• What Data Hackers Can Get about You from Hospitals

    When hospitals are hacked, the public hears about the number of victims – but not what information the cybercriminals stole. New research uncovers the specific data leaked through hospital breaches, sounding alarm bells for nearly 170 million people.

  • Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

    On 18 August 2008—after almost seven years, nearly 10,000 interviews, and millions of dollars spent developing a whole new form of microbial forensics—some of the FBI announced that it had concluded that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for the fall 2001 anthrax letter attacks. “It’s been 10 years since the deadliest biological terror attack in U.S. history launched a manhunt that ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide, yet nagging problems remain,” Noah Shachtman writes. “Problems that add up to an unsettling reality: Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.”

  • The World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming

    A new independent report compiled at the request of the United Nations secretary-general warns that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic sweeping the planet, killing up to 80 million people. A deadly pathogen, spread airborne around the world, the report says, could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy. And we’re not ready. Laura Garrett writes that twenty-five years ago, in 1994, she published her book on the subject, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, arguing that human disruption of the global environment, coupled with behaviors that readily spread microbes between people and from animals to humans, guaranteed a global surge in epidemics, even an enormous pandemic. She writes that epidemic outbreaks were aided and abetted by inept health systems, human behavior, and the complete lack of consistent political and financial support for disease-fighting preparedness everywhere in the world. Will the UN report’s warning be heeded now?

  • Biosafety Levels in Laboratories – What is the Difference?

    The United States is home to several types of laboratories that conduct medical research on a variety of infectious biological agents to promote the development of new diagnostic tests, medical countermeasures, and treatments. The CDC has devised a system of Biosafety Labs (BSL) designations. Ranked from lowest to the highest level of containment, they are BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4. The BSL designations outline specific safety and facility requirements to achieve the appropriate biosafety and biocontainment. The BSL is assigned based on the type of infectious agent on which the research is being conducted. For example, a BSL-4 conducts research on dangerous and exotic agents with a high-risk of causing life-threatening disease, the possibility of aerosol transmission, and no known treatment or therapy (e.g., Marbug virus, Congo-Crimean virus, Ebola virus).

  • Pesticides May Have Caused Cuban “Sonic Weapon” Symptoms

    A strange illness affecting the brains of Canadian and U.S. diplomats in their countries’ embassies in Havana may have been caused by exposure to pesticides, a new study says. From late 2016 to late 2017, some 40 U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana suffered brain damage, and exhibited a range of unusual symptoms, including hearing and vision complications, dizziness, fatigue, disorientation, and headaches. The U.S. government claimed that the diplomats had been attacked by some sort of secret sonic weapon, but a new Canadian study says that the cause was likely an exposure to low-dose exposure to neurotoxins, such as those used in commercial pesticides. From late 2016 to late 2017, Cuban health authorities engaged in an intensive fumigation campaign to block the spread of the Zika virus.

  • Declaring Vaccine Hesitancy One of the Ten Biggest Health Threats in 2019 Is Unhelpful

    The rhetoric is well-known: vaccines work, the science is settled, vaccine-hesitant parents are uninformed or misguided victims of the social media platforms where crooks spread fake science. It is taken as a given that vaccines are similarly and uniformly beneficial – aside from rare side effects – and no sane person would question that. But are vaccines similarly and uniformly beneficial? There is no doubt that vaccines can induce immunological “memory” against their target disease. And, at the population level, this reduces the risk of getting the target disease. Vaccine led to the eradication of smallpox, and we are close to eradicating two other serious infections: polio and measles. But we don’t have a lot of evidence about the overall health effects of vaccines. Everybody has been so sure that vaccines only protected against the target infection, nothing else, and so nobody studied the overall health effects. They were simply assumed to be proportionally beneficial. We do not have the evidence for all vaccines to tell vaccine-hesitant parents that it is overall beneficial for their child to receive each one of them. Rather, we have to acknowledge that there are things about vaccines that have not been investigated very well.

