Whatta week, right?! Let’s jump right in to the stories. We’ve got the Subway, flu forecasting, American chemical weapons, and stories you may have missed.
Have a great weekend and a safe and healthy week!
A Close Look at the Germs Crawling Around the Subway
Every single day I ride the metro to work, and every single day, the first thing I do when I get to the office is wash my hands. And, really, that’s what everyone should be doing. A research team from the Weill Cornell Medical College spent the summer of 2013 swabbing turnstiles, subway poles, kiosks, benches, and other “human penetrated surfaces” in all 466 NYC subway stations.
Gothamist—“And they found quite a few signs of life—15,152 types of DNA, in fact—nearly half of which they identified as bacteria. Shocking!
[They] did manage to find some scary stuff, with E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections, respiratory disease and food poisoning), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), and even Yersinia pestis, which is associated with the bubonic plague, popping up in some swabs. Nearly all the stations harbored an antibiotic resistant bacteria called Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, one that often causes respiratory infections in hospitals.”
Forecasts May Soon Predict Flu Patterns
What if we could predict the flu like we predict the weather? That is what teams of researchers are looking at; devising and testing methods to predict the start, peak, and end of flu season. How will they do this? By combining data from the present with knowledge of past patterns to project what might happen in the future.
The Boston Globe—“If the CDC had a flu-season preview in hand, the agency could better time messages on use of vaccines and flu-fighting drugs.
Hospitals could plan staffing for patient surges or make sure key personnel are not on vacation when it appears the epidemic will probably peak. Parents could even take flu forecasts into account in scheduling birthday parties and play dates.”
U.S. to Destroy Largest Remaining Chemical Weapons Cache
Syria isn’t the only country working on destruction of its chemical weapons cache. The Pueblo Chemical Depot, in Southern Colorado, will begin neutralization of 2,600 tons of aging mustard agent in March. This action moves towards American compliance with a 1997 treaty that banned all chemical weapons.
USA Today—“‘The start of Pueblo is an enormous step forward to a world free of chemical weapons,” said Paul Walker, who has tracked chemical warfare for more than 20 years, first as a U.S. House of Representatives staffer and currently with Green Cross International, which advocates on issues of security, poverty and the environment.”
Stories You May Have Missed
- While the IMF granted Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone debt relief to the tune of $100 million, roughly $1.8 billion raised to fight Ebola never made it to the hard hit countries. And numbers for new cases of Ebola rose this week for the first time in 2015. How? According to UN officials secret burials are a possible culprit.
- This week coverage of the measles outbreak and anti-vaccine groups reached an absolute fever pitch—it was too many stories to even wade through! However, I found an interesting one that talked about what Ben Franklin thought of vaccines and another that asked how to go about dealing with anti-vaxxers.
- Avian influenza continues to be in the news with the WHO announcing a human case in Canada and additional HPAI strains in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons