Ebola's ability to survive in the environment poorly understood

MEDICAL NEWS TODAY                                   Dec. 11, 2014

The means by which Ebola virus transmits through direct contact with body fluids of infected individuals is well covered in scientific literature. But little is known about the life the virus has - if any - outside the body. For example, does Ebola remain active on glass surfaces and countertops? Does it persist in sewage and wastewater systems?

Such questions are rarely addressed in currently published literature, say engineers from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Drexel University, Philadelphia.

A team of engineers says scientific literature contains little information about how well Ebola survives outside the body. They call for research to investigate its persistence in the environment so correct guidance can be given on disinfection and waste handling.

They report their findings - or lack of them - and why it is important to find some answers, in a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters....

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Jail Threats for Sierra Leone Ebola Victims’ Families

THE DAILY BEAST by Abby Haglage                                                                              Dec. 10, 2014
...In effort to curb the surge in cases, the Sierra Leonean government has issued a stern—and somewhat chilling—threat to the families of Ebola victims: Get caught performing a typical burial ritual, or hiding the body of an Ebola victim, and you’ll go to jail. Eight days after missing the Dec. 1 deadline set by the World Health Organization, which predicted that containment would require 70 percent of victims to be in treatment by then, Sierra Leone has officially become the epidemic’s new ground zero....

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Ebola experts seek to expand testing

A major problem is that relatively few laboratories in West Africa have the necessary equipment and personnel to test blood samples from people thought to have Ebola (see ‘Delayed diagnoses’). But that could soon change. Experts are gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, on 12 December to work out which diagnostic tools could be used wherever Ebola strikes.

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Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone hit by largely hidden outbreak; WHO says scores of bodies piled up

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORP.                                                                            Dec. 10, 2014

Health officials in Sierra Leone fear a major Ebola outbreak may have gone largely unreported in a remote district where the World Health Organisation (WHO) says scores of bodies piled up in a hospital.

The WHO said on Wednesday that it had sent a response team to the diamond-rich Kono district following a worrying spike in reported Ebola cases in the district.

"They uncovered a grim scene," the UN health agency said in a statement.

"In 11 days, two teams buried 87 bodies, including a nurse, an ambulance driver, and a janitor drafted into removing bodies as they piled up."

Read full report.

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COMMENTARY: When the next shoe drops — Ebola crisis communication lessons from October

CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND POLICY                                                                   Dec. 9, 2014          
By  Peter M. Sandman, PhD, and Jody Lanard, MD  

In contrast to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which started in late 2013 and will last well into 2015 or longer, the US "Ebola crisis" was encapsulated in a single month, October 2014. But there may well be US Ebola cases to come, brought here by travelers or returning volunteers. And other emerging infectious diseases will surely reach the United States in the months and years ahead.

So now is a propitious time to harvest some crisis communication lessons from the brief US Ebola "crisis."

We're putting "crisis" in quotation marks because there was never an Ebola public health crisis in the United States, nor was there a significant threat of one. But there was a crisis of confidence, a period of several weeks during which many Americans came to see the official response to domestic Ebola as insufficiently cautious, competent, and candid—and therefore felt compelled to implement or demand additional responses of their own devising....

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Ebola outbreak: Virus still 'running ahead of us', says WHO

BBC    by Tulip Mazumdar                                                                                                    Dec. 10, 2014

The Ebola virus that has killed thousands in West Africa is still "running ahead" of efforts to contain it, the head of the World Health Organization has said.
Director general Margaret Chan said the situation had improved in some parts of the worst-affected countries, but she warned against complacency.

The risk to the world "is always there" while the outbreak continues, she said.

She said the WHO and the international community failed to act quickly enough....

"It is fair to say the whole world, including WHO, failed to see what was unfolding, what was going to happen in front of our eyes," said Dr Chan.

"Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, if you ask me now... we could have mounted a much more robust response."

Read complete story.

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Ebola funding in 'cromnibus' falls just short of Obama request

Senate and House lawmakers have agreed to appropriate $5.4 billion on Ebola treatment and prevention measures in the U.S. and West Africa.

The funding falls just short of the funding request issued by the president last month...

Nearly $2.5 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which plans to bolster the readiness of U.S. hospitals, speed up the development of vaccines and help monitor airline travelers from Ebola-stricken countries.

Another $2 billion would go to the U.S. Agency for International Development to “scale up” the global response. The State and Defense departments would each receive just over $100 million.

The House Rules Committee meets today  to comb through the bill, dubbed the “cromnibus,” before it goes to the House floor.

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Experts call for faster mobilisation of “overlooked” survivors to contain Ebola epidemic

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS                                                                                  Dec, 10, 2014

In an editorial published online today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, experts from the Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Columbia University, New York, are calling for survivors of the Ebola epidemic to be mobilised in a bid to hasten containment of the disease.

