Author: Dr. Ronald St. John

Throughout history there have been outbreaks of infectious diseases. The well-known plague epidemic (Black Death) was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s, wiping out an estimated one-third of the population. Disease outbreaks, when large in scope, have been referred to as epidemics. More recently, epidemics that have involved or might involve the global population have been labelled as pandemics.

When does an epidemic become a pandemic? There is no single accepted definition of the term pandemic (ref: Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 200:7, 1 October 2009). Some considerations for labelling an outbreak as a pandemic include outbreaks of diseases:

  • that extend over large geographic areas, e.g., influenza, HIV/AIDS
  • that have high attack rates and explosiveness, e.g., common-source acquisition and highly contagious diseases with short incubation periods
  • that affect populations with minimal population immunity
  • that involve a new or novel version of an infectious agent – the term pandemic has been used most commonly to describe diseases that are new, or at least associated with novel variants of existing organisms, e.g., influenza.
  • that are highly contagious. Many, if not most, infectious diseases considered to be pandemic by public health officials are contagious from person to person
  • that have severe health consequences. The term pandemic has been applied to severe or fatal diseases

For purposes of this paper, a pandemic is an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.(1)

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There is probably a lot of truth in MSF’s notion that they need advice from anthropologists to get around the hang-ups of local people. That is based on the assumption that hang-ups (psychological obstacles to use of medical knowledge) are derived mostly from long-standing cultural traditions. Some are, but nowadays mostly they aren’t. More often the irrational rejection of such things as vaccines for Covid is not rooted in tradition or culture but an emerging, transient symbol of “tribal identity.” For example, there is no truck-drivers’ culture forbidding the use of masks or vaccines, but truck drivers pick up the resistance to masks and vaccines as a new badge of identity.

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So It was the Wet Market After All!
Today another study concluded that COVID did begin in the wet market of Wuhan, not that viriology research centre. Maybe that will put an end to the speculation. It should certainly reinforce the notion that wet markets should be banned. Bringing all those different species together means they can share diseases and pass them on to humans. This is a wet market in Singapore. It looks pretty well organized, but it can’t be a great place to spend time.

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How to Protect the World from Ultra-Targeted Biological Weapons

Kim Tong-Hyung | The Diplomat | 8 October 2021

“The World Health Organization has started shipping COVID-19 medical supplies into North Korea, a possible sign that Pyongyang is easing one of the world’s strictest pandemic border closures to receive outside help.

WHO said in a weekly monitoring report that it has started the shipment of essential COVID-19 medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian for “strategic stockpiling and further dispatch” to North Korea.

Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said in an email to the Associated Press Thursday that some items, including emergency health kits and medicine, have reached the North Korean port of Nampo after North Korean authorities allowed the WHO and other U.N. agencies to send supplies that had been stuck in Dalian.”

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How to Protect the World from Ultra-Targeted Biological Weapons

Filippa Lentzos | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | 7 December 2020

“The potential reach of the state into our individual biology and genetic makeup is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have crystallized just how quickly and readily machines, algorithms, and computing power can be combined with biological data and used in technologies that subjugate bodies and control populations.”

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Vaccination passports.

An Asian Pandemic Success Story: What SARS Taught Governments About Fighting Infectious Disease

Swee Kheng Khor and David Heymann. September 21, 2020

Just as a heart attack can jolt a person into changing habits for the better, a pandemic can spur a nation to profoundly improve its public health systems and policies. The harsh experience with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003—and to a lesser extent, H1N1 in 2009–10 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2014–15—had such an effect on East Asian countries. China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among other states, retooled their public health systems after SARS in a manner that allowed them to mount particularly effective responses to COVID-19.

As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, East Asian countries lead the way in both control and recovery. They consistently report lower death rates from COVID-19 than do countries in Europe and North America, suggesting that their governments have been better able to protect those at risk of serious illness and death. By and large, their public discourse has already shifted to restarting the economy and public life instead of remaining focused on initial measures to flatten the curve of infections. East Asian societies have demonstrated solidarity, rather than allowing the disease and its control to become unnecessarily politicized or weaponized. At the root of the efficacy of this response lie the hard-won lessons of the region’s experience with SARS.

Asian countries hit by SARS responded by investing in public health. They built systems and institutions that could marshal the full power of government to confront the next pandemic threat. Some designed and built new infrastructure for disease surveillance, case reporting, and contact tracing. They developed decentralized networks of laboratories, and they invested in the personnel that would be needed to run these new systems. In 2009, for example, Vietnam established a central database for reporting disease cases in real time. To develop and operate the technology required the support of public health physicians, information technology specialists, and a vast network of field-based epidemiologists.

At the same time, countries responding to SARS strengthened their command-and-control centers so that they could provide the leadership and information needed during the chaos and confusion of a pandemic. Some reorganized their nerve centers, as South Korea did with its Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Others purpose built new ones after SARS, including Malaysia’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre, China’s Information System for Disease Control and Prevention, the Taiwanese National Health Command Center, and Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection.

