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HHS seeks comments on risks of H5N1 research

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first_imgOct 18, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – Federal health officials are inviting the public to weigh in on whether research on H5N1 avian influenza viruses, including strains modified in the lab to make them more transmissible, is risky enough to require new safety regulations and precautions.The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to know if people think H5N1 should be designated an HHS special agent, which means that medical labs handling it would have to register with the agency and meet special requirements for physical security and personnel screening and training.The department also has asked for comments on whether special safety and containment measures are needed for research involving H5N1 strains with increased transmissibility in mammals. The request follows the publication earlier this year of two controversial studies describing genetically modified H5 strains that were capable of aerosol transmission in ferrets.HHS published its request for comments yesterday in a 16-page Federal Register notice. The public has 60 days to comment.Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are already listed as select agents in the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) province of the Select Agent Program, which means that labs that handle them must register with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and meet related security and screening requirements. But the viruses are not on HHS's select agent list.Oversight by APHIS "focuses on the threat to animal health and safety," the HHS notice says. "Listing influenza viruses that contain an HA [hemagglutinin] from the goose/Guangdong/1/96 lineage [the first highly pathogenic H5N1 isolate identified] as an HHS select agent will ensure that the focus of regulation will also be on the potential impact of these viruses on human health as well as agriculture."The notice notes that certain other agents, such as Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax, are on both the USDA and HHS select agent lists. Adding H5N1 to the HHS list "may help to ensure that HPAI strains that have the greatest potential for major direct effects on human health will be regulated with a focus on protection of human health," it states.The request for comments follows a determination by a federal interagency committee that H5N1 viruses may pose a severe threat to human health and safety, according to the notice. The finding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Intragovernmental Select Agents and Toxins Technical Advisory Committee (ISATTAC), which includes members from various HHS and USDA agencies and the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.That committee considered "the data showing transmissibility of genetically modified H5N1 viruses among ferrets," along with the virus's virulence and the low level of immunity in the population.The panel also recognized that H5N1 research could lead to better preparedness for pandemic flu and therefore said the risks inherent in research must be weighed against any negative effects that new restrictions might have on legitimate research, according to the notice.HHS is asking for opinions not only on H5N1 as a possible select agent, but also on whether it should be a "Tier 1" select agent, a new category for agents thought to pose the greatest risk of misuse leading to major harm. Tier 1 agents require additional precautions, such as greater physical security and "personal reliability" screening for staff who work with them.Both the USDA and HHS recently revised their lists of select agents. The USDA kept H5N1 on its list but did not designate the virus as a Tier 1 agent. HHS put several agents in the Tier 1 category, including Ebola and Marburg viruses and the agents that cause smallpox, plague, anthrax, and botulism, among others."The final determination of whether or not to designate this particular lineage of H5N1 HPAI as Tier 1 would be a collaborative process between HHS and USDA," the Federal Register notice says. "HHS and USDA would continue to work closely together whether or not both HHS and USDA designate these viruses as Tier 1 Select Agents."Further questions in the HHS notice include:Should special safety and biocontainment measures be considered when working with diagnostic specimens suspected of containing HPAI H5N1?Should even more stringent precautions be used when working with HPAI H5 strains that have increased transmissibility in mammals?In response to queries from CIDRAP News, comments from groups and researchers likely to be affected by an HHS move to make H5N1 a select agent suggest there's a lot of uncertainty about the implications of the HHS notice.Chris N. Mangal, MPH, director of public health preparedness and response at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said, "APHL has concerns about HPAI H5 viruses being included on the new tier 1 list of select agents. These viruses are already regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. In the coming weeks, APHL will be gathering more information from member public health laboratories to better address the questions posed in the Oct 17 Federal Register notice."Richard J. Webby, PhD, whose lab at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis studies H5N1 viruses and is registered with the USDA Select Agent Program, commented, "To be honest it's not entirely clear what the impact of such a decision would be on operations here but it's something that we are of course investigating fully now." Webby directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, which is at St. Jude.John J. Treanor, MD, a veteran flu and flu vaccine researcher at the University of Rochester, commented, "I don't work directly with H5 viruses in the lab, but I am sure that this [issue] will be quite controversial. It is probably a consequence of the earlier issues related to the ferret studies. It's a tough call—increasing restrictions will without any doubt make it more difficult to study H5 viruses and if the new regulations required specialized facilities that are not readily available, could substantially reduce research in this area."On the other hand, H5 viruses are potentially very dangerous. I would see a question—do H5 viruses pose greater danger in the form of natural emergence of H5 as an epidemic in humans, in which case increasing containment requirements is counterproductive, or do H5 viruses pose a danger to humans primarily because of possible accidental release, in which case increased containment is very important."See also: Oct 17 HHS Federal Register noticeOct 10 CIDRAP News story "Changes in select agent rules concern public health labs"Jun 21 CIDRAP News story "Fouchier study reveals changes enabling airborne spread of H5N1 virus"last_img

