First up, sobering news from Science:
Disease modelers project a rapidly rising toll from Ebola
Alessandro Vespignani hopes that his latest work will turn out to be wrong. In July, the physicist from Northeastern University in Boston started modeling how the deadly Ebola virus may spread in West Africa. Extrapolating existing trends, the number of the sick and dying mounts rapidly from the current toll—more than 3000 cases and 1500 deaths—to around 10,000 cases by September 24, and hundreds of thousands in the months after that. “The numbers are really scary,” he says—although he stresses that the model assumes control efforts aren’t stepped up. “We all hope to see this NOT happening,” Vespigani writes in an e-mail.
Vespignani is not the only one trying to predict how the unprecedented outbreak will progress. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the number of cases could ultimately exceed 20,000. And scientists across the world are scrambling to create computer models that accurately describe the spread of the deadly virus. Not all of them look quite as bleak as Vespignani’s. But the modelers all agree that current efforts to control the epidemic are not enough to stop the deadly pathogen in its tracks.
The accompanying graphic:
From the Associated Press, a four-alarm alaert
WHO: Senegal Ebola case ‘a top priority emergency’
The effort to contain Ebola in Senegal is “a top priority emergency,” the World Health Organization said Sunday, as the government continued tracing everyone who came in contact with a Guinean student who has tested positive for the deadly disease in the capital, Dakar.
Senegal faces an “urgent need” for support and supplies including hygiene kits and personal protective equipment for health workers, the WHO said in a statement Sunday.
“These needs will be met with the fastest possible speed,” the WHO said.
Reuters reports a strike by those most vulnerable to infection:
Health workers strike at Sierra Leone Ebola hospital
Health workers have gone on strike at a major state-run Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, over pay and poor working conditions, hospital staff told Reuters on Saturday.
Sierra Leone’s government is struggling to cope with the worst Ebola outbreak in history, that has killed more than 1,550 people across West Africa, with the rate of infection still rising.
“The workers decided to stop working because we have not been paid our allowances and we lack some tools,” said Ishmael Mehemoh, chief supervisor at the clinic in the city of Kenema, in the country’s east.
Clothing to protect health workers being infected is inadequate and there is only one broken stretcher which is used to carry both patients and corpses, Mehemoh added.
The Independent sounds an urban alert:
Ebola virus: It’s ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa’s cities
Ebola is now spreading from the remote provinces and into the teeming cities such as Freetown, where 1.2 million people jostle for space. Previous outbreaks had been limited to remote vil-lages, where containment was aided by geography. The thought of Ebola taking hold in a major city such as Freetown or Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is a virological nightmare. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that the number of cases could hit 20,000 in West Africa.
“We have never had this kind of experience with Ebola before,” David Nabarro, coordinator of the new U.N. Ebola effort, said as he toured Freetown last week. “When it gets into the cities, then it takes on another dimension.”
The hemorrhagic fever has no cure. Odds of survival stand at about 50-50. Detection is difficult because early symptoms are hard to distinguish from those of malaria or typhoid, common ailments during the rainy season. While Ebola is not transmitted through the air like the flu, it does spread by close contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and sweat — even something as innocent as a tainted tear.
From the New Dawn in Monrovia, Liberia:
Liberia: Dogs Feed On Ebola Victims
The residents of the Mount Barclay Community within the Johnsonville Township, outside of Monrovia woke up on last Friday morning in total dismay when the remains of dead Ebola victims were reportedly seen, eaten by dogs, something reminiscent of the brutal civil war here, when dogs ate dead bodies on the streets.
The Liberian Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, buried some unaccounted-for corpses, suspected to have died from the Ebola Virus in that township few weeks ago.
The burial was done in a hurry at night following a standoff in the day between residence and the Ministry of Health burial team. The former had refused to grant the authority a piece of land to carry out the burial. The dogs, in their numbers, were seen pulling the bodies out of the shadowed grave and hastily eating them.
TheLocal.no sounds a Nordic Ebola alert:
Ebola threat to Norway: Sweden fears first case
- Sweden has confirmed a suspected case of Ebola on Sunday, making it possibly the first Nordic case of the virus.
A hospital in Stockholm is investigating a possible case of Ebola, reported NTB.
