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Inside the cultural struggle to stamp out Ebola

A front-line report from Sierra Leone examines efforts to change hearts and minds in West Africa’s villages.

NATURE   by Erika Check Hayden                                                                             Dec. 17, 2014

Bombali District, Sierra Leone --Since September, the Ebola virus has stalked the villages and towns along the Kamakwie–Makeni Road, a rutted, red-dirt track that serves as the main artery for a string of villages in the western part of Sierra Leone’s Bombali District.

Yeli Sanda, a village just a few kilometres outside the district’s capital city of Makeni, was the first place to be hit. Over the following months, more than 40 people in the settlement of about 700 became infected; 22 died. In November, the virus infected a woman in Tambiama, about 11 km up the road. A friend who visited her acquired the virus and carried it another 1.5 km to the village of Mayata. She and at least five others there have died.

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Screening Test Finds Drugs That Show Promise Against Ebola

U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT HEALTH TODAY   by   Dennis Thompson                            Dec. 17, 2014

A screening test has identified more than 50 drugs that could be helpful in treating people with Ebola, researchers report.

"These drugs are all approved (by the FDA) so they could be deployed quickly if follow-up research proves that they are effective," said study author Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

The study was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections.

The screening test involves a laboratory-engineered fake Ebola virus. The fake virus contains two proteins from the deadly pathogen, but does not include the infectious genetic material that makes Ebola so dangerous, Garcia-Sastre said.

Read complete story.

Read Emerging Microbes and Infections paper.

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Ebola: UN says health workers in Sierra Leone to receive hazard pay using mobile money

UNITED NATIONS NEWS CENTRE                                                                                            Dec. 16, 2014
Response workers battling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will receive “hazard pay” for the first time in Sierra Leone using mobile money because “unless there is a certain element of incentives, or danger pay, it’s very difficult to attract and retain people,” the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced today.

Ambulance depot near an emergency response centre, in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Ambulances and drivers have to be disinfected after each trip carrying suspected Ebola cases. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“One of the most difficult things about tackling the Ebola crisis is in the area of human resources,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP’s Country Director for Sierra Leone. “You can construct a treatment centre in a couple of months. You can construct a community care centre in two to three weeks. But getting trained people to come and run them has been a major challenge.”

The transition from direct cash to an electronic solution will help to improve overall efficiency, timeliness and security of payments for Ebola response workers, Mr. Mukerjee said.

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Ebola Survivors Crucial to Containing the Epidemic: Experts


Survivors of the Ebola virus pose for a picture outside a clinic near Tubmanburg, October 15, 2014.
REUTERS/James Giahyue

CLICK HERE - RESEARCH - To hasten Ebola containment, mobilize survivors - by Magdalena Mis - December 10, 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of Ebola survivors with little to no risk of re-infection are critical to controlling the epidemic and training them has the potential to save thousands of lives and decrease the spread of the virus, experts said on Wednesday.

Survivors have developed immunity and are effectively the only people in the world protected from the virus, which could allow them to care for the sick without risking their lives, said experts in the International Journal of Epidemiology.



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Ebola: UN forum urges debt relief for hard-hit countries, as search for faster diagnostics gets underway

UNITED NATONS NEWS CENTRE                                                                                      Dec. 15, 2014
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) today recommended that creditors should seriously consider debt cancellation for the countries worst-hit by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and also projected that even if those most affected were to register zero economic growth, the impact on Africa as a continent would be minimal.

With the cost of transport and goods going up and sales going down since the Ebola outbreak, vendors in Waterside Market, Monrovia, Liberia, are making no profit to support their families. Photo: UNDP/Morgana Wingard

“Educational systems, rising social stigma, unemployment, and decreased food security are some of the big issues that Ebola-affected countries must deal with,” according to study on the Socio-Economic Impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on Africa released today by the Addis-Ababa based UN regional forum.

In other news, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) announced that nine companies have made 19 submissions of proposed diagnostic tests for Ebola.

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Finally, Germany Makes Progress on Coal - November 3rd, 2014 - Richard Martin

For critics who scoff that Europe’s carbon emission reduction goals are unachievable, Germany has become Exhibit No. 1. Since Chancellor Angela Merkel decreed in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident that Germany would phase out its nuclear power industry, coal use in Germany has been on the rise, and the country’s carbon emissions have remained stubbornly high.

Now it appears that tide may be turning.


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WHO Ebola response chief says virus still spreading due to lack of change in behaviors

REUTERS                                                                                                                       Dec. 15, 2014

GENEVA –  The failure of Sierra Leone's strategy for fighting Ebola may be down to a missing ingredient: a big shock that could change people's behavior and finally prevent further infection.

Bruce Aylward, the head of Ebola response at the World Health Organization, said Sierra Leone was well placed to contain the disease -- its worst outbreak on record -- with infrastructure, organization and aid.


Health workers spray themselves with chlorine disinfectants after removing the body a woman who died of Ebola virus in the Aberdeen district of Freetown, Sierra Leone. (REUTERS/Josephus Olu-Mammah)

The problem is that its people have yet to be shocked out of behavior that is helping the disease to spread, still keeping infected loved ones close and touching the bodies of the dead.

"Every new place that gets infected goes through that same terrible learning curve where a lot of people have to die ... before those behaviors start to change," Aylward told Reuters.

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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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The Path to Zero Ebola Cases


NEW YORK TIMES by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group      Dec. 11, 2014                                              

MONROVIA, Liberia — In my career as a medical doctor and global health policy maker, I have been in the middle of monumental struggles, including fights to make treatment accessible in the developing world for those living with H.I.V./AIDS as well as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. But the Ebola epidemic is the worst I’ve ever seen...

Members of District 13 ambulance service disinfect a room in a village north of Monrovia, Liberia. Credit Jerome Delay/Associated Press

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