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Bioterrorism at Our Door

The threat of deadly pandemics on US soil from our own Biolabs (either intentional or unintentional) is very real, and more commonplace than you would expect.

Biolab is a term used to refer to 4 levels of biosafety according to the pathogens researched in the labs. The more dangerous and infectious the agent the higher level of lab. For instance, a level 1 BSL has less restrictions on how pathogens are handled.

  • BSL-1 labs are used to study infectious agents or toxins not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults. Handwashing and gloves and other minimal equipment are utilized in this level.
  • BSL-2 labs study moderate-risk infectious agents or toxins that pose a risk if accidentally inhaled, swallowed, or exposed to the skin.
  • BSL-3 laboratories are used to study infectious agents or toxins that may be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infection through inhalation exposure.
  • BSL-4 laboratories are used to study infectious agents or toxins that pose a high risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease for which no vaccine or therapy is available. An interactive map provided by by Schar School director of biodefense programs Gregory Koblentz and Filippa Lentzos of King’s College London   shows all the BSL4 level labs around the world.
  • Higher BSL levels can include multiple containment rooms, positive airflow suits, sealed rooms, etc.

The US government recently unveiled a report titled “National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation” focused on countering  the threat of accidental and intentional release of biological agents which result in pandemics. This is all well and good, however there are still  hundreds of accidents in these labs that are not widely reported to the general public, keeping us in the dark about the real and scary reality- that we are one accident away from a total depopulation scenario.

BSL labs around the world- the threat is real

The recent pandemic brought to light the real danger of laboratory accidents. A report released in October titled “An Analysis of the Origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic- an interim report” by the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions Minority Oversight Staff points to multiple biosafety failures at the WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology). The report concluded that these biosafety failures led to the spread and pandemic of Covid-19, the report concluded.

Intercept, an independent journalism platform obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act which revealed 18 years of laboratory accidents in biolabs across the United States. Intercept obtained over 5,500 pages of documents pointing to hundreds of accidents in labs. Most were in lower-level security labs, however there were quite a few disturbing numbers of accidents in the BSL3 and 4 labs. According to Intercepts findings these reports ranged from:

  • In 2010 an autoclave leaked steam and water while decontaminating waste from a SARS virus, potentially exposing eight people to the virus, which could spark a pandemic. Luckily ,the machine had already reached a high temperature — likely enough to kill the virus — before malfunctioning.
  • In 2011, a ferret that had been inoculated with the 1918 influenza strain- the strain that had killed an estimated 20-50 million people, bit a researcher, piercing the skin through his double gloved hands. The 1918 flu strain is housed in BSL3 level lab, and because is transmitted through respiratory droplets it is unlikely to cause the flu when bitten. The researcher cleansed the wound and was sent home to quarantine, not referred to a monitored room for isolation or a hospital. Given the deadly nature of the virus, some feel that even experimentation on this virus should be banned.
  • After pricking her finger with a needle, a graduate student at Washington University School of Medicine contracted the debilitating Chikungunya virus. This virus is housed in a BSL3 lab. She washed her hands and hadn’t told anyone of the needle prick until she became ill a few days later.
  • An internal audit on CBRNE exposure-the acronym for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives- revealed the army is ill equipped to handle emergencies of this type, citing lack of equipment and training. A pathogen, such as Anthrax, one of the most lethal bioweapons known could easily be spread due to personnel not receiving adequate training and lack of hazmat suits, respirators, etc.

The world is getting smaller every day. A virus believed to originate in China spread worldwide despite all the precautions and measures taken. It is just a matter of time before this scenario plays out again, affecting supply chains, overloading hospitals, water supplies , and more.

Be prepared. The JASE Case includes antibiotics effective against anthrax, tularemia, and other infectious agents. Please, this time around be prepared.

- Brooke Lounsbury

Medical Content Writer

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Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

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Cold Weather in the Forecast – Are You Ready?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), US households should expect to pay 27/28 % more than last year for oil and gas to heat their homes respectively.  Heating with electricity will add 10% over the 2022-2023 winter compared to last year. Many sources expect a cooler than average winter, adding to the burden of keeping the home warm.

The New England region of states have been warned to expect rolling blackouts this winter. ISO New England, Inc, New England’s power grid operator, imports liquid natural gas (LNG) which can make up more than a third of the region’s natural-gas supply during the coldest months. Due to Russia’s halt of most pipeline gas to Europe, competition from Europe has ISO England scrambling to meet the New England regions demand. 

More than half of all energy used in the home is for heating or air conditioning according to the US Energy Information Association (EIA). The primary energy used for heating comes from natural gas and electricity, which accounts for 85% of all heating combined. 

While a wood stove and well stocked woodshed would be ideal in areas that depend on natural gas and electricity to heat, it isn’t a viable solution for many. However, there are some energy saving strategies that can help curb consumption and keep the heating bill in check: 

Insulate

Insulate your older home

On average you can save 10% of your heating costs if you adequately insulate your home.

The attic area is the most important to tackle first. Heat rises and can escape through the roof if it isn’t properly insulated. Crawl spaces under homes that aren’t insulated can carry cold air from the outside vents and into the home. Vent covers for unused floor vents in your home are inexpensive and are effective at keeping the heat in and cold out.

 There are several grants and assistance programs throughout the nation that can help defer the cost of insulating an older home. Some of these are the Energy Star and Tax credit program, the Weatherization Assistance Program and state and local programs. Check with your local energy company for any additional grants or assistance they may have to offer. 

Windows

Heat gain and heat loss are responsible for 25-30% of energy heating and cooling. Up to date insulated and properly installed and caulked windows can significantly reduce this energy loss. 

 Federal Window Replacement Programs 2022. Through the Weatherization Assistance Program low-income families and seniors can qualify for free doors and windows to repair or replace old windows with energy efficient doors and windows.

Clear plastic to cover the windows if you are not able to access grants or finance replacement windows can work well. Make sure there is an air gap between the plastic and window, seal with tape. There are window kits available at most hardware stores. 

Lower water heater temp

By lowering your water heater temperature to 120 degrees (from 140 degrees) you can see a 6-10 percent reduction in your energy bill. In addition, purchase a water heater blanket to insulate your water heater. Make sure to flush your water heater on a schedule to prevent calcium build up which can result in diminished performance. 

Keep warm at night with bed tents

Bed tents

During the Texas power outage due to severe ice storms in 2021 several people took to social media talking about setting up tents in their living rooms, throwing covers over the tents to insulate and stay warm. Most tents are lightweight and not very sturdy to hold up to this type of use. Bed tents are made to keep heat in, provide personal space and filter out light. They are sturdy and can hold up to extended use. We had purchased these tents and tried them out and found them to be an excellent option to keep the thermostat down in the house last winter. 

Thermostats

If you have an outdated thermostat, investigate getting an up to date, programable one that you can set to a lower temperature for when you are away and at night.

Furnace

Have your furnace serviced and replace old filters as needed. 

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors

Make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are up to date, change batters and are in working order.  

Alternative heating-propane, kerosene

In case of a power outage alternative heat sources are a good option. Make sure that you have adequate ventilation even if they state that they are for home use. Keep out of way of children and those with mobility issues. Mr. Buddy heaters have an excellent reputation for providing safe, reliable propane heat. This kerosene heater can heat up to 1,000 sf for 9-12 hours.

What have you done to prepare this week? 

If you are concerned about your heating bills or the possibility of rolling blackouts -or severe weather that takes down the grid for an extended period- review your preps and purchase what you need and act this week. 

“A penny saved is a penny earned” Benjamin Franklin

- Brooke Lounsbury

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

Recent Posts

Keeping you informed and safe.

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