February 6, 2018
By Tara Kirk Sell and Jennifer Nuzzo

Vaccines are in high demand, hospitals are stressed, and the nation's public health system as a whole is struggling to meet the demands of a disease for which there are effective medical countermeasures and decades of research, and we know to expect every year. What does this mean about our ability to manage the next big bio threat?

Public Health & Healthcare Preparedness
Lawmakers Near Deal on Funds for Community Health Centers.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told The Hill on Friday that lawmakers "hope" to add money for the health centers to the short-term spending bill to be considered before a Feb. 8 deadline for funding the government.  (The Hill, 2/5/18)
The CDC is About to Fall Off a Funding Cliff.
The $1 billion of Ebola money was used under the umbrella of the Global Health Security Agenda-a five-year international partnership to improve the health security of developing nations. Barack Obama convened the GHSA in 2014 with strong bipartisan support, and it has already made a significant difference.  (The Atlantic, 2/2/18)
CDC to Cut by 80 Percent Efforts to Prevent Global Disease Outbreak.
Four years after the United States pledged to help the world fight infectious-disease epidemics such as Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dramatically downsizing its epidemic prevention activities in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out, US government officials said.  (Washington Post, 2/1/18)
Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, on Ongoing Efforts to Mitigate Impact of Saline Shortages During This Flu Season.
As we've shared over the past several months, across the country, there remains a shortage of IV saline bags, which have long faced supply issues. These supply issues were worsened by the impact of Hurricane Maria on the medical products manufacturing sector in Puerto Rico, which impacted small volume IV bags. Although the saline shortage is improving, this year's worse-than-normal flu season and workarounds deployed by health care providers in the wake of this shortage have increased demand for saline and other products.  (FDA, 2/1/18)
Use of Influenza Risk Assessment Tool for Prepandemic Preparedness.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to develop an Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) to methodically capture and assess information relating to influenza A viruses not currently circulating among humans. Although the IRAT is not intended to predict the next pandemic influenza A virus, it has provided input into prepandemic preparedness decisions.  (Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2/18)
FDA-CDC Antimicrobial Resistance Isolate Bank: a Publicly Available Resource To Support Research, Development, and Regulatory Requirements.
The FDA-CDC Antimicrobial Resistance Isolate Bank was created in July 2015 as a publicly available resource to combat antimicrobial resistance. It is a curated repository of bacterial isolates with an assortment of clinically important resistance mechanisms that have been phenotypically and genotypically characterized.  (Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 2/18)
CDC Chief Brenda Fitzgerald Resigns After Tobacco Investment Reports.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald's complex financial investments presented conflicts that made it difficult to do her job, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC. In an ethics agreement filed in September, Fitzgerald had said that legal and contractual restrictions prevented her from selling the two investments.  (Boston Globe, 1/31/18)

See also: 
Inside the Texas Catastrophic Medical Operations Center: an Interview with Lori Upton.
During Hurricane Harvey, SETRAC's Catastrophic Medical Operations Center, or CMOC, acted as a clearinghouse - overseeing information management, brokering requests for assistance and supplies, coordinating patient movement, and providing situational awareness across emergency response disciplines.  (ASPR, 1/31/18)
The Imperfect Science of Mapping the Flu.
By the second week of January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thought this flu season had already peaked. Cases of the disease were widespread around the country, but the overall numbers were not overwhelming: The hospitalization rate was about half as high as in 2014-15, the last severe flu season. CDC officials predicted there would be fewer deaths.  (CityLab, 1/30/18)

Four Health and Safety Tips for Mass Gatherings.
At a mass gathering like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or in a public place like the airport, the community includes people you do not know, but whose actions could help prevent a catastrophe or save your life. Here are four things you can do to prepare yourself and protect others when traveling to, and attending, a mass gathering event.  (CDC, 1/30/18)
Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation's Health.
The purpose of this notice of funding opportunity is to announce a program to strengthen the nation's public health infrastructure, ensure a competent, current and connected public health system, and improve delivery of essential services through capacity building assistance.  (Grants.gov, 1/29/18)

