Public health

  • Better understanding of the 1918 Flu Pandemic aids in better infectious disease response today

    The 1918 Flu Pandemic infected over 500 million people, killing at least fifty million. Now, researchers have analyzed the pandemic in two remote regions of North America, finding that despite their geographical divide, both regions had environmental, nutritional, and economic factors that influenced morbidity during the pandemic. Findings from the research could help improve current health policies.

  • Second MERS case discovered in U.S.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has confirmed a second U.S. case of MERS, the Middle East respiratory virus which has been circulating on the Arabian Peninsula for the past few months. MERS does not transmit easily from person to person, but in the Middle East, it has infected those close to healthcare personnel taking care of victims. Roughly 539 confirmed cases have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO); 145 have been fatal; 450 of the confirmed cases were in Saudi Arabia.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
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  • Large areas of Plains states now drier than during Dust Bowl

    As a result of the drought conditions that have largely remained a constant since 2011, parts of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as northeastern New Mexico and southeaster Colorado, are now drier than they were during the infamous Dust Bowl of the 1930s. While experts explain that the possibility of another Dust Bowl is not likely due to modern farming and irrigation techniques which have been enacted as a response in the 1930s, greater erosion due to drought and wind has resulted in a number of vicious dust storms.

  • Validating air sampling techniques to fight bioterrorism

    Air and surface sampling techniques currently used by the U.S. government are effective in fighting bioterrorism and potentially saving lives, a new study says. Air sampling has been readily accepted for similar uses such as measuring for particulate matter, but using it to detect bacteria in biological terrorism was a new concept instituted after the 9/11 attacks. This type of sampling is now part of a sophisticated system used by the DHS and the Department of Defense. In order for the system to work more efficiently, however, experts say that the detection cycle, which currently takes between 12-36 hours, would need to produce results in a shorter time frame.

  • Battelle shows smart technology for biodefense and hazard avoidance

    Battelle last week announced production of the next generation chemical and biological hazard sensor system, which the company says operates at a fraction of the cost of current technologies. The technology, known as the Resource Effective BioIdentification System (REBS), is a battery-powered system capable of autonomous use with operating costs of less than $1 per day per unit (the company notes that current system costs that can range from $500 - $3,000 per day) and assay costs of $0.04 per sample (compared to current systems at over $100 per sample).

  • New biodefense centers offer modernized approach, face criticism

    A new facility at Texas A&M University is one of three new biodefense centers created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revolutionize the way fatal viruses are countered in the event of an emergency. The $286-million lab features mobile clean rooms that can be detached and moved to form different production or testing systems as the need arises. Not everyone agrees that the design and capabilities of the new center would offer the best response to biothreats.

  • Farmers try to cope with the challenges posed by extreme weather

    Across the country, farmers are reporting that they are at yet another critical juncture for agriculture. Citing more unpredictable and severe weather due to climate change, scientists are researching defensive measures and looking to previous agricultural challenges for inspiration. Some are looking to the way individual farmers and government agencies addressed the Dust Bowl hardships of America during the Great Depression as a source of inspiration.

  • Debate intensifies over whether or not to destroy last stockpile of smallpox

    The world’s health ministers are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the fate of the last known stockpiles of smallpox, held under tight security in two labs— one in the United States and the other in Russia. Smallpox has been eradicated for more than three decades, but some U.S. health officials say the remaining stockpiles should be kept for further studies. The smallpox virus is being used to develop drugs and safer vaccines in case the virus returns through terrorism or a lab accident. Member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) once agreed that the last virus strains known to officials would eventually be destroyed, but a set date was never agreed upon.

  • California bill banning use of antibiotics in livestock withdrawn

    The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that 23,000 people die every year from infections that cannot be cured, often due to overuse of antibiotics which creates drug resistant bugs. Last Wednesday, California Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) withdrew proposed legislation which would ban the sale of meat and poultry fed on nontherapeutic antibiotics. He lacked sufficient support from fellow legislators.

  • New technology to detect previously undetectable fecal contamination in water

    Technology capable of sampling water systems to find indicators of fecal matter contamination that are thousandths and even millionths of times smaller than those found by conventional methods is being developed by researchers. The researchers have developed an ultrasensitive detection method that can detect molecules associated with human and animal fecal matter in water systems. These extremely small indicators, he explains, have been traditionally difficult to detect but can signal greater levels of contamination, which can lead to illness and even death.

  • U.S. corn yields increasingly vulnerable to hot, dry weather

    The United States produces 40 percent of the world’s corn, mostly in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. As more than 80 percent of U.S. agricultural land relies on natural rainfall rather than irrigation, corn farmers in these regions depend on precipitation, air temperature, and humidity for optimal plant growth. U.S. corn yields are growing more sensitive to heat and drought. Farmers are faced with difficult tradeoffs in adapting to a changing climate in which unfavorable weather will become more common.

  • Promising agents breach superbug defenses to fight antibiotic resistance

    In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents that can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off. Scientists have been developing new agents to combat these enzymes, but the agents so far have fallen short. A new class of agents, called metallopolymers, shows promise.

  • DHS cancels acquisition of BioWatch’s Generation 3 technology

    Owing to concerns about BioWatcheffectiveness and high cost, DHS has canceled plans to install an automated technology meant to speed the 24-hour operations of the program, the nation’s system for detecting a biological attack.ASeptember 2012 GAO report estimated that annual costs to operate the Generation 3 technology would be “about four times more” than the existing BioWatch system.

  • New bug sensor saves crops, people

    For hundreds of years humans have attempted to kill unwanted insects. While some blanket methods have been successful, they can be costly and create environmental problems. A new sensor developed by UC Riverside researchers aims to change that by counting and classifying the insects so that the substance used to eradicate the harmful insects can be applied on a precision targeted level. The inexpensive wireless sensors have 99 percent accuracy, and they are expected to have applications fighting insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, and insects that damage crops.

  • 1918 pandemic flu virus mystery solved

    Just as the world was recovering from the devastation of the First World War, another killer swept across the globe. A deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world’s population, and within months had killed more than fifty million people — three times as many as the war — and had done it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history. Until now, the origin of the 1918 pandemic flu virus and its unusual severity have vexed health experts. A new study not only sheds light on the devastating 1918 pandemic, but could also improve vaccination strategies, and pandemic prevention and preparedness.