After 9/11, health lessons ignored

first_imgThe legacy of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 goes beyond the resultant war on terror and continued fighting in Afghanistan to include lies about public health threats at the time, ongoing health problems today, and a public health system that may be less secure in the present and future, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author said Thursday.In a talk at the Harvard School of Public Health’s (HSPH) Kresge Building, Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, outlined a litany of ongoing public health troubles and missed opportunities, beginning with 9/11 and extending through anthrax attacks and outbreaks of SARS, bird flu, and swine flu.“A lot of the most important public health aspects of 9/11 were completely buried and overlooked, and continue to be even today,” Garrett said.Garrett touched on ongoing health problems stemming from the attacks themselves, including elevated rates of cancer and depression among responders; a U.S. public health system still vulnerable to major pandemics, such as from bird flu; and the proliferation of facilities containing dangerous microbes, a situation she compared to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.Garrett’s talk drew on material from her 2011 book, “I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks.” She is the author of two other books and won her Pulitzer while a reporter at Newsday for coverage of the 1995 Ebola outbreak in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.Garrett, who was introduced by HSPH Dean Julio Frenk and who was a fellow at the School’s Center for Health Communication from 1992 to 1993, was the first speaker in this year’s Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series.Garrett, who was in New York on 9/11, said that what was overlooked in the focus on the immediate lives lost were the effects of the “horrible black plume” that emanated from the pile of World Trade Center rubble for months.‘We now know that even as we were told by [EPA Administrator] Christie Todd Whitman … that there was nothing dangerous in the air whatsoever and no cause for concern, that we were lied to,” Garrett said.The public health threat to New Yorkers living downwind of the site has been given little attention, Garrett said, and inquiries about possible health effects from surrounding residents can seem almost unpatriotic compared with the sacrifices of responders who lost their lives. Still, Garrett said, the plume is known to have been highly alkali and to have contained harmful chemicals, including asbestos, chlorine, and other halogens from the computer equipment in the towers.Firefighters who worked at ground zero have been found to have a 19 percent increase in all cancers, while construction workers laboring on what was known as “The Pile” had increased respiratory ailments. Psychological problems were also seen, including a huge increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among police responders, stress-related problems such as bed-wetting and depression among children who witnessed the attacks, and an increase in spontaneous abortions among pregnant women who viewed the attacks on television.Garrett compared the U.S. response to the attacks with the response of Great Britain, which was targeted by al-Qaida attacks in 2005. After those attacks, the British ran a series of advertisements on television warning the population that loved ones might be suffering psychological trauma from the attacks and that free care was available. Lasting effects from the attacks there appear to be minimal, she said, emphasizing that post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable if help is provided.The U.S. anthrax attacks that followed 9/11 brought the potential of bioterror and the need for biosecurity to the forefront, Garrett said. They also highlighted the inadequacy of microbial forensics, the techniques that allow tracking of specific microbes. She disputed the FBI’s conclusion that scientist Bruce Ivins was responsible for those attacks and said that evidence that might link them to al-Qaida was not fully pursued.The United States spent billions of dollars on biodefense in response to the attacks, including constructing more biosafety level-4 labs, which handle the most dangerous microbes. This parallels an increase in those types of facilities internationally. The result, Garrett said, has been a proliferation globally of the most dangerous microbes, deadly and easily transmittable to humans. The situation, she said, is akin to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, particularly because there is no single agency in charge of security at these facilities, even in this country.In addition, Garrett said, recent budget cuts have reduced the resources available to the state and federal agencies responsible for identifying and fighting such microbes, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The world is taking a Band-Aid approach to the threat, she said, providing resources when there’s an outbreak of a potentially deadly ailment, and then cutting back when the scare subsides.The result, she said, is a health system that really isn’t ready for major new threats, such as that posed by H5N1 bird flu, which grabbed global headlines in the mid-2000s and then receded. Although bird flu isn’t in the headlines anymore, the threat remains, Garrett said. The virus, which killed 60 percent of the humans infected, has evolved to infect more kinds of birds, allowing it to spread to the bird populations of 67 countries, though none yet in the Western Hemisphere.“It’s evolving and evolving fast,” Garrett said.Although billions of dollars have been spent since 9/11, and some technological solutions are still being sought — such as a universal flu vaccine — the first line of bird flu defense for wealthy countries remains quarantining regions where the flu breaks out and killing poultry in poor countries, further impoverishing their populations.“We have asked the poor countries of the world … to slaughter chickens over and over and over again,” Garrett said. “It’s not the rich world bearing the brunt of protecting itself; it’s the poor world protecting the rich world.”last_img read more

