Category Archives: Health

Chart of the day II: Hospital acquired infections


Who gets them and where, via Reuters:

BLOG Hospitals

Map of the day: Vaccine exemptions flourish


From the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Vaccines

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, GMOs, nukes


And more. . .

We begin with a political move, via Deutsche Welle:

Obama vetoes Keystone XL oil pipeline legislation

  • US President Barack Obama has vetoed legislation that would have green-lighted the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The project has been a bone of contention between environmentalists and the oil industry for years.

After six years of contentious debate and review, President Obama killed legislation on Tuesday that would have approved the 875-mile international oil pipeline, using his veto power for third time since assuming office in 2009.

Exasperated with the approval process, Republicans and conservative Democrats had crafted legislation to circumvent the latest State Department examination of Keystone XL and begin construction.

Under US law, pipelines that cross international borders must be scrutinized by the State Department and approved by the president. Keystone XL, an eight-billion-dollar project of the TransCanada company, would have crossed the US-Canadian border

Outbreak News Today covers some bad HIV news:

90 percent of new HIV infections in the US come from people not being treated: CDC

More than 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States could be averted by diagnosing people living with HIV and ensuring they receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment. This finding was published today in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using statistical modeling, the authors developed the first U.S. estimates of the number of HIV transmissions from people engaged at five consecutive stages of care (including those who are unaware of their infection, those who are retained in care and those who have their virus under control through treatment). The research also shows that the further people progress in HIV care, the less likely they are to transmit their virus.

“By quantifying where HIV transmissions occur at each stage of care, we can identify when and for whom prevention and treatment efforts will have the most impact,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “We could prevent the vast majority of new infections tomorrow by improving the health of people living with HIV today.”

While the Independent offers some good HIV news:

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of ‘game-changer’ that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

A daily pill that can dramatically cut a person’s risk of contracting HIV must be made available through the NHS “as soon as possible”, campaigners have said.

Results of a major UK trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have been described as “extremely exciting” and a “game-changer” by leading specialists.

The Proud study found that PrEP cut the risk of HIV infection among gay men considered to be at high risk by an unprecedented 86 per cent.

Outbreak News Today tracks another outbreak of sea sickness:

Norovirus: 150 sickened on the Celebrity Equinox

The second cruise ship outbreak of 2015 investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) occurred on Celebrity Cruise lines’ Celebrity Equinox.

The outbreak of the gastrointestinal virus, norovirus, sickened 150 of the approximately 4,000 passengers and crew on board the vessel.

In response to the outbreak, Celebrity Cruise Line and the crew aboard the ship are taking the following actions: Increasing cleaning and disinfection procedures according to their outbreak prevention and response plan, making announcements to notify onboard passengers of the outbreak, encourage case reporting, and encourage hand hygiene and collected stool specimens from ill passengers and crew.

From the Guardian, good news for steamers:

Saunas help you live longer, study finds

  • Research tracking 2,000 Finnish men for decades suggests regular use gives protection from heart attacks, strokes and other conditions

A study of Finnish men suggests frequent sauna baths may help you live longer.

That is welcome news if it proves to be true – not just in Finland where saunas are commonplace, but for Americans shivering in a snowy Nordic-like winter.

Previous research has suggested that saunas might improve blood vessel function and exercise capacity, or even lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

The new study links long, hot sauna baths with more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes.

And from the Washington Post, bad news for steamers:

Climate change is really bad news if you like oysters, scallops and clams

When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, the first environmental problem that comes to mind is climate change. As humans pump more of this greenhouse gas into the air, the Earth gets warmer, and the climate changes in ways that could damage the economy, public health, infrastructure and society.

But along with climate change, these same emissions are causing another pernicious problem in our oceans. Some of the carbon dioxide we emit gets absorbed in sea water, where it turns into carbonic acid in a phenomenon called ocean acidification. As our emissions rise, the oceans will turn more and more acidic, irreparably altering aquatic ecosystems.

