WHO approves breakthrough 15-minute Ebola test

REUTERS    by Tom Miles                             FeB. 20, 2015
GENEVA --The World Health Organization has approved the first rapid test for Ebola in a potential breakthrough for ending an epidemic that has killed almost 10,000 people in West Africa, it said on Friday.

The test, developed by U.S. firm Corgenix Medical Corp, is less accurate than the standard test but is easy to perform, does not require electricity, and can give results within 15 minutes, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

"It's a first rapid test. It's definitely a breakthrough," he said.

The standard laboratory test has a turnaround time of 12-24 hours. While the Corgenix test is not failsafe, it could quickly identify patients who need quarantine and make it much easier to verify rapidly any new outbreaks.

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Ebola Transmission Through Cough Possible, But Not Likely: Experts

HEALTHDAY NEWS   by Dennis Thompson                                                                 Feb. 19, 2015

The cough of very sick Ebola patients could be as dangerous as their vomit or diarrhea to those around them, a new report suggests.

However, the same experts also cautioned that this does not mean that the deadly virus could spread quickly through the air, as illnesses like measles or flu do.

The report "shouldn't be something that alarms the public into believing that Ebola could become airborne in the way that measles is," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Health Security.

"This paper doesn't say that," said Adalja, who was not involved in the study.

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CDC Ready to Vaccinate 6,000 Against Ebola in Sierra Leone

NBC NEWS by Maggie Fox                                                                             Feb. 19, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping prepare for a new Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone, the country that's now the worst hit by the Ebola epidemic.

The CDC will work with Sierra Leonean authorities to vaccinate up to 6,000 health care workers, including doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers, against a virus that's infected more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone alone, killing 3,400 of them.

This trial will test just one of the Ebola vaccines in development - one designed by U.S. and Canadian government researchers with a company called New Link Genetics and licensed to Merck. It uses an animal virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) to carry tiny pieces of the Ebola virus to help train the immune system to recognize it.

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Unsafe burials increase in Ebola-hit countries: WHO

AFP                                                                                                    Feb. 19, 2015

Geneva - Ebola-hit Sierre Leone and Guinea saw an increase in the last week in unsafe burials that risk spreading the disease, the World Health Organization reported.

A specialized team bury the body of an Ebola victim in Mananeh, Sierra Leone on October 6, 2014 (AFP Photo/Florian Plaucheur)

In Guinea, there were 39 unsafe burials and in Sierre Leone, there were 45 reported in the week to February 15, WHO said in a report late Wednesday.

WHO also warned that more than 40 new confirmed Ebola cases in the two countries had been identified only after the infected people had died in their communities, and not in treatment facilities.

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3 pitfalls Ebola recovery must avoid

DEVEX   by Molly Anders                                                                                         Feb. 19, 2015

...While the Ebola crisis is far from over, officials in government and the international development community have begun to think more the medium and long term. What can they learn from past post-crisis recovery initiatives?

 Health worker Alivin Davis poses next to the a board featuring handprints of Ebola survivors in Liberia. Photo by: Neil Brandvold / USAID / CC BY-NC

Devex asked aid officials and government officials from the region how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls that can plague — haunt, even — recovery and reconstruction efforts. Here are three of them.

1. Quality over quantity.

....By not paying closer attention to the economic effects of foreign aid on the local market, humanitarian groups hurt livelihoods and slowed reconstruction in the country.

2. Prioritize local ownership....

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Dr. David Nabarro - Ebola - UN General Assembly - Feb. 18, 2015

18 Feb 2015 - Statement by Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Ebola at the informal meeting of the plenary of the General Assembly on the latest developments concerning the Ebola epidemic.



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UN Ebola Chief Says Community Action Key to Ending Ebola

ASSOCIATED PRESS  by EDITH M. LEDERER                     Feb. 18, 2015

UNITED NATIONS -- The goal set by the presidents of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea of reducing the number of new cases of the deadly disease to zero by April 15 can be reached — but only if local communities stop unsafe burials and healing practices that involve human contact, the U.N. Ebola chief said Wednesday.

Dr. David Nabarro told the U.N. General Assembly that there are now 10 times fewer people diagnosed with Ebola each week than there were last September. But he said preventing the final 10 percent of infections — about 120 to 130 new cases per week — is probably going to be the hardest because it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who heads the the U.N. Ebola mission in West Africa SAID ...."denial, distrust and a lack of understanding (of Ebola) continue to create resistance in certain pockets and lead to dangerous practices that probably promote further outbreaks."

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Sierra Leone hunts infected as Ebola crisis hits 'turning point'

AFP    by  Rod Mac Johnson                                        Feb. 18, 2015

Freetown - Sierra Leone launched a door-to-door search Wednesday for "hidden" Ebola patients as the head of the United Nations announced the world was at "a critical turning point" in the crisis.

