receive an emergency alert on your cellphone indicating that there has been a nuclear explosion in the next town or that an intercontinental ballistic missile is headed your way. Would you know what to do? Most likely not. "I would say that the US is probably less prepared for any kind of nuclear detonation than it has been at any time since the Cold War," says Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science and technology at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. "And that is a dangerous place to be.'' Go to article


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