Pandora Report 3.11.2016

TGIF! We’ve got loads of global health security updates to keep you busy why you enjoy the warm spring weather. American special forces recently captured the chief ISIS chemical weapons engineer and you may want to avoid Wonderful Co. pistachios for a bit as they’re being linked to a salmonella outbreak.

The Smallpox Battlegrounds – Laboratories and Virtual RealityScreen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.49.30 AM
Video game fans will be excited to hear about the new Tom Clancy game, The Division, released on March 8th. This isn’t your normal action-packed video game, but rather it has something more sinister about its premiseThe Division focusses on a biochem attack involving a take over by a group called the Strategic Homeland Division aka “The Division”. The Division is compromised of sleeper agents that “act independently in the interest of restoring order after a mass event”. Now here’s where it gets spooky, the game’s premise involves a scenario that may give deja vu to many in the biodefense world- Operation Dark Winter. Operation Dark Winter was a June 2001 exercise/senior-level war game put on by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The scenario focussed on the impact and response of a smallpox outbreak coupled with tensions in the Taiwan Straits and additional crises. In a nutshell, the scenario found that “current organizational structures and capabilities are not well suited for the management of a BW attack”, media management would be challenging for the government, containment and infection prevention would present several issues, and we’d pretty much be in a whirlwind of trouble. If you’re more of a purest and The Division doesn’t appeal to you, there’s also The Collapse, which is an internet-based game that lets you simulate a smallpox outbreak. Unlike other games where the player designs the outbreak, this one is from the viewpoint of the patient. You’re patient zero with a weaponized strain of smallpox and your decisions carry with them a world of outcomes involving the spread of the disease and rate of infection. I spent some time playing The Collapse (starting at GMU for sheer irony) and found it to be very detail oriented and enjoyed the decision making components like which pharmacy I would go to, my travel destination, etc. If you’re not much of a gamer, here’s the recent WHO report on the deliberations regarding the destruction of variola virus stocks. To destroy smallpox or not to destroy smallpox, that is the question.

GMU Course Sampler & Open Houses
Looking to study and work with people that share your love of biodefense? Come check out our March 23rd GMU SPGIA Open House at 6:30pm, in Founders Hall, room 126 at our Arlington Campus! Not only will you be able to chat biodefense, but we’ll have an informational session afterward (7pm) with Dr. Koblentz (you can check out the 2/25 one here). Each session allows us to discuss global health security and answer questions related to our program and the growing field of biodefense. Can’t attend in person? Enjoy our 3/23 biodefense breakout session virtually! If you happened to miss our biodefense course sampler from 3/2, check out the recording from Dr. Koblentz’s talk on Biosecurity as a Wicked Problem.

Chinese Admission of False Korean War Allegations Involving US BW Use
Biodefense expert, Milton Leitenberg, discusses the allegations by North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, that the US used bioweapons during the Korean War. While the Soviet Central Committee declared the allegations fraudulent in 1998, China and North Korea continued to maintain that bioweapons were used. The recent publication by Wu Zhili (previously the director of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army Health Division during the Korean War) refutes these claims. Published posthumously, Wu’s testimonial is critical in dismantling the claims as he was “critically involved in the Chinese government’s manipulations that produced the Korean War BW allegations.” The initial allegations claimed that the US was testing bioweapons (specifically plague) on native Inuit peoples of Alaska and then was spreading smallpox in North Korea between December 1950- January 1951. The major allegation campaign began on February 22, 1952 though, as “the North Korean Foreign Minister again issued an official statement addressed to the United Nations Secretariat, charging that in January and February the US had made multiple air drops over North Korea, littering the earth with insects infected with the microorganisms that caused plague, cholera, and other diseases.” Leitenberg discusses these allegations and the Soviet admission of being “misled” and their claims that “the accusations against the Americans were fictitious…Soviet workers responsible for participation in the fabrication of the so-called ‘proof’ of the use of bacteriological weapons will receive severe punishment.” He goes on to discuss Wu’s publication and explanation of the tasks that were carried out to further the belief in US bioweapon applications.