Ocean acidification might lack the rhetorical punch that “climate change” and “global warming” have. But as one new study shows, acidification could carry real economic and cultural risks, and we’re only beginning to understand them. Waters off the United States are home to countless oysters, clams, scallops and other shellfish that the seafood industry catches and grows for your dinner. In many of these regions — especially off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico — acidification could harm these creatures enough to deal big blows to local economies and meals, researchers reported Monday in Nature Climate Change.

From Sociological Images, California pesticide proximity problems:

Pesticide Drift and the Politics of Scale

California’s Central Valley is a bread basket of America. It is the source of much of the country’s grapes, tree fruit, nuts, and vegetables. Many of the farms are massive, requiring large amounts of capital, land, and labor.

In the nearby small towns are the homes of the state’s farm laborers. They are primarily Latino. About half are undocumented. Most are poor and few have health care. Politically and economically weak, they are the primary human victims of pesticide drift.

Pesticide drift occurs when chemicals leave the fields for which they’re intended and travel to where humans can be exposed. According to data summarized by geographer Jill Harrison for her article on the topic, California is a pesticide-intensive state. It accounts for 2-3% of all cropland in the U.S., but uses 25% of the pesticides. One in ten of registered pesticides are prone to drift and a third include chemicals that are “highly acutely toxic” or cause cancer, reproductive or developmental disorders, or brain damage. Officially, there are an average of 370 cases of pesticide poisoning due to drift every year, but farmworker advocates say that this captures 10% of the victims at best.

And from teleSUR, Peruvian pesticide problems:

Peru’s Government Approves Use of Dangerous Pesticides

  • Peruvian NGO discovered recently that the government approved by for agricultural use by dangerous chemicals.

Civil society organizations denounced Tuesday that the Peruvian executive issued two controversial decrees earlier this year. The finding was made Feb. 19 by the NGO “Environmental Rights and Natural Resources” (DAR). One of the decrees allows the use of fertilizers that are known to damage the ozone layer. The other decree allows the commercialization and use of pesticides, which are characterized by the World Health Organization as extremely dangerous, contaminating rivers, lakes and soils as well as posing the risk of poisoning people.

Cesar Gamboa is the Executive Director of DAR. He declared that “in other countries these substances are prohibited. In fact, starting with the Montreal Protocol, many countries have adapted their legislation to prohibit those chemical components that damage the ozone layer.”

Gamboa concludes that the government is allowing the use of those toxic products because they are cheaper and this would help combate slowing economic growth. However, he argues that such option is short sighted since it will have a greater health cost later on.

After the jump, the push for GMOs in Africa [led by Bill Gates], the palm oil plague afflicting African apes, California’s plastic bag ban stalled, rising waters around the Big Apple, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a secret radioactive leak exposed, a radioactive soil transfer approved, a private radiation posse stays on the case, and California’s last reactor complex heads for a courtroom showdown. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Politics, cases, food, fraud, schools


And more, starting with sex, via Reuters:

Fear of Ebola’s sexual transmission drives abstinence, panic

Worries over sexual transmission risk adding to the stigmatisation Ebola survivors already face, and are protracting the emotional burden of families often struggling to overcome the deaths of relatives.

While men like Pabai have taken the WHO’s advice a step further by separating themselves from their loved ones, some traumatised communities have imposed more draconian measures.

“We’ve got people being treated horrendously,” said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman on Ebola for the WHO. “In Sierra Leone particularly male survivors have been put in a form of concentration camp.”

Harris said men had been detained in Bombali, a district northeast of the capital Freetown, highlighting how public hysteria had become a real danger.

From SciDev.Net, a failure to engage:

Ebola struggle hit by failure to involve local people

Efforts to save lives in the West African Ebola outbreak have been undermined by a failure to involve local people more closely in communication about treatment and ethical decisions about trials, says a report published last week (17 February).