New species

first_imgHis drinking water smelled like old bait-shrimp, and the Putnam County homeowner wanted Keith Fielder, the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent, to tell him why. What they found swimming around in his well still hasn’t been identified.Water quality specialists with the UGA Environmental Services Laboratory used a submersible camera to help identify the problem at the waterfront home on Lake Sinclair. “As we lowered the camera, we noticed flashes coming by the lens,” Fielder said. “When we reached the bottom, something swam by the lens, stopped and then swam by again. We all looked at each other like ‘What in the world was that?’ When we looked at the tape later, they were everywhere.”It turns out what they saw back in May 2006 was an unidentified isopod, similar to a small shrimp. They were being chewed up by the well pump, collecting in the filter and causing the smell and concern. A large crack in the well casing was found, too, which allowed water to flow in and maybe the creatures. Wire traps baited with bits of fresh fish were used to catch some of the isopods. Eleven specimens were caught and sent to experts at universities and research facilities across the U.S. Scientists at Penn State University and Texas A&M University at Galveston identified the organism as an asellid isopod. But it didn’t match any known species. George Wilson, a scientist at the Center for Evolutionary Research at the Australian Museum of Natural History, determined the organism didn’t match any specimen in any catalog of known asellid. Both female and male organisms were identified of what was determined to be an unknown species of asellidae and possibly a new genus.Back in Georgia, Fielder and other UGA Extension agents continue to use the camera as a diagnostic tool to solve well mysteries.“We’ve had a lot of fun with this camera and we’ve seen a lot of interesting things,” Fielder said. “It was really neat to find the isopod. The more we use it, the more unusual things we will find.”The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides access to five cameras stationed across Georgia, one in each of the four UGA Extension districts and another at the AESL in Athens. UGA Extension agents have access to the cameras and the training to operate them. The brainchild of the late Paul Vendrell, a CAES water quality program coordinator, the concept grew from a camera fishermen use for scouting. Similar cameras are also used by professionals in the drilling industries. “Vendrell developed the methodology to use it in an extension environment to help homeowners,” he said. “It is a simple, efficient, practical tool and has become a very real way of helping people.”The camera has an automatic depth-tracking feature, which helps precisely locate problem areas. In addition to isopods, the camera has pinpointed faulty sub-surface geology, well casing failures, surface water intrusion and bad well equipment.“We find all kinds of stuff down in wells,” Fielder said. “We find some pretty well-established bacteria colonies that link and chain up into bio-films. They are almost sponge-like and attach to walls and casings. Folks just don’t want to see that down their wells.” Fish have been found in some wells and tree roots are a common find. Pieces of metal or trash have also been found, along with cell phones, hair dryers and dead rodents. “Most people don’t care to know they have stuff swimming in their drinking water,” Fielder said. “The more wells we drop a camera down, there is no telling what we will find.”last_img read more

