• EpidemicsAn outbreak of Nipah virus in India can help explain the future of infectious disease

    By Alanna Shaikh

    India’s Kerala state has just faced an outbreak of Nipah virus. Seventeen people have died so far. That wouldn’t seem so serious, but only eighteen people were infected. To make matters worse, there is no known cure or vaccine for Nipah – all doctors can offer is supportive treatment while the victim’s immune system attempts to fight off the virus, which causes brain damage. Nipah is a near perfect example of an emerging infectious disease. Its history and evolution follow the pattern of almost every new virus.

  • EbolaEbola case count reaches 60 as DRC neighbors take precautions

    The Ebola case count in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now reached 60, as an official from the World Health Organization (WHO) announced 2 more suspected cases. There are now 37 confirmed cases, 14 probable, and 9 suspected, 2 more suspected cases than yesterday. The death toll still sits at 27. Former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, writing in Science, said the Ebola vaccine is only a tool—not a disease game-changer.

  • BiothreatsClade X pandemic exercise: Preventing the worst outcomes in future pandemics

    The outbreak of a moderately contagious and moderately lethal novel pathogen precipitated a catastrophic end to the scenario in Clade X, the day-long pandemic tabletop exercise hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The scenario opens with the present-day outbreak of a new, serious respiratory disease in Germany and Venezuela. Clade X quickly causes widespread, worldwide anxiety as case counts and deaths mount. Within a year, 150 million people die from the disease—15 million in the United States alone.

  • BiothreatsWinners announced in $300K biothreat prize competition

    DHS S&T the other day announced the grand prize winner of its $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. The prize competition called for the design of an early warning system to keep communities safe by using existing data sources to uncover emerging biothreats.

  • PandemicsEbola response in Congo runs into community resistance

    The Ebola virus has so far killed 12 people in Congo, with 52 additional cases reported as of last Friday. Ebola responders in Congo are revealing more about local practices and community mistrust, which in some instances are hampering the actions needed to curb the spread of the disease in the country’s outbreak hot spots. Experts note that the United States is playing a less prominent role in the response, raising questions about the U.S. policies regarding global health security.

  • PandemicsLittle-known virus could become the next global pandemic

    A little-known virus discovered twenty years ago could become the next global pandemic. A recent outbreak of Nipah in South India has renewed interest in the virus, which has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and has no vaccine or cure. “Emerging infections have resulted in the most devastating infectious diseases that humanity has ever faced. These include HIV, tuberculosis, measles and smallpox. History has taught us that emerging infections can be major threats,” says Stanford University epidemiologist and Nipah expert Stephen Luby.

  • EbolaEbola vaccine drive launched in DRC as number of cases rise to 49

    In a development that global health officials say is a turning point in how the world fights Ebola, vaccinators today began immunizing health workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first stage of a ring vaccination strategy. In other developments, four more illnesses were reported, along with another healthcare worker death, and more countries signaled financial support to help with the international response to the outbreak.

  • EbolaWHO: Response to Congo Ebola outbreak so far working

    An Ebola outbreak has gripped parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization there have been 45 reported cases, 14 of which have been confirmed as Ebola. Of these 45 cases, 25 have resulted in fatalities. Most concerning, the outbreak has spread from a rural precinct to the city of Mbandaka which has a population of 1.2 million and sits on the Congo river, a major thoroughfare.

  • EbolaEbola hits urban centers in Congo

    Signaling what one World Health Organization (WHO) official calls a “game changer” in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, tests have confirmed an infection in a patient from Mbandaka, a metropolitan area that’s home to nearly 1.2 million people.

  • EbolaNew Ebola cases reported in Congo

    Over the weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported 7 more suspected cases of Ebola, raising the totals from 4 April through 13 May to 39 confirmed, suspected, and probable cases, including 19 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 49 percent.

  • Global health securityWhite House disbands NSC’s global health security unit

    Just as Ebola hits the DRC, the National Security Council team responsible for global health security has been disbanded. “Global health security threats, whether it be outbreaks, bioterrorism, or laboratory incidents, are only growing in complexity, which makes this particular shake-up deeply concerning for many in the biodefense world,” biosecurity expert comments.

  • EbolaDRC confirms Ebola infections, probes suspected cases

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Tuesday declared a new Ebola virus outbreak in a northwestern province, with two confirmed cases so far, coming almost a year since the country’s last outbreak began in a different remote location.

  • 1918 flu pandemic: 100 years onOn the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, experts warn flu is global threat

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Emory University to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 flu with a symposium about influenza pandemics: when and if they will strike, how ready the United States is to confront a pandemic, and how to do so. “I don’t know what the virus will do,” said one expert. “But history tells us that influenza comes back and comes back and comes back.”

  • Mad camel disease“Mad camel” disease? New prion infection raises alarm

    Italian and Algerian researchers released new evidence of prion disease in three dromedary camels found in an Algerian slaughterhouse. Prion diseases can affect both humans and animals, and though inter-species transmission is rare, it can happen, as it did most famously during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow”) epidemic, which started in the late 1980s in the United Kingdom.

  • Outbreak detectionMimicking the human immune system to detect outbreaks faster

    Our immune systems are made up of billions of white blood cells searching for signs of infections and foreign invaders, ready to raise the alarm. Sandia National Laboratories computer scientists have been working to improve the U.S. biosurveillance system that alerts authorities to disease outbreaks by mimicking the human immune system.