Public health

  • New technology could screen for emerging viral diseases

    Researchers developed a microbe detection array technology which could provide a new rapid method for public health authorities to conduct surveillance for emerging viral diseases. With the use of the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), combined with a DNA amplification technique developed by researchers from Denmark, the team was able correctly to identify twenty-nine different emerging viruses in both clinical and non-clinical samples.

  • Toledo’s water alarm harbinger of things to come

    This past weekend, officials in Toledo, Ohio urged residents and the several hundred thousand people served by the city’s water utility not to drink tap water after discovering elevated levels of microcystin, a toxin caused by algal blooms, in their water supply. Toledo’s water supply has since returned to normal, but nutrient enrichment and climate change are causing an apparent increase in the toxicity of some algal blooms in freshwater lakes and estuaries around the world, scientists say.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
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  • Ebola outbreak is cause for concern but there’s hope yet

    The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is now the largest recorded since the virus was first described in 1976. That this outbreak is not under control after more than four months is cause for great concern, as are the way the virus is spreading and apparent breaches in infection control. The epidemic was recognized at the outset as being unusual. It started in a region that borders Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, far from where previous outbreaks had been reported. And cases spread early to a number of areas in all three countries. There are also some positive signs. Because the incubation period (the delay between contact and becoming unwell) is up to twenty-one days, current infections represent the state of control measures over that period. So the results of more recent control efforts are yet to be reflected in case numbers. The good news is that it does appear the outbreak is coming under control in some areas, particularly in Guinea where the first cases were reported.

  • U.S. sends 50 epidemics expert to West Africa in an effort to contain out-of-control outbreak

    The United States has announced plans to send at least fifty public health and epidemics experts to West Africa to help in the desperate effort to contain the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola. Senior U.S. and European health officials said the outbreak is now out of control, but insisted it could still be stopped. The Ebola outbreak has so far claimed more than 700 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The current mortality rate is about 55 percent.

  • 2nd Ebola death in Nigeria; Liberia orders cremation of victims

    Nigerian authorities today (Monday) confirmed a second case of Ebola in Africa’s most populous nation, an alarming setback as officials across the region are desperately trying to contain the spread of a disease. Also Monday, health authorities in Liberia ordered that all those who die from Ebola be cremated after communities opposed having the bodies buried nearby. Over the weekend, health authorities in the West African country encountered resistance while trying to bury twenty-two bodies in Johnsonville, outside the capital Monrovia. Military police helped restore order.

  • Airports scrambling to find effective passenger Ebola screening methods

    Some airports in Africa have begun screening passengers for Ebola. The current methods involves thermal screening of patients, and then subjecting passengers with an elevated temperature, a symptom of Ebola, to a blood testcalled a polymerase chain reaction test. The test can take eight hours or longer to obtain lab results, and is expensive.Aviation experts recommend screening passengers for Ebola the same way aviation security screen passengers for other threats like terrorism, but say the screening methods must be made to yield results more quickly and cheaply.

  • Scientists support research which increases microbes’ virulence, transmissibility, or host range

    Amid new concerns about lab safety lapses and in a counterpoint to recent calls for restrictions on research that may render pathogens more dangerous, thirty-six scientists from several countries have issued a formal statement asserting that research on potentially dangerous pathogens can be done safely, and is necessary for a full understanding of infectious diseases. The statement rejects calls for limiting “gain-of-function” (GOF) research, that is, experiments which involve increasing the virulence, transmissibility, or host range of microbes.

  • Research institutions must support strong, positive safety culture in chemical labs

    Everyone involved in the academic chemical research enterprise — from researchers and principal investigators to university leadership — has an important role to play in establishing and promoting a strong, positive safety culture, says a new report from the National Research Council. This requires a constant commitment to safety organization-wide and emphasis on identifying and solving problems, rather than merely adhering to a set of rules and assigning blame when those rules are not followed.

  • West African countries intensify efforts to contain Ebola outbreak

    Togo-based, pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and growing fears of the rapidly spreading Ebola virus have led the Liberian football association to cancel games. Liberia plans to shut down schools and many markets, place all non-essential public servants on leave and quarantine several communities. The rural communities which will be guaranteed will have food supplies and medical support ferried only by approved persons. All public facilities could be chlorinated and disinfected on Friday, and public gatherings have already been banned.

  • New methods of detecting Salmonella in pork meat processing

    Infections caused by foodborne microorganisms are an increasing public health burden. In a Ph.D. project at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, new methods of characterizing and detecting foodborne illness-causing Salmonella in pork meat processing and in bacteria in water, feed and food samples were studied.

  • What you need to know about Ebola

    More West African nations are alerting health officials and citizens about the potential for the deadly Ebola disease to spread by individuals traveling from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where more than 700 people have died in recent weeks.An American doctor, Kent Brantly, working in Monrovia, Liberia with Ebola patients has contracted the disease.

  • Clay minerals may offer an answer to MRSA, other superbug infections

    Researchers set out to identify naturally occurring antibacterial clays effective at killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They incubated the pathogens Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which breeds skin infections, with clays from volcanic deposit near Crater Lake, Oregon. They found that the clays’ rapid uptake of iron impaired bacterial metabolism. Cells were flooded with excess iron, which overwhelmed iron storage proteins and killed the bacteria.

  • CDC resumes pathogen shipments

    Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) announced it would reopen its clinical tuberculosis lab to resume transfer of inactivated tuberculosis bacteria to lower-level CDC labs for genetic analysis. CDC head Tom Frieden imposed a ban on transfers involving high-level pathogens following a series of incidents and mishandling of such pathogens at CDC labs.

  • Ebola spreads to Nigeria, most populous African nation

    The Ebola outbreak which has so far left more than 700 people dead and 1,100 infected across three West African countries — Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea — has now spread to Africa’s most populous nation after a Liberian man, who traveled to Lagos for an international conference, became sick on the airplane, and died two days later in a Lagos hospital. The sister of the 40-year-old man had recently died of Ebola in Liberia.

  • Drought-driven use of underground water threatens water supply of western U.S.

    Scientists find that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwest part of the United States. Its basin supplies water to about forty million people in seven states, as well as irrigating roughly four million acres of farmland. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.