Pandora Report 9.13.14

This week we look at a report that claims DHS is not prepared for a pandemic and information about Chemical Weapons in Syria, still. We also have an Ebola update, and if you’re interested in learning more about the West African outbreak, join us Wednesday for our September Biodefense Policy Seminar!

Have a great weekend!

Homeland ill-prepared for Pandemic, Doesn’t Even Have Enough Drugs to Protect Secret Service

In a recently released report, the Office of the Inspector General claims that “the Department of Homeland Security may not be able to provide sufficient pandemic preparedness supplies to its employees to continue operations during a pandemic.” DHS, however, has disagreed with much of the report claiming it misrepresents the agency’s preparedness for an outbreak.

The Washington Times—“One of the biggest problems, investigators said, is that most of the stockpiles are of antiviral drugs that are expiring. By the end of 2015, the IG said that 81 percent of Homeland Security’s stockpiled antiviral medication will be past its shelf life. In addition, 84 percent of the agency’s stock of hand sanitizer has already expired, some batches by as long as four years, inspectors said.”

Watchdog Says Chlorine Gas Used as a Chemical Weapon in Syria

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reports that chlorine gas was used “systematically and repeatedly” as a weapon in northern Syria earlier this year. U.S. officials say that the Assad regime is the only force capable of launching such an attack. Even after the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, chlorine is not a forbidden substance under the CWC. However, the use of any chemical as a weapon is prohibited by the CWC. This news comes among concerns that any hidden weapons stockpiles may fall into the hands of terrorist or extremist groups, like ISIS

The Wall Street Journal—“The OPCW team traveled to the sites of attacks and interviewed victims, doctors and witnesses. According to the report, victims’ symptoms and the effect of the gas led the mission ‘to conclude with a high degree of confidence that chlorine, either pure or in mixture, is the toxic chemical in question.’”

This Week in Ebola

Another American Ebola patient was sent to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment and American Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly donated blood to the American patient, Dr. Rick Sacra, who is being treated in Nebraska. The thought is that Dr. Brantly’s blood will help confer passive immunity to Dr. Sacra. On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, President Obama pledged U.S. military assistance in setting up isolation units and providing security for health workers in West Africa but House Republicans indicated they would provide less than half of the White House’s requested funding for fighting Ebola. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations has pledged to contribute $50 million to support emergency efforts to contain the outbreak in West Africa. There were reports this week of a U.S. air marshal who was injected with a syringe at the Lagos Airport in Nigeria. Though it appears that the syringe was not infected with Ebola, it has caused fears that Ebola could be used as a weapon. All of this comes at a time when disease modelers at Northeastern University predict that as many as 10,000 cases of Ebola could be detected by the end of the month and there have been 60 cases resulting in 35 deaths from the Ebola outbreak in Congo.

Image Credit: WGBH News

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