NEWS SCAN: Smallpox antiviral sought, mass drug dispensing, peanut plant hazards missed, Chinese food safety, cell phone bugs

first_imgMar 6, 2009HHS seeks proposals for smallpox antiviralThe US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a request for proposals (RFP) on its Web site yesterday seeking 1.7 million treatment courses of a smallpox antiviral for the Strategic National Stockpile. The 5-year contract, offered through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), would cover advanced development of the countermeasure. The contract requires that the smallpox antiviral for adults ages 18 to 64 require no more than 3 doses per day for up to 21 days and have a minimum shelf-life of 36 months. The contract includes options for intravenous and liquid formulations and the capacity to scale up production to make 12 million more courses.[Mar 5 HHS smallpox antiviral RFP]Bank drill to test countermeasure distributionIn one of the first exercises of its kind, banks in two Utah towns will test the logistics of handing out antibiotics or antiviral medications at bank drive-through windows to prepare for an influenza pandemic or bioterrorist attack. The Summit County Health Department is planning the drill, which will take place tomorrow at two Zions Bank branches in Coalville and Kamas, both located about 40 miles east of Salt Lake City. The exercise is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cities Readiness Initiative, the Salt Lake Tribune reported yesterday.Private inspector missed problems at Georgia peanut plantA private food safety inspector gave the Peanut Corp. of America’s (PCA’s) Georgia processing plant a “superior” rating after auditing it a year ago, though federal inspectors later found the plant had already been shipping Salmonella-tainted products for months before that, the New York Times reported yesterday. With government inspectors overburdened, many food companies pay for private food-safety inspections, which vary widely in their rigor, the report said. The man who inspected the Georgia plant was not aware that peanuts could harbor Salmonella, the story said.[Mar 5 New York Times report]Texas inspector failed to report unlicensed plant tied to outbreakA Texas agriculture inspector who visited the PCA peanut plant in Plainview, Tex., three times in recent years failed to note that it was operating without a state health department license, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today. The inspector, who was assigned to certify the plant to process organic products, wrongly indicated that the plant was licensed, which allowed it to escape state health inspectors’ notice, the story said. The facility came under investigation as a result of the current nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to PCA products. Though the outbreak has been blamed mainly on the PCA plant in Georgia, the outbreak strain was found in samples from the Texas facility in February.[Mar 6 AP report]China passes new food safety lawIn response to several tainted food incidents, China on Feb 28 passed a new law that strengthens food safety regulation and boosts penalties for offenders, the Voice of America reported on Mar 2.The new law provides extra compensation for victims of tainted food, bans supervisory agencies from advertising food products, and makes people, such as celebrities, who advertise for tainted products liable for damages. Also, China’s departments of health, agriculture, quality supervision, industry, and commerce will share responsibility for monitoring the country’s food supply.MRSA and other bugs on healthcare workers’ cell phonesMobile phones are a source of nosocomial pathogens, and regularly cleaning the devices could reduce the number of infections in healthcare institutions, according to Turkish researchers who presented their findings today in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials. They took samples from the phones of 200 healthcare workers, along with samples from the workers’ hands, and found that 94.5% of the phones were contaminated with bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus strains were isolated from 52% of the phones, of which 37.7% were methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA). Gram-negative strains were isolated from 31.3% of phones, of which 39.5% were ceftazidime resistant. Only 10.5% of healthcare workers said they routinely cleaned their cell phones.[Mar 6 Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob study]Malaria drug looks promising for treating Hendra and Nipah virus infectionsA drug commonly used to prevent and treat malaria looks like a potential tool for blocking infections with Hendra and Nipah viruses, which cause encephalitis in humans, researchers reported in a Mar 4 early online edition of the Journal of Virology. The group, using a nonlethal engineered virus that contained Hendra proteins on its surface, found that chloroquine inhibited the action of a key enzyme, cathepsin L, that is essential for the growth of the two viruses. Researchers noted that chloroquine is inexpensive and has been widely and safely used for more than 50 years.[Mar 4 Journal of Virology abstract]Defunct infection-fighting gene revived after millions of yearsA gene that helps mammals fight infections like tuberculosis and salmonellosis died out very early in primate evolution but was resurrected eons later in the common ancestor of humans and great apes, according to scientists from the University of Washington and the Howard Hughes Medical institute. The gene, called human IRGM, died in the common ancestor of Old World and New World monkey species, but its remnant persisted through millions of years. The gene somehow became functional again in the ancestor of humans and great apes, possibly when a retrovirus inserted itself into the genome, the scientists report in PLoS Genetics.[Mar 5 University of Washington news release][PLoS Genetics article]last_img read more

