FDA Develops First Smallpox Drug to Combat Bioterrorism

It takes anywhere from 10 to 15 years to develop a successful medicine or vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first-ever drug in order to treat the smallpox disease, specifically for combating bioterrorist attacks.

According to CBS News, U.S. regulators approved the first treatment for smallpox, a deadly viral disease that was wiped out nearly four decades ago. Though the average individual should not have to worry about contracting smallpox and similar diseases, terrorists have the capability to administer large-scale attacks involving smallpox, causing catastrophic damages.

The World Health Organization estimated that the variola virus — which causes smallpox — killed about 30% of the people who were infected throughout the years. Complications of smallpox could include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), corneal ulcerations, and blindness. If you believe you have been unintentionally infected by any kind of virus, it’s recommended to immediately seek medical attention. Approximately 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week, the majority of those facilities can assist with certain viruses and similar conditions.

The drug is called TPOXX and 2 million treatments are currently being manufactured and stockpiled by the U.S. government.

“This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, head of the FDA. “Today’s action reflects the FDA’s commitment to ensuring that the U.S. is prepared for any public health emergency with timely, safe and effective medical products.”

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, in order to test the drug’s effectiveness, rabbits and monkeys were infected with a similar virus and then given TPOXX. More than 90% of the animals survived. The drug was also administered to a few hundred humans who volunteered to test symptoms without being infected with smallpox. Researchers noted that side effects included headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea, though all were relatively mild.

TPOXX comes in the form of a capsule, and should be administered twice a day for 14 days once infected with the smallpox virus.

Forbes adds that the efforts and funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) helped make TPOXX a reality.

“To address the risk of bio-terrorism, Congress has taken steps to enable the development and approval of countermeasures to thwart pathogens that could be employed as weapons,” added Dr. Gottlieb.

Research on treatment for smallpox-related bioterrorism began at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Scientists worked to safely dilute the U.S. national stockpile of smallpox vaccines. SIGA currently has a $472 million procurement and development contract with the agency.

Aggressive and Exotic Tick Moves to Carolinas

An aggressive species of tick has been confirmed in Polk County, North Carolina. After the East Asian longhorned tick first ravaged farms in New Jersey in the fall of 2017, the exotic tick species has now been confirmed in the Carolinas.

The tick species is aggressive had not existed in the United States before last fall. Now that they have been confirmed, their rapidly spreading numbers have become a major pest for agricultural workers and farm animals across the east coast.

The species was found on a possum through the efforts of the North Carolina Department of Public Health.

What makes this tick so pervasive? While humans only move an average of 12 times throughout the course of their lives, the East Asian tick has invaded multiple states in under a year. This tick can populate without the presence of a male, meaning a single female tick can establish an aggressive population bent on biting wildlife, domestic animals, and humans alike.

There is hope, however.

Citizen scientists across the country have been collecting ticks from the bodies of humans and animals in order to get a better idea of tick prevalence across the country. Through Northern Arizona University, microbiologist Nathan Nieto aims to study how climate change has impacted the spread of ticks and what risk levels humans have in regard to tick predation.

Between 2016 and 2017, tick bite sufferers could have been sent their ticks and received a free analysis by Nieto and his team. This was an attempt to include the public for the first time in tick research. After the individual sent in their tick sample, the lab would send back a pathology report on the tick along with other information regarding your specimen.

Unfortunately, the study was limited by a lack of information regarding where people were before tick extraction. Ticks can live on the body for days before detection due to their size.
Though the researchers received hundreds of samples at a time, it was difficult to track where the ticks were more prevalent. Future iterations of the experiment may be needed in order to form conclusive answers regarding the geographic distribution of ticks in the United States.

However, scientists were able to map surprising evidence regarding this experiment. Certain tick species, akin to the discovery of the longhorned tick in North Carolina, were found in unexpected locations. This experiment mapped the Lone Star tick of the southeast all the way to Maine, an unprecedented move by the species. Additionally, 83 counties across the country were found to contain ticks with the Lyme disease pathogen that have never been seen there before.

Prevent tick infection through the use of bug sprays, DEET, and insecticides if you live in a tick-prone area.

