We open with Ebola, and another alarm from the World Health Organization via the New York Times:
Ebola Could Eventually Afflict Over 20,000, W.H.O. Says
As the tally of deaths from the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus continued its seemingly inexorable rise, the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the epidemic was still accelerating and could afflict more than 20,000 people — almost seven times the current number of reported cases — before it could be brought under control.
The dire forecast was made as the W.H.O. reported that the number of known cases and fatalities had risen once again. The organization also acknowledged that in areas of intense transmission “the actual number of cases may be two-to-four times higher than that currently reported.”
The outbreak “continues to accelerate,” the organization said.
According to the latest figures released by the W.H.O. on Thursday, the death toll has risen by more than 100, to 1,552 out of 3,069 cases in four West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, which had previously indicated that its outbreak was under control.
And from the World Health Organization itself:
WHO issues roadmap to scale up international response to the Ebola outbreak in west Africa
The aim is to stop ongoing Ebola transmission worldwide within 6–9 months, while rapidly managing the consequences of any further international spread. It also recognizes the need to address, in parallel, the outbreak’s broader socioeconomic impact.
It responds to the urgent need to dramatically scale up the international response. Nearly 40% of the total number of reported cases have occurred within the past three weeks.
The roadmap was informed by comments received from a large number of partners, including health officials in the affected countries, the African Union, development banks, other UN agencies, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and countries providing direct financial support.
It will serve as a framework for updating detailed operational plans. Priority is being given to needs for treatment and management centres, social mobilization, and safe burials. These plans will be based on site-specific data that are being set out in regular situation reports, which will begin this week.
A parallel alarm, via MercoPress:
Ebola outbreak needs an ‘unprecedented’ response to bring it under control
- The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is going to get worse before it gets better, according to the top US public health official. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, said the epidemic would need an “unprecedented” response to bring it under control.
Mr Frieden met Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to discuss ways to fight the disease.
“The cases are increasing. I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better,” he admitted.
“The world has never seen an outbreak of Ebola like this. Consequently, not only are the numbers large, but we know there are many more cases than has been diagnosed and reported,” he added.
From the Associated Press, a ray of hope:
US to begin safety testing Ebola vaccine next week
- Federal researchers next week will start testing humans with an experimental vaccine to prevent the deadly Ebola virus.
The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is launching the safety trial on a vaccine developed by the agency’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and GlaxoSmithKline. Beginning Tuesday, it will test 20 healthy adult volunteers to see if the virus is safe and triggers an adequate response in their immune systems.
Even though NIH has been testing other Ebola vaccines in people since 2003, this is a first for this vaccine and its trial has been speeded up because the outbreak in West Africa “is a public health emergency that demands an all-hands-on-deck response,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID.
This isn’t a treatment for the disease, but a hoped-for preventative measure. Fauci said the vaccine cannot cause Ebola in the volunteers being tested.
A parallel test in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:
Ebola vaccine to be tested on British volunteers next month
- British volunteers will be injected with an experimental vaccine against Ebola in emergency trials to begin next month
Volunteers in Oxford will be given an experimental vaccine against Ebola in fast-tracked emergency clinical trials to begin in September, it has been announced.
The vaccine will use a single Ebola protein and will not infect the subjects with live Ebola virus.
At the same time that trials are beginning at Oxford University, up to 10,000 doses will be made to ensure that it can be more widely used quickly if the trials are successful.
On the ground, with the New York Times:
As Ebola Grips Liberia’s Capital, a Quarantine Sows Social Chaos
The five-month-old outbreak here in West Africa, already worse than all other Ebola epidemics combined, is for the first time spreading uncontrollably in a major city — one in which a third of Liberia’s 4.5 million people are estimated to rub shoulders, often uneasily. Though Ebola reached Monrovia three months after its appearance in the rural north, the city has become, in a few weeks, a major focal point of the epidemic.
The outbreak has overwhelmed the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has won the Nobel Peace Prize and the admiration of leaders around the world. But her management of Liberia has long drawn criticism at home, and now her handling of the Ebola epidemic has presented her with a political crisis that is galvanizing her opposition.
“We suffering! No food, Ma, no eat. We beg you, Ma!” one man yelled at Ms. Johnson Sirleaf as she visited West Point this week, surrounded by concentric circles of heavily armed guards, some linking arms and wearing surgical gloves.
BBC News prepares to quarantine:
Travel ban to Ebola affected countries, UK officials say
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office says all travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia should be avoided – unless essential, due to the Ebola outbreak.
British Airways has suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia and other airlines are taking similar measures.
Such flight restrictions may make it increasingly hard for people working in these areas to leave, the FCO warns.
From Reuters, quarantine opposition:
West African states call for end to border closures over Ebola
West African states should re-open their borders and end flight bans put in place to halt the spread of Ebola, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Thursday.
The ECOWAS countries and airlines will make their own decisions on flight bans and borders, but the view of the main regional body, expressed at a meeting of ECOWAS health ministers in Ghana’s capital, is likely to prove influential.
“We must implement containment measures but we must not implement measures that will isolate or ostracise the affected countries,” Ghana President John Mahama, who is also ECOWAS’s current chairman, told the meeting.
And an alert in India via The Hindu:
One released from Ebola surveillance, 229 under watch
One passenger who travelled from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone to Tamil Nadu has now been released from health surveillance, after 30 days of monitoring.
As of Thursday, a total of 229 passengers who have travelled from the four countries where the deadly virus has broken out, are being monitored across the State, said director of public health K. Kolandaisamy. Of these, 227 passengers passed through Chennai airport and two at Madurai.
