Public health | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Fragile supply chain causing antibiotic shortages, resistance threat

    A white paper released yesterday argues that a fragile global supply chain that’s dependent on a small number of antibiotics manufacturers, along with a financially unstable economic model, are responsible for shortages of antibiotics on a global and national level. Because of these shortages, some patients in need of antibiotics are being treated with lower-quality medications that don’t cure their infections and increase the risk of resistance.

  • Floridians to face more frequent, intense heatwaves

    By the late twenty-first century, if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reach worst-case projections, Floridians could experience summer heatwaves three times more frequently, and each heatwave could last six times longer than at present, according to new research. “More extreme heatwaves in Florida would have profound impacts on human health as well as the state’s economy,” says a researcher.

  • Clade X pandemic exercise: Preventing the worst outcomes in future pandemics

    The outbreak of a moderately contagious and moderately lethal novel pathogen precipitated a catastrophic end to the scenario in Clade X, the day-long pandemic tabletop exercise hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The scenario opens with the present-day outbreak of a new, serious respiratory disease in Germany and Venezuela. Clade X quickly causes widespread, worldwide anxiety as case counts and deaths mount. Within a year, 150 million people die from the disease—15 million in the United States alone.

  • Winners announced in $300K biothreat prize competition

    DHS S&T the other day announced the grand prize winner of its $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. The prize competition called for the design of an early warning system to keep communities safe by using existing data sources to uncover emerging biothreats.

  • Hurricane Maria killed 4,600, not only 64, as official U.S. government figures claim

    Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico last September led to the death of thousands on the island, according to a new study – in sharp contrast with the official U.S. government death toll of 64. A new study concludes that as many as 4,600 “excess deaths” occurred in the aftermath of the storm as a result of failures of medical and other critical infrastructure, and described the official number as “a substantial underestimate.”

  • The federal government has long treated Nevada as a dumping ground, and it’s not just Yucca Mountain

    Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of “The Walking Dead” TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die. In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation’s only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts. While teaching and writing about the state’s history for more than 30 years, I have followed the Yucca Mountain fight from the beginning – as well as how Nevadans’ views have evolved on all things nuclear. The project could well go forward, but I believe that it probably won’t as long as there are political benefits to stopping it.

  • Ebola response in Congo runs into community resistance

    The Ebola virus has so far killed 12 people in Congo, with 52 additional cases reported as of last Friday. Ebola responders in Congo are revealing more about local practices and community mistrust, which in some instances are hampering the actions needed to curb the spread of the disease in the country’s outbreak hot spots. Experts note that the United States is playing a less prominent role in the response, raising questions about the U.S. policies regarding global health security.

  • Little-known virus could become the next global pandemic

    A little-known virus discovered twenty years ago could become the next global pandemic. A recent outbreak of Nipah in South India has renewed interest in the virus, which has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and has no vaccine or cure. “Emerging infections have resulted in the most devastating infectious diseases that humanity has ever faced. These include HIV, tuberculosis, measles and smallpox. History has taught us that emerging infections can be major threats,” says Stanford University epidemiologist and Nipah expert Stephen Luby.

  • Fukushima-Daiichi radioactive particle release was significant: Study

    Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.

  • Climate change could increase arable land, agricultural feasibility in northern hemisphere

    Climate change could expand the agricultural feasibility of the global boreal region by 44 percent by the end of the century, according to new research. However, the scientists warn that the same climate trends that would increase land suitable for crop growth in that area could also significantly change the global climatic water balance – negatively impacting agriculture in the rest of the world.

  • Will London run out of water?

    The U.K.’s Environment Agency warns in a new report that England could suffer major water shortages by 2030 and that London is particularly at risk. The BBC agrees, placing London on its recent list of 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water along with the likes of Cape Town, where an ongoing water crisis has caused social and economic disruption. There are limits to what can be achieved just by fixing leaky pipes or getting people to water their lawns less often. Though such measures are useful, they will not safeguard London’s water supplies against the more extreme combinations of growth and climate change.

  • Antibiotic resistance rise tied to hotter temps

    Could a warming climate be one of the factors bringing the world closer to the “post-antibiotic” era that infectious disease experts have been warning about? That’s one of the questions raised by a new study that explores the role that climate and other factors play in the distribution of antibiotic resistance in the United States.

  • Growing concerns about DIY gene editing

    There is a growing concerns regarding the rising popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) gene editing. From the horsepox de novo synthesis to public stunts at conventions where biohackers injected themselves with HIV treatment, it is becoming difficult to ignore why these actions are dangerous.

  • Biosecurity: Do synthetic biologists need a license to operate?

    Advances in gene editing technology and the drop in costs make it possible for individuals to perform more sophisticated molecular biology experiments in private spaces. This hobby attracts a variety of people and has been hailed as a way to democratize genetic engineering. A few recent stunts raise concerns about what are the hazards of individuals with gene-editing capabilities.

  • Alternatives to lead ammo carry their own toxic risks

    Hunting with lead shot is highly restricted or entirely banned in many countries due to the danger of poisoning birds and the environment. However, alternative ammunition is not without its own risks, researchers found. Ammunition manufacturers now offer a range of alternative hunting shot containing iron, copper, zinc, tungsten, or bismuth as primary declared component. Researchers have found, however, that these alternatives are even more toxic to water organisms than conventional lead shot.