The countries that suffered through SARS learned that to fight a pandemic requires not only top-down systems but also attention to the broader health of the populace. Partly for this reason and partly for political purposes, many of the SARS-affected countries—including JapanSouth KoreaTaiwan, and Thailand—have worked since the early 2000s to finance universal health coverage or to enhance existing coverage. Thailand has extended health insurance coverage to documented and undocumented migrants. Universal health coverage helps countries fight pandemics by bringing the population to a healthier baseline, reducing barriers to treatment, and encouraging familiarity with and trust in government services.

At the root of East Asia’s response lie the hard-won lessons of the region’s experience with SARS.

The acute emergency of a pandemic, East Asian countries learned, requires governments to take a responsible but nimble approach to regulation. A South Korean task force of researchers, scientists, regulators, and manufacturers developed a process for rapidly approving urgently needed tests and treatments in a crisis. South Korea refined that procedure after SARS so that the country could rapidly develop, approve, and mass-produce PCR, or antigen, test kits. The country further adopted a new set of data-sharing and privacy laws post-SARS—laws that established the political mandate and legal basis for the world-leading, telecommunications-based contact tracing system that the country has used during the fight against COVID-19. Taiwan’s technological expertise and legal flexibility allowed its National Health Insurance Administration to combine data with the National Immigration Agency in just one day, a move that greatly aided contact tracing.

Many of the Asian countries that passed through the SARS crisis have developed strikingly similar response systems. They operate on a single switch, meaning that once public health decision-makers detect a credible threat, they can activate a surge response from the entire machinery of government. A single command center coordinates the work of the different levels of government, with collaboration among the various agencies built into the system’s ethos and operations. Asian governments recognize that science and hospitals cannot fight pandemics alone: the whole of government and society needs to be involved.

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I believe I heard that, although the CDC has authorized vaccinated people to stop wearing masks, the airlines are continuing to insist upon it. So they must have the power to make that decision on their own, which is probably a good thing, though I am not sure it always is.

Airlines cannot regulate their own health-protection practices

Federal governments’ subservience to all things big money is reflected in their respective regulators’ passiveness in allowing airline corporations to make the life-risking decision to end their passenger seating distancing measures.       
It’s yet further proof that big business basically calls the consumer-health shots, when it should be our non-lobbied elected officials.       
When the COVID-19 crisis began, the most influential voice to have the ear of Canada’s government, for example, likely were the largest corporations, particularly the airlines; the result was resistance against an immediate halt in international commerce, including overseas flights, weeks of delay that may have translated into many Canadian COVID-19 deaths.        
I believe similar governmental behavior toward national airlines was evident in the U.S. and Britain.         

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Pandemic Worsens, Resistance Will Follow

By: John Clarke

Two recent developments in the US seem to capture just how the destructive profit-driven irrationality of capitalism renders it incapable of effectively containing the present global pandemic. On July 10, the US recorded a staggering 70,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, and Florida saw 11,433 cases, with 435 more people hospitalized. The next day, the reopening of “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” Disney World, began in that state. Admission tickets for the four theme parks are already sold out for the month of July. Meanwhile, across the country in Los Angeles, it is reported that the factories used to produce face masks for front-line workers, under the ‘LAProtects’ initiative, have become a major source of coronavirus infection. The low wage sweatshop conditions that the mainly migrant workforce have to endure have proven deadly. Three factories have been closed after three hundred contracted COVID-19 and four died.

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After the Pandemic, Germany Is Poised to Come Out Ahead

Germany has won widespread praise for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calm leadership in the face of Covid-19, but at The New York Times, Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma writes that the country will likely emerge as the “big winner” in the world’s post-Covid-19 economy, thanks not only to its public-health response to the virus, but to pre-pandemic fiscal health and a forward-looking, export-focused economy.

“While other countries worry that recent layoffs may become permanent, most German workers stayed on the payroll thanks to rapid expansion of the Kurzarbeit, a century-old government system that pays companies to retain employees on shortened hours through temporary crises. Germany was able to expand the Kurzarbeit—and much else in the way of social services—thanks to its famous frugality,” Sharma writes.

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Europe’s Recovery Deal: Hamilton Moment, or Poison Pill?

EU leaders have agreed on a Covid-19 economic-recovery package that includes collective borrowing to fund efforts in the hardest-hit countries, and it’s being universally hailed as a landmark. When the plan was first floated by France and Germany, some called it a “Hamiltonian moment”—a reference to Alexander Hamilton’s union-saving compromise to assume states’ Revolutionary War debts collectively, which began America’s federalized fiscal system. At the European Council on Foreign Relations, Jana Puglierin and Ulrike Esther Franke suggest Paris and Berlin, having overcome the EU’s longstanding obstacle of richer countries’ reluctance to bail out the bloc’s economic stragglers, might form a political–economic engine driving Europe toward coherence and geopolitical boldness.