Gain of Function Research
Researchers, Dr. Lipsitch, Dr. Relman, and Dr. Ingelsby, have joined together to discuss the realistic future for research that seeks to alter pathogens. Pointing to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) meeting, they note that it “marks a turning point in a year-and-a-half-long policy process to consider the risks, benefits, oversight, and regulation of experiments that are designed to create influenza and other viruses that are simultaneously highly virulent and readily transmissible by respiratory droplets between mammals.” Focus has traditionally been on the pros and cons of gain-of-function (GOF) projects however, as time passes, a narrowing of concern seems to be focussed on experiments that seek to build chimeric viruses that are highly dangerous and transmissible. They recommend the following policy approach: lift the moratorium on GOFoc, seek international consensus, secure national and international agreement to restrict the performance of GOFoc studies, design a board, establish clear red lines for GOFoc research, and require the purchase by research institutions of specific liability insurance policies. You can also read the interview with the researchers regarding the implications of such research censorships. Dr. Filippa also discusses engineering a super flu here, noting that “the debate is really about risk assessment of this gain of function work and about who should be making those assessments. Should it just be scientists, should it be their institutions, should it be funders, should it be publishers or, much more broadly, should it be regulators, vaccine manufacturers, ethicists? ”

Zika Updates
CDC and NIAID officials are becoming frustrated as they feel Congress is blocking key efforts to fight the outbreak. A recently published report on research priorities to inform public health and medical practice for domestic Zika virus can be found here. The report emphasizes the growing spread of infection and subsequent need for additional research related to transmission, infection during pregnancy, and disease characteristics . The recent WHO stakeholders meeting provided updates on the most urgently needed tools to fight the growing pandemic. The roadmap includes diagnostic tests, inactivated vaccines targeted to childbearing-aged women, and new vector control mechanisms.  As of March 9th, there were 193 confirmed travel-associated Zika cases in the U.S.  A recent study found that 42% of questioned Americans believe the virus has high mortality rates. Aedes mosquitoes are also developing resistance to the go-to insecticide.

7 Sources for Understanding Epidemics
Feeling like all this Zika news has you needing to catch up on your outbreak cliff notes? The Washington Post has put together a nice list of seven books and movies you can enjoy to help ramp up your knowledge regarding the world of pandemics. This list is a great way to understand the different viewpoints of outbreaks and pandemics from social, medical, political, and scientific viewpoints. If you find yourself wanting more, here are some additional recommendations I’m throwing in: Spillover by David Quammen, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah, and The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett. Feeling like something a little bit more dramatic? Check out Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone or Demon in the Freezer, or the movies Outbreak or World War Z. With the success of Contagion, I’m still hoping Hollywood will continue to back scientifically grounded films about pandemics (between ebola and Zika virus, they’ve got enough material!).

Stories You May Have Missed:

  • Why Are Mosquitoes Just So Good At Spreading Disease? Mosquitoes have been causing outbreaks since the days of ancient Rome and yet we’re still battling them in the fight against Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and more. “According to Janet McAllister, an entomologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not all mosquitoes are good at transmitting disease, but the ones that are have evolved to live closer to humans.”
  • Global Health Security Agenda– GHSA was launched in 2014 as a multilateral approach to help protect the world from infectious disease threats. Endorsed by the G7, this agenda facilitates a “partnership of nearly 50 nations, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders, GHSA is facilitating collaborative, capacity-building efforts to achieve specific and measurable targets around biological threats, while accelerating achievement of the core capacities required by the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Health Regulations (IHR), the World Organization of Animal Health’s (OIE) Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway, and other relevant global health security frameworks.”
  • Fumbling Ebola– The San Francisco-based epidemiology company, Metabiota, is being charged with making several mistakes according to the Associated Press (AP). Recovered communication reveals that the company fueled an already chaotic situation via misdiagnoses, adding to confusion, and poor sample tracking.
  • Guidelines for Ebola Survivor Care– The WHO has published guidelines on the management and care of patients who were previously infected with Ebola. Since there are roughly 10,000 ebola survivors and several have required hospitalization for complications, these recommendations are extremely prudent. The report includes counseling, considerations for special patient populations, and common sequelae and management recommendations.

Enjoying your weekly dose of the Pandora Report? Sign up to receive it every week so the fun never ends! 

Pandora Report 10.30.2015

The witching hour is upon us! Halloween is tomorrow and with that we must ask, how good are your zombie fighting skills? Good news if you’re in Arlington, VA, as it’s considered one of the top ten cities to survive the zombie apocalypse – good thing GMU has a campus there (we biodefense folks are the ultimate planners!). This week was busy with the release of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense’s National Report. I was able to attend the panel event, so read on for my comments and your weekly dose of biodefense news!

