• U.K. conducted chemical weapons experiments on “unconsenting participants”

    In 1963 the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Porton Down military science center carried out the first of a series of tests to release zinc cadmium sulphide in the atmosphere over Norwich. It was one of many examples of secret experiments conducted in the name of military research during the 1950s and 1960s, now chronicled for the first time in a new book. The book provides a comprehensive overview of state military scientific research on chemical and biological weapons by Britain, the United States, and Canada since the First World War. Between 1946 and 1976, “Britain was turned into a large-scale open-air laboratory; her people into an army of unconsenting participants,” the author writes.

  • Polluting waterways with antibiotics may create superbugs of tomorrow

    Researchers have proved for the first time that even low concentrations of antibiotics are polluting waterways. Using low, realistic concentrations of antibiotics that might be found in waste water, the team showed a series of worrying effects on both environmental and clinical bacteria, including rearrangements of the bacterial DNA, changes in the colonies that the bacteria form, and most importantly, the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains.

  • Single dose Ebola vaccine is safe and effective in monkeys against outbreak strain

    National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists report that a single dose of an experimental Ebola virus (EBOV) vaccine — VSV-EBOV — completely protects cynomolgus macaques against the current EBOV outbreak strain, EBOV-Makona, when given at least seven days before exposure, and partially protects them if given three days prior. The scientists also observed that the experimental VSV-EBOV vaccine appears to provide initial protection by triggering innate virus-fighting host responses; these responses partially protected animals challenged with EBOV-Makona within a week after vaccination.

  • Smart hand pumps to bring a reliable water service to rural Africa

    Worldwide 780 million people live without basic and reliable water supplies, with parts of rural Africa facing particular challenges achieving water security. Groundwater from hand pumps is a primary water supply for many communities — but up to one third of these pumps are out of action at any one time and can take weeks to be repaired. Researchers have created a device that generates data on hand pump usage and transmits this information over the mobile phone network. The smart hand pump, being trialed in rural Kenya, alerts the maintenance team if the hand pump is not functioning.

  • FDA to hospitals: Infusion system vulnerable to hacks, should not be used

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in which it “strongly encourages” hospitals to stop using Hospira’s Symbiq Infusion System, because the device is vulnerable to attacks by hackers who could remotely control dosages delivered via the computerized pumps. The FDS said that tests have shown that an unauthorized third party – hackers – could access the Symbiq infusion system by breaching hospital networks.

  • State immunization laws should eliminate non-medical exemptions: Internists

    Support for eliminating existing exemptions, except for medical reasons, from immunization laws was among the policy recommendations adopted last weekend at the summer meeting of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians (ACP). “Allowing exemptions based on non-medical reasons poses a risk both to the unvaccinated person and to public health,” said Wayne J. Riley, M.D., president of ACP. “Intentionally unvaccinated individuals can pose a danger to the public, especially to individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

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  • More extreme heat coming to the Southeast

    The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report release the other day by the Risky Business Project. The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected. The dramatic increase in the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will have a deleterious effect on people’s health, agricultural yields.

  • HHS launches first compendium of resources for health emergencies

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week launched the first online collection of the federal resources and capabilities available to mitigate the health impacts of emergencies. The compendium offers an easy-to-navigate, comprehensive, Web-based repository of HHS products, services, and capabilities available to state, state, tribal, territorial, and local agencies before, during, and after public health and medical incidents. The information spans twenty-four categories, and each category showcases the relevant disaster resources available from HHS and partner agencies, a brief description of each resource and information on accessing each one.

  • Accelerometers embedded in ear tags detect disease in beef cattle

    A smartphone switches its orientation from portrait to landscape depending on how it’s tilted. A car’s airbags inflate when it senses collision forces. By detecting earth’s vibrations, a computer can measure the magnitude and aftershocks of an earthquake. These technologies are made possible by accelerometers — small, electromechanical devices that measure acceleration. The devices are able to detect the most sensitive of motions, from the number of steps taken during a morning walk to the number of jaw movements during a heifer’s morning meal. In fact, some dairy producers use these devices to measure feed intake, detect heat and notably, identify sick animals.

  • Humans are at risk because of lack of knowledge on animal disease

    Researchers have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread to humans. The world-first study has found that just ten diseases account for around 50 percent of all published knowledge on diseases at the wildlife-livestock interface. It is based on an analysis of almost 16,000 publications spanning the last century.

  • North Korea conducted human experiments with chemical weapons: Defector

    A 47-year old North Korean researcher has defected to Finland, taking with him gigabytes of information on human experiments which he plans to present to EU parliament later this month. The scientist, using the pseudonym “Lee,” worked at a microbiology research center in Ganggye, Chagang Province, which shares a border with China. Lee reached Finland via the Philippines, according to a Korean human rights group.

  • WHO incapable of effective response to Ebola outbreak-like health crises

    The World Health Organization (WHO) does not have the capacity and internal culture to launch and manage an effective response to an epidemic such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, according to a scathing WHO-commissioned report, which also blames governments for not offering more support for the organization. The report says the organization was too slow in its response to the Ebola epidemic, which killed more than 11,000 people.

  • Disinformation campaigns damage credibility of social media emergency alerts

    Disinformation campaigns, which populate sections of social media platforms such as Twitter, are making real emergency data and notifications harder to absorb, a cybersecurity analyst argues. The spreading of emergency-related hoaxes, including those which involve conspiracy-related topics, damages the credibility of sites that provide useful information in those circumstances.

  • Senior federal officials join initiative to help secure power supply to healthcare facilities during disasters

    Powered for Patients, a not-for-profit public private partnership established after Hurricane Sandy to help safeguard backup power and expedite power restoration for critical healthcare facilities, has added two former senior federal officials to serve as advisors. Initial funding for Powered for Patients was provided in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) through ASPR’s cooperative agreement with Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul N. Stockton and former HHS Director of the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Operations Kevin Yeskey join Powered for Patients.

  • New commercial method for producing medical isotope reduces proliferation risks

    The effort to secure a stable, domestic source of a critical medical isotope reached an important milestone last month as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated the production, separation, and purification of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using a new process. Mo-99 production faces several issues, beginning with its traditional production method using highly enriched uranium (HEU) in research reactors. HEU presents a risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, so the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has focused on the development of other methods for Mo-99 production and conversion of reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU). Mo-99 is also not produced in the United States, leaving the country to rely on isotopes from other sources in other countries, including a Canadian research reactor that will cease regular production next year, reducing the global supply.