The report’s authors, who are all involved in Ebola vaccine work, made recommendations focusing on Ebola vaccine research, manufacturing and the process of getting vaccine approval in the developed world. They were convened by UK medical research funder the Wellcome Trust and the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, United States.

Considering real human and social factors is vital for stemming the Ebola outbreak, says Clement Adebamowo, the chairman of the Nigerian National Health Research Ethics Committee and one of the report’s 26 advisers.

The New Dawn in Monrovia, Liberia, covers visitors:

US Health officials Visit Liberia, Guinea

The U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Karen DeSalvo,  Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, Jimmy Kolker, and Deputy Chief of Staff Dawn O’Connel will visit Liberia and Guinea for three days this week to visit Ebola response sites in the region, the U.S. embassy here has disclosed.

In Liberia, they will tour the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU), a 25-bed field hospital dedicated to providing care to health care workers who become infected with Ebola, and the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, one of only a few laboratories in Liberia where Ebola specimens are sent to be tested. They will also meet with key representatives from the Government of Liberia, the World Health Organization and additional U.S. agencies involved in the Ebola response.

The MMU is staffed by the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, an elite uniformed service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Deputy Surgeon General RADM Boris D. Lushniak is currently the commanding officer of the MMU.

From StarAfrica, the newest hot spot:

Liberia: Four new Ebola cases discovered in Margibi County

The Margibi County Health Team has disclosed that four new confirmed cases of Ebola have been discovered in the county.Margibi Community Health Services Director Joseph Korhene told the county weekly Ebola Taskforce meeting in Kakata that the new cases could be traced to a lady, who brought her sick husband from Monrovia to the county on February 4, this year.

Korhene told stakeholders at the meeting that the lady took her husband to a local clinic in Kakata upon their arrival in the county on a commercial motorbike and then to a village known as Gaygbah Town in the county where he later died.

He said in line best practice, Gaygbah Town and nearby villages have been quarantined by the County Health Team (CHT) and that the victims are currently receiving treatment at the Kakata Ebola Treatment Unit.

From FrontPageAfrica, a notable number:

509th Patient Recovered From Ebola in ELWA III in Liberia

For the 509th time an Ebola survivor has left ELWA3, the Ebola Centre managed by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Monrovia. A thirteen year-old boy was driven home by a MSF vehicle on 19February to be reunited with his big sister and two younger brothers.

“He has been our only confirmed patient for a few weeks. The entire medical team was caring for him,” said Gloria Lougon, head nurse in ELWA3. “All our energy and determination was put into helping this boy fight the virus and recover.”

As the young patient is a football lover, the team organized the screening of a legendary football game (Brazil – Germany in the World Cup 2014). Three days later his blood sample finally tested Ebola-negative, meaning the kid could be brought home. Before leaving ELWA3, the last survivor left his tiny handprint on the walls to remind everyone an important message: yes, it is possible to beat Ebola.

SOS Children’s Villages Canada covers a complication:

Lack of clean water takes toll on Ebola-stricken Liberia

As schools in Liberia start reopening after nearly six months of closure due to the Ebola epidemic, one challenge still looms: access to clean water.

In response, SOS Children’s Villages is constructing a hand pump for Managbokai Elementary School. The school offers formal education to 200 children from marginalized families in a rural region of the country.

“This is the only school for children in Bomi County,” said the vice principal of the school, Kona Goll. “We appreciate the contribution of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia. The installation of a hand pump at the school is vital for the health and academic achievement of everyone here.”

Even before the Ebola crisis, access to safe water was a challenge. Managbokai Elementary School only had four teachers and the problem of water added to this difficulty and the progress of the students. Teachers would have to leave their classrooms and walk with student for 10 minutes to get drinking water. Students were also becoming ill from drinking the unsafe creek water that runs through the village. Fortunately, access to clean water will soon improve for children living in Bomi County, Liberia.

And FrontPageAfrica covers education in education:

Liberia’s MCSS Schools Get Ebola Prevention Training

In continuation of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, especially with the resumption of schools, the Monrovia Consolidated School System, a conglomerate of public schools in collaboration with Lone Star cell MTN Foundation is currently conducting a three day workshop in Monrovia on Ebola prevention.