DSC_3586GMU Biodefense Program News & Alumni 
We’ve added a new page to salute our biodefense alumni and all that they do with their GMU education. GMU Biodefense students have a diverse background in their education, experiences, and interests, and we absolutely love getting to brag about all the amazing things they accomplish after their studies. Whether it’s a new publication or an award, we hope to pass along their accolades, so please check out our new page to see how GMU Biodefense alumni are contributing to the world of global health security!

12111966_10104338304988922_3051154411712634566_n-1Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense Releases Report– I had the pleasure of attending the Blue Ribbon panel on Wednesday, in which they reviewed their report, “A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts”. The panel event saw Senator Joe Lieberman, former Governor Tom Ridge, and former Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth L. Wainstein, discuss the challenges of biodefense, the report, and answer several questions regarding their findings. The report is comprised of 33 recommendations that range from unification of biodefense budgeting to optimizing the National Biosurveillance Integration System and to improving surveillance and planning for animal and zoonotic outbreaks. Along with these 33 recommendations, there are 100 action items. Perhaps one of the biggest take-aways from the report is the recommendation that the Office of the Vice President of the US assume authority over biodefense efforts. There is heavy emphasis on a unified budget and centralization to combat the redundancy and current siloing we see in existing programs.  Senator Lieberman discussed the role of the research and private sector’s involvement, with former Gov. Ridge noting that “we need to start thinking differently about how we incentivize the private sector.” The panel discussed that despite our past efforts, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 showed that the “threat is real, lets not wait for it to occur” and as former Gov. Ridge noted, “we don’t give bioweapon threats the attention they need. The threat is ahead of us.” Senator Lieberman commented on the Ebola situation,  noting that our response was dismal and despite 10 months of warning, basic human errors led to a failure in providing hospitals with general guidelines. Whether it is an intentional bioweapons attack, outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, or unintentional, accidental release due to lab safety errors, the panel’s goal of having centralized leadership reveals the complex nature of these challenges. Also, did I mention that they included infection control in their guidelines (#18)?! Overall, I found the event highly engaging and was pleased to hear the panel members approach these topics with not only a sense of urgency, but a holistic manner to meet the challenges of biodefense.

Jump Start – Accelerating Government Response to A National Biological Crisis
UPMC Center for Health Security has released their July 2015 report that “examines a scenario in which the US is suddenly faced with a newly emerged intentional biological threat that could produce catastrophic public health consequences and threaten our economy, government, and social structure.” The report reviews governance, public health response, medical countermeasures, healthcare system response, decontamination and remediation, and environmental detection, while making recommendations. Utilizing published literature and subject matter expert interviews, the Jump Start report scenario occurs in central Moscow subway stations and Red Square. It discusses responses in a post-Amerithrax world and highlights the need to stop the spread of infectious diseases while emphasizing that in a similar scenario, the US government should push out table-top exercises at a national level to test readiness to biothreats. The role of healthcare infrastructure and capacity comes into play, highlighting the limitations that diagnostic testing plays – even if the solutions aren’t available. I’d be curious to see a more detailed analysis of how we approach novel agents and the time-lag this can often cause in diagnosis. Also – what would be the ethical dilemmas regarding invasive medical treatments for a novel agent? Medical ethics became a very real issue during Ebola preparedness (perhaps not as well discussed in media circuits) as the invasive care capabilities of healthcare professionals in the US correlates with increasing risk for disease transmission.

White House Calls for Better Biosafety –  As fallout from several lab safety breaches, the White House issued recommendations that focus on labs that are registered to work with pathogens from the Select Agents list. Ranging from increased training to assessing the number of high containment labs we have in the US, this memo, with a deadline for the recommendations, sets the tone for change when it comes to biosafety.

Saudi Arabi MERS Cluster – reports from Saudi Arabi’s Ministry of Health have confirmed a healthcare-associated cluster of MERS-CoV cases that involved seven individuals. The initial patient was seen in the emergency department of Almana General Hospital, with five other patients exposed in the hospital, and an additional case that is believed to not have had a healthcare exposure. All patients are under observation in the King Fahad Hospital. One of the patients is reported to be a nurse. In previous weeks, there was a cluster of cases related to janitors living together in Riyadh.

