• Curing vaccine hesitation by meeting someone with vaccine-preventable disease

    Since 1 January, a staggering 1,109 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in twenty-four states — the greatest number of cases since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. The outbreaks have been attributed to an increasing number of Americans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Exposing vaccine hesitant to real-life pain of diseases makes them more pro-vaccine.

  • U.S. measles cases reach 1,109 as studies point to early vaccination

    On Monday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 14 more measles cases, raising the year’s total number of cases to 1,109, as two studies conducted in other nations highlight some advantages of early vaccination of babies.

  • California Laws Lead to Higher Kindergarten Vaccine Rates

    From 2014 to 2016, California authorities took three separate actions meant to increase childhood vaccination rates, and a new study suggests these interventions were successful. “The best way to remedy the current system failure regarding measles vaccination may be to adopt a unified national approach to prohibit nonmedical exemptions, and thereby regain the degree of nationwide protection against vaccine-preventable disease from which children and other community members will benefit,” says one expert.

  • Global Public Health Scientists Launch New Challenge to Anti-Vaxxers

    Vaccines have prevented hundreds of millions of infectious diseases, including polio, measles, hepatitis B and meningitis, saving up to 3 million lives yearly. These facts have not prevented ill-informed anti-vaxxers from conducting a conspiracy-fueled campaign of misinformation and about the safety of vaccines. An international group of leading public health scientists say that search engines and social media organizations must do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information on childhood vaccination, and governments must better support mandatory immunization programs.

  • Re-thinking Biological Arms Control for the 21st Century

    International treaties prohibit the development and use of biological weapons. Yet concerns about these weapons have endured and are now escalating. Filippa Lentzos writes in a paper issued by the U.S. Marine Corps that a major source of the growing concern about future bioweapons threats stem from scientific and technical advances. Innovations in biotechnology are expanding the toolbox to modify genes and organisms at a staggering pace, making it easier to produce increasingly dangerous pathogens. Disease-causing organisms can now be modified to increase their virulence, expand their host range, increase their transmissibility, or enhance their resistance to therapeutic interventions. Scientific advances are also making it theoretically possible to create entirely novel biological weapons, by synthetically creating known or extinct pathogens or entirely new pathogens. Scientists could potentially enlarge the target of bioweapons from the immune system to the nervous system, genome, or microbiome, or they could weaponize ‘gene drives’ that would rapidly and cheaply spread harmful genes through animal and plant populations.

  • Personalized medicine software vulnerability uncovered

    A weakness in one common open source software for genomic analysis left DNA-based medical diagnostics vulnerable to cyberattacks. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories identified the weakness and notified the software developers, who issued a patch to fix the problem.

  • Controlling deadly malaria without chemicals

    Nearly half the world’s population lives in areas vulnerable to malaria which kills roughly 450,000 people per year, most of them children and pregnant women. Scientists have finally found malaria’s Achilles’ heel, a neurotoxin that isn’t harmful to any living thing except Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

  • U.S. faces long-standing biological threats challenges

    GAO officials testified before a House committee on their efforts to identify and strengthen U.S. biodefense. GAO has also released a report highlighting the agency’s findings. Despite President Trump signing off on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovations Act (PAHPA) on Monday, GAO says that there is still a lot of work to be done.

  • We must prepare for the next pandemic

    When the next pandemic strikes, it will likely be accompanied by a deluge of rumors, misinformation and flat-out lies that will appear on the internet. Bruce Schneier writes that “Pandemics are inevitable. Bioterror is already possible, and will only get easier as the requisite technologies become cheaper and more common. We’re experiencing the largest measles outbreak in twenty-five years thanks to the anti-vaccination movement, which has hijacked social media to amplify its messages; we seem unable to beat back the disinformation and pseudoscience surrounding the vaccine. Those same forces will dramatically increase death and social upheaval in the event of a pandemic.”

  • Teens of “anti-vaxxers” can get their own vaccines, some states say

    A young man who had just turned 18 showed up at the Virginia office of Drs. Sterling and Karen Ransone earlier this month and asked for the vaccines for meningitis and human papillomavirus. It was his first opportunity to be vaccinated. As a minor, he needed permission from his parents, and they wouldn’t grant it because they didn’t think the vaccines were medically necessary. Now, as a legal adult, he could get the shots on his own. This year there have been at least 1,044 measles cases in 28 states — the largest outbreak since 1992. Michael Ollove writes in Stateline that public health officials blame parents who have refused to have their kids vaccinated. One way to boost immunization rates is to narrow school vaccination exemptions, which four states have done this year. Another is to take the decision out of parents’ hands and let their kids choose for themselves. A handful of states already have given teens some vaccination rights.

  • Should measles vaccination be made compulsory?

    As measles cases in Europe hit their highest levels this decade, should the U.K. adopt compulsory vaccination? Ethicists have argued that compulsory vaccination is acceptable because people who don’t vaccinate their children are potentially putting other people’s health at risk, particularly those who can’t be vaccinated and are therefore more vulnerable.

  • International community unprepared to deal with catastrophic biological event

    The risks of a global catastrophic biological event are growing, intensified by an increasingly interconnected world, terrorist and state interest in weapons of mass destruction, global political instability, and rapid advances in biotechnology. International leaders and organizations today are unprepared to react with the kind of effective, coordinated response needed to investigate and identify the pathogen, prevent the spread of disease, and, most importantly, save lives.

  • How climate change impacts the economy

    Warmer temperatures, sea level rise and extreme weather will be deleterious to the U.S. economy: Rising temperatures damage property and critical infrastructure, impact human health and productivity, and negatively affect sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and tourism. The demand for energy will increase as power generation becomes less reliable, and water supplies will be stressed. Damage to other countries around the globe will also affect U.S. business through disruption in trade and supply chains.

  • UN agency launches new vehicle to fund antimicrobial resistance

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has launched a new funding vehicle meant to accelerate the response to rising global rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Multi-Partner Trust Fund was developed through the joint efforts of the Tripartite—the FAO and sister UN agencies the World Organization for Animal Health, and the World Health Organization.

  • New technology to measures WMD threat exposures

    Researchers are looking to find molecular signatures in blood that identify previous exposures and time of exposure to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (including infectious agents, chemicals, and radiation). The epigenome is biology’s record keeper, and Epigenetic technology will provide a new tool in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.