Speaking during the start of the workshop, the Superintendent of the MCSS School system, Benjamin Jacob said the workshop is aimed at providing training for employees and staffs of the MCSS to enable them deal with any possible Ebola related cases.

“We are trying to run safe schools in the midst of Ebola by enlightening teachers, principals and other administrators. Doctors will be talking about the preventative methods, to all those people who are in the MCSS schools” Jacob said.

While the News covers an ongoing weakness:

Our Laboratories Had Challenges Before Ebola

… Coordinator

The National Laboratory Coordinator of the National Incident Management Team, Henry Kohar has highlighted the challenges laboratories in Liberia faced prior to the Ebola outbreak.

Mr. Kohar told the Ministry of Information regular press briefing Tuesday that operational funding was a serious problem for laboratories in the country.

According to him, prior to the outbreak, laboratory technicians had problem with the maintenance of equipment, noting “you will find out that most of our microscopes and other machines were non-functional due to the lack of maintenance.”

He disclosed that most of the laboratories machines were broken down due to the lack of electricity.

The National Coordinator also cited the lack of water supply as one of the problems technicians were faced with prior to the Ebola outbreak.

StarAfrica covers another:

W/Bank wary of Liberia food shortage

The World Bank has warned that food shortages will persist in Liberia where nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.The Bank issued a statement Tuesday noting that despite improvement in the outlook over the Ebola epidemic, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed in December believed that their harvests would be smaller than it had been in the previous year.

The fear is based on 80 percent labour shortages and the inability to work in groups due to Ebola infection which continues to pose a problem for agricultural households.

The bank also recalled the lack of money by households for food as a cardinal problem in buying enough to feed their families.

On to Sierra Leone and a call for vigilance from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

In Kono: VP Sumana admonishes more vigilance as Ebola ebbs

Addressing hundreds of stakeholders at Kaiyima in Sandor Chiefdom, and Kangama in Gorama Kono Chiefdom while on his social mobilization tour of Kono district, Vice President Chief Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana thanked the Chiefdom Ebola Task Force, nurses, contact tracers and Paramount Chief Sheku A.T. Fasuluku Sonsiama III, and chiefdom authorities for their tremendous role in the fight against Ebola.

The vice president informed the large crowd that the Ebola virus may be gradually declining in size, strength and power across the country, yet the battle against the invisible enemy was still raging as “the virus still exists with us and we are in the most dangerous period of the fight”.

He thanked His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma “for his fabulous work in leading the fight against Ebola”, thus admonishing the people of Sandor, Nimikoro and Gorama Kono chiefdoms to be more vigilant “during this causal period in the fight against the Ebola virus”.

StarAfrica covers a crisis of corruption:

S/Leone parliament to discuss Ebola funds report

Sierra Leone’s parliament is set to begin looking at a controversial report on how funds meant to fight the Ebola epidemic were used. Deputy Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in parliament, Komba Koydeyoma, was quoted in local media Tuesday saying that they would start hearings on the Ebola audit report on Wednesday.

It followed heated debate after the report was released earlier this month revealing how millions of US Dollars went unaccounted for after been used without proper documentation.

The report has set the government, particularly MPs, against the public, after the House of Representatives attempted to prevent public discussion of its details. The MPs argued that the PAC must first look at it and makes its own findings before it could be public document.

And some praise, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Defence Secretary praises UK troops for efforts in Salone

UK Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has said that UK personnel have made a vital contribution to tackle Ebola, during a visit to Sierra Leone.

Arriving in Freetown, Mr. Fallon met with President Ernest Bai Koromo at State House. Their meeting began with an ‘Ebola handshake’, a greeting now widespread in Sierra Leone where elbows are offered to avoid any potential transmission of the disease through body contact.