Rotary: Galen Gisler On Threat Of Near-Earth Asteroids

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first_imgDr. Galen Gisler, retired LANL astrophysicist and community volunteer, recently spoke at the Rotary Club of Los Alamos about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. He described the impacts of the Chicxulub impact in present-day Yucatan that is responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, as well as those impacts in our modern age: Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 and Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. To study the threat, scientists find potentially hazardous asteroids, calculate their orbits, monitor and characterize them, and if necessary, develop and execute a deflection mission. The intent of the deflection is to alter the asteroid’s orbit away from Earth. Methods considered include a gravity tractor, kinetic impact, a nuclear explosive device, and a spacecraft swarm with lasers, ion beams, or solar mirrors. For more information, visit the Minor Planet Center, www.minorplanetcenter.net, which operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Photo by Linda Hulllast_img

Going places: 17.04.2009

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first_imgWould you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletters To access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week.last_img

Linde Pakistan Limited – A new era for BOC Pakistan

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first_imgSubscribe Get instant access to must-read content today!To access hundreds of features, subscribe today! At a time when the world is forced to go digital more than ever before just to stay connected, discover the in-depth content our subscribers receive every month by subscribing to gasworld.Don’t just stay connected, stay at the forefront – join gasworld and become a subscriber to access all of our must-read content online from just $270.last_img

Major ASU order for Hangzhou Hangyang

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first_imgSubscribe Get instant access to must-read content today!To access hundreds of features, subscribe today! At a time when the world is forced to go digital more than ever before just to stay connected, discover the in-depth content our subscribers receive every month by subscribing to gasworld.Don’t just stay connected, stay at the forefront – join gasworld and become a subscriber to access all of our must-read content online from just $270.last_img

Iwatani acquires Advanced Specialty Gases

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first_imgThe acquisition of the Nevada-based company marks Iwatani’s entry into the US speciality gases market.Advanced Speciality Gases serves a wide range of industries including electric utilities, semiconductor, mobility and chemicals. Company products include speciality and rare gases as well as complex mixtures.“Iwatani was a natural fit for our family to transition ownership to,” said David Stein, Owner and President of Advanced Speciality Gases.“Iwatani will continue to invest in the business to grow, expand its product offerings and bring enhanced value propositions to customers.”“Over the past 20 years, Advanced Speciality Gases has earned a solid reputation and built exceptional business and talented team,” said Joe Cappello, CEO of Iwatani Americas.Iwatani makes Joseph S. Cappello appointment“The business is a great platform for Iwatani to extend its global capabilities to serve customers in strong and growing markets and we are very pleased that Brian Hamilton, who has been an integral part of Advanced Specialty Gases since its inception, has been named General Manager and will lead the team forward.”Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.Specialty Gas ZoneFor all the latest news, views, and analysis of the high-growth global specialty gases business, bookmark the dedicated Specialty Gases Zone.Includes market reports, heavyweight interviews, profiles of who’s-who in specialty gases, and further reading items.www.gasworld.com/zoneslast_img

