• Influenza outbreak would cost U.S. billions of dollars in losses

    An influenza pandemic would cost the nation tens of billions of dollars in economic losses — nearly double what previous estimates showed, a new study reveals. The study, which was funded by the National Biosurveillance Integration Center of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, found that the nation would lose as much as $45 billion in gross domestic product if Americans failed to get vaccinated for the flu, compared with $34 billion if they were vaccinated.

  • California droughts caused mostly by changes in wind, not moisture

    Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. Their analysis showed that although moisture evaporated from the Pacific Ocean is the major source for California precipitation, the amount of water evaporated did not strongly influence precipitation in California, except in the cases of very heavy flooding. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.

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  • The politicization of U.S. handling Ebola may carry over to Zika

    If the United States responds to Zika the way it did to Ebola — and early indications are that in many ways it is — the country can expect missteps brought about by a lack of health care coordination and a lot of political finger pointing, according to a new analysis. The researchers studied the U.S. response to Ebola and found a fragmented system with no clear leadership, and considerable “strategic politicization” due to the outbreak’s arrival during a midterm election year.

  • U.S. needs greater preparation for next severe public health threats: Experts panel

    In a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an Independent Panel formed to review HHS’s response to Ebola made several recommendations on how the nation’s federal public health system should strengthen its response to major public health threats, both internationally and domestically. “Without focused and sustained effort, the result of other novel public health threats could be much more devastating,” said the chairman of the Independent Panel.

  • Widespread outbreak of Zika virus in U.S. unlikely: Expert

    An infectious disease expert says that Americans should not concerned about a widespread Zika virus outbreak in the United States. “The density of mosquitoes in the United States is not what it is in other countries,” says the expert, a member of the World Health Organization Emergency Committee on Zika virus. “In order to sustain an epidemic, a large population of mosquitoes that are close together with a dense population of people is needed for Zika virus to transmit more efficiently.”

  • Lessons of 1976 Ebola outbreak analysis are relevant today

    With the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa reviving interest in the first outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever 40 years ago, scientists have released a report highlighting lessons learned from the smaller, more quickly contained 1976 outbreak. “Key to diagnosis in 1976 was the relatively quick clinical recognition of a severe, possibly new disease by national authorities,” according to one of the researchers.

  • Second U.S. patient infected with superbug resistant to antibiotics of last resort

    Scientists announced earlier this week that a second American patient has been infected with a superbug which is highly resistant to antibiotics of last resort. “We are very close to seeing the emergence of enterobacteria that will be impossible to treat with antibiotics,” said Lance Price of George Washington University.

  • Anthrax capsule vaccine completely protects monkeys from lethal inhalational anthrax

    Vaccination with the anthrax capsule — a naturally occurring component of the bacterium that causes the disease — completely protected monkeys from lethal anthrax infection, according to a new study. These results indicate that anthrax capsule is a highly effective vaccine component that should be considered for incorporation in future generation anthrax vaccines.

  • FDA completes pre-approval inspection of Emergent BioSolutions’ anthrax vaccine manufacturing facility

    Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. last week announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had completed its Pre-Approval Inspection (PAI) of Building 55, the company’s facility for large-scale manufacturing of BioThrax (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed).

  • "Flesh-eating" bacteria scares shouldn't keep you off Texas beaches

    Every summer as millions flock to Gulf Coast beaches, another seasonal cycle begins: news stories of what we should fear. Most recently in Texas, there have been a number of stories about so-called flesh-eating bacteria infecting beachgoers, Vibrio vulnificus.. Sensationalized news about health threats like V. vulnificus undermine rational thought and distort perspective, but there is plenty of good information out there to make your own decision about risk. I hope to see you on the beach.

  • Integrating military, civilian trauma care systems could prevent up to 20% of U.S. trauma deaths

    The leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 46 is trauma — a disabling or life-threatening physical injury that results from an event such as a motor vehicle crash, gun violence, or fall. In 2013, trauma cost approximately $670 billion in medical care expenses and lost productivity. Of the 147,790 U.S. trauma deaths in 2014, as many as 20 percent — or about 30,000 — may have been preventable after injury with optimal trauma care. Mass casualty incidents and increasing foreign and domestic threats to homeland security lend urgency to the translation of wartime lessons to civilian trauma systems, says a new report.

  • Crop breeding is not keeping pace with climate change

    Crop yields will fall within the next decade due to climate change unless immediate action is taken to speed up the introduction of new and improved varieties, experts have warned. The researchers focused on maize in Africa but the underlying processes affect crops across the tropics.

  • Zika threatens world's blood supply: Experts

    Blood safety researchers say it is highly likely that the mosquito-borne Zika virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions and are calling for an evidence-based approach to protecting the blood supply from the threat of Zika virus.

  • Predicting contagiousness to help limit the spread of disease

    Imagine the workplace during flu season. Some people get sick and display clear symptoms — a warning sign to coworkers to avoid contact and for that individual to stay home. Others are infected, but never or only belatedly exhibit the tell-tale signs of sickness, meaning they can infect coworkers without knowing it. If healthcare professionals had the ability to test in advance whether a person is likely to spread a disease following infection, they could recommend specific measures to treat the person or limit exposure and perhaps keep an outbreak from growing into an epidemic or pandemic. DARPA’s new Prometheus program is setting out to develop that predictive capability.

  • Testing NYC subway biodefenses

    Researchers took to the New York City subway system 9-13 May to study how a surrogate for a biological agent, such as anthrax, might disperse throughout the nation’s largest rapid transit system as a result of a terrorist attack or an accidental release. The study is part of a five-year DHS project called Underground Transport Restoration (UTR) and was conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.