Category Archives: Wealth

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, climate, nukes


From the UN News Center, a call for vaccination action in Europe:

UN health agency ‘taken aback’ as measles resurfaces in Europe, calls for widespread vaccination

European policymakers, healthcare workers, and parents must step up their efforts to vaccinate children against measles amid an ongoing outbreak across the continent, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that a recent resurgence in the disease threatened Europe’s goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015.

According to UN data, over 22,000 cases of the virus have surfaced across Europe during the 2014 to 2015 biennium with the outbreak spreading to seven countries. This comes despite a 50 per cent drop from 2013 to 2014.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 per cent in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, affirmed in a press release.

“We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps. It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time,” she added.

Vastly unvaccinated in Africa, via the Liberian Observer:

70% Un-vaccinated children at Risk for Measles

An official of the Ministry of Health is encouraging all parents and guardians to take their children for the third phase of the nationwide Measles Immunization Program, to be launched from April 10-16 in all 15 counties.

“The Measles Immunization Program was delayed due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that led to thousands of deaths. Parents must now be very serious in ensuring that their children take the measles immunization to avoid risks,” Mr. Clarke stressed.

Mr. Adolphus Clarke is the Deputy Program Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). He noted that the exercise is geared towards protecting children against future outbreaks of the disease.

From SciDev.Net, a potentially much-needed new drug undergoes testing:

Tuberculosis drug candidate begins clinical safety trial

The first clinical safety trial on a tuberculosis drug since 2009 is now under way.

The phase I trial of TBA-354 will involve 50 volunteers from the United States, according to the TB Alliance, the not-for-profit product development partnership sponsoring the trial.

In preclinical studies, the compound showed more potent antibacterial and sterilising activity than pretomanid (PA-824), a related substance now in phase II and phase III clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy, the alliance announced last week.

It said that the six years that passed between TBA-354 and the last drug to undergo Phase 1 trials shows that the pipeline of drugs to combat tuberculosis is disconcertingly empty.

From the University of California, cat-derived ailment complications:

Increased risk from toxoplasmosis

A third of all humans carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease commonly associated with cats, HIV-AIDS patients and pregnant women — with scientists long believing healthy immune systems control the parasite and prevent the disease from emerging. But new research by professor Kirk Jensen of the University of California, Merced, shows the parasite might be more dangerous than previously believed.

In a paper published Feb. 24 in mBio — an open-access journal presented by the American Society for Microbiology — Jensen shows that secondary exposure to most parasite strains found in South America can lead to uncontrolled infection and disease, which in humans can cause severe congenital infection or lesions in the retina and brain.

“There are a few strains of the Toxoplasma parasite present in North America and Europe, but in South America, there are many strains,” said Jensen, a professor in the university’s School of Natural Sciences. “We found these South American strains are really good at evading the immune system.”

After an initial infection, the immune system is typically primed and ready to protect against repeat offenses by the same parasite or disease. This is how vaccines protect humans from infectious diseases like measles. However, Jensen said, “There are known cases where pregnant women who were seropositive — and therefore should have been protected from toxoplasmosis — developed congenital infection following travel to South America.”

From Outbreak News Today, another outbreak:

Uganda: Hundreds sickened by typhoid; adulterated beverages and foods suspected

As of yesterday, more than 500 people were confirmed admitted to designated treatment centres after being diagnosed with typhoid, the Health Ministry reports.

The source of the bacterial outbreak is suspected to be due to adulterated beverages and foods prompting health officials to warn the public of the capital of Kampala.

Preliminary laboratory investigations of sampled beverages and foods obtained from  the Kampala central business district contained the Salmonella bacterium.

Dr Monica Musenero, the assistant commissioner in-charge of epidemiology and epidemic diseases at the Health ministry said, “We took samples of water, juices, and foods from areas where the outbreak hit hard. We suspect the outbreak is caused by something in the category of juice or water that is widely consumed by people,” said Dr Musenero. “The 1st laboratory samples tests and epidemiological links have hinted on water, but it’s still too early to mention which type of water,” she said.

From SciDev.Net, a climate change to spreading diseases:

Warming climate accelerates spread of vector-borne diseases

Health agencies need to take into account disease evolution in warming environments as climate change could alter the development of vector-borne diseases, two studies have found.

The “vector” in a vector-borne disease refers to an infected human or animal that transmits pathogens or parasites and causes disease in human populations.

Climate change can impact “all relevant aspects” of vector-borne diseases, including the locations of host populations and the availability of vectors, says Nina Fefferman, a biologist and part of a team from Rutgers University in the United States behind one of the studies.