Cotton Breeding

first_imgUniversity of Georgia cotton breeder Peng Chee’s groundbreaking research in molecular genetics provides Georgia cotton farmers with root-knot-nematode-resistant cotton varieties. It also garnered Chee national recognition in January, when he was awarded the 2016 Cotton Genetics Research Award during the 2017 Beltwide Cotton Improvement Conference in Dallas.Chee, a professor in UGA’s Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, identified nematode resistance as a top priority when he started working on the UGA Tifton Campus in 2000.“Host-plant-resistance research has been a high priority in my lab,” Chee said. “We were the first group to identify the genes involved in providing resistance to root-knot nematode in cotton.”Chee published the genome location of the resistant genes in 2006, and private breeding companies now use this knowledge to develop a selection system to transfer the resistant genes into elite cotton varieties. Ten years later, there are now numerous nematode-resistance varieties available to cotton growers.If infected by microscopic southern root-knot nematodes, cotton roots swell in response. The knots serve as feeding sites where the nematodes grow, produce more eggs and stunt the plant’s growth.Breeding for resistance to nematodes increased in importance when some of the chemical treatment options that Georgia farmers used to combat the nematodes were slowly phased out. The Coastal Plain region is a hotbed for southern root-knot nematodes in cotton, Chee said. Depending on the year and environmental conditions, Georgia cotton crops could be vulnerable to a significant outbreak of nematodes.Using nematode-resistant varieties might be the best course of action for some farmers, especially since about 70 percent of Georgia’s cotton fields are infested.In addition to the nematode research, Chee’s work in the UGA Molecular Cotton Breeding Laboratory has centered on fiber quality, a trait he considers essential if the U.S. cotton industry is to compete with other cotton-producing countries and, more importantly, with synthetic fibers. One of the main goals of Chee’s lab is to explore wild cotton to identify fiber-quality genes currently not in the domesticated germplasm and to breed them into cotton varieties adapted for Georgia.“The whole approach to cotton breeding has changed a lot in the last two decades. When I first started working at the Tifton Campus, cotton genomics was still in its infancy,” Chee said. “Our goal at the time was to develop a genomic toolbox for cotton breeders. I believe we are now starting to see new cotton varieties being developed through the use of these tools.”While Chee’s work has been successful, he can’t help but think about the future of genetic research and where it could lead over the next decade.“This is an exciting time to be in the field of cotton breeding and genomics. I have witnessed cotton breeding, transitioning from traditional phenotypic selection to selection of progeny based on what genes they carry by using DNA markers. The complete genome sequence of cotton has greatly accelerated our understanding of the genetic control of economically important traits such as insect and disease resistance as well as fiber yield and quality,” Chee said. “I suspect the next two decades will see a broad application of genomics in cotton breeding.”For more information about the research conducted in the UGA Molecular Cotton Breeding Laboratory, see www.nespal.org/peng_lab.last_img read more

Weekly unemployment claims fall to recent levels

first_imgThere were 845 new regular benefit claims for Unemployment Insurance last week, a decrease of 167 from the week before. Altogether 12,312 new and continuing claims were filed, a decrease of 13 from a week ago and 2,879 fewer than a year earlier. The Department also processed 2,056 First Tier claims for benefits under Emergency Unemployment Compensation, 2008 (EUC08), 4 more than a week ago. In addition, there were 945 Second Tier claims for benefits processed under the EUC08 program, which is a decrease of 47 from the week before. The Unemployment Weekly Report can be found at: http://www.vtlmi.info/(link is external). Previously released Unemployment Weekly Reports and other UI reports can be found at: http://www.vtlmi.info/lmipub.htm#uc(link is external)last_img

Vote in our 4th Annual Top Towns Contest Today

first_imgBlue Ridge Outdoors announces 48 finalists for its fourth annual Top Towns Reader ContestThe Blue Ridge boasts dozens of towns with vibrant outdoor scenes and access to world-class adventure. Here is your chance to select your three favorites.Editors and readers have narrowed the field to 48 contenders, listed below. They are mountain biking meccas, whitewater oases, climbing paradises, and hiking nirvanas. You can vote for the top outdoor town in three categories: large town (population 100,000+), medium town (population 10,000 – 100,000), and small town (population less than 10,000).The first round of voting runs through August 16. Subsequent rounds of voting will conclude September 13, and the three winning towns will be featured in the November issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.Which will be crowned the top towns? You decide. Vote now!last_img read more

