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Today's Headlines: May 16, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases 

Ebola Virus Disease--Democratic Republic of the Congo ( WHO) Since the publication of the first Disease Outbreak News on the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo on 10 May 2018, an additional 7 suspected cases have been notified by the country's Ministry of Health. Importantly, since the last update, cases have been reviewed and reclassified, and some discarded. Go to article

Liberia Confirms 22 Deaths in Lassa Fever Outbreak ( Xinhua) Liberian authorities on Wednesday confirmed 22 deaths have been recorded across the country following the outbreak of Lassa fever since January. In a statement, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia said the west African country had seen an increase in the outbreak with 81 suspected cases recorded so far. However, 67 out of the 81 suspected cases tested negative following laboratory examination, according to the statement. Go to article


Global Health & Security

Davida Coady, Physician Who Treated Refugees and Helped Eradicate Smallpox in India, Dies at 80 ( Washington Post) Davida Coady, a physician-activist who treated refugees in Latin America and Asia, drew attention to catastrophic famine in Nigeria, aided in the eradication of smallpox in India and--after overcoming her own struggles with alcoholism--established an organization to treat substance abuse in the Bay Area, died May 3 at a hospice center near her home in Berkeley, Calif. Go to article

Hoping to Head Off an Epidemic, Congo Turns to Experimental Ebola Vaccine ( Science) The first ever effort to use a vaccine to stop an Ebola outbreak in its initial stages is taking shape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The international response to health emergencies in sub-Saharan Africa is often maddeningly slow. But this time around, international agencies and the DRC government sprang into action, hoping to quickly extinguish the outbreak. Go to article

See also: Can the Latest New Ebola Vaccine Stop the Latest Outbreak? ( goats and soda) The Ebola vaccine has been two decades in the making, but it's only now being put to use in the face of a looming crisis. The virus has been spreading through a northern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In hopes of curbing the spread, global health officials are launching a vaccination campaign. Four thousand doses of the vaccine have been shipped to the DRC--with another 4,000 to follow soon. The WHO is coordinating the vaccination effort. Go to article

Are We Prepared for the Next Pandemic? ( Financial Times) When I was a child, my family would often go on hikes across Dartmoor, that glorious hilly wilderness in the south-west of England. One of my favourite pastimes on these trips was spotting the ruins of old villages, tucked under heather; these, I was told, were settlements that had been abandoned in the 14th century when the Black Death swept through Europe, killing between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of the population. Go to article

The Rohingya Have Fled One Crisis for Another ( Foreign Policy) As the monsoon season looms, hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in overcrowded Bangladeshi refugee camps at risk of an imminent cholera outbreak. Go to article


Government Affairs & National Security

White House Cuts Critical Cybersecurity Role as Threats Loom ( Wired) A little over a month ago, the White House forced out Tom Bossert, its cybersecurity czar. A week later, cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said he would depart as well. And now, rather than replace either, the Trump administration will do without anyone at the helm of its cybersecurity policy. It couldn't have picked a worse time. Go to article

Stem Cell Clinics That Blinded Women and Used Smallpox Vaccine Go to War with Feds ( arsTechnica) Two stem cell clinics will "vigorously defend" their dubious treatments against civil suits levied this week by the Department of Justice at the request of the FDA. The two clinics are no stranger to federal officials' bad sides; they have both received warnings and wrist-slaps in the past. Go to article

Zika Supplemental Funding: Status of HHS Agencies' Obligations, Disbursements, and the Activities Funded ( GAO) The Zika virus outbreak that began in 2015 sickened adults, but also had another particularly tragic result--brain defects and other problems in infected fetuses. It represented the first time in more than 50 years that an infectious pathogen had been found to cause birth defects. As the virus spread into the US, Congress appropriated $932 million to address the growing threat. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

Is This the Face of Disease X? The Deadly Pathogens Which Could Cause the Next Global Pandemic ( The Telegraph) They may not yet know its name but the next pathogen to cause a deadly global pandemic will most likely be a respiratory disease, spread by a virus that is contagious during incubation or when symptoms are only mild, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins' Center for Health Security. Go to article

FDA to Start Naming Names of Pharma Companies Blocking Cheaper Generics ( arsTechnica) The FDA plans this week to effectively begin publicly shaming brand-name drug companies that stand in the way of competitors trying to develop cheaper generic drugs. Go to article

Scientists Issue Fresh Warning on Next Global Pandemic--Disease X ( The Guardian) They may not yet know its name but the next pathogen to cause a deadly global pandemic will most likely be a respiratory disease, spread by a virus that is contagious during incubation or when symptoms are only mild, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins' Center for Health Security, US. Go to article


Science & Technology

Magnet Implants? Welcome to the World of Medical Punk ( New York Times) "It's not good enough to talk," says Jeffrey Tibbetts, a registered nurse whose home plays host to Grindfest, an annual meetup of biohackers. "You should be taking action. That's kind of our ethos." Go to article

Los Alamos Researchers Map How Ebola, Zika Attack Host Cells ( Homeland Preparedness News) Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) recently used computer modeling to map the process by which the Ebola and Zika viruses infiltrate host cells. The researchers, who published their work in the journal Biomolecules, aimed to understand the specific structure-function relationship of the Ebola glycoprotein (EBOV GP) and Zika envelope (ZIKA E) proteins, which enable fusion with the host cell. Go to article

Subcutaneous Fitbits? These Cows Are Modeling the Tracking Technology of the Future ( MIT Technology Review) Livestock Labs is getting bio-monitors under cows' skin in hopes of helping farmers spot disease earlier, and it wants to bring its tech to people, too. Go to article


21st Century Threats

Kilauea's Next Eruptions May Mirror a Big One in Its Past ( Scientific American) This week fissure number 18 opened on the east flank of Hawaii's rumbling Kilauea Volcano, another in the set of rift-zone fractures advancing toward the Pacific coast. Several miles westward, nestled in Kilauea's summit caldera, Halema'uma'u pit crater is evolving toward a hazardous scenario that reminds volcanologists like myself of a giant blowout that happened there in 1924. Go to article

Inspectors Confirm 'Likely' Use of Chlorine as Chemical Weapon in Syria in February ( npr) Two cylinders that were dropped on the rebel-held Syrian city of Saraqeb in February--sending nearly a dozen people to seek medical help for nausea and other symptoms--had contained chlorine, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Go to article


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