HHS selects nine regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers

New network expands US ability to respond to outbreaks of severe, highly infectious diseases


WASHINGTON -- To further strengthen the nation’s infectious disease response capability, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has selected nine health departments and associated partner hospitals to become special regional treatment centers for patients with Ebola or other severe, highly infectious diseases.

HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has awarded approximately $20 million through its Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) to enhance the regional treatment centers’ capabilities to care for patients with Ebola or other highly infectious diseases. ASPR will provide an additional $9 million to these recipients in the subsequent four years to sustain their readiness...

The nine awardees and their partner hospitals are:

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As Ebola Crisis Wanes, a Mixed Picture of Economic Recovery for Households in Sierra Leone

THE WORLD BANK                                                                       June 15, 2015

WASHINGTON—Employment in Sierra Leone has returned to pre-crisis levels, though earnings and hours worked still lag behind. This is according to respondents in the latest round of high-frequency mobile-phone surveys, led by Statistics Sierra Leone with support from the World Bank Group, assessing how Ebola is impacting people’s livelihoods.

The survey contacted a sample of 1,715 households during May, 2015, which represents 41 percent of the 4,199 households covered in the baseline, nationally-representative Labor Force Survey conducted in July and August 2014.

 “Sierra Leone is working tirelessly to get to zero cases of Ebola,” said Francis Ato Brown, World Bank Group Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “Our job has to be not only to support the country in eradicating Ebola, but also to look toward economic recovery and toward mitigating the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of the crisis on the social and economic wellbeing of all Sierra Leoneans.

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Health Authorities Repeating Mistakes in Ebola Fight: MSF


A Sierra Leonean doctor practises wearing protective clothing in the Ebola Training Academy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 16, 2014.  Reuters/Baz Ratner

AFP - June 13, 2015

Dakar (AFP) - Health authorities are repeating the mistakes of the past in combatting Ebola, more than a year after its onset in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the international president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned.

Joanne Liu's remarks on Saturday come a day after Sierra Leone imposed a three-week daytime curfew in the last Ebola-hit areas in a bid to curb a resurgence of the deadly virus, which has killed about 3,900 people in the country.

Neighbouring Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but hopes that Sierra Leone and Guinea would quickly follow suit have been dashed in recent weeks.

"We are still making the same mistakes as we did in the past," said Liu.


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Favipiravir—a prophylactic treatment for Ebola contacts?

THE LANCET byMichel Van Herp, Hilde Declerck and Tom Decroo June 13, 2015

.. the efficacy of candidate Ebola vaccines for primary prevention has not been proven.2 Furthermore, in communities in which Ebola transmission might be ongoing, an important question is: how will such a vaccination be perceived if a vaccinated person develops Ebola? Such a scenario is possible in people who contract Ebola virus before vaccination. If a person is infected with Ebola virus before vaccination, the vaccine might have a post-exposure prophylactic effect. However, how effective this prophylaxis might be is unknown.2 Moreover, if someone is infected more than 48 h before vaccination, the post-exposure prophylactic effect is likely to be insufficient, leading to possible development of Ebola after vaccination. This scenario is likely to result in serious issues relating to community trust and acceptance of an Ebola vaccine.3 How to exclude Ebola among people presenting with post-vaccination fever is also an issue.2

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The Conversion of Natural Wetlands to Agriculture Produces a Significant Increase of the Atmospheric Radiative Forcing


Automatic flux measurement chambers and an eddy covariance system to determine turbulent exchange fluxes of heat, water vapor, CO2, and CH4 between a re-wetted peatland and the atmosphere at Zarnekow, NE Germany.  D. Franz, GFZ.

reportingclimatescience.com - March 26, 2015

From the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam

Natural wetlands usually emit methane and sequester carbon dioxide. Anthropogenic impacts however, in particular the conversion of wetlands into cropland, result in a significant increase in CO2 emissions, which overcompensate potential decreases in methane emission, caused by the reduction of wetlands.

A large international research team now calculated that the conversion of arctic and boreal wetlands into agricultural land would result in an additional cumulative radiative forcing of about 0,1 mJ per square meter for the next 100 years. The conversion of temperate wetlands into agricultural land would even result in a cumulative radiative forcing of 0,15 mJ per square meter. Converting forested wetlands into managed forests also contributes to increased warming, albeit much less than the conversion of non-forested wetlands.

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WHO Says South Korean MERS Outbreak Large and Complex


who.int - reuters.com - Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel - June 12, 2015

SEOUL (Reuters) - A World Health Organization (WHO) team of experts said on Saturday South Korea's outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is "large and complex" and more cases should be anticipated.

The WHO has conducted a joint review with South Korean officials and experts of the country's response to the MERS outbreak which has infected 138 people and killed 14 of them since the first case was diagnosed on May 20.


WHO - Disease Outbreak News (DON) - Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Republic of Korea
June 12, 2015
Starting from 12 June 2015, Disease Outbreak News concerning MERS-CoV in the Republic of Korea will be published on a bi-weekly basis (on Tuesdays and Fridays).

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Google Launches Sidewalk Labs; Aims to Help Fix Cities


Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page speaks during the keynote presentation at Google I/O 2013 in San Francisco.(Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

Google (GOOG) is starting a new, independent urban innovation company called Sidewalk Labs that aims to improve cities, according to a post on Google+ by CEO Larry Page. The Street

usatoday.com - by Jessica Guynn - June 11, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Google, famous for its ambitious projects to build self-driving cars and high-altitude balloons that beam the Internet to earth, is now taking aim at fixing another major problem: city life.

The new initiative, called Sidewalk Labs, will use technology and innovation in an effort to improve urban life at a time when the U.S. population is gravitating to cities, according to Google CEO Larry Page.

