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A Force for Good: How Digital Jedis are Responding to the Nepal Earthquake (Updated)

A building and statue damaged by the April 25th quake.

Image: A building and statue damaged by the April 25th quake. - April 27th 2015

Digital Humanitarians are responding in full force to the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal. Information sharing and coordination is taking place online via CrisisMappers and on multiple dedicated Skype chats. The Standby Task Force (SBTF), Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) and others from the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) have also deployed in response to the tragedy.


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Nine Ways We Are Beating the Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

THE HUFFINGTON POST by                  April 26, 2015
.. Addressing an Ebola epidemic of this scale has taken the international community on a journey never before walked. Previously tried and tested methods have been used as well as novel strategies, but the scale that has been required is unprecedented.

Rapid response medical team outside a mobile treatment facility
Nathalie MacDermott/Samaritan's Purse International Relief

It is also apparent that no 'one size fits all' approach can work - the approach must be multifactorial, addressing the problem at it's roots within the communities where the outbreaks occur, but also on a national level to provide large scale isolation of cases and interrupt transmission of the virus.

Below are nine ways in which we are beating the Ebola epidemic in West Africa:

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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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Ebola survivors donate plasma to tackle outbreak

EUREKALERT                                                                           April 22, 2015
The first donations of plasma, from survivors of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, have been received by an international research team working to help tackle current and future disease outbreaks in West Africa.

The team, led by scientists at the University of Liverpool and colleagues at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Services, Ministry of Health, Sierra Leone, is investigating how plasma from Ebola survivors could help treat patients with the disease at the Ebola Treatment Unit, run by the 34th Regiment Military Hospital group in Freetown.

Dr Calum Semple, from the University's Institute of Child Health, and his collaborators developed a convalescent plasma protocol in readiness for an outbreak, such as Ebola, as part of the outbreak preparatory work of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium.

The study is one of several being supported by the Wellcome Trust's platform for evaluating experimental Ebola therapeutics in West Africa.

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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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Scientists to share real-time genetic data on deadly MERS, Ebola

REUTERS by Kate Kelland                     April 21, 2015

LONDON, April 21 - Genetic sequence data on two of the deadliest yet most poorly understood viruses are to be made available to researchers worldwide in real time as scientists seek to speed up understanding of Ebola and MERS infections.

The project, led by British scientists with West African and Saudi Arabian collaboration, hopes to encourage laboratories around the world to use the live data -- updated as new cases emerge -- to find new ways to diagnose and treat the killer diseases, and ideally, ultimately, prevent them.

"The collective expertise of the world's infectious disease experts is more powerful than any single lab, and the best way of tapping into to make data freely available as soon as possible," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity which is funding the work.

The gene sequences, already available for MERS cases and soon to come in the case of Ebola, will be posted on the website for anyone to see, access and use.

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Intercessory Prayer Service and Community Dialogue on Ebola

Prince George's County Health Department to be Presenting

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MARYLAND, April 20 - Restoration Chapel International, in its disaster relief mission, is collaborating with the US-Africa Ebola Working Group, under the sponsorship of Miss Africa Foundation, to hold an Intercessory Prayer Service and Community Dialogue on Ebola on April 26, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 9113 Hampton Overlook; Capitol Heights, Maryland 20743. The objective is to provide a spiritual platform for those with ties to the affected countries and African ambassadors to come together and mourn their loss, share stories and mobilize relief efforts for Ebola survivors in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The event is co-chaired by Prophet Frank Sarpong and Dr. Rodney Sadler, with Prince George's County providing tactical support.

U.S. citizens, the African Diplomatic Corps, local officials, community leaders and nationals from at least 30 African countries will attend. Survivors of the deadly virus will participate via skype. Other speakers include:

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Rebuilding after Ebola will require the world’s help

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL                             Aug. 18, 2015

THE RAVAGING of populations in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by the Ebola virus over the past year has been devastating. The virus killed 10,702 people and left behind vast economic and emotional tolls. The rest of the world responded slowly to the outbreak but eventually rallied. Now it is time to do the same with the aftermath and extend a hand for rebuilding...

The outbreak has receded, but weak local health-care systems proved inadequate when the virus began to spread last year, and improvements are vital in all three countries, especially a much-strengthened system of surveillance to spot any resurgence. Trained health-care workers are in short supply. A small but important step was taken recently in the announcement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help set up an African CDC that could keep the continent one step ahead of another scourge. But the rest of the world also has a stake in making sure that the region builds a better firewall against infectious disease....

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Paper and Phones Could Soon Diagnose Ebola and HIV for $1

NEWSWEEK  by Conner Gaffey                               April 16, 2015
Diseases such as HIV and Ebola are on the verge of being diagnosed almost instantly using paper-based technology costing less than $1.

                                       Diseases may soon be tested for via paper and smartphones Getty

The devices, known as biosensing platforms, are made from cheap materials including plastic film and cellulose paper. Results are captured using a smartphone camera and sent back to hospitals or clinics for immediate diagnosis.

Current HIV diagnosis can cost up $48 (45) for a negative test and $64 (60) for a positive test. Checks for Ebola cost some $100 (95), take up to six hours to produce a result and require sophisticated diagnostic equipment, the type of which is often unavailable in western Africa where the disease is especially prevalent.

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CDC announces smartphone coaching app for Ebola workers

CGN                                                    April 17, 2015

(Scroll down for underlying press release.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a free smartphone application that provides intuitive coaching on CDC's guidelines for proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent transmission of Ebola.

Powered by 22otters, a mobile patient engagement platform, CDC's PPE app is an animated, speech-enabled, step-by-step mobile coaching tool to help healthcare workers access easy-to-follow directions for putting on and removing PPE and respirators in accordance with CDC guidelines to prevent transmission of Ebola. Following the initial Ebola app release, 22otters will release a variant of the app allowing training progress tracking and content modules customized for providers.

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