Military Arrests Alleged Members of the Shining Path

first_imgBy Dialogo September 11, 2012 A military patrol captured two women, suspected of being members of the Shining Path guerrillas, in a village in the province of Huancayo, in the Peruvian Andes, on September 8, reported the Joint Command of the Armed Forces. The operation, which was carried out in the central town of Ranrapata, Huancayo Province, Junín, produced the “arrest of two alleged terrorists, members of an alleged terrorist women’s detachment, which apparently were responsible for the care for children,” the Military Armed Forces pointed out in a statement. The note indicates that three children were rescued, a ten-month-old, a four-year old and an eight-year-old, which were under the care of the women. Additionally, the patrol seized numerous indoctrination and terrorist propaganda brochures, as well as chargers, solar panels, and backpacks. The arrest of the women occurred two days after a guerrilla attack killed a Military service member in the Kepashiato district, in Cusco region (southeast), when he was on board a Military helicopter. The Shining Path is a Maoist organization that disbanded in the middle of the last decade. Its main leaders, who are currently serving life sentences in prison, began an internal conflict in 1980 which, left some 70,000 dead after two decades of terror, according to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation. The region of the Peruvian jungle has become a safe haven for remnants of the Shining Path groups.last_img read more

Farmingdale Woman Killed in SUV Crash

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 30-year-old Farmingdale woman was killed when she crashed her SUV in Orient shortly after midnight Thursday with her 18-month-old daughter in a passenger’s seat.Southold Town Police said Jacquelyn A. Carvo was driving her Jeep eastbound on Point Road when she drove off the roadway, into the brush and struck a tree at 12:25 a.m.The victim died at the scene and her daughter was taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital, where she was evaluated, found not to be injured and released to family members.Police impounded the truck while the investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office will perform an autopsy to determine Carvo’s cause of death.last_img read more

FDA lists plans for making produce safer

first_img The new plan lists four broad objectives: (1) Prevent contamination of fresh produce with pathogens, (2) minimize the public health impact when contamination of fresh produce occurs, (3) improve communication with producers, preparers, and consumers about fresh produce, and (4) facilitate and support research relevant to fresh produce. Listed steps for minimizing the public health impact of contamination include, among others, enhancing the capacity of PulseNet, an electronic network for sharing molecular fingerprinting (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) data about foodborne pathogens. The document lists a number of specific steps in pursuit of each objective. For example, to prevent contamination, the FDA plans to develop additional guidance on safely producing, processing, and preparing specific kinds of produce; propose rules for minimizing foodborne illness associated with eating sprouted seeds; and launch programs to educate consumers about safe handling of produce. The FDA document cites a federal estimate that at least 12% of foodborne illness cases in outbreaks in the 1990s were linked to fresh produce. Brackett said people are eating more fresh produce in response to advice from health experts battling the obesity epidemic. Increased demand has spurred more produce imports and higher domestic produce production, he added. In the research area, the listed steps include studies of the relative risks associated with hazards that can occur during produce production and handling, such as environmental contamination during production, unsafe handling practices, unsanitary equipment, worker health and hygiene problems, and practices that hinder tracing of contamination. In 1997 the FDA launched an initiative to promote good agricultural practices for produce and imported food, Brackett told reporters in discussing the background of the new plan. “We wanted to expand this to include processors, transporters, retailers, and also food service, which is a very important group for food safety, and also inform consumers,” he said. See also: FDA’s 2004 action plan for produce safety “We’ve seen an increase in illnesses associated with fresh produce. We don’t want to discourage consumption of produce, but we want to make sure it’s safe,” said Robert Brackett, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), in a briefing about the plan today. The six-page action plan says little about new regulations, focusing mainly on FDA plans for providing more information and guidance to fruit and vegetable producers, processors, transporters, retailers, and consumers. Brackett said the agency in 1998 issued guidance on “Good Agricultural Practices” and “Good Manufacturing Practices” for produce. “What we’ve recognized in the past year is that a lot of the stakeholders were not aware of it, or perhaps weren’t really embracing it as well as they could,” he said. The plan deals only with fresh fruits and vegetables, including those that have had “minimal processing,” such as peeling or chopping. It does not apply to frozen produce, fruit and vegetable juices, or tree nuts. Oct 18, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – In response to an apparent increase in illnesses due to contaminated produce, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released an “action plan” for reducing microbial contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables.last_img read more

