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WHO Director-General addresses the Review Committee of the International Health Regulations focused on the Ebola response

Opening remarks at the Review Committee on the role of the International Health Regulations in the Ebola outbreak and response Geneva, Switzerland by Dr. Margaret Chen Director-General of the World Health Organization
24 August 2015

....Since Ebola first emerged in 1976, WHO and its partners have responded to 22 previous outbreaks of this disease. Even the largest were contained within four to six months....

In West Africa, WHO, and many others, were late in recognizing the potential of the outbreak to grow so explosively. Some warning signals were missed. Why?

Our challenge now is to look for improvements that leave the world better prepared for the next inevitable outbreak.

Managing the global regime for controlling the international spread of disease is a central and historical responsibility of the World Health Organization. We need to pinpoint the reasons why the response fell short,. We need to learn the lessons. We need to put in place corrective strategies just as quickly as possible....

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The World’s Most Dangerous Volcano May Kill Another City

Vesuvius and the surrounding Naples metropolitan area. Seen on July 28, 2015. Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA

Image: Vesuvius and the surrounding Naples metropolitan area. Seen on July 28, 2015. Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA - July 29th, 2015 - Erik Klemetti

If you are a volcanologist, nothing strikes fear into your heart as much as thinking about the next Vesuvius eruption. This Italian giant is nestled in the sprawling metropolitan area of Naples, population 3.1 million. We’re not talking “nearby” like Rainier is to Seattle or Popocatépetl to Mexico City.


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Global health leaders ask G7 for post-Ebola rapid response unit

(Two stories. Scroll down.)
REUTERS by Kate Kelland                                                           June 5, 2015
LONDON -- Global health leaders will ask G7 leaders this weekend to back the creation of a specialist rapid response unit to tackle outbreaks of infectious killer diseases.

The corpse of a patient who passed away is given back to the family for funerals after being decontaminated by the MSF teams. It was washed with chlorine solution and put it in a hermetic bag also disinfected to leave the high risk area.

The move reflects how the World Health Organization in particular was caught unprepared last year by Ebola, which spread through three West African countries, has killed 11,000 people, and will not be stamped out before the end of this year.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said the unit should come under the WHO, but be free of bureaucracy and able to act independently "in days" when a potentially fatal epidemic begins...

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After Ebola, world still unprepared for global pandemic: MSF

REUTERS by Maria Caspani                                                                                                June 4, 2015                     

NEW YORK -- The global health system is unable to handle another mass epidemic like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières said, urging wealthy nations to develop coordinated response plans and drugs to fight neglected diseases.

Late and slow international response, the absence of solid leadership as well as the lack of treatments and vaccines are a recurrent scenario in many of today's health emergencies and are not unique to the Ebola epidemic, the medical charity said.

"If a global pandemic were to strike tomorrow, there is still no well-resourced, coordinated international response in place to kick in," Joanne Liu, the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Will the Ebola crisis lead to improved global health security?

MEDICAL NEWS by Sally Robertson                                                 May 8, 2015

Unprecedented in both its impact and scale, the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has led to a renewed interest in the issue of global health security. How is global health security defined? What qualifies as a global health concern? What are the implications for governmental policies and programmes?

To address some of these questions, The Lancet invited a number of respected global health practitioners to reflect on the wider lessons that can be learned from the crisis and make suggestions about steps that can be taken to counteract such threats in the future.

Through a series of essays, the review discusses whether the outbreak is likely to improve the governance of global health security and reflects on the relevance of several issues, from the use of counterfeit medicines through to the importance of securing people’s access to healthcare.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Fund Disease Surveillance Network in Africa and Asia to Prevent Childhood Mortality and Help Prepare for the Next Epidemic

PR NEWSWIRE                                                                                                  May 7, 2015

(Scroll down for interview with Bill Gates)

At its Global Partners Forum, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will announce the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network (CHAMPS), a network of disease surveillance sites in developing countries. These sites will help gather better data, faster, about how, where and why children are getting sick and dying. This data will help the global health community get the right interventions to the right children in the right place to save lives. The network will also be invaluable in providing capacity and training in the event of an epidemic, such as Ebola or SARS. The Gates Foundation plans an initial commitment of up to $75 million on the effort.

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Empowering local media can make the difference: 5 lessons from the Ebola crisis

DEVEX byAlison  Campbell                                                                          April 23, 2015

The Ebola crisis in West Africa was quickly recognized as being driven as much by misinformation and rumors as by weaknesses in the health care system. Mohamed Komah interviews an Ebola survivor at the Donka Ebola treatment center in Conakry, Guinea. Photo by: Internews

International response agencies invested significant resources in rolling out the Social Mobilization and Community Engagement drive, a wide-scale intensive social behavior change communication campaign. The result was a massive and rather poorly coordinated blast of messaging shared on billboards, in print, on radio and TV, through health outreach workers and community organizations, via SMS and call-in hotlines.

A preliminary assessment done by Internews in November found more than 300 types of social mobilization and messaging systems in the three worst-affected countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This chaotic information landscape consisted mainly of information “out,” with little opportunity for community dialogue....

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Looking Into the Mirror of EBOLA: A Reminder of the Importance of Nutrition As We Age

HUFFINGTON POST by Dr. Simin Nikbin Meydan                                                               April 21, 2015
When the world was devastated by the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa last year, we were given a warning call on many levels. While I was mulling over the whys and hows of the epidemic, my mind automatically went to the role that nutrition can play in helping to stem the spread, and mortality rates, of diseases and perhaps deter future outbreaks.

 The next step my mind took, (admittedly, I research nutrition, immunology and infection in older adults), was to the role nutrition plays in maintaining a robust immune response and fighting against infections particularly in older adults. Remember the SARS outbreak in 2003? SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is a viral respiratory disease caused by the SARS coronavirus. The outbreak began in southern China and caused an eventual 8,096 cases with 774 deaths reported in multiple countries. The overall mortality rate in aged populations exceeded 50%. Age matters in fighting infections. As we age, our immune systems gray and we need to factor this into our response to outbreaks.

It is telling that infectious epidemics usually originate in areas of the world that suffer from poor nutrition.

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The End of Ebola? Lessons at the Epidemic's One Year Anniversary

Columbia University                                            March 30, 2015

One year ago, the current Ebola epidemic was announced to the world. Since then, we have learned and accomplished an enormous amount....

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Laboratory support during and after the Ebola virus endgame: towards a sustained laboratory infrastructure

EUROSURVEILLANCE by I. Goodfellow, C. Reusken, and M. Koopmans  

  March 26, 2015                                                              

The Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa is on the brink of entering a second phase in which the (inter)national efforts to slow down virus transmission will be engaged to end the epidemic. The response community must consider the longevity of their current laboratory support, as it is essential that diagnostic capacity in the affected countries be supported beyond the end of the epidemic.

The emergency laboratory response should be used to support building structural diagnostic and outbreak surveillance capacity.

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