The research focused on Aedes japonicus japonicus, a species of disease-carrying mosquito native to Japan and Korea, whose range has expanded since the 1990s to parts of Europe and the Hawaiian archipelago. The study found that populations of the mosquito on the island of Hawaii and in the American state of Virginia were capable of “rapid evolutionary change” and adaptation to their new environment.

As a result, vector-borne disease could become a greater threat to human health as the global climate warms, the study found. Its authors say that climate change studies need to play a greater role in national and global efforts to eradicate these diseases.

From BBC News, a death toll reevaluation:

Tobacco ‘kills two in three smokers’

The death risk from smoking may be much higher than previously thought – tobacco kills up to two in every three smokers not one in every two, data from a large study suggests.

The study tracked more than 200,000 Australian smokers and non-smokers above the age of 45 over six years. Mortality risk went up with cigarette use, BMC Medicine reports.

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubled the risk, while 20-a-day smokers were four to five times more likely to die.

From Environmental Health News, polluting the poor:

EPA to investigate North Carolina for civil rights violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted a civil rights complaint filed against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will investigate whether lax regulation of industrial pig farms disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Last week the EPA announced it would proceed two days after Environmental Health News reported about the complaint and new research that found high levels of fecal bacteria in water near industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer also wrote an editorial about the research and said the state needs to be “more vigilant” about pig waste.

The complaint was filed last September by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and is being led by Earthjustice.

FrontPageAfrica covers medical fraud in Liberia:

High Risk Zone for Fake Drugs: Pharmacy Under Scrutiny

One of Liberia’s leading pharmacies, Abeer Pharmacy has been ranked the top pharmacy that imports and sells fake drugs in the country. Mr. David Sumo, head of the Liberia Medicine and Health Products regulatory authority, explains that the pharmacy usually brings in anti-malaria pills, such as lonart, quinine and pain killers. He added that Abeer Pharmacy has repeatedly failed to abide by the standard of the regulatory agency.

“I know most of you will be surprised to hear this, the pharmacy has failed our test many times, and we’ve put this particular pharmacy in the high-risk zone,” Mr. Sumo said. He advised people dealing in fake drugs to desist and called on everyone, especially those who have mini-drug stores to look at the expiration date properly before purchasing the drugs.

LMHRA was set up in 2001 to register all medicines that are locally-manufactured, imported, distributed, sold and used in Liberia. It also has a mandate to prepare and keep the registry of medicines used in both the private and public sector in Liberia and to remove from the registry and prohibit the manufacturing, importation, distribution sale and use of any medicine which quality, safety or efficacy is brought to question. The body also has the power to set up a quality control laboratory to undertake laboratory analysis of all medicines imported and used in Liberia.

From United Press International, another kind of medical fraud:

Iowa scientist pleads guilty to fraud in AIDS vaccine study

A former Iowa State University scientist on Wednesday pleaded guilty to fraud for faking the results on an AIDS vaccine study funded by the federal government.

Dong-Pyou Han pleaded guilty to two felony counts of making false statements. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two other counts of the same charge.

Dong-Pyou, 57, admitted he faked data in the study that cost the government between $7 million and $20 million. He said he inserted human antibodies into the blood of rabbits to make it appear as though an experimental vaccine he was studying helped protect the animals against HIV.

After the jump, a Big Agra pesticide lie, Big Agra pesticides pose global surface water dangers, plastics pose a major danger to imperiled coral reefs, clear evidence of manmade carbon atmospheric heat-trapping, a village to be abandoned because of climate change, Occupy targets Rio’s Olympic golf course in an environmental reserve, a massive fish die-off in Rio’s Olympic waters, massive pollution in a Mexican river, how liberal California unions bankroll fracking, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a demand for a probe of a radioactive leak coverup, fishers outraged over the leak coverup, Radioactive water drainage changes contemplated, and, finally, evacuees fail to heed claims the hot zone is safe. . . 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).

John Oliver strikes again: Justice for sale


We spent some of our most interesting years covering the American judicial system, and we’re even featured in a documentary about one of the most corrupt court cases in California’s recent history.

So it was with great interest that we watched this segment from John Oliver’s HBO “investigative comedy” series, about the corrupting power of money [including Koch brothers cash] in American judicial elections.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Elected Judges

Program notes:

The vast majority of US judges are elected, forcing many judges to pander to the electorate and accept campaign money in order to keep their jobs. This seems slightly troubling…

Quote of the day: Emma Goldman’s declaration


Emma Goldman was one of the most remarkable figures in American history.