Homeland Security & Disaster Preparedness
Super Bowl Anti-Terrorism Documents Left on Plane.
The Department of Homeland Security documents critiquing the response to a simulated anthrax attack on Super Bowl Sunday were marked "For Official Use Only" and "important for national security."   (CNN, 2/5/18)
Reading the Body's History of Threat Exposure.
DARPA's new Epigenetic Characterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone's epigenome and identifies signatures that indicate whether that person has ever-in his or her lifetime-been exposed to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction.  (DARPA, 2/1/18)
The Pentagon's Acquisition Office is Gone. Here's What the Next 120 Days Bring.
On Feb. 1, workers who report to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics have a new boss. Per Congressional requirements, the office has been split into two new groups - the undersecretaries of defense for research and engineering (R&E) and acquisition and sustainment.  (Defense News, 2/1/18)
Customs and Border Protection to Supplement Super Bowl Security Efforts.
While the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots face off, the CBP will use a vehicle and cargo inspection system to scan inbound cargo trucks. They provided similar services last year and, while CBP agents have been working with local, state and federal law enforcement on preparations over the course of the past year, Monday marked the beginning of inspections.  (Homeland Preparedness News, 1/30/18)

Radiological & Nuclear Disaster Preparedness
Hawai'i's False Missile Alert Sent by Troubled Worker Who Thought an Attack was Imminent, Officials Say.
A federal investigation found that the employee believed there "was a real emergency, not a drill." That directly contradicts earlier explanations from Hawaii officials, who have said the alert was sent when an employee accidentally hit the wrong button on a computer drop-down menu.  (Washington Post, 1/30/18)

See also: 

Science & Technology Policy
Training Course: Achieving Data Quality and Integrity in Maximum Containment Laboratories.
To help address the challenges associated with ensuring data quality and integrity in regulated studies conducted in BSL-4 laboratories to support MCM development, FDA and the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston National Laboratory collaborate to provide an annual training course on how to meet good laboratory practice requirements in BSL-4 facilities. The Spring 2018 course will be offered April 23-27, 2018. Registration is required by February 16, 2018.  (FDA, 2/2/18)
Physicians, Ethicists Urge Congress Not to Pass "Right-to-Try" Legislation.
Dozens of doctors, medical ethicists, and lawyers are warning Congress that legislation to allow Americans with life-threatening conditions access to unapproved, experimental drugs risks harming patients' health.  (STAT News, 2/1/18)
FDA, USDA Announce Formal Agreement to Bolster Coordination and Collaboration.
The formal agreement outlines efforts to increase interagency collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness on produce safety and biotechnology activities, while providing clarity to manufacturers.  (FDA, 1/30/18)
Records Show EPA Chief's Role in Removing Climate Web Pages.
The Environmental Defense Fund said the records it obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show a high degree of involvement by Pruitt in the April process of removing climate sections and replacing several of them with a section on President Trump's executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan.  (The Hill, 1/29/18)
Republicans on House Science Panel Suggest Top Environmental Health Scientist Broke Antilobbying Law.
The chief of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Durham, North Carolina, has gotten into hot water with Republicans on the House of Representatives science committee for writing an editorial urging citizens to advocate for environmental protection laws. NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum says she violated no ethics laws, however, and some legal experts agree.  (Science, 1/23/18)
This Week's Hearings

Ensuring Effective and Reliable Alerts and Warnings. US House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. 2/6/18, 10 AM. House Capitol Visitor Center, Room 210. More


Defending the Homeland: Department of Defense's Role in Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. 2/7/18, 2:30 PM. Russell 232A. More


The State of the Nation's Water and Power Infrastructure. US House Committee on Natural Resources. 2/14/18, 2 PM. Longworth 1324. More


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