Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

6 April 2009

Licensing life science researchers

Laura H. Kahn

In a previous column, I discussed how the recent U.S. buildup of high-containment biodefense laboratories might inadvertently increase the risk of another bioterrorist attack by increasing the number of researchers who have expertise and access to dangerous pathogens. One response to this risk has been to oversee research facilities and monitor the acquisition of microbes.

18 February 2009

The threat of emerging ocean diseases

Laura H. Kahn

Much attention has been paid to newly emergent diseases that have afflicted humans in recent decades--HIV/AIDS, SARS, avian influenza, etc. Conversely, deadly diseases that have emerged in the world's oceans during the same time period have been largely ignored. While these diseases haven't caused epidemics in humans, they have proved troublesome to marine animal populations and to susceptible humans who have ventured into contaminated waters.

15 January 2009

Modeling disease spread

Laura H. Kahn

Many things went wrong during Britain's 2001 foot-and-mouth disease crisis. Initial efforts at identifying infected animals, slaughtering them, and burying their carcasses within 24 hours--the tried-and-true method for containing the disease--were sluggish at best. And the country's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAFF), still reeling from criticism about how it handled the country's decade-long mad cow disease epidemic, was unprepared for the severity of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

8 December 2008

Unifying the U.S. government response to bioterrorism

Laura H. Kahn

Of the many ways in which the United States is unprepared to deal with an infectious disease outbreak or bioterrorist attack, here's one of the most problematic: The responsibility for public health is a state concern.

3 November 2008

The role of bats in disease transmission

Laura H. Kahn

Bats are considered mysterious creatures and often generate fear. Specifically, South American vampire bats feed on animal blood and possess a legendary lore. But more importantly, bats are the host species for deadly diseases such as rabies, Nipah and Hendra viruses, and SARS. There's also evidence that they continue to serve as sources of novel emerging viruses.

14 October 2008

Strong health care equals strong emergency response

Laura H. Kahn

In previous columns, I've discussed the consequences that will result during a pandemic or bioterrorist attack from not insuring all Americans and providing adequate primary care--see "The Security Impact of the Uninsured" and "The Exodus of General Medical Physicians." What I haven't discussed is that the U.S.

9 September 2008

Health-care realities during a pandemic

Laura H. Kahn

Despite the availability of antiviral medications and intensive care units, mortality rates for the 385 humans infected with avian influenza remain high. Virtually all of the victims have been from developing countries, with the case fatality rate in children younger than 15 years of age reaching  almost 90 percent.

8 August 2008

Biosecurity lessons from the Bruce Ivins case

Laura H. Kahn

We'll never know if Bruce Ivins, a former U.S. government microbiologist, perpetrated the 2001 anthrax letter killings, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing. The DNA of the anthrax strain used in the killings matched the anthrax strain in his laboratory. Searches of his home in Frederick, Maryland, turned up "hundreds" of letters similar to those used in the terrorist attacks.

16 July 2008

Food-borne illness: Attack of the killer tomatoes

Laura H. Kahn

Imagine sitting down at a restaurant and enjoying a delicious meal that includes fresh tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Then, 12 to 72 hours later, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and a fever develop that can last up to a week--possibly, from those tomatoes and/or jalapeno peppers.

16 June 2008

How evil can prevail in state-sanctioned biowarfare research

Laura H. Kahn

Some people consider physician Wouter Basson South Africa's Josef Mengele. During the 1998 Truth and Reconciliation hearings on Project Coast, South Africa's apartheid-era chemical and biowarfare programs, Schalk Janse van Rensburg, a veterinarian, stated that Basson, the program's head, wanted to devise a way to kill individuals that would appear undetectable to a forensics laboratory.