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Situation Report

Ebola total tops 18,000, with hints of slowing in Sierra Leone

CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY   by Lisa Schnirring                                   Dec. 17, 2014
Sierra Leone's rising Ebola activity seems to be slowing as a major effort to knock down the disease gets under way; disease incidence is still fluctuating in Guinea and cases continue to decline in Liberia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its latest update.

The global Ebola total as of Dec 14 has reached 18,603 cases, along with 6,915 reported deaths, the WHO said. Numbers reflect an increase of 661 infections and 527 deaths since the last report Dec 10. Sierra Leone, with 327 new cases, accounted for more than half the increase, while Guinea reported 76 more. Liberia reported eight new confirmed cases, but its total includes only those reported as of Dec 9.

The WHO said progress is occurring in all three of the hardest-hit countries toward the United Nations' goal of isolating and treating 100% of Ebola patients and safely burying 100% of those who die from the disease by Jan 1. All countries now have enough treatment beds, though some are unevenly distributed, resulting in shortages in some areas, the WHO said.

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Ebola leaves hundreds of thousands facing hunger in three worst-hit countries

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)                                                            Dec. 17, 2014

The number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production, two UN agencies warned today.

The disease's impact is potentially devastating in the three countries already coping with chronic food insecurity, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in three country reports published today.

Border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people's access to food, threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates, the FAO-WFP reports stressed.

Read complete report.

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African Union Jets in 101 Ethiopian Medics to Fight Ebola in Sierra Leone

ETHIOSPORTS  by Raphael Simon                                                                 Dec. 18, 2014    
Freetown, Sierra Leone: - The Africa Union has aided Sierra Leone with 101 Ethiopian Medical personnel in the fight against Ebola. The medical team comprised Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, Epidemiologists, Public Health Officers, and Information and Communication Specialists...

Welcoming the Medical team on arrival at the Freetown International Airport, Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister I, Mr. Foday Sawi Lahai, on behalf of the Ministry, the government and people of Sierra Leone, expressed gratitude and appreciation over the visit, describing the Medical team as brave men and women of Africa.

...He said with support from development partners structures have been put in place to eradicate the disease, but the biggest problem facing Sierra Leone is human resource capacity, adding that their coming is timely and significant.

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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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11th Sierra Leonean Doctor Dies From Ebola

ASSOCIATED PRESS by Clarence Roy-Macaulay                                                 Dec. 18, 2014

 ...Dr. Victor Willoughby tested positive for Ebola on Saturday and was being treated at a clinic near the capital run by the medical charity Emergency, said Dr. Brima Kargbo, the country's chief medical officer....

The 67-year-old died Thursday morning, just hours after an experimental drug arrived in the country for him. The arrival of ZMAb, developed in Canada, had raised hopes for Willoughby's survival. But he died before a dose could be administered, said Kargbo. ZMAb is related to ZMapp, another experimental drug that has been used to treat some Ebola patients. The drugs' efficacy in treating Ebola has not yet been proven....

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Lessons From an Outbreak: How Ebola Shaped 2014

Interviews with experts on what to take away from the devastation of the disease.

THE ATLANTIC   by Julie Beck                                                                                                 Dec. 17, 2014

...While some in the Western media criticized West Africans' fear of health workers and resistance to public-health measures, the United States got a small taste of Ebola panic when Thomas Eric Duncan became the first case diagnosed in the country in September, followed by three other cases this fall. Duncan was the only patient to die in the U.S., and the panic died down quietly.

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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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Challenges in Responding to the Ebola Epidemic — Four Rural Counties, Liberia, August–November 2014


                CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)                                                                   

 by Aimee Summers, PhD1,2, Tolbert G. Nyenswah, MPH 3, Joel M. Montgomery, PhD2,4, John Neatherlin, MPH2,4,       Jordan W. Tappero, MD                                                                                                              Dec. 16, 2014

...The Ebola epidemic in Liberia presents unique challenges not only from its spread into crowded urban environments (10) but also its occurrence in remote communities. As in urban counties, county and district health teams in rural counties with remote regions need adequate training in 1) case reporting; 2) case investigation; 3) case management; 4) contact tracing; 5) safe burials; 6) safe collection, processing, and transport of blood specimens for testing; and 7) development of a county-level incident management system.

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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 outbreak: Sierra Leone announces house-to-house searches

BBC                                                                                                                         Dec. 17, 2014

Sierra Leone is due to mount house-to-house searches in the capital Freetown to find hidden cases of Ebola.

President Ernest Bai Koroma also said that Sunday trading would be banned and travel between districts restricted.

The measures come after the authorities banned all public celebrations of Christmas and New Year in a bit to tackle the virus...

In his statement, President Koroma said the searches aimed to "break the chain of transmission", the AFP news agency reported.

He added: "Do not hide the sick".

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