• Flu season likely to peak in February

    According to the CDC, seasonal influenza affects up to 20 percent of people in the United States and causes major economic impacts resulting from hospitalization and absenteeism. The flu season will likely peak in February in most parts of the United States, according to a model developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Using historical data, a mathematical representation of how flu spreads through a population, and data for the current flu season provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the scientists were able to create a probabilistic model forecasting the flu season.

  • U.S. capability for treating Ebola outbreak sufficient but limited

    The United States has sufficient capacity for treating another outbreak of the Ebola virus, but financial, staffing and resource challenges remain a hurdle for many hospitals and health systems attempting to maintain dedicated treatment centers for highly infectious diseases, according to new study.

  • Plant virus to make Ebola detection more accurate

    In the past, Ebola diagnostic tests, or assays, have been considered reliable only up to a point. The Ebola virus does not use DNA to store its genetic code. It uses a chemical cousin, called RNA, and extracted RNA degrades easily; one little mistake at the start of a test can ruin the whole thing. Novel process uses a plant virus and may ultimately make Ebola testing more accurate.

  • Rise of drug-resistant infections to cost millions of lives, trillions of dollars

    Drug-resistant infections could kill an extra ten million people across the world every year by 2050 if these infections are not tackled. By this date they could also cost the world around $100 trillion in lost output: more than the size of the current world economy, and roughly equivalent to the world losing the output of the U.K. economy every year, for thirty-five years.

  • Study finds that Ebola vaccine is safe, stimulating strong immune responses

    A clinical trial of a new Ebola vaccine that resulted from an unprecedented global consortium assembled at the behest of the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that it is well tolerated and stimulates strong immune responses in adults in Mali, West Africa and in the United States. If the vaccine is ultimately found to be safe and effective, it could offer crucial protection for contacts (family members, neighbors, etc.) of patients with confirmed Ebola disease in future epidemics, thereby helping to interrupt transmission. Larger trials of the vaccine sponsored, by GSK Biologicals, have already begun.

  • How infectious diseases become epidemics

    Researchers are exploring how diseases spread across long distances in an effort to learn how better to control the next human, animal, or plant epidemic. The researchers will study data for vector-borne infectious diseases to model how these types of epidemics spread. Vector-borne diseases are spread by infectious microbes transmitted by ticks, mosquitos, or other insects or parasites.

  • Novel statistical model maps lethal route of Ebola outbreak

    The traditional method to track disease spread is contract tracing, in which health workers interview patients and everyone they came into contact with. Contact tracing, however, is highly labor intensive. Using a novel statistical model, a research team mapped the spread of the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date on how and where the disease spread and identifying two critical opportunities to control the epidemic. The result matches with details known about the early phase of the Ebola outbreak, suggesting the real-time value of the new method to health authorities as they plan interventions to contain future outbreaks, and not just of Ebola.

  • Oregon teen infected with bubonic plague

    Health authorities in Crook County, Oregon, confirmed that a teenage girl has contracted bubonic plague from a flea while on a hunting trip. The girl became sick five days after the trip started on 16 October; and was rushed to a hospital in Bend, Oregon on 24 October.

  • Centralized leadership, major reform needed to bolster U.S. biodefense

    A comprehensive report on U.S. biodefense efforts calls for major reforms to strengthen America’s ability to confront intentionally introduced, accidentally released, and naturally occurring biological threats. The report details U.S. vulnerability to bioterrorism and deadly outbreaks and emphasizes the need to transform the way the U.S. government is organized to confront these threats. Recommendations include centralizing leadership in the Office of the Vice President; establishing a White House Biodefense Coordination Council; strengthening state, local, territorial, and tribal capabilities; and promoting innovation through sustained biodefense prioritization and funding.

  • Missouri schools underprepared for pandemics, bioterrorism, natural disasters

    Pandemic preparedness is not only critical because of the threat of a future pandemic or an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, but also because school preparedness for all types of disasters, including biological events, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Education. Missouri schools are no more prepared to respond to pandemics, natural disasters, and bioterrorism attacks than they were in 2011, according to a new study. Particular gaps were found in bioterrorism readiness — less than 10 percent of schools have a foodservice biosecurity plan and only 1.5 percent address the psychological needs that accompany a bioterrorism attack.

  • Surveillance technology to aid in disease detection, response

    The Ebola crisis has highlighted a need to bolster global surveillance and enhance the capability to react appropriately to further outbreaks, experts say. This should include making use of modern technologies for detecting disease, sharing information in real time and analyzing data. “We cannot afford to wait for the next outbreak of infectious disease before putting effective systems in place to safeguard public health,” says one expert.

  • WHO incapable of effective response to Ebola outbreak-like health crises

    The World Health Organization (WHO) does not have the capacity and internal culture to launch and manage an effective response to an epidemic such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, according to a scathing WHO-commissioned report, which also blames governments for not offering more support for the organization. The report says the organization was too slow in its response to the Ebola epidemic, which killed more than 11,000 people.

  • Mystery disease, which kills within 24 hours of infection, so far claims 30 in Nigeria

    A “mysterious” disease which that kills patients within twenty-four hours of infection has so far claimed at least thirty lives in a south-eastern Nigerian town, the Nigerian government said. “Twenty-three people were affected and eighteen deaths were recorded,” the Ondo state health commissioner said. The World Health Organization said it had information on fourteen additional cases, of which twelve had already died. WHO doctors said that common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness followed by death, occurring within twenty-four hours. Laboratory tests on samples from the bodies of those who died have so far ruled out Ebola or any other virus.

  • Epidemiologist warns Maine is unprepared to deal with disease outbreaks

    Last year, when Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned to her home state of Maine from West Africa, she was quarantined despite showing no signs of the disease. The way she was treated led the CDC to warn that in the absence of detailed preparations, public hysteria and paranoia often accompany, and complicate response to, an outbreak. Since then, Maine officials have been debating whether or not state agencies are prepared to tackle an outbreak.

     

  • U.S. training foreign health personnel to tackle future epidemics in North Africa, Middle East

    In an effort to prevent an Ebola-like disease outbreak in North Africa and the Middle East, a U.S. science envoy is leading a government-sponsored program which would train foreign health experts on how to produce vaccines in time to prevent an epidemic. It is uncertain what disease threat might emerge in North Africa and the Middle East, so the scientists want to be prepared for a number of candidates. They worrys most about leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, MERS, dengue fever, and alkhurma hemorrhagic fever, diseases for which there are no licensed vaccines; and tuberculosis, for which the only vaccine, BCG, offers at best modest protection.