Category Archives: Cuba

EbolaWatch: Scares, pols, meds, Africa


And more.

We begin with a video report that lends credence to suspicions we’ve long harbored. From CCTV America:

Ebola outbreaks associated with deforestation

Program notes:

Experts have been trying to figure out what’s behind the recent rise in Ebola cases. Some have turned to nature, specifically the trees, for a possible answer. Some scientists argue that the shrinking size of forests could put people in closer contact with disease carrying wildlife and that possibility is causing global concerns. For more on the impact of global deforestation, CCTV America interviewed Susanne Breitkopf, the Senior Political Advisor for Greenpeace International.

And next to two notable and sad instances of Ebolaphobia, first from FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian paper doing an exceptional job of covering the crisis:

Georgia U. Cancels FPA Newsroom Chief’s McGill Lectures Over Ebola

The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia has rescinded the decision of the University’s journalism school Grady College to invite FrontPageAfrica newsroom editor Wade C. L. Williams for its McGill Lecture slated for October 22, 2014.

All was set for the trip as the college had already purchased a round trip plane ticket and made hotel reservations for the journalist’s visit when it was forced to cancel last minute to time because of fear she could get sick while visiting the US thereby exposing students to the deadly Ebola virus.

The McGill Lecture, which is free and open to the public is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and will be held October 22 at 4 p.m. in Room 250 of the Miller Learning Center but with a new speaker Antonio Mora, a prominent Hispanic journalist who is a two-time winner of the Peabody Award.

“I received a call from Georgia just days before my trip. A woman with a pleasant voice delicately told me that parents were panicking and the general public was against my coming to the university,” stated Williams in a blog post published days after the university reached the decision.

And the second incident, via the Star in Nairobi:

Parents in a British school threatens to pull children out over teachers trip to Kenya fearing Ebola

Parents from a British school have threatened to pull their children from school over a planned trip to Kenya by teachers for fear they will contract Ebola.

The Mirror reports that a 60-signature petition has been circulated at Berkeley Primary School in Crewe in Cheshire demanding that the two teachers planning the trip to Kenya for an exchange programme.

They want the teachers isolated for a three-week ebola incubation period.

But the alarm has baffled the school because Kenya is far away from the ebola danger zone of West Africa.

Now on to the gravely serious, first from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak could be ‘definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation’, warns Oxfam

Ebola is poised to become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned, with more troops, funding and medical aid urgently needed to tackle the outbreak.

In an “extremely rare” move, the charity is calling for military intervention to provide logistical support across West Africa.

It says the world has less than two months to counter the spread of the deadly virus, which means addressing a “crippling shortfall” in military personnel.

Oxfam said troops are now “desperately needed” to build treatment centres, provide flights and offer engineering and logistical support. While Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, it said countries which have failed to commit troops were “in danger of costing lives”.

Next, analysis from the Associated Press:

Mission Unaccomplished: Containing Ebola in Africa

Looking back, the mistakes are easy to see: Waiting too long, spending too little, relying on the wrong people, thinking small when they needed to think big. Many people, governments and agencies share the blame for failing to contain Ebola when it emerged in West Africa.

Now they share the herculean task of trying to end an epidemic that has sickened more than 9,000, killed more than 4,500, seeded cases in Europe and the United States, and is not even close to being controlled.

Many of the missteps are detailed in a draft of an internal World Health Organization report obtained by The Associated Press. It shows there was not one pivotal blunder that gave Ebola the upper hand, but a series of them that mounted.

Nearly every agency and government stumbled. Heavy criticism falls on the World Health Organization, where there was “a failure to see that conditions for explosive spread were present right at the start.”

WHO — the United Nations’ health agency — had some incompetent staff, let bureaucratic bungles delay people and money to fight the virus, and was hampered by budget cuts and the need to battle other diseases flaring around the world, the report says.

Al Jazeera English covers a reassessment:

WHO promises to review Ebola response

UN agency pledges to review its efforts to contain outbreak after internal document hints at its failings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has promised to undertake and publish a full review of its handling of the Ebola crisis after a leaked document appeared to show the UN agency had failed to do enough to contain the epidemic.

The WHO said in a statement on Saturday that it would not comment on an internal draft document obtained and released by the Associated Press news agency, in which the organisation blamed incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information for its allegedly slow and weak response to the outbreak that has reportedly killed more than 4,500 people since May.

“We cannot divert our limited resources from the urgent response to do a detailed analysis of the past response. That review will come, but only after this outbreak is over,” WHO said.

And the Associated Press covers te case that has Americans on edge:

Ebola lapses persisted for days at Dallas hospital

Just minutes after Thomas Eric Duncan arrived for a second time at the emergency room, the word is on his chart: “Ebola.” But despite all the warnings that the deadly virus could arrive unannounced at an American hospital, for days after the admission, his caregivers are vulnerable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to lapses by the hospital in those initial days. And Duncan’s medical records show heightened protective measures as his illness advanced. But either because of a lag in implementing those steps or because they were still insufficient, scores of hospital staffers were put at risk, according to the records.

The hospital’s protective protocol was “insufficient,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick of the University of Texas School of Public Health, who was part of the CDC team that investigated the first recorded Ebola outbreak in 1976. “The gear was inadequate. The procedures in the room were inadequate.”

While Defense One covers a regulatory disaster:

Dallas Hospital Had the Ebola Screening Machine That the Military Is Using in Africa

The military is using an Ebola screening machine that could have diagnosed the Ebola cases in Texas far faster, but government guidelines prevent hospitals from using it to actually screen for Ebola.

It’s a toaster-sized box called FilmArray, produced by a company called BioFire, a subsidiary of bioMérieux and it’s capable of detecting Ebola with a high degree of confidence — in under an hour.

Incredibly, it was present at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan walked through the door, complaining of fever and he had just come from Liberia. Duncan was sent home, but even still, FDA guidelines prohibited the hospital from using the machine to screen for Ebola.

While the Guardian covers desperate ass-covering:

Texas hospital mounts ‘#PresbyProud’ fightback as Ebola criticism mounts

  • Dallas hospital where nurses were infected engages PR firm
  • Union chief says: ‘There has been no leadership’

The hospital in Texas where two nurses became the first people to contract Ebola inside the US is mounting an aggressive public relations campaign to rescue its image, as nursing representatives call for its top executives to be held accountable for the crisis.

Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas hired Burson-Marsteller, a New York-based PR firm, to direct a fightback against sharp criticism it received after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was first sent home by the hospital, died there from Ebola.

It has since published slick video clips of smiling nurses praising their managers and hosted a brief “rally” of medics wielding pro-hospital placards outside the emergency room for television news cameras. Amid fears patients might stay away, the hospital has tried to flood social media with the hashtag “#PresbyProud” and issued rebuttals to allegations about its practices after nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson were infected while treating Duncan, who died on 8 October.

From the New York Times, politics as usual, with a desperate edge:

The Partisan Divide on Ebola Preparedness

After a second case of Ebola was discovered among the staff of a Dallas hospital that treated an infected patient, public concerns are likely to increase about whether the United States health care system can properly respond to an outbreak.

Data from surveys suggest, however, that those views — like so many others — are being shaped by people’s partisan affilations as much as by news about the outbreak itself.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post survey, only 54 percent of Republicans are confident in the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to Ebola — far fewer than the 76 percent of Democrats who expressed confidence. This finding represents a striking reversal from the partisan divide found in a question about a potential avian influenza outbreak in 2006, when a Republican, George W. Bush, was president. An ABC/Post poll taken at the time found that 72 percent of Republicans were confident in an effective federal response compared with only 52 percent of Democrats.

From the Washington Post, Obama urges:

Obama: ‘We can’t give in to hysteria or fear’ of Ebola

President Obama on Saturday sought to tamp down fears of an Ebola outbreak and defend his administration from Republican critics who have called for a more aggressive response to the disease, including sealing off U.S. borders to visitors from countries battling widespread outbreaks.

“We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world — if that were even possible — could actually make the situation worse.”

Such actions would make it harder for American health-care workers, soldiers and supplies to reach stricken areas, Obama said. It could also cause residents of countries in West Africa where Ebola is still spreading to try to evade screening on their way to the United States or Europe.

The president’s main message was one of calm, coming at a time of growing worry in communities throughout the country. “We can’t give in to hysteria or fear, because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said. “If we’re guided by science — the facts, not fear — then I am absolutely confident we can prevent a serious outbreak here in the United States.”

From the White House, here’s the address:

Weekly Address: What You Need to Know About Ebola

Program notes:

In this week’s address, the President discussed what the United States is doing to respond to Ebola, both here at home and abroad, and the key facts Americans need to know.

Making a list and checking more than twice, via the Associated Press:

More than 100 monitored for Ebola symptoms in Ohio

Health officials in Ohio are monitoring more than 100 people following the visit by a Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola shortly after returning to Texas from the Cleveland area.

Officials said Saturday that none of those being monitored are sick.

State officials previously said 16 people Amber Vinson had contact with were being monitored. Officials say the sharp increase is a result of the identification of airline passengers who flew with Vinson between Dallas and Cleveland and the identification of people who also visited the dress shop where her bridesmaids were trying on dresses.

Vinson’s stepfather is quarantined in his home in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge. That is where Vinson stayed during her visit. The stepfather is the only person in the state under such a restriction.

Golden State preparations from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Gov. Jerry Brown says state is working on Ebola safeguards

Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that the state is drawing up plans to protect nurses, other health care workers and the public from Ebola, saying California must avoid mistakes made in Texas in dealing with the disease.

The governor said he has met with public health officers and spoken with national nurses representatives to devise guidelines that hospitals must follow should an Ebola patient be diagnosed in California.

“We’ve got work to do,” Brown said in an interview with The Chronicle. “It’s a fast-moving story.”

He said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the state Department of Public Health, is heading up the effort, and that health officials will meet with Cal/OSHA on Tuesday to discuss “issues of workers’ safety.”

From the Miami Herald, preparations in another state:

CDC responds to Florida’s requests for help with potential Ebola outbreak

The federal Centers for Disease Control agreed Saturday to some — but not all — of Gov. Rick Scott’s Ebola-related requests.

The CDC will hold a conference call with Florida hospitals next week on best practices, Scott said Saturday. The organization has also given Florida the green light to spend about $7 million in federal grant funding on protective suits for health care workers.

“The CDC indicated that we will receive formal approval next week, but based on this preliminary approval, we have already begun using these funds to enhance our Ebola preparedness efforts,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor is still waiting on the CDC to contact passengers on a plane that stopped in Fort Lauderdale after carrying a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola.

He also has yet to receive 27 of the 30 Ebola testing kits he requested.

From the Associated Press another oversight failure:

Ebola monitoring inconsistent as virus spread

The inconsistent response by health officials in monitoring and limiting the movement of health workers has been one of the critical blunders in the Ebola outbreak. Friends and family who had contact with Duncan before he was hospitalized were confined to homes under armed guard, but nurses who handled his contagious bodily fluids were allowed to treat other patients, take mass transit and get on airplanes.

“I don’t think the directions provided to people at first were as clear as they needed to be, and there have been changes in the instructions given to people over time,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, a doctor who did his residency in Dallas.

