Without Syndromic Surveillance Systems, some things can get really hard to see

So the slow reaction of Germany and other European countries has been bad, in the case of a known but unusual infection. How bad would it be in case of an unknown novel pathogen? A lot worse, I would guess.  It is a shame that this article, in Nature, blames everything EXCEPT the lack of a syndromic surveillance system:

Microbe Outbreak Panics Europe
Spread of rare strain raises questions over surveillance of infectious diseases.

By Marian Turner of Nature magazine


Confronted with what has become one of the world’s most severe outbreaks of Escherichia coli, physicians and scientists in Germany say that the country’s fractured health-management system has failed to handle the crisis properly. They are calling for major reforms so that outbreaks are reported sooner and more modern technology is used to help identify their source, in order to bring health emergencies under control more quickly.


Hospitals recorded the first cases on 1 May, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German federal agency for disease surveillance in Berlin. Yet it was not until 22 May that the first report of an unusual number of EHEC infections in Germany arrived at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm. This was unusually long–it typically takes 14 days to detect an outbreak, says Angelika Fruth from the RKI.

Several factors conspired to cause the delay. EHEC infections are not common in adults–so physicians might have initially diagnosed a Salmonella or viral infection. The microbe also behaves differently to typical EHEC strains when cultured for diagnosis, which hampered scientists trying to identify it. And under the German health system, local authorities only report such infections weekly to state governments–which then have another week to tell the RKI. It was not until 25 May that the rare E. coli strain O104:H4 was named as the culprit.

Continue reading “Without Syndromic Surveillance Systems, some things can get really hard to see”

Without Syndromic Surveillance Systems, some things can get really hard to see

Crowd Sourced Health information

Very similar to the site “Who is Sick?” which I’d covered previously, the site “Bed Bug Registry” contains crowd-sourced information on which hotels have bed bugs.  Question: How to maintain the integrity of this information, when competitors could very easily place false reports of others’ hotels having bed bugs?  In any case here’s the link: http://bedbugregistry.com/

Crowd Sourced Health information

Big Pharma gains control of the World Health Organization…

As covered at wikileaks, some internal documents from WHO have been leaked.  Apparently WHO has gone out of the public health business and has become a lobbying agency for big pharma:

Analysis of unreleased WHO Expert Working Group draft reports

This is a confidential pharmaceutical industry trade association dossier about the WHO Expert Working Group (EWG) on R&D Financing.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA; “Big Pharma”) gave its members 4 documents: a non-public draft report of the WHO EWG and a non-public Comparative Analysis done by the working group, the IFPMA Overview of the EWG Comparative Analysis, and IFPMA summary slide on the EWG Draft Report.

The compilation of documents shows the influence of “Big Pharma” on the policy making decisions of the WHO, the UN body safeguarding public health. These confidential documents were obtained by the drug industry before their public release to WHO member states (scheduled to be released May 2010). The document also illustrates that the WHO expert group was highly responsive to industry lobbying — a result that public health groups had feared since early 2009, when the expert group met with the industry, but refused to meet with public health groups known to be industry critics.

The likely audience for these documents include countries, public health policy makers, civil society, industry, academia, media, patients and the general public.

Journalists can contact Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO: chanm@who.int and Malebona Precious Matsoso, WHO Director, Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property: matsosom@who.int

According to our source, the English version of the final report of the EWG with its recommendations is expected to be released to member state countries this week.

Now the critical question: Will this story be covered by the media, or will this be yet another manipulation by IFPMA, be swept under the rug again…?

Big Pharma gains control of the World Health Organization…

Round-up kills?

As noted on the Scientific American website. Reminds me of the excellent book Chain of Chance by Lem, where a seemingly innocuous group of chemicals have unexpected results. But how many of our policy makers read Lem?

Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells
Used in gardens, farms, and parks around the world, the weed killer Roundup contains an ingredient that can suffocate human cells in a laboratory, researchers say

By Crystal Gammon and Environmental Health News

Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. About 100 million pounds are applied to U.S. farms and lawns every year, according to the EPA. Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.

Round-up kills?

Public Health Stories April 2009

Swine Flu:

White House to hold briefing; interesting to see how the new administration will handle this crises:


Wikipedia site is being updated frequently:


And the CDC site:


WHO Site:


Budget woes affecting public health programs in Washington:


Public Health Stories April 2009

…and don’t let the bed bugs bite…!

Just what I needed:

US to tackle resurgent bed bugs

Bed bugs were last seen in large numbers in the US before World War II.

They have usually associated with impoverished dwellings and inexpensive hotels.

Now, experts say international travel, immigration and changes in pest control practices have contributed to a resurgence of the bug in developed countries.

Dini Miller, an entomologist and bed bug expert at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, told AP there had been a “worldwide resurgence” in bed bugs.

…and don’t let the bed bugs bite…!

Good Pick

Links, except the headline of the post, are to posts by e_f on subjects mentioned…

Obama names Besser acting CDC head

Obama late yesterday named bioterrorism and infectious disease expert Richard Besser interim director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Besser, 49, a pediatrician and longtime CDC researcher, will fill the slot—at least temporarily—vacated by Julie Gerberding, who headed the agency for six years during the Bush administration.

Besser, most recently director of the CDC’s Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, is an expert on biological and chemical weapons and on preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. He studied food-borne illness in the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and led a nationwide campaign to prevent overuse of antibiotics, which as been blamed for a rise in drug-resistant infections.

Good Pick