Ebola crisis update - 30 January 2015

Médecins Sans Frontières                                                                   Jan 30, 2015

During the last weeks, a downward trend of new cases has been reported in Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Ebola management centres across the three affected countries, with 50 confirmed cases in its eight centres last week.

While this is a promising development, the World Health Organization reported that only about half of new cases in both Guinea and Liberia are from known Ebola contacts, while in Sierra Leone there is no data available. There is almost no information sharing for tracing Ebola contacts between the three most-affected countries.

Since a single new case is enough to reignite an outbreak, the level of vigilance should remain high in order not to jeopardise the progress made in stemming the epidemic....

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What worked in controlling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

One Lesson: Rush to Help, not to declare victory

EDITORIAL    THE WASHINGTON POST                                Jan. 31, 2015

THE WORLD’S tardy response to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has killed 8,810 people, demands that lessons be learned.

 Toward that end, a fresh batch of scientific reports has emerged in recent days to guide future responses. The World Health Organization, which stumbled in the initial period, seems to be recognizing its mistakes and looking for ways to correct them.... it is vital to keep medical interventions in place for long periods — and a big mistake to declare victory too early. The research also shows that most transmission of Ebola occurred in families....

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Estimating Food Consumption and Poverty Indices with Mobile Phone Data

submitted by George Hurlburt

arxiv.org - November 22, 2014
Adeline Decuyper, Alex Rutherford, Amit Wadhwa, Jean-Martin Bauer, Gautier Krings, Thoralf Gutierrez, Vincent D. Blondel, Miguel A. Luengo-Oroz
arXiv:1412.2595 [cs.CY]

Recent studies have shown the value of mobile phone data to tackle problems related to economic development and humanitarian action. In this research, we assess the suitability of indicators derived from mobile phone data as a proxy for food security indicators. We compare the measures extracted from call detail records and airtime credit purchases to the results of a nationwide household survey conducted at the same time. Results show high correlations (> .8) between mobile phone data derived indicators and several relevant food security variables such as expenditure on food or vegetable consumption. This correspondence suggests that, in the future, proxies derived from mobile phone data could be used to provide valuable up-to-date operational information on food security throughout low and middle income countries.

CLICK HERE - RESEARCH - Estimating Food Consumption and Poverty Indices with Mobile Phone Data

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Ebola crisis: Liberia delays school re-opening

BBC                                                                                               Jan. 30, 2015

Liberia has delayed planned re-opening of schools, saying they are not not yet fully prepared to prevent the spread of Ebola.

The schools - closed in July - had been due to open on Monday, but teaching will now begin on 16 February.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says several schools he has seen are woefully unready to prevent Ebola infection.

He says they are lacking chlorinated water for hand-washing and thermometers to check pupils don't have fever.

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Ebola likely to persist in 2015 as communities resist aid: Red Cross

REUTERS  by  Stephanie Nebehay                                                                                   Jan. 30, 2015

GENEVA --West Africa will be lucky to wipe out Ebola this year, as the local population remains suspicious of aid workers, especially in Guinea, the Red Cross said on Friday.


 Healthcare workers prepare to disinfect an ambulance transporting a newly admitted Ebola patient at the entrance to the Save the Children Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre outside Freetown, Sierra Leone in this file photo taken on December 22, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

The virus is "flaring up" in new areas in the region and not all infections are being reported, said Birte Hald, who leads the Ebola coordination and support unit of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"We are also seeing that in places like Sierra Leone and especially in Guinea that it is flaring up in new districts all the time, with small new chains of transmission, which means that it's not under control and it could flare up big-time again," Hald told a news briefing in Geneva.

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How Bad Data Fed the Ebola Epidemic


Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

nytimes.com - By RACHEL GLENNERSTER, HERBERT M’CLEOD and TAVNEET SURI - January 30, 2015

. . . Valid, credible and timely data is essential during a global crisis. Without reliable data, efforts to assist affected people and to rebuild damaged communities can be misdirected and inefficient. . .

The West African Ebola outbreak first hit Sierra Leone in May 2014, followed by an explosion of cases in the capital Freetown in the autumn. . .

The early days of the crisis were characterized by a sense of immense fear, anxiety and alarm, regionally and globally. .

Misleading reports, speculation and poor projections from international agencies, government ministries and the media about the Ebola outbreak exacerbated the problem.


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Global Health Security: The Next Five Years

onlinedigeditions.com - Andrew C. Weber - Christine Parthemore

The next five years will see crucial changes in the global health security landscape, profoundly shaped by two key events in 2014:

The Ebola response in West Africa, and the successful first year of the Global Health Security Agenda, an initiative of dozens of countries and non-governmental organizations to make tangible commitments for preventing, rapidly detecting, and effectively responding to infectious disease threats.(1) 

Both events brought to light signs of measurable progress, and profound gaps that must be prioritized in the years ahead. Pressing needs include expanding emergency operations center capacity, better leveraging technological innovation, and closing the gap between the health and security communities.


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Do Ebola educators make a difference?

THE GUARDIAN by                        Jan. 29. 2015

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- The initial Ebola case in Tambakha [a remote chiefdom near the Guinea border] coincided with the proper training of the first set of Ebola educators. They were deployed in mid-October to educate local people on the prevention and control of Ebola and to help monitor the advent of newcomers into their communities, possible carriers.


Health workers conduct a campaign raising awareness of the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photograph: Tanya Bindra/EPA

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Botswana Doctor Is Named to Lead W.H.O. in Africa

NEW YORK TIMES  by Donald G. McNeil, Jr.                                                               Jan. 27, 2015

A defining moment in the life of Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s new regional director for Africa, came when she was 9 and her father realized that her little sister’s mathematics textbook was below even the level he had studied as a poor child on a South African farm.

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Weekly Ebola cases below 100, WHO says endgame begins

REUTERS  by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay               Jan. 29, 2015

The number of new confirmed Ebola cases totaled 99 in the week to Jan. 25, the lowest tally since June 2014, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, signaling the tide might have turned against the epidemic.

"The response to the EVD (Ebola virus disease) epidemic has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic," the WHO said.

"To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials, and community engagement is used as effectively as possible."

But Guinea reported 30 confirmed cases in the latest week, up from 20 in the previous week. The epidemic is also still spreading geographically there, with a first confirmed case in Guinea's Mali prefecture bordering Senegal, which reopened its border with Guinea on Monday.

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Ebola outbreak: Virus mutating, scientists warn

Scientists tracking the Ebola outbreak in Guinea say the virus has mutated.

Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France, which first identified the outbreak last March, are investigating whether it could have become more contagious.

They are tracking how the virus is changing and trying to establish whether it's able to jump more easily from person to person

"We know the virus is changing quite a lot," said human geneticist Dr Anavaj Sakuntabhai.

It's not unusual for viruses to change over a period time. Ebola is an RNA virus - like HIV and influenza - which have a high rate of mutation. That makes the virus more able to adapt and raises the potential for it to become more contagious.

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An experimental Ebola vaccine looks promising in a human trial

Vaccine  was made by introducing an Ebola gene in a chimpanzee cold virus

THE VERGE    by Arielle Duhaime-Ross                                                             Jan. 28, 2015

An Ebola vaccine produced using a chimpanzee common cold virus appears to be safe to use on humans, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Three different doses of vaccine were tested on healthy humans in the UK, and it was well-tolerated; it triggered high levels of antibody formation without also triggering serious side effects. But until the vaccine is tested in an area where an Ebola risk actually exists, it’s efficacy against the disease will remain a mystery.

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A Monovalent Chimpanzee Adenovirus Ebola Vaccine — Preliminary Report

 New England Journal of Medicine

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Ebola is creating a new epidemic of untreated illness and injury

PUBLC RADIO INTERNATIONAL   Producer Leo Hornak                                                         Jan. 28, 2015

MONROVIA --Sharon McDonnell is seeing a new public health crisis unfold in West Africa: droves of patients without Ebola who are turned away from medical facilities.

The Maine-based epidemiologist, who is in Liberia with the International Rescue Committee, says things are much better now than they were two months ago when she first visited Liberia. The hospital where she is based, Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, Liberia, has recently reopened after shutting down in October....

A taxi bringing a pregnant women with obstructed labor arrives at Redemption Hospital's "other" entrance for ambulance and inpatients. The Redemption hospital staff member came out in PPE (personal protective equipment) to talk with her and the family to make sure she could be seen in the hospital. Credit: Sharon McDonnell

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WHO - Resolution - Executive Board Special Session on Ebola


CLICK HERE - WHO - Resolution - Ebola: Ending the current outbreak, strengthening global preparedness and ensuring WHO capacity to prepare for and respond to future large-scale outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences (11 page .PDF report)

CLICK HERE - Executive Board Special Session on Ebola - Additional supporting documentation

chathamhouse.org - by Dr. Charles Clift - January 27, 2015

The executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed a comprehensive resolution on its response to the Ebola crisis in a special session on 25 January. After the WHO was widely criticized for its perceived inadequacies in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the resolution asks for a transformation in the way the organization works in health emergencies. The WHO admits there is substance in these criticisms – with Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general (DG), acknowledging shortcomings in WHO’s ‘administrative, managerial and technical infrastructures’.


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How Ebola Found Fertile Ground in ​Sierra Leone's Chaotic Capital


Kroo Bay in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, became an Ebola hot spot in December. In one of the city's most densely populated areas, residents had a difficult time avoiding contact with people potentially infected with Ebola.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC    by Amy Maxman    Photos by Pete Muller                                                       Jan. 27, 2015
....A close examination of what made Freetown so vulnerable to the outbreak offers critical lessons for the future in fighting Ebola or another major calamity. 

Like many developing world cities, Freetown—population 941,000, the largest city in Sierra Leone—lacks the infrastructure to support its impoverished populace, making it prone to tragedy, whether through pestilence, violence, or natural disaster. Despite its congestion, Freetown continues to attract people who come in search of work, school, and the mere promise of electricity. It's no coincidence that typhoid and cholera regularly plague Freetown and that Sierra Leone's civil war climaxed in the city with horrific bloodshed.

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