Among the 229 are 11 students from two city colleges, who had travelled to their home countries recently. However, all of them are in good health and show no signs of the virus, Dr. Kolandaisamy said.
The Associated Press covers the epidemiology:
Scientists dig into Ebola’s deadly DNA for clues
A single funeral caused many.
Stephen Gire and other health researchers on the ground in Africa had some hope that the Ebola outbreak was coming under control or at least plateauing in late May. Then came the funeral of a healer in Guinea. More than a dozen of the mourners contracted the disease there, probably by washing or touching the body, and took it to Sierra Leone, according to a new DNA mapping of the Ebola virus that scientists hope will help them understand what makes this killer tick.
“You had this huge burst after it looked like the outbreak was starting to die down,” Gire said. “It sort of threw a wrench in the response.”
Ebola exploded after that funeral and has now killed at least 1,552 people in West Africa. It’s probably more than that, with 40 percent of the cases in the last three weeks, according to the World Health Organization. WHO officials said Thursday the outbreak continues to accelerate and could reach more than 20,000 cases eventually.
Another genetic pursuit, via the Economic Times:
Ebola virus sequences may aid hunt for treatments
Scientists tracking the spread of Ebola across West Africa on Thursday released 99 sequenced genomes of the hemorrhagic virus, in hopes of accelerating diagnosis and treatment.
In a sign of the urgency and danger at hand, five of the nearly 60 international co-authors who helped collect and analyze the viral samples have died of Ebola, said the report in the journal Science.
“We’ve uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks,” said Stephen Gire, a research scientist in the Sabeti lab at the Broad Institute and Harvard University.
Reuters covers another casualty:
Doctor dies of Ebola in Nigeria’s oil hub Port Harcourt
A doctor in Nigeria’s oil hub of Port Harcourt has died from Ebola after treating a contact of a Liberian-American man who was the first recorded case of the virus in Africa’s most populous country, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said in a statement that the doctor fell ill after treating a patient who was a contact of Patrick Sawyer, who died from Ebola in Lagos after flying in from Liberia last month.
The death in Port Harcourt brings the number of Ebola fatalities in Nigeria to 6, all of whom were direct or indirect contacts of Sawyer.
From the Guardian, precaution:
CDC staffer who worked with Ebola victim monitored for symptoms
- The staffer had ‘low-risk’ contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus in Sierra Leone, officials said
A CDC staff member who worked in close proximity to someone infected by the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has been flown by charter jet back home to Atlanta to monitor potential symptoms, officials said Thursday.
The staffer had “low-risk” contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus in Sierra Leone, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control.
“The worker is not sick, not showing symptoms, not showing any signs of illness whatsoever,” Skinner said.
Reuters covers economic impact:
Ebola causing huge damage to West Africa economies: development bank
The worst ever Ebola outbreak is causing enormous damage to West African economies as foreign businessmen quit the region, the African Development Bank said, while a leading medical charity branded the international response “entirely inadequate.”
As transport companies suspend services, cutting off the region, governments and economists have warned that the epidemic could crush the fragile economic gains made in Sierra Leone and Liberia following a decade of civil war in the 1990s.
African Development Bank (AfDB) chief Donald Kaberuka said on a visit to Sierra Leone he had seen estimates of a reduction of up to 4 percent in gross domestic product due to Ebola.
“Revenues are down, foreign exchange levels are down, markets are not functioning, airlines are not coming in, projects are being cancelled, business people have left – that is very, very damaging,” he told Reuters late on Tuesday.
Bloomberg covers another:
Country Confusion Keeps Ebola-Fearing Tourists Away From Africa
When Canadian tourist Shauna Magill posted on Facebook that she’d arrived safely in Uganda, a friend warned her to beware of “a thing called Ebola please.”
Another friend responded to that comment with a Google Maps link that showed Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and Nigeria, the closest nation affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, are 4,900 kilometers (3,045 miles) apart by road. That’s about the width of the continental U.S.
Misperceptions about Africa’s geography mean that Magill is becoming an exception among the increasing number of tourists who are canceling trips to the continent as health workers battle to contain the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Airlines have suspended routes to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the countries that are the epicenter of the disease. Flight bookings to sub-Saharan Africa may drop as much as 50 percent over the next four months, according to market research company Euromonitor International Plc. That would put the brakes on a tourism industry the World Bank says grew at the fastest pace globally over the past three years.
“Many travelers see Africa as one big country,” Paz Casal, a Spain-based travel and tourism research analyst at Euromonitor, said Aug. 26. “Ebola can damage Africa’s economic revival of recent years, resurfacing the continent’s negative stereotypes as a place of disease, famine and poverty.”
From USA TODAY, a more troublesome impact:
Ebola outbreak could lead to food crisis, U.N. says
The Ebola health crisis threatens to turn into a much broader “food crisis” in some of the world’s most impoverished countries, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program.
The program is scaling up its operations in West Africa to provide food to 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The food will go to people being treated for Ebola; their relatives; and those who have been quarantined by their governments, in an effort to halt the spread of Ebola.
“The food chain is threatened at many levels,” the World Food Program said in a statement. Hundreds of families have lost loved ones, many of whom were their family’s breadwinners.
After the jump, another illness spread in Japan, a climate change alarm, dangers for the world’s food crops, a sinking Louisiana coast, a rain forest victory, nuclear news from Japan and the U.S., and a smokin’ hot news for Down Under and Santa Fe. . . Continue reading