It’s the end of the semester, and I don’t know about all you out there, but I plan to watch a lot of TV during the next five weeks. But, as we know, the news never stops, so this week we’ve got Time’s Person of the Year, ISIS and their potential dirty bomb, the crisis of growing antibiotic resistance and of course, an Ebola update.
Have a great week!
Normally a story like this would go in the Ebola roundup, but this story is big. Big big.
Every year, Time selects a “man, woman, couple or concept that the magazine’s editors feel had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months.” With runners up like the Ferguson, MO protestors and Vladimir Putin, this issue features people on the front lines of the outbreak in West Africa including CDC Director Tom Frieden, ambulance supervisor Foday Gallah, the first American doctor to be evacuated for treatment in the U.S. Kent Brantly, and nurse Kaci Hickox.
USA Today—“‘Ebola is a war, and a warning,” Time editor Nancy Gibbs writes in announcing the magazine’s choice for most influential newsmaker of 2014. “The global health system is nowhere close to strong enough to keep us safe from infectious disease, and ‘us’ means everyone, not just those in faraway places where this is one threat among many that claim lives every day. The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight.’”
This week, experts said that IS have acquired the materials necessary to make a dirty bomb, but that the weapon is more effective as a means of causing fear than causing damage. According to a twitter account belonging to a British jihadist, the materials were acquired from Mosul University, after IS seized control of the city. However, Dina Esfandiary and Matthew Cottee, research associates at the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies point out that even if IS has the materials, they likely lack the knowhow to make the bomb.
Newsweek—“‘The materials they have are not radioactive enough to cause a great deal of damage or function as a working device,” says Esfandiary. “Where the weapon is effective is to cause fear.’”
A report published by researchers from RAND Europe and KPMG projects that growing antibiotic resistance could lead to 10 million people dying each year by 2050. The report covers not only the mortality statistics but the projected economic effects of growing drug resistance—$100 trillion USD worldwide and a reduction of 2%-3.5% GDP.
Forbes—“Currently, deaths due to antibiotic resistance are estimated at 700,000/yr, less than car accident fatalities (1.2 million), diabetes (1.5 million), [and] cancer (8.2 million). [This] “translates to 1,917 people killed every day, or 80 every hour. Ten million extra deaths per year would mean 23,397 deaths per day, or 1,141 deaths per hour.’”
This Week in Ebola
Despite nearly 7,000 deaths in this Ebola outbreak, stories are, annoyingly, becoming harder to find. As this happens, there is worry that as the disease becomes more invisible that complacency will set in. Even in Liberia, where there are still approximately a dozen new cases per day, officials worry that Liberians aren’t worried enough and Dr. Frieden urges the nation to remain alert. A new outbreak in Sierra Leone’s Kono District has resulted in a two week Ebola ‘lockdown’ and as exponential growth has slowed, it becomes even more important to have accurate data to ensure tracking of the disease.
Stateside, Ebola Czar Ron Klain will return to his private sector job on March 1. Meanwhile, a clinical trial of a potential Ebola vaccine was halted after patients complained of joint pains in their hands and feet, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has offered liability protection to drug makers who are developing Ebola vaccines. Lastly, an ER doctor at Texan Health Presbyterian Hospital admitted to missing key symptoms when first treating Thomas Eric Duncan and not considering Duncan’s travel history.
Stories You May Have Missed
- Have you ever played the board game Pandemic? We play it at my house all the time, and the game’s designer, Matt Leacock, is trying to raise $100,000 to donate to MSF though “Pandemic Parties.” It’s awesome!
- Talking about games, a history professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey was just awarded nearly $100,000 to develop a video game about the early history of smallpox vaccination. A prototype of ‘Pox Hunter’ is scheduled to be introduced at the 2016 Philadelphia Science Festival.
- This week, a pair of unidentified gunmen killed a polio vaccinator in central Pakistan. Muhammad Sarfraz was a 40 year old school teacher who volunteered for the vaccination campaign. After this, officials suspended the program in the Faisalabad district.
- A powerful form of gonorrhea that doesn’t respond to antibiotics is being called the sex superbug. Cases have been reported in Australia, the U.S., Norway and Japan, where the first case was diagnosed in 2009.
- Im Cheon-yong, a defector and former officer of North Korea’s special forces, has described that Kim Jong-un’s regime tested chemical and biological weapons on disabled children and adults. Evidently, this gross violation of human rights was first witnessed by the defector in 1984.
Image Credit: Time.com