Match-Makers on a Plane: Woman Goes Viral For Love Connection at 10,000 Feet

Usually, the highlight of a plane ride consists of a soda and a package of pretzels. But for Rosey Blair, one small request on a recent flight might very well have changed the course of events for two complete strangers.

Although commercial airlines carried more than 3.8 billion passengers to their destinations in 2016, most flights are fairly uneventful — aside from delays and the occasional mishap with a service animal. Rosey Blair’s flight back to Dallas looked to be pretty ordinary too, other than the fact that she and her boyfriend didn’t have seats next to each other. When the young woman asked another passenger whether they wouldn’t mind switching seats so the couple could sit together, Blair and the female passenger joked that perhaps her new seatmate could end up being the love of her life.

From her view behind the two strangers, Blair discovered that her quip might actually end up coming true. Blair started posting regularly on her social media accounts with updates in real time about the pair, both of whom turned out to be vegetarian personal trainers. Blair — along with thousands of social media users — detailed all of the action in a thread that quickly went viral.

It seems that in these troubling times, a lot of people just want some reassurance that love is, in fact, out there — as is evidenced by the thread’s 250,000 shares and 637,000 likes. And it’s not surprising, given that 93% of recruiters view a candidate’s social media profile, that Blair and her boyfriend were even able to find the lovebirds’ social media profiles.

Former pro soccer player Euan Holder, the male in question, dubbed “hunky plane guy” and “plane bae” by Blair and other social media users, reached out to Blair after her posts took off. While the woman wishes to remain out of the limelight, she’s expressed she feels positively about the situation as a whole. It’s not yet clear whether the match will outlast the flight, though the two do appear to live in the same city. But if nothing else, the story gives singles a bit of hope that their next great love could be just an exit row away.

Taking Care of Your Teeth Can Help Prevent a Number of Major Health Concerns

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodontal disease (or gum disease) affects about 50% of Americans age 30 and older. It’s a result of gum inflammation and/or infection. But why does it matter so much?

Unfortunately, this disease can impact your body in more ways than one.

According to The Independent your lousy gum health can actually lead to many different health concerns. For example, heart disease is a major issue that has been linked to gum disease. Several studies have shown a direct link between heart disease and periodontists. The bacteria that cause gum disease symptoms like bleeding and bone loss around your teeth can travel to your arteries. That bacteria can latch onto the walls of your arteries and cause blood clots. When blood clots form, you’re at an increased risk for restricted blood flow to your heart.

Another concern that The Independent says is linked to periodontal disease is a stroke. A study called “Impacts of Periodontitis on Nonfatal Ischemic Stroke” revealed that people who suffered a stroke also had evidence or a history of oral infection. The research from the study showed that gum disease is pretty similar to high blood pressure as a cause of strokes.

Cancer is another health concern that may be partly caused by gum disease. Since we know that bacteria swells in your gums, it can cause similar reactions to other places within your body. A study showed that some of the bacteria that trigger gum disease might be linked to a higher risk of esophageal cancer. Another study found that men who have an advanced form of periodontal disease were 45% more likely to be diagnosed with a type of cancer.

Gum disease is nothing to mess around with, yet it’s extremely common. In fact, 74% of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. By brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis, you’re helping to keep your teeth in good shape. As an added bonus, you’re helping to prevent other diseases within your body.

Weekend Flooding in Baltimore Washes Away Part of Bridge

This weekend, the Laurel area of Baltimore suffered the consequences of severe rainfall and flooding on Route 198. Part of a bridge was washed away in the wake of the flood, leaving residents and commuters to find different routes on Monday, June 4.

This flooding event rode the heels of the detrimental flood that hit Ellicott City just a week earlier. In the wake of the floods, so far one person has died in the Ellicott City flood on May 27.

Over the course of the first weekend of June, Baltimore was hit with flood warnings and road closures, many of which are still in effect on Monday, June 4. The warnings are set to last until Monday night after some areas of Greater Baltimore received 4.5 inches of rainfall on Sunday. Though many roads were still closed Monday morning, some are expected to reopen following the nicer weather that is on its way.