Based in New York, it will be run by Dan Doctoroff, a former deputy mayor of New York City who will combine his experience in managing cities with funding from Google.


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The Case for Improved Diagnostic Tools to Control Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa and How to Get There

PLOS by Arlene C. Chua,Jane Cunningham,Francis Moussy, Mark D. Perkins,and Pierre Formenty      June 11 2015

 ...Since the identification of Ebola in Guinea in March 2013, rapid deployment of international mobile laboratories through WHO networks—Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) [2] and Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens Laboratory Network (EDPLN) [3]—has been vital to outbreak control operations. Deployable laboratories from multiple international organizations have been established near Ebola treatment centers (ETC) in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone....

However, several technical and social factors conspire to delay diagnosis, starting with weak surveillance systems and slow patient access to centralized ETCs. While the mean processing time is 5 hours (time difference from when samples are received in the laboratory to when they are tested), there is a marked difference in the time from when the samples are collected from suspected patients to the time they are received by the laboratory

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How close is the Ebola vaccine?

PUBLIC BROADCASTING CORP by Caleb Hellerman         June 11, 2015

The quest for an Ebola vaccine has been a journey filled with excruciating delays and mad dashes. The latest outbreak in West Africa caused governments and drug companies to jumpstart research that had languished back when the threat of Ebola wasn’t big enough to sustain a commercial market. (Prior to 2013, the virus had sickened fewer than 2,300 people in known history). Human safety trials of two vaccines began last summer — each being given to a small group of healthy volunteers. When no major side effects were apparent, health officials scrambled to launch larger tests in the countries that were most affected by Ebola.

A volunteer receives an Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone. Thousands of these voluntary immunizations have been tested so far in the West African nation. Photo by Cameron Hickey.

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Bethlehem's Orasure gets government contract to develop quick Ebola test

LEIGH VALLEYLIVE  by Tony Rodin                             June 12, 2015

BETHLAHEM, PENNSYLVANIA  --OraSure Technologies Inc., a Bethlehem company that pioneered a quick test for determining HIV infection, has received a more than $10 million multiphase government contract to do the same for Ebola diagnosis, the company said Friday morning.

The company has developed a prototype device "that appears to deliver analytical performance similar to laboratory PCR tests when evaluated on stored samples from infected patients," the company said.

The three-year contract begins with a $1.8 million commitment and can add $8.6 million for clinical and regulatory activities, the company said.

The Ebola test will utilize the same OraQuick technology used in the company's rapid HIV and hepatitis C test kits, the company said.

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A Chinese Ebola Drug Raises Hopes, and Rancor

NEW YORK TIMES   by Sheri Fink, MD                                                      June 12, 2015   

After a nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone was discharged Wednesday from a Rome hospital, a doctor there described the experimental treatments the patient had received as “absolutely miraculous.”

The lab at Beijing Mabworks, which developed the experimental drug, MIL77, used to treat Ebola. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

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Sheldon Whitehouse: Sue Fossil Fuel Companies For Climate Fraud

By Daniel Marans, 06/03/2015 4:16 pm EDT

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has a new plan to combat climate change: sue fossil fuel companies for fraud.

In a May 29 op-ed in The Washington Post, Whitehouse argued that the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to discredit climate science and attack environmentalists may constitute deliberate deception of the kind the tobacco industry perpetrated in previous decades. In 2006, a federal judge found the tobacco industry guilty of fraud in a civil lawsuit brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Cigarette companies' efforts to hide the health effects of tobacco consumption included lying about the findings of their own studies on smoking.

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International Ebola Recovery Conference Ending Ebola: “Get to Zero, Stay at Zero and Rebuild”

Congo Town, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP

Image: Congo Town, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP

africa.undp.org - May 9th, 2015

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host an International Ebola Recovery Conference in July to ensure that the affected countries receive the resources and support they need to overcome the wider socio-economic consequences of the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

The conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10 July 2015 will take place in cooperation with the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, together with other partners. 

With numbers of Ebola cases have dropped, the affected countries still need the support of the international community to get to zero cases, stay there, and to move forward on the road to recovery.


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Ebola Stigma Keeps Many From Work in Liberia

VOICE OF AMERICA — by Chris Stein and  Prince Collins  June 11, 2015

DAKAR and  MONROVIA --Burial teams undertook some of the most hazardous work in Liberia’s fight against Ebola. With the West African nation now getting relief from the virus, these men and women say societal stigma is keeping them from getting jobs....

Being unemployed is no small thing in Liberia, which was already recovering from nearly two decades of ruinous civil war before Ebola broke out in 2014.

About two-thirds of Liberians live in poverty, according to the World Bank. Sonny Fayon was unemployed when the outbreak started, he found work on a burial team, but now is out of a job again. Even though he never got sick, no one will hire him, he said.

“We’re not very vulnerable to the Ebola business. We’re well-protected, we wore protective clothing to do the job,” Fayon stated. “So they should accept us. I think we were very careful in doing the work.”
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How the Ebola outbreak has impacted Sierra Leone’s education

POLITICO by Joseph Lamin Kamara                                                               June 11, 2015

The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease has had enormous impacts on Sierra Leone’s education. Whether one views the country’s immediate pre-Ebola educational system as a failure or as a success, the outbreak has exacerbated that failure or posed a setback to the success. Nevertheless, education in the country has seen more challenges than successes.

Since late 1960s, Sierra Leone has seen several political instabilities which have eventually pretermitted much of the success the country made earlier in education. Coup d’états, scramble for diamonds and a long violent civil conflict are mostly responsible for the country’s descent from being the ‘Athens of West Africa’ to performing consistently abysmally in public examinations....

Problems relating to payment of teachers’ and lecturers’ salaries, shortage of teachers, infrastructural incapacities, among others, have also been at the heart of Sierra Leone’s educational problems.

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