Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Vaccinating a Pandemic: The Hurdles Ahead for the Zika Virus

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by Jeff Renoe No Comments

This week marks the beginning of spring. And now that it’s here, summer is right on deck. That of course means a few months of sustained sunshine, outdoor festivals, and dining al fresco.

This summer, though, could also mean terror. That’s because this year’s mosquitoes will bring with them more than the usual annoyances and everyday itching. These mosquitoes could mean outbreak, paranoia, and fear. This, inarguably, is the summer of Zika.


As we spoke about In February, the World Health Organization has declared the Zika outbreak as a public health emergency. Zika has spread to more than 20 countries, and counting. As of Thursday, there were nearly 450 people infected with Zika in the U.S., 93 of which had been diagnosed as travel-related infections, across 22 states.

While Zika isn’t life-threatening to most adults, the main concern is its link, albeit unproven, to microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies’ brains don’t fully develop. It’s that unknown that has made the production of a Zika vaccine so tricky.

In a best-case scenario, developing a vaccine is difficult. Researchers pore over a multitude of combinations and correlations. Scientists work to strike the perfect balance: stimulate the immune system enough to produce antibodies but avoid actually infecting the disease. From concept to market, the average process takes about 15 years.

That process encompasses three stages: exploratory, preclinical, and Investigational New Drug, or IND. After passing through those stages, testing generally begins, again, in three phases: on 20 to 80 people (Phase I), several hundred people (Phase II), and ultimately several thousand (Phase III).

This process, for any vaccine, can be protracted and byzantine. The vaccine for the dengue virus, a sometimes deadly mosquito-borne germ that’s a close cousin of Zika, took over 20 years to develop. In September 2014, an Ebola vaccine entered Phase I testing, but progress has since halted; there is still no legitimate Ebola vaccine produced in the U.S.

In Zika’s case, the process is even more complicated (paywall) because of the link the virus has had to birth defects. The risks, and regulations, inherent in developing a vaccine for pregnant women are innumerable. Researchers and scientists are split on whether to even offer a Zika vaccine to pregnant women due to fear of harming the unborn.

Other factors contribute to the potential vaccine’s plight. A lack of funding, inadequate distribution, deficient administration, and improper transportation and storage—storing the vaccine outside the proper temperature range can lead to its invalidation by the health department—all serve as sizable roadblocks.

Despite the obstacles, there is hope. According to NBC News, a new dengue vaccine may form the basis for a Zika version. The dengue vaccine is currently being tested in Brazil in a 17,000-person volunteer trial. In theory, researchers would add on a Zika component to help shorten development time.

Until that plays out and a vaccine is available, there are things you can do now, like spray for adult mosquitoes and eliminate standing water to reduce their ability to breed. Whether you’re looking forward to outdoor festivals or alfresco dining as the seasons continue to change, do all you can to protect yourself and don’t forget to stop and enjoy spring.



Ukrainian Polio and the Hindsight Solution

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by Jeff Renoe No Comments

Vaccines for Children: Resources for Providers

A recent threat of a Polio outbreak in Ukraine has left parts of Europe scrambling for answers.

As a whole, the nation’s population of children is under vaccinated when compared to the rest of the globe. In a recent interview, Ellyn Ogden of the United States Agency for International Development said, “Ukraine went from 90% coverage a decade ago, to 14% today. This is one of the lowest coverages in the world, including countries at war and those facing security and economic challenges.”

The lack of mass inoculation has led to the first two documented cases of polio in Europe since 2010. Having been caused by a vaccine-derived strain, they both could have been prevented if the population had a higher level of immunization. Once the cases had been diagnosed conversations quickly began to address the potential paroxysm.

In response to the threat, the UN donated 3.7 million vaccines to help fill the gap that’s developed over the last decade to protect the country, and those that surround it, from the disease. What’s followed has been an interesting case of he said, she said that’s played out through the international media.

The local All-Ukrainian Council for Patients’ Rights and Safety lobbyist group claims that the vaccines are unsafe because of mishandlings during transport. The World Health Organization says that the process was carried out in line with internationally defined best practices. One blames the other for recklessness. The other’s made references to a lobby group that’s out to protect the interests of a few of individuals. The back and forth has caused a delay in the immunization efforts, pushing them back, well past the 15 day guideline according to Ogden.

The plan may have been implemented in a much quicker manner had the vaccines been transported with loggers that monitored the ongoing temperature of the vials. The arguments could have been rendered moot had data been available to the public to prove one side over the other. Now, every day that goes by increases the risk of a major outbreak.

  • Click here for more information on how to properly transport, store and handle vaccines according to the Center for Disease Control 
  • To learn more about the global initiative to eradicate polio visit
  • To learn more about data loggers that can be used to monitor the condition of a package in transit visit




Vaccine Temperature Buffers: Glycol? Glass Beads? Or What?

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments


Glycol or Glass Beads?

The CDC, in its Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit for Vaccine and VFC Providers, uses the following language when describing temperature buffers as a necessary edition to a data logger probe: ”Probe in thermal buffer such as glycol . . .”

