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The news of the tragic death of eleven Hollywood, Florida, nursing home patients made headlines, and the investigation into what happened continues to make headlines. The facility, which maintained power but lost air conditioning, eventually ended up evacuating its patients to a nearby hospital, but not before eight patients died, and over forty were found in critical states of distress, presumably from the excessive heat within the building.   In a statement, Governor Rick Scott called the situation “unfathomable,” and said that he would “aggressively demand answers.” As a precaution, other nursing homes in the state without power or AC ...Read More
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, news stories abound about ongoing rescue and recovery efforts, efforts to get federal aid, the resilience of communities as citizens return to their cities and homes, and future concerns as Texans look to rebuild. At the same time, the dangers from Harvey are far from past: many returned to find their homes flooded, and already beginning to mold, and a few, with alligators in them.  Schools face massive clean-up and recovery efforts at the same time that administrators are trying to determine new “back to school” dates, and how to create a safe learning ...Read More
Photo Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images It’s been two weeks since President Trump said he considered opioid addiction a “national emergency” and was having papers drawn up to that effect. The announcement followed the recommendation of the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and was met with approval from the public health community, even as some debated what a declaration would mean in practical terms. However, two weeks later, there has been no official declaration of an emergency, as the New York Times, among others, has pointed out. The difference is no small linguistic nuance: an official declaration ...Read More
By CHHS Public Health Director Trudy Henson and RA Bach Nguyen  As both opioid addiction rates and opioid related deaths nationwide continue to increase exponentially, legislators and government officials have taken action both at the state and federal level. Among these efforts is the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, established by executive order in late March of this year. The Commission, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, was created to study the impact of the federal response to the issue and make recommendations to improve the federal response, and it issued a preliminary ...Read More
By Trudy Henson, Public Health Program Manager As the new year gets under way, and a new President takes office, health and transportation officials are turning their attention to a new rule, finalized January 19th, by the Centers for Disease Control. The rule, originally proposed in August 2016, deals with Control of Communicable Disease for Interstate and Foreign Travel. The CDC states that the rule seeks to create greater transparency in disease response, as well as updating certain regulations based on lessons learned from recent outbreaks, such as Ebola. The final rule, officially published yesterday, is similar to the proposed ...Read More
On August 15th, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a Notice for Proposed Rulemaking to revise current domestic and foreign federal quarantine regulations. The new provisions are the result of recent domestic and foreign disease outbreaks, including the Ebola Virus, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, and repeated outbreaks of measles. According to its explanation, the proposed provisions will “enhance HHS/CDC’s ability to prevent the further importation and spread of communicable diseases into the United States and interstate by clarifying and providing greater transparency regarding its response capabilities and practices.” A large part of the clarification comes from definitions ...Read More
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News in the headlines about “striking” results from a Zika vaccine raise hopes that even if the outbreak spreads, there may be another way to avoid its devastating effects. However, coupled with that promising news is the news that such progress relies on a funding stream that is quickly drying up, and replenishment depends on Congressional action. On Sunday, Governor Rick Scott of Florida criticized the federal government’s lag in response to Zika, stating that although Florida has responded quickly and comprehensively to the discovery of locally-acquired cases, Zika is “a national, international issue” and that Florida still “need[s] the ...Read More
With every day, more and more news headlines bring details about Zika, its spread, and the U.S.’ various response. Here’s a short roundup: Numbers of cases of Zika in the U.S. continue to rise, as more and more citizens are tested. In the Miami area, the number of confirmed cases has risen to fifteen. At least 33 members of the military have tested positive for Zika, including one pregnant woman. The first clinical trial of a potential Zika vaccine is underway, although continued progress depends on Congressional funding, which is running low. One of the trial sites for a Zika ...Read More
As August approached, the U.S. turned its attention to Florida, which began making headlines in late July for a case of potentially locally-acquired Zika virus. On July 29th, the Florida Health Department stated it believed there was “active transmission of the Zika virus,” based on four cases that were detected earlier in the Miami-Dade area. By August 1st, thanks to intensive testing in the area suspected of housing the Zika virus, those numbers had been revised to include at least 10 new cases. The response to the news of local transmission in the U.S. has been swift, and in many ways, ...Read More
by Trudy Henson, CHHS Public Health Program Manager As the world continues to watch the Zika virus epidemic unfold—Spain recorded its first case of sexually-transmitted Zika virus this week—and Congress attempts to pass a $1.1 billion dollar bill to help fund the fight against Zika, people are increasingly asking: who pays for pandemics? This week, two prominent articles sought to answer that question. In a paid post to The New York Times, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wrote about the importance of preparing for pandemics. At the heart of that preparation—the “vital” key to everything from collaboration, research, and ...Read More
On February 2, the New York Times reported that a case of Zika virus had been sexually transmitted in Texas. The first known case of its kind in the U.S., a patient was infected by someone who had traveled in Venezuela. The new case is causing health officials to change their advice to Americans visiting where the virus is present, and continues to raise the profile of a virus that the World Health Organization is calling a global emergency. Although the virus has been found in 20 countries, cases in the U.S. have been few and far between. If you’re ...Read More
It may be hard to think about a warm-weather pest like mosquitos when the region is still digging out from record snowfalls, but that’s exactly what the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) is asking people to do: focus on the Aedes mosquito, the main transmitter of the Zika virus. On Thursday, the World Health Organization “rang a global alarm” about the Zika virus, citing its rapid spread in South America—particularly Brazil—and stating that as many as four million people in the Americas could be affected by the end of the year. ...Read More
