Public health | Homeland Security Newswire

  • EbolaEbola cases mounting in Congo as region prepares for more

    The Ebola outbreak on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) grew by nine more confirmed cases Thursday, and one death. Six of the new cases (including the death) are from Mandima health zone in Ituri province. Ituri borders North Kivu province, the outbreak’s epicenter. The cases expand the number of cases in neighboring Ituri province. Outbreak total now stands at 66, which includes 39 confirmed and 27 probable cases. Lab testing results have brought the suspected number of cases down to 36 from 58.

  • EbolaCongo Ebola total grows to 52 as security concerns hamper epidemic containment efforts

    The World Health Organization (WHO), following a visit by top WHO officials to the latest outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), called for free and secure access for responders working in the affected conflict-affected area. A range of armed groups are active in the North Kivu province, creating challenging security issued for health teams who need to go deep into communities to identify and monitor possible cases, the WHO said. Conflict settings can also discourage community members from coming forward for treatment.

  • 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or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the IAEA are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.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.

  • GeoengineeringBlocking sunlight to cool Earth won't reduce crop damage from global warming

    Injecting particles into the atmosphere to cool the planet and counter the warming effects of climate change would do nothing to offset the crop damage from rising global temperatures, according to a new analysis. “Shading the planet keeps things cooler, which helps crops grow better. But plants also need sunlight to grow, so blocking sunlight can affect growth. For agriculture, the unintended impacts of solar geoengineering are equal in magnitude to the benefits,” said the study’s lead author.

  • 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.

  • BioterrorismGerman prosecutors widen bioterrorism plot probe

    German prosecutors have widened their investigation into a thwarted biological terror attack. Two suspected accomplices were arrested in Tunisia, one of whom planned a “simultaneous” attack in Tunisia. In June, Sief Allah H. was arrested in a police raid on his apartment in the western city of Cologne. Investigators found “toxic substances” that were later determined to be deadly ricin poison. The 29-year-old was also found to have bomb-making materials in his possession.

  • 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.

  • Food securityClimate taxes on agriculture may lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself

    New research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, inclusive policies are necessary instead.

  • 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.

  • Food securityHow climate change will alter our food

    By Renee Cho

    The world population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. With 3.4 billion more mouths to feed, and the growing desire of the middle class for meat and dairy in developing countries, global demand for food could increase by between 59 and 98 percent. This means that agriculture around the world needs to step up production and increase yields. But scientists say that the impacts of climate change—higher temperatures, extreme weather, drought, increasing levels of carbon dioxide, and sea level rise—threaten to decrease the quantity and jeopardize the quality of our food supplies.

  • TerrorismRicin attack plotters in Germany tested biological weapon on a hamster

    German prosecutors have arrested the wife of a Tunisian man who was detained last month for plotting a biological attack. The couple bought a hamster to test a chemical substance before they were going to use it in a planned terrorist attack.

  • 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.