World fears mount that Ebola battle being lost in West Africa

October 2014HEALTHThe World Bank warned Friday the fight to stop Ebola was being lost, as the UN pleaded for more money to combat the escalating epidemic and global travel fears mounted. As the death toll from the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the virus shot past 4,500, a glimmer of hope came from Senegal, which was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization. The United States, meanwhile, named an “Ebola czar” to coordinate its response, after criticism of how a Texas hospital handled a Liberian victim, with two nurses who treated him now infected. And a researcher at British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline said a vaccine may not be ready for commercial use until late 2016. “We are losing the battle,” World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim warned, blaming a lack of international solidarity in efforts to stem the epidemic. “Certain countries are only worried about their own borders,” he told reporters in Paris. As of October 14, 4,555 people have died from Ebola out of a total of 9,216 cases registered in seven countries, the WHO says. Most of the dead are in three West African nations at the centre of the outbreak: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Experts warn that the infection rate could hit 10,000 a week by early December.
The United Nations has warned that it has received less than 40 percent of the nearly $1 billion it asked for to fight Ebola. So far, just $377 million has come in, and another $217 million has been pledged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. “But that’s not money in the bank,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva. And a UN trust fund for Ebola has just $100,000, despite $20 million in pledges—a situation UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said had left the world body with a “very serious problem. We need to turn pledges into action. We need more doctors, nurses, equipment, treatment centers and medical evacuation capacities,” he said. Despite enhanced health checks at airports in several countries, fears mounted, and Air France flight attendants called for an end to flights to Guinea, one of the three hardest-hit nations in West Africa. The daily Air France Paris-Conakry flight “carries a serious risk of spreading the epidemic, particularly in our country,” read a statement from the two unions of flight crew and commercial staff. –Medical Xpress
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Liberia thinks it needs 84,000 more body bags for the Ebola outbreak – cases likely 2.5 times higher than reported

October 2014 LIBERIA - Earlier today, the Liberian government published a list of the supplies it has on hand to treat Ebola patients — and the supplies it thinks it will need. The data paints a dire picture of a country bracing for an outbreak that only gets worse. The Liberian government estimates it needs an additional 84,841 body bags. It currently has 4,901 on hand. The West African country also needs more than 2 million boxes of rubber gloves and a half-million pairs of goggles and tens of thousands more pairs of rubber boots. Right now, it has very little of any of these. Liberia has been harder hit by the Ebola outbreak than any other country. It has so far recorded 4,076 cases and 2,316 deaths. More than half of all Ebola deaths worldwide have happened in Liberia. The country is also poor, with few resources to fight the deadly outbreak. Even before Ebola hit, Liberia had one of the world’s poorest health care systems. Liberia spends an average of $66 per person per year on health care — a mere 2 percent of the OECD average. Supplies matter a lot in the Ebola outbreak. Without proper protective gear, it’s easier for the disease to spread — not just in Liberia, but also outside of the country, too. If you’re looking for ways to help ease the supply shortage, consider this list of non-profits currently providing aid in West Africa in the Ebola fight.

We have no idea how bad the Ebola outbreak actually is

While official estimates suggest there are already more than 8,000 cases of Ebola this year, the real number is likely much, much higher. “Under-reporting” has been a constant feature of the world’s worst Ebola epidemic. Cases have gone missing, deaths are uncounted, and “there is widespread under-reporting of new cases,” warns the World Health Organization. The WHO has continually said that even its current dire numbers don’t reflect the full reality. The estimated 8,000-plus Ebola cases in West Africa could just be the tip of the iceberg. To get to this point, Dr. David Fisman, an infectious disease modeler working on Ebola, summed up: “A person needs to have recognized symptoms, seek care, be correctly diagnosed, get lab testing — if they’re going to be a confirmed case — have the clerical and bureaucratic apparatus actually transmit that information to the people doing surveillance. At each step along the way the case can fall out of the pool of ‘counteds.” There’s no way to know how vastly under-reported this epidemic is, but there are estimates being floated around. Comparing surveillance figures with actual hospital beds dedicated to Ebola care in West Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that under-reporting could be happening at a rate of 2.5. This means that every one case reported equals 2.5 on the ground. If true, today’s 8,000 Ebola cases could actually look more like 20,000. –Vox
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Ebola epidemic may not end without developing vaccine, scientist warns