Local health authorities have said repeatedly throughout the response that their guidance and direction can change.

“Please keep in mind the contact list is fluid, meaning people may fall off the list or new people may be added to the list depending on new information that could arise at any time on any given day,” said Dallas County health department spokeswoman Erikka Neroes on Friday when asked how many people are even being monitored.

From The Hill, a case where Republicans and businesses are on the outs:

Businesses quietly push back at Ebola travel ban

Businesses are pushing back against lawmakers’ calls to impose a ban on travelers from the three West Africa nations at the center of the Ebola epidemic.

Public opposition is coming from U.S. airlines, who have seen their stocks hit because of fears the Ebola scare will lead to a drop in travel.

Other business groups are quietly telling the White House to stand firm in opposing a ban.

They echo arguments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a ban would isolate Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, potentially making it tougher to slow the epidemic in those countries.

From the New York Times, the first of two stories of life in limbo:

Life in Quarantine for Ebola Exposure: 21 Days of Fear and Loathing

As the Ebola scare spreads from Texas to Ohio and beyond, the number of people who have locked themselves away — some under government orders, others voluntarily — has grown well beyond those who lived with and cared for Mr. Duncan before his death on Oct. 8. The discovery last week that two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here had caught the virus while treating Mr. Duncan extended concentric circles of fear to new sets of hospital workers and other contacts.

Officials in Texas said Thursday that nearly 100 health care workers would be asked to sign pledges not to use public transportation, go to public places or patronize shops and restaurants for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for Ebola. While not a mandate, the notices warn that violators “may be subject” to a state-ordered quarantine.

When officials revealed that one of the infected nurses had flown from Dallas to Cleveland and back before being hospitalized, nearly 300 fellow passengers and crew members faced decisions about whether to quarantine themselves. The next day, a lab technician who had begun a Caribbean cruise despite possible exposure was confined to a stateroom. Medical workers, missionaries and journalists returning from West Africa — especially from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Ebola is rampant — are also staying home.

Dr. Howard Markel, who teaches the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said the quarantines recalled the country’s distant epidemics of cholera, typhus and bubonic plague.

“Ebola is jerking us back to the 19th century,” he said. “It’s terrible. It’s isolating. It’s scary. You’re not connecting with other human beings, and you are fearful of a microbiologic time bomb ticking inside you.”

The second, from Bloomberg, covers another woe:

Ebola Fears Stymie Home Quest for Quarantined in Dallas

Louise Troh and the three other people in her household have spent much of their isolation on laptops and mobile phones, playing video games, tossing a football, speaking to relatives and reading the Bible.

The activities have been welcome diversions for Troh, her son and two young men she considers family — “the boys,” as she refers to her housemates. She’s the girlfriend of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die in the U.S. from Ebola.

When they are released from their 21-day, state-ordered quarantine on Oct. 20, they face an uncertain future in Dallas, owing to continued fears about their closeness to the deadly virus. A new-apartment deal busted up after Troh had already made a deposit, and Dallas’s top county official and Troh’s pastor say people are reluctant to rent to someone who was so close to Ebola.

From New York Times, another complication:

Waste From Ebola Poses Challenge to Hospitals

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured the public this month that most American hospitals could treat cases of Ebola, it was technically correct. Hospitals routinely treat highly contagious diseases, and top-tier ones are extensively equipped to isolate patients who pose special risks.

But the infection over the past week of two Texas hospital workers betrayed what even many of the best hospitals lack: the ability to handle the tide of infectious waste that Ebola generates.

Ebola’s catastrophic course includes diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhaging of blood, a combination difficult enough to contain in less-communicable illnesses. When they are highly contagious, disposing of the waste and cleaning up what is left behind require expertise and equipment that some specialists said are lacking even in highly regarded medical facilities.

Those shortcomings are compounded, they said, by surprising gaps in scientists’ knowledge about the Ebola virus itself, down to the time it can survive in different environments outside the body.

And from RT, an offer that’s bound to cause heartburn in Foggy Bottom:

Fidel Castro offers cooperation with US in fight against Ebola

Fidel Castro has expressed Cuba’s readiness to cooperate with the US in the global fight against Ebola. Cuba has been on the frontline of international response to the worst outbreak in the disease’s history.

In his article “Time of Duty,” which was published on Saturday, the retired Cuban leader said that medical staff trying to save lives are the best example of human solidarity. Fighting together against the epidemic can protect the people of Cuba, Latin America, and the US from the deadly virus, he added.

“We will gladly cooperate with American [medical] personnel in this task – not for the sake of peace between the two states which have been adversaries for many years, but for the sake of peace in the world,” wrote Castro.

And Sky News covers a plea for help:

Cameron Presses EU Leaders On Ebola Fund

  • The PM urges the EU to double its funding in the fight against the deadly virus, saying “much more must be done”

David Cameron has called for European Union leaders to double their contribution to help tackle ebola, demanding a combined 1bn euro (£800m) pledge.

The Prime Minister has written to the other 26 leaders and European Council president Herman van Rompuy calling for agreement to an “ambitious package of support” at a Brussels summit next week.

He made clear his frustration that other countries are failing to shoulder their share of the burden of international efforts to deal with the epidemic in West Africa which has killed more than 4,500.

Britain has committed £125m to its contribution – the second highest sum after the US. Downing Street said the total contribution from the EU is 500m euros (£400m).

After the jump, the travel industry enters a potential tailspin, cruise ship woes, French flight attendants demand an end to Paris/Conakry flights as France introduces airport screenings, ship screenings in Sweden, travel warnings in Cairo and confidence {SARS-inspired?] in China and a false alarm, a vaccine production delay, Canadian drugs dispatched, on to Africa and a chilling question, Kenyan doctors dispatched, on to Sierra Leone with food on the way, youth join the fight, a street battle with police over a corpse in the street, and an angry bureaucratic shakeup, on to Liberia an a construction shutdown, WHO offers a prescription, a plea for more aid and a promise from Washington, and a warning that things are worse than the press reports, a suicidal leap and an escape in Guinea as contagion spreads into a gold mining region, and from Nigeria, hope accompanied by a warning. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Fear, politics, alarms, Africa


First, adding complexity to urgency, via Al Jazeera America:

Operating on fear: Performing surgery in a time of Ebola

  • Doctors hope new recommendations will help stop Ebola from preventing routine medical procedures

Security forces shot 16-year-old Shacki Kamara in the legs as he protested against a quarantine the government of Liberia had imposed on his neighborhood, the poor and densely populated slum of West Point.

At Monrovia’s JFK Hospital, the emergency room was short-staffed because two doctors had died of Ebola. The second stop for Kamara was Redemption Hospital, where life drained away as he lost blood and bodily fluids.

“There is no reason he should have died, those were survivable gun shot wounds,” said Sherry Wren, chief of surgery at the Palo Alto VA Hospital and a professor of surgery at Stanford University, after seeing pictures of his injuries which were circulated widely online.

Kamara was an “untold” victim of an invisible crisis wrecking West Africa, dying not from Ebola but from the lack of medical resources and medical staff fears of contracting the disease, which is transmitted through bodily fluids.

The Hill covers politics:

Dems, GOP play Ebola politics

Democrats are trying to turn GOP-backed budget cuts to health agencies into a bigger political issue, seizing on the Ebola outbreak to argue the cuts have slowed the U.S. response.

They are pointing their fingers at the sequester, which introduced automatic spending cuts to the government in 2013 that Democrats say hurt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told The Hill the bulk of the cuts were “dictated primarily by the sequester,” and argued Democrats and President Obama have offered proposals that would repeal it.

“All you have to do is compare the budgets and you’ll find the president’s budget and budgets proposed by the Democrats had more responsible funding levels for these agencies — funding levels that would allow them to fulfill their responsibilities in a more effective manner,” he added.

On to cases in the media, first with the Associated Press:

Ebola: 3 more people under observation in Spain

hree more people were under observation for Ebola in a Madrid hospital, boosting the number being monitored for symptoms to 16. A nursing assistant infected with the virus remained in serious but stable condition Saturday.

The latest three are a nurse who came into contact with nursing assistant Teresa Romero, a hairdresser who attended to her and a hospital cleaner, all of whom were admitted to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital late Friday.

A government statement said none of the 16 in quarantine, who include Romero’s husband, five doctors and five nurses, have shown any symptoms.

More from the London Telegraph:

Spanish Ebola victim conscious and sitting unaided

Teresa Romero, the only known person to catch the virus outside of west Africa, is doing much better

The Spanish nurse infected with Ebola was conscious and sitting unaided on Saturday, as three more people joined the 13 admitted to hospital in Madrid to be monitored for signs of the deadly disease.

Teresa Romero, 44, is the only person known to have caught the virus outside Africa. None of the 16 others under observation has been diagnosed with Ebola so far, though the Spanish government is under fire for its handling both of Romero’s case and the threat of a wider outbreak of the disease.

Reuters images showed Romero alert and sitting upright in her hospital room with an oxygen mask strapped to her face and responding to the hospital staff attending to her. She had taken a turn for the worse two days ago, health authorities said, and is still considered critical.

And an American case from the Associated Press:

Ebola patient shows modest improvement for 2nd day

For a second straight day, an American video journalist being treated for Ebola has shown modest improvement.

Dr. Phil Smith is director of the Nebraska Medical Center’s 10-bed isolation unit where 33-year-old Ashoka Mukpo is being treated. Smith said Saturday that Mukpo “is still very weak, but his condition has improved” since the day before.

Mukpo, of Providence, Rhode Island, is the second Ebola patient treated at the Omaha hospital.

More recriminations in Texas from the New York Times:

Ebola Victim’s Family Blames Hospital and State

Relatives of the first person to die of Ebola in the United States, joined by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., continued on Saturday to denounce the treatment he and his family had received from a hospital here and from Texas officials, claiming that he had been cremated without their knowledge or permission and given substandard care because he was African.

Josephus Weeks, a nephew of the Ebola victim — Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, a Liberian who died Wednesday at the Dallas hospital where he had been found to have Ebola on Sept. 30 — said his uncle had been “handled poorly, unfairly, and an injustice was done.”

Mr. Weeks spoke to reporters on Saturday in Chicago with Mr. Jackson and Mr. Duncan’s mother, Nowai Gartay. They asked why Mr. Duncan had not been taken to Nebraska Medical Center, where two Americans who contracted the disease in West Africa have been treated. And they said the Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian, had not immediately informed them that Mr. Duncan had died and had led them to believe that he was still alive.

More from the Associated Press:

Remains of Ebola victim who died in US cremated

The remains of a man who became the first person to die of Ebola in the United States have been cremated.

A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the development involving the remains of Thomas Eric Duncan in a terse email Friday. Spokeswoman Christine Mann did not say when, where and by whom the remains were cremated.

Also Friday, items feared contaminated by Duncan’s disease were incinerated in Port Arthur.

From Sky News, stating the obvious:

Risk From Ebola In US Cannot Be Cut ‘To Zero’

A health official says new measures at airports to screen travellers from west Africa will not stop the disease entering the US

It will be impossible to completely eradicate the risk to the American public from ebola, according to a director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr Martin Cetron, a director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, was speaking as a new heightened level of screening was being introduced at American airports.

