Category Archives: Human behavior

EnviroWatch: Nukes, health, water, & climate

We begin with something more to think about, via RT:

Wildfires to create second wave of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl

Norwegian scientists say global warming will lead to more wildfires in the forests surrounding the site of the 1986 nuclear accident, leaving Europeans exposed to radioactive elements still present in the exclusion zone around the plant.

“A large amount of Caesium-137 still remains in the Chernobyl forests, which could be remobilized along with a large number of other dangerous, long-lived, refractory radionuclides. We predict that an expanding flammable area associated with climate change will lead to a high risk of radioactive contamination with characteristic fire peaks in the future,” said the abstract of a study published in Ecological Monographs magazine by the respected Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

The US Environmental Protection Agency describes Caesium-137 as a “highly radioactive” material that “increases the risk of cancer” and can cause death through severe exposure.

Of the 85 petabecquerels (a measure of radioactivity) released following the accident at the plant, between two and eight still remain in the soil.

On to the measles, first with Outbreak News Today:

Chicago area measles situation grows, 8 cases to date

In a follow-up to a report on a measles cluster in suburban Chicago several days ago, Cook County Public Health reports an additional three confirmed cases, bringing the total to eight.

These cases include two adults and six infants all of whom are unvaccinated. Seven of these cases are associated with the KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine, health officials note.

On Feb. 5, the Palatine KinderCare Center, where the majority of cases are linked, described the steps they are taking to prevent the spread of measles, these include: excluding unimmunized children and staff who may have been exposed to measles from our center for 21 days; better cleaning of the facilities; being vigilant about enforcing the policy of excluding children from care who are sick and limiting access to the infant room to only parents or other adults dropping off or picking up an infant.

Salon covers the rebirth of a practice many parents followed in pre-vaccine days to give their kids early exposures to diseases which were far more dangerous in later years:

“The way God intended”: California parents are having ‘measles parties’ instead of vaccinating their kids

  • We have hit peak crazy

Marin County is the odd hippie commune in the college that is the United States. You know what I’m talking about — that rundown house on the edge of campus which you would walk by only to get to the Arts Center, because passing by meant watching unwashed students spitting kombucha into each other’s mouths. It’s disgusting, but your attitude is live and let live, just as long as they don’t try to use your mouth as a fermented bread spittoon.

Why am I being so cruel to Marin County? Because the county, what could be considered the hub of the U.S.’s anti-vaccination movement and recent measles outbreak, is allowing its residents to have measles parties. Yep, parties for infected and uninfected kids to intermingle, so that they might contract the illness in a milder form and establish immunity.

The rumor of these parties spread when KQED reported that Julie Schiffman, a local mother who decided not to vaccinate her children, declined an invitation to one.

From Outbreak News Today, a reminder that measles can come from many places:

Georgia reports 1st measles case in 3 years, considered an imported case

Georgia health officials reported Monday of the state’s first reported case of measles since 2012.

The patient is an infant that arrived in Atlanta from outside of the U.S. and is being cared for at Egleston at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

State public health officials said they know the child left Kyrgyzstan headed for Istanbul, Turkey. He was symptomatic on the flight. After a layover in Chicago, the final destination was Atlanta on February 4, local media reports.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is working with CHOA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the pa

From the World Health Organization Measles Fact Sheet, released today:


Key facts

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide.
  • In 2013, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.

During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 145 700 people died from measles in 2013 – mostly children under the age of 5.

From Newswise, worthy of consideration:

Exposure to Mercury, Seafood Associated with Risk Factor for Autoimmune Disease

  • Among women of reproductive age, exposure to mercury at levels generally considered safe associated with markers of immune system disorders

One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new University of Michigan study says.

The findings, which appear in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that mercury – even at low levels generally considered safe – was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.

“We don’t have a very good sense of why people develop autoimmune disorders,” says lead author Emily Somers, Ph.D., Sc.M, an associate professor in the departments of Internal Medicine in the division of Rheumatology, Environmental Health Sciences, and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical and Public Health Schools.

“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics, so we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes. In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity.”

Autoimmune disease – which can include such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis – is among the 10 leading causes of death among women.