October 2014 AFRICA - The Ebola epidemic, which is out of control in three countries and directly threatening 15 others, may not end until the world has a vaccine against the disease, according to one of the scientists who discovered the virus. Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it would not have been difficult to contain the outbreak if those on the ground and the UN had acted promptly earlier this year. “Something that is easy to control got completely out of hand,” said Piot, who was part of a team that identified the causes of the first outbreak of Ebola in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976 and helped bring it to an end. The scale of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea means that isolation, care and tracing and monitoring contacts, which have worked before, will not halt the spread. “It may be that we have to wait for a vaccine to stop the epidemic,” he said. On Thursday night, a Downing Street spokesman said a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, Cobra, was told the chief medical officer still believed the risk to the UK remained low.
“There was a discussion over the need for the international community to do much more to support the fight against the disease in the region,” the spokesman said. “This included greater coordination of the international effort, an increase in the amount of spending and more support for international workers who were, or who were considering, working in the region. The prime minister set out that he wanted to make progress on these issues at the European council next week.” Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in evidence to Congress, said he was confident the outbreak would be checked in the US, but stressed the need to halt the raging west African epidemic. “There are no shortcuts in the control of Ebola and it is not easy to control it. To protect the United States we need to stop it at its source,” he said. “One of the things I fear about Ebola is that it could spread more widely in Africa. If this were to happen it could become a threat to our health system and the healthcare we give for a long time to come.” There are three vaccines now being fast-tracked through early safety trials in volunteers in the UK, the US and in unaffected Mali to ensure that they do no harm.
The results should be available by the end of November or start of December. If they are acceptable, it is likely that healthcare workers – who are at highest risk of being infected and over 200 of whom have died – will be offered a vaccination before Christmas. But the only proof that any of them works will be if there is a significant drop in the number of deaths among vaccinated people on the front line. “If the epidemic is not going to be stopped in these three countries, it will definitely spread to adjacent countries such as Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Mali,” said Piot. He was speaking at a seminar in Oxford as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that 15 countries, neighboring or trading with those where the epidemic is raging, were at risk. They are Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Sudan and Togo. Nigeria and Senegal have both succeeded in halting an outbreak. Nonetheless, Dr Isabelle Nuttall of the WHO said all needed to be better prepared. “The objective is to stop the transmission from occurring in these countries. They may have a case but after one case we don’t want more cases,” she said at a briefing. –Guardian
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Ebola epidemic spreads to the last untouched district in Sierra Leone

