Pandora Report 7.20.14

I feel like its been a bad week, right? Between the crash—or shoot down—of MH 17 (with nearly 100 WHO HIV/AIDS researchers aboard) and events in Gaza with Israel, it sort of seems like it couldn’t get much worse. Well, turns out, it could. This week we have the first cases of Chikungunya in the U.S. and Ebola still raging. However, no one, in the biodefense world, had a worse week than the CDC.


First Chikungunya Case Acquired in the U.S. Reported in Florida

So far, in 2014, there have been 243 travel-associated cases of Chikungunya reported in 31 American states and two territories. This week, the infection numbers grew. The difference in this case, was that the man in Florida who was diagnosed, had not travelled outside the U.S. recently. This makes it the first case of the disease that had been acquired domestically.

WALB—“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working closely with the Florida Department of Health to investigate how the patient contracted the virus; the CDC said they will also monitor for additional locally acquired U.S. cases in the coming weeks and months.

“The arrival of Chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch.”


WHO Can’t Fully Deal with Ebola Outbreak, Health Official Warns

With the death toll from the ebola outbreak in West Africa at 603 (at least), more bad news emerged this week when we learned that budget cuts to the WHO make it for difficult for the organization to respond to the ongoing medical emergency. Beyond funding issues, efforts to stem the outbreak have been hindered by some countries failure to implement the WHO’s International Health Regulations which outline methods of reporting disease outbreaks.

The LA Times—“‘The situation in West Africa should be a wake-up call to recognize that this weakening of this institution on which we all depend is not in anybody’s interest,” Scott Dowell, director of disease detection and emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing in Washington. “In my view, there’s no way that WHO can respond in a way that we need it to.’”


Update on the Found Vials: There Weren’t 6; There Were 327.

In last week’s Pandora Report we learned about unsecured vials of smallpox that were found in an FDA cold storage room in a Maryland lab. This week we learned that it wasn’t just smallpox and it wasn’t just six vials—it was 327. Some of these vials contained select agents other than smallpox, like dengue, influenza, Q fever and rickettsia. Whoops!

Wired—“Here’ is the gist of the FDA’s external announcement, “…this collection was most likely assembled between 1946 and 1964 when standards for work with and storage of biological specimens were very different from those used today. All of the items labeled as infectious agents found in the collection of samples were stored in glass, heat-sealed vials that were well-packed, intact, and free of any leakage, and there is no evidence that anyone was exposed to these agents.”


Image Credit: Eduardo

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