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San Diego Researchers Help With Urgent Effort To Stop Ebola In Africa And More Local News

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As health workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo work to stop the spread of another highly contagious Ebola outbreak, researchers in San Diego are working on a cure. Plus: San Diego based Alpha Project celebrated a recent opening of an apartment complex aimed at getting homeless vets into housing, and Governor Newsom's budget is coming out on Thursday and it's expected to have millions of dollars for women and children.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Good morning. It's May 8th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters. Urgent efforts are underway in Africa to stop another deadly Ebola outbreak in San Diego. Scientist are working on a cure. KPBS health reporter Susan Murphy Talk to one researcher who says the outbreak is very concerning and so are the five other strains of the highly contagious virus. Uh, growing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed more than a thousand people since August. The World Health Organization reports the rate of new infections is climbing substantially. Nearly half of the deaths have occurred in the last eight weeks.

Speaker 2: 00:40 So we're flying from San Diego to Congo with eight crates of supplies to go and do our laboratory research there and bring the data back here.

Speaker 1: 00:48 Erica, Omen Sapphire is a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. She also directs a consortium of Ebola researchers from 40 labs on five continents. She says the difference between this Ebola outbreak and the outbreak in 2013 that killed 11,000 people is a candidate vaccine that is currently being used in the region. It could help stop the spread of the highly contagious virus, but there are challenges,

Speaker 2: 01:14 challenge, the stopping it. It's going to be all the civil unrest. There were multiple groups, multiple militia groups are significant distrust of institutions of governments, significant distrust of foreigners, so it's really hard to come in there and say, here, take this vaccine or let us take care of your people.

Speaker 1: 01:34 She says approximately 100,000 people have been vaccinated. Out of the nearly 8 million people who live in the region, most of the vaccinated have been health workers and people who have come into contact with an infected person.

Speaker 2: 01:47 It looks so far like only 15 of those have become sick. The data that we don't have is how many of those hundred thousand have been exposed and that will tell us how effective the vaccine is. If 100,000 have been exposed and 15 got sick, that's a really good vaccine, but if only 20 were exposed in 15 of those 20 got sick. That's not a very good vaccine.

Speaker 1: 02:09 According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus spreads quickly and is usually fatal. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and internal and external bleeding. Omen sapphires team is studying samples from people who have been vaccinated and samples from people who have come into contact with an Ebola patient.

Speaker 2: 02:29 Students, postdocs and technicians in my laboratory or from the La Jolla Institute of immunology had been rotating in and out of Congo all year using the molecules that we make and that we engineer here to identify cases, understand what kinds of immune responses have been elicited by the vaccine and how broadly protective the vaccine may or may not be.

Speaker 1: 02:50 She says the Currency Bola outbreak is deeply concerning because the virus is spreading in a dense and highly mobile population near the border with Uganda and Rwanda, but she says

Speaker 2: 03:00 even more concerning, there are at least five other strains of the Ebola virus that have equally deadly pandemic potential. We're looking at people that have survived. We're looking at elderly people with a lifetime exposure of hunting, of eating bushmeat or of health care work that are now immune to all of these different species and we're looking at what their immune system has come up with, protect them. She says studying the antibodies Ebola survivors have made is key and finding a treatment. There are six different kinds of a bowl of virus and there are about 50% different in the sequence. It spells them out. So the vaccine is only protective against one. We call this the Zaire kind. Well there's also the Sudan Chi, the balloon to Bourgeault kind, the bone, Bali kind. Lots of cons and each one of them has equivalent pandemic potential, but we don't know what's going to emerge next.

Speaker 2: 03:49 She's mapping the viruses molecules using high resolution photographs to understand where the viruses vulnerable and where to target a therapy or vaccine. She compares it to military intelligence photos when we know how to drop a bomb on a particular bad guy in a particular chair sitting in a particular room and regular compound without collateral damage. It's because we had those high resolution photographs that tell us exactly where to hit. This is what my lab does against viruses like Ebola for almonds, Sapphire, and her team. The Congo outbreak and the potential of related viral outbreaks has renewed her urgency to find a cure, and so we need to be prepared for what might come at us for the next outbreak. We need vaccines that are broadly protective and we need treatments that we can mobilize for whatever people might've become infected with. Omen Sapphire is