Mr. Fallon then visited sites where the British military has provided key support, including the Kerry Town Treatment Unit (KTTU) where regular and reserve military medics are treating healthcare workers with Ebola; the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus which deployed in September and has been providing reassurance and aviation support to the people of Sierra Leone; and the District Ebola Response Centre (DERC) in the northern town of Port Loko.

And on to Guinea with the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

First Ebola survivors talk of hope and despair in Guinea

Lying in an Ebola treatment centre in southeast Guinea, hidden behind thick plastic sheets and surrounded by nurses in yellow protective suits, Rose Komano feared she would not survive the virus that had robbed her of so many loved ones.

“Everyone before me had died, I was terrified,” Komano recalled.

But the 18-year-old became the first person to beat Ebola in the region of Gueckedou, where the latest outbreak of the disease was initially detected in March 2014.

Almost a year after she was released from a treatment centre run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Komano, who contracted the virus while caring for her sick grandmother, still mourns the deaths of her relatives.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, fuels, nukes


We begin with a measles death, via Agence France-Presse:

Toddler dies as measles outbreak hits German capital

A toddler suffering from measles has died in the German capital, health authorities said Monday, amid the country’s worst outbreak in years and a debate about vaccinations.

The 18-month-old boy died on February 18, the first known fatality among more than 570 recorded measles cases since October in the German capital, a Berlin health department official told AFP.

The resurgence of the preventable disease in Germany, as well as in parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

From the Guardian, a response:

Measles death in Germany prompts calls for mandatory vaccinations

  • Death of 18-month-old boy is the first fatality among 574 reported cases in the country’s worst measles outbreak in more than a decade

A senior German health official has called for mandatory measles vaccinations after an 18-month-old boy died of the disease amid the country’s worst outbreak in more than a decade.

The Berlin health minister, Mario Czaja, confirmed on Monday that the child – who had not been immunised against measles – died in hospital on Wednesday, the first fatality among 574 cases reported since the outbreak began in October.

The death has intensified a debate in Germany over whether parents should be forced to have their children immunised. Czaja said: “This case shows that measles is a very serious disease. I am in favour of mandatory vaccination.”

A killer bug with a broad turf, via Outbreak News Today:

CRE ‘nightmare bacteria’ not unique to UCLA

The Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), or “nightmare bacteria” as CDC director Dr Tom Frieden once called them, is not unique to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, despite all the media coverage.

Since first being detected in a North Carolina hospital in 2001, only Maine, Idaho and Alaska have not reported a confirmed CRE case caused by the KPC enzyme and about a third of states have reported CRE cases caused by the NDM enzyme.

In fact, according to a report by Charlotte, NC press, the Carolinas HealthCare System- Lincoln (CHS) has reported 3 cases since the beginning of the year.

The latest casualties, via Al Jazeera America:

‘Superbug’ kills 2 in North Carolina

  • Hospital officials confirm at least 18 cases of same antibiotic-resistant bacteria found at UCLA medical center

Health officials at the Carolinas HealthCare System confirmed that an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” — the same one that killed two people in California earlier this year — has claimed the lives of two people in North Carolina in recent months.

Health officials on Sunday afternoon said that two residents of the Charlotte, North Carolina area have died in recent months from carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. Three people acquired CRE while in Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals this year, and about 15 people with existing infections have been treated in the hospitals, the officials said.

The Charlotte-based hospital system is screening for people with CRE and is isolating those who are infected, according to Dr. Katie Passaretti, who is in charge of infection prevention at Carolinas HealthCare.

RT America covers consequences of historically unprecedented home sanitation:

For healthier kids, skip the dishwasher, just hand wash – study

Program notes:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports on the link between using your dishwasher and the health of your child. The study says that parents who reported using the dishwasher were more likely to have children with asthma and eczema.

