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Today's Headlines: June 16, 2017
Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

Six Pregnant Women Test Positive for Zika in Harris County this Year ( Houston Chronicle) Six pregnant women in Harris County have tested positive for Zika, the first cases of the mosquito-borne disease to be reported locally in 2017. All of the women have since delivered their babies, none with the abnormally small head that characterizes the worst form of the disease when the virus is passed on by the mother. Go to article

Yersinia pestis, Biological Warfare, and Bioterrorism (Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses) In the historic literature there are many accounts of armies and armed bands having utilized Y. pestis for biological warfare purposes. The methods for waging BW were primitive, such as catapulting plague victims who were sick or had recently died and thus were infested by human fleas (Pulex irritans) that, in turn, carried Yersinia pestis ( Y. pestis) into the encampments of enemies. Go to article

A Few Genetic Tweaks to Chinese Bird Flu Virus Could Fuel a Human Pandemic ( NPR: Shots) A study published Thursday shows how a bird flu virus that's sickening and killing people in China could mutate to potentially become more contagious. Just three changes could be enough to do the trick, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens. Go to article

See Also: Three Mutations Switch H7N9 Influenza to Human-type Receptor Specificity ( PLOS Pathogens) The avian H7N9 influenza outbreak in 2013 resulted from an unprecedented incidence of influenza transmission to humans from infected poultry. The majority of human H7N9 isolates contained a hemagglutinin (HA) mutation (Q226L) that has previously been associated with a switch in receptor specificity from avian-type (NeuAc╬▒2-3Gal) to human-type (NeuAc╬▒2-6Gal), as documented for the avian progenitors of the 1957 (H2N2) and 1968 (H3N2) human influenza pandemic viruses. Go to article

Government Affairs & National Security

Pandemic Influenza Plan--2017 UPDATE ( US Department of Health and Human Services) The last Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Department of Health and Human Services Update was issued in 2009. Since that time, our nation has experienced, and learned from, the 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic and the emergence of other influenza viruses of concern, such as H7N9 that emerged in 2013 in China and continues to cause periodic outbreaks. We have also responded to other serious disease outbreaks, including Ebola and Zika virus. Each instance has highlighted the need to be as prepared as we can be--because a fast, effective public health response demands it. Go to article

NIST Awards $38.5 Million for Multiple First Responder Communications Projects ( Homeland Preparedness News) The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an organization within the US Department of Commerce, recently awarded $38.5 million for 33 different research and development projects that seek to advance broadband communication technologies for first responders. Go to article

Department of Energy to Close Climate Technology Office and Eliminate 11 Positions ( Business Insider) The Department of Energy is closing its Office of International Climate and Technology and will eliminate its 11 staff positions, according to a New York Times report Thursday. The small office first opened in 2010 and has worked with other countries in order to develop clean energy technology and reduce greenhouse gases. Go to article

Nominee for USAID Administrator Mark Green Sails Through Senate Hearing ( devex) Former Ambassador Mark Green, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the US Agency for International Development, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday for his nomination hearing. Green received a warm welcome from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who repeatedly praised his qualifications, bipartisan outlook, and long track record of development leadership. Go to article

Medicine & Public Health

Report Reveals Years of Suffering, Death from Therapies for "Chronic Lyme" ( ars Technica) Tick season is upon us, prompting fresh warnings about bites that can transmit Lyme disease. But in a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a group of doctors isn't warning about the disease--instead, the group is warning about possible treatments. Go to article

A Navigation Tool for the Emergency and Acute Care System ( ASPR Blog) The proliferation of options better match patients' unique care needs, but also means that patients must learn to find their way through a more complex system. To navigate that system, it is easiest to think of the different options for emergency and acute care on a spectrum. Go to article

How Urban 'Heat Islands' Threaten Public Health ( Grist) Western communities, including Los Angeles, are aware that urban heat is a serious and growing threat to public health, and the warming climate only increases the problem. "It's not as visible as other catastrophes, but the implications can be far reaching," says Elizabeth Rhoades, who works on climate issues in Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health. Go to article

Science & Technology

A Tour of the Government's 'Nerd Labs' ( Politico) Behind a lot of the technology we take for granted in our lives--the satellite mapping behind Google Maps, or the voice recognition software behind your iPhone's Siri--lie not just inventive tech companies, but the sclerotic old federal government. Across the country, Washington funds a network of advanced--sometimes secret, often underappreciated--government laboratories dedicated to blue-sky, "what-the-hell" research at the frontiers of science and technology. Go to article

Detecting Radiation Exposure with a Blood Test ( Scientific American) After a nuclear disaster like the one in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, first responders need to quickly measure radiation exposure en masse and decide who requires urgent treatment. Existing tests are fast and accurate--but they rely on sophisticated laboratories, expensive machinery and meticulous work, says Dipanjan Chowdhury, a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "We don't have copious amounts of radiation drugs available" in such a situation, he adds. "So how do we decide who gets them?" Go to article

China Rises as a Biotech Powerhouse, Developing Drugs to Treat the World ( STAT) Biotech once looked to China for cheap labor. It may soon find mounting competition instead. Thanks to bountiful investments and loosening regulations, China has become a nascent biotech powerhouse that investors and entrepreneurs say could one day rival the industry's Western incumbents. Fueled by a sudden influx of foreign-trained talent, a new generation of Chinese startups is racing to treat the world with medicines invented at home. Go to article


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