Public health | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Climate threats & nuclear plantsWhat are coastal nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats?

    By John Vidal

    Flooding can be catastrophic to a nuclear power plant because it can knock out its electrical systems, disabling its cooling mechanisms and leading to overheating and possible meltdown and a dangerous release of radioactivity. At least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges. More than 20 flooding incidents have been recorded at U.S. nuclear plants since the early 1980s. A number of scientific papers published in 2018 suggest that climate change will impact coastal nuclear plants earlier and harder than the industry, governments, or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the IAEA are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.

  • Disaster planningDisaster planning saves lives

    There are a lot of scary threats in the world—extreme weather, terrorist attacks, deadly infectious diseases, mass shootings—but if health care organizations plan ahead for such disasters, lives can be saved. The first step for health care organizations preparing for emergencies is to accurately assess the kinds of hazards they may face, such as flooding, power outages, or violence, says an expert.

  • SuperbugsNew FDA initiative to reduce overuse of antibiotics in animals met with skepticism

    Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Approximately 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that the agency will soon be implementing a 5-year blueprint to advance antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The FDA wants to further its efforts to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs and combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. Critics charge the new FDA’s initiative is too timid.

  • Hurricane MariaDeath toll from Hurricane Maria larger than previously thought

    The number of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria — which hit Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017 — may be as high as 1,139, surpassing the official death count of 64, according to researchers. The researchers used official government records to calculate the number, which took into account not just those who died from the immediate effects of the hurricane, but also from secondary effects in the following months.

  • Conspiracy theoriesDifferences in social status, politics encourage paranoid thinking

    Paranoia is the tendency to assume other people are trying to harm you when their actual motivations are unclear, and this tendency is increased when interacting with someone of a higher social status or opposing political beliefs, according to a new study.

  • Disasters & healthFecal bacteria contaminated surface water after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented rain event that delivered five consistent days of flooding and storms to Texas last August. Now, researchers have substantiated that the storm caused high levels of fecal contamination to be introduced into waterways draining into the Gulf of Mexico and impairing surface water quality.

  • SuperbugsLow antibiotic levels in the environment may spur drug resistance

    A new study is providing new evidence that low concentrations of antibiotics in the environment could be contributing to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The researchers report that even when bacterial communities in wastewater are exposed to small amounts of the antibiotic cefotaxime, selection pressure for clinically important antibiotic-resistant genes occurs. Moreover, they also found that the selection pressure for resistance may be just as strong as when exposed to high concentrations of the drug.

  • SuperbugsCreating “criminal database” of drug-resistant pathogens

    Using a big-data approach and a network of hospitals and clinical laboratories around the world, a new non-profit initiative aims to create a comprehensive “criminal database” of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that can be recognized by their genetic fingerprint. The Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Analysis and Diagnostics Alliance (ARMADA) will create this global biobank of bacterial strains by collecting bacterial isolates from hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinical labs, and veterinary sources and then analyzing them to understand their resistance profiles, their genetic identity, and their epidemiological history.

  • Climate risksWarming temperatures could increase suicide rates across the U.S., Mexico

    Researchers compared historical temperature and suicide data and found a strong correlation between warm weather and increased suicides. They estimate climate change could lead to suicide rate increases across the U.S. and Mexico.

  • Radiation preparednessBetter decisions during a radiological emergency

    Whether a catastrophe is natural or man-made, emergency managers need to respond quickly with the optimal solution. Making decisions on the fly can be difficult, which is why significant planning must go into a disaster response strategy. Many conversations need to happen, and they need to cover a range of possible scenarios. The Radiation Decontamination tool Rad Decon was developed to facilitate those very discussions during a radiological emergency.

  • DetectionNew nerve gas detector made of a smartphone and Lego bricks

    Researchers have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks, which could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin.

  • SuperbugsTreatment with antibiotics should be stopped before resistance tipping point

    Treatments using antibiotics should stop as soon as possible to prevent patients passing the “tipping point” of becoming resistant to their effects, new research has shown. The research has uncovered new evidence that suggests reducing the length of the antibiotic course reduces the risk of resistance.

  • Nuclear detectionScavenger hunt for simulated nuclear materials

    Competing in a fictitious high-stakes scenario, a group of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) bested two dozen other teams in a months-long, data-driven scavenger hunt for simulated radioactive materials in a virtual urban environment. The competition platform was also built and managed by Lab researchers.

  • SuperbugsNovartis drops antibacterial and antiviral development program

    Antibiotic development efforts were dealt a blow Wednesday when drug maker Novartis AG announced its decision to drop its antibacterial and antiviral research programs. The decision means Novartis will no longer be working on several antimicrobial projects currently in development. The decision means that another large pharmaceutical company is getting out of antibiotic development at a time when new antibiotics are desperately needed. AstraZeneca Plc sold its antibiotics unit to Pfizer Inc. in 2016. The last new class of antibiotics was discovered and developed more than thirty years ago.

  • Radiation diagnostic testPreparing for quick radiation diagnostic test in case of a nuclear disaster

    Researchers are attempting to create a better diagnostic test for radiation exposure that potentially could save thousands of lives. A new study compiled a list of genes reported to be affected by external ionizing radiation (IR), and assessed their performance as possible biomarkers that could be used to calculate the amount of radiation absorbed by the human body.