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Ebola infection of humans linked to population density and vegetation cover

MEDICAL NEWS TODAY                                             Jan. 22, 2015

Ebola is a "zoonotic" disease: the virus starts out in animal populations - believed to be fruit bats - and then spills over into humans. Now, a new study that investigates landscape features of where spillover occurs suggests human population density and vegetation cover may be important factors.

The researchers examined landscape features of precise geo-locations of Ebola spillover into humans.

The study is the work of two researchers from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, who write about their findings in the open-access journal PeerJ.

First author Michael G. Walsh, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in SUNY Downstate's School of Public Health, says they found significant interaction between density of human populations and the extent of green vegetation cover in the parts of Africa that have seen outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD).

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Geographic information helps provide public health intelligence at mass gatherings

MEDICALNEWS TODAY                                                            Jan. 6, 2015

Infectious diseases are one of the many health issues that worry the organizers of mass gatherings, such as the Hajj and the World Cup. Geographers' tools of the trade can help event organizers to better plan, monitor and respond timely to such eventualities. The ways in which geographers gather, analyze, and visualize information provide health officials with clearer pictures of the transport routes and environmental factors that may further the spread of viruses to and from the attendees' home countries.

In Chapter 3 of the new book Health, Science and Place: A New Model, geographer and biologist Dr. Amy Blatt explains how geographic information is used for disease surveillance at mass gatherings.
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Read excerpt from the book,chapter 3.

by Dr. Amy Blatt

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Fight against Ebola requires district-by-district approach – head of UN response mission

UNITED NATIONS NEWS CENTRE                                                                                 Dec. 30, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia --The outgoing head of the head of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Mission (UNMEER) said today that communities are going to play a big role in defeating the “nasty disease” in West Africa by stamping out outbreaks while they are small and not allowing them to become bigger.

The body of a suspected Ebola case in Sierra Leone is taken by an International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) team on 24 December to the cemetery where it was buried in a dignified way. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“Ebola is a very nasty disease, and it’s going to present us with some very unpleasant surprises I fear going forward,” Anthony Banbury told UN Radio in Monrovia, Liberia. “And that’s why we really need to strengthen our capabilities.....”

...While acknowledging the difficulty in getting Ebola response workers to some of the remote areas, he emphasized the importance of a district by district strategy and said: “We really need to be present out in the districts....”

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Next in Ebola Plan: UN Teams to Study Lines of Transmission

REUTERS                                                              Dec. 24, 2014

ACCRA—Medical detective work will be the next big phase in the fight against Ebola when the United Nations deploys hundreds of health workers to identify chains of infection as the virus passes from person to person, top U.N. health workers said.
Health workers bury the body of a suspected Ebola victim at a cemetery in Freetown, Dec. 21, 2014.

The health teams will travel to each district and region of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries at the center of the epidemic, to trace who each infected person has potentially contacted.

The effort will run in parallel with measures to minimize the spread of infection, such as treating all Ebola patients in specialized centers and burying all victims safely.

But Phase Two of the plan is to contain the virus by understanding its lines of transmission, said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.

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World Bank Supports The Gambia’s Ebola Prevention Plan

WORLD BANK PRESS RELEASE                                Dec. 22, 2014

The World Bank has approved a US$500,000 reallocation of existing development funds from on-going health and nutrition projects to support The Gambia prepare a plan in case of  a possible Ebola outbreak.

While there have been no reported cases of Ebola in The Gambia, its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, has nonetheless prepared a disease and Ebola preparedness plan.

 “The Ebola epidemic in neighboring countries has affected tourism in The Gambia as people are afraid to travel to and within Africa, resulting in great economic losses for the country,” said Vera Songwe, the World Bank Country Director for The Gambia. “We acknowledge that the virus is expanding both geographically and in the number of reported cases. The spread from Guinea to Mali highlights the escalating risk to regional security, stability and economic growth.

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Obama puts money on the table for Ebola vaccine developers

THE CANADIAN PRESS  by Helen Branswell                                                                     Dec. 19, 2014

TORONTO -- Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a little piece of legislation that may significantly change the economics of making drugs or vaccines to protect against Ebola and other viruses in its deadly family.

And it might at some point provide a tidy windfall for Merck, the company now developing an Ebola vaccine designed at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

A World Health Organization scientist unpacks the Canadian-made Ebola vaccine after receiving them in Geneva on Oct. 22, 2014. Swiss researchers temporarily halted a clinical trial of a Canadian-made Ebola vaccine after seeing an unexpected side-effect in a few people who received the serum. (Mathilde Missioneiro/THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - WHO)

The bill -- S.2917, also known as "Adding Ebola to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act" -- dangles a sizable carrot meant to entice pharmaceutical companies into developing vaccines and therapies to prevent or cure infection with the virus and other related pathogens in the filovirus family.

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Contest Seeks Novel Tools for the Fight Against Ebola

NEW YORK TIMES  by Donald G. McNeil, Jr.                                                                              Dec. 13, 2014

NEW YORK --The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

A prototype for one of the protective suits in contention for the U.S.A.I.D. "Grand Challenges" award. Credit John Hopkins University/Jhpiego

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Sierra Leone Area to Hold 2-Week Ebola 'Lockdown'

ASSOCIATED PRESS by CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY                                                    Dec. 10, 2014

FREETOWN--Authorities in an eastern district of Sierra Leone launched a two-week "lockdown" on Wednesday, hoping to halt the spread of Ebola after the area recorded seven confirmed cases in a day.

The lockdown will last until Dec. 23 in the diamond-rich Kono district in eastern Sierra Leone, said Emmanuel Lebbie, a local official.

The action is being taken after the district recorded seven confirmed cases on Tuesday. The decision was made by traditional rulers in the area including Paramount Chief Paul Jabbie Saquee of Tankoro Chiefdom, Lebbie said.

While people can move within the district, no one will be allowed to enter or leave, said Lebbie, who is the area's monitor for the Independent Media Commission.

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Response to Typhoon in Philippines Shows Lessons Learned From a Year Ago

NEW YORK TIMES  by Austin Ramzy                                                                 Dec. 7, 2014

LEGAZPI, the Philippines — As Typhoon Hagupit churned across the Philippines on Sunday, residents of the eastern part of the island nation expressed relief that they had joined the hundreds of thousands who had evacuated to safer ground.

Residents waded through floodwaters on Sunday in Borongan City, the Philippines. Typhoon Hagupit is expected to churn over the country until Wednesday. Credit Francis R. Malasig/European Pressphoto Agency

By late Sunday, what had been classified as a super typhoon was far weaker than Haiyan was when it hit, and was continuing to weaken. The storm, which is expected to push its way across the country until Wednesday, was generating strong winds and rain, but the overall effect was not as devastating as worst-case scenarios had anticipated.

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What Ebola Is Teaching Us About Hard Trends

WIRED     Essay by David Burris                                                                                        Dec. 14, 2014

...Deadly and infectious viruses such as Ebola are an inevitable and unavoidable fact of nature. In other words, they are examples of a Hard Trend. And they demand new innovations in order to combat them.

...the deadly force of Ebola is the kind of imminent threat that inspires human minds to new heights. It teaches us that Hard Trends come at us fast and provide the catalyst to overcome inertia and bring about technological innovations.


Communication is key to mobilizing populations in countries affected by Ebola. In order to treat the sick and prevent the spread of the disease, healthcare workers need to be able to coordinate with people on the frontline and know where to send supplies. At the moment, telecommunications technologies are not keeping pace with the intense demands that Ebola creates.

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