The New York Times covers an ill wind blowing across Southern Nevada. the heart of the state’s tourism-driven gambling industry:

In Nevada, a Controversy in the Wind

For the past few years, the geologists Brenda Buck and Rodney Metcalf have combed the wild terrain of southern Nevada, analyzing its stony dunes and rocky outcroppings — and to their dismay, tallying mounting evidence of a landscape filled with asbestos.

Asbestos occurs naturally in many parts of the country, mostly in the West but also along some mountain ranges in the East. But in Nevada, the scientists found, natural erosion and commercial development were sending the fibers into the wind.

Worried about the possible health risks, Dr. Buck and Dr. Metcalf, professors of geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, reached out to experts in asbestos-related diseases. With data from Nevada’s cancer registry, an epidemiologist prepared a preliminary report that outlined what she felt was a troubling pattern of mesothelioma — a cancer often related to asbestos exposure — among residents of the affected areas.

But if the scientists expected to be applauded by state officials for their initiative, they were mistaken.

Upon learning of the report, the Nevada Department of Health forced the epidemiologist, Francine Baumann of the University of Hawaii, to withdraw a presentation of the findings at a scientific conference and revoked her access to the state cancer registry. Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Buck offered to meet with state officials but say they were rebuffed.

More corruptio politico from National Journal:

From Bad To Worse at Scandal-Ridden Safety Agency

  • White House is reviewing EPA IG report on Chemical Safety Board

The independent agency that investigates chemical accidents is under fire from seemingly every corner of the government—from the White House on down.

The White House is reviewing a damning inspector general report against the head of the Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso. Members of Congress also are unhappy, with several committees on the case. And there’s a federal investigation into the leaked identity of an agency whistleblower.

It’s yet another bit of unwanted attention for the board, which has been beset for years by accelerating internal troubles, shoddy morale, and a backlog of incomplete reports.

A controversial motion passed late in the night at a recent meeting in California has only added fuel to the fire, since it appears to close observers and insiders that it wipes out a number of reforms while consolidating power in the chairman’s office.

After the jump, the opening gambit for “climate modification,” a very important — and costly — reminder of climatic hubris, climate woes confront African infrastructure, a fowl legal decision, a holocaust of regal butterflies, herbicidal fears for the whopping crane, a native mammalian extinction event on the Aussie horizon, Panamanian wetlands protection, corrupt environmental oversight in China, fracking triggers a Midwestern seismic revolution, another U.S. coal plant shuts down, a 4,000-acre mega array opens in the Golden State as solar prospects dim, and groundwater radiation spikes from Vermont nuclear plant. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climates, fuel, & nukes

We begin with the measles, with stories offering some context, first from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Debate over measles vaccinations results in unlikely political alliances, sparks controversy among GOP presidential hopefuls

The question over whether parents should be mandated to get their children vaccinated against measles has created strange alliances, putting some liberal parents on the same side as Republican conservatives.

American skepticism toward vaccinations dates back at least to the Revolutionary War, when George Washington was initially reluctant to inoculate his troops against smallpox, The Associated Press reported.

“There is a long history to the fight against vaccination, and it does seem to break down along liberal versus conservative lines,” Kent Schwirian, a sociology professor at The Ohio State University, told The Associated Press. He surveyed people during a 2009 swine flu scare, asking whether they would get vaccinated, and found that conservatives who distrusted government were less likely to support inoculation.

The Arizona Republic covers reverberations in a small town:

Hurt over measles lingers in small town

Kearny is such a small and close-knit community that everyone quickly learned how the highly contagious disease invaded its boundaries. An unvaccinated mother and three children carried it back from a Disneyland visit in mid-December. Three others in Arizona came to be infected, including another Kearny resident, and about 1,000 more in Pinal, Maricopa and Gila counties were exposed.

Residents used Facebook to vent their anger over the possibility that their health — especially that of young children in town — was put in jeopardy. Some demanded a “blast” notification identifying the family so residents could take precautions. Others defended the family’s right to privacy, because “they’ve been through enough.”

Word spread that the family didn’t choose to be vaccinated because of their religion. For some residents, it was a valid reason. But others argued that there is no reason to not vaccinate against one of the most contagious diseases known.