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Interesting article! I had never previously thought about the intersections of nuclear disarmament and COVID.

How to fight Antimicrobial Resistance

1. Don’t take antibiotics unless you really need them (doctor prescription only!)

2. Finish your antibiotic pills! This is very important even when you feel the clinical symptoms are gone already. Because the insufficient dosage of antibiotic will make the bacteria develop their resistance.

3. Prevent infections! The easiest way is to wash your hands before eating!

Perhaps there’s a way for the international community to impose some sort of truce until COVID-19 is solved, or there is a suitable vaccine that can be delivered to everyone.

Your prediction was an under-estimate, Blanche. The US passed 500,000 deaths from Covid in February 2021.

This illustrates more clearly than anything I have ever read that there are potentially good and potentially horrible applications of all kinds of knowledge. The worst thing, though, is that it is probably impossible to set forth any rules or general principles to use in deciding whether a particular use should be accepted and encouraged or forbidden. Privacy itself is neither always good nor always bad. And indeed, once something bad has happened, sometimes there are good effects. And vice versa. Life is so complicated!

“Without Early Warning You Can’t Have Early Response”

By Grant Robertson

“Months before the COVID-19 outbreak, the federal government’s early warning system went silent, just as it was needed most. The change left Canada poorly prepared as the virus began to spread rapidly around the world.

On the morning of Dec. 31, as word of a troubling new outbreak in China began to reverberate around the world, in news reports and on social media, a group of analysts inside the federal government and their bosses were caught completely off guard.

The virus had been festering in China for weeks, possibly months, but the Public Health Agency of Canada appeared to know nothing about it – which was unusual because the government had a team of highly specialized doctors and epidemiologists whose job was to scour the world for advance warning of major health threats. And their track record was impressive.

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Canada’s Healthcare System isn’t so Great!

Especially during the pandemic crisis, I’ve heard too many platitudinous praises of Canada’s supposed universality of healthcare.

I, one who champions truly comprehensive health-services coverage, had tried accessing, for example, essential therapy coverage in our public system; within, however, there were/are important health treatments that are either universally non-existent or, more likely, universally inaccessible, except to those with relatively high incomes and/or generous employer health insurance coverage.

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It’s interesting how protecting the environment actually helps the human race as well…if only we had figured this out sooner. It seems other cultures did, like Indigenous communities.

An Old TB Vaccine Finds New Life in Coronavirus Trials

By Anthony King, May 4, 2020

Studies are underway to test whether giving a shot of BCG vaccine could protect doctors and nurses against COVID-19.

One of the oldest vaccines could protect us against our newest infectious disease, COVID-19. The vaccine has been given to babies to protect them against tuberculosis for almost a century, but has been shown to shield them from other infections too, prompting scientists to investigate whether it can protect against the coronavirus.

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COVID-19: An Intersectional Perspective

Over the past 2 weeks, I have collected a number of COVID-19 related articles. Many of these articles offer intersectional perspectives on COVID-19. I am sharing these here as these may be of interest to Project Save the World readers. I am additionally cross-posting this to the Overview: Enabling Measures section.

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Well for one, the government could collaborate more with Indigenous communities in Canada to address the issues they face. Unfortunately, under Trudeau’s government they haven’t done so.

Could the Coronavirus Be a Biological Weapon in the Not-Too-Distant Future?

By: Thalif Deen

The devastating spread of the deadly coronavirus across every continent– with the exception of Antarctica– has triggered a conspiracy theory on social media: what if the virus was really a biological weapon? And more specifically, was it an experimental weapon that accidentally escaped from a laboratory in China? Or as others contend, is it a weapon surreptitiously introduced to de-stabilize a country with more than 1.4 billion people and described as the world’s second largest economy, after the United States.

Both narratives are considered false, and probably part of a deliberate disinformation campaign, according to military experts. Still, in the US, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has repeated the charge that the virus was a creation of the Chinese military while others source it to North Korea. And US President Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for “a racist remark” after describing the deadly disease as “a Chinese virus.”

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What more can be done to help Northern Communities in Canada?

Here’s to hoping that a vaccine is discovered soon, that would prevent COVID from being used as a biological weapon.

This collection of 3 articles from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists offers an interesting perspective on the interconnections between COVID-19 and nuclear-related industries. I am additionally cross-posting this list to Overview: (Mass) Radiation Exposure and Overview: Enabling Measures due to its relevance.

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COVID-19 Impact On Nuclear Disarmament

By: Earl Turcotte

That COVID-19 has created a new global reality is clear. If there is any positive aspect to this unfolding situation, it could be a deeper understanding of the fact that the well-being of people throughout the world is inextricably linked. The COVID crisis might also serve as a cautionary tale, helping us to appreciate the fragility of life and avoid threats to humanity that are within our control.