Donegal Bay Silt Dumping Plan Causes Major Concerns

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first_imgAquaculture producers and members of the Irish Farmer Association have expressed concerns over the Government’s proposal to dump almost 100.000 tonnes of fine peaty silt in Donegal bay.“We are all in favor of coastal economic development and the extension of facilities in Killybegs which require dredging, but the consequences of the Department’s proposals to dump the spoil in a site which was previously associated with fish kills would outweigh the benefits by ruining the livelihoods of oyster, mussel and salmon farmers in the bay,” said Executive of IFA Aquaculture, Richie Flynn.“The site is too close to our members, too close to Natura 2000 sites and the level of monitoring proposed is totally inadequate, given the scale of the potential losses involved. The models used for dispersion are out of date and most significantly the peaty nature of the silt has not been taken into account. “This material will drift and spread throughout the bay, potentially causing damage to up to €50 million of our stocks and threatening 150 jobs.”Richie Flynn said that the EPA must find an alternative site far away from any aquaculture or fishing grounds.[mappress mapid=”23460″]last_img

Think beyond private practice, Dobbs advises graduates

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first_imgShe also gave advice on interviews. ‘Be truly honest or it will come back and bite you,’ she said. She instanced candidates who included reading and the theatre among their interests, but when questioned had not read a book or seen a play in ages.She exhorted the graduates to support future cohorts taking the Legal Launch Pad programme. ‘You have been the lucky recipients of this programme,’ she said. ‘Give something back by becoming mentors or providing work placements when you can.’The Legal Launch Pad is an initiative of charity the BLD Foundation, founded by non-practising solicitor Debo Nwauzu in 2006. Its website has information about the Legal Launch Pad programme and providing mentoring or work placements. Unless you crave sleepless nights and an excess of adrenaline, think beyond the ‘tall towers and ritzy premises’ of corporate law, a former High Court judge told prospective young lawyers yesterday.‘Legal practice does not revolve solely around private practice,’ she told them. ‘There are also great careers in local government, commercial in-house, banking, charities and elsewhere.’She added: ‘If you can’t get a training contract, consider becoming a paralegal. It’s a foot in the door and an opportunity to be noticed by influential lawyers.’The Honourable Dame Linda Dobbs DBE (pictured), the UK’s first non-white High Court judge, was addressing the Legal Launch Pad graduation ceremony marking the completion, by some 40 young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, of a nine-month programme of mentoring, mock interviews and work placements in law firms and chambers.Dobbs encouraged the young graduates to prepare for the future by not only having a plan, but also having one or two back-up plans. ‘And then SWOT test them,’ she said, explaining that the acronym referred to analysing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their plans.‘Know yourself,’ she continued. ‘Learn how others perceive you, even to the extent of asking friends what they don’t like about you. Learn to market yourself. Be seen and heard, rather than seen and not noticed or heard but not listened to. Be remembered, but for the right reasons. And even if you are not working, keep progressing your CV by, for example, taking an unpaid internship.’last_img

African elephants face the worst decline in 25 years

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first_imgAfrica has experienced a record high of decline in Elephants with a loss of at least 111,000 elephants in the last 25 years.According to IUCN’s African Elephant Status Report, research carried out in 37 states across Africa the surge in poaching in the continent and habitat loss are serious long term threats to the species.“These new numbers reveal the truly alarming plight of the majestic elephant – one of the world’s most intelligent animals and the largest terrestrial mammal alive today,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “It is shocking but not surprising that poaching has taken such a dramatic toll on this iconic species. This report provides further scientific evidence of the need to scale up efforts to combat poaching. Nevertheless, these efforts must not detract from addressing other major and increasingly devastating threats such as habitat loss.”Southern African has 70 percent of Africa’s Elephants population while East Africa holds 20 percent, Central Africa six per cent and West Africa holds the smallest percentage of three.East Africa has experienced a general reduction of 60 percent which is mainly in Tanzania as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya record stable numbers. Central and West Africa have also been substantially affected by poaching for Ivory substantially as well. Southern Africa has not had the same impact with poaching, with the region recording increasing numbers, however growing threat of poaching is slowly slipping into the region.According to the Report that was launched today at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa, in total there are thought to be around 415,000 elephants in Africa, although there could be up to 135,000 more in areas which have not been properly surveyed.last_img

