• MeaslesDRC Measles Deaths Top 6,000

    Deaths in a massive measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have now topped 6,000, prompting a call from the World Health Organization (WHO) for more funding to curb the spread of the disease.

  • SmallpoxSmallpox Was Declared Eradicated 40 Years Ago This Month, but Worries Remain

    Forty years ago – more precisely, on 9 December 1979 – the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that smallpox had been confirmed as eradicated. A few months later, the World Health Assembly (WHA) officially declared that “the world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox.” Yet, four decades later, two nations — the United States and the Russian Federation — keep stockpiles of the variola virus which causes smallpox. Some scientists and security experts say that the risks of retaining the stockpiles outweigh the benefits.

  • ArgumentSamoa Has Become a Case Study for “Anti-Vax” Success

    In Samoa, Facebook is the main source of information. Michael Gerson writes that it is thus not surprising that anti-vaccination propaganda, much of it generated in the United States, has arrived through social media and discourages Samoan parents from vaccinating their children. “This type of import has helped turn Samoa into a case study of ‘anti-vax’ success — and increased the demand for tiny coffins decorated with flowers and butterflies,” he writes, adding: “Samoa is a reminder of a pre-vaccine past and the dystopian vision of a post-vaccine future.”

  • PerspectivePlague Was Around for Millennia Before Epidemics Took Hold – and the Way People Lived Might Be What Protected Them

    One of civilization’s most prolific killers shadowed humans for thousands of years without their knowledge. Sonja Eliason and Bridget Alex write that the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, is thought to be responsible for up to 200 million deaths across human history — more than twice the casualties of World War II. People were contracting and dying from plague at least 3,000 years, but plague epidemics are more recent phenomena. The reason? Human lifestyles that encouraged the spread of the disease.

  • Preventable diseasesGlobal Measles Deaths Rise to 140,000; Young Kids Hit Hard

    Last year 140,000 people worldwide died from complications of measles infections, compared to 110,000 measles deaths in 2017. Most of measles-related deaths are in children under the age of 5. Growing measles outbreaks worldwide in 2018 and 2019 paint a picture of vaccination stagnation, the WHO and CDC said. Because measles is so contagious, 95 percent of the population must be immunized to prevent outbreaks. In 2018, the WHO said 86 percent of children globally received the first dose of measles vaccine through their country’s routine vaccination services, and fewer than 70 percent received the second recommended dose.

  • Perspective: The Plague The Real Reason to Panic About China’s Plague Outbreak

    The Chinese government’s response to this month’s outbreak of plague has been marked by misguided emphasis on the wrong things. Laurie Garrett writes that rather than focusing on the germs and their spread, the Chinese government appeared to be more concerned with public relations and the management of public reaction to the disease.

  • Perspective: The PlaguePhylogeography of the Second Plague Pandemic Revealed Through Analysis of Historical Yersinia Pestis Genomes

    The second plague pandemic (14th-18th centuries) began with the Black Death in the mid-14th century and continued with lethal outbreaks in and around Europe until the 18th century. The pandemic devastated the European continent, killing up to 60 percent of the population. Where did this strain of Yersinia pestis, the plague-causing bacterium, come from? How did it evolve and expand once it arrived?

  • Public healthAI Model Wins Flu Forecasting Challenge

    A probabilistic artificial intelligence computer model developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory provided the most accurate state, national and regional forecasts of the flu in 2018, beating 23 other teams in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s FluSight Challenge.

  • Perspective: Epidemics“Working in Silos Doesn’t Work for Outbreak Response”: Localizing Social Science Response Efforts in West Africa

    Despite the deployment of new tools, such as vaccines and experimental treatments, to fight the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the contextual complexity has made it extremely challenging for local and international response partners to implement standard Ebola containment strategies. These challenges have contributed both to the growth and spread of the outbreak, and to a very dangerous and dynamic environment for those working in the response. Various international organization supporting the fight against the epidemic say they are committed to design future outbreak response which would be more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of local communities. To support this, social science has been identified as a necessary outbreak ‘discipline’ alongside epidemiology, clinical medicine, microbiology, and public health to help ensure that outbreak response is designed in locally appropriate ways.

  • PerspectiveThe Presidential Candidates Are Ignoring One of the World’s Biggest Looming Threats

    Whoever sits in the Oval Office come January 2021, he or she will almost inevitably have to address pandemic disease as a foreign-policy issue. The well-being of Americans in today’s globalized world is inextricably linked to that of people around the globe, while the effects of pandemics are born disproportionately by the least powerful. The next U.S. president needs a proactive strategic initiative, based in global solidarity, to address today’s pandemics, tomorrow’s outbreaks, and the health impacts of climate change.

  • Preventable diseasesClose-Knit, Vaccine-Reluctant Communities Stoked Measles: CDC

    From 1 January to 1 October of this year, the United States tracked 22 measles outbreaks and 1,249 cases, according to a new overview published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). “Eight outbreaks —defined as three or more related cases — that occurred in underimmunized, close-knit communities accounted for 85 percent of all cases,” the CDC said. And 75 percent of all cases in 2019 were part of outbreaks among Orthodox Jewish populations in New York State and City.

  • Perspective: PandemicsEbola One Year on: The Wins, the Setbacks, and the Way Forward

    The last five years have witnessed the two biggest outbreaks of Ebola, first in West Africa and currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is no stranger to Ebola and has battled the virus on nine previous occasions since 1976. The current outbreak, for a multitude of socio-political reasons, refuses to give in to efforts by an international team of health care workers, armed with vaccines and treatment regimes, which did not even exist during previous episodes. As the outbreak surpasses its one year mark, the virus has infected over 3000 people and claimed more than 2000 lives.

  • Perspective: PandemicsThe World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming

    A new independent report compiled at the request of the United Nations secretary-general warns that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic sweeping the planet, killing up to 80 million people. A deadly pathogen, spread airborne around the world, the report says, could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy. And we’re not ready. Laura Garrett writes that twenty-five years ago, in 1994, she published her book on the subject, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, arguing that human disruption of the global environment, coupled with behaviors that readily spread microbes between people and from animals to humans, guaranteed a global surge in epidemics, even an enormous pandemic. She writes that epidemic outbreaks were aided and abetted by inept health systems, human behavior, and the complete lack of consistent political and financial support for disease-fighting preparedness everywhere in the world. Will the UN report’s warning be heeded now?

  • PandemicsWorld Unprepared for Pandemic: WHO

    The next deadly pandemic could spread within thirty-six hours, disrupt economies and destabilize national security, WHO and World Bank experts have said. The experts said current efforts to manage a pandemic are “grossly insufficient.” Epidemic-prone viral diseases such as Ebola, SARS, and the flu have become increasingly difficult to control, as long-term armed conflicts, forced migration, and weak and failed states become more commonplace in the world, the report warned.

  • PandemicsOver 3,000 Killed by Deadly Virus in Democratic Republic of the Congo This Year – and It’s Not Ebola

    By Jeremy Rossman and Matthew Badham

    Ebola outbreaks, such as the current one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has claimed 2,074 people’s lives, are widely covered in the media. But another virus is ravaging the DRC with minimal publicity. That virus is measles.