From the Washington Post, a notable debunking:

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

  • New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead

Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

The Post’s accompanying graphic:

BLOG Cannabis

While the Guardian covers the ongoing consequences of a tragedy largely spared the U.S. by the effort of one diligent FDA employee [and what better proof of the high value of regulatory oversight of Big Pharma?]:

German thalidomide survivors continue fight for compensation

  • Government accused of hindering disabled people born with the effects of Contergan drug from accessing promised money

Christiane Seifert takes a visitor around her ground-floor flat in Hamburg. She opens a window with her shoulder, the patio door with her bare foot. At her computer, she sits bolt upright and uses her toes to type her emails. With a pointed chin she flicks off the light as she leaves the room. The 54-year old deftly demonstrates just a few of what she calls the “tricks” she uses to manage her everyday life.

Born without arms in January 1961, Seifert is a thalidomide survivor. Her mother was prescribed the drug, which was first marketed in the late 50s in West Germany under the name Contergan, to counteract the effects of morning sickness, with devastating consequences. Seifert was one of up to 7,000 born in Germany with phocomelia, or malformation of the limbs, 60% of whom died.

More than half a century later, Seifert, who is loquacious and funny, is still struggling for recognition for her plight.

“If even one person had ever come to visit me in that time to see how I cope with life, to assess my needs, or even invited me to go and show them what I can or cannot do,” she said. “But no one has ever even asked”.

From teleSUR English, allegations of a a dramatic spike in war-caused cancers in Gaza:

Cancer cases increase in Gaza due to Israeli enriched uranium

Program notes:

The cases of cancer in the Gaza Strip have increased alarmingly due to the use of enriched uranium and white phosphorus in Israeli weapons. The situation is aggravated by Israeli restrictions on the entrance of equipment and medicine for treating cancer, which force Palestinians to go abroad to receive medical treatment.

And from News Corp Australia, climate change accelerating gaseous reuptions in Siberia:

More Siberian methane blowholes found in permafrost

SIBERIA’S blowholes are exploding in numbers: Up to 20 have now been located, raising new fears the warming permafrost is releasing its deadly methane reserves.

A new report in the Siberian Times has backed up the discovery of four enormous craters in the Siberian tundra last year with news of up to 20 more, smaller vents.

“It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem,” Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Academy of Sciences told the Times. “We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters. We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.”

After the jump, climate changed blamed in the European grain production stall, the Brazilian water crisis deepens, the Keystone controversy continues, pseudo-regulation in a gas pipeline disaster. Shell calls a halt to a tar sands project, Canadian declares its oil train upgrades inadequate, the largest Amazon deforester busted, and a leak sought in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, food, borders, schools


We begin with the latest case counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from the Guardian, an ongoing concern:

Ebola: how to prevent a lethal legacy for food security

  • The World Food Programme warns that 1.4 million people could become malnourished because of Ebola. We must act quickly to avoid catastrophe

The Ebola outbreak did what outbreaks do: affected movement. People were afraid of the virus and governments made concerted efforts to contain Ebola’s spread. In doing so, food-producing parts of the countries found themselves isolated from urban cash economies. Traders willing to maintain trading routes, or with sufficient stock, often hiked prices to capitalise on the increase in demand as people panic-bought. Stocks decreased, prices rose and the purchasing power of people decreased as income-generating activities were affected by the outbreak.

The resilience of communities and national and international aid efforts helped to mitigate the effects of these shocks, but only temporarily. There is growing evidence that the number of food-insecure people in these countries is rapidly increasing. In October 2014, a report released by Action Against Hunger and the University of Naples Federico II estimated that Ebola could make up to 700,000 additional people undernourished across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Recent estimates by the World Food Programme suggest that the number of people who could become food-insecure by March 2015 could be as high as 3 million, 1.4 million because of the effect of Ebola. If WFP’s estimates prove correct, Ebola will have doubled the number of food-insecure people in these three countries.

As new Ebola cases start to decrease – along with much of the media attention – the wider and longer-term implications for the people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are becoming increasingly clear. And the picture that is emerging is troubling. The World Bank estimates that the final economic toll from the epidemic will be over $30 billion by the end of 2015, an amount three times larger than the combined GDP of these three countries in 2013. The inability of Ebola-affected countries to single-handedly absorb the economic costs has led to high-level requests to the International Monetary Fund to cancel their debt. While the world debates the viability of that, the challenges for the average citizen are more stark: how to put food on the table.

