Ebola-hit nations pledge to eradicate virus in 60 days

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE-- by Mouctar Bah                                   Feb. 15, 2015                    

Conakry  - The leaders of the countries devastated by the west African Ebola outbreak vowed at a summit in Guinea on Sunday to eradicate the virus by mid-April.

A Guinea's health worker wearing protective suit holds masks at an Ebola Donka treatment centre in Conakry on December 8, 2014 (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani)

Guinea's President Alpha Conde and his Liberian and Sierra Leone counterparts Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma made the pledge after day-long closed talks in the Guinean capital Conakry.

Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc grouping the countries, said their presidents "commit to achieving zero Ebola infections within 60 days, effective today".

The summit came with infections having dropped rapidly across the countries, although the World Health Organization says Guinea and Sierra Leone remain a huge concern as both have seen a recent spike in new confirmed cases.

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WHO May Lose Credibility After Ebola

Agency seeks a new model after flaws revealed by Ebola crisis.

COMMENTARY MEDPAGE TODAY by Michael Smith            Feb. 15, 2015 

As the Ebola epidemic drags on, the World Health Organization is in danger of losing its credibility as a bulwark against infectious disease.

The West African epidemic is a "mega-crisis (that) overwhelmed the capacity of WHO," according to Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, speaking to reporters in late January.

To prevent a similar crisis in the future, Chan has proposed a package of reforms, including a large contingency fund for emergencies, an increase in the number of trained people able to deploy quickly to a crisis site, and structural changes to streamline the famously unwieldy organization.

Whether those get anywhere is the vital question, according to Lawrence Gostin, JD, of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Washington's Georgetown University.

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Human trial of 4th Ebola vaccine launches in Australia

CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND POLICY by  Lisa Schnirring                                                      Feb. 13, 2015

Novavax yesterday announced the launch of the first human trial of its recombinant Ebola vaccine, which will make it the fourth candidate vaccine to be tested in phase 1 trials.

Novavax's product is a glycoprotein recombinant nanoparticle vaccine adjuvanted with Matrix M (Ebola GP) to boost immune response. Conducted in Australia, the study will test the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, with and without the adjuvant, in 230 healthy adults ages 18 to 50. Subjects will be given two intramuscular injections 3 weeks apart....

Three other Ebola vaccines are in clinical trials. Phase 2 and 3 studies of the two vaccines that are furthest along in trials got under way in Liberia at the end of January. They include two vector virus vaccines, ChAd3, developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and VSV-EBOV, developed by the Canadian government and licensed by NewLink Genetics and Merck.

A phase 1 trial of a prime-boost Ebola vaccine regimen from Johnson & Johnson launched in early January in the United Kingdom.

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Ebola virus evolution tracked by genetic data

SCIENCE NEWS by Ashley Yaeger                               Feb. 14, 2015
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Genetic data are beginning to reveal how the Ebola virus causing the epidemic in Western Africa is evolving.

            LITTLE TWEAKS  A detailed look at genomes of the Ebola virus has pinpointed mutations that may make one type  of experimental therapy less effective. Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC

Scientists have deciphered the entire catalog of genetic data for 96 Ebola viruses taken from patients infected in 2014 during the first four months of the outbreak.

The results show that one particular clade, or type of the virus, is dominant among patients in Sierra Leone, suggesting that two other clades that dominated early on in the outbreak have died out.

This third clade appears to have evolved starting with a single mutation in the genetic catalog, or genome, of the virus, said Stephen Gire of Harvard University and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. He presented the preliminary findings February 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Sierra Leone Loses Track of Millions in Ebola Funds

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE                                                      Dec. 14, 2015

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — A report by Sierra Leone’s national auditor says government ministers lost track of more than $3 million in internal emergency funds to fight the Ebola virus, impairing the response to the disease.

There is no paperwork to support payments of 14 billion leones, or $3.3 million, from government Ebola accounts, while $2.5 million in disbursements had incomplete documentation, the country’s auditor general, Lara Taylor-Pearce, said in the report.

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Crowds attack Ebola facility, health workers in Guinea

REUTERS by Saliou Samb                                                                   Feb. 14, 2014     

CONAKRY  - Crowds destroyed an Ebola facility and attacked health workers in central Guinea on rumors that the Red Cross was planning to disinfect a school, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

Red Cross teams in Guinea have been attacked on average 10 times a month over the past year, the organization said this week, warning that the violence was hampering efforts to contain the disease.

During the incident on Friday in the town of Faranah, around 400 km (250 miles) east of the capital Conakry, angry residents attacked an Ebola transit center and set ablaze a vehicle belonging to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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Ebola: UN health agency turns to foreign medical teams in last phase of combat against virus

UNITED NATIONS NEWS CENTRE                                      Feb. 13, 2015
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced Friday that it will huddle with medical teams from outside the Ebola-affected countries next week in Geneva to see how they can help in the last phases of the fight to bring the number of cases down to zero.
UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark washes her hands on arrival in Ebola-affected Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: UNDP/Dylan Lowthian

Earlier, UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark... met with a number community groups in Conakry, Guinea, where she stressed the vital importance of community advocacy in stopping the outbreak. Her mission will conclude with a visit to Sierra Leone early next week.

UNDP is working with the national authorities and local, regional and international partners, including the African Development Bank, the European Union and the World Bank, on an Ebola Recovery Assessment, and in support of national strategies, as part of its mandate to the lead the UN system in the Ebola-related recovery efforts.