People walking past a billboard with a message about ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on November 7, 2014 (AFP Photo/Francisco Leong)

Dozens of healthcare workers fanned out across remote parts of Port Loko district, east of the capital Freetown, after a spike in cases attributed to unsafe burials and patients being hidden from the authorities...

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the UN General Assembly in New York that proactive leadership by the presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea was behind the retreat of the epidemic.

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Rapid Detection and Response Are Essential to Stopping Ebola

THE HUFFINGTON POST  by, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)                                                                                                                              Feb. 18, 2015

 The recent drop in Ebola cases in Liberia is welcome. Many factors are contributing to this decline, including the adoption of safe burials and the emphasis on quickly getting patients into Ebola treatment units or community care centers and community initiatives to isolate and care for patients and track contacts.



One promising development has been Liberia's creation of RITE teams (short for Rapid Isolation and Treatment of Ebola). These teams are slowing the epidemic, and CDC is working closely with governments and partners in Guinea and Sierra Leone to adopt similar rapid response strategies....

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Doctor's notes: Ebola survivor sees faith, teamwork create a medical success

CNN             by Rick Sacra, MD                                                                                               Feb. 18, 2015

Editor's note: Dr. Rick Sacra is an American Ebola survivor and doctor who works with SIM, a Christian missionary nonprofit that has been bringing medical help to the people of Africa. His home base is the ELWA Hospital in Liberia. He agreed to keep a journal and share it exclusively with CNN to provide a glimpse into life in the heart of what has been the Ebola zone.

The following is his report.

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FAO unveils Guinea project for Ebola prevention, rural recovery

CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY by Lisa Schnirring                                Feb. 17, 2015

 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced a new $5 million initiative for rural parts of Guinea that pairs Ebola prevention messages with help for farmers whose livelihoods and food supply have been hurt by the epidemic.   (Scroll down for three additional links.)

... the FAO said the agreement also involves the World Bank and Guinea's government. Unlike in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ebola activity in Guinea has seen multiple dips and spikes, and community resistance incidents have continued to stall response progress there, especially in rural areas.

In related developments, the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) detailed more social mobilization activities planned for the region in parts of Liberia's Montserrado County and in Marbigi County, where cases were recently detected.

Social sensitization projects through the media have targeted several problem areas in Guinea, and recent activities there and in Liberia and Sierra Leone involve religious leaders in promoting safe burials and dispelling myths about Ebola.

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Climate Change Will Cause More Infectious Diseases

submitted by George Hurlburt

CLICK HERE - STUDY - Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease


zmescience.com - by Mihai Andrei - February 17, 2015

A new study has found that as the climate continues to warm, we will be dealing with more infectious and parasitic diseases. Ultimately, we’ll have to face numerouse separate epidemics caused by climate change, researchers say.

It seems like with climate change, it’s more an issue of what gets us first – will it be the drought, the rising sea levels or… the diseases?


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Mapping the Zoonotic Niche of Ebola Virus Disease in Africa

submitted by Stephen Morse

elifesciences.org - September 8, 2014 - eLife 2014;3:e04395
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.04395

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a complex zoonosis that is highly virulent in humans. The largest recorded outbreak of EVD is ongoing in West Africa, outside of its previously reported and predicted niche. We assembled location data on all recorded zoonotic transmission to humans and Ebola virus infection in bats and primates (1976–2014). Using species distribution models, these occurrence data were paired with environmental covariates to predict a zoonotic transmission niche covering 22 countries across Central and West Africa. Vegetation, elevation, temperature, evapotranspiration, and suspected reservoir bat distributions define this relationship. At-risk areas are inhabited by 22 million people; however, the rarity of human outbreaks emphasises the very low probability of transmission to humans. Increasing population sizes and international connectivity by air since the first detection of EVD in 1976 suggest that the dynamics of human-to-human secondary transmission in contemporary outbreaks will be very different to those of the past.

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How to Detect Infectious Diseases Like Ebola Faster

New tools aim to deliver quicker test results—and prevent disease from spreading

(Two stories, scroll down.)

 WALL STREET JOURNAL by Betsy Mckay                           Feb. 17, 2015

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Researchers face big hurdles in testing Ebola vaccines

USA TODAY  by Liz Sazbo                                                                                  Feb. 17, 2015
The unpredictable Ebola outbreak in West Africa is thwarting health officials' best efforts both to contain the epidemic, as well as test new treatments and vaccines.

Biologist Olivier Mbaya works with serum samples from healthy volunteer participants in a European study of an experimental Ebola vaccine,, at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo: Cliff Owen, AP)

The number of new Ebola cases has risen sharply in the West African nation of Guinea, for example, even as researchers wonder if there will be enough patients in neighboring Liberia to test experimental vaccines.

Just a few weeks ago, the number of new Ebola cases was falling in all three West African countries....

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