We begin with vaccines, first from the New York Times:
Doctor’s Mishap Sheds Light on Ebola Vaccine’s Effects
The moment he felt a needle jab into his thumb last September on an Ebola ward in Sierra Leone, Dr. Lewis Rubinson knew he was at risk of contracting the deadly disease. What could he do but wait to see if he got sick, and hope that treatment would pull him through?
Dr. Rubinson, an intensive-care specialist and associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, chose another option, described in an article and editorial published on Thursday in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He was quickly given a shot of an experimental vaccine, a type that had been used in only one other person. The hope was that if he had been exposed to Ebola, the vaccine would stimulate his immune system to fight off the virus.
As it turns out, it is not clear whether the vaccine could have protected him against Ebola, because blood tests indicate he was almost certainly never infected. It is clear, though, that the vaccine stirred up his immune system: He had fever, chills, nausea, muscle pains and a headache. But the symptoms ebbed after a few days, and when it was all over blood tests suggested that he was probably immune to Ebola.
Although it is impossible to draw broad conclusions from a single case, doctors said the information was nonetheless useful. There is hardly any other data on how the vaccine affects people, and knowing how Dr. Rubinson fared may help other health workers potentially exposed to Ebola decide whether to be vaccinated.
And a trial commencing, via the World Health Organization:
Ebola vaccine efficacy trial ready to launch in Guinea
Based on promising data from initial clinical trials in late 2014, WHO with the Health Ministry of Guinea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Epicentre and The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), will launch a Phase III trial in Guinea on 7 March to test the VSV-EBOV vaccine for efficacy and effectiveness to prevent Ebola. The vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. A second vaccine will be tested in a sequential study, as supply becomes available.
“We have worked hard to reach this point,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. “There has been massive mobilization on the part of the affected countries and all partners to accelerate the development and availability of proven interventions. If a vaccine is found effective, it will be the first preventive tool against Ebola in history.”
Vaccination will take place in areas of Basse Guinée, the region that currently has the highest number of cases in the country. The trial strategy adopted will be “ring vaccination”, based on the approach used to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. This involves the identification of a newly diagnosed Ebola case – the “index case” – and the tracing of all his/her contacts. The contacts are vaccinated if they give their consent.
“The Ebola epidemic shows signs of receding but we cannot let down our guard until we reach zero cases,” said Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who leads the Ebola Research and Development effort at WHO. “An effective vaccine to control current flare-ups could be the game-changer to finally end this epidemic and an insurance policy for any future ones.”
On to Liberia with Heritage, and a landmark declared:
Liberia discharges last Ebola case today Featured
Liberia will today, Thursday, March 5 discharge the only confirmed Ebola case in the country, the head of the Incident Management Team on Ebola Mr. Tolbert Nyensuah has disclosed.
Mr. Nyensuah, who is also the Assistant Minister for Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said the last case will be discharged from the Chinese Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at the Samuel Kanyan Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
The health ministry official made these comments yesterday at the regular Ebola Hour hosted by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) in Monrovia.
“The good news is that the only confirmed Ebola case that we have in the country will be discharged tomorrow from the Chinese ETU at the Samuel Kanyan Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville,” said the Incident Management Team head.
The Liberian Observer covers an NGO’s assistance:
YMCA Wages Intense Ebola Fight in West Point
The YMCA continues its fight against the deadly Ebola virus in West Point with the recruitment and temporary employment of forty residents every week to clean all the township’s seven communities.
The 40 volunteers, under the scheme, Food for Work (FFW) receive a 25k bag of rice, a gallon of cooking oil, half dozen tins of sardines and 50 pieces of Vital Cube at the end of the week. A new team of 40 volunteers is hired each week.
The uninterrupted cleaning campaign which began in October 2014, is one of YMCA’s initiatives to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The project, titled: Saving Lives and Restoring Livelihoods in West Point,’ was awarded by Y Care International and funded by Comic Relief, UK.
From IRIN, a look ahead:
Ebola: Liberia’s long road to recovery
Liberia has lifted nationwide curfews and reopened its land borders with key trading partners Sierra Leone and Guinea, but a full recovery from the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak will take time, experts say.
“The reopening of the border is going to have an impact immediately, both in terms of livelihoods and the availability of food, as well as informal trade,” said Errol Graham, the World Bank’s country economist for Liberia, who spoke to IRIN from Virginia. “But there is going to be a lot of asymmetry between the [speed of] recovery and the crisis. The crisis was an immediate thing because of fear and aversion. The recovery is going to take a little longer.”
Within hours of the reopening of the border, people and merchandise began to flow from one side to the other. Local markets, once again stocked with fresh produce, meat and home goods, buzzed with activity, for the first time in more than six months.
In the interior of Liberia, Graham said, “We are also seeing, with the abatement of the crisis, people starting to go back to work and we expect to see more of that over time. And as foreigners who were involved in concessions in the natural resource sector come back, we expect to see more improvements in the employment situation.”
But even for those back at work, business remains sluggish.
The New Dawn covers a political pronouncement:
Regional approach, collaboration key to zero Ebola cases
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says strong and concerted regional support with help from international partners is needed to achieve a robust recovery program, similar to what she called a ‘’Marshall Plan” that will demand huge resource allocation.
According to a Dispatch from Brussels, Belgium, the Liberian leader, who spoke Tuesday on behalf of the three most affected Ebola countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) at the European Union high-level Ebola Conference, said over the past decade, the three affected Mano River Union (MRU) countries made significant gains in the process of reconstruction after years of conflict.
She stressed that as a result of the Ebola outbreak, families and communities were torn apart, and doctors, teachers, mothers, religious leaders and other opinion leaders were greatly affected, while the disease robbed the communities of its ability to care for its own people.
The Liberian leader indicated that the countries’ health systems collapsed when health care workers, nurses and doctors died, trying to treat the sick, not knowing the nature of the disease they were dealing with.
On to Sierra Leoine and a controversy surrounding the late spokesperson for the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, via the the Sierra Leone Telegraph:
Chaos and confusion in Freetown as unlawful exemption granted for burial of SLPP Tamba Sam
Tonight there is confusion and chaos in Freetown, as reports emerged of members of the opposition SLPP party storming Connaught hospital, where the Ebola burial teams were making arrangements for the immediate burial of Tamba Sam who died on Monday.
According to the Ebola state of emergency regulations, all burials – irrespective of whether death was caused by Ebola or not, must be carried out by the Ebola burial teams within twenty-four hours of death.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed that since the passing of the safer burial regulations, government officials and the police have been granting exemptions to those with connections in high places and can afford to pay bribes.
Although the number of new Ebola cases has declined in the last three months by more than fifty-percent, there are serious concerns regarding the recent spike in the numbers, especially in the ruling APC party’s Freetown-northern heartlands, where Ebola has become firmly entrenched.
The Sierra Leone Concord Times covers another NGO’s efforts:
Peace Mothers intensify campaign to make Libeisaygahun Chiefdom Ebola free
Fambul Tok Peace Mothers in Libeisaygahun Chiefdom, Bombali District continue to complement the national effort to eradicate the Ebola disease in the country by engaging in house-to-house visits to ensure the disease does not enter their chiefdom.
Surrounded by a number of Ebola affected chiefdoms including Gbendembu Ngowahun, Sanda Tendaren and Makari Gbanti, Libeisaygahun is the only chiefdom that is yet to record a single case of Ebola due to the efforts of the Peace Mothers in collaboration with community members.
Explaining their success story, Chairlady of Peace Mothers in Batkanu Section, Ella Sesay, said before the outbreak of the disease sick people were taken to the chiefdom headquarter town of Batkanu for proper health care.
And from the Associated Press, Pyongyang eases up:
After Ebola ban, N. Korea opens marathon to foreigners
After lifting travel restrictions it imposed because of concerns over the Ebola virus, North Korea says foreigners can now take part in one of its most popular tourist events — the annual Pyongyang marathon, a travel agency said Thursday.
Even though no cases of Ebola had been reported anywhere near North Korea, the country shut out foreign tourists in October with some of the strictest Ebola regulations in the world, including saying that only local runners would be allowed into the marathon in April.
But Uri Tours, one company that takes tourists into North Korea, said on its website Thursday that it had been informed that North Korean authorities had “decided to re-open the doors to foreign amateur runners for the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon.”