In 2019, a team of researchers at Princeton University simulated a limited exchange of low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons to depict “a plausible escalating war between the United States and Russia, using realistic nuclear force postures, targets, and fatality estimates.” They concluded that more than 90 million people would be killed or injured within a few hours and many more would die in the years following.

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Coronavirus in Eastern DR Congo: Conflicts and Humanitarian Crisis

Amani Institute | 4 May 2020

As the Coronavirus pandemic accelerates in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is increasingly affected. Fear is gaining ground, especially in the east of the country, where numerous armed groups are fueling the humanitarian crisis. The local non-profit organization Amani-Institute ASBL indicates that displaced populations are particularly vulnerable because of their material living conditions resulting from armed violence. Fearing more amplified risks in the province of North Kivu, this socio-cultural movement of young volunteers has already launched the challenge of intervening in the camps for internally displaced persons to raise their awareness of preventive measures and the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic but also solidarity and non-violent communication in this time of crisis.

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Stopping Deforestation Can Prevent Pandemics

From: Scientific American | 1 May 2020

“SARS, Ebola and now SARS-CoV-2: all three of these highly infectious viruses have caused global panic since 2002—and all three of them jumped to humans from wild animals that live in dense tropical forests.

Three quarters of the emerging pathogens that infect humans leaped from animals, many of them creatures in the forest habitats that we are slashing and burning to create land for crops, including biofuel plants, and for mining and housing. The more we clear, the more we come into contact with wildlife that carries microbes well suited to kill us—and the more we concentrate those animals in smaller areas where they can swap infectious microbes, raising the chances of novel strains. Clearing land also reduces biodiversity, and the species that survive are more likely to host illnesses that can be transferred to humans. All these factors will lead to more spillover of animal pathogens into people.”

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COVID-19 Underscores Vulnerability of Remote Communities

“Donny Morris faced an extra hurdle as he raced to keep his tiny, fly-in community safe, healthy and stocked with crucial supplies in the face of the COVID-19 crisis: an unusually warm winter and an early closure for a 700-kilometre ice road in northern Ontario.

Morris (left) is chief of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Reserve, an Oji-Cree community of 1,700 people nestled on the shores of Big Trout Lake, 580 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont. His leadership is vital to keeping the novel coronavirus out of the community, while ensuring members of KI have enough supplies to get them through the months ahead.

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COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories of Canada

This opinion piece on COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories of Canada is quite interesting. It is alarming to hear that diamond mines in the territory are being kept open as essential services. Notably, mining is a big component of the Northwest Territories’ economy and how much of a decision this played in decisions to keep the mines open has yet to be determined. Parallels may be drawn to other regions of Canada, such as the oil extraction industry in Alberta, which is still operating despite the pandemic – as well as other global regions. There is further precedent for mines and mining camps being a hotspot for COVID-19 cases, per the example at Kearl Lake, Alberta. Significant challenges have additionally arisen in Alberta due to regional flooding.

It is additionally alarming to hear that the entirety of the Northwest Territories only has 6 intensive care (ICU) hospital beds. Many Northern communities are known to have limited access to medical supplies, even during non-pandemic times.

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This is why you should always wear a face mask, even when you’re adequately social distancing. You never know!

The Interconnection of Conflicts, War and Covid-19

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s plea to ‘silence the guns’ would create corridors for lifesaving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.” -The Hill Times, 6 April 2020: EDMONTON-

The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” In one short sentence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the door to a new understanding of what constitutes human security. Will governments seize the opportunity provided by the immense crisis of COVID-19 to finally adopt a global agenda for peace?

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Pandemic Could Affect Food Supplies, Power Grids, Telecommunications

“If cases of COVID-19 continue to multiply, labour shortages could affect food supplies and undermine Canada’s critical infrastructure, an internal government briefing note obtained by CBC News warns.

The document, prepared by Public Safety Canada, says accelerating rates of illness among Canadians could create labour shortages in essential services. The two most “pressing” areas of concern, it says, are procurement of medical goods and the stability of the food supply chain. “These shortages are likely to have the greatest impact in the two sectors mentioned above, as it will affect our ability to provide health care and essential goods, including food, to Canadians,” notes the document.

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This article from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace discusses coronavirus (COVID-19) in conflict zone settings – and may be of interest to readers of Project Save the World.

Coronavirus in Conflict Zones: A Sobering Landscape
By: Brown, Frances Z. and Blanc, Jarrett
Published in: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
14 April 2020

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This is so sad. There must be a way to donate the food or to organize a system where people struggling to feed there families can receive some of these crops!

How Far Away Is Safe in COVID-19?

“What is a safe distance when running, biking and walking during COVID-19 times? It is further than the typical 1–2 meter as prescribed in different countries!

In a lot of countries walking, biking and jogging are welcome activities in these times of COVID-19. However, it is important to note that you need to avoid each other’s slipstream when doing these activities. This comes out of the result of a study by the KU Leuven (Belgium) and TU Eindhoven (Netherlands).