Passengers arriving at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport, New Jersey’s Newark Airport, Washington DC’s Dulles Airport and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport from West Africa will all face a stricter series of tests.

But Mr Cetron said that whatever measures were brought in, it would be impossible to offer complete protection against more ebola cases occurring on US soil.

The Independent incentivizes:

Ebola outbreak: US government offers $1m for best hazmat suit design as demand surges

The US will award $1 million in funding to whoever can design the best hazmat suit, as the Ebola crisis has driven demand for the protective gear to record highs.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is calling on the internet to design an anti-contamination suit that will better protect aid workers from catching Ebola.

Part of the initiative “Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development,” USAID is hoping to solve hazmat suit hazards such as tropical heat stress from the African climate and the risk disease exposure as the suit is being removed.

USAID has given no indication of existing hazmat suit standards, seemingly hoping to benefit from some outside-the-box thinking.

Anticipation from the Independent:

Ebola: UK should expect ‘a handful of cases’ within coming months

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer has warned the UK should expect a “handful” of Ebola cases within the next few months.

Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical advisor to the UK government, said any cases of Ebola in the UK would be a “spill over” from West Africa.

Defending her advice to introduce airport screening at some UK airports, Dame Sally admitted that it was a “blunt instrument” but insisted it would save lives. She rejected criticism from a senior consultant who described screening as a “political gesture” in a leaked email, the BBC reports.

Confirmation and quenching of a media hoopla about “Britain’s first domestic case” from Sky News

British Man In Macedonia Did Not Have Ebola

The 58-year-old businessman had died from severe internal bleeding shortly after being taken to a hospital from his hotel.

A British man who complained of ebola-like symptoms before he died in Macedonia did not have the disease, according to tests.

“The patient did not have the ebola virus,” Macedonian health ministry spokeswoman Jovanka Kostovska said.

Thirty-five people quarantined after they were believed to have come into contact with him were expected to now be released.

Zvonko Milenkovic, the director of Skopje’s clinic for infectious diseases, said an autopsy will be carried out. The tests for ebola were carried out at a German laboratory.

A diagnostic advance, from MercoPress:

Argentina claims in can detect the ebola virus in patients in less than 24 hours

Argentina has developed a molecular biological method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in a patient in less than 24 hours, the Argentine health ministry has announced

The method was developed by the Malbran Institute with the help of genetic material of the virus sent from a reference center of the World Health Organization (WHO) and which is the only kind that exists in Latin America.

The center managed to design a “primer” that allows the genome of the Ebola virus to multiply if it is found in a blood sample or other bodily fluids, and thus confirm or discard a case.

Argentine Health Minister Juan Manzur said Thursday that “Argentina is the first Latin American country which has a diagnosis method for Ebola” and said that the technique developed was validated by a WHO reference center.

Preparations from the Guardian:

Ebola crisis: actors used to assess UK readiness for virus in nationwide test

  • Actors simulate symptoms of deadly virus as part of eight-hour exercise including hospitals, labs and emergency services

Britain has carried out a national exercise to test the preparedness of the emergency services and the government for an Ebola outbreak.

Actors were deployed to simulate symptoms of the deadly virus while ministers joined dozens of medical professionals from hospitals, the ambulance service and Public Health England as they played through scenarios.

In one case, a person who “collapsed” in a Gateshead shopping centre was placed in isolation at the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle after being assessed.

Samples were sent for urgent testing at the Porton Down government science laboratories in Wiltshire and, after returning an Ebola diagnosis, the patient was transferred to the Royal Free hospital in north London.

And video coverage from the London Telegraph:

Is Britain prepared for Ebola? NHS carries out emergency drill

Program notes:

The Health department stages simulation of suspected Ebola outbreak to test readiness.

Health workers in the UK were on high alert on Saturday as an eight-hour nationwide drill was carried out to test Britain’s preparedness for a possible Ebola outbreak.

In this video released by the Department of Health, health professionals are seen responding to a possible scenario of a sick person who has recently returned from Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst affected by the disease.

The footage shows an actor pretending to collapse in a shopping centre in Newcastle and the ensuing precautionary steps taken by NHS emergency workers.

More preparations from TheLocal.se:

Swedes stand ready for Ebola case

Sweden has established clear quarantine guidelines if a passenger aboard a plane to Sweden shows signs of Ebola infection.

The routines include redirecting the plane to one of five designated quarantine areas.

“It’s always the captain of the aircraft who is responsible if they suspect that there is an infected traveller. They then alert the air traffic control tower where they are headed,” said Ulf Wallin, press officer at Arlanda Airport.

Another Parisian false alarm from TheLocal.fr:

American tests negative for Ebola in Paris

Testing has revealed an American woman being treated at a Paris hospital is not, as was feared, infected with the Ebola virus. It’s the second false alarm in as many days in France.

Just a day after fears a case of Ebola had been detected near Paris proved to be a false alarm, testing revealed a second suspected case was in fact not the deadly disease, French Health Minister Marisol Toraine said.

According to French media reports the American patient had been under observation because doctors considered her to be potentially infected and she was placed in an sterilized isolation room as a precaution while awaiting the results.

False alarm confirmed in Brazil from BBC News:

Brazil says first suspected Ebola case tests negative

Brazil says a Guinean man who had been suspected of having Ebola has tested negative for the disease.

The man arrived in the country on Thursday and had been quarantined.

Souleymane Bah went to a public health centre in the town of Cascavel in the southern state of Parana after suffering a fever.

He was flown to the National Institute of Infectology in Rio de Janeiro but fears he was the country’s first case of Ebola infection proved unfounded.

On to global politics, first with The Hill:

Administration points fingers on Ebola

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice says other countries “haven’t done enough” to help stop the deadly disease Ebola from spreading.

“We are pushing very hard for everybody to do more. This is going to take all hands on deck,” she told NBC’s Chuck Todd, in an interview set to air Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly centralized to three countries in Western Africa. The outbreak has caused skepticism of international health workers in some of those communities, who fear the workers could be spreading the disease instead of helping cure it.

More form the New York Times:

Global Response to Ebola Highlights Challenges in Delivering Aid

A senior European diplomat in Geneva involved in health issues, who was not authorized to speak publicly, lamented the limited international response. “The scale of the epidemic is what the international community is still not getting,” the diplomat said. “It’s becoming obvious that what you need is to scale up by a factor of 20. There’s not enough international coordination and imagination going into this.”

In Sierra Leone, which with Guinea and Liberia is bearing the brunt of the epidemic, Ms. Cuesta will join a treatment center that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies opened last month.

The unit is one of several initiatives aimed at bolstering Sierra Leone’s fight against the disease. Cuba sent 165 doctors and nurses last week, China has expanded a medical team deployed there, and British personnel are scouting sites for at least five new centers and 700 additional beds that will bring the total closer to the World Health Organization’s target of about 1,300 beds.

In neighboring Liberia, the capacity of treatment centers has nearly doubled to about 615 beds in the past two weeks, according to the latest W.H.O. update, on Wednesday. It is expected to jump again in the next month or so to around 2,500 or more beds as the United States delivers on a pledge to provide up to 17 100-bed units, said Dr. Ian Norton, who is coordinating foreign medical teams for the W.H.O. In Guinea, the W.H.O. says there are four treatment centers working with 160 beds available, with 100 more beds needed.

After the jump, it’s on to Africa, with Cuba taking the lead in support on the ground, another presence at the front, the ethics of vaccine trials in a lethal epidemic, maintaining the right focus, Ebola patients spurned by medevac firms, on to Sierra Leone and a tragic concession from a system on the brink of collapse, then on to Liberia, on to Liberia and UN staff in quarantine, while some Liberians resist the same isolation, a video report, a warning to stay-at-homes, and a report on orphans. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Marburg, U.S., European fear, Africa


Much ground to cover in the increasingly dramatic unfolding of the Ebola crisis, but we begin with that other hemorrhagic fever outbreak that is causing great concern,. From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda:

Number of Marburg suspects raise to eight

The Ministry with the support of MSF and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday trained a total of 103 health workers from Mengo Hospital in Marburg prevention, treatment and control

Eight people who earlier got into contact with the Marburg confirmed case have developed signs of the disease, according to the Ministry of Health.
Samples have also been taken from the eight suspects and are being investigated at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

The Director General of Health Services Dr. Alex Opio said four of them are from Mpigi, two from Kasese and two from Kampala district.

“Preparations are underway to quarantine the suspects as a preventive measure for the spread of the disease. To date there is only one laboratory confirmed case that has been reported in the country. This is the first case that was reported at Mengo Hospital and has since died,” Dr Opio said in a statement issued on Monday evening by the Ministry of Health.

And on to Ebola, first with a brief video report from the Associated Press:

CDC Notes Some Progress in Ebola Fight

Program notes:

The CDC says there is some progress in the fight against Ebola. Dr. Thomas Frieden says so far no one who had contact with the Dallas patient is sick, and cases recently have ‘plummeted’ in a key region of Liberia

The Japan Times gives an update on America’s patient:

Dallas Ebola patient on ventilator and receiving kidney dialysis

The Ebola patient fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital is on a ventilator and a kidney dialysis machine to help stabilize his health, the hospital said on Tuesday.

Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the deadly virus on U.S. soil, has also been given the experimental medication brincidofovir. A hospital in Nebraska said it is using the same drug to treat an American journalist who was airlifted from Liberia and arrived Monday.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said in a statement that Duncan’s liver function declined over the weekend. It said although it has since improved, “doctors caution that this could vary in coming days.”

A question from the Christian Science Monitor:

Why didn’t Texas Ebola patient receive experimental drug sooner?

Doctors were concerned about the risks the experimental drug posed to the Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. But a worsening condition appears to have changed the equation.

News that Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient in Dallas, is receiving an experimental antiviral drug is another chapter in a fast-moving geopolitical drama exploring, patient by patient, the frontiers of medicine and ethics.

As the global community scrambles to contain the virus, and as the cases outside Africa grow, questions have been raised about why Mr. Duncan, a Liberian war survivor who came to the United States to marry his son’s mother, hasn’t received the same experimental drug that doctors say may have played a role in the recovery of two American medical workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and aid worker Nancy Writebol.

The medical community, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is scrambling to find a medicine to stave off the disease. Two potential Ebola vaccines are now being tested on humans, but even if they’re deemed successful, it will be months before they’re available.

And from the London Daily Mail, the inevitable hyperbole:

EXCLUSIVE: First picture of Ebola victim’s quarantined ‘wife’ – as DA threatens charge of aggravated assault with a DEADLY WEAPON after he lied to get into America

  • Thomas Eric Duncan could face the charge – which carries a sentence of up to 20 years – if he survives and is charged
  • Dallas DA said it is something they are ‘taking seriously’ after Duncan lied on forms about his exposure to Ebola to get on a plane to America
  • Meanwhile, a gofundme set up for him has only raised $50 in six days
  • Commentors on the page expressed anger that he had been deceitful
  • Jesse Jackson flew into to Dallas on Tuesday to support the family
  • Duncan remains in a critical but stable condition with a slight improvement after being given an experimental drug

While the Los Angeles Times focuses on a more troubling concern:

Some Ebola experts worry virus may spread more easily than assumed

U.S. officials leading the fight against history’s worst outbreak of Ebola have said they know the ways the virus is spread and how to stop it. They say that unless an air traveler from disease-ravaged West Africa has a fever of at least 101.5 degrees or other symptoms, co-passengers are not at risk.

