Today's Headlines: April 12, 2019

J ohns Hopkins Center for Health Security 2018 Annual Report

Back in 1998, our Center was founded on the belief that we should do everything possible to protect people’s health from biological threats by developing effective policy, programmatic, and scientific tools that can diminish the impact of pandemics and other disasters. As we celebrated our Center’s 20th anniversary in 2018, we had the opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the past 2 decades as well as to undertake a series of new initiatives that we believe will help to push forward progress on these issues. We’re proud to share some of the Center’s past milestones and highlight our current work in this annual report. Read more
Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases
CDC Says Nearly 600 Cases of Deadly Drug-Resistant Fungus Reported (The Hill) The CDC has confirmed hundreds of cases of a deadly multidrug-resistant fungus nationwide. The CDC has confirmed 587 cases of the fungus, Candida auris, in 12 states over the past few years, most of them in Chicago, New Jersey and the New York City area. The fungus is a yeast infection with a one-in-three mortality rate in cases where the infection reaches the heart, blood or brain, according to the CDC. Go to article
Disease X and Other Unknowns (The Lancet) In 2018, recognising that a “serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease”, WHO added a new category to its emergency priority list: Disease X. In the taxonomy of knowledge, Disease X corresponds to what the former US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld infamously termed an “unknown unknown”. A classic example is HIV, the virus now known to be the cause of AIDS but which, in 1980, when doctors began treating the first patients with AIDS, had never been seen to cause disease in humans. Go to article
DRC Ebola Surge Marks 2nd Straight Record-Setting Day (CIDRAP) For the second day in a row, the DRC reported a record number of Ebola infections—this time, 20 cases—putting an exclamation point on the outbreak ahead of tomorrow's WHO emergency committee meeting to assess whether the developments constitute a public health emergency declaration. In another concerning development, the country's health ministry said two workers at Butembo's airport were taken to the local Ebola treatment center after tests confirmed the virus. Go to article
See Also: DR Congo: “Ebola Is Spreading Faster, and Many People Are No Longer Seeking Care ( Relief Web) The deadly Ebola outbreak in the DRC is worsening as trust in the response effort falters, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This warning follows confirmation of 18 new Ebola cases on Tuesday (9 April) – the highest single day figure in the now eight month-long outbreak. DR Congo’s Health Ministry also reported that 10 died people from Ebola on Tuesday, including eight who died in their communities having not sought treatment and support. Go to article
Domestic Preparedness and Response
The World Trade Center Health Program in New York: A Beacon for First Responders’ Health (AJPH) As a citizen and in my official capacity as secretary of health for Louisiana, I have experienced both the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks and the 2016 floods in South Louisiana. These experiences have allowed me to witness firsthand the incredible fortitude of first responders and the integral role they play in keeping our citizens safe. The World Trade Center Health Program, with its dedication to mitigating the medical impact of serving in high-intensity and dangerous settings, is the type of civic commitment our first responders deserve. Go to article
Government Affairs & National Security
Biosecurity, Biological Weapons Nonproliferation, and Their Future (US Department of State) Our work on biosecurity is a part of our more general mandate, in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, to stem – and, if possible, to roll back – the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons. This biosecurity work is also only one small part of the broader U.S. government approach to biodefense, which is conducted pursuant to the National Biodefense Strategy that was released last autumn. Go to article
Medicine & Public Health
National Surveillance Data Show Increase in Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis: United States, 2016–2017   (AJPH) From 2016 through 2017, unprecedented increase in all nationally notifiable tickborne diseases were reported to the CDC. Go to article
Mass Exodus of State Health Department Deputies and Senior Management Threatens Institutional Stability (AJPH) Recent evidence has shown that state health officials typically have relatively short tenures as leaders of state public health agencies, with a median of three years. Rapid turnover of state health officials underscores the critical roles that senior managers in state public health agencies play in maintaining agency stability and leadership during tumultuous periods of uncertainty. Frequent departures of agency heads mean that the deputy health officers and other senior managers are often the keepers of institutional memory, expertise, and experience—and find themselves inserted into policymaking positions when leadership has been vacated. Go to article
Machine Diagnosis (Nature) Advances in the automated diagnosis of eye conditions through colour photography of the retina and optical coherence tomography imaging 5 , 6 , 7 have put artificial intelligence in a position to transform eye care. Soon, AI-based systems could augment physicians’ decision-making in the clinic — or even replace physicians altogether. Go to article
Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chagas Disease (The Lancet) Chagas disease, caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, constitutes a substantial public health concern due to its high morbidity and mortality rates among people typically in low-income populations who often do not have access to timely medical diagnosis and treatment. There are also high economic and social costs generated by the disease. Despite successful and sustained vector control policies and screening of blood and organs for donation, more than 6 million people still live with Chagas disease in the Americas, most of them unaware of their infection. Go to article
Science & Technology
Broken Drug Markets in Infectious Diseases: Opportunities Outside the Private Sector? (PLOS; Neglected Tropical Diseases) A subset of anti-infective drugs are increasingly unavailable for patients in the United States due to pricing or withdrawal from the market. Timely market solutions are needed. We assert that solutions to ensure access to some essential anti-infective agents lie outside capital markets and that public-private partnerships may be the most viable solution. Go to article
Artificial Intelligence in Global Health: A Brave New World (The Lancet) This report outlines an aspirational yet pragmatic framework for better coordination for AI investment between donors, governments, and the private sector, while harnessing a futuristic vision—the digitisation of global health. Because the cost-effectiveness of these AI solutions has yet to be validated, the call for investments feels somewhat premature. Traditionally, the global health community is a late adopter of new technologies. Hence, it is imperative that they have an integral and active role in the dialogue early on. As this report rightfully stipulates, technology will get there, but will the world follow? Go to article
Astronaut Twins Study Spots Subtle Genetic Changes Caused by Space Travel (Nature) NASA’s identical-twin astronauts, Scott and Mark Kelly, are back to being nearly identical. That’s the verdict of a study that tracked how Scott’s body changed during a nearly year-long spaceflight in 2015-16, while Mark stayed on Earth. Many of the genetic, biochemical and other changes that had affected Scott mostly disappeared once he returned from space, researchers reported on 11 April in Science. Go to article
Other 21 st Century Threats
Canada Alarmed by Russia’s Objection to Banning Novichoks Under Chemical Weapons Convention (Government of Canada) This week, Russia broke international consensus and rejected the addition of Novichoks, a class of chemical weapons, to the list of chemicals banned by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This follows a meeting on January 14, 2019 where the international community was of a clear, united view that these weapons must be banned. Canada is very alarmed by this Russian obstruction. Go to article
Tokyo Court Orders AUM Shinrikyo Cult Successor Aleph to Pay ¥1 Billion to Victims of Sarin Attack (The Japan TImes) A Tokyo court on Wednesday ordered Aleph, the main successor group of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, to pay more than ¥1 billion in damages to the victims of the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack that shook the country in March 1995. A series of terrorist attacks and other crimes committed by Aum Shinrikyo cultists, which left a total of 29 people dead and more than 6,000 injured, resulted in the indictment of 192 people. Go to article
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