Public health

  • Captured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

    Terrorist organizations have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction, and now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq. A laptop belonging to a Tunisian who joined ISIS was recently found in Syria, contained documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

  • Ebola now threatening West Africa’s major cities

    The Ebola virus has begun to spread in Guinea in March, then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and then to Nigeria and Congo. It is now threatening to overwhelm West Africa’s largest cities. The virus is now infecting not only remote rural provinces, but also large cities such as Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia — places where millions of people live in close quarters, making the situation exponentially more dangerous.

  • NIH launching human safety study of Ebola vaccine candidate

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will this week begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

  • West Africa Ebola cases to rise to 20,000; in Liberia virus uncontainable: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000, while doctors in Liberia say the virus is now spreading so rapidly that the Ebola epidemic, at least in Liberia, can no longer be contained by the resources available in the country. WHO says the outbreak is accelerating throughout west Africa, where the number of deaths yesterday crossed the 1,500 mark, with 1,552 confirmed deaths. The number of those infected reached 3,069 – but health specialists say the numbers of those infected could be two to four times higher. The health care infrastructure in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon is so poor, and large parts of each country have no meaningful health care system at all, that reports of those infected with the Ebola virus and those who died from it must be considered as underestimates.

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  • Potential therapy for the Sudan strain of Ebola may contain some future outbreaks

    Ebola is a rare but deadly disease that exists as five strains, none of which has approved therapies. One of the most lethal strains is the Sudan Ebolavirus (SUDV). Although not the strain currently devastating West Africa, SUDV has caused widespread illness, even as recently as 2012. In a new study appearing in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, researchers report a possible therapy that could someday help treat patients infected with SUDV.

  • Wellcome Trust announces emergency Ebola research initiative

    The Wellcome Trust announced the emergency Ebola initiative, which includes contributions from partner funders, and which aims to support research that can swiftly begin to investigate new approaches to treating, preventing, and containing the disease during the current epidemic in West Africa. The initiative will also support research into the ethical challenges of testing experimental medicines during epidemics.

  • Poll finds many in U.S. lack knowledge about Ebola and its transmission

    Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports no known cases of Ebola transmission in the United States, a Harvard School of Public Health poll released last week shows that four in ten (39 percent) adults in the United States are concerned that there will be a large outbreak in the United States, and a quarter (26 percent) are concerned that they or someone in their immediate family may get sick with Ebola over the next year.

  • Southwest may face “megadrought” within century: Study

    Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade-long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” — one that lasts up to thirty-five years — ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century. While the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest lasted four to eight years, depending upon location, a megadrought can last more than three decades, which could lead to mass population migration on a scale never before seen in this country.

  • U.S. Army researchers help fight Ebola in the field

    U.S. Army researchers are working on developing vaccines for the deadly Ebola virus, as well as combating the spread of the virus and caring for those who are infected. The virus has now killed more than 1,000 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria. Researchers from the Applied Diagnostics Branch, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), along with researchers from Public Health Canada, helped develop the serum given recently to two U.S. medical workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who contracted the virus while working with patients infected by Ebola in West Africa, Schoepp said.

  • Epidemic ethics: four lessons from the current Ebola outbreak

    The extent of the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has belatedly focused the attention of non-governmental organizations, local and Western governments, and international media. What we haven’t caught up with though, is the extent to which these outbreaks and their devastating effects are predictable and preventable. The spread of Ebola virus occurs because health infrastructure in the region is fragmented, under-resourced, or non-existent. And the therapeutic response to the illness is constrained by failure of markets to drive drug and vaccine development that would help the world’s poorest people.

  • Cutting carbon emissions more than pays for itself with savings on health care spending

    Just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than ten times the cost of policy implementation. The concluded that savings from healthier air can make up for some or all of the cost of carbon-reduction policies.

  • Climate change makes Europe hospitable to Dengue fever

    Dengue fever is a tropical disease caused by a virus that is spread by mosquitoes, with symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain. Each year, dengue infects fifty million people worldwide and causes approximately 12,000 deaths — mostly in South-east Asia, and the Western Pacific. Scientists say that Dengue fever could make headway in popular European holiday destinations if climate change continues on its predicted trajectory.

  • Liberia quarantines area the size of Wales in an effort to contain Ebola spread

    In an effort to control the spread of Ebola throughout West Africa, Liberia has quarantined areas at the epicenter of the epidemic. Experts say the quarantine is not likely to be effective because of two reasons: people inside and outside the quarantined areas – called “Unified Sectors” – still lack effective medical services, and the growing shortages of food and clean water inside the Unified Sectors will force people from inside those areas to go outside in search of food. The areas – which, combined, are the size of Wales — are too large to be effectively monitored.

  • Ebola poses no risk in U.S.: Experts

    Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, experts say. These experts note that Ebola can be contracted only from patients who have the symptoms, not those who are infected, and even then infection occurs only when coming into contact with bodily fluids. They say that SARS and the flu are more contagious than Ebola.

  • Neumedicines receives $14m for acute radiation exposure countermeasures

    Neumedicines receives $14 million from BARDA to support advanced development of HemaMax, including advanced GMP manufacturing activities and a Phase 2 clinical safety study in 200 healthy human volunteers. The company says its efficacy studies have shown that a single, low-dose, subcutaneous injection of HemaMax at twenty-four hours after exposure to lethal radiation increases survival by an average of more than 2-fold without any supportive care or antibiotics.