Yet some scientists who have long studied Ebola say such assurances are premature — and they are concerned about what is not known about the strain now on the loose. It is an Ebola outbreak like none seen before, jumping from the bush to urban areas, giving the virus more opportunities to evolve as it passes through multiple human hosts.

Dr. C.J. Peters, who battled a 1989 outbreak of the virus among research monkeys housed in Virginia and who later led the CDC’s most far-reaching study of Ebola’s transmissibility in humans, said he would not rule out the possibility that it spreads through the air in tight quarters.

More from The Hill:

CDC: Airborne Ebola possible but unlikely

The Ebola virus becoming airborne is a possible but unlikely outcome in the current epidemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden said Tuesday.

The outbreak involves Ebola Zaire, a strain that is passed through bodily fluids, not the air. But some experts have expressed fear about viral mutations due to the unprecedented — and rising — number of Ebola cases.

Frieden sought to allay those fears during a call with reporters.

“The rate of change [with Ebola] is slower than most viruses, and most viruses don’t change how they spread,” he said. Frieden is unofficially spearheading the U.S. response to Ebola.

“That is not to say it’s impossible that it could change [to become airborne],” he continued. “That would be the worst-case scenario. We would know that by looking at … what is happening in Africa. That is why we have scientists from the CDC on the ground tracking that.”

From the New York Times, screening:

U.S. to Require Tougher Ebola Screening at Airports: Senator

U.S. health officials are preparing to require tougher Ebola screening at American airports this week to keep the deadly virus from spreading to this country, Senator Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

The new measures may include screening air travelers for fever when they arrive in the United States from the worst-stricken countries in West Africa, on direct or indirect flights, Schumer said in a statement.

He said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told him the agency might adopt some of the recommendations Schumer had made on Ebola screening over the weekend.

And the Associated Press covers one measure already implemented:

Coast Guard sector issues new steps on Ebola

One U.S. Coast Guard sector says it will contact ships that have recently been to Ebola-affected countries to ask whether passengers have symptoms of the virus before they are allowed into port.

The sector, which includes parts of New York and Connecticut, issued a bulletin to the maritime community in Long Island Sound on Monday that describes protocols being put into place due to Ebola.

“We wanted to have those specific steps identified in advance so we’ve prepared the captains of these vessels doing business in our ports for the questions we’re going to ask,” said Capt. Edward J. Cubanski III, the sector commander.

Here is the full CDC briefing, via the Washington Post:

CDC holds news briefing on Ebola patient in Texas

Program note:

The CDC gives members of the media an update on the condition a man in Dallas who was diagnosed with Ebola.

The Associated Press covers belated safeguards:

US health providers expand their Ebola precautions

Public hospitals in New York City are so concerned about Ebola, they’ve secretly been sending actors with mock symptoms into emergency rooms to test how well the triage staffs identify and isolate possible cases.

A small Ohio hospital has hung up signs imploring patients to let nurses know immediately if they have traveled recently to West Africa.

And across the U.S., one of the nation’s largest ambulance companies has put together step-by-step instructions for wrapping the interior of a rig with plastic sheeting.

There hasn’t been a single confirmed case of an Ebola infection happening on U.S. soil; the case confirmed in Dallas involves a man who, like several health care workers treated in the U.S., contracted the virus in Liberia. But health care providers are worried enough to take a wide variety of precautions.

And then there’s this from Reuters:

Male Ebola survivors told: Use a condom

Sex could keep the Ebola epidemic alive even after the World Health Organization (WHO) declares an area free of the disease, one of the discoverers of the deadly virus said on Tuesday.

The WHO is hoping to announce later this week that Nigeria and Senegal are free of Ebola after 42 days with no infections — the standard period for declaring an outbreak over, twice the maximum 21-day incubation period of the virus.

However, it appears the disease can last much longer in semen. “In a convalescent male, the virus can persist in semen for at least 70 days; one study suggests persistence for more than 90 days,” the WHO said in an information note on Monday.

“Certainly, the advice has to be for survivors to use a condom, to not have unprotected sex, for 90 days,” said Peter Piot, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a discoverer of Ebola in 1976.

On to Spain, and Europe’s first home grown patient, via Reuters:

Four hospitalized in Spain after first Ebola transmission outside Africa

Four people have been hospitalized in Spain to try to stem the spread of Ebola after a Spanish nurse became the first person in the world known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The nurse, who tested positive for the virus on Monday, her husband, who is showing no symptoms of the disease, and two other people are being closely monitored in hospital, health officials told a news conference in Madrid.

One of those hospitalized is a health worker who has diarrhea but no fever. The other is a Spaniard who traveled from Nigeria, said Rafael Perez-Santamaria, head of the Carlos III Hospital where the infected nurse treated two Spanish missionaries who contracted the disease in Africa.

More from El País:

Nurse’s assistant came into contact with 21 people at Alcorcón Hospital

  • Staff including doctors, nurses and ambulance crew will be monitored for symptoms

A day after news broke that a Spanish nursing assistant had become the first person in Europe to contract the ebola virus, health authorities were working to close the net around people with whom the 40-year-old woman could have come into contact.

The nurse’s assistant, who was part of the health team who looked after two Spanish missionaries with ebola who had been brought back from Africa for treatment in Madrid, was initially treated in Alcorcón Hospital in the southwestern suburb of the same name. The hospital has so far identified 21 members of staff with whom the patient came into contact, including an ambulance crew and doctors and nurses, according to health sources contacted by EL PAÍS.

All of them have been contacted by the health center and told they will have to be monitored for symptoms of the disease. They will have their temperature checked twice a day, but can continue with their normal day-to-day lives, given that the virus is not contagious until symptoms, which include fever, appear.

And a video report from Deutsche Welle:

Madrid hospital staff want answers

Program notes:

Medical staff at the Madrid hospital where a nurse contracted ebola, are angry. They want to know how the woman could have become infected, despite safety measures. The nurse had treated two priests who caught the virus in West Africa.

Questions from the Los Angeles Times:

Questions raised about safety measures used for Ebola cases in Spain

Questions were raised Tuesday about the quality of the protective equipment and training received by Spanish medical personnel caring for Ebola patients as three more people were placed in quarantine for possible exposure to the virus.

Spain’s Health Ministry announced Monday that a nursing assistant at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid had tested positive for the virus, the first person known to have contracted Ebola outside Africa in the current epidemic.

Healthcare workers have been among those hardest hit in the outbreak, which has killed more than 3,400 of the nearly 7,500 suspected and confirmed Ebola patients in West Africa.  As of Oct. 1, 382 healthcare workers were reported to have developed Ebola, including 216 people who died of the disease.

The case in Spain was a reminder that medical personnel can be at risk in Western hospitals, as well as at under-resourced and overwhelmed African facilities. The Ebola virus is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of symptomatic patients.

The patient had helped care for Manuel Garcia Viejo, a 69-year-old missionary in Sierra Leone who died of Ebola on Sept. 25 after being evacuated to Spain for treatment. She entered the priest’s room twice, once to help care for him and once to collect his belongings after he died, hospital officials said.

And the Guardian covers the seemingly inevitable:

Ebola in Europe is unavoidable, says WHO as Spain rushes to contain case

  • WHO’s European director says continent remains at low risk and one of the best prepared places to respond to the infection

The World Health Organisation has said it is ready to provide support for Spain as authorities in the country scrambled to contain the first case of Ebola infection within Europe.

The WHO’s European director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said it was “quite unavoidable … that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around”.

She added: “The most important thing in our view is that Europe is still at low risk, and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola.”

But the New York Times covers another angle:

Spain Is Pressed for Answers After a Nurse Is Infected With Ebola

Spain’s government came under heavy criticism Tuesday as it dealt with the repercussions of Western Europe’s first Ebola case, quarantining three more people and monitoring dozens who had come into contact with an infected nurse.

Health care workers, who have been sparring with the government over cutbacks, said they had not received proper training or equipment to handle an Ebola case. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, asked for an explanation, according to news reports. And some opposition politicians called for the health minister, Ana Mato, to resign.

At a news conference in Madrid, officials insisted that they had taken all appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But in a sign of the government’s unease with the possible political consequences, a lower-ranking official, María Mercedes Vinuesa, director of public health, went before Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions, not Ms. Mato.

While the Guardian suggests a partial explanation:

Spanish nurse Ebola infection blamed on substandard gear and protocol lapse

  • Staff at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital say protective suits do not meet WHO standards as second nurse undergoes tests for virus

Staff at the hospital where she worked told El País that the protective suits they were given did not meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, which specify that suits must be impermeable and include breathing apparatus. Staff also pointed to latex gloves secured with adhesive tape as an example of how the suits were not impermeable and noted that they did not have their own breathing equipment.

The nurse was part of a team attending to missionary Manuel García Viejo, 69, who died four days after being brought to Carlos III hospital on 20 September. The same team, including the nurse, also treated missionary Miguel Pajares, 75, who was repatriated from Liberia in August and died five days later.

Staff at the hospital said waste from the rooms of both patients was carried out in the same elevator used by all personnel and, in the case of the second patient, the hospital was not evacuated.

And the Associated Press covers collateral canine damage:

Ebola escapes Europe’s defenses; pet dog must die

Health officials scrambled Tuesday to figure out how West Africa’s Ebola outbreak got past Europe’s defenses, quarantining four people at a Madrid hospital where a Spanish nursing assistant became infected. Determined to contain the spread of the deadly virus, they even announced plans to euthanize the woman’s pet dog.

The nursing assistant in Madrid was part of a special team caring for a Spanish priest who died of Ebola last month after being evacuated from Sierra Leone. The nursing assistant wore a hazmat suit both times she entered his room, officials said, and no records point to any accidental exposure to the virus, which spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sickened person.

The woman, who had been on vacation in the Madrid area after treating the priest, was diagnosed with Ebola on Monday after coming down with a fever, and was said to be stable Tuesday. Her husband also was hospitalized as a precaution.

Madrid’s regional government even got a court order to euthanize and incinerate their pet, “Excalibur,” against the couple’s objections. The government said available scientific knowledge suggests a risk that the mixed-breed dog could transmit the virus to humans, and promised to use “biosecurity” measures to prevent any such transmission.

On to an anxious Old Blighty, first with BBC News:

No Ebola screening for arrivals to UK – Public Health England

There are no plans to introduce Ebola screening for those arriving in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

President Barack Obama said on Monday that the US planned to screen incoming air passengers for the virus.

But PHE said this was not recommended by the World Health Organization and would mean screening “huge numbers of low-risk people”.

A contrarian view from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak: Britain needs to start screening for the virus, says Home Office minister

A Home Office minister has said Britain should consider introducing screening for Ebola carriers arriving at airports, after a Spanish nurse became the first person to have caught the virus in Europe.