A man who recently travelled to a “risk area” for the virus was taken to Karolinska University Hospital in the Swedish capital suffering from a fever. He is being treated in an isolation unit.
Åke Örtqvist, doctor at the infectious disease unit at Karolinska hospital, said to Aftonbladet: “The risk is minimal of it being Ebola, but we handle all such cases in seriously. We have a high level of safety to ensure we don’t overlook a possible case of contamination.”
From The Hill, a political call:
US should do more to contain Ebola outbreak, Sen. McCain says
The U.S. should do more, including possibly dispatching military assets, to combat the Ebola outbreak roiling at least five African nations, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
“All of us would like to see the United States more involved,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We have [U.S. Navy] hospital ships because they can move from one place to another.”
Senegal on Friday became the fifth country to confirm a case of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) last week said there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
How the Ebola Virus Jams Immune System Signals and Kills
The largest Ebola outbreak in history has been making headlines for months. Health officials and government leaders from West Africa and well beyond have been left perpetually scrambling to get ahead of a disease still boasting a mortality rate near 50 percent. The current confirmed death toll: 1,552.
Researchers based at Washington University School of Medicine, however, have figured out how Ebola manages to be so uniquely deadly in humans, by mapping out in detail how one Ebola virus protein interacts with a protein integral to human immune systems. This is good news because deep knowledge of the ins and outs and intricacies of Ebola makes finding a cure and vaccine for the virus all that much easier.
Scientists have known for a while that this one particular Ebola protein was messing with our human one, but were unsure of these exact specifics, published this month in the open-access journal Cell Host & Microbe.
On to Asia and another disease outbreak from NewsOnJapan:
3 more people suspected of contracting dengue fever within Japan
Three more people are believed to have contracted dengue fever and all of whom recently spent time in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, government authorities said Sunday, raising to six the number of confirmed or suspected cases of domestic infection, the first in Japan since 1945.
The three new cases of infection by the mosquito-borne disease involve a boy from Niigata Prefecture, and a girl and man from Kanagawa Prefecture, all of whom recently visited the popular park in central Tokyo.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is examining other suspected cases involving people who have visited the same Tokyo park recently, with plans to announce the results of those tests as soon as known, possibly on Monday afternoon, health ministry officials said.
And from Nature, a domestic alert:
US government labs plan biohazard-safety sweep
The discovery of smallpox in a refrigerator at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, on 9 July has apparently sparked some soul searching in the US government. On 27 August, the NIH designated September as National Biosafety Stewardship Month, encouraging researchers to take inventory of their freezers for potentially dangerous agents such as pathogens and toxins, and review their biosafety protocols. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did the same in a memo released to the public on 28 August, suggesting “a government-wide ‘safety stand-down,’” and “strongly urging” both federal agencies and independent labs to complete these steps within the month.
Although the OSTP does not have the regulatory power to enforce inspections, documents obtained exclusively by Nature show that some government agencies are already starting strict surveillance of their labs. In July, the NIH began scouring its own facilities for any misplaced hazards. Its rigorous strategy, obtained through public-records request, requires laboratories at all of its campuses — whether they work with infectious diseases or not — to survey their vials and boxes for potentially dangerous pathogens, venoms, toxins and other agents. The scientific directors of each NIH institute have until 30 September to submit affidavits confirming that this has been completed by the laboratories in their institutes.
Next up, the Reykjavík Grapevine covers an eruption:
Holuhraun Volcano Erupts Again
- An eruption has commenced at Holuhraun again, replete with magma plumes some 60 metres tall.
RÚV reports that an eruption has re-opened at Holuhraun, just north of Vatnjökull, which began in the early morning hours. As can be seen, this is a lava eruption, and plumes of magma are reportedly reaching heights of up to 60 metres.
This eruption is at the same location as the one which began last Friday, and continued for a few hours, only this time the eruption is 10 to 20 times bigger, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson told reporters. The southernmost point of the eruption begins where last Friday’s eruption left off, and extends some 1.5 to 1.8 kilometres northwards.
Civil Protection in Iceland is on alert, although there are as yet no plans to elevate preparations, as the eruption is occurring in an area not considered to put any people or animals in danger.
After the jump, domestic water woes on both coasts, fracking pollution, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading