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Our Expert Voices conversation on pandemics.

It's no coincidence that America's last two pandemic threats — Ebola in 2014 and Zika in 2016 — struck Texas and Florida. I've previously called the Gulf Coast region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) America's "soft underbelly" when it comes to emerging infectious and tropical diseases. Here's why:

  • Gulf Coast urban centers are major gateways for people.
  • Insects such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito (that transmit Zika, dengue, yellow fever among other viruses), kissing bugs (Chagas disease), and others are widespread across the southern U.S.
  • The region is especially susceptible to the effects of climate change.
  • The Gulf Coast has the highest concentration of poverty in the U.S. Presumably due to poor housing and waste disposal, poverty is a leading social determinant of infectious and tropical diseases.

Bottom line: There is an urgent need to strengthen the health systems of the U.S. Gulf Coast states, particularly in active surveillance and disease detection activities, while doing a better job reaching region's poorest inhabitants to promote access to health services, and essential diagnostics, medicines, and vaccines.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Resurrecting Martin Luther King's office

King points to Selma, Alabama on a map at his Southern Christian Leadership Conference office in Atlanta in January 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

Efforts to save the office where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement are hitting roadblocks amid a political stalemate.

Why it matters: The U.S. Park Service needs to OK agreements so a developer restoring the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta — which once housed King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference — can tap into private funding and begin work.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.