Speaker 1: 04:38 planning to return to the Congo to study Ebola. The summer. Susan Murphy Kpbs News, the San Diego based Alpha project celebrated the recent opening of an apartment complex aimed at getting homeless vets into housing. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson has to Dale's

Speaker 3: 04:55 more than 50 veterans are used to be homeless or living at the $19 million apartment complex. The modern loft apartments are in normal heights on El Cajon boulevard they opened two months ago. Alpha projects. Bob Mcelroy says patrons sometimes pay a heavy price for their experiences. He says social agencies are still dealing with Vietnam war veterans. That war's been over for almost 45 years and they did one or two, two or sometimes. We've got kids over there right now that I've done five, six, seven tours. We're going to be dealing with them 50 years from now. San Diego has some 300 veterans living on the streets. Having affordable rent is the biggest hurdle to getting people into homes. Eric Anderson Kpbs News,

Speaker 1: 05:37 the California governor's budget is coming out Thursday and it will include millions of dollars for women and children, Capitol public radio. Sammy Kay. Ola has details. Governor Gavin Newsome was flanked by stacked boxes of diapers and tampons. He wants to eliminate the sales tax on both items to make life a little easier for parents, especially women. He took

Speaker 4: 05:58 the podium with his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom and acknowledged her contributions to his work and their home. In addition to the tax breaks, the governor vowed to increase paid family leave by two weeks and to expand child care access. The women's caucus has been pushing these issues for years and Jerry Brown vetoed some of their proposals. Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell spoke at the event alongside other members.

Speaker 2: 06:20 Children don't get do overs, but we have to recognize that they're not going to stay three, four five years to allow policymakers and the grownups in the room to figure it out and catch up with the funding.

Speaker 4: 06:31 The child's care plan will cost $130 million with $80 million coming from taxes on recreational marijuana in Sacramento. I'm Sammy Kay Kaolin.

Speaker 1: 06:40 The California Supreme Court's dynamics ruling narrows the definition of WHO's an independent contractor. Capitol public radio. Scott Rod reports on a federal court decision that could lead to increased litigation against businesses or recent decision in the ninth circuit. Federal Court confirm the dynamic standard can be applied retroactively. What does that mean? Well, workers who believe they should have been classified as employees under the new standard can file claims against companies they worked at in the past four years. Claims can be filed for things like unpaid overtime and out of pocket expenses for benefits according to Sacramento Attorney Lucas Clary, that may prove costly for businesses.

Speaker 5: 07:18 When you multiply those numbers over a three to four year period across the segment of the workforce that were classified as contractors, it can be huge exposure to a business.

Speaker 1: 07:28 The California Labor Federation says the recent decision is a win for workers and we'll encourage compliance with state labor laws from Sacramento. I'm Scott. Rod led has been founded the baby teeth of children who lived near a shuttered battery recycling plant in the city of Vernon, just south of Los Angeles. Kq Edis. Laura Cliven says the plant used to be operated by the company excide. The presence of lead in baby teeth means these kids were exposed to the toxin when they were in the womb or under a year old. That's according to a new study out of the University of southern California Keck School of medicine. A blood test only shows more recent exposure to lead. Jill Johnston teaches preventive medicine at USC and was lead author of the study in it. Researchers used new technology to look at baby teeth that had fallen out of the mouths of now, mostly eight to 10 year old kids.

Speaker 5: 08:23 The lab that we measure and tease people leave as a reflection of the amount of lad that is in the bone, the kidney or the brain of children's body, which is really where we see some of the damage from exposure happening.

Speaker 1: 08:36 Damage to brain development like lower intelligence and a higher risk for Adhd. The study also linked high levels of lead in soil to the levels of lead in the children's teeth. Mark Lopez directs the nonprofit east yard communities for environmental justice. His group has worked on this issue for years, representing the largely working class Latino community near the former plant. He says that while there have been clean up efforts, the pollution runs deep.

