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Report maps complex challenges to Ebola vaccine efforts

As experimental Ebola vaccines start to head toward large clinical trials in Africa, a report released today by academic experts and a British charitable foundation spelled out the complexity of the challenges involved in providing a vaccine to help stop West Africa’s sprawling epidemic.

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news-and-notes

CDC declares flu an epidemic

The U.S. is experiencing epidemic-level flu activity, the CDC announced yesterday.

The proportion of deaths related to pneumonia and influenza reached 6.8 percent as of December 20, 2014, which is considered the epidemic threshold. This demonstrates how easily the flu spreads, however an epidemic classification is typical with most flu seasons, the Washington Post reported.

“The CDC announcement confirms that we are entering a period of increased influenza transmission,” said Nick Kelley, PhD, research associate for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We expect to see higher levels of influenza during this time of year, with peak transmission typically occurring in January.”

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in-the-news

Ebola, although deadly, not a likely threat to the US

The first documented Ebola outbreak was recorded over 40 years ago in central Africa. Until now, outbreaks have been contained rather quickly, and although medicine has advanced, the deadliest recorded outbreak of Ebola is happening in West Africa right now.

Having originated in fruit bats, the Ebola virus is found primarily in Africa. And while the origin of the virus may be thousands of miles away from Minnesota, visitors to the region including a Minnesota man set to visit family next month have perished after infection. Furthermore, the families of Liberians in Minnesota have taken action to protect their loved ones abroad by fundraising to battle the deadly virus.

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beyond-minnesota

Typhoon Haiyan: public health concerns

A week after Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Philippines, the death toll continues to rise and survivors now face food, water, and supply shortages. As a result, many relief efforts will focus squarely on combating growing public health concerns in the region.

“There are two immediate health risks in a disaster like this: disease caused by sanitation issues, and the downstream health effects associated with blunt force trauma that occurred during the event itself,” said Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., director of the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota and a professor in the School of Public Health. “Both of these issues are immediate and will only worsen.”

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beyond-minnesota

A step ahead in the walk back to the origins of SARS

Being linked to any number of things, including vampires and rabies, bats have always had a public relations problem.

Now, even close to Halloween, bats still can’t catch a break. Researchers may have definitively linked the mammals to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

In 2002, a previously unknown airborne coronavirus generated worldwide panic when it sickened more than 8,000 people in 33 countries, causing more than 700 deaths before disappearing.

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expert-perspectives

Could a universal flu vaccine become a reality in the near future?

In a recent study out of Great Britain, researchers discovered a key that might unlock a universal flu vaccine: blood.

Not just any blood, though. The researchers said the answer to what they call a universal flu vaccine may be in the blood of those who became infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza present during the 2009 influenza pandemic, but who beat the strain without getting sick.

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