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Measles — declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 — has roared back at a record pace this year, reaching the highest number in a single year.
And it's only April 25.
Why it matters: Most Americans have no firsthand experience with measles and that lack of familiarity, along with the online success of the anti-vaccine movement, is giving a deadly but easily preventable virus an opening to spread.
So far in 2019, there have been:
We may be a victim of of own success in squelching what used to be a ubiquitous virus that is extremely contagious.
Now, due in large part to vaccination efforts that began in 1963, most Americans have no experience with the virus.
"Parents may think that many vaccine-preventable diseases are mild, but there’s no way to tell how serious a disease may be for a child," CDC spokesman Jason McDonald tells Axios via email. Measles can be particularly hazardous for babies and young children, he says.
Different vaccine hesitant communities added together are causing vaccination rates to fall below effective immunity levels, Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.
The CDC issued a stark warning Wednesday: "The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States."
What to watch: The widely reported health impacts from the ongoing outbreaks, including children in intensive care units and an El Al Airlines flight attendant in a coma, may spur people to be vaccinated.
“I think unfortunately the best motivation… is that we’re having these outbreaks and people are really getting seriously ill,” Fauci says. “Those are the things that are going to jolt people into reconsidering this.”
The type of intracranial electrodes used to record brain activity in this study. Photo: UCSF
Scientists have developed a tool that decodes brain signals for speech-related movements of the jaw, larynx, lips and tongue and synthesizes the signals into computerized speech, according to a new study published in Nature, Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.
Why it matters: This study offers a proof-of-concept on a new and faster way of helping people who've lost their ability to speak, but also comes with its own caveats, like the need to place electrodes directly on the brain.
Background: Humans' natural speech averages around 120–150 words per minute.
Yes, but: Non-invasive tools have captured the imagination, but haven't seen much success. Invasive interfaces, such as those that surgically place recording electrodes or insert tiny electrodes in the cerebral cortex, have shown more promise.
What they did: For the Nature study, the authors selected 5 patients undergoing epilepsy surgery and placed a grid of electrodes on the brain surface.
What they found:
What they're saying: Researchers are making exciting progress but remain in the very early stages, experts say.
A large crack seen in Petermann Glacier. Photo: NASA/Nathan Kurtz
A rare, long-term record of Greenland ice melt reveals the world's largest island shed ice nearly 6 times faster in the past decade when compared to the 1980s, an increase that is already contributing to sea level rise and altered ocean currents, a new study finds.
Why it matters: Greenland's fate will help determine the future viability of coastal megacities around the world, from New York to Shanghai, as sea levels rise in response to added freshwater.
What they did: For the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers compared data on the discharge of glacial ice into the ocean from 260 glaciers with the accumulation of snow in the interior of the island, as gathered from regional climate models.
What they found: The acceleration of Greenland's melt, which is happening due to warming air and ocean temperatures, has contributed nearly 14 millimeters in global sea level rise since 1972.
What they're saying: Richard Alley, a glacier expert at Penn State University who was not involved in the new study, says the research is especially useful for laying out year-to-year variability in snowfall and mass loss.
"The big picture, from this work and much earlier work, remains clear: with warming, the increase in mass loss from surface melting has exceeded the increase in snowfall, causing net mass loss."— Richard Alley, Penn State University
A "catastrophic" breeding failure has devastated the emperor penguin colony at Halley Bay in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, with no chicks surviving during the past 3 years, scientists said Thursday, Rebecca Falconer and I report.
Why it matters: This particular emperor penguin colony was the world's second largest, with 15,000 to 24,000 breeding couples visiting the site annually.
What they did: The scientists used high resolution satellite data to track the penguin colony, including using markings from penguin guano that's visible from space (it tints brightly colored snow a brownish color) to estimate the colony size.
What they found: The researchers found repeat episodes of early sea-ice breakup in the area is the likely cause of the breeding failure.
Why you'll hear about this again: Trathan tells Axios it's not clear whether the changes in sea-ice conditions at Halley Bay were specifically related to climate change. However, modeling based on climate change projections show significant declines in emperor penguin populations in Antarctica.
llustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Everything's deadlier in the South (Bob Herman)
Pro Rata Podcast: Measles is back (Dan Primack)
NASA's InSight lander detects its first "Marsquake" (Miriam Kramer)
The science case for returning to the moon (Miriam Kramer)
The biggest nations' climate culpability (Ben Geman)
These Scientists Are Radically Changing How They Live To Cope With Climate Change (Zahra Hirji, Buzzfeed News)
How did crabs evolve 'crabbiness'? It's complicated (Michael Greshko, National Geographic)
The Unexpected Winners from Sea Star Wasting Disease (Larry Pynn, Hakai Magazine)
As patients tell apps they’re feeling suicidal, digital health startups scramble to respond (Rebecca Robbins, Stat News)
Sooner or Later Your Cousin’s DNA Is Going to Solve a Murder (Heather Murphy, New York Times)
Even at a microscopic level, blooming flowers are a sight to behold.
A new video shows a close-up look of baby flowers coming to life on the stem of a mustard plant, according to the National Institutes of Health director's blog.
The video was made using photos taken by a microscope that were then turned into 3D images.
Thanks so much for reading. See you back here next week.