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Disease Outbreak Myths, Strengthening One Health, National Stockpile Oversight

See what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including common myths about disease outbreaks; ways to strengthen One Health; shifting oversight of the Strategic National Stockpile program to ASPR; and the 15th anniversary of the Hospital Preparedness Program.

Contents

POLICY, POLITICS + PRACTICES

Lawmakers air pros, cons of shifting stockpile oversight to ASPR

The Trump administration plan to shift oversight of the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and its $575 million budget from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is set to occur in October, but some observers worry that the plan could impede deployment when supplies are needed and that decisions to acquire products might become more politicized. CIDRAP

The relationship dynamics of public health, health care, and journalism

How do journalists cover pandemics? Does it matter if those covering infectious diseases outbreaks understand the complexities of diseases transmission? The short answer is yes. Fortunately, there is an entire field of reporters dedicated to health issues. Contagion Live

Hospital Preparedness Program: 15 years of health care preparedness and response

Today, HPP supports more than 470 Health Care Coalitions (HCCs) around the country, promoting information sharing and relationship-building within communities. With over 31,000 members nationwide, HCCs reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. They also represent a comprehensive picture of the organizations involved in keeping a community prepared and safe. ASPR Blog

NIH statement on World Malaria Day 2018

Significant global progress has been made since 2000 to reduce the incidence and mortality of malaria. However, recent evidence suggests that the trend toward fewer malaria cases and deaths has stalled, or in some regions of the world, reversed course. In 2016, an estimated 216 million new malaria cases and 445,000 deaths occurred, largely among children living in sub-Saharan Africa. National Institutes of Health

New C.D.C. Director’s $375,000 salary under scrutiny

he high salary set for the newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come under criticism from Senate Democrats and watchdog groups who questioned the use of an exemption to pay him nearly twice as much as his predecessors. New York Times

BIOPREPAREDNESS

The UK Public Health Rapid Support Team

Responding to the short-comings identified in the global response to Ebola, the UK Government announced plans to create the UK-PHRST – a team of British epidemic experts that would be on call to reach any part of the world within 48 hours. Public Health England

Strengthening One Health through investments in agricultural preparedness

A natural or intentionally occurring high-consequence infectious disease often has no geographic boundaries and has the potential to result in disease epidemics in humans, animals, or both. This article explores the biothreat environment, its One Health interrelationship, and the significance and role of US agriculture in One Health. Health Security

Seth Berkley: Five myths about disease outbreaks

Myth No. 1: A pandemic on the scale of Spanish flu is unlikely today. It’s true that we’re much better than we were a century ago at detection and containment, that we have antiviral drugs that save the lives of some infected patients and that the 575,000 lives that swine flu took were a small fraction of the Spanish flu total. But most global health experts agree it’s only a matter of time before a combination of risk factors makes us vulnerable to another pandemic. We may even be overdue. Washington Post

Are countries and international organizations prepared for a bioterrorism event?

“To learn more about the roles various international organizations would play during a BW event, I analyzed the findings from a 2015 report by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Working Group on Preventing and Responding to WMD attacks on Ensuring Effective Inter-Agency Interoperability and Coordinated Communication in Case of Chemical and/or Biological Attacks.” NTI

The public doesn’t take flu seriously enough

Flu vaccines did not exist during the pandemic of 1918, which is why it was so deadly. Yet year after year few Americans bother to get vaccinated. In economic terms, the herd immunity benefits of vaccination are a “public good.” If I am vaccinated, I cannot exclude anyone from the herd immunity that I now offer. Similarly, someone enjoying my herd immunity does not diminish someone else’s ability to enjoy my herd immunity. Scientific American

Responding to emerging and zoonotic infectious disease threats in 2017

Summarizing last year’s major efforts was a difficult task. The numbers alone depict a tremendous year for public health. CDC sequenced nearly 45,000 DNA samples. The agency identified more than 1,100 illnesses that were associated with backyard flocks—the highest number ever recorded by CDC in a single year. And the Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network performed more than 12,000 tests to contain the spread of resistant infections, just to name a few accomplishments. CDC Public Health Matters

Food and Ag will be targets: Asymmetric warfare and the cyber domain

In light of Vladimir Putin’s recent bellicosity (claiming military superiority because of newly developed weapons systems), does Russia pose a real and actual threat to the U.S. food supply and plant and animal agriculture? Simply put, yes, but that answer requires a deeper dive to understand the depth and breadth of the threat. Auburn University Food Systems Institute

A call for bioterrorism preparedness

Funding for local public health departments has been dropping, resulting in insufficient laboratories. The number of people working in public health departments has also been decreasing, resulting in a lack of support and an increase in burn out. Ithaca College (pdf)

MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES

Inside the secret U.S. stockpile meant to save us all in a bioterror attack

Several warehouses across the country are part of the $7 billion Strategic National Stockpile, a government repository of drugs and supplies ready for deployment in a bioterrorism or nuclear attack, or against an infectious disease outbreak — of either a known pathogen or some unknown threat with pandemic potential, which global health officials dub “Disease X” — or other major public health emergency. Washington Post

The vaccine dilemma: how experts weigh benefits for many against risks for a few

Vaccines protect huge numbers of people, generally children, from serious diseases, but in rare cases, certain vaccines can tragically cause harm. How do those scientists figure out which to value more? This dilemma was at the center of last week’s decision by an expert committee advising the World Health Organization to sharply scale back use of a controversial vaccine called Dengvaxia, the first to protect against dengue infection. STAT News

Model-informed drug development

Raj Madabushi, Ph.D., Team Leader, Guidance and Policy Team, Office of  Translational Sciences, Office of Clinical Pharmacology, CDER, discusses the current status and promise of this approach. FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

RESEARCH UPDATES

Trillions upon trillions of viruses fall from the sky each day

Scientists have surmised there is a stream of viruses circling the planet, above the planet’s weather systems but below the level of airline travel. Very little is known about this realm, and that’s why the number of deposited viruses stunned the team in Spain. Each day, they calculated, some 800 million viruses cascade onto every square meter of the planet. NY Times

We’ve found the cells norovirus targets—we just don’t know what they do

Norovirus inflames the stomach and/or intestines and causes pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is super contagious and kills tens of thousands of people each year. But until now, we did not even know which cells it targets to create all this havoc. ARS Technica

Virus in semen and the risk of sexual transmission

Contrary to prevalent belief, the detection of viral genomes in semen tends to be more common among viruses that are typically not sexually transmitted, such as certain adenoviruses, bunyaviruses, flaviviruses, hepadnaviruses, herpesviruses, paramyxoviruses, and retroviruses. New England Journal of Medicine

INDUSTRY NEWS

Healthcare group Sanofi to invest 350 million euros in Canada vaccine facility

French healthcare group Sanofi is investing 350 million euros ($432.4 million) in a Canadian vaccine facility, which the drugmaker said would help it meet growing demand in this area. Reuters

How profitable are HIV drugs?

For-profit corporations invest large amounts of money in global health R&D to develop novel treatments, drugs, and vaccines for neglected diseases. However, of the $157 billion spent on global health R&D annually, only $471 million goes to neglected tropical diseases. More investment is needed to improve health conditions in the developing world. Brookings

Drug company ‘shenanigans’ to block generics come under federal scrutiny

Trump administration officials, seeking ways to lower drug costs, are targeting pharmaceutical companies that refuse to provide samples of their products to generic drug companies, making it impossible to create inexpensive generic copies of a brand-name medicine. NY Times

The 8 juiciest things we learned from John Carreyrou’s new Theranos book

Theranos laid off all but about two dozen of its remaining employees — the latest indignity for the once fabulously rich blood-testing company that’s become a parable for Silicon Valley hubris. STAT

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

The new killer pathogens: countering the coming bioweapons threat

Recent breakthroughs in gene editing have generated massive excitement, but they have also reenergized fears about weaponized pathogens. Using gene-editing tools, including CRISPR, scientists are now able to modify an organism’s DNA more efficiently, flexibly, and accurately than ever before. The full range of potential applications is hard to predict, but CRISPR makes it much easier for scientists to produce changes in how organisms operate. Carnegie Endowment

How do we control dangerous biological research?

The biological sciences are expected to play a significant role in future conflicts and hybrid warfare, and techniques to sequence, synthesize, and manipulate genetic material feature prominently in DARPA efforts. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Gene editing for good

Today, more people are living healthy, productive lives than ever before. This good news may come as a surprise, but there is plenty of evidence for it. Since the early 1990s, global child mortality has been cut in half. There have been massive reductions in cases of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. Foreign Affairs

LEADERSHIP

School of public health celebrates 20-year anniversary

As part of its rural health initiative, the Texas Legislature established the Texas A&M School of Public Health in 1998, and since then, the college has expanded its reach and is improving the science of public health. Vital Record

Ruth Nussenzweig, who pursued malaria vaccine, dies at 89

Dr. Nussenzweig (pronounced NU-sen-schwige), working at the Langone Medical Center at New York University, did groundbreaking work on malaria beginning in the 1960s, a time when many thought the complexities of that killer disease prevented it from being thwarted through vaccination. NY Times

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