Today's Headlines: April 15, 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
WHO Experts: Ebola in DRC Still Not Global Emergency ( CIDRAP ) Despite a week with record cases, the World Health Organization's emergency committee today agreed for a second time that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—history's second largest—does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Go to article
Madagascar Measles Epidemic Kills More Than 1,200 Despite Desire for Vaccinations ( H5N1 ) Babies wail as a nurse tries to reassure mothers who have come to vaccinate their children. They fear a measles epidemic that has killed more than 1,200 people in this island nation where many are desperately poor. As Madagascar faces its largest measles outbreak in history and cases soar well beyond 115,000, there is poor vaccine coverage caused, not by resistance to vaccinating children, but by lack of access to health resources. Go to article
WHO Novel Flu Summary & Risk Assessment - April 2019 ( Avian Flu Diary ) China's massive, nation-wide poultry H5+H7 vaccination campaign, which began in 2017, has resulted in a huge decline in avian flu outbreak reports - both in poultry, and in humans - across Asia over the past 18 months. Go to article
Syphilis Is Spreading Across Rural America ( Daily Beast ) Public health officials say rural counties across the Midwest and West are becoming the new battleground. While syphilis is still concentrated in cities such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas, its continued spread into places like Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma creates a new set of challenges. Compared with urban hubs, rural populations tend to have less access to public health resources, less experience with syphilis and less willingness to address it because of socially conservative views toward homosexuality and nonmarital sex. Go to article
Government Affairs & National Security
BARDA Extends Strategic Partnership with JLABS ( Global Biodefense ) The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will collaborate with Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS to develop and maintain a specialized innovation zone at the new JLABS @ Washington, DC campus that will be dedicated to the advancement of medical countermeasures aimed at securing our nation from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, as well as from pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases. Go to article

House Members Question the Reliability of New Bioweapons Detection System ( Los Angeles Times) A bipartisan group of House members has questioned the Trump administration’s new system for detecting anthrax or other airborne biological weapons — warning it could be “even less reliable” than the nation’s existing, problem-plagued BioWatch program. Go to article

Global Health Security
Afghan Taliban Bans WHO and Red Cross Work Amid Vaccination Drive ( Reuters ) The Afghan Taliban have banned the World Health Organization and the Red Cross from operating in areas under their control until further notice, a spokesman said on Thursday, citing unspecified "suspicious" actions during vaccination campaigns. Go to article

Europe at Risk from Spread of Tropical Insect-borne Diseases ( H5N1 ) Insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever, leishmaniasis and encephalitis are on the rise and are now threatening to spread into many areas of Europe, scientists have warned. Outbreaks of these illnesses are increasing because of climate change and the expansion of international travel and trade, the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases was told in Amsterdam on Saturday. Go to article

Cyclone Idai's Death Toll over 1,000, Hundreds of Thousands Displaced ( Reuters) Hundreds of thousands of people are still in need of aid after Cyclone Idai battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March. More than 1,000 people have been reported killed by the storm, the flooding it caused and heavy rains before it hit. The World Bank estimates the affected countries will need over $2 billion to recover. Go to article

Medicine & Public Health
Human Monkeypox ( Infectious Disease Clinics ) Human monkeypox virus (MPXV) is a double-stranded DNA virus of the Orthopoxvirus genus of the family Poxviridae. Two genetic clades of the monkeypox virus have been characterized: West African and Central African. MPXV is one of the 4 orthopoxvirus species pathogenic for humans, the other 3 being (1) variola major virus (VARV), the causative agent of smallpox, now eradicated, (2) variola minor virus, and (3) cowpox virus (CPXV). There is a range of animal poxviruses, several of which have zoonotic potential. Infections in humans have been described for vaccinia virus, cowpox virus, buffalopox virus, and sporadic cases of camelpox. Monkeypox infects a wide range of mammalian species, but its natural host reservoir remains unknown. Go to article
Reverse Global Vaccine Dissent ( Science ) This year, the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats, alongside threats as grave as climate change, antimicrobial resistance, Ebola virus, and the next influenza pandemic. What happened? How did vaccine reluctance and refusal become such a major risk? 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
Science & Technology
Gene-edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor ( New York Times ) “Success!” read the subject line of the email. The text, in imperfect English, began: “Good News! The women is pregnant, the genome editing success!” The sender was He Jiankui, an ambitious, young Chinese scientist. The recipient was his former academic adviser, Stephen Quake, a star Stanford bioengineer and inventor. “Wow, that’s quite an achievement!” Dr. Quake wrote back. “Hopefully she will carry to term...” Go to article
The Data Are Clear: Ebola Vaccine Shows ‘Very Impressive’ Performance in Outbreak ( STAT ) The experimental Ebola vaccine being used to try to contain the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is protective 97.5% of the time, according to new data released by the World Health Organization on Friday. Go to article
Other 21 st Century Threats
Principles of AI Governance and Ethics Should Apply to All Technologies ( Lawfare ) Despite Google’s recent dissolution of its artificial intelligence ethics board, IT vendors (including Google) are increasingly defining principles to guide the development of AI applications and solutions. And it’s worth taking a look at what these principles actually say. Go to article
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