Born in 1869 in the Russian city that is now Kaunas, Lithuania, she came to the U.S. 14 years later, and became a pillar of the anarchist movement in the wake of the Haymarket riot and its bloody aftermath, with her lover and life partner Alexander Berkman, she was tried for the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, manager of the Carnegie Steel plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania, who had overseen the bloody suppression of a strike there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_affair

A pioneer of the movements for organized labor, women’s rights, and the abolition of capitalism, she was also the founder of Mother Earth, a journal devoted to the anarchist ideal. The following essay, one of her most famous, was published in magazine’s July, 1909, edition:

A New Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

The mere fact that these forces–inimical to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–are legalized by statute laws, sanctified by divine rights, and enforced by political power, in no way justifies their continued existence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all human beings, irrespective of race, color, or sex, are born with the equal right to share at the table of life; that to secure this right, there must be established among men economic, social, and political freedom; we hold further that government exists but to maintain special privilege and property rights; that it coerces man into submission and therefore robs him of dignity, self-respect, and life.

The history of the American kings of capital and authority is the history of repeated crimes, injustice, oppression, outrage, and abuse, all aiming at the suppression of individual liberties and the exploitation of the people. A vast country, rich enough to supply all her children with all possible comforts, and insure well-being to all, is in the hands of a few, while the nameless millions are at the mercy of ruthless wealth gatherers, unscrupulous lawmakers, and corrupt politicians. Sturdy sons of America are forced to tramp the country in a fruitless search for bread, and many of her daughters are driven into the street, while thousands of tender children are daily sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. The reign of these kings is holding mankind in slavery, perpetuating poverty and disease, maintaining crime and corruption; it is fettering the spirit of liberty, throttling the voice of justice, and degrading and oppressing humanity. It is engaged in continual war and slaughter, devastating the country and destroying the best and finest qualities of man; it nurtures superstition and ignorance, sows prejudice and strife, and turns the human family into a camp of Ishmaelites.

We, therefore, the liberty-loving men and women, realizing the great injustice and brutality of this state of affairs, earnestly and boldly do hereby declare, That each and every individual is and ought to be free to own himself and to enjoy the full fruit of his labor; that man is absolved from all allegiance to the kings of authority and capital; that he has, by the very fact of his being, free access to the land and all means of production, and entire liberty of disposing of the fruits of his efforts; that each and every individual has the unquestionable and unabridgeable right of free and voluntary association with other equally sovereign individuals for economic, political, social, and all other purposes, and that to achieve this end man must emancipate himself from the sacredness of property, the respect for man-made law, the fear of the Church, the cowardice of public opinion, the stupid arrogance of national, racial, religious, and sex superiority, and from the narrow puritanical conception of human life. And for the support of this Declaration, and with a firm reliance on the harmonious blending of man’s social and individual tendencies, the lovers of liberty joyfully consecrate their uncompromising devotion, their energy and intelligence, their solidarity and their lives.

With the word “anarchism” so loosely applied these days, we thought it might be a good idea to consider the words of an unimpeachable anarchistic thinker, one who played a crucial role in some of the most turbulent years of American history.

After the outbreak of World War I, Goldman and Berkman were singled out for persecution by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and the newly appointed head of his General Intelligence Division [later the Federal Bureau of Investigation] J. Edgar Hoover. Deported to Russia, she soon found herself in strong disagreement with the totalitarian instincts of the young Bolshevik regime and would spend her life in exile, a woman without a country.

Hoover would go on to lead an unending purge of dissident American thinkers, all conveniently labelled communists, even though many were not. Hoover’s name struck terror into the hearts of three generations of Americans, in part because he kept files on everyone deemed either a threat to the established order or as potential obstacles to his own career.

Goldman was one of his first victims. Thousands more would follow.

EbolaWatch: Fear, warnings, trials, and borders


We begin with fear in the extreme, via the Observer:

Top-secret military warning on Ebola biological weapon terror threat

  • Porton Down memo marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’ reveals scientists analysed use of virus by al-Qaida or Isis

Scientists at the top-secret military research unit at Porton Down, Wiltshire, have been assessing the potential use of Ebola as a bioterrorism weapon, according to confidential documents.

A three-page memo, marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’, reveals that the unit, where chemical, radiological and biological threats are analysed, was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida and Islamic State (Isis) could use the deadly virus to attack western targets.

The heavily redacted document, which has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that the unit was asked last October to provide “guidance on the feasibility and potential impact of a non-state actor exploiting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa for bioterrorism”.

From the Associated Press, another warning:

WHO: Sharp decline in Ebola cases has now leveled off

The official leading the World Health Organization’s response to the Ebola outbreak says a steep decline in case numbers has leveled off over the past month and that the development is a cause for concern.

Dr. Bruce Aylward told reporters Friday “today is the first time we have the data to demonstrate this” flattening of the curve.

The U.N. has said 10 times fewer people are being diagnosed with Ebola each week than in September, but Aylward says the rate has hovered around 120 to 150 new cases a week for the past month.

More form the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Ebola doctor fears deadly scenes may yet be repeated

Nathalie MacDermott hopes never again to see desperate patients, terrified as blood pours from their eyes and mouths, lashing out and frantic as they die surrounded by vomit and faeces.

To this young British doctor, Ebola is “a disease that strips people of any kind of dignity in death”. Yet she fears the scenes she witnessed as an aid worker in West Africa’s epidemic may be repeated as the deadly virus is beaten back, memories fade and conspiracy theories creep in.

“Case numbers are coming down and people have relaxed a lot. And while it’s nice to see people able to get on with life again, it is also a bit concerning — because in some people’s eyes, Ebola has gone,” MacDermott said in an interview.

In others’ eyes, it was never there at all.

From the Guardian, unfortunate:

UK Ebola nurse under investigation after claims of misconduct

  • The Nursing and Midwifery Council looks into reported claims that Pauline Cafferkey’s symptoms were obscured after her return from west Africa

A British nurse who was diagnosed with the Ebola virus after returning from Sierra Leone is being investigated over claims of misconduct, the body that oversees nursing within the UK has confirmed.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said that it had received information from Public Health England about the conduct of Pauline Cafferkey that it would look into, along with two other nurses.

Cafferkey was diagnosed with the virus in December after returning from west Africa, where she had been volunteering as a health worker. She was treated at the Unit for Infectious Diseases on the Gartnavel hospital campus, Glasgow, before being transferred to specialist facilities at the Royal Free hospital in London.

From the UN News Center, an approval:

UN health agency approves rapid test for Ebola as decline in cases appears to level off

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that it has approved for use a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola that can provide results in 15 minutes and correctly identify 92 percent of patients infected by the disease that has killed more than 9,400 people, mainly in West Africa.

Meanwhile at UN headquarters, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO’s response on Ebola, and Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, briefed Member States on the need to maintain the robust response to get the number of cases to zero.

“As long as there is even one case of Ebola active in the human population, it’s a danger for everybody – it’s a problem for West Africa, it’s a problem for [wider] Africa and it’s a problem for the world, Dr. Nabarro told reporters after their briefing. “We must be fully engaged, all of us, until the last person with Ebola is treated and is cured.”

On to Sierra Leone and another treatment trial, via the Guardian:

Trials using Ebola survivors’ blood for treatment to start in Sierra Leone

  • Clinical tests due to start in February in Sierra Leone will be used to establish whether antibodies in the plasma of Ebola survivors can save lives

Clinical trials using the blood of Ebola survivors in treatment are to be extended to Sierra Leone.

Discussions have been held about transferring blood plasma already banked in the Liberian capital Monrovia to Sierra Leone, where between 60 and 80 people a week are being infected.

Technicians at Sierra Leone’s National Safe Blood Transfusion Service were trained in Liberia on the apheresis plasma extraction machines at the end of January.

Two new apheresis machines are being shipped to the national blood bank in Sierra Leone for the study, said Simona Zipursky, a World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Freetown.

And from the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the dark side:

Reckless information minister calls missing Ebola funds audit report baseless, fallacious and a distraction

According to reports, Sierra Leone’s reckless and infamous minister of information – Alpha Kanu, has now turned his poisonous fangs on to the credibility and hard earned, no nonsense image of the country’s astute Auditor General – Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce.

The Auditor General’s report into millions of dollars stolen from the Ebola fund, has irreparably ruptured trust in the government’s ability to manage public funds, as the number of new Ebola cases rises once again.

And serious questions are now being asked as to whether the Koroma government should, and can ever be trusted with managing foreign aid, which accounts for over 60% of the country’s revenue stream.

On to Liberia and another cause for concern, via FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Threat: S.D. Cooper Hospital Closed – 30 Quarantined

At one of Liberia’s private hospitals, more than 30 persons are said to be quarantined after authorities say a woman who knew she had Ebola deliberately tried to infect the staff of the S.D. Cooper Hospital in Sinkor. Madam Amanda Blah who died early this month disguised herself and went to over three health facilities including Mawah, JFK and S.D. Cooper.

The death of Blah followed when her cousin named Steve Yadolo who died from the virus in the Bong Mines bridge community, but infected three persons, including Blah, his sister Marlene Yadolo, and brother Elijah Yadolo who are presently at an ETU in the country.

The late Yadolo was a hygienist in Sector 2 and came in contact with a suspect of the Ebola virus at the Island Clinic ETU. According to a source, the case of Blah came from an outbreak in Bong Mines Bridge where there was a missing contact. A source confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Blah disguised herself and went to Mawah Clinic, where she changed her name and came in contact with several health workers.

From the Associated Press, looking for help:

AP Interview: Liberia leader urges help in post-Ebola phase

Liberia’s leader on Sunday urged the United States and other countries to keep up their support to the West African nation as it recovers from the Ebola epidemic and refocuses attention on infrastructure projects that will better position it to tackle future outbreaks of disease.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia needs outside help to see through its “post-Ebola agenda” of building up basic public services — development that she said was needed to prevent another deadly epidemic from becoming “a global menace.”

Among the needs she highlighted were power projects to keep hospital equipment running, roads so the sick can access medical facilities, and clean water to prevent diseases from spreading.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers border closings relaxed:

Liberia lifts Ebola curfew, re-opens borders

Liberia said on Friday (Feb 20) it was lifting nationwide curfews and re-opening borders shut last year at the height of the Ebola crisis, after the retreat of an epidemic that has killed thousands.

The move comes with Liberia and its neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone seeing new infections drop to a tenth of the numbers being reported at the September-October peak of the outbreak.

Liberia, which has recorded the most deaths and was hardest hit, is leading the recovery, reporting just a handful of new confirmed cases each week.

From the New Dawn, hypocrisy alleged:

Ebola survivors protest in Nimba

More than 10 Ebola survivors in Small Ganta and other parts of Nimba County have threatened to pick bones with the World Food Program, or WFP, for alleged neglect, while others say they would commit suicide due to continuous stigmatization from residents.

According to the Ebola survivors, the WFP left them out of a recent cell phones distribution along with mobile money.

One of the aggrieved survivors Mamie Forlay, told The New Dawn Nimba correspondent they were enticed to post for photograph, but unfortunately didn’t receive these items.

“The Nimba County Health Team, WFP, and UNICEF have been distributing food rations and other relief items to Ebola survivors in Small Ganta community, but only today they are coming up to  stop us from receiving these rations”, she lamented.

FrontPageAfrica covers help from abroad:

African Ebola Task Force Launches Food Drive for Ebola Orphans

The Minnesota African Task Force Against Ebola (MATFAE) will launch a food drive for Ebola orphans and neglected children in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, on Saturday Feb. 21, at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center–5600 85th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park, Minn.

The public event, designed as a first step in a sustained campaign to help address hunger and food insecurity in the three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Even as a united world races to contain the spread of Ebola in West Africa, life-threatening hunger and chronic food insecurity are beginning to devastate the lives of vulnerable people, especially poor families, orphans, neglected children, and seniors,” said Robena Lewis-Vincent, project coordinator of the food drive. “Unless the African Diaspora plays its part, so many vulnerable lives will be exposed to serious life-threatening crises beyond our worse fears.”

Heritage covers another call for help:

Brown urges EU support for roads to health program

Information Minister Lewis Brown has called for collaboration between Liberia and the European Union (EU) in constructing more feeder roads that lead to health facilities in the country.

Brown noted that if Liberia’s healthcare system is built to full capacity it will only be useful and more accessible in rural Liberia if roads leading to hospitals and other public health facilities are in good condition.

The Minister made the statement in a meeting with EU Ambassador to Liberia, TiinaIntelmann, at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia on Wednesday.

Finally, taking Ebolaphobia to extremes, via the Associated Press:

N. Korea bars tourists from popular race over Ebola concerns

North Korean authorities are barring foreigners from this year’s Pyongyang marathon, a popular tourist event, amid ongoing Ebola travel restrictions, the head of a travel agency that specializes in the country said Monday.

Nick Bonner, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, said more than 400 foreign runners had signed up with his agency alone for the event, which is to be held April 12. He said he was informed by officials on Monday that the race would be open only to local runners.

Though no cases of Ebola have been reported anywhere near North Korea, the country shut its borders to foreign tourists in October with strict regulations to keep the virus out. North Korean media have suggested Ebola was created by the U.S. military as a biological weapon.

Chart of the day: Rise of the new media titans


From Reuters:

BLOG Appling

Chart of the day II: Wars fuel Big Oil’s profits


Call it fuel for thought.

A stunning chart from the latest edition of Real-World Economics Review [PDF] reveals the direct correlation between the relative profits of BP, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell [and their predecessors] copared to average profits of the Fortune 500 and outbreaks of armed conflict in the Middle East ]symbolized by the explosion graphics], with wars preceded by declining profits, and profits soaring in their aftermath.

Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Oil war