Public Health England said it had no plans to bring in screening for the disease, which has already claimed 3,400 lives in West Africa. Rates of infection are set to increase dramatically.

The Home Office also insisted there would be no change of policy. But Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat minister in the department, described Ebola’s arrival in Europe as a “very concerning development” and said the case for increasing screening in airports had to be examined. He told The Independent: “We need to consider whether existing controls are adequate.”

And the London Telegraph covers preparations:

Ebola: NHS hospitals put on standby

  • Hospitals on standby as health officials admit ‘real risk’ Ebola could reach British shores and Prime Minister convenes emergency Cobra committee to discuss the threat

Major NHS hospitals across the country have been put on standby, as health officials warn of a “real risk” that the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Britain.

The Prime Minister will convene a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee on Wednesday morning to discuss the growing threat to the UK from the spread of Ebola.

Four major NHS hospitals in England have now been identified as units to take patients with Ebola if the need arises.

Next, on to Norway and other European evacuated via TheLocal.no:

Ebola virus victim arrives in Norway by special jet

The Norwegian woman, diagnosed with Ebola while working for a charity organization in Sierra Leone, will arrive in Oslo for treatment on Tuesday.

The woman, who was working for Médecins Sans Frontières, fell ill at the weekend and was placed in isolation on Sunday. On Monday she was confirmed as having contracted Ebola and is scheduled to be flown into the country on a specially constructed private jet plane. The craft, normally used for business flights, is equipped to provide medical care for the patient and ensure the airborne virus is not spread beyond the infected invidual.

Secretary general for Médecins Sans Frontières, Anne Cecilie Kaltenborn, said at a press conference in Sierra Leone on Monday: “We regrettably confirm that one of our Norwegian field workers tested positively for Ebola. The person was on a mission in Sierra Leone, where Médecins Sans Frontières has 1,200 employees. 86 of those are international aid workers.”

TheLocal.no, with a choice certain to star ethical debate:

Norway to get world’s last dose of Ebola cure

The Norwegian woman, infected by the Ebola in Sierra Leone and currently receiving treatment in Oslo, will get the last dose of the virus treatment medicine ZMapp available in the world.

The news was released by the Norwegian Medicines Agency on Tuesday, according to NTB. Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, said to Dagens Medisin: “It looks like we could get the last available dose of ZMapp to Norway. The medicine is now in Canada.”

According to the professional medic’s magazine, the agency has given Oslo University hospital the authorisation to import Ebola medicines not approved of in Norway.

On to Japan and confidence from the Japan Times:

Japan could handle Ebola outbreak, health official says

The news that a nurse in Spain has become the first person to contract Ebola outside the outbreak zone in West Africa has raised concerns that it might happen in Japan.

However, the nation has a system in place that could handle potential patients safely, a senior official at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Tuesday.

Although Japan has not yet had to deal with an actual case of infection and therefore lacks Ebola-specific procedures to diagnose and treat it, Masayuki Saijo, head of one of the institute’s virology departments, said his team has handled suspected cases that turned out to be negative.

While the Wall Street Journal covers the Japanese corporate upside:

Fujifilm Drug Gets More Notice as Possible Ebola Treatment

An anti-influenza drug from Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp. has gathered international attention as a potential treatment for Ebola virus, helping send the company’s shares to a six-year high on Tuesday.

The Japanese camera and imaging company said Monday the governments of France and the West African nation of Guinea were considering trials of the drug, called favipiravir, beginning in November.

The company said it has also been contacted by several other nations and international organizations about providing the drug and will respond to the requests in coordination with the Japanese government.

After the jump, the latest from Africa, including a shortage of sanitation and engineering help in the Ebola fight, a plea for help, the Pentagon sets a price on its African Ebola effort and announces that U.S. soldiers will — contrary to earlier denials — be in immediate contact with Ebola patients [plus a video of the full Pentagon briefing], fears that Ebola angst will trump even deadlier healthcare woes, British Airways blasted for hampering aid flights, on to Sierra Leone and aid shipment Bureaucratic gridlock, a presidential plea for help from Ebola survivors, and epidemic-devastated villages, then on to Liberia and arriving Cuban medical teams, a strike threatened, and a press crackdown underway, and lastly, on to Nigeria and Ebola-spawned school closures ended. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Crisis, shortages, help, & more


First up, a notable quarantine from the Associated Press:

Liberia Health Chief Is Under Quarantine

Liberia’s chief medical officer is placing herself under quarantine for 21 days after her office assistant died of Ebola.

Bernice Dahn, a deputy health minister who has represented Liberia at regional conferences intended to combat the ongoing epidemic, said Saturday that she did not have any Ebola symptoms but wanted to make sure that she was not infected.

Liberia’s government has asked people to keep themselves isolated for 21 days if they think they have been exposed. The unprecedented scale of the outbreak, however, has made it difficult to trace the contacts of victims and quarantine those who might be at risk.

“Of course we made the rule, so I am home for 21 days,” Ms. Dahn said. “I did it on my own. I told my office staff to stay at home for the 21 days. That’s what we need to do.”

She’s clearly better off than most of her fellow citizens, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reveals:

Newest Liberian Ebola treatment centre overwhelmed with cases

Less than a week after opening, the 150-bed unit is already overwhelmed with 206 patients, and more are arriving each day. Some lie huddled on the dusty ground outside the gates until they are carried in, while a steady stream of ambulances, sirens blaring, bring more patients.

“We’re trying to squeeze in as many as possible,” said Atai Omoruto, the overworked Ugandan doctor in charge of the centre. “We’re still getting so many patients, every day. We’re using the corridors. Whatever space is available, we’re putting camp beds there.”

As she spoke, trucks arrived with piles of donated mattresses from a local microfinance organization and a load of wooden bed frames from a Liberian carpenters’ union. But the new treatment unit, on Bushrod Island near the city’s seaport, is making barely a dent in an ever-growing disaster that has already killed more than 3,000 people in five West African countries. Monrovia has roughly 500 treatment beds, but Liberia as a whole needs thousands and they have been slow to arrive.

It’s not just Liberia, as this clip from the Voice of America makes clear:

Sierra Leone Struggles to Care For Ebola Patients

Program notes:

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It’s a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.

Al Jazeera English covers backlash:

Guinea residents ‘refusing’ Ebola treatment

  • Residents say people frightened to go to clinics because of conspiracy theories that they will be killed by doctors

Residents of the Guinean capital Conakry, hit hard by Ebola, say they are afraid to seek treatment at hospitals for fear of being poisoned by doctors, as the death toll across West Africa passed the 3,000 mark.

Local resident Tairu Diallo said on Friday that people living in his neighbourhood refused to seek medical help and instead stayed at home, trying to alleviate their symptoms with drugs bought at a pharmacy.

Diallo said people think doctors at hospitals inject patients with a deadly poison. “If we have a stomach ache we don’t go to hospital because doctors there will inject you and you will die,” he said.

While Reuters covers the pale rider’s companions:

Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

As a result, “the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down,” according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.

Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by diarrhea, pneumonia, and particularly malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.

So it’s a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, “If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become ‘a permanent feature of life in West Africa.’”

From Star Africa News, a call from the Economic Community Of West African States:

ECOWAS calls for regional response to Ebola

ECOWAS has called for urgent mobilization of the Armed and Security Forces of Member States to strengthen the regional response and interventions against Ebola, according to a statement issued on Saturday.The body’s Coordinating Ministerial Group for the implementation of the Regional Operational Plan on the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) issued the statement on Saturday in Abuja after on Friday meeting with a Ministerial Group Chaired by Ghana’s Health Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman.

It recommended that the armed and security forces should provide, among others, medical personnel and logistics as well as mobilize the support of military engineers regiments in setting up Ebola treatment centers in Ebola-hit countries.

It added that the Ministerial Group, which considered the report of the just-ended two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Technical Monitoring Surveillance and Group on Ebola response, equally called for the provision of adequate financial incentives to National Health personnel already on ground in Member States.

Another call, this one from China, via Xinhua:

Chinese FM calls for more global assistance as Ebola epidemic rages

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday called for more global assistance to African countries as the Ebola epidemic is raging in some countries in the region.

Wang made the appeal while speaking at the ongoing annual high- level debate of the UN General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday. “The Ebola epidemic, which is raging in some African countries, has once again sounded the alarm bell for global health security,” he said.

“As a good brother and good partner of Africa sharing weal and woe with it, China will continue to stand firmly with the African people, and support and assist them to the best of its ability,” Wang said, pledging China’s active part in the international assistance efforts.

The Los Angeles Times covers those left behind:

Ebola outbreak often leaves children alone and terrified

As the Ebola virus sweeps through Liberian villages, through its towns and cities, whole families are being cut down by the disease. Parents who die leave behind children no one wants to care for, rejected by neighbors and relatives, who order them to stay away. With an acute shortage of beds, the lucky ones are picked up by ambulance and taken to treatment units. Many of the rest die on the streets.

In Monrovia, the capital, all the Ebola treatment unit beds are full, vacancies opening only as patients die or survivors are discharged. The IMC center, which opened just last week, is one of two in Liberia with available beds. It has admitted 26 patients, seven of whom have died. Two of the dead were children.

The main priority in the treatment units is to keep the workers safe. Next is to isolate infectious patients to prevent spread of the disease. Providing decent care has to come third.

And from the London Telegraph, a short clip about those children:

The abandoned children of the Liberia Ebola outbreak

Program notes:

Children whose families have been killed by outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have found themselves shunned through fear of the deadly disease.

On to Liberia, with new numbers from The Analyst:

Bong County: 21 New Suspected Ebola Deaths Reported

Reports coming from the Central Province of Bong County say there were 36 new suspected Ebola cases in the County last week. This was disclosed by the head of the Bong County Ebola Response task force Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy last Thursday. Out the number, 21 died, she said.

Superintendent Mappy also disclosed that four persons out of the number of confirmed cases that were treated at the Ebola Testing Unit have also died. Appearing on a live radio talk show, Info Box on Radio Gbarnga, Superintendent Mappy said, although the task force and other stakeholders continue to make progress in the fight against the killer disease in the County, more needs to be done to contain the spread of the virus.

The Bong County task force chairperson called on citizens of the County to desist from denial and take preventive measures to avoid further spread of the virus. Superintendent Mappy said Liberia can only succeed in combating the killer disease when citizens accept the existence of the virus and join the fight, adding that plans are underway for the construction of another Ebola testing unit in the County. The Bong superintendent said the facility is expected to be constructed by the US Army at the former UNMIL base in Maimu Salala district

The Analyst again, with evidence of spreading contagion:

Grand Gedeh Records First Ebola Case

A 35-year-old man in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, has tested Ebola positive, making it the first case in the county since the outbreak of the disease in the country in March. The man, whose name is being withheld by the Liberia News Agency, was showing signs and symptoms of the disease when the Grand Gedeh County Health Team (CHT) picked him up from the Zwedru Central Market last Friday.

In a brief interview with the Liberia News Agency Wednesday, the Coordinator of the CHT, Netus Nowena, said the man migrated from Ganta, Nimba County to Grand Gedeh County following the death of nine of his family members from the disease early this month.