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The President’s Challenge in the Next Thousand Days

first_imgSam Jackson, one of the nation’s leading economic and political thinkers, in his Op-ed piece in yesterday’s Daily Observer, has laid out the stark challenges facing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia approaches its next transition period in 2017.  That is when Liberians are scheduled to go to the polls to elect a new President.In his brilliant piece, Mr. Jackson presented the President with two stark choices: first, “Governing as a lame duck and biding her time would be disastrous with unfathomable social consequences.”  Second, Mr. Jackson postulated (suggested): “The President must govern as though she is running for reelection.  Too much is riding on her leadership and we’ve lost too much time to Ebola and political inertia (inactivity, sluggishness).  She must turn around the negative narrative that her administration has failed.  The President needs one memorable legacy project or two that will silence her critics and make her relevant in the blunt choices for 2017.”Mr. Jackson then gave this warning:  “If the President fails to be fully engaged in development over the next two years and gets distracted by politics as usual, Liberia runs the risk of falling back into conflict.”Every Liberian should read Mr. Jackson’s analytical thesis on the way forward in Liberia.  It requires the gripping and decisive attention of not the President only, but all of us—those close to her; those far from her; those for her and those against her; and even those who characteristically sit on the fence. Each of us is called to reflect soberly on what Jackson is saying and do EVERYTHING in our power to get the President to listen actively and follow his dispassionate and erudite advice.  In doing so, she would not only save her legacy, but far more important, save her country. IT MUST NOT BE SAID THAT AFTER ELLEN, AFRICA’S FIRST ELECTED FEMALE PRESIDENT, LIBERIA SLID BACK INTO CONFLICT.That would be tragic.  It would amount to the squandering of the immense resources God has given us; and to blatant ingratitude in the face of the outpouring of help we have received from the international community.What then, must Ellen do to cause Liberians to say, “She played well her part and left Liberia better than she met it?” Her remaining time is not too short to make a big difference in one of the fundamental problems Mr. Jackson touched on: the abject poverty in which Liberians continue to live, while a tiny minority is prospering.  To deal decisively with this problem, the President must seriously tackle agriculture, the sector in which a majority of Liberians work and subsist.  She must empower our farmers with training, tools, extension services, money and access to markets.  She must find the people who can make this happen with the same passion and boldness with which she garnered support to stamp out Ebola.Secondly, Ellen must rear within herself that same level of passion and “not on my watch” sternness to crush corruption in her government.  This will permit the resources of the country to flow  freely into the areas they are most needed—education, health,  empowering Liberians in business and reaching out to the teeming masses on the streets—men, women and children—helping them to attain hope and a brighter future.Here, the President should engage her Education people, including MVTC and the Booker Washington Institute and find ways to teach these street people trades that will give them marketable skills.The President must undergo serious self examination and STRIVE to use power prudently, so that she will be remembered as a leader who was evenhanded, fair, forthright and just.  Her political base, Unity Party, is currently in disarray, and she must do everything to fix it.  Why disarray?  She is said to have personally intervened to support particular candidates against the popular will.  Also, in the mind of the public, she is perceived to be feuding with the party’s Chairman, Counselor Varney Sherman.  That could sound a death knell to party unity.  How, then, will she be remembered as a partisan who benefitted so richly from this party—two terms as President?If we can get the hydro, paved roads to Harper, Vahun and Cape Mount, mini hydros and running water throughout the country, these, too, would enrich her legacy. Nothing, however, would be able to replace the spiritual foundation of her leadership—Ellen’s soul (character) as a leader.  That, more than anything else, could smooth the transition, and determine how she will be remembered.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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