• DecontaminationUsing gels for biological decontamination

    Removing chemical, biological, radiological, and toxic contaminants from a range of surface types could be as easy as peeling off a sticker thanks to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and industry partner CBI Polymer.The researchers explored how a HydroGel can be modified to decontaminate surfaces contaminated with biological agents.

  • Public healthUN urges heightened vigilance after H5N1 outbreaks in West and Central Africa

    The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) alerted Western and Central African governments to be vigilant, and to continue their raised surveillance and prevention efforts after H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks were recently confirmed in chicken farms in Cameroon. The UN notes that the recent outbreak in Cameroon has brought the number of countries that have battled bird flu in West and Central Africa to six, also including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Nigeria.

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  • Public healthNew control strategies needed for Zika, other unexpected mosquito-borne outbreaks

    A recent spate of unexpected mosquito-borne disease outbreaks — most recently the Zika virus, which has swept through parts of the Americas — have highlighted the need to better understand the development and spread of little-known diseases and for new strategies to control them, researchers say. They say that despite the discovery of Zika in Uganda in 1947 and the identification of the first confirmed human infection in Nigeria six years later, few cases were reported in humans until 2007. Even then, no one understood the grave risk the disease posed to pregnancies until the recent outbreak in Brazil, which began less than two years ago.

  • Zika virusZika epidemic likely to burn itself out within three years

    The current Zika epidemic in Latin America is likely to burn itself out within three years, suggests new research. The findings also conclude the epidemic cannot be contained with existing control measures. The researchers predict the next large-scale epidemic is unlikely to emerge for at least another ten years — although there is a possibility of smaller outbreaks in this time.

  • Emerging health threats100s of deaths in two cities in 2003 heatwave due to man-made climate change: Scientists

    Scientists have specified how many deaths can be attributed to man-made climate change during an extreme heatwave in two European cities in 2003. The study says that with climate change projected to increase the frequency and severity of future heatwaves, these results highlight an emerging trend. The authors suggest that such research gives policymakers better information about the damaging effects of heatwaves to help them respond to the future challenges of climate change.

  • Food securityGauging the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture

    By Mark Dwortzan

    To assess the likely impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, researchers typically run a combination of climate and crop models that project how yields of maize, wheat, and other key crops will change over time. But the suite of models commonly used in these simulations, which account for a wide range of uncertainty, produces outcomes that can range from substantial crop losses to bountiful harvests. These mixed results often leave farmers and other agricultural stakeholders perplexed as to how best to adapt to climate change. Researchers have now devised a way to provide these stakeholders with the additional information they need to make more informed decisions. The new approach tracks key factors affecting crop yields, enabling early adaptation.

  • Food securityBetter soil data is key for future food security

    To project how much food can be produced in the future, researchers use agricultural models that estimate crop yield, or how much of a crop can be produced in a certain amount of space. These models take into account factors like climate and weather variability, irrigation, fertilizer, and soil type. A new study shows that the type of soil used in such a model can often outweigh the effects of weather variability — such as year-to-year changes in rainfall and temperature.

  • Public healthInfluenza outbreak would cost U.S. billions of dollars in losses

    An influenza pandemic would cost the nation tens of billions of dollars in economic losses — nearly double what previous estimates showed, a new study reveals. The study, which was funded by the National Biosurveillance Integration Center of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, found that the nation would lose as much as $45 billion in gross domestic product if Americans failed to get vaccinated for the flu, compared with $34 billion if they were vaccinated.

  • Water cycleCalifornia droughts caused mostly by changes in wind, not moisture

    Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. Their analysis showed that although moisture evaporated from the Pacific Ocean is the major source for California precipitation, the amount of water evaporated did not strongly influence precipitation in California, except in the cases of very heavy flooding. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.

  • Public health threatsThe politicization of U.S. handling Ebola may carry over to Zika

    If the United States responds to Zika the way it did to Ebola — and early indications are that in many ways it is — the country can expect missteps brought about by a lack of health care coordination and a lot of political finger pointing, according to a new analysis. The researchers studied the U.S. response to Ebola and found a fragmented system with no clear leadership, and considerable “strategic politicization” due to the outbreak’s arrival during a midterm election year.

  • Public health threatsU.S. needs greater preparation for next severe public health threats: Experts panel

    In a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an Independent Panel formed to review HHS’s response to Ebola made several recommendations on how the nation’s federal public health system should strengthen its response to major public health threats, both internationally and domestically. “Without focused and sustained effort, the result of other novel public health threats could be much more devastating,” said the chairman of the Independent Panel.

  • Zika virusWidespread outbreak of Zika virus in U.S. unlikely: Expert

    An infectious disease expert says that Americans should not concerned about a widespread Zika virus outbreak in the United States. “The density of mosquitoes in the United States is not what it is in other countries,” says the expert, a member of the World Health Organization Emergency Committee on Zika virus. “In order to sustain an epidemic, a large population of mosquitoes that are close together with a dense population of people is needed for Zika virus to transmit more efficiently.”

  • EbolaLessons of 1976 Ebola outbreak analysis are relevant today

    With the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa reviving interest in the first outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever 40 years ago, scientists have released a report highlighting lessons learned from the smaller, more quickly contained 1976 outbreak. “Key to diagnosis in 1976 was the relatively quick clinical recognition of a severe, possibly new disease by national authorities,” according to one of the researchers.

  • SuperbugsSecond U.S. patient infected with superbug resistant to antibiotics of last resort

    Scientists announced earlier this week that a second American patient has been infected with a superbug which is highly resistant to antibiotics of last resort. “We are very close to seeing the emergence of enterobacteria that will be impossible to treat with antibiotics,” said Lance Price of George Washington University.

  • AnthraxAnthrax capsule vaccine completely protects monkeys from lethal inhalational anthrax

    Vaccination with the anthrax capsule — a naturally occurring component of the bacterium that causes the disease — completely protected monkeys from lethal anthrax infection, according to a new study. These results indicate that anthrax capsule is a highly effective vaccine component that should be considered for incorporation in future generation anthrax vaccines.