And the New Yorker offers some historical context:

Not Immune

Twenty-five years ago, when a doctor named Robert Ross was the deputy health commissioner of Philadelphia, a measles epidemic swept the country. Until this year’s outbreak, which started at Disneyland and has so far sickened more than a hundred people, the 1989-91 epidemic was the most alarming that the United States had seen since 1963, when the measles vaccine was introduced. Nationwide, there were more than fifty-five thousand cases and eleven thousand hospitalizations; a hundred and twenty-three people died. Most of those infected were unimmunized babies and toddlers, predominantly poor and minority kids living in cities. Ross thought that the blame for the outbreak could be placed partly on poverty and partly on crack cocaine, which was “making a lot of families forget how to raise children.”

One cluster of kids was getting sick, though, not because their parents lacked the wherewithal to have them immunized but because the parents, members of the Faith Tabernacle congregation, did not believe in immunization. When children in the congregation started dying—ultimately, five did—Ross and his colleagues began going door to door, telling parents that kids whose lives were in danger could be hospitalized by court order. In one house, Ross found an ashen-faced girl of eight or nine who could barely breathe. He got her to the hospital and, when he saw her the next day in the I.C.U., had no doubt that taking her from her home had saved her life. The memory of those who weren’t saved still troubles Ross: “These were kids who had no business being lowered into the ground. And I’ve never gotten over it.”

On to another illness with Outbreak News Today:

Idaho mumps outbreak expands to Washington State

An outbreak of mumps that began in September 2014 among students at the Moscow campus of the University of Idaho continues to spread outside the Moscow area. Idaho has 21 reported confirmed and probable cases, including six in the Boise area, as of Friday, Feb. 6. Two cases in Washington also are associated with this outbreak.

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps and measles. Public health officials urge students and people who come in close contact with them to check their vaccination records to make certain they are current for MMR vaccine. Examples of close contact include face-to-face contact or living in the same home. Mumps also spreads easily from sharing saliva through kissing, shared eating utensils or water bottles.

University of Idaho students and those in close contact with them who have not previously had mumps or who have no record of any doses of MMR vaccine should receive two doses at least 28 days apart. Those who received only one dose should receive a second dose. Student health services, primary care providers, local public health offices, and local pharmacies may offer the vaccine. The MMR vaccine will also protect against measles, which is increasing in the western U.S. because of a large outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

From Medical Daily, more context:

Health News Might Not Matter In The Vaccine Debate; It’s The Comments That Convince People

[A] new study from Washington State University offers some interesting insight. For two separate experiments, researchers made-up pro- and anti-vaccine PSAs sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (pro-vaccine) and the National Vaccine Information Council (anti-vaccine). Afterwards, study participants read comments from fake online users.

When asked if participants would vaccinate themselves and their family members, researchers found they were equally persuaded by PSAs and online comments. Study author Ioannis Kareklas was blown away participant’s would equally trust both sources of information, especially given the type of users known to dwell in the comment section. Yes, trolls; we mean you.

In the second experiment, researchers’ made-up information about the people who were commenting on the PSAs (compared to not giving them any background in the first experiment.) Now, these commenters were English literature students, lobbyists specializing in health care, and doctors specializing in infectious diseases and vaccinology. The results showed the “doctor” comments impacted participants more than the PSAs.

“We found that when both the sponsor of the PSA and the relevant expertise of the online commenters were identified, the impact of these comments on participants’ attitudes and behavioral intentions was greater than the impact of the PSA and its associated credibility,” the researchers wrote. They concluded online media strategies should focus on credible exchanges of information in order to truly improve user welfare.

On to Climate, first with Reuters:

France says climate talks crucial for world security

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius launched a round of global climate talks in Geneva on Sunday and warned that world security, as well as the environment, depended on their success.

The week-long meeting is the first in a series that is meant to culminate in a globally binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Paris in December, with a target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Countries, companies and other organisations are expected to announce commitments to cut emissions in the run up to the Paris meeting. The cumulative commitments, backed by a financing mechanism and a binding global agreement that is being shaped at the series of meetings, must be enough to hit the 2 degree goal.

From EcoWatch, a national divestment:

First Country in the World Dumps Fossil Fuels As Divestment Movement Heats Up

Back in 2012, Bill McKibben with fellow activists including Naomi Klein, Winona LaDuke, Josh Fox and Reverend Lennox Yearwood began a nationwide tour to promote fossil fuel divestment—that is, selling off your shares in fossil fuel companies–in an effort to combat climate change.

The United Methodist Church has now joined the more than 60 religious organizations taking a stand. The church’s pension fund will screen coal from its investments. “Our denomination is on the front lines of climate change mitigation and recovery efforts worldwide,” said Reverend Jenny Phillips, coordinator of Fossil Free UMC. “It doesn’t make sense for our pensions and ministries to depend on the flourishing of the companies that are wreaking this havoc.” And now, Fossil Free is urging Pope Francis to divest, as well.

February brought even more excitement for the global divestment campaign. Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global reported yesterday that a total of 114 companies had been dumped because of their risk to the climate, according to The Guardian. While the wealth fund moved billions of dollars in assets out of shares in fossil fuel companies, it still has billions invested in other fossil fuel companies.

Still, as the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, its move to divest has a large impact.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, knock, knock:

Anti-oil sands activists in the U.S. are getting visits from the FBI

Unexpected visitors have been dropping in on anti-oil activists in the United States — knocking on doors, calling, texting, contacting family members.

The visitors are federal agents.

Opponents of Canadian oil say they’ve been contacted by FBI investigators in several states following their involvement in protests that delayed northbound shipments of equipment to Canada’s oilsands.

A lawyer working with the protesters says he’s personally aware of a dozen people having been contacted in the northwestern U.S. and says the actual number is probably higher.

After the jump, a Peruvian town calls a strike over a fracking project, British climate activists told to pay for their own policing, climate changes augur for more Deep South tornadoes, climate change endangers a unique Costa Rican forest, getting the lead out — permanently, the Church of England mulls a gorilla-saving divestment, Pakistanis move for bustard protection, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with vigilante radiation monitoring, negotiations begin over radioactive soil deliveries, and a reactor restart moves forward. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Online and in-school bullying

From the latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance [PDF] report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Bully

EbolaWatch: Numbers, kids, caution, & politics

First, the latest case numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

From Newsweek, a dash of cold water:

Another Ebola Outbreak ‘Inevitable’

Doctors and experts say another Ebola outbreak is “inevitable”, unless the international community unites around a long-term, common approach to combat the disease in the future and substantial investment is made into the health services of affected developing countries.

Although reports of new cases of Ebola have been reduced to around 100 a week in the West African countries so ravaged by the disease that it was declared a health emergency last August, medical and aid organizations are clear that the Ebola crisis isn’t over yet.

While health teams have by now managed to control and identify most cases, Dr Jimmy Whitworth, head of population health at the Wellcome Trust says that some people are still out in the community living with the virus. “It’s not over at all. It’s very dangerous to say that it’s over,” he says, speaking from Sierra Leone.

Reuters covers the most vulnerable:

High rates of child deaths from Ebola, special care needed – WHO

Authorities fighting Ebola must do more to tackle a high death rate among young children whose isolation from parents also causes great distress and deprives them of the extra care they need, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Reporting on a meeting of clinicians from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it said there was a consensus that the strict “no touch” policy for Ebola patients could be lifted if good measures are in place to protect health workers from infection.

“There is a need to address issues around children and pregnant women. Children under five had a very high rate of mortality, this was often because need a great deal of support to be fed, to be cared for,” WHO technical adviser Dr. Margaret Harris told a news briefing.

Mortality in children under five years of age has been 80 percent, meaning four out of five die, and up to 95 percent among under one-year-olds who require intensive nursing and frequent feeding, she said.

And the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response offers them hope:

West African communities receiving Ebola’s orphans with open arms, UN agency reports

Grief among the more than 16,000 children orphaned by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa runs deep, but most of them have been taken in by families thanks to the bonds of kinship that has proven stronger than stigma and fear associated with the disease, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.

Andrew Brooks, speaking to reporters in Geneva on behalf of UNICEF by phone from Dakar, Senegal, said some families had taken in three to seven children, and only around 500 of the 16,600 children had had to be placed in mass care centres.

Of the latter, Mr. Brooks said 80 percent of the children had been reunified with their extended families.

“Resilience of families, communities, relatives to take in the children had been impressive,” said Mr. Brooks. “Credit should be given to communities, as they had truly rallied to help out, and to Governments for taking a strong stand on supporting family not institutional care.”

From the Associated Press, the price of a case of Ebolaphobia:

Morocco fined $1M for failing to host African Cup

Morocco was fined $1 million by the Confederation of African Football on Friday and may ultimately have to pay up to $10 million for failing to host this year’s African Cup of Nations soccer tournament because of fears over Ebola.

Morocco was also banned from the next two tournaments in 2017 and 2019, Africa’s football body announced.

In addition to the fine, CAF said it was seeking around $9 million in compensation from the North African nation for backing out of the hosting agreement.

Morocco Football Federation vice president Nourreddine El Bouchhati told a local news website that “a meeting will be held within the federation to discuss the measures to take.”

On to Guinea with the Thomson Reuters Foundation and a call for reason:

Guinea’s Muslim clerics call for end to FGM to help stop Ebola

Muslim leaders in Guinea have called on families to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Guinea has the second highest rate of FGM in the world, with around 97 percent of women and adolescent girls cut. But the outbreak in West Africa of Ebola – spread by infected bodily fluids – could bring a change of attitude towards the tradition.

In a sermon preached across mosques in the capital Conakry, senior cleric Imam Nabe Sidiki told worshippers that the preventative measures reflected the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad, who said the healthy should not be exposed to disease.

“In this period of Ebola epidemic, we must move away from all traditional practices that can be sources of contamination such as female circumcision and ceremonies that accompany the act,” Sidiki’s sermon read.

From Reuters, hidden casualties:

Guinea Ebola infections double as hidden cases discovered

The number of people sick with Ebola fever has doubled in Guinea in the past week following the discovery of cases previously unknown to health authorities, a Guinea health official said on Friday.

About two dozen new suspected and confirmed Ebola cases were recorded in the past two weeks, taking the total number to 53 as of Friday, Fode Tass Sylla, a spokesman for Guinea’s anti-Ebola task force, said.

Sylla said the increase was expected because health authorities were only now gaining access to faraway villages where inhabitants had previously prevented them from entering.

On to Liberia and a mission winding down, via the News:

“Pulling Out The Ebola Troops”

There are reports that President Barack Obama is considering plans to end U.S. military mission in Liberia that contributed immensely in the fight against the deadly epidemic, as infection rates is nearing the zero mark.

Although few Ebola cases were reported last week in the St. Paul bridge community and Margibi County, however, the head of the Ebola Incidence Committee, Tolbert Nyenswah, said the virus has waned considerably and the country has made significant gains.

The number of U.S. troops deployed in Liberia since December 2014 reached nearly 3,000, but that number is expected to fall to 1,300 shortly and further decline is likely by the end of March 2015, according to the Thursday, February 5, 2015 edition of USA TODAY quotes a U.S. official familiar with the U.S. government efforts in Liberia.

The official declined to be identified because the government is not ready to disclose its plans to the public. The official said the returning troops would be replaced by a force of about 100 for at least the near term.

A video report on a man with a mission, via the Washington Post:

Liberian doctor on goal to get Ebola-free in West Africa

Program notes:

Soka Moses, a physician at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia, discussed why he thinks Liberia cannot be Ebola-free until the virus is gone from West Africa.

From FrontPageAfrica, a warning is sounded:

Liberians Are Not Animals – Taking Experimental Drugs Without Education Could be Disastrous

FOR NEARLY 40 YEARS now the world has not been able to find a cure or vaccine for the deadly virus despite the sophistication of the United States, Great Britain, Russia, China and other powerful countries.

THE OUTBREAK WHICH started in Guinea in late February to early March and subsequently spread over to Sierra Leone and Liberia is now known as the deadliest outbreak of the virus in human history.

LIBERIA SUFFERED ONE of the worst consequences with the latest World Health organization statistics as per data covering the period up to February 1, 2015 released on February 4 putting the country as the second hardest hit, with 8,745 cases and 3,746 deaths second for Sierra Leone which is reporting 10,740 cases and 3,276 deaths so far. Guinea where the outbreak started is reporting 2, 975 cases with 1,944 deaths.

BEFORE THE CURRENT OUTBREAK, there were smaller outbreaks of Ebola in other countries and the world should have known that a virus without a known cure poses a threat to the entire world, requiring strong effort to develop a cure.

INSTEAD, THE WORLD has been watching for over 40 years as Ebola exists without cure, when billions are spent on inventions, discoveries and other initiatives.

After the jump, neglecting the cultural context, new cases where the outbreak had been vanquished, a plea to aid Ebola orphans when they return to school, on to Sierra Leone and tax collection setbacks, questions over Ebola funds leads to a government probe, And using Ebola to curb female genital mutilation. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, an alarm, politics, vaccines

We begin with the latest numbers, via the World Health Organization [click on the image to enlarge]


More on the numbers from Deutsche Welle:

World Health Organization: Ebola uptick in West Africa

  • Ebola diagnoses have increased for the first time week on week in 2015. The uptick in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone still hasn’t left Doctors Without Borders with enough patients to test a new potential Ebola drug.

The number of new weekly cases in the current Ebola outbreak rose for first time in 2015 in all three of the hard-hit countries of West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday. During the seven days leading up to February 1, doctors confirmed 124 new cases across the three West African countries at the epicenter of the devastating outbreak.

“Weekly case incidence increased in all three countries for the first time this year,” the UN health agency announced.

Thirty-nine of the new cases came in Guinea, compared to 30 the previous week, five appeared in Liberia, up from four a week earlier, and Sierra Leone saw 80 diagnoses, up from 65 during the week to January 25, according to the latest statistics. The new numbers come a week after WHO had announced that total diagnoses over a given seven-day period had dropped below 100.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, mistakes made:

MSF says lack of public health messages on Ebola “big mistake”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) made the “big mistake” of focusing too much on treatment early on in the Ebola epidemic rather than speaking to people about tackling the disease, a senior member of the medical charity said.

MSF’s response to the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 8,800 people mainly in West Africa, has been praised by the World Health Organization and governments.

With 20 years of experience of treating Ebola, MSF deployed hundreds to the Ebola “hot zones” and was quick to isolate patients and trace their contacts.

However, Claudia Evers, MSF’s Ebola emergency coordinator in Guinea, said: “MSF made a big mistake. We advocated for an increase in beds for too long, and everyone listened to MSF.”

From the Guardian, a near-fatal error:

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey became infected after using visor, report says

  • Save the Children believes nurse caught virus as a result of wearing visor instead of goggles

Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse diagnosed with Ebola on return from volunteering in Sierra Leone, was probably infected as a result of using a visor to protect her face rather than the goggles that were standard at the treatment centre where she was working.

Save the Children, which runs the Kerry Town treatment centre where Cafferkey worked, says in a report that it is most likely the nurse was infected there and not in the wider community when off duty. The non-governmental organisation says it has tightened up its procedures in light of the case.

Cafferkey returned from Sierra Leone to Heathrow on 28 December and complained that she thought she was developing a fever, but her temperature was in the normal range so she was allowed to fly on to Glasgow. Once home, her temperature rose, she was diagnosed and flown to the specialist Ebola unit of the Royal Free hospital in north London. She was in isolation for three weeks and was in a critical condition, but recovered.

Another alarm, via AllAfrica:

Nigeria: Ebola Scare – Nine-Year-Old Nigerian Girl Quarantined At Indian Airport

A nine-year-old girl from Nigeria has been admitted to the special Ebola quarantine unit at the Ernakulam General Hospital after she was found to be having cold, fever and breathlessness when she arrived at the Cochin International Airport on Monday morning, the Times of India reported on Tuesday.

Health officials at the airport said the quarantine measures were taken since Nigeria, along with neighbouring countries like Liberia, had earlier been affected by the Ebola virus.

This was the first case of a passenger arriving at the Cochin International Airport from an Ebola-hit country with signs of fever and cold, the common symptoms of the deadly disease, the newspaper quoted an official as saying.

From the the Star in Nairobi, Kenya, easing up:

Ban on West Africa flights to be lifted – CS

THE government will lift the ban on flights to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa in three weeks, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has said.

Macharia said the government has monitored the progress made in the fight against Ebola.

He said the health of Kenyans will not be jeopardised by the move.

From Associated Press, another potentially costly error:

CDC: Ebola virus sent to lower-tier lab likely not dangerous

A high-security federal laboratory made a frightening mistake in sending certain Ebola samples to a lab with fewer safeguards, but an investigation concludes that the samples probably did not contain live virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday released the results of its internal investigation of the December 22 incident in Atlanta.

The mistake occurred during a study of how long Ebola-infected animals remain infectious. Lab technicians were working with cheek swabs from some guinea pigs that had survived exposure to the virus and some that had died, CDC officials said.

And from Reuters, the malady lingers on:

Free from Ebola, survivors complain of new syndrome

Romeo Doe, a 29-year-old tailor who survived Ebola in Liberia, is struggling to cope with the impact of a disease that killed seven members of his family and now threatens his livelihood.

Since he was released from an Ebola centre in the capital Monrovia in November, pressure is rising in his eyes and affecting his vision – a complaint some doctors say is common among survivors of the West African outbreak.

There are a growing number of survivors of the disease in the region, between 5,000 and 10,000 according to the United Nations, and some complain of side effects months after their recovery – a condition some doctors are calling “post-Ebola Syndrome” (PES).

On to Liberia and a mission ending, via USA Today:

Military Ebola mission in Liberia coming to an end

President Obama is all but ending the U.S. military mission to Liberia to fight Ebola next month, as infection rates there fall to near zero.

The number of troops deployed to the West African country, which reached nearly 3,000 in December, will fall to 1,300 this week and decline through March as soldiers head home, according to a U.S. official familiar with the U.S. government efforts. The official declined to be identified because the government is not ready to disclose its plans to the public. The official said the returning troops would be replaced by a force of about 100 for at least the near term.

“They are drawing down gradually with a visible timeline,” Liberian Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said of the U.S. military effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Brice de la Vingne, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, a leading aid group in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, said U.S. forces “are pulling out.”

More winding down from the New Dawn:

Govt. to shutdown 3 ETUs in Monrovia

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare here in collaboration with the Incident Management System has reached a conclusion to decommission three ETUs in Montserrado County in the wake of a significant decline in new infections.

The ETUs being affected include the unfinished Ministry of Defense 1 or MOD1 and MOD2, in Congo Town and the Unity Conference Center in Virginia outside Monrovia.

The National Chair for Case Management at the Incident Management System in Monrovia, Dr. Moses Massaquoi, said, the reason for closing these Ebola Treatment Units is due to reduction in the number of Ebola patients or new cases.

After the jump, Liberian doctors join the vaccine team, legislators demands vaccination answers, a call for vigilance at the border, enlisting more to trace infection routes, Chinese teams train in hand-washing in the time of Ebola, case finders teach the basics in Islamic schools, on to Sierra Leone and another dangerous Ebola byproduct, collaborators aid suspected victims in escaping medical treatment, and survivor victimization continues. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: The plutocratic bubble class

From the hardly radical Jacques Peretti, writing for the Independent about the six months he spent living among the super-rich on assignment from BBC:

Even the most self-avowed Bill Gatesian liberal and philanthropic billionaire, paying for libraries and vaccine programs in Africa, can’t quite comprehend why everyone on earth isn’t as determined to be as successful as they are. If they’re not – goddamn it, I’m going to show them how.

This go-getting, sink or swim mantra of the super-rich is accepted by the Government. It’s even taught in schools. But not everyone can be an entrepreneur – it’s the reason people across Europe have been marching. They’re not just protesting against austerity, but also reaffirming their humanity. In Athens they chanted “we are human”, as if the troika and super-rich actually needed reminding.

What began as a global tribe simply making money has transmuted into biological difference. The rich now live in their own Elysium-style biosphere. It’s a floating bubble high above earth, connecting London to New York to Shanghai to Dubai via a chrome Business Class tube in the sky.

Whether they’re in their private jets, helicopters, or penthouse suites, they occupy a space that mere mortals like us can only squint at from street level. Their separation makes it easier for them to accept the inequality of which they’re a part – and puts them literally out of reach.

In this biosphere, they eat better food, go to better schools, wear better clothes, take better medicine, and thus breed a cleaner, richer tribe. They even breathe cleaner air. Several billionaires have their own mobile air supplies, which are pumped into whatever home they’ve decided to stay at. If you have a property in Shanghai, for example, being super-wealthy allows you to avoid having the same smog-filled lungs as the rest of the city’s 14m inhabitants.

Chart of the day: An American weighty woe

From Gallup, packing it on:

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