We open today’s coverage of stories about people, place, and their interaction with a much-needed report on an aspect of the Ebola crisis that’s received far too little notice.
From Democracy Now!:
“A Reflection of Growing Inequality”: Dr. Paul Farmer on the Deadly Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
As the death toll from the West African Ebola outbreak nears 1,400, two American missionaries who received experimental drugs and top-notch healthcare have been released from the hospital. We spend the hour with Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer discussing what can be done to stop the epidemic and the need to build local healthcare capacity, not just an emergency response. “The Ebola outbreak, which is the largest in history that we know about, is merely a reflection of the public health crisis in Africa and it’s about the lack of staff, stuff and systems that could protect populations, particularly those living in poverty, from outbreaks like this or other public health threats,” says Farmer, who has devoted his life to improving the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. He is a professor at Harvard Medical School and currently serves as the special advisor to the United Nations on community-based medicine. He has written several books including, “Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.”
A longer version of the interview is posted online here.
Closer to Casa esnl, some good news, via the San Francisco Chronicle:
Sacramento Ebola test comes back negative
Health officials announced Thursday night that a patient in Sacramento who was thought to have been exposed to the Ebola virus after traveling to West Africa has tested negative and does not have the disease.
Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of the California Department of Public Health, said that a blood sample sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back free of the deadly virus, which has been ravishing West Africa over the last two months, killing more than 1,100 people.
The patient had recently traveled to the region, officials said.
Followed immediately by more bad news, first via BBC News:
Ebola crisis: Speed and extent of outbreak ‘unprecedented’
The World Health Organization has said the speed and extent of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is “unprecedented”.
The WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda expressed concern over so-called “shadow zones”, areas which cannot be reached and where patients are not being detected.
Speaking at a news conference in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Dr Fukuda said combating the disease would take “several months of hard work”.
“We haven’t seen an Ebola outbreak covering towns, rural areas so quickly and over such a wide area,” he added.
CBC News has the numbers:
Ebola epidemic’s death toll rises to 1,427
- Ebola ‘road map’ in the works to fight outbreak for 6 to 9 months, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib says
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has led to 1,427 deaths out of 2,615 known cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
In its latest update, the WHO reported 142 new laboratory-confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola and 77 more deaths from four affected countries — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Al Jazeera America adds another caution:
Ebola virus may not be contained in Nigeria as two more cases emerge
- The development comes as African nations have tightened travel restrictions against WHO’s advice
Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Friday.
The two are spouses of a man and woman who had direct contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, who flew into Nigeria last month with the virus and infected 11 others before he died in July, including the male and female caregiver who both subsequently died of Ebola, Chukwu told reporters in Abuja, the capital.
Nigerian officials initially claimed the risk of exposure to others was minimal because Sawyer was whisked into isolation after arriving at the airport. But Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris later acknowledged that Sawyer was not immediately quarantined the first day.
More from Reuters:
WHO warns of ‘shadow zones’, hidden cases in Ebola outbreak
The scale of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak has been concealed by families hiding infected loved ones in their homes and the existence of “shadow zones” that medics cannot enter, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
The U.N. agency issued a statement detailing why the outbreak in West Africa had been underestimated, following criticism that it had moved too slowly to contain the killer virus, now spreading out of control.
Independent experts raised similar concerns a month ago that the contagion could be worse than reported because suspicious local inhabitants are chasing away health workers and shunning treatment.
Under-reporting of cases is a problem especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The WHO said it was now working with Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce “more realistic estimates”.
The Guardian covers a consequence:
Ebola has caused Liberia’s cauldron of dissatisfaction to boil over
- Relations between the Liberian state and its citizens were already in crisis before the Ebola outbreak made things much worse
“We dodged bullets during the war, now Ebola is going to kill us?” my aunt asked me in distress one evening in mid-July, as we sat commiserating at my house on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
Back then, Ebola seemed like a looming threat in the way that armed conflict had 15 years earlier. But by the end of the month, the Liberian government had declared a state of emergency and, days later, the World Health Organisation designated the Ebola outbreak in west Africa an international health emergency. Ebola has now killed more than 1,000 people, with the number of deaths in Liberia surpassing those in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Yet before the highly infectious disease permeated Liberia’s borders from neighbouring Guinea in March, the country was plagued by a crisis of citizenship. Relations between the Liberian state and its citizens were already volatile.
The Guardian covers First World fear:
Fear and false alarms as Ebola puts Europe on alert
- After the death of a Spanish missionary who contracted the virus in Liberia, European authorities are taking no chances
There has been only one confirmed Ebola case in Europe since the epidemic broke out in Africa, but a string of false alarms has provoked jitters and charges of overreaction.
From Austria to Ireland, Spain to Germany, there have been at least a dozen cases of west Africans with mild flu symptoms being isolated until it was established that they were not suffering from Ebola. The only recorded case involved a Spanish missionary who contracted the virus in Liberia and died after he had returned to Spain.
In Spain, worries over Ebola have resulted in three false alarms in as many days.
From TheLocal.fr, airborne alarm:
Ebola: Cabin crew told to boycott Air France flights
Pressure mounted on Air France to suspend flights to West Africa on Friday when a trade union called on cabin crew to refuse to board planes to Ebola hit countries. It comes after panic spread through a Paris flight earlier this week.