The typical social distancing rule which many countries apply between 1–2 meters seems effective when you are standing still inside or even outside with low wind. But when you go for a walk, run or bike ride you better be more careful. When someone during a run breathes, sneezes or coughs, those particles stay behind in the air. The person running behind you in the so-called slip-stream goes through this cloud of droplets.

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Superbugs in the Air! Garbage Spreads Antibiotic Resistance

By: Ian Angus

“In my recent Monthly Review article, Superbugs in the Anthropocene, I discussed the growth of the antibiotic resistome, the worldwide pool of genes that enable bacteria to resist antibiotics. Such genes can concentrate in environmental hot spots, where resistance can easily spread.”

“Hot spots, in soil and water as well as in hospitals, factories, sewage-treatment plants, and factory farms, provide excellent conditions for the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria in local ecosystems and around the world.”

Add municipal landfills to that list.

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China is not the only one. There are so many other governments that censor information as well. Like Brazil!

Farmers Destroying Food Products Because of COVID-19

Linked below is an interesting article discussing the implications of COVID-19 on agricultural industries, particularly within the context of the United States of America. It is alarming to hear that farmers are destroying food products – as many clients – such as restaurants – are shut due to the pandemic. The article specifically mentions how 80% of Florida-grown tomatoes usually end up at restaurants. Some farmers are selling these at bulk to individual consumers at very low prices, however the vast majority of several crops (including tomatoes and zucchinis among others) are being allowed to rot. The article additionally mentions a situation in the Central and Northeastern regions of the United States of America where farmers have been destroying milk products due to COVID-19. This is alarming to hear considering the high levels of food insecurity in a number of global regions.

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China Censors Information on the Coronavirus

Here are some excerpts:

1) “YY, a live-streaming platform in China, began to censor keywords related to the coronavirus outbreak on December 31, 2019, a day after doctors (including the late Dr. Li Wenliang) tried to warn the public about the then unknown virus.

2) WeChat broadly censored coronavirus-related content (including critical and neutral information) and expanded the scope of censorship in February 2020. Censored content included criticism of government, rumours and speculative information on the epidemic, references to Dr. Li Wenliang, and neutral references to Chinese government efforts on handling the outbreak that had been reported on state media.

3) Many of the censorship rules are broad and effectively block messages that include names for the virus or sources for information about it. Such rules may restrict vital communication related to disease information and prevention.”

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What Latin American Countries Are Doing to Confront Coronavirus

By: David A. Wemer

“As governments in North America, Europe, Asia, and around the world continue to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Latin American leaders are stepping up their efforts as cases are beginning to be documented in their countries. Although the number of cases across the region remains mostly lower than the epicenters in Europe and the United States, “we are not letting our guard down,” El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandra Hill Tinoco said on March 23. “No one can guarantee us that it is not going to hit us,” she explained, so every Latin American government is taking the threat seriously.

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How the Coronavirus Outbreak is like a Nuclear Attack

“One thing about nuclear command and control, which the virus outbreak underscores, is that it is so hard to get good information in a crisis. The epidemic spiraled out of control so quickly in certain countries that even the best experts were rushing to figure out what was going on. To me the danger of a nuclear war is not that somebody’s going to get up one morning and say, “Ah, fuck it,” and push the button. It’s that we’re deeply flawed as human beings, and we have imperfect information, and we’re always trying to make decisions under complexity. And I think you saw the same things here. There was enough uncertainty early on that people could argue about how contagious the virus is, or how deadly it is. That uncertainty hampered the response at a critical moment.”

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African Elections in the Time of Coronavirus

By: Luke Tyburski

“African elections slated for 2020 are already being affected by COVID-19, with the potential for delays and disruptions to have significant impact on election credibility, political trust, and adherence to term limits across the continent.

In a year of high-profile elections across the continent, logistical preparations are already ongoing and were meant to be ratcheting up in places like Ghana, which is slated for presidential polls in December, and Ethiopia, where parliamentary polls are set for August. Both countries still need to prepare the voter roll, but bans on public gatherings have flipped electoral timelines on their head.”

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A correction: Not all areas in Africa are developing and there are certainly developed regions on the continent as well.

It will be interesting to see if these trends continue for other developing regions, such as remote areas of Latin America and the South Pacific.

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for Africa?

The majority of the media articles and perspectives which I have seen shared and discussed on popular and social media are focused on developed nations. The Atlantic Council offers this interesting article around the impacts of COVID-19 [coronavirus] on Africa.

It is particularly concerning to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on slum communities that may have limited medical resources and capability to facilitate self-isolation. An estimated 40% of Africans live in water-stressed environments – leading to limitations with disinfection measures, such as hand-washing with water and soap.