According to Nowena, the health team was taking the man to Gbarnga, Bong County for treatment when they observed that he was showing signs and symptoms of the virus, adding that he later tested positive for the disease. According to Nowena, the 36 people who were at the holding center for 21 days of observation have been released without any signs or symptoms of Ebola.

The Liberian Observer covers another threat:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

FAO representative, Alexis Bonte is quoted as telling the VOA’s Joe DeCapua that Lofa County residents are “terrified at how fast the disease is spreading.” He says that “neighbors, friends and family members are dying within just a few days of exhibiting shocking symptoms.”

After the jump, calls for mobilization in Sierra Leone,  Guinea, and Gambia, Sierra Leone’s Patient Zero heads home, Ivory Coast ends airline restrictions, an HIV drug cures Ebola in Liberia, World Bank warns Nigeria over Ebola complacency, another American comes home for treatment, Cuba medical teams arrive, more cash is promised by Europe, Asia, and the IMF. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, quackery, aid, history


We open today’s compendium with the latest numbers, via Reuters:

West Africa Ebola Death Toll Passes 3,000-WHO

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to at least 3,091 out of 6,574 probable, suspected and confirmed cases, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Liberia has recorded 1,830 deaths, around three times as many as in either Guinea or Sierra Leone, the two other most affected countries, according to WHO data received up to Sept. 23.

An outbreak that began in a remote corner of Guinea has taken hold of much of neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, prompting warnings that tens of thousands of people may die from the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

The WHO update said Liberia had reported six confirmed cases of Ebola and four deaths in the Grand Cru district, which is near the border with Ivory Coast and had not previously recorded any cases of Ebola.

The district of Kindia in Guinea also reported its first confirmed case, the WHO said, a day after it said the spread of Ebola appeared to have stabilised in that country.

China Daily delivers a call:

FM calls for action on Ebola

The growing threat posed by the West Africa Ebola outbreak requires the international community to take further actions to fight against the epidemic, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday.

Wang made the remarks at a high-level meeting on response to Ebola during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Epidemics know no borders, and Ebola is a common challenge for all countries around the world and all lives are equal,” said Wang. “The international community should take further action to build up confidence, stay united in adversity and adopt resolute measures to contain the epidemic.”

Optimism from the New York Times:

Ebola Doctor Shortage Eases as Volunteers Begin to Step Forward

Doctors and nurses are finally volunteering to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa after a long period of paralyzing fear in which almost none stepped forward.

But, experts say, even though money is now pouring in from the World Bank, the Gates Foundation and elsewhere, and the United States Army is to start erecting field hospitals soon, there is likely to be a long gap before those hospitals can be fully staffed to care for the growing numbers of people sick with Ebola.

“As a result, thousands of people will die,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, which treats more patients than any other entity. “I can’t say the exact figure because we don’t know how many unreported cases there are. But thousands for sure.”

Star Africa News announces more help:

UK to build treatment center for Sierra Leone’s infected Ebola workers

To build confidence among a demoralized work force in Sierra Leone, Britain is building a 16-bed treatment center exclusively for health workers infected with the Ebola virus, Sierra Leone officials have said.

The West African country has lost about 50 health workers to the epidemic which continues to spread. Health workers are most at risk, due mainly to lack of proper training but also unavailability of protective gears. Nurses have been particularly restless witnessing so many of their colleagues dying.

Their frustration grows as foreign doctors are evacuated while local doctors are left to die at home where weak health systems leave very little chance for survival.

The Ministry of Information said Thursday the new facility being built by the British army is part of the UK`s rejuvenated support for the anti-Ebola effort.

From CCTV Africa, another report on the woeful shortages of treatment facilities, this time in Liberia:

Liberia’s Ebola Victims Dying at Home amid Shortage of Treatment Centres

Program notes:

Liberians have raised fresh concerns about a lack of Ebola treatment facilities. They say many victims of the virus have nowhere to go and instead stay at home. That increases the chances of infecting family members

Homeland Security News Wire covers a conundrum:

Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”

In the early stages of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called the world’s first Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Borders, and other health-aid organizations worked to limit the spread of the disease by convincing patients to report their symptoms to doctors or let aid workers quarantine their homes and villages. The strategies deployed have had little positive effect on the two most affected countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The WHO recently reported that the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last three weeks. As of 25 September, the (CDC) recorded 6,263 cases of Ebola, resulting in 2,917 deaths.

From Star Africa News, a sign of tragic desperation:

Sierra Leonean minister advocates use of new drug to treat Ebola

Sierra Leone`s Information Minister, Alpha Kanu has said the controversial Ebola treatment solution, Nano Silver, does not need any approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that Sierra Leone was considering using it to treat Ebola patients.

Nano Silver is a natural solution-based treatment therapy. While it is not specifically made for Ebola but its proponents say it slows down the development of the virus. However, those opposed to it say it is unsafe.

Sierra Leone has been awaiting an assessment of a batch of the solution. Kanu, a chemist by training, has been a fervent supporter of the idea of deploying any treatment that can help alleviate the suffering of infected Ebola patients.

The US FDA is known to be vehemently opposed to the use of the drug which it considers as a fertilizer.

Not only is there no evidence whatsoever of the compound’s usefulness in treating Ebola, the main effect of its use seems to be in turning the skin blow.

On Monday [23 September] The Food and Drug Administration ordered the manufacturer, Natural Solutions Foundation of Newton, N.J., to stop promoting the compound’s use in treating the disease.

The letter noted some of the spurious claims falsely raising hopes in Africa:

On the home page you have a YouTube video embedded titled, “URGENT MESSAGE to EBOLA-STRICKEN NATIONS’  HEADS OF STATE.” In the video you state:

  • “As of now it is said that there is no treatment against Ebola, and that is not true. In fact there is a well-known, well characterized,  nutrient. That is Nano Silver….  [I]t does kill every pathogen against which it has been tested, worldwide, without exception. There is no other effective solution …Nano Silver …is unlimited in its effectiveness …[and is a] safe, non-toxic …and available solution against Ebola and every other communicable disease….”  (00:35- 2:12)

On your “Smoking Gun: US Suppressing Ebola Therapy Since 2009″ page, which is accessed from a link on your home page:

  • “2009 DOD Funded Study Finds Nano Silver Inhibits Ebola Virus”
  • “[] US GOVERNMENT  RESEARCH SHOW[S] THAT THERE IS A CURE FOR EBOLA …AND IT IS NANO SILVER. …” ·
  • “They DID come up with a cure, prevention and treatment for it [Ebola]: 10 PPM Nano Silver.”
  • “[] Nano Silver at 10 PPM IS the definitive prevention and therapy for Ebola virus…
  • [T]here is a cure, treatment and prevention for Ebola virus”
  • “[N]ano silver was known …as the definitive antiviral agent against Ebola virus[]”
  • “[] NANO SILVER, at 10 PPM, effectively kills the Ebola virus.”
  • “[T]here IS a …cure and prevention for Ebola Virus.”
  • “[T]he CBD will alleviate the terrible pain of the disease while the silver works its wonders….”

The FDA notes:

The therapeutic claims on your websites establish that the products are drugs because they are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. As explained further below, introducing or delivering these products for introduction into interstate commerce for such uses violates the Act.

Star Africa News covers a press crackdown:

S/Leone legislators summon radio manager over Ebola funds reportage

The Station Manager of a leading radio station in Sierra Leone’s Ebola-hit eastern Kenema District has been summoned to parliament over his handling of reportage of funds allocated to Members of Parliament (Mps).

The MPs are angry with the media over the manner they are reporting on the epidemic generally, but that anger took a dramatic turn recently when they themselves came on the spotlight for a controversial allocation of funds in the name of anti-Ebola sensitization.

Star Line Radio, located in Kenema, was one of the stations fingered for its “inciteful” coverage of the matter. Its Station Manager Sidie Yaya Fofanah was summoned to answer to questions by parliamentarians, some of whom have been calling for the station’s suspension for “irresponsible” reporting.

Mr. Fofanah is due to appear on Friday at what some journalists concerned about media freedom term as a trial of the media.

From Al Jazeera English, big help from a small country:

Cuba sends 300 more doctors to fight Ebola

  • Cuban government’s pledge comes as European health experts urge their governments to ramp up relief efforts in region

Cuba says it will send nearly 300 more doctors and nurses to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Cubans will work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Regla Angulo, head of the Cuban medical relief agency, said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement means that up to 461 Cuban medical personnel would have been sent to help address the epidemic spreading across West Africa.

Angulo said the staff were currently undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in a mock field hospital of the kind they expected to find in the region.

Punch Nigeria delivers a warning:

Ebola: World Bank warns Nigeria against complacency

The World Bank has advised Nigeria not to become complacent over the success it has achieved in the management of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

At a briefing in Abuja on Friday, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie-Francois Marie-Nelly, commended Nigeria for the effective way it managed the outbreak of the disease but emphasised that the guard should not be lowered.

Marie-Nelly said although Nigeria had been able to contain the contagious disease, it was important all states of the federation should be on the watch in case of any eventuality.

From the Japan Times, another treatment in the offing:

Fujifilm says French Ebola patient is taking its Avigan drug

Fujifilm Corp. said its influenza medicine Avigan is being given to an Ebola patient at a French hospital along with another experimental drug, the latest treatments to be deployed in the global push to curtail the deadly virus.

The French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety asked for the drug and the female patient has been given the combination since Sept. 19, the Japanese company said in a statement Friday.

The Fujifilm treatment, also called Favipiravir, was discovered by Yousuke Furuta at the Toyama Chemical unit of Tokyo-based Fujifilm in 1998. It targets polymerase, an enzyme that viruses use to replicate inside the body, to stop the viruses from spreading.

To close, historical perspective from der Spiegel:

Interview with Ebola Discoverer Peter Piot: ‘It Is What People Call a Perfect Storm’

  • Almost four decades ago, Peter Piot was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus. In a SPIEGEL interview, he describes how the disease was isolated and explains why the current outbreak is different than any that have come before.

SPIEGEL: Professor Piot, as a young scientist in Antwerp, you were part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. How did it happen?

Piot: I still remember exactly: One day in September, a pilot from Sabena Airlines brought us a shiny blue thermos and a letter from a doctor in Kinshasa in what was then Zaire. In the thermos, he wrote, there was a blood sample from a Belgian nun who had recently fallen ill from a mysterious sickness in Yambuku, a remote village in the northern part of the country. He asked us to test the sample for yellow fever.

SPIEGEL: These days, Ebola may only be researched in high security laboratories. How did you protect yourself back then?

Piot: We had no idea how dangerous the virus we were dealing with was. And there were no high security labs in Belgium back then. We just wore our white lab coats and protective gloves. When we opened the thermos, the ice inside had largely melted and one of the vials had broken. Blood and glass shards were floating in the ice water. We fished the other, intact test tube out of the slop and began examining the blood for pathogens using the methods that were standard at the time.

EbolaWatch: Grim predictions, official fears


We begin today’s coverage with a harsh question from the Washington Post:

Ebola is ‘devouring everything in its path.’ Could it lead to Liberia’s collapse?