October 2014FREETOWN, Sierra Leone –  The deadly Ebola virus has infected two people in what was the last untouched district in Sierra Leone, the government said Thursday, a setback in efforts to stop the spread of the disease in one of the hardest-hit countries. The Emergency Operations Center in its report covering Wednesday announced the two Ebola cases in the Koinadugu district, in Sierra Leone’s far north, which had taken aggressive measures to keep the virus out of its mountainous territory since the outbreak early this year. “It was the only place we are counting on where you can go and breathe a sigh of relief and to know that now in the whole country no district is safe, is heartrending,” said John Caulker, the executive director of the nonprofit Fambul Tok, a group that worked on keeping Ebola out of the district. “Now we will increase our activities in the district and take the necessary measures to make sure the area is safe and it does not spread,” he told The Associated Press, noting it was just in a single chiefdom so far. Ebola is rampant in the rest of the country, with 425 new cases just in the last week and a health care system that is struggling to deal with the onslaught of the disease. The World Health Organization said there have been more than 3,000 infections in Sierra Leone with nearly 1,200 deaths.
Last week, the Koinadugu district’s health team received word of people dying in the village of Fakonya, some 60 miles over very rough terrain from the town of district center of Kabala, said Abdul Sesay, a local health official. Some 15 people had died and then two of the six samples tested came back as positive for the virus — the deaths had originally been attributed to witchcraft, according to Sesay. The town has now been isolated and nearby communities have been put under observation. Momoh Konte, a businessman born in the district and educated in the United States who has been very active in protecting Koinadugu, told local press Thursday that the dead and their homes would be cremated to protect the living. Under the system put in place by Konte and Caulker, movement in and out of the district was through a strict pass system and protective equipment and chlorine were brought in to stem the transmission of the disease. The deadly Ebola virus is transmitted by bodily fluids and has hit hardest in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Koinadugu survived infection free for so long in part because it cut itself off from infected areas, but the affected countries have been begging their neighbors and the international community to maintain ties and help them fight the disease, amid increased discussions of cutting off all contact. Planes can’t fly to the affected countries because they are afraid they will be refused landing elsewhere, said the African Union chair Nkosazana Zuma on Thursday and airlines that wanted to restart service couldn’t. Currently only Moroccan airlines and Brussels Air fly to all three countries. Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister Kaifalah Marah on Thursday warned that border closures and cutting flights were “killing our economies,” describing the isolation as a de facto economic embargo. Sierra Leone had growth rates of 9 percent before the outbreak. “It’s critically important that these countries stay connected to the rest of the world, part of the reason for making this trip is that if you take the proper precautions, it is safe to travel and work here,” U.S. Agency for Development director Rajiv Shah told AP during his trip through Sierra Leone Wednesday. International agencies and countries are trying to boost the capacity of the countries to fight the disease where overstretched health care systems and minimal sanitation have allowed transmission to rage almost unchecked. –Fox News
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Escalation of Ebola epidemic could trigger major food crisis

October 2014AFRICA - The global famine warning system is predicting a major food crisis if the Ebola outbreak continues to grow exponentially over the coming months, and the United Nations still hasn’t reached over 750,000 people in need of food in West Africa as prices spiral and farms are abandoned. On the eve of World Food Day on Thursday, U.N agencies and non-governmental organizations are scrambling to scale up efforts to avert widespread hunger. “The world is mobilizing and we need to reach the smallest villages in the most remote locations,” Denise Brown, the U.N. World Food Program’s regional director for West Africa, said in a statement Wednesday. “Indications are that things will get worse before they improve. How much worse depends on us all.” WFP has said it needs to reach 1.3 million people in need in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. So far, the U.N. agency has provided food to 534,000 people, and it expects to reach between 600,000 and 700,000 this month, Bettina Luescher, WFP’s chief spokesperson in North America, told AP. “And we are working hard to reach and scale up to 1.3 million eventually.” WFP is providing food to patients in Ebola treatment centers, survivors of the virus who have been discharged, and communities which have been quarantined or have seen widespread transmission, including the families of those affected.
It is also helping with logistics and is managing the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service between the three affected countries and nearby Dakar, Senegal and Accra, Ghana to help humanitarian workers rapidly deploy to the field. We are assessing how families are coping as the virus keeps spreading,” Luescher said. “We expect to have a better understanding of the impact of the Ebola outbreak on food availability and farming activities by the end of October.” WFP said its first survey using mobile telephones showed that people living in the Kailahun and Kenema districts of Sierra Leone — where most Ebola cases have been reported — are finding it harder to feed their families than people in other parts of the country and are resorting to more desperate measures to cope. More than 80 percent of people in those areas said they ate less expensive food, and 75 percent reported that they have reduced the number of daily means and were serving smaller portions. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development, said Monday that up to 40 percent of farms have been abandoned in the worst-affected areas of Sierra Leone and there are already food shortages in Senegal and other countries in West Africa because regional trade has been disrupted. He said preliminary reports suggest that “trade volume in these markets is half of what it was at this time last year.”
Andrea Tamburini, CEO of the non-governmental organization Action Against Hunger which operates in the hardest-hit West African countries, said in an interview Wednesday that his two main concerns are the spike in food costs and the shortage of manpower due to restrictions on movement. This has led to farmers abandoning their crops to seek refuge in locations considered less exposed to the Ebola virus, he said. –ABC News
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Belize confirms patient with Ebola symptoms on cruise ship off its coast