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Six Reasons the Kremlin Spreads Disinformation About the Coronavirus

By: Jakub Kalensky

“A recent internal report published by the European Union’s diplomatic service revealed that pro-Kremlin media have mounted a “significant disinformation campaign” about the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at Europe. Previous statements by Western officials, including acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Philip Reeker, warning of the campaign suggested that its contours were already visible by the end of February 2020.
The Kremlin’s long-term strategic goal in the information sphere is enduring and stable: undermining Western unity while strengthening Kremlin influence. Pro-Kremlin information operations employ six complementary tactics to achieve that goal, and the ongoing disinformation campaign on COVID-19 is no exception.

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One potential victim of coronavirus? Nuclear inspections in Iran

By: George M. Moore

“Should the new IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi decide to suspend inspection visits to protect the health of his inspectors, it could metastasize concerns about Iranian nuclear proliferation. The same result would occur if Iran acted unilaterally to bar inspectors based on real or manufactured concerns about further spread of Covid-19.

To date, there is no public information about whether the IAEA will continue to send inspectors to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal. Suspending inspections, even temporarily, could potentially leave a multi-month gap that Iran could exploit if it chose to fully break out of the nuclear agreement. In early March, the IAEA reported that Iran had amassed over 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly triple the amount allowed under the deal.

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Unfortunately, Chinese New Year is often the only chance that Chinese people have time off and are able to visit their families that they haven’t seen in so long. That being said, no one knew how fast and dangerous Coronavirus was at the time- and there wasn’t adequate communication about the dangers of going home.

Coronavirus Forces Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference to Postpone

By: Tariq Rauf

“Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch in his “very, very rough” estimate (relying on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other”) has stated that 100 or 200 people were infected in the U.S. a week or so ago. But that is all it would take to widely spread the disease. Lipsitch has predicted that within a year, 40% to 70% of the world’s population could be infected with COVID-19? With the world’s population hovering around 7.5 billion, that translates to some 3 to 5 billion people getting COVID-19 and that perhaps fatalities of 60 to 100 million, according to Lipsitch.

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I am shocked China and other surrounding nations are not implementing stricter travel guidelines right now – given the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations and the newly emerged coronavirus. Is the massive influx of travelers worth the potential of another SARS-like epidemic? Millions of individuals will be arriving to a region with a still emerging infectious disease. Hopefully enough is understood about the new coronavirus to limit its spread during this festive time of year. It must be a difficult finding a balance between cultural tradition and public health.

The World Health Organization is scheduling an emergency meeting (in Geneva) on 22 January 2020 – three days before Chinese New Year. Talk about concerning variables!

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Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean — And The Food Chain

By Christopher Joyce | June 6, 2019 .

The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It’s home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined.
Very few people have looked for microplastic concentrations at mid- to deep-ocean depths. But there’s a place along the California coast where it’s relatively easy: The edge of the continent takes a steep dive into the deep ocean at Monterey Bay. Whales and white sharks swim these depths just a few miles offshore.

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Pandemics and the Nuclear Threat Initiative

Important news relating to pandemics has been published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

It says “The Global Health Security (GHS) Index, a benchmark assessment of biosecurity preparedness across 195 countries produced by NTI and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, is earning news media attention around the world in the wake of its recent launch. A Washington Post article on the index highlighted its findings and recommendations, and the paper’s editorial board noted that “the world flunked.” The GHS Index also has garnered coverage across 14 countries including reports in the UK’s Daily Mail, Singapore’s The Strait Times , South Africa’s The Herald, and India’s Press Trust of India.”

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Interesting and timely article – given developments in the last few months. The site mentions you shared this 5 months ago – back in November 2019 – though COVID-19 did not emerge until December 2019.

Report says deadly pandemic could sweep world in 36 hours – killing millions

New Zealand Herald, 26 Oct, 2019 5:15pm

A major new report has found that the world is not prepared for the next global pandemic. A review of health care systems already in place across the world found just 13 countries had the resources to put up a fight against an “inevitable” pandemic.

Scientists warned that an outbreak of a flu-like illness could sweep across the planet in 36 hours and kill tens of millions due to our constantly-travelling population.

Among the countries ranked in the top tier were Britain, the US, Australia, Canada, France and Holland.
New Zealand had a lower ranking of “more prepared”, alongside European countries such as Spain, Russia, Italy and Germany.

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“Global Health Security Index Identifies Major Gaps in Preparedness for Epidemics, Pandemics”

Nuclear Threat Initiative News, Oct 24, 2019.

Despite growing risks that infectious disease outbreaks can lead to international epidemics and pandemics, national health security is fundamentally weak around the world, and no country is fully prepared to handle a potentially catastrophic outbreak, according to the inaugural Global Health Security (GHS) Index released today.

A joint project from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security, with research by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the GHS Index is the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across 195 countries.

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UC Davis gets $85 million to lead fight to prevent deadly Asian, African pandemics

By Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, October 10, 2019

The U.S. Agency for International Development gave the University of California, Davis, an $85 million vote of confidence with a five-year grant to train academic researchers in Asia and Africa in preventing animal diseases from spilling over into human populations, the university announced Wednesday.