Stories You May Have Missed:

  • The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved a $33.3 million grant towards a Post Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF) for efforts in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The US State Department is contributing a $5 million grant towards this to help support livelihood development for women, girls, and orphans from the affected countries. The goal is to build resilience in the affected countries and strengthen the economic systems while improving governance and communication.
  • Nigeria was just removed from the WHO’s list of polio-endemic countries! After halting the spread of wild poliovirus transmission during a 15 month period, Nigeria was declared free of the disease! The WHO is continuing to work on the remaining two polio-endemic countries; Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Three more cases of Ebola in Guinea were reported this week. The three patients are all family members, with one being a pregnant woman. Guinea experienced several cases last week while Liberia has been EVD-free since September 3rd and Sierra Leone just passed their six week mark without a new case.
  • The WHO announces that TB surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease in 2014. Better surveillance enabled global public health teams to identify new cases. In Indonesia alone, there were one million new cases reported this year. The WHO notes that while surveillance efforts are revealing new cases, progress is still insufficient, especially in regards to drug resistance.

 

Pandora Report 10.9.15

Happy Friday! Since we’ve made it through Hurricane Joaquin, let’s celebrate with some biodefense news by way of air defense, Ebola, some amazing original work from the GMU Biodefense clan, and all the fun in between. Fun fact: On October 8, 2001, President George W. Bush established the Office of Homeland Security. Let’s start your weekend off right with some zombies, shall we?

Zombies & Air Defense?
With Halloween around the corner and The Walking Dead about to premiere, it’s time for some zombies – Pentagon style! Ever heard of JLENS? This $2.7 billion radar blimp was initially designed to act as an early warning system for low-flying weapons, drones, etc. Unfortunately, this system has been plagued with problems (pun intended) as it failed to detect the low-flying aircraft piloted by Florida postal worker, Douglas Hughes. We’ll let that slide since JLENS wasn’t deemed operational that day but that hasn’t stopped many from calling it a “zombie” program, meaning it’s “costly, ineffectual, and seemingly impossible to kill”. Check out the LA Times investigation into whether this defense technology is really “performing well right now” as claimed by Raytheon.

2016 Presidential Candidates on Nonproliferation- Part I

GMU’s Greg Mercer has churned out another fascinating commentary in a new series related to what 2016 presidential candidates are saying about nonproliferation. His series will pull together candidate stances and comments to take an in-depth look into the role nonproliferation is taking in this race. Greg notes, “Lucky for us though, there’s been a major nonproliferation news event to drive the foreign policy debate: the Iran nuclear deal.  So this is a rundown of what’s been said and being said about nonproliferation and WMD policy in the 2016 election.” This week we’ll be looking at the Republican Party, so make sure to check in over the next few months to see how everyone’s stance has changed or strengthened.

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Spike in Pakistan
Pakistan is currently seeing a spike in their cases of CCHF with the most recent death of a patient in Quetta at the Fatima Jinnah Chest and General Hospital. The death toll is now 3 in 3 days and a total of 15 patient mortalities this year. There are 9 other CCHF patients under observation and treatment at the regional hospitals. The WHO’s Diseases Early Warning System (DEWS) in Pakistan tracks these seasonal spikes in hopes to also prevent its spread. The concerning aspect is the high amount of deaths this year so far when compared to other years.

Iran’s Shifting Preference?
How lucky are we to have two amazing GMU Biodefense commentaries this week? Scott McAlister is discussing the Iranian nuclear deal and the potential consequences. He hammers out a topic we biodefense folks are all too familiar with – dual-use and the hiding-in-plain-sight reality of so many programs. Scott points out that, “the scary thing about biological and chemical weapons programs is their ability to hide in plain sight.  Due the dual use of much of today’s biotechnological advancements, an offensive weapons program can be disguised as a facility to create vaccines or research centers for diseases with minimal effort.” Take a look at his notes on nuclear weapon capabilities and Iranian perspective on biological weapons.

Tacit Knowledge & Biological Weapons Proliferation
On a scale of 1-10, having your research cited during a meeting of the State Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, is pretty much a 12. What can we say, GMU Biodefense professor, Dr. Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, did just that! At the meeting of experts in August, the State parties met to discuss the field of science and technology while emphasizing tacit  knowledge in relation to bioweapon proliferation. When discussing tacit knowledge, the U.S. noted at the conference, “the concept of communal or collective tacit knowledge has been explored extensively, particularly in the work of Donald Mackenzie and Graham Spinardi, who examined its role in the context of nuclear weapons creation, and Kathleen Vogel and Sonia Ben Ouagrham- Gormley, who examined it with respect to biological weapons creation.” During this meeting, the role and relevance of tacit knowledge as a risk modulator was heavily discussed, pointing to its corresponding role of increasing the risk of bioweapon proliferation.

