Public health

  • Texas Medical Center considering “reverse quarantine” to prevent Ebola infections

    The Texas Medical Center(TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

  • Containing the international spread of Ebola

    The West African Ebola virus outbreak is already the largest of its kind, both in terms of numbers and geography. And with the most distant parts of the world less than a day’s flight away, it isn’t too difficult to imagine Ebola virus spreading. During the SARS outbreak, both exit and entry screening strategies failed to detect many cases. The virus spread from Asia to various parts of the world, especially to Canada. But despite the limited detection rate of the airport screening process during the SARS outbreak, it was still thought to be a useful way to educate incoming travelers about what to do and where to go if they became sick.

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  • Uncovering how Ebola virus disables immune response

    Understanding exactly how the Ebola virus targets the interferon pathway could help guide drug development moving forward. One of the human body’s first responses to a viral infection is to make and release signaling proteins called interferons, which amplify the immune system response to viruses. Over time, many viruses have evolved to undermine interferon’s immune-boosting signal, and researchers have identified a mechanism unique to the Ebola virus that defeats attempts by interferon to block viral reproduction in infected cells.

  • Ingredients in “fracking” fluids raise concerns

    As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The researchers say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

  • A 2-year old Guinean boy who died last December is Ebola outbreak’s Patient Zero: Researchers

    A recent reportin the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a two-year-old boy who died on 6 December 2013 in a village in Guéckédou, Guinea might be the virus’s Patient Zero. Guéckédou borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected more than 1,700 people. A week after the boy died, his mother died from the didease, followed by the child’s three-year-old sister and then his grandmother. Mourners at the grandmother’s funeral are suspected to have spread the virus after catching the disease from individuals who prepared the body for burial or interacted with the family.

  • Nigerian authorities scramble to contain Ebola spread

    Nigerian government has mobilized health workers to help spread information on Ebola and last week, Lagos health officials opened an emergency operation center in the city. Ebola has so far claimed two lives in Nigeria, and infected about a dozen. Both the dead and the infected came into contact with Patrick Sawyer, an American citizen working for the Liberian government who died of the disease a week-and-a-half ago in Lagos.

  • Electric bugs harnessed to detect water pollution

    Scientists have developed a low-cost device that could be used in developing countries to monitor the quality of drinking water in real time without costly lab equipment. The sensor contains bacteria that produce a small measurable electric current as they feed and grow. The researchers found that when the bacteria are disturbed by coming into contact with toxins in the water, the electric current drops, alerting to the presence of pollutants in the water.

  • FDA authorizes use of unapproved Ebola virus test

    As Ebola continues to spread throughout West Africa, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has authorized the use of an unapproved Ebola virus test developed by the Department of Defensefor use in individuals, including U.S. military personnel and responders, who may be at risk of infection because of their work with individuals who might have the virus.The Test-tube diagnostic test is one of the Pentagon’s investment in developing a vaccine or cure for Ebola.

  • Quantities of experimental Ebola drug used in U.S. too small to be shipped to West Africa

    Nigerian health authorities said yesterday that West African patients infected with the Ebola virus will not have access to experimental drugs being used to treat American cases of the disease for several months, if at all. Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told a press conference he had asked the U.S. health authorities about the unproven medicines used on two American doctors who became infected while treating patients in Liberia, but was told such small quantities of the drug existed that West Africa would have to wait for months for supplies, even if they were proved safe and effective. The two Americans were given the drug ZMapp after being flown to the United States, and appear to be recovering.

  • Forensic technology detects drugs in milk, meat

    TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Luminex’s diagnostics tool used in Africa to help control Ebola outbreak

    Luminex said the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Diagnostics Division is working on rapid diagnostics for the Ebola virus using Luminex xMAP Technology. Luminex’s MAGPIX system was recently deployed to Africa to support research efforts to control the current outbreak.

  • U.S., European doctors, health worker rush to Africa to fight Ebola outbreak

    Foreign health workers and medical staff are traveling to West Africa to help communities battle the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. More than sixty local medical staff who treated Ebola patients, roughly 8 percent of the fatalities, have died in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), announced that the United States will send fifty public health officials to West Africa in the next thirty days to help fight the disease.

  • 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.