New Yorkers like their science from scientists

I cannot pass up the opportunity to point out this wonderful quote by Ginia Ballafante in her NY Times piece, Fear of Vaccines Goes Viral. The article starts by noting an article on plummeting vaccination rates in Los Angeles:

The piece had the virtue of offering New Yorkers yet another opportunity to feel smugly superior to their counterparts in L.A., because of course here on the East Coast we like our science to come from scientists, not from former Playboy models and people who feel entitled to pontificate about public health because they drink kefir.

As a scientist who works in New York, I can’t help but think that this is not entirely true. This idea is supported by a quote in the article from a New York City pediatrician, who says that 10 percent of parents in his practice express opposition to vaccination. If they oppose vaccination, they can’t be getting their information from scientists.

Here is the second best quote from the article, which comes from another New York City pediatrician after a discussion of current Ebola virus and enterovirus D68 outbreaks:

My feeling is that it will take something like that on a very large scale to get upper-middle-class people to realize that this is serious stuff…most of the deaths in the world are from contagious diseases. Not ISIS.

TWiV 289: Vinny and the capsids

On episode #289 of the science show This Week in VirologyVinny and the capsids answer listener questions about the definition of life, state vaccination laws, the basic science funding problem, viral ecology, inactivation of viruses by pressure, and much more.

You can find TWiV #289 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.

Deans write to Obama about CIA vaccine scheme in Pakistan

Deans of public health schools in the United States have sent the following letter to President Obama, in which they criticize the use of a vaccination campaign by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden. I wonder if he will reply.

January 6, 2013

Dear President Obama,

In the first years of the Peace Corps, its director, Sargent Shriver, discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was infiltrating his efforts and programs for covert purposes. Mr. Shriver forcefully expressed the unacceptability of this to the President. His action, and the repeated vigilance and actions of future directors, has preserved the Peace Corps as a vehicle of service for our country’s most idealistic citizens. It also protects our Peace Corps volunteers from unwarranted suspicion, and provides opportunities for the Peace Corps to operate in areas of great need that otherwise would be closed off to them.

In September Save the Children was forced by the Government of Pakistan (GoP) to withdraw all foreign national staff. This action was apparently the result of CIA having used the cover of a fictional vaccination campaign to gather information about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. In fact, Save the Children never employed the Pakistani physician serving the CIA, yet in the eyes of the GoP he was associated with the organization. This past month, eight or more United Nations health workers who were vaccinating Pakistani children against polio were gunned down in unforgivable acts of terrorism. While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as an open society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those boundaries.

As an example of the gravity of the situation, today we are on the verge of completely eradicating polio. With your leadership, the U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and has provided strong direction and technical assistance as well. Polio particularly threatens young children in the most disadvantaged communities and today has been isolated to just three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Now, because of these assassinations of vaccination workers, the UN has been forced to suspend polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. This is only one example, and illustrates why, as a general principle, public health programs should not be used as cover for covert operations.

Independent of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, contaminating humanitarian and public health programs with covert activities threatens the present participants and future potential of much of what we undertake internationally to improve health and provide humanitarian assistance. As public health academic leaders, we hereby urge you to assure the public that this type of practice will not be repeated.

International public health work builds peace and is one of the most constructive means by which our past, present, and future public health students can pursue a life of fulfillment and service. Please do not allow that outlet of common good to be closed to them because of political and/or security interests that ignore the type of unintended negative public health impacts we are witnessing in Pakistan.

Sincerely,

Pierre M. Buekens, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Dean, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine*

James W. Curran, M.D., M.P.H.
Dean, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University*

John R. Finnegan Jr., Ph.D.
Professor and Dean, University of Minnesota School of Public Health*
Chair of the Board, Association of Schools of Public Health*

Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Dean and T&G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development
Harvard School of Public Health*

Linda P. Fried, M.D., M.P.H.
Dean, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University*

Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Dean, School of Public Health, University of Washington*

Lynn R. Goldman, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor and Dean, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University*

Jody Heymann, M.D., M.P.P., Ph.D.
Dean, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health*

Michael J. Klag, M.D., M.P.H.
Dean, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health*

Martin Philbert, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Public Health, University of Michigan*

Barbara K. Rimer, Dr.P.H.
Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health*

Stephen M. Shortell, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley*

*Institutional affiliation is provided for identification only.

cc:
Regina M. Benjamin, United States Surgeon General
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Thomas Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health
Michael J. Morell, Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

TWiV 164: Six steps forward, four steps back

xmrvHosts: Vincent RacanielloRich Condit, and Alan Dove

Vincent, Alan, and Rich review ten compelling virology stories of 2011.

Please help us by taking our listener survey.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV 164 (60 MB .mp3, 99 minutes).

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Ten virology stories of 2011:

  1. XMRV, CFS, and prostate cancer (TWiV 119, 123, 136, 150)
  2. Influenza H5N1, ferrets, and the NSABB (TWiV 159)
  3. The Panic Virus (TWiV 117)
  4. Polio eradication (TWiV 127, 149)
  5. Viral oncotherapy (TWiV 124, 131, 142, 156)
  6. Hepatitis C virus (TWiV 130, 137, 141)
  7. Zinc finger nuclease and HIV therapy (TWiV 144)
  8. Bacteria help viruses (TWiV 154)
  9. Human papillomaviruses (TWiV 126)
  10. Combating dengue with Wolbachia (TWiV 115, 147)

Links for this episode:

Weekly Science Picks

Rich – Fundamentals of Molecular Virology by Nicholas H. Acheson
AlanFetch, with Ruff Ruffman
Vincent – Year end reviews at Rule of 6ix and Contagions

Listener Pick of the Week

GarrenTrillion-frame-per-second video
Judi – iBioMagazine
Ricardo –
Brain Picking’s 11 best science books of 2011

Send your virology questions and comments (email or mp3 file) to twiv@microbe.tv, or call them in to 908-312-0760. You can also post articles that you would like us to discuss at microbeworld.org and tag them with twiv.

TWiV 90: Guano happens

Hosts: Vincent RacanielloAlan Dove, Rich Condit, and Eric F. Donaldson

On episode #90 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Alan, Rich and Eric discuss identification of viruses in Northeastern American bats, vaccinia virus infection after sexual contact with a military vaccinee, and identification of a new flavivirus from an Old World bat in Bangladesh.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #90 (64 MB .mp3, 89 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV (free) in iTunes , at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed, or by email, or listen on your mobile device with Stitcher Radio.

Links for this episode:

Weekly Science Picks

Eric – Year of Darwin by Sean Carroll
Rich –
March of the Penguins
Alan –
Standing-height desks
Vincent – DengueWatch (thanks Richard!)

Send your virology questions and comments (email or mp3 file) to twiv@microbe.tv or leave voicemail at Skype: twivpodcast. You can also post articles that you would like us to discuss at microbeworld.org and tag them with twiv.