In response to the flooding that has occurred over the weekend, Baltimore County opened a recovery center in Catonsville aimed at helping the victims of this weekend’s floods. State officials, local officials, and relief groups including Baltimore County Emergency Management worked with the community in order to offer resources to the victims, clean up damage, and rebuild. While 40% of car and home losses occur because of hail and windstorms, the floods in Baltimore resulted in firefighter pumping water from 450 flooded basements over the weekend.

Residents from all walks of life came together to discuss insurance coverage, receive emergency supplies, and discuss efforts for rebuilding over the weekend. While flooding is still a threat, especially for individuals living near large rivers like the Potomac through Monday, the weather forecast is sunny and dry for the next few days.

Drivers that usually take Route 198 are still advised to find an alternate route while the flood damage is being handled. Keep an eye on local weather and flood conditions before traveling.

New Study Finds Few Differences Between Robotic and Traditional Surgical Methods

Over the past few years, there have been high expectations for the application of robots in the surgical field. With about 46.5 million surgeries being performed each year in the U.S., new and inventive methods have been continuously developed to make procedures safer and easier. But a new study has found that the methods of robotic surgery and the methods of traditional open surgery are equally effective.

A seven-year study was conducted across 15 institutions and was led by Dipen J. Parekh, M.D., chair of urology and director of robotic surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The study focused on treatment of bladder cancer and consisted of 350 patients. Half of the patients received traditional surgery and half received robotic surgery. The outcomes were compared two to three years after the surgeries took place.

“We have done more than 4 million surgeries with the robotic approach since the device came into existence, and on average we do close to a million robotic surgeries a year globally,” said Parekh. “There are close to 5,000 robotic systems installed all over the world – each one costs about $2 million – and yet until we did this study there was not a single Phase 3 multicenter randomized trial comparing this expensive new technology to the traditional open approach of doing surgeries.”

Since robots started being used for surgical procedures, there has been a general assumption that patients who received robotic procedures would have a better quality of life following the surgery. But participants of the RAZOR study reported a return to their previous quality of life, regardless of the surgical method.

When it came to complication rates, the two groups of patients were similar with adverse events occurring in 67% of patients with the robotic procedure and 69% of patients with the traditional procedure. One major difference that can be found among the procedures is the steep cost robotic procedures put on the healthcare system. Money is always a concern in the healthcare field, especially with CNA HealthPro showing that 80% of malpractice claims are not caused by substandard procedures, but rather related to money problems.

One benefit that the study did find from robotic procedures is that those procedures tend to result in less blood loss, a lower chance of needing a blood transfusion, and possible shorter hospital stays. But neither robotic nor traditional procedures had higher risks of complications or recurrences of cancer.

With there being 770,000 drones registered with the FAA and thousands of other robotic devices, more and more people are developing uses for robots in today’s society, including medical procedures. According to Parekh, this study shows that more research needs to be done. More trials on different organs could show more differences between the two types of procedures. But the experts behind the research have hopes that this data can make a difference in the future.

Florida Reef Suffering Damage From Hurricanes, Lionfish, and Mysterious Bacteria

The Florida Reef is one of the largest coral reefs in the entire world, boasting a length of 160 miles. Unfortunately, this beautiful underwater area has been significantly damaged over the years, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. With hurricanes, lionfish, dangerous bacteria and more, the Florida Reef has endured all kinds of havoc over the years.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30; thanks to these massive storms and the warming oceans, Florida’s coral reefs have been continually damaged — but this new bacterial danger has been especially pervasive.

According to WFSU, scientists have identified white marks showing up on corals across Florida’s coast, indicating that some of the tissue had died. Now, following last year’s damage suffered from Hurricane Irma, the coral bacteria has started spreading rapidly and causing even more damage.

This disease first appeared off Miami’s Virginia Key in 2014 and started spreading north, south, and west. But as of April 2018, the coral disease was discovered in the Lower Keys.

“It has encompassed now about two-thirds of the entire Florida reef track,” said Rob Ruzicka, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Research Institute. “And it is slowly making its way westward toward Key West. Hurricane Irma was a major issue with the spread of this disease because it stirred up the water and the mechanism for transporting the pathogen across became convoluted because it had followed this steady pattern of moving Westward through 2017 to the middle keys. But now it’s popping up on reefs in isolated areas.”