When you hear the word plague, it might call to mind images from centuries ago. However, this week the public health world was reminded the past is never quite behind us when a 16-year-old Colorado boy died from a rare strain of septicemic plague. Thought to have been contracted from bites from infected fleas, septicemic plague is a rare form of the plague where the bacteria directly enters the bloodstream. Typically, transmission of any form of the plague occurs when fleas that live on infected rodents such as rats, squirrels, and prairie dogs, bite humans. Because plague symptoms often look ...Read More
Sunday, June 21st, South Korea’s health ministry reported three new cases of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The total number of individuals infected is now at 181, and the death toll is at 31. In spite of the three new reported cases, however, there has actually been an overall drop in reported new cases. South Korea has been under fire for failing to control MERS more quickly. At the center of that criticism is one hospital in particular, the Samsung Medical Center, where the first case of MERS appeared in May. Before this initial MERS patient was diagnosed and properly ...Read More
If you lived in Maryland this past winter and had school-aged children, you may have had one or two mornings where you thought to yourself: who decides to close schools for inclement weather? (You may have also wondered: what were they thinking?).  As tough a job as it might be to make the decision to close for inclement weather, it’s even tougher when the circumstances are for public health reasons—such as an infectious disease outbreak. South Korea is learning this lesson as it responds to Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. As part of its response to ensure the respiratory ...Read More
Although the Ebola outbreak in Africa has been largely contained, the global public health community is far from getting a break. Hong Kong just announced a “red alert” against non-essential travel to South Korea due to its concern about Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS; and late yesterday the story broke that a traveler in the U.S. from India has been sent to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).  Both stories drive home the importance of rapid diagnosis and proper response procedures, especially in the age of international travel. Although MERS, has been present ...Read More
If you live or work near Baltimore City, or even if you follow national news, you know that tensions have been mounting in the two weeks since Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody. Those tensions began with questions into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Gray’s arrest and death, and then led to protests. Monday, after Freddie Gray’s funeral, many people became violent, throwing objects at police, looting, and setting fire to cars and in some cases, buildings. In response to the unrest and rioting, and at the request of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive ...Read More
Over the weekend, the debate dominated headlines: should states enact a policy for quarantining and isolating individuals potentially exposed to Ebola? New York, New Jersey, and Illinois had already answered “yes”; others, including President Obama, and the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued “no,” citing among other concerns, “unintended consequences.” At the center of the debate was Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned from West Africa and was quarantined under New Jersey orders. Over the weekend, she described her quarantine as inhumane, and today she has been released to continue her quarantine in her own ...Read More
The announcement that a second healthcare worker in Texas has been diagnosed with Ebola comes on the heels of a concerning statistic: three out of four nurses in the U.S. are saying they haven’t received proper education from their hospital on an Ebola response. Thirty percent say they don’t believe their hospitals have sufficient supplies, such as protective eyewear and fluid-proof gowns. Spanish nurses had similar thoughts several months ago. In July, 100 Spanish nurses asked a court to review its defenses, because they believed Ebola was likely to arrive in Spain, and felt the healthcare system was ill-equipped to handle the response. The warning is now ...Read More
As news spread that a Texas healthcare worker had contracted Ebola when treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the CDC announced that the United States (US) needs to re-think its infection controls. The healthcare worker likely contracted the virus during a breach in protocols, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is quick to state it is not blaming the healthcare worker. Rather, the case underscores the difficulty of providing medical care for those sick with this highly infectious disease, and the importance of clear protocols that are closely followed by everyone. The CDC has been issuing guidance for US healthcare facilities for months. ...Read More
With the first case of Ebola confirmed in Dallas, Texas, the deadly virus has officially come to the United States. Although thought of as inevitable by some, the case raises a number of questions: Are traveling screening protocols sufficient? Did the hospital initially drop the ball by releasing the patient when he first presented? And of course, are we ready? A number of sources have speculated on what an Ebola response would look like in the U.S., but with this first diagnosis we are now getting a clearer picture. The Texas Health Department has issued an order to the family ...Read More
Bio Hazard Scientists As the Ebola outbreak death toll rises to over 900 people, the World Health Organization (WHO) leaders are convening an emergency meeting to address what could become a much larger outbreak of the virus. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has moved to a Level 1 activation, reserved for the most serious public health emergencies, indicating it believes the outbreak could be long and serious. Indeed, the outbreak that started in Guinea—and is confirmed in Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks on record. It’s receiving attention for other record-breaking reasons ...Read More
If you've ever 'Google Street-Viewed' your home and felt weird that people could see the car in your driveway, you're not alone. Monday, Israel announced despite reservations it would work with Google Inc. to find a way to safely implement the service Google Street View. Israeli officials are reluctant to allow the service to photograph Israeli cities, because they worry Street View could be used by terrorists to plot attacks on sensitive targets. Israeli caution is justified, considering Palestinian militants have already used satellite image-based Google Earth to identify rocket targets. Google Street View is already available in 27 countries, ...Read More
In his blog post about the 2011 MARCE Conference on Legal, Ethical, and Policy Challenges of Vaccination, Earl Stoddard outlined recent milestones and controversies in the vaccination field. Michael Willrich’s editorial “Why Parents Fear the Needle” addresses one of facet of this controversy—the public’s century-long resistance to mandatory vaccination—and why the resistance continues. Willrich concludes that when it comes to addressing public resistance to vaccination efforts, “education can be more effective than brute force,” and recommends a frank, on-going discussion with the public about the benefits and risks of vaccines. Those attending the 2011 MARCE conference will have an opportunity ...Read More