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Health officials' longstanding fears about the potent mix of armed conflict in weak states — combined with a highly infectious disease outbreak — are being realized. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an Ebola virus outbreak is now at a tipping point and threatens to expand.
Background: The current outbreak began on Aug. 1 and appeared to be slowing down, as most of the new cases were contacts of known infected people. However, as security deteriorated, other cases emerged.
The latest: The World Health Organization met on Wednesday and decided not to declare the outbreak a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern," which could've triggered international travel restrictions. They determined such a step could actually hinder the international response to the outbreak.
But the security situation in DRC keeps getting worse — there were 8 major security incidents in north Kivu in the last 8 weeks, per WHO.
Details: The violence has been serious enough to cause the CDC to withdraw its Ebola experts from field work in that area.
Vaccination impact: The DRC's Health Ministry mobilized an experimental ring vaccination campaign a week after the first case was reported. Between Aug. 8 and Oct. 17, nearly 19,000 people were vaccinated, the DRC Health Ministry says.
The bottom line: This outbreak is nowhere near over. The longer it lasts, the greater the chances of it spreading. However, the WHO says it has confidence that at-risk neighboring countries are prepared.
Go deeper: Read full story here.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Sea level rise due primarily to global warming threatens to submerge dozens of the most culturally significant sites in the Mediterranean.
"Mediterranean society has been centered on the coast and sea for millennia. Much of the cultural heritage is therefore in the hazard zone."— Richard Tol, study co-author and professor at the University of Sussex
What they did: A team of researchers from European institutions produced the first-ever risk assessment of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
What's next: The researchers note that adaptation options may be limited.
"It is relatively easy to protect a working city, although it may be expensive and the political will may be lacking," Tol tells Axios. "Heritage is more difficult as dikes and seawalls may ruin the very thing we seek to preserve."
Go deeper: Catch up with the NYT's project on covering climate change's threat to World Heritage Sites.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Automated science: Artificial intelligence and nimble robots are allowing scientists to do more experiments — and faster, Kaveh Waddell writes.
Mysterious illness: Public health officials are seeking the cause of an illness that causes polio-like partial paralysis in young children — one that is suspected of already causing 127 cases in 22 states this year so far, Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.
Climate costs: Felix Salmon breaks down the cost of a 1.5°C increase in global temperature — and the case for taxing carbon. "Human civilization has reached the very end of reaping the dividends from a stable climate."
Birth costs: From the Axios video team, the average sticker price for childbirth in the U.S. is $32,093.
Climate divide: Ben Geman surfaces polling data showing the immense partisan gap on climate science and policy.
Aerial image of the hurricane-hardened house that survived Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida. Image: NOAA
The house that survived: One house stands out among the decimated homes in Mexico Beach, Fla., following Hurricane Michael's rampage through that tiny community. The house was built to survive a powerful hurricane, and may lead to best practices for rebuilding, NYT's Patricia Mazzei writes.
Shrinking giant: A colony of roughly 47,000 quaking aspen trees in Utah — considered the largest organism on Earth — is being threatened by human encroachment and grazing animals that feed on the younger trees, NYT's JoAnna Klein reports.
Digital smell: Researchers in Malaysia are experimenting with electrically stimulating cells in the nose so that people perceive a particular odor, per IEEE's Eliza Strickland. Their goal: a "multisensory internet."
Origins: A debate is ignited about the nature of 3.7 billion-year-old formations in Greenland — Are they fossils from ancient bacteria? Or, are they ancient rocks exquisitely eroded? The answer could have implications for when and how life arose on Earth, Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic.
How the dandelion seed sails through the air — often for meters but sometimes kilometers — is a feat of fluid dynamics unknown.
Using high-speed video, a vertical wind tunnel and mathematical models, researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied the pappus — the disc-shaped group of bristled filaments that helps dandelion seeds to stay in the air. They reported this week in Nature that the structure allows air through and, in turn, creates "an extraordinary type of vortex" — essentially a ring of air, formed and held between low pressure above the filaments and higher pressure below it.
The result? The porous pappus “delivers more than four times the amount of drag per unit area” compared to other structures for transporting seeds, such as wing-like formations.
The study results may be applicable well beyond just understanding how these plants work. "We found a natural solution for flight that minimises the material and energy costs, which can be applied to engineering of sustainable technology,“ study author Cathal Cummins told the BBC.
Thanks so much for reading. See you next Thursday.