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Biosecur Bioterror [journal]
- A Security Take on Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 May 23.
- Differentiating Microbial Forensic qPCR Target and Control Products by Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 May 15.
Molecular bioforensic research is dependent on rapid and sensitive methods such as real-time PCR (qPCR) for the identification of microorganisms. The use of synthetic positive control templates containing small modifications outside the primer and probe regions is essential to ensure all aspects of the assay are functioning properly, including the primers and probes. However, a typical qPCR or reverse transcriptase qPCR (qRT-PCR) assay is limited in differentiating products generated from positive controls and biological samples because the fluorescent probe signals generated from each type of amplicon are indistinguishable. Additional methods used to differentiate amplicons, including melt curves, secondary probes, and amplicon sequencing, require significant time to implement and validate and present technical challenges that limit their use for microbial forensic applications. To solve this problem, we have developed a novel application of electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) to rapidly differentiate qPCR amplicons generated with positive biological samples from those generated with synthetic positive controls. The method has sensitivity equivalent to qPCR and supports the confident and timely determination of the presence of a biothreat agent that is crucial for policymakers and law enforcement. Additionally, it eliminates the need for time-consuming methods to confirm qPCR results, including development and validation of secondary probes or sequencing of small amplicons. In this study, we demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach with microbial forensic qPCR assays targeting multiple biodefense agents (bacterial, viral, and toxin) for the ability to rapidly discriminate between a positive control and a positive sample.
- Legal Issues Affecting Children with Preexisting Conditions During Public Health Emergencies. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 May 3.
Among the millions of children in the United States exposed to public health emergencies in recent years, those with preexisting health conditions face particular challenges. A public health emergency may, for example, disrupt treatment regimens or cause children to be separated from caregivers. Ongoing shortages of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists may further exacerbate the risks that children with preexisting conditions face in disaster circumstances. The US Department of Homeland Security recently called for better integration of children's needs into all preparedness activities. To aid in this process, multiple legal concerns relevant to pediatricians and pediatric policymakers must be identified and addressed. Obtaining informed consent from children and parents may be particularly challenging during certain public health emergencies. States may need to invoke legal protections for children who are separated from caregivers during emergencies. Maintaining access to prescription medications may also require pediatricians to use specific legal mechanisms. In addition to practitioners, recommendations are given for policymakers to promote effective pediatric response to public health emergencies.
- The Changing Nature and Scope of Public Health Emergencies in Response to Annual Flu. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 May 3.
The rapid spread of influenza during the 2012-13 season brought a series of public health challenges and corresponding response efforts. For decades, responses to annual flu have been undertaken routinely without extensive legal intervention. With the recent declaration of states of public health emergencies in Boston (January 9, 2013) and New York State (January 12, 2013), however, the legal baseline is changing. Propelled by a slate of state and local emergency declarations during the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic, public officials are beginning to show cause for the issuance of formal emergency declarations in support of flu response efforts. The legal effects of these types of declarations are profound. Public and private actors are given significant, expedited public health powers. Scarce resources like vaccines can be more efficiently allocated. Laws relating to licensure, scope of practice, and liability can be effectively waived. Though originally conceptualized and once reserved for catastrophic, long-term health-related or bioterrorism events, public health emergency declarations are evolving to address temporary impacts on health care and public health services arising annually from flu outbreaks. This commentary explores the changing nature of public health emergencies and their current and potential impact on the provision of healthcare services in response to national or regional threats to the public's health.
- Exploring Communication, Trust in Government, and Vaccination Intention Later in the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic: Results of a National Survey. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Apr 25.
With the growing recognition of the critical role that risk communication plays in a public health emergency, a number of articles have provided prescriptive best practices to enhance such communication. However, little empirical research has examined perceptions of the quality of communication, the impact of uncertainty on changing communication, use of information sources, and trust in specific government spokespersons. Similarly, although there is significant conceptual focus on trust and communication as important in vaccination intent and acceptance, little research has explored these relationships empirically. We conducted an online survey in late January 2010 with a nationally representative sample (N=2,079) that included Hispanic and African American oversamples. The completion rate was 56%. We found that public health officials were the most trusted spokespersons, with President Obama being the most highly trusted elected official. Demographic variables, including race, accounted for 21% of the variance in trust of the president. Perceptions of the quality of communication were high, including significant understanding of uncertainty and appreciation for officials' openness about evolving information. Other factors that contributed to vaccination acceptance were quality of communication, closely following the news, and confidence in the vaccine because of a role model effect of the Obama daughters' immunizations; these factors significantly increased trust in government actions. Because the challenges of communication often vary over the course of a pandemic, there is a consistent need to pay close attention to both communication content and delivery and prepare public health officials at all levels to be effective communicators.