  • World Unprepared for Pandemic: WHO

    The next deadly pandemic could spread within thirty-six hours, disrupt economies and destabilize national security, WHO and World Bank experts have said. The experts said current efforts to manage a pandemic are “grossly insufficient.” Epidemic-prone viral diseases such as Ebola, SARS, and the flu have become increasingly difficult to control, as long-term armed conflicts, forced migration, and weak and failed states become more commonplace in the world, the report warned.

  • Over 3,000 Killed by Deadly Virus in Democratic Republic of the Congo This Year – and It’s Not Ebola

    Ebola outbreaks, such as the current one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has claimed 2,074 people’s lives, are widely covered in the media. But another virus is ravaging the DRC with minimal publicity. That virus is measles.

  • The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments

    Suburban sprawl has engulfed Fort Detrick, an Army base 50 miles from Washington in the Maryland town of Frederick. seventy-six years ago, however, when the Army selected Detrick as the place to develop its super-secret plans to wage germ warfare, the area around the base looked much different. In fact, it was chosen for its isolation. For decades, much of what went on at the base was a closely held secret. Directors of the CIA mind control program MK-ULTRA, which used Detrick as a key base, destroyed most of their records in 1973. Some of its secrets have been revealed in declassified documents, through interviews and as a result of congressional investigations. Together, those sources reveal Detrick’s central role in MK-ULTRA and in the manufacture of poisons intended to kill foreign leaders.

  • In the Event of a Killer Asteroid, Volcanic Apocalypse, or Nuclear Holocaust, Mushrooms Could Save Humanity from Extinction

    About 66 million years ago, an asteroid plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the sea floor, creating an explosion over 6,500 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The impact sent clouds of debris and sulfur into Earth’s atmosphere, blocking the sun’s light and warmth for about two years. Photosynthesis ground to a halt, which meant no more plant growth. The surviving dinosaurs starved to extinction. But fossil records show that fungi thrived in the aftermath. “Blot out the sun, and even the best-prepared survivalist, a master of the wilderness, will starve to death along with everyone else,” Bryan Walsh writes in his new book, End Times. In order to survive, he says, people would need to adopt sunlight-free agriculture — cultivating mushrooms, rats, and insects.

  • U.K. Launches New Infectious Disease Strategy

    In response to rising antibiotic resistance, the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases, and the spread of novel pathogens around the globe, Public Health England (PHE) the other day announced a new 5-year strategy aimed at strengthening the agency’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases.

  • Soils Could Be Affected by Climate Change, Impacting Water and Food

    Coasts, oceans, ecosystems, weather and human health all face impacts from climate change, and now valuable soils may also be affected. Climate change may reduce the ability of soils to absorb water in many parts of the world, according to a Rutgers-led study. And that could have serious implications for groundwater supplies, food production and security, stormwater runoff, biodiversity and ecosystems.

  • Scent-Tracking Dogs Help Hospitals Track Superbug

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year C difficile causes more than 450,000 infections in U.S. hospitals, is associated with more than 29,000 deaths, and costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $5 billion. One of the main reasons C difficile has become such a burden for hospitals is that it spreads easily—typically through contact between sick patients and healthcare workers—and it’s very hard to get rid of. One hospital fights C difficile by employing a dog trained to smell of the deadly bacterium.

  • Microplastics Harming Our Drinking Water

    Plastics in our waste streams are breaking down into tiny particles, causing potentially catastrophic consequences for human health and our aquatic systems. Approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year and up to 13 million tons of that is released into rivers and oceans, contributing to approximately 250 million tons of plastic by 2025. Since plastic materials are not generally degradable through weathering or ageing, this accumulation of plastic pollution in the aquatic environment creates a major health concern.

  • Designed Super Shrimp Could Increase Yield, Help Prevent Disease

    Single-sex prawns could help alleviate poverty, reduce disease and protect the environment, according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) who have developed a monosex prawn that may make this winning trifecta possible.