Public health

  • Securiport’s advanced biometric immigration control systems help in fight against Ebola

    Securiport says it is supporting the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa by providing advanced biometric screening technologies and comprehensive contact tracing data analytics to help governments and health organizations monitor and control the spread of the virus. The company’s immigration control systems are now in place across a total of seven West African nations, including Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

  • Mopping up toxic fire-fighting chemicals

    Australian scientists have come up with the solution to a world-wide pollution problem — how to mop up the toxic residues left after the use of special foams to fight fires. The technology uses a modified clay to soak up potential cancer-causing substances in the foam used by fire fighters, defense facilities, and airports worldwide to suppress fires.

  • Dallas Ebola patient was sent home as a result of a flaw in software used by many hospitals

    Before Thomas Eric Duncan was placed in isolation for Ebola at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospitalon 28 September, he sought care for fever and abdominal pain three days earlier, but was sent home. During his initial visit to the hospital, Duncan told a nurse that he had recently traveled to West Africa — a sign that should have led hospital staff to test Duncan for Ebola. Instead, Duncan’s travel record was not shared with doctors who examined him later that day. This was the result of a flaw in the way the physician and nursing portions of our electronic health records (EHR).EHR software, used by many hospitals, contains separate workflows for doctors and nurses.

  • Sandia researchers find clues to superbug evolution

    Imagine going to the hospital with one disease and coming home with something much worse, or not coming home at all. With the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistance pathogens, healthcare-associated infections have become a serious threat. On any given day about one in twenty-five hospital patients has at least one such infection and as many as one in nine die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A team of Sandia National Laboratories microbiologists for the first time recently sequenced the entire genome of a Klebsiella pneumoniae strain, encoding New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1). Klebsiella pneumoniae is not typically a ferocious pathogen, but now armed with resistance to virtually all antibiotics in current clinical use.

  • FDA, industry face pressures to ensure safety of food ingredients

    Confusion over a 1997 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule that eases the way for food manufacturers to use ingredients “generally regarded as safe,” or GRAS, has inspired a new initiative by food makers. Food safety advocates say the current GRAS process allows substances into the food supply that might pose a health risk, while industry defends its record.

  • Quarantine works against Ebola but over-use risks disaster

    Quarantine, in the form of isolation, is an important component of the response to Ebola infection. As people are infectious only once they develop symptoms, isolating them and having health-care workers use personal protective equipment significantly reduces the risk of onward transmission. While quarantine is an important weapon in our arsenal against Ebola, indiscriminate isolation is counterproductive. The World Health Organization has warned that closing country borders and banning the movement of people is detrimental to the affected countries, pushing them closer to an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Still, this didn’t stop Sierra Leone from imposing a stay-at-home curfew for all of its 6.2 million citizens for three days from 19 to 21 September. Quarantine is an excellent measure for containing infectious disease outbreaks, but its indiscriminate and widespread use will compound this epidemic with another humanitarian disaster.

  • Transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection in homeland security, medical safety

    Researchers say recently identified radiation detection properties of a light-emitting nanostructure built in their lab could open doors for homeland security and medical advances. The researchers describe a new method to fabricate transparent nanoscintillators by heating nanoparticles composed of lanthanum, yttrium and oxygen until a transparent ceramic is formed. A scintillator refers to a material that glows in response to radiation.

  • U.S. hospitals unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste

    A board of biological safety experts has warned that many U.S. hospitals may be unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste safely, should the disease arrive in any great number within the mainland. Many waste management companies are refusing to perform any service where waste items – such as soiled sheets and medical protective gear involved with treating the disease – would have to be handled. They cite federal guidelines which state that such items would require special training and packaging by people with hazardous materials training.

  • CDC: First Ebola case diagnosed outside Africa; patient being treated in Dallas, Texas

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday evening announced the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the current outbreak, which has so far killed more than 3,000 people this year. The CDC said the patient left Liberia on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until 24 September, when he was already in Dallas. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday, 27 September. The possibility of treating the patient with experimental therapies was being discussed with the patient’s family. If the Texas patient receives the experimental treatment for Ebola, he will be the fifth to do so in the United States (a sixth American – a carrier of dual American-Liberian citizenship who worked for Liberia’s Ministry of the Treasury – contracted the disease in Monrovia in July and dies a few days later in a Lagos, Nigeria hospital). The FDA has issued warning letters to three privately held companies marketing what they claim are treatments to prevent or treat Ebola.

  • Contrary to scientific evidence, the media continue to fan fears of airborne Ebola infection

    Despite solid evidence presented by scientists to quell rumors that the deadly Ebola virus could be passed through the air, many American media outlets continue to raise alarm and fuel debates with flimsy sources.These outlets publish articles which revive an earlier scientific debate over whether the Ebola virus can be transmitted through the air — but scientists say this debate has been decided, and that the Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air.

  • Ancient plague offers insights on how to improve treatments for infections

    Dangerous new pathogens such as the Ebola virus invoke scary scenarios of deadly epidemics, but even ancient scourges such as the bubonic plague are still providing researchers with new insights on how the body responds to infections. Researchers have detailed how the Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague hitchhike on immune cells in the lymph nodes and eventually ride into the lungs and the blood stream, where the infection is easily transmitted to others. The insight provides a new avenue to develop therapies that block this host immune function rather than target the pathogens themselves — a tactic that often leads to antibiotic resistance.

  • Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

    The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”

  • Irish teens win Google Science Fair prize for using bacteria to improve crop yields

    Three high-schoolers from Cork County Ireland have won the top prize at this year’s Google Science Fair for their project that demonstrates a way to germinate seeds faster using bacteria as a seed treatment. The group found that all of the seeds treated with bacteria sprouted on average 50 percent faster than those that were left untreated, which, the team reports led to an increase in harvest amounts of some of the oats by as much as 70 percent.

  • Turning mobile phones into detectors of disease-spreading insects

    Insects transmit many of the world’s most infectious diseases, but there has been a decline in the expertise needed to recognize species of insects most likely to transmit illness to people. In a new effort to safeguard human populations, a team of scientists, computer programmers, public health officials, and artists is working to enable mobile phones to link up to computers that automatically identify species of disease-carrying insects.

  • Number of Ebola cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone to reach 1.4 million by mid-January 2015: CDC

    A new study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a model developed by CDC to estimate the spread of the Ebola virus shows that if current virus proliferation trends continue without additional interventions, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone will reach 1.4 million by mid-January 2015.