For Vaccine Providers looking for a data logger, the key part of that sentence is ”such as.” The CDC has yet to fully commit, require, or even recommend a data logger probe be immersed in glycol and glycol only. Here at Dickson, we use glass beads instead of glycol.


Because they offer the same temperature stability as glycol, without as great of a threat of spillage.
This has been a confusing topic as of late, and the verdict isn’t out yet on whether one type of material to immerse your probe in is better than the other. (When the jury decides, we will be sure to let you know.) But, check out the graph below:

One of our excellent engineers thought he would test each solution, to see if there was any variance in temperature readings. So he did. The probes were placed in the same environment, and thus monitored the same temperature. As you can see, we found very little difference between the two solutions. They each followed the exact same curve at the exact same time as the temperatures they monitored rose and fell.

But why submerse a probe into a bottle filled with glass beads or a glycol solution? Because it takes longer for vaccine temperatures to change than it does the air of your refrigerator or freezer. A sensor (that includes internal device sensors!) without an attached glycol bottle or vial of glass beads records the temperature of the atmosphere. Thus, the sensor will show extraneous temperature readings caused by air fluctuations (for example, the opening and closing of a refrigerator door) which may not be indicative of the temperature of the individual vaccines.

So, get yourself a thermal buffer for your data logger. We recommend glass beads, but we can always do glycol as well.



The Intricacies of Freezing Fresh Plasma

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments
Blood Transfusion-004

Blood Transfusion-004

Fresh Frozen Plasma, or FFP, is an acronym well known in the blood and plasma donation world. Marked by controversy, empirical therapy, wastefulness, and multiple scientific studies (type ”Fresh Frozen Plasma” into Google and you will find a front page of results littered with studies and papers), FFP is a topic that we recently came into contact with at a seminar for blood bank storage.

First, a little background on the storing of donated human blood and plasma:

When blood or plasma is donated by someone, it is must be kept cold until it is used by a patient in need. Blood banks, transfusion facilities, and hospitals are usually in charge of storing blood and plasma, and monitoring the temperature at which it needs to be stored at. Here are a few requirements for blood and plasma storage:

Whole Blood & Red Blood Cells: 1-6C

Plasma & Cryoprecipitated AHF: -18C of colder

Platelets: Gentle Agitation, at 20-24C

Granulocytes: 20-24C

Pretty specific stuff. The storage temperature that stands out to us at Dickson, is the proper storage temperatures for Plasma & Cryoprecipitated AHF, as these two need to be kept very, very cold.

Quick Note: Plasma can be stored below -18C for up to a year at a hospital, blood bank, or transfusion facility.

Back to our FFP. Fresh Frozen Plasma is the result of a process that includes centrifuging, separating, and freezing plasma within 8 hours of collection. We’re no doctors, but it seems that patients ”get more” with Fresh Frozen Plasma than with regular plasma, including proteins, fats and carbohydrates that are similar to those concentrations in circulation within the body. The interesting, and difficult part of this process is getting the FFP through all those steps within the 8-hour time span.

As temperature monitoring experts, getting something that comes out of one’s body at 98F down to -18C is a task that must be undertaken by a good freezer. Furthermore, Plasma collectors want to avoid going below -30C during their freezing process. If plasma is stored below -30C, international regulations state that clotting factors and inhibitors may get out of whack.

Plasma is an interesting part of the cold chain process, one that we can’t wait to learn more about.




Temperature Mapping A Data Center Garage

Posted on: August 6th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Data Center Temperature Monitoring

In Season 2 of HBO’s hit TV Series, ”Silicon Valley,” Gilfoyle, a software designer and hardware guru, (played by Martin Starr) builds his company, Pied Piper, a host server in their ”Hacker Hostel’s” garage.

Now, we don’t try to be too big of computer know-it-all’s here at Dickson. While we do have our own Software as a Service system, with IoT hardware that communicates to a cloud application, we utilize Amazon Secure Web Services to host all of our data. Which means we don’t have direct, day-to-day interaction with the actual machines running all of our system’s data.

That all being said: we are temperature nerds. And we really question Gilfoyle’s temperature foresight to build a server in a garage. (We admit that the show is based in the Bay area of San Francisco, and thus isn’t susceptible to HUGE temperature swings. But, an office with an HVAC system would really be a much better solution.)

Why? Because server rooms heat up quickly, especially when the power goes out. They continue to run on backup battery, while the HVAC system is shut down.

Losing data is a nightmare. Which is why for Gilfoyle, we would recommend temperature mapping the Hacker’s Hostel garage before and after putting servers in. Data centers and server rooms experience extremely quick rises in temperature: servers generate a lot of heat. Without proper air circulation, and proper temperature monitoring, those extremely warm temperatures ruin a company’s data.

In a server room, temperature mapping means monitoring in a much more congested space than say, a warehouse. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be less points to monitor at within your server environment. Instead, when you map a data center, map at more points. Place your data loggers down the aisles of your server stacks, in between stacks, at all HVAC outputs, near any windows and doors, and by any external heat source (other than the servers themselves).