Smallpox is Dead!

Written by Leigh Henderson

One of the most significant anniversaries in human history passed recently with little fanfare. Forty years ago, on May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly declared that smallpox had been eradicated.

WHO Smallpox Identification Card

Smallpox had been transmitted in an uninterrupted chain from person to person for at least 3,000 years. Unlike bubonic plague, it was endemic—always present—killing some 20-30% of those infected and leaving many of the survivors blind and most horribly scarred. Children bore the brunt of smallpox—many adults had survived the disease or been successfully vaccinated. Children under 15 could account for 75% of all deaths in an epidemic.

Images of men with Smallpox

On January 1, 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) started a global smallpox eradication program. Smallpox control efforts had ended endemic smallpox in much of the world, but epidemics introduced by travellers were rife. Smallpox was conservatively estimated to infect 10 million people annually, causing 2 million deaths.

On October 26, 1977, a Somali man became the last victim of smallpox in the world. Two years of exhaustive searches for any remaining smallpox reservoirs followed. A global commission reviewed the evidence and concluded that smallpox had indeed been eradicated.

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Pandemic Wave Scenarios: What You Need to Know About COVID-19, Today and Tomorrow

Dr. Mike Osterholm has been a colleague and good friend for 20 years. He is not only a world-class epidemiologist, but also a fabulous communicator. You have probably seen him on TV during the past few months, but in this podcast he has the time to explain the details behind the headlines and sound bites. I will be listening to his weekly podcasts, and so should you.

Episode 7: Pandemic Wave Scenarios

Interview with Dr. Luciana Borio – Part 1

Dr. Luciana Borio (LB) 
Randy Larsen (RL)
May 4, 2020

Part 1 – Testing for COVID-19

RL  We’re very happy to have with us, Dr. Luciana Borio, a vice president at In-Q-Tel. She previously served as the Director of Medical and Biodefense Preparedness Policy at the National Security Council in the White House. Prior to that, she was the acting Chief Scientist at the Food and Drug Administration. 

And in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that Dr. Borio and I have been good friends and professional colleagues for 20 years. Dr. Borio it is a pleasure to have you join us today.

LB  My pleasure to be here Randy. 

RL  Dr. Borio, can you tell us why is it taking us so long to develop diagnostic tests for COVID-19?

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Interview with Dr. Luciana Borio – Part 2

Dr. Luciana Borio (LB)
Randy Larsen (RL)
May 4, 2020

Part 2 – Vaccines for COVID-19

RL  I’ve been hearing people say we can have a vaccine within a year to 18 months, but others are not so optimistic. What is your prediction?

LB  Well … we’ve never developed a vaccine from start to finish in 18 months. It’s certainly going to take a concerted effort by major pharmaceutical companies. But it is worth remembering that the science of vaccine development has progressed a lot in the last decade. All of the candidates that are in development right now are the result of years and years of funding and support for biomedical research. 

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Interview with Dr. Luciana Borio – Part 3

Dr. Luciana Borio (LB)
Randy Larsen (RL)
May 4, 2020

Part 3 – Therapeutics for COVID-19

RL  So one last topic for today … therapeutics … and I think that you will agree with me .. I’ve been telling people that we will have a therapeutic … maybe more than one effective and safe therapeutic long before we have a vaccine. Do you agree with that?

LB  I do. As of last week, we have an effective therapy for COVID-19, one that has been established to benefit patients with advanced (or serious) COVID-19. It is called Remdesivir, it is produced by Gilead, and it received an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. 

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Warning: Do Not Wear the Wrong Type of N-95 Mask

There are many types of N-95 masks available, but do not use one with an exhalation valve during this pandemic.  For those of us not in a medical setting, but just wanting to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 while in public, particularly as some states ease up on stay-at-home orders, a face covering is a very important public health procedure when outside your home.

The purpose is not so much to protect the person wearing a mask or scarf, but to prevent the wearer, who may be infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms, from spreading the disease.  And it does not require a cough or sneeze to spread the virus—talking or just breathing may be sufficient to infect others in close proximity.

The N-95 mask with exhalation valve was designed only for industrial use and never authorized for use in a medical setting . It does a great job preventing small particles from entering the masks, but a really bad job of preventing particles from exiting the masks.

UPDATE: On May 2nd, two reporters on ABC World News Tonight wore N-95 masks with exhalation valves while one wore an N-95 mask more suited to prevent the spread of the virus:

Wrong N-95 Mask = Exhalation Valve = Might not protect others if wearer is infected.
Wrong N-95 Mask = Exhalation Valve = Might not protect others if wearer is infected.
Right N-95 Mask = No Exhalation Valve = Can protect others if wearer is infected.

For more information, read this article:

Mark Wilson – What is a Mask Valve and Why are Cities Banning Them – Fast Company

The Food Supply Chain is Breaking

Written by John T. Hoffman

“The food supply chain is breaking,” wrote board Chairman John Tyson in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat- Gazette.  Anyone visiting a grocery store already has figured this out. Tyson Foods is also warning that “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the supply chain as the corona virus pandemic pushes food processing plants to close, leading to product shortages in grocery stores across the country.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO RUN TO GROCERY STORE TODAY. THE SHELVES WILL NOT BECOME BARREN, but your selections will become limited and hundreds of thousands of hogs and chickens will be culled and buried while tens of thousands of Americans are lined up in front of food banks that are challenged to keep up with the demand.

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Don’t Let the Pandemic Stop You From Voting

Written by Randy Larsen

Few things are more important for a healthy democracy than elections.  This November will be the first national election during a pandemic in more than 100 years.  And please don’t think there won’t be a pandemic in November. Trust me. There will not be an effective vaccine in November, so there will be a pandemic.  Therefore, the time to prepare is now—we can’t afford to kick this can down the road. But who do we look to provide us a safe and effective means of voting during a pandemic? 

Today, many Americans are having difficulty looking past the next week’s challenges:  the rent or mortgage payment, car payments, utility bills, credit card bills, food bills—particularly challenging for the 26 million who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Our national, state and local government leaders are understandably focused on responding to the daily demands of pandemic response—providing the safest possible environment against the threats of an invisible enemy while also trying to build plans for restarting the economy and getting people back to work.

So who is responsible for ensuring we have a safe and effective means for conducting a national  election during a deadly pandemic?  You are–particularly if you live in one of the 17 states listed below. 

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