At a news conference Thursday, finance minister Amara Konneh said Liberia is at “war with an enemy we don’t see.” Two days earlier, the Ebola-ravaged country’s defense minister, Brownie Samukai, delivered a harrowing warning of his own.

“Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence,” Samukai told the U.N. Security Council. “The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our state.”

The U.N. special envoy to Liberia, Karin Landgren, seems to agree with Samukai, at least to an extent. Landgren told the U.N. Security Council this week that “Liberians are facing their gravest threat since war,” referring to two civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that left more than 250,000 dead. Those bloody conflicts completely destabilized the country, and Liberia was still recovering when the current Ebola outbreak began.

Landgren warned the Security Council “that the Ebola crisis has become complex, with political, security, economic and social implications that will continue to affect the country well beyond the current medical emergency,” according to Global Post.

On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund said Ebola has crippled the mining, agriculture and services sectors Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone, Reuters reported.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola drags Liberia’s economy into recession

Liberia’s finance ministry has acknowledged that the ongoing Ebola outbreak has led to a decline of the country’s economic growth. This has forced the government to slash public expenditure.

The Ebola epidemic is not just devastating the Liberian population but is also severely crippling all sectors of the country’s economy: notably health, trade and education. Liberia is currently experiencing its worst ever crisis since the end of the country’s brutal civil war in 2003.

Announcing the fall in projected economic growth rate, Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh said Liberia is now in a difficult moment amid the Ebola epidemic. “In all of this, our economy is taking a hit – serious hit,” the minister told reporters.

“This year we were projected to grow at 5.9 percent. Last year we grew 8.7 percent. The year before last year (2012), we grew 8.9 percent. Now, working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government has revised its growth projection to 2.5 percent.”

And still more from the World Health Organization:

The Ebola outbreak that is ravaging parts of west Africa is the largest, most severe, and most complex in the nearly four-decade history of this disease.

This is Ebola Zaire, the most deadly in the Ebola family of viruses. This is a dreaded virus that is highly contagious, but under only two very specific settings.

First, during care of patients at home by family members or in hospital settings without proper protection against infection. Second, during certain traditional burial practices that involve close contact with a highly infectious corpse.

In the 3 hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in Ebola-specific treatment centres.

In Liberia, for example, an Ebola treatment facility, set up jointly by WHO and the Ministry of Health, was recently established to manage 30 patients. It had more than 70 patients the day it opened.

Today, Liberia has not one single bed available for the treatment of an Ebola patient anywhere in the entire country.

Our response is running short on nearly everything, from personal protective equipment, to body bags, to mobile laboratories, to isolation wards.

BuzzFeed examines failure [and the medium is finally devoting some good coverage to the story and deserves kudos]:

How Global Health Failed Liberia As The Ebola Outbreak Took Hold

  • Liberians have been sounding the alarm for weeks. Why has real action on Ebola been so slow?

This is a catastrophe Liberia saw coming. Earlier this summer, when hundreds of foreign medical personnel were working to battle Ebola in Sierra Leone, Monrovia watched its caseload swell. Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s assistant health minister, warned in late July that the capital didn’t have enough beds in its only Ebola treatment ward to admit all the patients who had come in with symptoms.

That wasn’t just inconvenient; it was a public health disaster. Patients aren’t contagious until they show symptoms, but once they do, they easily infect anyone who comes into contact with their bodily fluids. With no beds at the hospital, the sick returned home, and families without knowledge of the disease or its transmission cleaned up from the havoc it wreaked on their dying loved ones — and caught the disease themselves.

There weren’t more beds because there weren’t more resources — financial, logistical or human. “After the Philippine typhoon, there were 150 foreign medical teams” offering care, Dr. Ian Norton, who coordinates foreign medical teams for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Liberia, told BuzzFeed News by telephone from Monrovia on Tuesday. “We’ve seen four here.”

From the Guardian, a sad truth:

Ebola outbreak an avoidable tragedy, say UK MPs

  • Commons committee report says hesitancy and lack of coordination over crisis suggests that emergency plans failed

In a blunt report published on Friday, the Commons International Development Committee urged Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) to place greater emphasis on building up weak health systems and to draw on the medical and managerial expertise of the NHS in doing so.

“The devastating ongoing Ebola epidemic in west Africa has served to emphasise the importance of establishing strong health systems,” it said. “The apparent hesitancy and lack of coordination in the international response suggest that the global health system and emergency plans have failed.”

While the committee described DfID as a “world-leader” in strengthening health systems, it said it feared the department’s “target-driven mentality”. It added that work with large international partnerships whose focus is on getting rapid results by concentrating on specific, high-profile diseases had come at the expense of shoreing up health infrastructures in poorer countries.

While the New York Times offers an epidemiologist’s chilling prognosis:

What We’re Afraid to Say About Ebola

There are two possible future chapters to this story that should keep us up at night.

The first possibility is that the Ebola virus spreads from West Africa to megacities in other regions of the developing world. This outbreak is very different from the 19 that have occurred in Africa over the past 40 years. It is much easier to control Ebola infections in isolated villages. But there has been a 300 percent increase in Africa’s population over the last four decades, much of it in large city slums. What happens when an infected person yet to become ill travels by plane to Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa or Mogadishu — or even Karachi, Jakarta, Mexico City or Dhaka?

The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. You can now get Ebola only through direct contact with bodily fluids. But viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice.

From TheLocal.ch, another case of delayed assistance:

Switzerland steps up aid to Ebola-hit countries

Switzerland has pledged an additional two million francs in aid to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa which has killed over 2,400 people since the outbreak began in March.

The extra funding provided by Swiss Humanitarian Aid will be used to support Médecins sans Frontières Switzerland (MSF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), according to a government statement released on Friday.

One million francs will go to a MSF emergency programme for north Liberia, while the other million will be used by WFP for a regional emergency operation to fend off the hunger crisis triggered by the epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

From People’s Daily, ditto:

China offers new aid for combating Ebola

China on Friday announced a further 200 million yuan (32.54 million U.S. dollars) package of humanitarian aid to African countries and international organizations to help control Ebola.

The aid will include food, supplies for disease control, emergency treatment facilities, and capital support, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

China will also promote long-term medical cooperation with African countries, to help them raise their disease control and response abilities and improve public health systems.

The Associated Press prepares for a pep talk:

Obama to visit Atlanta health center to talk Ebola

President Barack Obama will travel next week to Atlanta to address the Ebola crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House said Friday.

During his visit on Tuesday, Obama will be briefed about the outbreak and discuss the U.S. response with officials, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Obama will also thank the doctors, scientists and health care workers responding to the crisis.

Four Americans have been or are being treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation from Africa. The Ebola outbreak is the worst in history and has been blamed for more than 2,200 deaths in West Africa. So far, the death rate is about 50 percent, with doctors and nurses at a high risk of contracting the virus.

Punch Nigeria covers a significant decision:

Uniport Alumni backs Sept 22 schools resumption

The University of Port Harcourt Alumni has thrown it’s weight behind the decision of the Federal government to shift backwards the resumption date for primary and secondary schools in the country to September 22.

In a statement issued on Friday and signed by it’s National President, Mr. Sampson Ngerebara and the National Secretary, Mr.  Chris Adokeme, the association explained that it was satisfied with the presentation of the Minister of Health, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu on the basis for the rethink.

The Minister had told Nigerians that the shift in the resumption date was necessitated by the fact that the spread of the Ebola virus has been contained in the country.

From StarAfrica, a bullet dodged:

Nigeria: Quarantined S/African tests negative for Ebola

A South African woman, who was under quarantine in Nigeria as a suspected Ebola case, has tested negative for the disease.The woman will be allowed to return home, a U.S. disease expert, Dr. Aileen Marty, who is assisting Nigerian health authorities said in Lagos on Friday.

The traveller, who had flown into Lagos via Morocco on Thursday, was held overnight in an Ebola treatment centre for tests after she acknowledged suffering Ebola-like symptoms after working in Guinea and Sierra Leone since April.

The two countries and Liberia have been the epicenters of the epidemic since February.

The Liberian Inquirer intercepts:

BIN Officer Suspected Of Ebola Intercepted

An officer of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) whose wife died of Ebola in Monrovia was intercepted en route to Boniken while returning to the Southeast.

He entered onboard a truck marked ‘TT 2085?. Winston Isaac arrived in Maryland at 9:00 a.m. on Monday and was discovered in the ‘Cassava Farm Community’ in Pleebo.

According to our correspondent, the truck was en route to Grand Kru County with goods on board while another report coming from the county on a community radio in Pleebo disclosed that the goods were rejected by residents in Grand Kru County on ground that a man whose wife died of Ebola was onboard even though he stopped in Pleebo but intercepted in Boniken.

The Liberian Inquirer again, with outrage:

18 Dead, 47 Suspected Ebola Cases On The By-Pass…Residents Stone Rep. Gray’s House For “Abandoned” Body

In the wake of the wide spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the city, residents of the By-pass community have reported the death of 18 persons in the community with at least 47 suspected cases of Ebola.   Yesterday, hundreds of angry residents and community dwellers set up roadblock in protest to a suspected Ebola body which they said have been locked indoor for the past three days in the Rock Spring Community.

The residents through their Chairman, Joseph S. Kannah and Madam Ernestine King said since the death of a boy identified as Alvin Nyanti commonly known as Chineseboy in the community they have made several calls to the   Ebola Response Center but to no avail.

Mr. Kannah said about 16 persons were suspected of having the virus in the Rock Spring Community who have been continuously denied by the various treatment centers due to limited capacity to host them.

And from the Liberian Inquirer once more, admonition:

Gov’t Renews Warning To Would-Be “Ebola Rogues”…Releases Report On The Expenditure Of U. S. $5m

The acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh, says any individual or entity found to have abused the public trust in the management and operations of fund allotted for the fight against the deadly Ebola virus will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.   Acting Minister Konneh said the total estimated financial requirement to address the national response was initially quoted at US$2O million dollars, but rose to US$34.8 million when all implementing agencies submitted their three-month budget.

Minister Konneh said support to all health related interventions in this plan amounts to US$20 million, constituting 84 percent of the entire budget.

He said the Government of Liberia began the process with an initial injection of US$5 Million, made possible through a short term loan from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

The Associated Press covers treatment:

American gets blood from fellow Ebola survivor

An American aid worker infected with Ebola has been given blood from a fellow doctor who battled the disease, and Nebraska doctors say the man has responded well to aggressive treatment in the past week.

Dr. Rick Sacra received two blood transfusions from Dr. Kent Brantly last weekend after arriving at the Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Phil Smith said Thursday. Sacra also has been given an experimental drug that doctors refuse to identify, and he has received supportive care including IV fluids.

Sacra is close friends with Brantly, one of the first two Americans treated for Ebola in Atlanta last month, from their missionary work.

Bloomberg covers another sad consequence of the crisis:

Black Market in Blood Serum Emerging Amid Ebola Outbreak

A black market for an Ebola treatment derived from the blood of survivors is emerging in the West African countries experiencing the worst outbreak of the virus on record, the World Health Organization said.

