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Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Time to Sound a Global Alarm?


The epidemic of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest in history after the 2014 west African epidemic. A storm of detrimental factors complicates this event: armed conflict, political instability, and mass displacement. WHO, the DRC government, and non-governmental organisation partners have shown remarkable leadership but are badly stretched. The outbreak remains far from controlled, risking a long-term epidemic with regional, perhaps global, impacts. Read now


T oday's Headlines: February 8, 2019

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases
An Increase in Reports of Acute Flaccid Paralysis ( AFP) in the United Kingdom, 1 January 2018 - 21 January 2019: Early Findings  In November 2018, PHE began to receive reports of acute flaccid paralysis. A national task force was established to investigate the apparent increase. Here, we describe the preliminary epidemiological, clinical and microbiological features of cases as at 21 January 2019. Go to article 

Disease Threatening Deer Population Has Spread to 26 States ( The Wall Street Journal) An illness similar to mad-cow disease that is fatal to deer is spreading across the US, worrying hunters, wildlife-management officials and scientists. Go to article

Domestic Preparedness & Response
Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense Focuses on DOD Role in Protecting US Against Bio Attacks ( Homeland Prep News) There's ample reason to concentrate on the role the US Department of Defense plays in helping the nation defend against biological attacks, one of the most critical being the protection of America's military troops, said experts Tuesday during a Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense event in Washington, DC. Go to article

Government Affairs & National Security
The Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Issues ( Congressional Research Service) The DRF is on of the most-tracked single accounts funded by Congress each year. Managed by FEMA it is the primary source of funding for the federal government's domestic general disaster relief programs. Go to article

Global Health Security

The World Is Too Complacent About Epidemics. Here's How to Change ( World Economic Forum) New viruses like Bourbon virus and Heartland virus are just emerging in humans, and some, like Mengla virus patiently wait for an opportunity to move from their animal hosts to infect people. No one can predict exactly when or where the next threat will occur, but as we learned from the 2014 West Africa Ebola virus outbreak, and the ongoing Ebola crisis in the DRC, we live in a world where infectious disease outbreaks with the potential for tragic consequences are a certainty.
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Medicine & Public Health
A pathway to Developing and Testing Quality Measures Aimed at Improving Adult Vaccination Rates in the United States (Vaccine) This paper outlines the process by which a public-private partnership drove the development of two adult immunization performance measures-an adult immunization status measure for influenza, tetanus and diphtheria and/or tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis, herpes zoster and pneumococcal vaccines, and a prenatal immunization status measure for influenza and Tdap vaccinations in pregnant women. These measures have recently been added to the 2019 Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, a widely used set of performance measures reportable by private health plans. Go to article

Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for the United States ( JAMA) I n the State of the Union Address on February 5, 2019, President Donald J. Trump announced his administration's goal to end the HIV epidemic in the US within 10 years. The president's budget will ask Republicans and Democrats to make the needed commitment to support a concrete plan to achieve this goal. While landmark biomedical and scientific research advances have led to the development of many successful HIV treatment regimens, prevention strategies, and improved care for persons with HIV, the HIV pandemic remains a public health crisis in the United States and globally. Go to article

8,000 Flu Death Prevented Last Year With Vaccine: Study ( MEDPAGE Today) End-of-season influenza vaccine efficacy for the 2017-2018 flu season was a mediocre 38% (95% CI 31%-43%), but flu shots were still estimated to have prevented 7 million illnesses and 8,000 deaths, researchers found. Go to article

Study: Dengue Immunity May Have Offered Protection Against Zika in Brazil ( CIDRAP) A new study published today in Science shows that prior dengue infection may have protected some Brazilians from severe Zika infections during the 2015-2016 epidemic in the Americas. The study findings could have major implications for both Zika and dengue vaccine developments. Go to article

Science & Technology
A High-Tech Pill to End Drug Injections ( The New York Times) Engineers have developed a tiny robotic capsule that injects insulin once it lands in the stomach. Go to article 

See also: An Ingestible Self-Orienting System for Oral Delivery of Macromolecules ( ScienceBiomacromolecules have transformed our capacity to effectively treat diseases; however, their rapid degradation and poor absorption in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract generally limit their administration to parenteral routes. An oral biologic delivery system must aid in both localization and permeation to achieve systemic drug uptake. Inspired by the leopard tortoise's ability to passively reorient, we developed an ingestible self-orienting millimeter-scale applicator (SOMA) that autonomously positions itself to engage with GI tissue. It then deploys milliposts fabricated from active pharmaceutical ingredients directly through the gastric mucosa while avoiding perforation. We conducted in vivo studies in rats and swine that support the applicator's safety and, using insulin as a model drug, demonstrated that the SOMA delivers active pharmaceutical ingredient plasma levels comparable to those achieved with subcutaneous millipost administration . Go to article

'Diet Drugs' Suppress Mosquitoes' Thirst For Blood ( Nature News & Comment) Now, researchers have discovered a way to stop mosquitoes biting - by using human 'diet' drugs to trick them into feeling full. The scientists suggest that the drugs could one day be used to control the spread of diseases. Go to article

Vast Chemical Library Could Yield Trove of New Medicines ( Science) It's the drug discovery equivalent of looking for a book on Amazon versus at your local library. Researchers have scanned a chemical database containing some 170 million molecules-100 times larger than previous databases-to identify a handful of new compounds that could serve as starting points for novel antibiotics and antipsychotic medications. The resource is expected to grow to more than 1 billion molecules over the next year, making the technique increasingly powerful as time goes by. Go to article 

Other 21st Century Threats

Understanding China's AI Strategy (Center for a New American Security) I have arrived at a number of key judgments about Chinese leadership's views, strategies, and prospects for AI as it applies to China's economy and national security. Of course, China's leadership in this area is a large population with diversity in its views, and any effort to generalize is inherently presumptuous and essentially guaranteed to oversimplify. However, the distance is large between prevailing views in American commentary on China's AI efforts and what I have come to believe are the facts. I hope by stating my takeaways directly, this report will advance the assessment of this issue and be of benefit to the wider US policymaking community.
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