Catherine Hooper's Blog
DHS Unprepared for Pandemic
Friday, 26 September 2014 20:19

The Department of Homeland Security appears to be woefully unprepared for a pandemic, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans. The state of preparedness disarray seems to be a combination of mismanagement, ineptitude and apathy. Stockpiles of supplies, including personal protection equipment and anti-viral medication, are well past their expiry/usability dates.

White House Fence Jumper
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 20:49

A man breached White House security this past Friday after hopping the outer perimeter fence and running to the presidential mansion. The Washington Post is asking if this breach is a symptom of a larger problem at the Secret Service, where the uniformed division tasked with protecting the White House has been short-staffed. Despite a 90s era “red team” assessment that found the White House vulnerable to over-the-fence intrusions, budgetary concerns have led to a reduction in security staff.

The Mathematics of Ebola
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 20:53

In any emergency situation, it’s important to pay attention to what the experts are saying, and perhaps more importantly, how they’re saying it. On Sunday, Wired’s Maryn McKenna noted that two of the most preeminent public health officials in the US are sounding a serious alarm about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota has noted that the epidemic has “the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done.” Dr. Michael Besser, former acting head of the CDC, is arguing for a “military-style response” by American or United Nations doctors and armed forces.

The mathematics that are driving these messages are downright scary. In a peer-reviewed paper published last week, scientists attempted to figure out the reproductive number of the virus (the number of cases that are likely to be caused by one infected person). They determined that this outbreak has a reproductive number of at least one, sometimes two.  That means that every infected person has infected at least one other person. This is terrifying news.

Dr. Osterholm has posited two potential outcomes of the epidemic:

  • The virus spreads to large cities in other regions of the developing world
  • The virus mutates to allow for airborne transmission

The Wired article’s closing says it all:

“When one of the most senior disease detectives in the US begins talking about “plague,” knowing how emotive that word can be, and another suggests calling out the military, it is time to start paying attention.”

Hurricane Dora, 1964
Friday, 12 September 2014 23:03

The NYT is pulling digitized articles from it’s 1964 database and this week archive notes that fifty years ago, Hurricane Dora pummeled the Florida coast. Dora was one of six total storms during the ‘64 Atlantic hurricane season, which was slightly higher than average for the time period.

The article notes a very interesting fact - prior to 1995, the average number of yearly hurricanes was slightly higher than 5 per year (with 1.7 reaching the perilous category 3, 4 or 5 status).  However, since 1995, the average storms per year has upticked to eight, with 3.5 reaching dangerous levels.

It’s hard to internalize this data; the 2013 season saw little hurricane activity and Eric Holthaus of Slate notes that this year has been similar.  In fact, this was the first time in 70 years that there were no tropical storms anywhere in the world over Labor Day weekend.

Ebola Quarantine
Friday, 29 August 2014 15:12

As the World Health Organization outlines its plan for combating Ebola in Africa, the New York Times published an article detailing the situation in Liberia, where government officials have instituted a quarantine in the capital of Monrovia.

The entire slum of West Point has been placed under quarantine by the military and police.  Food is scarce and living conditions are extremely poor. Outside medical experts assert that the quarantine is bad policy; it only serves to further alienate a population that the doctors desperately need cooperation from.

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