There are various groups of environmentalists and scientists focusing on addressing these reef bacterial issues. According to Earth.com, the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), alongside the Georgia Aquarium, is taking one of the largest coral restoration efforts in the world: the Florida Reef Tract.

Sadly, the Florida Reef Tract has lost nearly 97% of its Elkhorn coral and its Staghorn coral, two coral species that previously dominated the area but are now critically endangered. The CRF has planted more than 66,000 healthy corals across the Florida Reef Tract in order to offset some of the damaged that has already occurred.

“With Staghorn and Elkhorn populations in such dire condition, natural spawning and recruitment is becoming increasingly rare, as the spawn cannot reach each in the ocean currents while still active,” said Steve Hartter, senior aquarist at the Georgia Aquarium. “By out planting corals with different genotypes in close proximity, this will increase successful natural spawning in the future.”

Additionally, Florida wildlife officials are providing $250,000 to environmental research in order to address some of the coral reef’s concerns.

The Sacramento Bee reports that an invasive species of fish, the lionfish, has been eating native fish that are important to maintaining healthy reefs.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided $50,000 each to the University of Florida, American Marine Research Company, R3 Digital Sciences, Atlantic Lionshare Ltd., and Reef Environmental Education Foundation. The contracts run through June 2019.

Lunch Breaks and New Technology: What Motivates Employees?

Employee satisfaction is something that is discussed and researched a lot. This is something that is important for all businesses to understand — especially with a Columbia University study showing that in companies with poor company cultures, the employee turnover rate is 48.4%. Employee satisfaction is important in keeping employees motivated and determined to do their best at work. And according to a new study, lunch breaks may play a big role in keeping employees productive and happy.

Unfortunately, many employees today don’t actually take their lunch break but rather continue working while eating. But without adequate breaks, employees can experience burnout quicker. A survey done by Tork shows that not only do employees not take their much-needed lunch breaks, but they feel as though they can’t. In fact, almost 20% of American employees agree that they worry their bosses won’t think of them as hardworking if they choose to take regular lunch breaks. Furthermore, 13% of American employees worry that their co-workers will judge them for taking a lunch break. And sadly, 22% of American employers say that they think of employees who take regular lunch breaks as less hardworking.

On the flip side, the survey shows that 90% of employees feel refreshed and ready to continue working after taking a lunch break. And they’re not wrong to feel this way — past studies have shown lunch breaks to be associated with increased productivity, mental health, creativity, and overall health. All in all, regular lunch breaks are associated with a higher job satisfaction and desire to be involved in the company.

And lunch breaks aren’t the only thing that help boost employee satisfaction. Employee benefits are another area where employees feel supported by their employers. Many employees need health benefits, like dental to help pay for procedures like wisdom teeth removal, which five million Americans have done every year.

But something that really motivates employees in the workplace? Technology. That’s right — a recent global study from Aruba, networking technology provider, shows that employees who work in digital workplaces are more productive, motivated, and happier with their job.

Of the 7,000 participants, 51% were more likely to have a higher job satisfaction when working in a workplace full of technology. Furthermore, 43% of the participants were more likely to have a positive attitude about their work-life balance than those who don’t have as much access to newer technologies.

It’s obvious that there are a lot of varying factors that can impact how motivated a person is at their job and their level of job satisfaction. But if employers are looking for a way to improve company morale, encouraging lunch breaks and providing new technology are good places to start.

DJ Calvin Harris Partners With Hakkasan Group to Eliminate Plastic Straws

Popular DJ Calvin Harris has partnered with Hakkasan Group in order to start a movement to get rid of single-use plastic straws. Hakkasan Group is a hospitality organization with restaurants and nightclubs all over the world. They have a popular location in Las Vegas where Harris has an exclusive residency.

The DJ just announced today that he decided to partner with Hakkasan to completely eliminate all single-use plastic straws in the group’s clubs. The group will start phasing out plastic straws immediately in an effort to reduce the 500 million straws that are tossed in the trash every single day in the United States. Additionally, more than 175 million straws make it into the waterways and oceans all the time, grossly polluting our water supplies and aquatic life.

