We begin with a prediction, via the New York Times:
Ebola Outbreak Could Be Ended by Summer, U.N. Says
The Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past 15 months could be halted by the summer, but only if international financial support is sustained, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
“This crisis can be stopped completely,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading the organization’s response to the epidemic, told reporters in Geneva. “It should be possible to stop transmission by the middle of the year.”
He cautioned, however, that “there’s a need for reinvestment and reinvigoration of the program if we are to get this finished.”
More from the World Health Organization:
WHO and World Food Programme join forces to reach zero Ebola cases
WHO and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are combining their forces in a new partnership in the Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The arrangement combines the logistics strength of WFP with WHO’s public health expertise to help get the current Ebola outbreak down to zero cases in West Africa. The platform also establishes an alert and response infrastructure for future crises.
“This partnership increases both agencies’ abilities to reach, monitor and respond to the needs of all people touched by Ebola,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “It helps us deploy and maintain technical teams with expertise in infection prevention and control, epidemiology, and contact tracing, enabling dedicated health workers in the deep field to do their best work. The partnership is also a learning opportunity for the future, informing our capacities to launch joint operations during large scale emergencies.”
“Over the past seven months, partnerships have been crucial in fighting this devastating outbreak. WFP has worked with our partners to respond to communities’ most basic needs — making sure food is reaching everywhere that the Ebola virus has hit.
Our logistical support to WHO and the wider humanitarian community has enabled affected people to receive the urgent care and support they need,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “We are making progress, however we must remain vigilant. The Ebola crisis will not end until we identify, reach and successfully treat every last case. Recognizing this goal, the WHO-WFP partnership – a joint technical and operational force – will continue providing the support required to achieve zero cases.”
From the Los Angeles Times, the downside to the upside:
New Ebola cases are declining: Why that’s bad news for a cure
After killing at least 9,936 people and infecting more than 24,202, the Ebola epidemic appears to be running out of steam. And for some medical researchers, this hard-won progress poses a problem.
The Ebola virus has retreated so dramatically in recent months that it may be too late to determine the effectiveness of the many experimental drugs and vaccines that have been rushed into production.
Unless the outbreak explodes again, potential cures such as ZMapp can’t be given to enough patients to accurately determine their effect. Nor is the virus infecting enough people to let researchers test the efficacy of two potential vaccines that are being given to about 18,000 health and emergency workers in Liberia.
Even proposals to treat patients by transfusing into them blood serum from Ebola survivors have become impossible to test with scientific rigor.
Agence France-Presse covers a vaccine trial:
Ebola: first vaccine trials underway in Guinea
Tests of an anti-Ebola vaccine are underway in Guinea on volunteers to assess its effectiveness before being put on the market.
And a new drug trial, via Science:
New Ebola drug trial starts in Sierra Leone
Researchers in Sierra Leone today started a new phase II trial of an experimental drug in Ebola patients. The first participant received an injection of the therapeutic, called TKM-Ebola, this morning at an Ebola treatment unit in Kerry Town. The trial may expand to other sites; the study team hopes to have an answer fast so that it can either move on to another drug or start a phase III study of TKM-Ebola.
Produced by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals in Burnaby, Canada, TKM-Ebola is made of synthetic, small interfering RNAs packaged into lipid nanoparticles. The RNAs target three of Ebola’s seven genes, blocking the virus’s replication. TKM-Ebola has been shown to work well in monkeys; the efficacy trial in humans is only starting now because there was not enough of the drug available earlier. Also, the RNAs have been adapted to the strain circulating at the moment.
The study does not have a placebo arm; all patients at the trial site are eligible for the drug, and researchers hope to determine whether it works by comparing them with patients treated elsewhere.
From the Guardian, another European afflicted:
UK military health worker tests positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone
- Public Health England confirms case but will not say where the individual was working, as discussions are under way about whether to fly them to Britain
A UK military healthcare worker has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, Public Health England has confirmed. No details about the individual have been released.
Discussions are now under way as to whether to fly the healthcare worker back to the UK for treatment in the specialist unit at the Royal Free hospital in London. Two healthcare volunteers, Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey, were both repatriated and successfully treated at the Royal Free.
PHE will not say where the latest healthcare worker to be infected was working, but it is likely to have been in the military-run Ebola unit, which is situated in the grounds of the Kerry Town treatment centre run by Save the Children. It was at Kerry Town that Cafferkey was infected, probably during the process of taking off her face mask, which was of a different design to that worn by the rest of the volunteers.
On to Sierra Leone, first with an accountability fund, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:
US$178,000 project to enhance citizens’ trust in Ebola response
A consortium of civil society organisations has been formed to revive citizens’ trust and confidence in the governance and management of the emergency and recovery phase of the Ebola response.
With support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the organizations – Campaign for Good Governance, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, Center for the Coordination of Youth Activities, Democracy Sierra Leone, ActionAid Sierra Leone, Institute for Governance Reform, and Budget Advocacy Network – last Friday (6 March) unveiled a project titled: ‘Enhancing Trust between Citizens and Government in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response’, worth US$178,300.
According to ActionAid’s Governance Advisor, Beatrice Serry, the overall purpose of the project is to strengthen state-citizens relationship through promoting transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of Ebola resources.
The Christian Science Monitor covers a change in direction:
As Ebola threat abates, Sierra Leone turns attention to survivors
- Having lost family members themselves, Ebola survivors often face discrimination when they return to their communities. They also suffer from unexpected health side-effects from the virus.
Since the start of the outbreak, Sierra Leone has had 8,353 confirmed cases of Ebola, according to the National Ebola Response Center. Of these, 3,086 individuals, or 37 percent, survived, yet now face social discrimination, neglect, and possible life-long health problems.
The government is now turning its attention towards this population and their needs, while it continues to work towards zero new Ebola cases. There is no specific plan in place, but the rollout of support groups and free access for survivors to healthcare could be key indicators of how well the country can rebound from the disease.
The initial government support comes in the form of reintegration packages, worth $200, that provide each survivor with items like food, a mattress, and condoms. It provides a first step for many who have lost everything in a nation that barely a decade ago emerged from a decades-long civil war.
From the Sierra Leone Concord Times again, pledging allegiance:
President Koroma vows to support Chinese policies
While thanking the Chinese government and people for the provision of a fixed level 3 bio-safety laboratory which he described as a great opportunity in the promotion of the health sector, President Ernest Bai Koroma has vowed to support the policies of China in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma noted that, “Our journey with China started 40 years ago and every step has seen evidence of support in development. The journey has been long but very interesting and every step shows significant milestone.”
He said the relationship between China and Sierra Leone was put to test during the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease, noting that Beijing responded promptly and adequately with the provision of financial, logistics and personnel support to fight the scourge.
On to Liberia, first with a commemoration from the Associated Press:
Liberia holds church service for Ebola victims
Liberians held a church service Wednesday for Ebola victims to mark the country’s 99th National Decoration Day, a holiday normally set aside for people to clean up and re-decorate the graves of their lost relatives.
More than 4,100 people have died in in Liberia since the outbreak began about a year ago in West Africa. The vast majority of those victims were cremated, so the gathering at a Presbyterian church in the capital, Monrovia, was held to remember those without graves.
Nearly 20 barrels of ashes from about 3,000 victims will eventually be buried on a plot bought by the government as a cemetery for Ebola victims. Some bodies of suspected victims were buried Wednesday in a new grave site on the outskirts of Monrovia.
And a concession, via the New York Times:
Liberian Leader Concedes Errors in Response to Ebola
The president of Liberia acknowledged on Wednesday that she had erred in ordering a tough security crackdown at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, describing the deadly virus as an “unknown enemy” that had frightened her.
The president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, said that in hindsight, her deployments of troops and police officers to seal off a vast neighborhood in her nation’s capital — which set off skirmishes with residents, fueled distrust of the government and led to the death of a teenager — had been counterproductive.
“It did not take long to know that did not work,” she said in an interview with the The New York Times Editorial Board. “It created more tension in the society.”