Bioweapons for Dummies?
Speaking of tacit knowledge and the rise of the biotechnology revolution… Zian Liu from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists goes through the five steps of building a biological weapon to address the barriers to weaponization. Broaching the topic of “biohacking”, Zian points to the concern within the biodefense industry related to synthetic biology and fourth generation bioweapons. From ordering the synthetic genes to recently published research that discusses the developments of genetic modification, this commentary hits on the very real barriers that a fourth-year bioengeneering undergraduate student identifies -even with the available tools. Between the need for increased regulations on synthetic DNA and the dual-use concerns, Zian notes that “novice biologists are not likely to construct advanced weapons any time soon.”

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Stories You May Have Missed:

  • Guinea outbreak region goes a full week without a new Ebola case! We’re all holding our breaths in hope this means the outbreak is nearing an end in this hard-hit region. Sierra Leone has reached 3 weeks (a full incubation period) of no new cases and the last healthcare worker infection was back in August. The WHO and local public health workers are still maintaining door-to-door case finding efforts and contact tracing.
  • PPD Awarded Contracts with US Army & BARDA – Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) was just awarded two US government contracts to address health outcomes in armed forces and test the efficacy of the national strategic stockpile’s supply of avian influenza vaccine.
  • Findings of the 7th WHO Ebola Emergency Committee Meeting – Last week this committee met to discuss the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. They provided updates and furthering advisement regarding the disease and international travel as 34 countries “continue to enact measures that are disproportionate to the risks posed.”

Image (Video) of the Day: Zombie Modeling!

For those Geographical Information Science (GIS) and Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) wonks out there, you might appreciate Dr. Andrew Crooks’ simple agent-based model of zombie attack.
Dr. Crooks, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computational Social Science and a researcher in the Center for Social Complexity at George Mason University‘s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, explains this model:

At each time step, a human moves to a nearby unoccupied space, and a zombie moves to the nearest human. If a zombie and an uninoculated human occupy the same space, a fierce battle ensues, in which the probability that the human will kill the zombie is pkH-z, and the probability that the zombie kills the human and converts them to their horrific undead form is pkZ-h. 

Zombies, however, are not attracted to inoculated humans and ignore them. If recovery? is enabled, then there is a chance (given by recoveryRate) that a zombified person will see the errors of their cannibalistic ways and return to human form. All these factors working together provide some interesting population dynamics, illustrated by the “Totals” population count plot on the screen. 
Enjoy!

Pandora Report 5.16.14

There has been a lot on MERS this week as it continued to spread within the U.S. and Europe. The topic was so big that it was even covered on Buzzfeed (the web aggregator mostly known for quizzes and viral videos.) This made me think, “I wonder what sorts of biodefense topics are covered in traditional, mainstream news sources?” So, in celebration of the end of the Spring 2014 semester, this week I bring you just that!


We’ve got the U.S. Military’s defense plan for Zombies, measles and polio as a possible cancer cure, a photo essay about New York’s lost TB ward, and a doctor’s report from the Ebola fields of West Africa. Congrats to our newest graduates and have a wonderful weekend!

The Pentagon Has a Plan to Stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Seriously.

If you’re worried about the zombie apocalypse like I am (and let’s face it, you probably are since you’re here), here is one less thing to worry about. Like many other contingency plans, the Pentagon has one for dealing with the un-dead. Instead of using fictionalized versions of real countries, this scenario strings together a group of seemingly impossible scenarios that could never be mistaken for a real plan including “vegetarian zombies,” “chicken zombies,” and even (yes, this is not a joke) “evil magic zombies.”

Foreign Policy—“‘This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde,” CONOP 8888’s plan summary reads. “Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.’”

Can Measles or Polio be the Next Cure for Cancer?

Popular science speaks of viruses as something to be avoided, but what if injecting a person with large amounts of virus could actually cure cancer? That’s what researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Duke University Medical Center did when using measles virus to destroy cancer cells. The results? In very small patient trials the researchers saw significant successes including total remission!

Fox News—“This research is all part of a new medical field of oncolytic virotherapy.  The “proof of concept” studies stem from many years of animal research, analyzing how viruses can penetrate certain types of cancer cells.  A typical cancer cell moves very fast and replicates very rapidly.  Therefore, some viruses have an affinity to get into these cells and use them as incubators, so the viruses can multiply at a fast rate, as well.  But once these viruses are attached, the cancer cells essentially explode and release the virus into the body.”

The Mysterious New York City Island You’ve Never Heard Of

Those who have watched the History Channel’s Life After People or read Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us may find this story especially interesting. Photographer Christopher Payne, became aware of North Brother Island—which lies in the East River—and was allowed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to conduct a photo survey of landscape. Used for a variety of purposes until its abandonment in the 1960s, between the 1880s and the 1930s, North Brother Island was the site of Riverside Hospital, where those suffering from infectious disease were treated in isolation.

Slate—“While Payne knew the island’s story, he often had trouble finding physical evidence of its past. “It was very hard for me to find the artifacts I expected to find. They really just didn’t exist. Most of the time you’re looking at the shell of a building, and it’s so far gone you can’t even tell what it was used for. It forced me to look closer, to see graffiti on the walls or to look on the floor,” he said. “A lot of it was detective work. It was like trying to invent a life for something, trying to find a shot or a view that suggested what it used to be.’”

Windsor Doctor Returns Home after Treating Deadly Ebola Outbreak

As the numbers of infected and deaths continue to rise in the Western Africa Ebola outbreak, one of the stories we haven’t heard often is from physicians working there. In this piece for The Windsor Star, Dr. Tim Jagatic, writes about his experience working for three weeks in Conakry, Guinea, as a member of Doctors without Borders.  He writes about the efforts of Doctors Without Borders and the WHO on stopping the spread of the virus as well as providing care for those infected. When not providing medical care, he reported that doctors would perform triage assessments or perform outreach looking for new patient cases.

The Windsor Star—“Jagatic and his fellow physicians would often encounter resistance to their efforts. “We have to work on demystifying the disease,” said Jagatic.“So many people who were infected with it, they were stigmatized. They were banished from their communities, their families, one thing I was really trying to push is that this is really just a virus, like the measles, like the flu, when you get it you treat it, you go home and you’re done. And you’re just like you were beforehand.’”

 

Image Credit: Christopher Payne

Pandora Report 4.4.14

It’s been a busy week in the biodefense world, between the continuing outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa and the realization that the Black Death may actually have been pneumonic plague rather than bubonic plague, so let’s take a moment this Friday to slow things down.


Highlights include Ebola travel restrictions, a possible source for the Ebola outbreak, and how to protect yourself during the most serious pandemic of all—the zombie pandemic. Have a great weekend!

When planning your vacation to Guinea, keep this in mind…

As of April 1, the number of suspect Ebola cases in Guinea has risen to 127 with 83 deaths (for a case fatality rate of 65%) according to the WHO. Liberia now has eight suspected cases with five deaths. Sierra Leone has had only two deaths after two bodies were repatriated after dying from Ebola. In neighboring Mali, the government has instituted thermal scans for those travelling to Mali as well as restricting movement within the capital city of Bamako. Meanwhile, Senegal has closed their border with Guinea and Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for Muslim pilgrims coming from Guinea and Liberia. Despite all of this, the WHO does not recommend travel restrictions.

Philippine Daily Inquirer—“The international health agency said there was not enough reason to push for the imposition of travel restrictions in response to the Ebola outbreak. “WHO does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied with respect to this event,” it said in a statement.”

And while on vacation, here are some foods to avoid…

In another response to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, officials have taken an unusual step of banning the consumption of bats as food—including grilled bat, bat soup and “other local delicacies.” It has long been suspected that bats are somehow instrumental in the spread of Ebola either as a vector or a reservoir for the disease.

CBS News—“‘We discovered the vector [infectious] agent of the Ebola virus is the bat,” Remy Lamah, the country’s [Guinea] health minister, told Bloomberg News. “We sent messages everywhere to announce the ban. People must even avoid consumption of rats and monkeys. They are very dangerous animals.’”

The good news is, in the event of a serious pandemic, you may have new protection!

Just in time for the Walking Dead finale last weekend, the American Chemical Society released new research related to the chemistry of death, and how that chemistry can shield us from the flesh and brain eating horde of zombies.

Science is a serious subject and pandemic possibilities are crises in the making…but that doesn’t mean science can’t be fun for a general audience!

Zombie Apocalypse Survival Chemistry: Death Cologne

Image of the Week: Zombie Intubation!

Image of the Week: Zombie Intubation

As if the zombie apocalypse wasn’t enough, during Season 4 of AMC‘s the Walking Dead (which had it’s finale on Sunday) the survivors had to deal with an unspecified, likely zoonotic, disease outbreak in the prison.

In this photo, one of the survivors who had to be intubated died and thus, we have zombie intubation!

Image Credit: AMC