UK to use firefighters to deliver food, collect bodies in coronavirus crisis

first_imgAs well as collecting those who die should there be mass casualties, firefighters can drive ambulances, and take food and medicine to the vulnerable under the agreement.To cope with the outbreak, Britain has already asked tens of thousands of retired doctors and healthcare workers to return to work, while hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered to assist the state-run National Health Service.On Friday, the capital’s ambulance service appealed to former paramedics and control room staff for help, and London’s police force asked officers who have retired in the last five years to come back.”It is important that we take all reasonable steps to bolster our numbers,” London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said.Britain claps Britons across the country took to their balconies and front doors on Thursday evening to applaud health workers and bang pots and pans to show support for those working for the nation’s much-loved NHS.There has been criticism that the government has not acted quickly enough to provide protective equipment to frontline healthcare staff and it is also scrambling to source thousands of ventilators to treat those with severe breathing problems caused by the virus.The government has admitted that it missed an opportunity to join a European Union procurement scheme to source the equipment because of an email mix up.”There was an issue in terms of communications so the tendering process on those schemes had already started,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma told BBC radio on Friday. The United Kingdom will use firefighters to help deliver food, retrieve dead bodies and drive ambulances as it braces for the looming peak of the coronavirus outbreak that has already claimed the lives of more than 22,000 people across the world.Britain initially took a strikingly modest approach to the worst health crisis since the 1918 influenza epidemic but then changed tack to impose stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million British people could die.Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a virtual lockdown of the world’s fifth largest economy to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus banning Britons from leaving their homes for all non-essential reasons. So far, 578 people in the United Kingdom have died after testing positive for coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases has risen to 11,658. The UK toll is the seventh worst in the world, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States, according to a Reuters tally.Under a deal struck between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Fire chiefs and Fire and Rescue Employers, firefighters will continue to respond to their usual emergencies but will now also carry out new tasks.”We face a public health crisis unparalleled in our lifetimes. The coronavirus outbreak is now a humanitarian emergency and firefighters rightly want help their communities,” said Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary.”Many fear the loss of life in this outbreak could be overwhelming and firefighters, who often handle terrible situations and incidents, are ready to step in to assist with body retrieval.”center_img Topics :last_img read more

Rio Tinto to close New Zealand smelter, 1,000 jobs to go

first_imgIt said it would wind down operations over the next 14 months.Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said the firm recognized the decision would have a significant impact on employees and the local community.NZAS is a joint venture between Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Chemical Company of Japan that employs around 1,000 people directly and accounts for a further 1,600 indirect jobs in the area. Rio Tinto owns almost 80 percent of the operations while Sumitomo has a 20-percent stake. Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto announced Thursday it will close its New Zealand smelter with the loss of at least 1,000 jobs, saying the operation is no longer economically viable. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, the largest employer in the southern New Zealand province of Southland, lost NZ$46 million (US$30 million) last year. A strategic review by Rio Tinto found the factory was no longer viable “due to energy costs that are some of the highest in the industry globally, coupled with a challenging short- to medium-term aluminium outlook”, the company said in a statement.  “It is very unfortunate we could not find a solution with our partners to secure a power price reduction aimed at making NZAS a financially viable business,” Barrios said. “We will therefore terminate the power contract and move to close the operation.”The smelter is New Zealand’s largest electricity user, accounting for about 13 percent of the country’s entire output.It has faced difficulties before and received a NZ$30 million ($20 million) government bailout in 2013 in return for Rio guaranteeing it would stay open for another four years.The government has since said it would not offer more financial support.Topics :last_img read more