We already know that the current Ebola outbreak is unique in its magnitude and for its dispersion in dense, mobile populations. Physicians and nurses face high mortality, and foreign aid in the form of medical supplies and staff continues to be unequal to the scope of the problem. With a case recovery rate of around 30% at the present time in West Africa, survivors already number in the thousands.

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Time Magazine Person of the Year: the Ebola fighters


TIME MAGAZINE    by Nancy Gibbs                                                                                                      Dec. 10, 2014

They risked and persisted, sacrificed and saved. Editor Nancy Gibbs explains why the Ebola Fighters are TIME's choice for Person of the Year 2014

 Read complete story


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Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on Ebola

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia speaks via video on the international response to the Ebola crisis during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. (SAUL LOEB, AFP/Getty Images)

Update Liberian president warns that Ebola still threatens her nation

LOS ANGELES TIMES                                                                                                    Dec. 10, 2014

liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thanked the Obama administration Wednesday for its efforts in stemming the tide of the country’s Ebola outbreak, but warned that the disease was still a threat in her developing nation.

The American response, a combination of funding and military aid, helped galvanize other countries to join the fight against the epidemic in West Africa, she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over video link.

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Sierra Leone Area to Hold 2-Week Ebola 'Lockdown'

ASSOCIATED PRESS by CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY                                                    Dec. 10, 2014

FREETOWN--Authorities in an eastern district of Sierra Leone launched a two-week "lockdown" on Wednesday, hoping to halt the spread of Ebola after the area recorded seven confirmed cases in a day.

The lockdown will last until Dec. 23 in the diamond-rich Kono district in eastern Sierra Leone, said Emmanuel Lebbie, a local official.

The action is being taken after the district recorded seven confirmed cases on Tuesday. The decision was made by traditional rulers in the area including Paramount Chief Paul Jabbie Saquee of Tankoro Chiefdom, Lebbie said.

While people can move within the district, no one will be allowed to enter or leave, said Lebbie, who is the area's monitor for the Independent Media Commission.

Read complete story.

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WHO: malaria gains 'at risk' in Ebola-affected countries

MEDICAL NEWS TODAY                                                                                                 Dec. 9, 2014

LONDON --Thanks to increased disease control, global deaths to malaria have fallen dramatically, and the number of new cases is steadily declining, say the World Health Organization in a new report. Also, an increasing number of countries are moving toward eliminating the mosquito-borne disease altogether. But the UN agency warns these gains are fragile, and no more so than in countries worse-affected by the Ebola crisis.

A new report from the World Health Organization says the number of lives claimed by malaria worldwide fell by 47% between 2000 and 2013, and by 54% in Africa, where the vast majority of deaths occur.

The 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report says deaths to malaria worldwide fell by 47% between 2000 and 2013. In the WHO African Region, where 90% of deaths to malaria occur, the reduction is 54%.

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2014 National Health Security Preparedness Index Report released

NHSPI                                                                                                       Dec. 9, 2014

WASHINGTON-- The National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI) for 2014 provides updated information about how well individual states and the nation are preparing for public health and other emergencies.  It was released today at a meeting at Capitol Hill by a group of government and non-government public health specialists. They included Dr. Daniel Sosin, Deputy Director of the CDC's  Office of PubLic Health Preparedness and Respopnse, and Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, Director of the UPMC Center for Health Security.

More than 35 organizations were partners in preparing the index, which updated the initial 2013 report.

The NHSPI describes it's mission as "providing relevant actionable informtaion to help guide efforts to achieve a higher level of healh security preparedness."  The intended uses include "strengthening preparedness, informng decision makers, guiding quality improvement and advancing the science behind community resilience."

See Executive Summary and the national results.


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Ebola Airport Screening Finding Few Suspected Cases in US

MEDSCAPE MEDICAL NEWS by Larry Hand                                                                        Dec. 9, 2014

Airport exit screening in West Africa and entry screening in the United States have identified few persons potentially infected with Ebola virus, according to an article published online December 9 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


 Number of travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone who were screened for Ebola at US airports, by state and county of destination (October 11 - November 10, 2014). Source: CDC

Of 80,000 travelers who have departed from West Africa since Ebola-specific screening began, 1993 people have been screened on arrival at one of five US airports. Of those, 86 passengers were referred to the CDC public health officers; only seven have shown symptoms and been referred for evaluation. None eventually wound up with an Ebola diagnosis.

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Fear, hope mark life inside Ebola center in Sierra Leone: Witness

 REUTERS     by Benjamin Black, MD                                                              Dec. 9, 2014

A British doctor's first-hand description of the challenges of working in a MSF clinic in Sierra Leone
Read full account.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) health worker Benjamin Black is seen at an Ebola virus treatment centre in Bo December 9, 2014. credit: Reuters/Stringer


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