Woutrina Smith, the principal investigator at UC Davis, said her team takes the view that humans don’t exist in isolation and that there’s a connection between the health of people, animals and the environment. They call this concept One Health, and medical and veterinary researchers at universities and nongovernmental agencies around the world are adopting it.

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Some good news! Glad to hear there’s funding to prevent pandemics.

Bacteriophages Instead of Failing Antibiotic Treatments

An interesting element to explore in more detail are organisms called bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria rather than other cells. They are a branch of disease treatment which is potentially promising should conventional antibiotic treatments fail. The USSR – particularly Georgia – was considered a “stronghold” for research into phage therapy for decades. Only recently has this research and its application for difficult infections become more popular – beyond individual researchers – in countries outside the former USSR. The USA only opened its first Phage Therapy Research Center in 2018. Interestingly, one source of phages to use in this therapy are water treatment plants – as untreated water is considered a hotspot for undiscovered phages that have potential for medical applications. Application for phages include antibiotic resistant infections, as well as radiation burns where conventional treatments to kill infection may not be as effective. One limitation is the phages are quite species-specific and may only target one or two species of bacteria – so finding the right match is vital for patient care and ensuring effective treatment.
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An interesting historical overview of Georgia’s connection to phage therapy is available here:

Could These Bacteria Spread to Humans?

In 2015 – in Central Asia – about half of the world’s saiga antelope died in a matter of weeks. This totalled between 134 000 and 200 000 animals (though perhaps more). The culprit was a hemorrhagic septicemia induced by a bacteria (Pasteurella multocida) that is normally found in the respiratory tract of this species. It is unclear what caused the sudden leap in mortality and virulence. A similar incident occurred in 1988 – where 50 000 antelope died within the space of an hour. A research team lead by Dr. Richard Anthony Kock at the Royal Veterinarian Society is investigating intervention measures to prevent another similar incident from unfolding in the future.

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USSR’s Vozrozhdeniya Island: Deadliest Place on Earth?

An alarming BBC article about the legacy of the USSR’s Vozrozhdeniya Island – code name Aralsk-7 in the Cold War. Vozrozhdeniya (Rebirth or Renaissance Island) is located in the Aral Sea. It used to be an island with the town of Kantubek – but the retreating Aral Sea has greatly increased its accessibility to adjacent land.

“Aralsk-7 was part of a bioweapons program on an industrial scale.Now Vozrozhdeniya has swallowed up so much of the sea that it’s swelled to 10 times its original size, and is connected to the mainland by a peninsula. But it is thanks to another Soviet project that it is one of the deadliest places on the planet.”

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Officers Knew About Zika Way Before Outbreak!

The Zika outbreak in French Polynesia (circa. 2013) is a prime example of why this incident system would benefit global health. Apparently, regional health offices on remote Pacific islands were reporting cases of Zika as early as 2012/2013. However, due to the remoteness and delayed communications between regional outposts and central data processing centers – it was not flagged in a timely manner.

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Monitor the health of farm animals

Satish Srivastava notes:

So far, a total of 200 zoonotic diseases have been identified. Important among them are tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, salmonellosis, anthrax, brucellosis, shigellosis and many more. Consumption of milk, meat, eggs from animals infected with any of such disease results in similar disease in humans. A constant monitoring of the health status of farm animals and birds by veterinarians minimize the risk of transmission of diseases to human population.

Ongoing Epidemic of Newcastle Virus in Toronto

Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto has had an ongoing epidemic of Newcastle virus in the cormorants since at least 2018. This is alarming as the municipal ward adjacent to Tommy Thompson Park recently approved “backyard chickens” — a program allowing homeowners to keep up to four chickens in their back yards.

Newcastle virus is highly contagious in avian species, with both neurological and respiratory symptoms. Some have compared it to SARS. Newcastle virus has previously jumped to humans via zoonoses, per a few cases in an Israeli poultry processing plant in the 1960s. It is unclear to me whether the MNR in Ontario has investigated such possibilities.

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ISOHA Mentorship Program

A great organization called ISOHA — International Student One Health Alliance — has a mentorship program . Here’s part of their blurb about it on their Facebook page. We heartily encourage them!
“International Student One Health Alliance
“July 31 at 9:41 AM ·
“We launched our pilot ISOHA Mentorship Program this year after receiving strong interest from both mentors and mentees. Ultimately, we matched over 230 students representing 34 countries with over 150 professionals from 41 different countries and with a vast range of backgrounds including veterinarians, doctors, engineers, and social scientists. Thanks to their hard work and dedication to the program, interdisciplinary One Health networks expanded around the world….”

There seems to be huge support for Incident Management Systems in southern Africa. If you google the term, the organizations discussion and practicing it are generally located there. And they seem to have a good time together socializing. Most of the other articles you find about the subject are wooden and technical. Hello, South Africa!

