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Mapping the Zoonotic Niche of Ebola Virus Disease in Africa

submitted by Stephen Morse - September 8, 2014 - eLife 2014;3:e04395

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a complex zoonosis that is highly virulent in humans. The largest recorded outbreak of EVD is ongoing in West Africa, outside of its previously reported and predicted niche. We assembled location data on all recorded zoonotic transmission to humans and Ebola virus infection in bats and primates (1976–2014). Using species distribution models, these occurrence data were paired with environmental covariates to predict a zoonotic transmission niche covering 22 countries across Central and West Africa. Vegetation, elevation, temperature, evapotranspiration, and suspected reservoir bat distributions define this relationship. At-risk areas are inhabited by 22 million people; however, the rarity of human outbreaks emphasises the very low probability of transmission to humans. Increasing population sizes and international connectivity by air since the first detection of EVD in 1976 suggest that the dynamics of human-to-human secondary transmission in contemporary outbreaks will be very different to those of the past.

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How to Detect Infectious Diseases Like Ebola Faster

New tools aim to deliver quicker test results—and prevent disease from spreading

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 WALL STREET JOURNAL by Betsy Mckay                           Feb. 17, 2015

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Researchers face big hurdles in testing Ebola vaccines

USA TODAY  by Liz Sazbo                                                                                  Feb. 17, 2015
The unpredictable Ebola outbreak in West Africa is thwarting health officials' best efforts both to contain the epidemic, as well as test new treatments and vaccines.

Biologist Olivier Mbaya works with serum samples from healthy volunteer participants in a European study of an experimental Ebola vaccine,, at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo: Cliff Owen, AP)

The number of new Ebola cases has risen sharply in the West African nation of Guinea, for example, even as researchers wonder if there will be enough patients in neighboring Liberia to test experimental vaccines.

Just a few weeks ago, the number of new Ebola cases was falling in all three West African countries....

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Mission Not Yet Accomplished --Editorial

EDITORIAL: NEW YORK TIMES                                       Feb. 17, 2015
President Obama has announced that almost all of the American troops sent to West Africa to help contain the Ebola epidemic will be withdrawn soon. That makes sense because they have largely completed the work they were sent to do. The next phase of the battle will rely on public health measures carried out by local and international health workers and experts.

Despite major gains, about 100 new cases are detected each week. It will take a concerted effort, backed financially by the United States and others, to drive that number down to zero....

The main task now facing public health workers is to find all people infected with Ebola and trace and isolate all their contacts to prevent passing the virus to others. The goal is to eradicate all traces of the virus from the afflicted countries. A well-trained work force will be essential to this task. As Mr. Obama warned last week, “Every case is an ember that if not contained can light a new fire.”

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Ebola: the race to find a cure

 In October, scientists set out to do something unprecedented – conduct a drugs trial during an epidemic to find a treatment for a lethal disease. Could they make history and change the way we deal with outbreaks?

THE GUARDIAN  by Sarah Boseley                           Feb, 17, 2015

In depth description of efforts by a group of Oxford University scientists to run field trials of drugs for use against Ebola.

" ...The little band of scientists had flown to Guinea on 16 October to do something that had never been successfully done before – set up a trial of experimental drugs against an infectious disease in the middle of an epidemic. Because the Ebola virus does not exist at low levels in any population, unless you run a properly conducted trial while the storm is raging, you will never have drugs that are proven to be effective. The Oxford team’s trial would not only aim to find a drug that worked against Ebola but also to establish a blueprint for the way drug trials would be run during outbreaks in the future. This did not just apply to fighting Ebola: if the scientists were successful, their trial would develop protocols for testing drugs for any epidemic, be it Sars or flu...."

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Scientists warn against complacency on Ebola vaccines

AFP                                                                                                                    Feb. 17, 2015

London--  A team of leading international scientists on Tuesday called for new Ebola vaccines to be made available in months rather than years and warned against complacency after a reduction in infection rates.

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"Despite falling infection rates in west Africa, the risk that the current Ebola outbreak may not be brought completely under control remains," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's biggest medical charity.

"The accelerated development of candidate vaccines... is essential," said Farrar, who co-chairs a group of 26 international experts on vaccine development.

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Recommendations for Accelerating the Development of Ebola Vaccines: Report & Analysis

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Still Fighting Ebola: A View from Liberia’s Front Line

WIRED  by                                                                                            Feb. 16, 2015
Interview with F. Zeela Zaizay, a registered nurse and the Liberian team leader for MAP International, a Christian medical-assistance nonprofit. MAP, which is based in Atlanta and has sent $1.7 million’ worth of supplies such as “no touch” infrared thermometers and protective equipment for health workers, and helped organize Ebola-education efforts in townships and on local radio.

“We are having an average now of less than one case per day,” he told me in a Skype call from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. “That shows we have made tremendous gains in the fight against Ebola. But the practices that led to the gains we are having are being abandoned just as the cases are declining too, so it brings about fear. If we are not careful we could have more cases again.”

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What Liberia needs from donors post-Ebola

DEVEX    by Molly Anders                                                                                                   Feb. 16, 2015

Interview with Liberian Assistant Minister of Health Tolbert Nyenswah about his vision for the development community’s role in a post-Ebola Liberia: 

" Every facet of our society was affected. From women and children to social protections, our economy and financial system; the GDP suffered hugely because of Ebola.
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UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) External Situation Report

UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER)                                                         Feb. 16, 2015

Conakry, Guinea --Statement issued by the heads of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone upon approving an operational framework designed to reduce new Ebola infections to zero within 60 days.

The framework calls for infection prevention and control, social mobilization, community engagement, surveillance, cross border collaboration. 

The leaders also "advocated for a seamless and responsible exit by international partners dictated by the epidemiology and by the adequate transfer of capacity to national institutions."

The statement includes a list of developments and responses.

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Liberia schools reopen after 6-month Ebola closure

ASSOCIATED PRESS  by Jonathan Paye-Layleh                                                                               Feb. 16, 2015

MONROVIA, Liberia — Students in Liberia began returning to the classroom Monday after a six-month closure during the Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead in this West African country.

In the capital, lines formed outside entrances where returning students' temperatures were being taken. Ebola's main symptom is a high fever, and only those who are sick can spread the deadly virus to others.

Deputy Education Minister Remses Kumbuyah said more than 5,000 kits were distributed to schools that included thermometers and chlorine for hand-washing.

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