The United Nations health agency will work with governments to stamp out the illicit trade in convalescent serum, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters today in Geneva, where the organization is based. There is a danger that such serums could contain other infections and wouldn’t be administered properly, Chan said.

The WHO is encouraging the use of properly obtained serum to treat current patients and said last week it should be a priority. A third U.S. missionary worker who was infected with Ebola in Liberia and flown to the U.S. for medical care was treated with blood transfusions from another American who recovered from the virus last month. Doctors hope the virus-fighting antibodies in the blood help the 51-year-old physician, Rick Sacra.

BBC News covers substantial help:

Cuba to send doctors to Ebola areas

Cuba is sending 165 health workers to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, officials say. Doctors, nurses and infection control specialists will travel to Sierra Leone in October and stay for six months.

The announcement comes as the World Health Organization says new cases in West Africa are increasing faster than the capacity to manage them.

Dr Margaret Chan, director of the WHO, said: “If we are going to go to war with Ebola we need the resources to fight. “I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known.”

BBC News again, with a symbolic gesture:

Recovered Ebola patient William Pooley to return to Africa ‘in a few weeks’

The first British person to contract Ebola in the current outbreak in Africa is to return to the country where he was infected in order to help others fight the disease.

William Pooley was treated in London after being flown out of Sierra Leone.

He has made a full recovery and, having been discharged from hospital, said he is to travel back within “a few weeks”.

Reuters covers withdrawal:

Netherlands to evacuate two doctors who had contact with Ebola victims

Authorities in the Netherlands are preparing to evacuate two Dutch doctors who had unprotected contact in Sierra Leone with patients who later died of Ebola, a Dutch public health official said on Friday.

The two doctors have shown no symptoms of the virus but authorities believe there is cause for concern because they were not wearing full protective clothing when they came into contact with the patients, who had not yet been diagnosed with Ebola.

“The two doctors’ personal protection should be considered inadequate. They could potentially have been exposed,” said Jaap van Dissel, director of the Dutch Center for Infectious Disease Control.

From BuzzFeed, the demographics of death:

Ebola Is Killing Women In Far Greater Numbers Than Men

  • A Liberian health official estimates 75% of Ebola deaths are women. That’s because they are the nation’s caregivers.

The Ministry of Health says fully 75% of the Ebola deaths it has counted are women, but it doesn’t release disaggregated mortality statistics. But Tolbert Nyenswah, the assistant minister of health who provided the estimate, agrees that whatever the number, women bear the biggest mortality burden of this disease. Culturally, they are expected to do the caretaking. “In this country,” he said, “men are bullshit.”

Slowly, health care workers are getting the equipment they need to touch patients, a head-to-toe uniform called PPE, or personal protective equipment. But there are no plans to issue PPE to mothers and wives and daughters.

It’s hard to imagine a mother tolerating PPE. The goggles and masks obscure the face; the head-to-toe white suit engulfs familiar body language or movement. People in PPE are white plastic strangers.

From TheLocal.es, more European fear:

Two new possible Ebola cases hit Spain

A 13-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man, both from Nigeria, have been admitted to hospital on the island of Majorca and the southern Spanish region of Murcia over fears they’re infected with the highly contagious Ebola virus.

Both suspected Ebola carriers flew to Spain in the past three weeks from the Nigerian capital of Lagos, Spanish national daily ABC reported.

Displaying Ebola symptoms such as muscle pain and high temperatures on admission to hospital, they are being kept in isolation in secure units equipped with the necessary means to deal with infectious diseases.

And for our final item, via the Guardian, the despicable Down Under:

Queensland Ebola scare: tourism chief says media damaged Gold Coast brand

  • Tourists reportedly cancelled holidays after a man had been admitted to a Gold Coast hospital with ‘Ebola-like’ symptoms

The head of Gold Coast Tourism says sensational media reporting of the recent Ebola scare damaged the region’s brand as a holiday destination.

Tourists reportedly cancelled holidays and changed flights amid reports that a 27-year-old man had been admitted to the Gold Coast University hospital with “Ebola-like” symptoms.

Michael Walsh, 27, a fly-in, fly-out miner from Western Australia, was cleared on Thursday of having the deadly virus after two blood tests returned negative results.

InSecurityWatch: Race, spooks, hacks, Asian heat


Today’s coverage of the things that make governments and citizens insecure [often not the same things in the same ways] begins with a real cause for national insecurity in the U.S. Via MintPress News:

US Has “Much Left to Do” On Racism: Segregation Worse Now Than In 70s

One UN committee member is shocked that “in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation [is] nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

An official summary of last week’s discussions between the U.N. experts and civil society groups recorded one committee member’s shock “to realize than in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation was nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

Another expert noted that “some 39 million African Americans [are] particularly affected by structural racial discrimination in the United States … part of the broader heritage of slavery,” according to the summary.

Indeed, rights advocates here say that one of the most significant impacts of the race convention has been around the broader understanding of the structural issues of racism that persist in the U.S. — those ways in which institutionalized discrimination becomes considered normal.

Techdirt covers the sadly predictable:

Obama Review Of Military Gear Handed To Law Enforcement; Thinks Real Problem Is ‘Training And Guidance’

  • from the emptiest-of-gestures dept

President Obama, most likely prompted by the invasion of Ferguson by armed forces, has called for a review of military equipment provided to local police departments by the same government he presides over. Presumably, this isn’t the sort of “review” he has in mind.

Not that local law enforcement agencies couldn’t throw an impressive Victory Day parade. The 1033 program, which sends military vehicles, weapons and equipment downstream to law enforcement agencies for pennies on the dollar, has shifted $4.3 billion from the Dept. of Defense to hundreds of police departments across the United States since 1997. Here’s what the President is actually interested in seeing.

“Among other things, the president has asked for a review of whether these programs are appropriate,” said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the internal assessment. The review also will assess “whether state and local law enforcement are provided with the necessary training and guidance; and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.”

In other words, don’t expect much to change, and not any time soon (if at all).

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, a response to cross-border flatulism:

No Evidence of Jihadists in Mexico, Foreign Minister Says

There is no evidence to support the comments by Texas Gov. Rick Perry that jihadists could enter the United States via the southern border, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said.

“It is very unfortunate that some people make foreign policy on the basis of beliefs, suppositions and completely unfounded and absurd analyses,” Meade said in a press conference on Saturday.

Perry said in an address last week that there was a “very real possibility” that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, terrorists may have entered the United States by crossing the southern border.

The Intercept covers a spooky search engine:

The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

RT talks Turkey:

Not-so NATO-ally? Germany spying on Turkey for ‘38 years’

German foreign intelligence agency has been tapping Turkey for almost four decades, reports Focus amid the ongoing spy scandal between Berlin and Ankara. Some German officials defend the practice, saying that not all NATO allies can be treated as friends.

The German Federal Intelligence Service, BND, has been eavesdropping on Turkey since 1976 following the Social Democrat Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s government approval, Focus magazine wrote on Saturday.

Passions over previous spying allegations revealed in the media are still running high, but a new report may add fuel to the fire triggering further tensions between the two long-time North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

And International Business Times covers a rare case of candor:

Qatar And Terrorism: For Better Or For Worse, A Strong Connection

  • German Development Minister Gerd Mueller blasted Qatar on Wednesday.

“You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops?” Mueller said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF. “The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?”

The U.S. has also wrestled with Qatar’s connections to Sunni Muslim terrorist organizations. The State Department described Qatar as “largely passive” in cooperating with efforts to cut terrorist funding in an internal cable dated Dec. 30, 2009. The cable concluded that al-Qaeda, the Taliban “and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale. Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.”

More recently, the U.S. signed a $11 billion arms and defense deal with Qatar for Apache helicopters, missile defense systems and more in July. The U.S. also keeps an Army base and an Air Force base in Qatar.

From the New York Times, the tragedy resumes:

Egypt and U.A.E. Said to Secretly Bomb Militias in Libya

Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.

The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.

The strikes in Tripoli are another destabilizing salvo in a power struggle defined by old-style Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

From Reuters, more blowback:

Rival second Libyan assembly chooses own PM as chaos spreads

The Libyan parliament that was replaced in an election in June reconvened on Monday and chose an Islamist-backed deputy as the new prime minister, leaving the chaotic country with two rival leaders and assemblies, each backed by armed factions.

An election in June had been aimed at rebuilding state institutions in an attempt to quell three years of spreading violence since the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

But the old General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had a strong voice, has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of its successor assembly, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberals and federalists.

From the Washington Post, Big Brother R Us:

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.

The Register covers the ludicrous:

Intelligence blunder: You wanna be Australia’s spyboss? No problem, just walk right in

  • Access control? Yeah, we’ve heard of it

The Australian Security Intelligence Service, ASIS, has seemingly demonstrated a peculiar weakness in its access control systems.

A fluke administrative stuff-up allowed its Director-General – its most senior and therefore most sensitive role – to turn up and function for five days while he wasn’t actually employed by the organization.

As outlined by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, D-G Nick Warner’s contract ended, effectively sacking him, and the cack-handed public service’s computer systems didn’t notice.

From the Independent, a cyber assault:

Sony hit by cyber attack that closes PlayStation Network as plane carrying top executive is diverted following bomb threat

Federal investigators in the United States were attempting on Monday to get to the bottom of a fresh cyber-based assault against the Sony Corporation on Sunday that saw a brief a shut-down of its PlayStation Network and the emergency diversion of a commercial airliner that was carrying one of its top executives.

The company said its network had been fully restored and that no customer information had been compromised in what it said had been a “large-scale” attack, which normally involves an intruder using multiple computers to overwhelm the system forcing it to shut down. Meanwhile, John Smedley, its Online Entertainment President, was safe after what appeared to be a false bomb threat against his plane.

Sony suffered a similar event in 2011 when hackers stole credit card information from about 77 million of its customers crippling the network for two months.

From Deeplinks, a call for Comcastigation:

Comcast Data Breach Leaks Thousands of Unlisted Phone Numbers, Threatening Customers’ Privacy

Four years ago, users of Comcast’s phone service who had paid for their personal information to be unlisted noticed that something was amiss. Complaints started appearing from these individuals who found their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in phone directories both online and off.

Later, it was revealed that this breach of confidential information affected more than 74,000 individuals and households in California—over half of Comcast’s users in California with unlisted numbers. While the breach hit California the hardest, it also occurred with Comcast customers in other states. These numbers were treated just like ordinary listed phone numbers, licensed by Comcast to “publishers,” directory assistance providers, and apparently passed on to other databases and published for everyone to see.

This is but one example of how a mistake in an industry built upon the acquisition and selling of personal information can hurt people.  And this is why California law requires phone companies to protect their customers’ unlisted or non-published phone numbers.1 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened up an investigation [pdf] to determine whether and to what extent Comcast may have broken the law in allowing this release of non-published numbers. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien has submitted testimony [pdf] as an expert witness for the California PUC in this case.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including Sino/American semantic escalation and fears of provocation, a renewed nuclear arms race, two maritime message [one submersible], a Chinese film festival canceled, more Chinese crackdowns and indignation, more Japanese dissent, and more reluctance to acquiesce to Abe’s militarization push. . . Continue reading