Kenya’s anti-COVID-19 battle shifts to rural counties amid rising infections

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first_imgMisconceptions on COVID-19 persists in Kenya's rural areas A health worker dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a nasopharyngeal swab sample from a resident during a Covid-19 testing drive at Olympic Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Halfway through Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyattas second term his pledge of transforming the economy through manufacturing, farming, health care and low-cost housing have been slow to show results, and the coronavirus pandemic could now reduce that to little more than an election promise. Photographer: Patrick Meinhardt/Bloomberg via Getty Images A health worker dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a nasopharyngeal swab sample from a resident during a Covid-19 testing drive at Olympic Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (Patrick Meinhardt/Bloomberg via Getty Images)The Kenyan government said Tuesday it has ramped up interventions aimed at containing COVID-19 disease in the rural counties that have lately witnessed a spike in caseload.Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health, said the country is not yet out of the woods yet despite low positivity rates in the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa that were previously regarded as the pandemic’s hotspots.Aman said that rising COVID-19 infections in several rural counties could derail efforts to flatten the curve.“While as we have witnessed the number of positive cases decline in Nairobi and Mombasa, some rural counties have recorded a spike and therefore we must continue to adhere to containment measures,” Aman said at a briefing in Nairobi on Tuesday.He said that positivity rates were below 5 percent in Nairobi and Mombasa as opposed to several rural counties that were recording more than 7 percent rate of infection.Aman said that Kenya’s ability to flatten the curve in the near future hinged on robust investment in COVID-19 mitigation measures in the rural counties.“The communities living in rural and peri-urban counties should maintain social distancing, wear face masks and avoid large gatherings in order to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Aman.He said that devolved units should partner with the central government to increase the number of hospital beds, boost their testing and contact tracing capacity, in order to avert an implosion in cases and fatalities.Aman warned county governments against relaxing containment measures amid risk of a secondary and tertiary wave of infection that could overwhelm local healthcare infrastructure.He said that a decline in COVID-19 cases countrywide that accelerated in mid-July, reaffirmed the effectiveness of containment measures that should be ramped up in the emerging rural hotspots.According to Aman, eastern Kenyan counties of Machakos, Kitui and Meru had experienced a spike in infections while Busia County that borders Uganda had also emerged as a pandemic hotspot.Kenya’s COVID-19 caseload reached 35,356 on Tuesday after 151 patients including 77 women and 74 men tested positive to the disease.No single death was reported in the last 24 hours and the national fatality tally remained at 599 while 173 patients recovered from the virus, raising the cumulative number of recoveries to 21,483.Public health specialists hailed the decline in positive cases but stressed that rural counties deserved adequate resources to revitalize anti-COVID-19 war amid fragile health systems, poverty and inadequate testing that could hamper efforts to defeat the virus.Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Amref Health Africa, said that deployment of additional health workers combined with improved testing, tracing and isolation infrastructure in rural counties is key to reduce COVID-19 caseload and deaths.“The rural counties were late in experiencing transmissions and therefore any efforts to suppress the virus and prevent a second wave of transmission should be channeled there,” Gitahi said during an interview at a local television station.Related Kenya confirms 16 new COVID-19 casescenter_img Kenya's anti-COVID-19 battle shifts to rural counties amid rising infectionslast_img