• Could Coronavirus Really Trigger a Recession?

    By Michael Walden

    Fears are growing that the new coronavirus will infect the U.S. economy. The worry is understandable; viruses are scary things. The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, killed at least 50 million people worldwide, with some estimates putting the number as high as 100 million. In the U.S., almost 1 of every 3 people became infected, and 500,000 died. Even for those who survived, there were numerous cases of long-term physical disability. Fortunately, the adverse economic impacts were short-lived. With today’s more mobile and interconnected world, however, some suggest any large-scale pandemic would be much more severe, with costs in the trillions. Even if the death rates are relatively low, the economy can still suffer. These economic impacts would likely come in four forms: shortages of products from China, reduced sales to China, a drop in consumer spending based on fears about the virus and falling stock prices.

  • WHO Notes COVID-19 Pandemic Potential as 5 More Mideast Nations Affected

    Five more countries in the Middle East yesterday reported their first COVID-19 cases, all linked to Iran travel, signaling an escalating situation in the region in the wake of Iran’s outbreak, as World Health Organization (WHO) officials yesterday announced that, although the global situation isn’t yet a pandemic,  the world should prepare for one. Elsewhere, the pace of newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus continued to surge in South Korea and Italy, though cases are declining in China, where a WHO-led international joint mission wrapped up its visit and shared its initial findings yesterday.

  • U.S. Officials Link COVID-19 Disinformation Campaign to Russian Proxy Accounts

    Officials in the United States have said that thousands of Russia-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread alarm and misinformation about the COVID-19 crisis. State Department officials involved in countering Russian disinformation said on 22 February that fake accounts are being used on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and are operating in multiple languages.

  • Iran Notes More COVID-19 Cases as 2 from Diamond Princess Die

    Iran yesterday reported three more COVID-19 cases yesterday, as the number of new infections jumped in South Korea and in Japan, amid several new Diamond Princess developments, including the first two deaths and a US government agency clash over the evacuation of infected passengers. Meanwhile, China reported 394 new cases of the new coronavirus illness, a sharp drop that follows a case definition change that includes only lab-tested positives among the confirmed cases.

  • Mapping the Spread of Coronavirus

    Researchers are using mathematical models to better understand and predict the spread of COVID-19 and to quantify the effectiveness of various efforts to stop it. The goal of the “mathematical epidemiology” model is to help the public health community understand and anticipate the spread of the infection and evaluate the potential effectiveness of different approaches for bringing it under control.

  • Reaping What You Sow: The Case for Better Agroterrorism Preparedness

    By Stevie Kiesel

    For years, interest groups, academics, and policymakers have sounded the alarm on the vulnerability of U.S. crops to a terrorist attack. This article briefly reviews the history, risks, and consequences of agroterrorism attacks targeting crop yields and suggests how the recently established DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office could play a role in countering this threat.

  • China's COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 2,000; Iran Reports First Cases

    China’s death toll in its COVID-19 outbreak passed 2,000 today, as Iran reported its first two cases—both fatal—and the number of local cases grew in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Also, 79 more people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the virus, with quarantine ending for many of those were not infected, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel watch for Hong Kong.

  • Coronavirus: We Need to Start Preparing for the Next Viral Outbreak Now

    By David E. Bloom and Daniel Cadarette

    The coronavirus outbreak is officially a crisis – let’s not waste it. Undeniably, the international community is taking the matter very seriously, as it should, given that the death total from the COVID-19 epidemic already well surpasses that from SARS in the early 2000s. However, even if the international response to COVID-19 has been relatively strong, it may rightfully be considered too little too late, with the epidemic already underway. That’s a mistake we shouldn’t repeat. As global health researchers, we study the full societal value of vaccination and other interventions to combat infectious disease. Given the tremendous costs associated with epidemics, it’s vital that we begin working to prevent the next outbreak, even as the world struggles to fight COVID-19.

  • Fake News Exacerbates Disease Outbreaks

    The worry that fake news might be used to distort political processes or manipulate financial markets is well established. But less studied is the possibility that misinformation spread could harm human health, especially during the outbreak of an infectious disease.

  • WWI Helmets Protect Against Shock Waves as Well as or Better than Modern Designs

    Biomedical engineers have demonstrated that, despite significant advancements in protection from ballistics and blunt impacts, modern military helmets are no better at protecting the brain from shock waves created by nearby blasts than their First World War counterparts. And one model in particular, the French Adrian helmet, actually performed better than modern designs in protecting from overhead blasts.

  • More Outbreak Details Emerge as COVID-19 Cases Top 70,000

    As cases passed the 70,000 mark today, China published a detailed picture of its COVID-19 outbreak, which now shows signs of declining; however, officials warned cases could rebound as people return to work and school after the extended Lunar New Year break.

  • Social Media and Vaccine Misinformation

    People who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media, according to a new study of vaccine knowledge and media use. The researchers found that up to 20 percent of respondents were at least somewhat misinformed about vaccines. Such a high level of misinformation is “worrying” because misinformation undermines vaccination rates, and high vaccination rates are required to maintain community immunity, the researchers said.

  • Strengthening the U.S. System of Care for Infectious Diseases

    What does experience with past outbreaks suggest about the strengths and gaps of the current system of care for rare but serious infectious diseases? How might the current system be strengthened or more formalized to address those gaps? How could a more formalized system be financed, both in terms of initial investments and long-term sustainability? A study published by RAND in 2018 offers answers which relevant to the present.

  • The Next Deadly Pathogen Could Come from a Rogue Scientist. Here’s How We Can Prevent That.

    In the past few years, something new has become possible in biology: cheaply “printing” DNA for insertion into a cell. Kelsey Piper writes in Vox that this means a scientist who needs a particular DNA sequence to, say, create new bacteria for research can now order that DNA sequence from a lab. “But what if I asked them to print for me the genetic code of the influenza that caused the 1918 flu that killed millions of people? What if I sent them the instructions for a new disease that I have reason to believe is dangerous? What if I was doing legitimate research, but my lab didn’t adhere to modern safety standards?”

  • Russia Knows Just Who to Blame for the Coronavirus: America

    The coronavirus outbreak has been accompanied by an avalanche of conspiracy theories about the outbreak. “But in Russia the misinformation has been particularly pointed. Russia’s spin doctors have capitalized on the fear and confusion of the epidemic to point the blame at the United States,” Amy McKinnong writers. McKinnon notes that the Russian messaging fits a now well-established pattern in that it doesn’t look to persuade audiences of a single alternative truth, because “That would take effort, planning, and persuasion.” Rather, Kremlin propaganda specialists produce “a steady stream of underdeveloped, sometimes contradictory conspiracy theories intended to exhaust and confuse viewers, making them question the very notion of objective truth itself.”