From the Guardian, conditions declared:

Aid donors say Ebola-hit countries must direct effort to rebuild their economies

  • With Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea due to present economic plans, donors do not want to dictate terms despite fears that corruption will undermine recovery

Leaders of the three west African countries worst affected by Ebola will meet donors and partners in March to discuss how to regenerate their economies.

The outbreak of the disease in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, combined with a fall in commodity prices, has interrupted a period of growth in economies worn down by decades of war and corroded by corruption.

The countries will present recovery plans at a summit in Brussels, which will bring together representatives from the UN, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and NGOs.

Medication news from NBC News:

Pill May Help Save Patients with Early Ebola Infections

The experimental flu drug favipiravir doesn’t help patients with advanced Ebola infections but it may help patients if they get it a little earlier, a trial from Guinea in West Africa shows.

French researchers tested the drug, made by a Japanese company, in 80 real-life Ebola patients hit in the ongoing epidemic.

The drug did not appear to help people who arrived for treatment already very ill with high levels of virus in their blood, the team at the French medical institute INSERM said. Even with treatment, 93 percent of them died. But if they weren’t already seriously ill, only 15 percent of them died.

From BBC News, an investigation broadens:

UK Ebola medics under investigation

Five UK Ebola nurses and doctors are under investigation by regulators, Public Health England says.

They are looking into the screening of medics who flew back to England on 28 December after treating patients in Sierra Leone.

On this flight was Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey – who developed Ebola – and some of her colleagues. Questions have arisen over the health assessments and protocols that were followed.

From the Asahi Shimbun, Japanese Ebolaphobia prevails:

Japan shelves SDF deployment to Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone

Facing political opposition, the Defense Ministry decided on Feb. 23 not to dispatch Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Sierra Leone for assisting international efforts to battle an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The ministry was considering dispatching a GSDF transportation unit to be tasked with ferrying doctors and medical supplies in the western African nation, which has experienced more than 3,000 deaths from Ebola.

But opposition arose from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s inner circle, as well as the SDF, out of concerns for the risk of infection to GSDF members and possible public opposition to the deployment.

On to Sierra Leone and the latest alarm from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone orphanage quarantined

An orphanage run by a UK charity in Sierra Leone has been quarantined after one of its local staff was diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus. Augustine Baker is said to be in a stable condition at a local treatment centre after becoming ill last week.

St George Foundation orphanage co-founder Philip Dean told the BBC that 33 children and seven staff were now in isolation.

“Augustine collapsed at a staff meeting and several of his colleagues helped get him to hospital,” UK-based Mr Dean told the BBC. “It’s possible that they have been exposed. It’s a very worrying time,” he said.

And a border still closed, at least for now, via Shanghai Daily:

Ebola-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone border remains closed

The Sierra Leone-Liberia border is still closed, local residents said on Monday.

Jubilant crowd who had trekked long distances from villages near the Sierra Leone-Liberia border Sunday to witness the reopening of the bridge linking the two Ebola-hit countries were disappointed because it did not take place.

Witnesses told Xinhua the Sierra Leone side of the border is still closed Monday despite meeting held Sunday between officers of the two countries at the border post.

Citizens on both sides of the bridge upon receiving information that the bridge would be reopen Sunday, embarked on a cleanup campaign to give the vicinity a face-lift.

But FrontPageAfrica has a contradictory story from the other side of the border:

One Thermometer; No Handwash Station, As Liberia Reopens Borders

Citizens of Liberia and Sierra Leone rejoiced at their respective sides of the borders as Liberian government officially opened entry points with neighboring Sierra Leone. But the goodwill on the Liberian side was not reciprocated as the Sierra Leoneans kept their side of the border closed. A Sierra Leonean soldier was seen forcibly preventing Liberians from going over into the country and warning his citizens that if they crossed over into Liberia, they might not have the chance to go back.

“As far as I’m concerned my border remains closed. I have not received orders to reopen this border,” he shouted. “We are awaiting word from Freetown that is the only way they border will reopen. Anyone who crosses this point will not enter Sierra Leone.”

Though the government of Liberia has reopened the border with Sierra Leone, there are serious binding constraints that have not yet been addressed. As the border on the Liberian side opened and people from the Sierra Leonean side tried to get in, there were no buckets or hand washing stations at the border entry for hand washing. People walked through the gates without their temperatures tested.

George J. Reeves is an officer responsible for Port Health at the Bo-Waterside crossing in Grand Cape Mount County. At a short meeting with stakeholders before the border was reopened, Reeves complained that he was not fully equipped with the right tools needed to fight Ebola at the border with Sierra Leone now that it is open.

StarAFrica covers numbers:

Liberia: 8 Ebola cases reported in three weeks-Official

Liberian Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson, has disclosed on Monday that about eight confirmed Ebola cases were reported from the 19 Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) across the country in the past three weeks.

He explained that Margibi and Montserrado Counties are now the epicenters where the new cases are being recorded. “That shows a good sign that Liberia is on the verge of getting to zero cases,” Jackson said at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola press briefing at the ministry Monday.

He however cautioned that citizens still need to desist from complacency and continue to adhere to the preventive measures outlined by health authorities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

And a pair of videos, first on the reopening of the nation’s curfews and borders from Agence France-Presse:

Liberians rejoice as Ebola curfew is lifted

Program notes:

It is the early hours of the morning and bars in the Liberian capital are packed as revellers drink, sing and rejoice their first night of freedom with the Ebola curfew lifted.

And from IRIN Films, a back-to-school report:

Liberian students return amid Ebola fears

Program notes:

Schools in Liberia have begun to reopen for the first time in more than six months, due to the Ebola outbreak.

From StarAFrica, a quota exceeded:

Liberia: Vaccine trial exceeds estimated target – official

The co-investigator on the Liberia-U.S. Clinical Research Partnership team, Stephen Kennedy, has disclosed that in addition to the projected 600 people being targeted in the phase two clinical trials of two vaccines to prevent Ebola, a total of 120 persons are on the stand-by to be vaccinated.

Kennedy affirmed that the additional 120 persons means that the vaccine trial has exceeded its target, which signifies that the team of experts supervising the process had done exceptionally well since the lunch of the trial.

He made the statement at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola press conference held at the ministry in Monrovia on Monday.

Giving statistical details, Kennedy disclosed that 108 persons were vaccinated during the first week, while 96 persons were vaccinated during the second week.

Economic concerns from the central bank, via Heritage:

CBL Boss: Ebola has put Liberia’s economy in new territory Featured

The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. J. Mills Jones,  has asserted that   the Ebola virus has put Liberia’s economy  in a new territory,  and as such, it was necessary for a forceful action in order to restore it to normalcy.

The CBL Governor said the situation (poverty) still remains and that effort to restore Liberia’s economy cannot be overemphasized.

“That is why the Board of the CBL decided to take step to help put new life into the microfinance sector of the country, he added.

And from the Monrovia Inquirer, help promised:

China Vows To Help In Post-Ebola Recovery

The Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China to Liberia, ZangYue, has announced China’s commitment to contribute meaningfully to Liberia’s post Ebola recovery program especially in medical assistance.

The Chinese Ambassador noted that China will be sending medical personnel to Liberia to help in this regard coupled with assistance to refurbish Liberia’s health delivery system.

Ambassador Yue said doctors who will be sent to Liberia will also assist in the training of medical personnel while playing a pivotal role in revamping the overwhelmed Liberian Health sector as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

Chart of the day: Demographics of vaccines


Who’s for ‘em and who’s against, via the Pew Research Center [PDF]:

BLOG Vaccines