- The role of vaccination, antiorthopoxvirus drug, and social cooperativity in a mathematical model of smallpox control. [Journal Article]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Mar; 11(1):59-72.
Considerable effort has gone into making mathematical and computer models of smallpox spread and control measures, typically consisting of vaccination and quarantine. The orally available antiorthopoxvirus drug tecovirimat has recently completed Phase 2 clinical trials and shows promise as a smallpox control agent. We constructed 2 computer simulations to explore the use of tecovirimat in combination with vaccination and social cooperativity to control an outbreak. Two scenarios were considered: (1) a homogenously mixed, deterministic simulation of a single metropolitan area; and (2) a stochastic network of the 50 largest US metropolitan areas connected by commercial air traffic. Metropolitan-level mass vaccination coupled with drug treatment for all individuals who develop a fever considerably outperforms treating only those who develop smallpox's distinctive rash. Incorporating mass chemoprophylaxis represents another large improvement. More aggressive responses are more robust to low cooperation of the population with public health efforts and to faster disease spread. However, even with the most aggressive public health intervention, an attack that initially infects hundreds or thousands of individuals will need to be fought in multiple cities across the country.
- The impact of communication materials on public responses to a radiological dispersal device (RDD) attack. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Mar; 11(1):49-58.
It is a common assumption that, in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attack, a well-prepared and informed public is more likely to follow official recommendations regarding the appropriate safety measures to take. We present findings from a UK study investigating the ability of crisis communication to influence perceptions of risk and behavioral intentions in the general public in response to CBRN terrorism. We conducted a focus group study involving a scenario presented in mock news broadcasts to explore levels of public knowledge, information needs, and intended behavioral reactions to an attack involving an overt radiological dispersal device (RDD), or dirty bomb. We used the findings from these focus groups to design messages for the public that could be presented in a short leaflet. We then tested the effects of the leaflet on reactions to the same scenario in 8 further focus groups. The impact of the new messages on levels of knowledge, information needs, and intended compliance with official recommendations was assessed. The provision of information increased the perceived credibility of official messages and increased reported levels of intended compliance with advice to return to normal/stop sheltering, attend a facility for assessment and treatment, and return to a previously contaminated area after decontamination of the environment has taken place. Should a real attack with an RDD occur, having pretested messages available to address common concerns and information needs should facilitate the public health response to the attack.
- The importance of establishing a national health security preparedness index. [Journal Article]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Mar; 11(1):81-7.
Natural disasters, infectious disease epidemics, terrorism, and major events like the nuclear incident at Fukushima all pose major potential challenges to public health and security. Events such as the anthrax letters of 2001, Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and West Nile virus outbreaks, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic have demonstrated that public health, emergency management, and national security efforts are interconnected. These and other events have increased the national resolve and the resources committed to improving the national health security infrastructure. However, as fiscal pressures force federal, state, and local governments to examine spending, there is a growing need to demonstrate both what the investment in public health preparedness has bought and where gaps remain in our nation's health security. To address these needs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR), is creating an annual measure of health security and preparedness at the national and state levels: the National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI).
- Smallpox epidemic models and response strategies. [Journal Article]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Mar; 11(1):73-4.
- Assessment of medical reserve corps volunteers' emergency response willingness using a threat- and efficacy-based model. [Journal Article, Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.]
- Biosecur Bioterror 2013 Mar; 11(1):29-40.
The goal of this study was to investigate the willingness of Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers to participate in public health emergency-related activities by assessing their attitudes and beliefs. MRC volunteers responded to an online survey organized around the Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM). Respondents reported agreement with attitude/belief statements representing perceived threat, perceived efficacy, and personal/organizational preparedness in 4 scenarios: a weather-related disaster, a pandemic influenza emergency, a radiological ("dirty bomb") emergency, and an inhalational anthrax bioterrorism emergency. Logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate predictors of volunteer response willingness. In 2 response contexts (if asked and regardless of severity), self-reported willingness to respond was higher among those with a high perceived self-efficacy than among those with low perceived self-efficacy. Analyses of the association between attitude/belief statements and the EPPM profiles indicated that, under all 4 scenarios and with few exceptions, those with a perceived high threat/high efficacy EPPM profile had statistically higher odds of agreement with the attitude/belief statements than those with a perceived low threat/low efficacy EPPM profile. The radiological emergency consistently received the lowest agreement rates for the attitude/belief statements and response willingness across scenarios. The findings suggest that enrollment with an MRC unit is not automatically predictive of willingness to respond in these types of scenarios. While MRC volunteers' self-reported willingness to respond was found to differ across scenarios and among different attitude and belief statements, the identification of self-efficacy as the primary predictor of willingness to respond regardless of severity and if asked highlights the critical role of efficacy in an organized volunteer response context.