Climate Change will Expose us to Age-Old Pathogens

Several years ago a frozen reindeer in Siberia defrosted, releasing anthrax in a remote Russian village, killing over 70 people. Is there a risk of frozen, Arctic graves defrosting, and releasing diseases thought to be extinct and/or uncommon? This Anthrax case study reminded me of reports of diphtheria, smallpox, and Spanish flu in remote Arctic regions.

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There is a very lively Facebook group called “One Health Approaches” that many practitioners and researchers can benefit from following. There seems to be a lot going on in Africa.

In her video talk show/podcast with me (see Ann Swidler gives a lot of credit to George W. Bush for making medication affordable in Africa for HIV/AIDS. That is not only altruistic, but also a sensible measure of national security. The lesson for a world grappling with Covid-19, is that international cooperation is essential. Viruses do not stop at borders, hence no one is truly safe until we are all safe. The essential plan is: Early detection and early intervention!

A Measles Outbreak in Malaysia

‘A death trap’: Measles blamed in Malaysia indigenous deaths
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases, but it can be subdued with the widespread practice of vaccination. Unfortunately, there are new outbreaks in places where vaccination campaigns have lagged. Some 15 indigenous people from a marginalised population in Malaysia, the Batek group, died in six weeks in 2019, with scores more in hospital.
by Chris Humphrey,19 Jun 2019

The Batek are among the most marginalised tribes within the Orang Asli, struggling to survive as the forest they live in is cut down for timber and replaced with plantations.

“The marginalisation of the Orang Asli has left them in abject poverty,” said Alberto Gomes, emeritus professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne who has spent 40 years researching the indigenous community.

“They’ve lost their means of production and survival and been robbed of their cultural autonomy.”

In a statement on Monday, Malaysia’s health ministry said tests showed that 37 of the 112 people who had fallen sick had been infected with measles. Three had died from the disease, including a severely malnourished two-and-a-half-year-old child who had developed pneumonia, a complication from measles, and died at the weekend.

15 Free Online Health Courses

The Global One Health initiative has launched a collection of 15 online courses that are being offered under the online Canvas Network. 12 are currently live and accepting new students:

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Interested in the latest travel health recommendations Check out the CDC Yellow Book, Health Information fort International Travel. to answer your patients’, employees’, or your own travel health questions.

The Yellow Book offers readers current U.S. government travel health guidelines, including pre-travel vaccine recommendations, destination-specific health advice, and easy-to-reference maps, tables, and charts.

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News: the Guelph One Health Institute

Tackling some of humanity’s most pressing health problems is the purpose of a new research and teaching institute being launched at the University of Guelph (U of G).

One Health has long been promoted at U of G as an interdisciplinary approach to promoting health and curbing infectious diseases.

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Glad the UN is promoting ‘One Health’

The global ‘One Health’ concerns have long been knocking the doors of our present civilization. It needs immediate attention and concrete action without social, political,demographic and subject bias. A great and timely initiative by the UN.

Makerere University students adopt One Health approach

This is very effective approach in term of resource utilization. It also increase specialisation among fields. Which is keep for innovations.

Makerere University in Uganda has been involved in one health approach with student led initiatives and we have registered successes. For example medical camp, which formally used to for college of health sciences only now has veterinary included. And communities appreciate

Drastic measures are required to slow climate change

In our group the orientation of research on AMR is one health approach. All our research project proposals center on this theme.
As far as bacteria are concerned the diversity known to us too less. All our assumptions are based on few studies. This needs more depth .
With regard to measures of mitigation of slowing down climate change.
1. Are we ready to give rest to all vehicles at least once in a week?
2. Leaving aside diabetics are we ready to skip meals in toto for one day in a week? . If we do it is going to have telling impact on so many aspects.

We are all connected, so let’s act that way

We need to own the policy making positions and keep on influencing those already there, towards healthier interconnectedness we all are part of.

How the DRC’s Ebola Crisis has Led to Children Dying from Measles

Forty-five years ago, the World Health Organisation launched the Expanded Programme on Immunisation. It covered six diseases – measles, tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Since then, anti-measles vaccines have been distributed to millions of children across the world, leading to a massive reduction in illness and death. For example, between 2000 and 2017, it was estimated that global deaths from measles had reduced by about 80% due to vaccination.

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Viruses travel across species. Don’t feed the monkeys. They may bite. Don’t let your dog or cat sleep in bed with you. (Actually, about half of all pet owners do.)

Brilliant that Harvard is leading the way in this new inter-disciplinary approach. One Health integrates research from epidemiology, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, and environmental medicine — because our bodies integrate those phenomena too.

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Select the Videos from Right

We produce several one-hour-long Zoom conversations each week about various aspects of six issues we address. You can watch them live and send a question to the speakers or watch the edited version later here or on our Youtube channel.