Author Archives: Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Covering U.S. efforts to create a universal flu vaccine

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

This year’s severe flu season has increased the spotlight on the development of a “universal” influenza vaccine – a vaccine that would be effective against most strains of the flu.

But that vaccine has been elusive.

In 2011, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA Today that he was “guardedly optimistic” a universal flu vaccine would be within reach in five years after scientists identified pieces of the virus that consistently appeared in seasonal and pandemic flu viruses. Continue reading

Bioterrorism remains top concern for U.S. security experts

Photo: Lab Science Career via Flickr

The U.S. government was worried about a potential anthrax attack during the recent Super Bowl, according to U.S. Homeland Security department documents found in the seat-back pocket of a commercial airline by a CNN employee.

The news is illuminating in that it shows not only an incredible security lapse but also that federal employees are continuing to train state and local law enforcement and emergency responders for a potential bioterrorism attack. Continue reading

#AHCJ18 to explore what this flu season says about U.S. pandemic preparedness

Reporters covering the flu season know it has been one of the most severe in the past decade. As of early February, the number of people who have visited a doctor due to the flu had exceeded the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Public health officials have known since last fall that this flu season was likely to be severe, yet the health system had trouble keeping up. Hospitals have been overwhelmed. There have been shortages of antivirals, IV saline bags and flu shots. Dozens of children have died.

What does that say about the U.S. health system’s readiness for handling infectious disease outbreaks? We are among the wealthiest nations in the world, and yet every year the health system has trouble convincing people to get the flu vaccine and has further difficulty caring for those who get ill. Continue reading

Veteran journalist offers advice on covering disease outbreaks

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This year is starting off with one of the worst flu seasons in a decade. As of the week ended Jan. 27, the number of hospitalizations due to the flu is the highest it has been in nearly a decade, and flu activity has been as highest reported since the peak of the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the CDC said. The CDC was also quick to note that this outbreak isn’t a pandemic.

It is likely that flu won’t be the only outbreak in 2018. Over the past year, there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil, plague in Madagascar, cholera in Yemen and measles in Minnesota. While no one knows what else might occur in 2018, there is likely to be another infectious disease outbreak somewhere in the world in the coming year. Continue reading

How a debate over patient consent rules led to a book on vaccine history

The story of how cancer cells belonging to Henrietta Lacks were used, without her consent, became one of the most important foundations of research was told in the 2010 book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But less-known is the story of how another key set of cells was developed from fetal tissue and used in vaccine testing on patients without their consent.

Meredith Wadman tells this story of controversy in her 2017 book, “The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease.” She found the story just by reading a letter-to-the-editor about patient consent in the publication Science. Continue reading