Speaker 5: 09:05 This is literally in our blood. It's literally in our bones and is really the, the kind of impetus behind the need for addressing the social and health impacts

Speaker 1: 09:15 which study authors say could be mitigated somewhat through access to good nutrition education and childhood development programs. For the California report, I'm Laura [inaudible]. Cities across the southwest or tried to find shelter for a wave of migrants. Tucson, Arizona spent $20,000 at taxpayer expense to shelter asylum seekers dropped off by federal immigration agents. It's now asking the public for help with donations, volunteers, and a new shelter. Towels, migrants from Kgh Zzz Fronteras desk in Tucson, me, Chell, Maurisco reports

Speaker 6: 09:50 a monastery that's been used to house migrants won't be available after late July. Tucson's asking for help to provide a new living space for migrants dropped off here, Reverend Bart Smith.

Speaker 7: 10:00 We are not a community that builds walls. We are not a community that strings at razor wire. We are a community that lays out the welcome mat because that is who we are and that is who we will be. So I invite you to join me in this work.

Speaker 6: 10:13 Mayor Jonathan Rothschild criticized customs and border protection for not coordinating with locals. They been dropping off at the bus station. The monasteries a mile from the bus station. Drop off at that bond, a Steri that saves incredible amounts of time and effort in logistics. Rothchild said the state told him to see receipts. Though it's not clear when Tucson, we'll be reimbursed from Tucson. I me chilling muddy school.

Speaker 1: 10:40 The average age of California farmers has climbed to 59 according to the Usda is latest census as this generational wave of farmers age out of the fields, they face big decisions about whether to sell the farm, pass the business onto family members or find an alternative path. As part of our grain, California series capitol public radio is Julia meet rich brings us the story of a farming couple who struck a balance between their desire to stay on the farm and the financial calculus of retirement.

Speaker 4: 11:11 River Hill farm is nestled below a steep ridge in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Speaker 6: 11:17 I internalize this whole place.

Speaker 4: 11:19 Alan hate knows his farm by heart. Even with his eyes closed.

Speaker 8: 11:24 I know every change and the pitch of the ground. I know where the best soil is. I know where the outcroppings are. I know where they're buried. Rocks are that are too big to move that I avoid hitting with the tractor.

Speaker 4: 11:38 Alan and his wife, Jo Mc proud came to farming as a second career in their forties together they built up a business selling organic vegetables, lettuce, and fruit. To folks in Nevada city and the hard work was worth it to the watering, the constant weeding, the sweaty summer harvest, but Joe says it took its toll. Pushing

Speaker 2: 12:00 through those hard times was doable through our fifties and then as we got into our sixties just the lack of sleep, the physical stress on our joints, you're not as resilient physically. We're getting older.

Speaker 4: 12:17 The couple wanted the farm to continue beyond them. They also needed to draw an income for retirement, so they started scoping out the regional farming scene for a younger successor. They found Antonio Garza. I was looking for a longterm opportunity. I've been farming for, I think it was seven years at that point. Antonio and his partner Daylen, we'd Crouch in the field picking Broccoli Raab and it's lesser known cousin. What does it again, the Spigarello, he got Riello Spigarello. Rob Spigarello is also a leaf broccoli and it's also starting to flower this bigger yellow, we'll go on pizzas at a local restaurant. As Antonio took the reins as farmer, he inherited local customers and clients. That took Alan and Joe years to cultivate as part of a two year lease. He has use of the land and equipment in return. He pays the retired couple rent each month. They all expect this to grow into a longer term relationship.

Speaker 2: 13:21 It's our baby and our passion and our life and if we were here watching it wither and die, it would be really heartbreaking. It would be terrible.

Speaker 4: 13:34 Instead, the farm's successions rolling along smoothly. Joe and Alan live on at their house overlooking fields in orchards.

Speaker 2: 13:44 I have to say, you know, it's an icy snowy morning and looking out and seeing Antonio and Daylan out doing the harvesting the Brussel sprouts this morning and I was pretty happy with my cup of coffee and they hop off.

Speaker 4: 14:00 There are other perks to retirement. Alan and Joe get to spend time with their first grandchild. Allen's planning five backpacking adventures this summer and the couple's going on a bunch of road trips. They'll cherish time spent together. Not talking about the farm in Nevada city. I'm Julia Dmitri Rich, thanks for listening to KPB SF, San Diego news matters podcast. For more local stories. Go to kpbs.org.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.