As of today, the world makes and consumes more than 600 pounds of plastic every year, and the plastic market is still growing by an estimated 5% every year. Sadly, much of this plastic, including single-use straws, are not recycled and end up in the garbage and water. Because of this, many Fortune 500 companies are also pledging to eliminate plastic straws because “small actions can make a small difference.”

DJ Calvin Harris signed on with Hakkasan Group back in 2013, and his contract has been extended to 2020. The artist is very passionate about this project.

“My friend and tour photographer Conor McDonnell has been working closely with the World Wildlife Fund and has been sharing his first-hand experience of the damage plastic waste is doing to the environment. We want to reduce the impact of harmful plastics, so we decided to take action. I am grateful to Hakkasan Group for supporting us and helping us make a difference, I hope other venues in the city and around the world will do the same.”

Hakkasan Group CEO Nick McCabe also added, “In the fast-paced environment in which we operate, it’s easy to lose sight of wider social issues on which we have an impact. We’re incredibly proud to partner with Calvin on this initiative to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics.”

Hydroponic Gardeners Need to Focus On Sanitation and Beware of Damaging Pests

Newark, New Jersey isn’t necessarily known for its agricultural prowess, but after a $30 million investment, it’s now the home of the largest vertical farm operation in the world.

Hydroponic farming has grown tremendously over the years and not just in Newark. Across the world, small and large garden setups have ditched soil and conventional farming and are focused on planting using this innovative new approach. With hydroponic gardening, farmers can actually plant four times the amount of crops in the same space compared to traditional soil farming.

On a nationwide and even global scale, hydroponic gardening will likely continue to grow and assist communities with their agricultural production needs. As far as small gardening projects are concerned, as long as gardeners are remaining diligent about preventing pests from ruining these hydroponic setups, this style of agriculture will work great for crop production and indoor farming.

According to Ocala.com, Tim Carpenter, owner of VertiGro, even patented a system of hydroponic vertical gardening that is now used in small residential operations as well as commercial agricultural projects.

“The whole thing was to save space and energy,” said Carpenter, who was named the Florida Association of County Agriculture Agents’ Marion County outstanding agriculturist in 2017.

With Carpenter’s approach, as well as similar hydroponic setups, though bugs aren’t as big of a problem compared with traditional farming, they can still be an issue if the gardener isn’t careful.

Without focusing on proper sanitation, a hydroponic garden can turn into a garbage bin. The health of a garden relies heavily on the sanitation habits of the farmer. Gardeners should keep all floors dry and clean; sterilize and clean all system equipment, tools, and containers; and dispose of plant waste right away. Without proper sanitation, a hydroponic garden will also be very welcoming to all kinds of damaging pests.

Here are some of the most common damaging pests that hydroponic gardeners need to beware of throughout their agricultural production process:

  1. Termites — Termites have been estimated to cause approximately $30 billion in damages to man-made structures including commercial and residential buildings and crop gardens of all sizes. Be sure to regularly inspect your home for signs of termites, including damage to wooden structures, droppings, and most areas.
  2. Fungus Gnats — These flying insects are easy to identify but their larvae are much smaller and can spread diseases throughout a hydroponic garden setup.
  3. Whiteflies — Whiteflies quickly attach to hydroponic crops and will feed on all the nutrients within and leave mottled spots (similar to termite damage). Unfortunately, hydroponic gardens rarely see only a few whiteflies, as these pests travel in large numbers.
  4. Leaf miners — These tiny maggots are rarely seen on hydroponic plants until the damage is already done. They feed on leaf tissue between the upper and lower portions of the leaf and the mine tunnels inside the affected plant. Afterwards, the leaf will look like someone intentionally drew squiggly lines across it.
  5. Thrips — Thrips are extremely destructive due to their small size and fast-moving abilities. They are either brown, tan, or (most commonly) green. These pests congregate near the veins of leaves within a hydroponic garden. It can be difficult to identify these pests, however, but the damage that they cause is unmistakable. Thrips will cause small metallic black specks on top of the leaves inside the garden.