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Obama uses war on Ebola to illustrate fight against non-conventional threats

WASHINGTON POST by Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson                             Feb. 13, 2015

WASHINGTON --If there is to be war, the fight against Ebola is President Obama’s type of war. The enemy fires no bullets and carries no bombs; it doesn’t use social media to recruit fighters and rally supporters. And the fighting can best be done by intelligent professionals who don’t try to kill people, but to save them.

On Wednesday, Obama celebrated the progress against the deadly virus since the administration launched a military and civilian effort in September. While the president emphasized it was too soon to declare “mission accomplished” — as President George W. Bush did about Iraq in 2003 — Obama said “we’re shifting our focus from fighting the epidemic to now extinguishing it.”

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As Ebola Virus Outbreak Slows, World Bank To Send $15M In Aid To Prevent Food Crises

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES  by Kathleen Caulderwood                                        Feb. 12., 2015

The worst Ebola outbreak in history is slowing down, but the affected countries are only beginning an economic struggle that could last for years.

Just as the U.S. recalled its troops from West Africa, the World Bank pledged millions of dollars in emergency aid to avoid a food crisis that could leave millions starving.      


“Agriculture is the lifeline of the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice president for Africa, said in a Thursday statement.

“By speeding supplies of urgently needed seeds of major food crops to communities in West Africa, we are jump starting recovery in rural areas and preventing the looming specter of hunger in the countries hardest hit by Ebola.”

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Use of Group Quarantine in Ebola Control — Nigeria, 2014

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

CDC                                                                                                                            Feb. 13, 2015

by Cheri Grigg, DVM1,2, Ndadilnasiya E. Waziri, DVM3, Adebola T. Olayinka, MD3, John F. Vertefeuille, PhD4

On July 20, 2014, the first known case of Ebola virus disease (Ebola) in Nigeria, in a traveler from Liberia  led to an outbreak that was successfully curtailed with infection control, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures coordinated through an incident management system.

During this outbreak, most contacts underwent home monitoring, which included instructions to stay home or to avoid crowded areas if staying home was not possible. However, for five contacts with high-risk exposures, group quarantine in an observation unit was preferred because the five had crowded home environments or occupations that could have resulted in a large number of community exposures if they developed Ebola.

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Doctors Who Treat Ebola Feel More Socially Isolated

LIVESCIENCE.COM   by Rachael Rettner                                                                         Feb. 13, 2015

Doctors who take care of very sick Ebola patients may feel socially isolated, but surprisingly, they may not feel more stressed than usual, a new study from Germany suggests.

Researchers surveyed 46 health care workers who treated Germany's first Ebola patient in August 2014, as well as 40 health care workers who worked in the same hospital but did not treat the Ebola patient.

The researchers who did the study hypothesized that the people who treated the Ebola patient would have more symptoms of psychological distress because they were working in a challenging environment that presented a risk that they could become infected with the deadly virus.

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Ebola in west Africa: learning the lessons

THE LANCET  by  Anna  Petherick  Volume 385, No. 9968, p591–592, 14 February 2015
The (West Africa) region has presented unforeseen challenges, and the three worst affected countries have put in place different response strategies. Anna Petherick reviews some of the lessons learned so far.

The early history of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in west Africa is a salutary statement about the lack of infectious disease surveillance capacity in one of the world's poorest regions....

Opportunities to contain the virus were lost soon after, largely because of a lack of trust between local communities and the officials and medical professionals trying to nip the epidemic in the bud.

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Sierra Leone locks down 700 homes after Ebola death

AFP                                                                                                                  Feb. 13, 2015

Freetown--  Sierra Leone placed hundreds of homes in the capital under Ebola quarantine on Friday, in a huge blow to its recovery less than a month after lifting travel restrictions.

Health workers put on protective equipment at an Ebola treatment centre on November 15, 2014 in Kenema, Sierra Leone (AFP Photo/Francisco Leong)

"Some 700 homes have been quarantined for 21 days in the tourism and fishing community of Aberdeen in the west of the capital Freetown, after the death of a fisherman who was later diagnosed Ebola positive," said Obi Sesay of the government's National Ebola Response Centre.

The west African nation of six million had seen almost 11,000 cases and 3,363 deaths during the epidemic which has raged in west Africa for more than a year.

This new struggle with the disease comes less than a month after President Ernest Bai Koroma pointed to a "steady downward trend" in new cases and lifted country-wide quarantines and travel bans....

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As Ebola ebbs, Sierra Leone targets another kind of recovery: normalcy

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR by Silas Gbandia               Feb. 13, 2015
...with a sharp drop in new Ebola cases, Sierra Leone has announced that schools will reopen on March 30, and focus has now turned toward the recovery process for children whose education has been set back at least half a year. The implementation of the government's new plan – which includes paying for school fees and continuous assessments – will be a key indicator of how well the country can rebound after Ebola.

 “We are now entering the transition phase. Given the progress being made against the disease, we must take action to enable economic and social recovery,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a television address to the nation last month...

...a full plan to reintegrate the students nationwide is being implemented, says Mohammed Sillah Sesay, chairman of the Technical Committee on the Reopening of Schools. The plan includes 25 uninterrupted weeks of school until September, continuous assessment of students to verify promotion to the next level, and more broadcasts of teaching material on radio airwaves. The normal school year starts in September and ends in July.
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Ebola spending: will lack of a positive legacy turn dollars to dolour?

Millions were invested in west Africa to tackle the Ebola crisis, but some experts doubt there will be any lasting benefits for public health systems


LONDON -- While it is still too early to call time on the Ebola outbreak, a sense that the worst may have passed is tentatively taking root in west Africa, alongside an acute realisation of the need to ensure a positive long-term legacy for battered healthcare systems.

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