• Studying gun violence is the only way to figure out how to stop it – but we don’t

    There are about 32,000 gun deaths a year in the United States. There are another 180,000 or so people injured by firearms annually in the country. These numbers far outstrip the consequences of firearms among our peer high-income countries, with stricter gun regulations. One factor that has inhibited the discussions in the public space over gun violence is the relatively limited data we have available about firearms and firearm violence. Gun violence is a public health problem, but it is not studied the same way other public health problems are. The reason: In 1996 the NRA pushed Congress to prohibit the use of funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be used to advocate or promote gun control. The CDC broadly interpreted this as a bar on firearms research, with other federal funders following suit. This has had a chilling effect on gun research. Because of the bar on research, our understanding of the real consequences of the firearm epidemic is surface deep. The United States has had enormous success in responding to other challenges to public health, including, for example, motor vehicle safety, through gathering data that understands the challenge and implementing structural changes to mitigate the potential harm. On the issue of firearm violence, we are not even at the first step.

  • FDA clears military traumatic wound dressing for use in civilian population

    Early control of severe bleeding may prevent shock and may be life-saving., as 30 to 40 percent of civilian deaths by traumatic injury are the result of hemorrhaging. Of those deaths, 33 to 56 percent occur before the patient reaches a hospital. Last week the FDA cleared the use of the XSTAT 30 wound dressing, an expandable, multi-sponge dressing used to control severe, life-threatening bleeding from wounds in areas that a tourniquet cannot be placed (such as the groin or armpit) in battlefield and civilian trauma settings.

  • Flu season likely to peak in February

    According to the CDC, seasonal influenza affects up to 20 percent of people in the United States and causes major economic impacts resulting from hospitalization and absenteeism. The flu season will likely peak in February in most parts of the United States, according to a model developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Using historical data, a mathematical representation of how flu spreads through a population, and data for the current flu season provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the scientists were able to create a probabilistic model forecasting the flu season.

  • Scientists develop new way to find age of drinking water

    It can take days for water to travel from a filtration plant to your tap and the length of time the journey takes could affect water quality. Disinfectants from water treatment, like chlorine, prevent the growth of harmful microbes, but they can break down over time, creating toxic byproducts in the process. Minimizing the water’s travel time in pipes reduces both processes, but measuring that time is difficult. Scientists have developed a new method of finding the age of water at any point in a distribution system using something that is already naturally in water: residual radioactive atoms from nuclear fallout of the 1950s and early 1960s.

  • WH finalizing executive order tightening background checks of gun buyers

    Sources say that the White House is about to announce a new executive order to expand background checks of individuals wishing to purchase guns. One proposal being considered would designate more sellers as high-volume dealers, closing a legal loophole which allows many sales conducted online or at gun shows to escape existing background check provisions. Two other developments on the gun front: On Thursday, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy said he would sign an executive order which would bar people on the government’s terrorism watch lists from buying guns in Connecticut; in the House, Democrats demand that a 17-year ban on government-funded research into violence involving firearms be ended.

  • U.S. capability for treating Ebola outbreak sufficient but limited

    The United States has sufficient capacity for treating another outbreak of the Ebola virus, but financial, staffing and resource challenges remain a hurdle for many hospitals and health systems attempting to maintain dedicated treatment centers for highly infectious diseases, according to new study.

  • view counter
  • Plant virus to make Ebola detection more accurate

    In the past, Ebola diagnostic tests, or assays, have been considered reliable only up to a point. The Ebola virus does not use DNA to store its genetic code. It uses a chemical cousin, called RNA, and extracted RNA degrades easily; one little mistake at the start of a test can ruin the whole thing. Novel process uses a plant virus and may ultimately make Ebola testing more accurate.

  • Scientists create malaria-blocking mosquitoes

    Using a groundbreaking gene editing technique, scientists have created a strain of mosquitoes capable of rapidly introducing malaria-blocking genes into a mosquito population through its progeny, ultimately eliminating the insects’ ability to transmit the disease to humans. The technique holds the promise of eradicating a disease that sickens millions annually.

  • Study finds that Ebola vaccine is safe, stimulating strong immune responses

    A clinical trial of a new Ebola vaccine that resulted from an unprecedented global consortium assembled at the behest of the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that it is well tolerated and stimulates strong immune responses in adults in Mali, West Africa and in the United States. If the vaccine is ultimately found to be safe and effective, it could offer crucial protection for contacts (family members, neighbors, etc.) of patients with confirmed Ebola disease in future epidemics, thereby helping to interrupt transmission. Larger trials of the vaccine sponsored, by GSK Biologicals, have already begun.

  • Novel statistical model maps lethal route of Ebola outbreak

    The traditional method to track disease spread is contract tracing, in which health workers interview patients and everyone they came into contact with. Contact tracing, however, is highly labor intensive. Using a novel statistical model, a research team mapped the spread of the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date on how and where the disease spread and identifying two critical opportunities to control the epidemic. The result matches with details known about the early phase of the Ebola outbreak, suggesting the real-time value of the new method to health authorities as they plan interventions to contain future outbreaks, and not just of Ebola.

  • Killer bees send six to hospital in Arizona

    The Maricopa, Arizona fire department said six people were hospitalized on Saturday afternoon after a swarm of bees attacked residents in the Rancho El Dorado subdivision. The bees swooped down on residents of a two-block area in the subdivision about 5 p.m. Both kids and adults ran screaming for cover. Experts say the bees are a strain of the Africanized honeybee, also known as the killer bee, which is a crossbreed between the European honeybee and the African honeybee.

  • Centralized leadership, major reform needed to bolster U.S. biodefense

    A comprehensive report on U.S. biodefense efforts calls for major reforms to strengthen America’s ability to confront intentionally introduced, accidentally released, and naturally occurring biological threats. The report details U.S. vulnerability to bioterrorism and deadly outbreaks and emphasizes the need to transform the way the U.S. government is organized to confront these threats. Recommendations include centralizing leadership in the Office of the Vice President; establishing a White House Biodefense Coordination Council; strengthening state, local, territorial, and tribal capabilities; and promoting innovation through sustained biodefense prioritization and funding.

  • $100 million NIAID contract to SRI International to develop radiation exposure treatment

    SRI International has been awarded a resource contract of up to $100 million over five years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, for the development of products to mitigate or treat acute or delayed effects of radiation exposure.

  • Study: Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat

    Detailed climate simulation shows that the Persian Gulf region would likely cross the threshold of survivability unless mitigation measures are taken. That tipping point involves a measurement called the “wet-bulb temperature” which combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling. That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to recently published research (the equivalent number in the National Weather Service’s more commonly used “heat index” would be about 165 F). The researchers say that hot summer conditions that now occur once every twenty days or so “will characterize the usual summer day in the future.”

  • Birth tourism in the U.S. delivers complex medical cases in neonatal units

    Researchers examined reported “birth tourism” in the United States and how it affects neonatal intensive care unit hospitalization. They found that expectant mothers traveling to the United States with the expressed purpose of giving birth before returning home are presenting more complex medical, social, and financial challenges at a large metropolitan children’s hospital. The researchers documented a higher medical complexity, longer hospital stays, and increased re-hospitalization among babies born to traveling families.