A trade union representing Air France cabin crew has told its members to refuse to board planes bound for West African countries hit by Ebola.
The UGICT –CGT union said crew were not sufficiently protected against contamination from Ebola and they should boycott flights bound to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
TheLocal.it covers another alarm:
Italian woman in suspected Ebola case
An Italian woman travelling from Nigeria on Friday was stopped at Istanbul airport in a suspected Ebola case, Turkish media reported.
The Italian woman had a high fever and was put under medical supervision on arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Cihan news agency reported.
She had travelled on a Turkish Airlines flight from Kano in Nigeria, where there have been 12 confirmed cases and four deaths of the Ebola virus.
The woman was taken from the airport to Istanbul’s Haseki Training and Research Hospital, Cihan said.
BBC News covers another consequence:
Ebola crisis: Senegal defends Guinea border closure
Senegal has defended the closure of its border with Guinea because of the Ebola outbreak, despite warnings that such measures are counterproductive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says travel bans do not work.
Senegal’s Health Minister Dr Eva Marie Colle Seck told the BBC the travel ban would not affect humanitarian flights, and that the WHO was “learning, like everybody [else]”.
In Liberia, a boy of 16 shot while protesting about a quarantine has died.
CBC News gets proactive:
Ebola treatment of Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol holds lessons for others
- Replace fluid and electroytes, U.S. doctor advices colleagues treating Ebola patients in Africa
Two Americans who recovered from Ebola virus infections are contributing to doctors’ understanding of the deadly disease, a physician who treated them says.
Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia while working for Christian aid groups.
They were evacuated from Liberia, treated for three weeks at a hospital in Atlanta and discharged this week.
And The Hill reassures:
FDA seeks to dispel Ebola outbreak fears
The Food and Drug Administration has posted a Web page with quick facts about the Ebola virus and the outbreak in West Africa in order to fight misconceptions about the disease permeating the general public.
“Currently, there are no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola,” the FDA says on its page. “Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.”
The FDA plans to update the page with its ongoing assessments of the disease and has provided information for the public to report fake Ebola drugs and vaccines, which have been a major concern for the agency.
While health officials have repeatedly said there is virtually no risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., 4 in 10 people are concerned there will be a large outbreak, and a quarter of people are worried they or a loved one will be infected within the next year according to a new survey by Harvard University.
And that old metadata surfaces anew in another context, via MIT Technology Review:
Cell-Phone Data Might Help Predict Ebola’s Spread
- Mobility data from an African mobile-phone carrier could help researchers recommend where to focus health-care efforts
A West African mobile carrier has given researchers access to data gleaned from cell phones in Senegal, providing a window into regional population movements that could help predict the spread of Ebola. The current outbreak is so far known to have killed at least 1,350 people, mainly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
The model created using the data is not meant to lead to travel restrictions, but rather to offer clues about where to focus preventive measures and health care. Indeed, efforts to restrict people’s movements, such as Senegal’s decision to close its border with Guinea this week, remain extremely controversial.
Orange Telecom made “an exceptional authorization in support of Ebola control efforts,” according to Flowminder, the Swedish nonprofit that analyzed the data. “If there are outbreaks in other countries, this might tell what places connected to the outbreak location might be at increased risk of new outbreaks,” says Linus Bengtsson, a medical doctor and cofounder of Flowminder, which builds models of population movements using cell-phone data and other sources.
Meanwhile, the London Daily Mail evokes another specter:
Will climate change cause a rise in dengue fever? Holidaymakers visiting Italy and Spain could be at risk
- Risk of dengue fever in Europe is likely to increase, researchers claim
- Dengue is a viral infection carried and spread by mosquitoes
- Thrive in warm, humid conditions, which could include areas in Europe
- This is dependent on climate change continuing on its current trajectory
- Italy’s Po Valley and areas in southern Spain are at risk
- University of East Anglia’s research is based on data collected in Mexico
On to other environmental news, first with an Al Jazeera America story that evokes concerns raised by Paul Farmer much closer to home:
Alabama community alleges race bias over toxic landfill site
- Coal ash from earlier environmental disaster is causing health concerns for poor African-American residents
Five-and-a-half years have passed since an earthen dam holding toxic coal ash from a coal plant failed in Harriman, Tenn., spilling more than a billion gallons of the ash into rivers and forests, and destroying several homes. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant disaster was widely considered one of the worst in U.S. history, or at least one of the biggest by volume. And it’s still causing headaches, hundreds of miles away.
Last week, Environmental Protection Agency investigators traveled to Uniontown, Ala., to interview residents and activists who say a local landfill that accepted much of the Tennessee coal ash is polluting air and water sources nearby, causing people who live in the area to become sick. The residents of the poor, predominantly black area say they are being unfairly burdened with the literal remnants of a disaster they had nothing to do with.
“The landfill is a hill, a mountain, and it’s scary,” said Esther Calhoun, a 51-year-old resident that has lived in Uniontown for most of her life. “Who wants to live in a place that might be bad for your health? But most of us are on a fixed income. We’re stuck here.”
After the jump, endangered species under threat from palm oil logging, claims of plankton alive in space, fire ants invade Hawaii, too much gas in North Dakota, mine fires in Pennsylvania, and the latest chapter of the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading