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Today's Headlines: March 12, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

Flu Activity Drops Across Country as Season Ebbs (CIDRAP) According to the CDC's latest FluView surveillance report today, influenza-like illness activity is markedly down across the country this week, a clear sign that this year's severe flu season continues to wind down. Go to article

Why Lassa, an Ebola-Like Fever, Has Exploded in Nigeria ( Vox) If you want to understand West Africa's largest-ever Lassa fever outbreak, which has killed 78 people so far, you need to know about rats. But first: Yes, there is an outbreak of the deadly, Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever in one of the most populous countries on earth. When severe, in about 10 to 20 percent of cases, Lassa does horrible things to the body. Go to article


Global Health Security

USAID and FAO Working Together to Pre-Empt the Next Global Pandemic ( FAO) A United States-FAO partnership working to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to manage outbreaks of diseases in farm animals has in just 12 months succeeded in training over 4,700 veterinary health professionals in 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Go to article

Beware 'Disease X': The Mystery Killer Keeping Scientists Awake at Night ( The Telegraph) Over 2 days in early February, the WHO convened an expert committee at its Geneva headquarters to consider the unthinkable. Go to article

Why France is Making Eight New Vaccines Mandatory ( Vaccine) France is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of vaccine hesitancy in the world. In an attempt to raise vaccination coverages, the French government made on January 1, 2018 eight more vaccines mandatory in addition to the three required until then. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

Shouting in the Dark: Emergency Communication in USVI After Irma and Maria ( CDC) When Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the US Virgin Islands in September 2017, this wasn't just advice for Nykole Tyson. Nykole is the USVI Department of Health's Director of Public Relations. She serves as the DOH spokesperson and emergency communicator. Like all of USVI's responders and government officials, she is a survivor who was impacted by the storms. Go to article

It Could Have Been Much Worse: The Minnesota Measles Outbreak of 2017 ( Vaccine) In 2017, Minnesota battled its largest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years, with 79 cases, most of them Somali-American children. In this study, we gathered vaccination and enrollment data for incoming kindergarteners in Minnesota over fall 2012-2016 from the Minnesota Department of Health. Go to article


Science & Technology

ZMapp Antibody Delivered by Viral Vector Protects Against Ebola Infection ( EurekAlert!) New Rochelle, NY, March 8, 2018--A new study comparing the effectiveness of individual ZMapp antibodies versus a cocktail of antibodies, administered to mice using recombinant adeno-associated virus delivery vectors, showed the ability to achieve 100% protection against infection by Ebola virus. Go to article

AI Researchers Embrace Bitcoin Technology to Share Medical Data ( Nature) Dexter Hadley thinks that artificial intelligence could do a far better job at detecting breast cancer than doctors do--if screening algorithms could be trained on millions of mammograms. The problem is getting access to such massive quantities of data. Go to article

Engineering a Stable CHO Cell Line for the Expression of a MERS-Coronavirus Vaccine Antigen ( Vaccine) MERS-CoV has infected at least 2040 patients and caused 712 deaths since its 1st appearance in 2012, yet neither pathogen-specific therapeutics nor approved vaccines are available. To address this need, we are developing a subunit recombinant protein vaccine comprising residues 377-588 of the MERS-CoV spike protein receptor-binding domain, which, when formulated with the AddaVax adjuvant. Go to article


Other 21st Century Threats

Mattis: It Would be 'Very Unwise' For Syria to Use Weaponized Gas ( The Hill) Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly warned the Syrian government on Sunday not to use chemical weapons following reports of chlorine attacks in Ghouta, an area surrounding the capital city of Damascus. Go to article

A Poisoning in England: But Which Poison? ( Science) Chemistry doesn't make the news as often as you might think, and when it does, it's often in a grim way. Such is the case in the UK right now, with the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. For those who don't know the background of the situation, Skripal was an officer in Russian military intelligence who had actually been a longtime asset of the British government. He was arrested and imprisoned, then (after 6 years) was exchanged in a 3-for-10 swap of spies. Go to article

See also: UK to Hit Russia with Sanctions for Spy Poisoning ( The Daily Beast) The UK is preparing to formally blame Russia for the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent. Fingers were pointed at Russia as details emerged about the attack, which took place last Sunday, but the government has been careful to avoid directly implicating the country. Go to article

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