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Health Security Today – 1 Mar 2020

Health Security Today is a summary of the insights from Global Biodefense on pathogens and preparedness for public health emergencies. Subscribe here to receive Health Security Today updates and the Global Biodefense Magazine — delivered right to your inbox.

FEATURED

FDA Issues Flexible New Policy to Help Expedite Availability of COVID-19 Diagnostics

The new policy is for certain laboratories that develop and begin to use validated COVID-19 diagnostics before the FDA has completed review of their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests. READ MORE

The Hunt for Coronavirus Countermeasures is Showing How Science Can Change for the Better

As of February 19 2020, 81 different coronavirus gene sequences had been shared openly via GenBank and 189 via the China National Genomics Data Centre. There were 500 scientific articles about the novel coronavirus in the comprehensive scholarly database Dimensions. Only 160 (32%) of them were in open-access publications. READ MORE

Australia Triggers Emergency Plan for COVID-19 Pandemic, Considers Economic Assistance

The Australian federal government has activated its emergency response plan to deal with a spread of the coronavirus locally, and considering limited assistance for those hardest hit by the economic fallout. “This is a health crisis, not a financial crisis, but it is a health crisis with very significant economic implications,” said PM Morrison. READ MORE

Senator Collins Urges Administration to Strengthen Response to Coronavirus

Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, urged the Administration to consider the unique health needs of older adults in all aspects of the domestic response, from hospital preparedness to the impact of drug shortages to vaccine development. READ MORE

First Presumptive Positive Case of COVID-19 Identified at Rhode Island’s State Health Laboratories

RIDOH is announcing the state’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19. The person is in their 40s and had traveled to Italy in mid-February. This individual had limited travel in Rhode Island since returning from Italy and had not returned to their place of work since returning from Italy. READ MORE

Additional Cases of COVID-19 in Washington State

In Snohomish County, a person under the age of 18 with no travel history is also a presumptive positive. He is currently in home isolation as well. That patient visited Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Monday, Feb. 24. Snohomish County Health District is working alongside the Everett Public Schools to ensure the safety of students and staff at Jackson High School, where this student attends. READ MORE

Oregon Announces First, Presumptive Case of Novel Coronavirus

The patient’s sample was sent to the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, which used the new COVID-19 test kit it received Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lab tested the sample only hours after it validated the new CDC test kit. READ MORE

HEADLINES

OUTBREAK SCAN – 1 MARCH

  • Iran’s death toll from coronavirus jumps to 54, with 978 infected*
  • UK government says 12 new positive tests for coronavirus, total now 35*
  • Iraq reports six new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases there to 19*
  • US still unsure how first American fatality contracted virus*
  • Lebanon reports three new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 10*
  • Nigeria identified 100 who may have been exposed to coronavirus patient*
  • Qatar confirms two more cases of coronavirus, taking total to three*
  • Saudi Arabia prepares 25 hospitals to handle coronavirus cases: health ministry*
  • Coronavirus cases in Germany jump to 117*
  • Ireland confirms first case of coronavirus*
  • Italian coronavirus deaths rise to 29, number of cases climbs above 1,000*

Singapore First to Test Out COVID-19 Serological Assay in Outbreak Contact Tracing

Researchers from Duke-NUS this week helped the government of Singapore fill in the blanks on how members of one church became infected — by identifying high levels of the virus-specific antibodies in the blood of past contacts who aren’t currently ill. READ MORE

U.S. to Ramp Up Mask Production, But China Is Bottleneck for Raw Materials

VP Pence told Fox News on Feb. 29 the government had contracted 3M Co to produce an extra 35 million respiratory masks a month. A 3M official said “we are not yet under contract for the volume mentioned today,” but that they were continuing to maximize production at facilities. HHS Secretary Azar estimated 300M masks are needed for healthcare workers to combat COVID-19 and the U.S. only has a fraction of that. READ MORE

Lab That First Shared Novel Coronavirus Genome Still Shut Down by Chinese Government

A day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms, their lab was closed for ‘rectification’ and remains out of operation. One source at the laboratory said the closure has hampered scientists’ research when they should be ‘racing against the clock’. READ MORE

Where the Coronavirus Bioweapon Conspiracy Theories Really Come From

Rumors of a lab escape or a bioweapon stem from historical amnesia, a caricatured villain, and good old-fashioned racism. It’s easier to say “this was an attack by China” than it is to admit that in the more than 15 years since SARS, we haven’t put enough work into global public health as we should have. READ MORE

A Call to Action on Plague Research

Almost 125 years after the discovery of Y. pestis, its enduring threat to human health is a testament to the neglect of this disease. For instance, we do not have reliable means of rapidly diagnosing pulmonary plague nor a safe and effective vaccine for preventing it. READ MORE

Now Is the Time to Resource the Public Health Emergency Fund

New funds appropriated for the coronavirus emergency response should be put into the depleted Public Health Emergency Fund. The fund provides no-year money that can be carried over if it is not needed right away; enables HHS to make grants, enter into contracts, and conduct investigations pertaining to public health emergencies; and can be used to strengthen biosurveillance and laboratory capacity. READ MORE

Whistleblower Complaint Details Chaotic Handling of Quarantine Logistics, Potential Community Exposures

HHS allegedly deployed personnel from the Administration for Children and Families, who have little to no experience in infection prevention protocols, to help process repatriated citizens at quarantine sites. READ MORE

RECOMMENDED READING

+ What US Hospitals Should Do Now to Prepare for a COVID-19 Pandemic Clinicians’ Biosecurity News

+ First US COVID-19 death reported; feds expand travel ban CIDRAP

+ Covid-19 — Navigating the Uncharted (Fauci, Lane, Redfield) NEJM

+ COVID-19—New Insights on a Rapidly Changing Epidemic JAMA

+ Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities CDC Updated 1 Mar

+ Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Disease Dynamics PLOS Collections

+ Feds to allow state public health labs to test for COVID-19 CIDRAP

+ The United States badly bungled coronavirus testing—but things may soon improve Science

+ SARS-CoV-20 (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel – Wadsworth Center, NYSDOH EUA FDA

+ COVID-19 outbreak has led to one shortage, FDA says 20 other drugs at risk BioCentury

+ ‘Speed is critical’: As coronavirus spreads in U.S., officials face daunting task of tracing case contacts STAT

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First Presumptive Positive Case of COVID-19 Identified at Rhode Island’s State Health Laboratories

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