October 2014 BELIZE - Reports tonight are that two individuals possibly infected with the Ebola virus are in Belizean waters. Local TV station Channel 7 monitored in Belmopan tonight, reported having credible reports that a couple from a Texas-based cruise ship presently anchored off Belize City, is on a ship tender, unable to return to the cruise ship, while being refused entry to Belize City to catch an air ambulance awaiting at the International Airport to take them to the their country of origin, the U.S.A. The television station in its broadcast tonight said Belize health authorities contacted tonight have so far refused to deny or confirm the report. Later tonight in breaking news,  Channel 5 Belize is reported that it has: “Confirmed with representatives of the Ministry of Health that they have indeed received a report that there is at least one passenger on board the cruise ship, Carnival Magic, showing symptoms similar to that of the Ebola virus. According to the report made to MOH, the person exhibiting the symptoms did not come ashore today. The ship is reportedly carrying 3652 passengers and a total population of 4633 persons. “The Carnival Magic departed from Galveston Texas on Sunday, October 12 arrived in Mahogany Bay, Honduras on Wednesday October 15 and arrived in Belize this morning, Thursday October 16.
“The ship was scheduled to leave Belize en route to Cozumel this evening at 5pm. However, it is still anchored in Belizean waters near State Bank Caye.” “We have also have confirmed that the Coast Guard has been deployed to prevent anyone from leaving the ship; including the Belizean pilot on board.” In a press conference held last weak, Belize’s Ministry of Health stated that in the event of an outbreak of Ebola in Belize, no patient would be allowed into the commercial capital Belize City, where most of the Belize government cabinet officials reside. The MOH stated that the government hospital, the Karl Heuesner Memorial Hospital has but one Intensive Care Unit and they would not allow this to be overrun with Ebola patients. Belize is a a very poor country that depends to a large extent on tourism for its foreign exchange income. Belize City is currently the main port of call for cruise ships. –Belizean
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Spain quarantines four: The emergency protocol for dealing with a possible case of the Ebola virus was activated at Madrid’s Adolfo Suarez-Barajas Airport on a day that saw four people hospitalised with possible symptoms of the Ebola virus. The airport protocol was activated after a Nigerian passenger on an Air France flight (AF1300) from Paris, but who had started his journey in Lagos, complained of fever, headache, shivering and sweating, causing the plane crew to alert Spanish authorities, Xinhua reported. The aircraft, which was carrying 156 passengers and seven crew, was taken to a designated area at Barajas airport, the possible Ebola suspect was then taken to the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, while the remaining passengers were allowed to disembark from the plane after having their details taken and instructed to get in contact with the hospital should they develop signs of fever. Thursday also saw two further people taken to the Carlos III Hospital, where nursing auxiliary Teresa Romero is being treated for the virus. The first of these was confirmed as someone who had been carried in the same Ambulance as Romero, after she had originally been taken to hospital in Alcorcon Oct 6.
The ambulance carried no special protection against the virus and after taking Romero to hospital was not disinfected for 12 hours during which it carried a further 7 people. The patient, who health authorities confirm is not a medical worker, had formed part of a group of over 50 people considered to be “low risk” of being infected with Ebola. The third person taken to the Carlos III is a Spanish missionary from the “San Juan de Dios” order, the same as Manuel Garcia Viejo, who died in Madrid of the virus in September. The missionary, who returned from Liberia Tuesday was taken to the hospital after developing a fever. Finally a person who abandoned Sierra Leone eight days ago has also been taken to hospital in Tenerife as a precautionary measure after developing a fever. Meanwhile Romero’s state continues to give ground for optimism and Fernando Simon, the Director of the Center for Alerts and Sanitary Emergencies, informed on Thursday that: “the level of the virus in her body has diminished…Her immune system is being able to control the infection.”Simon added that Romero’s internal organs were “improving” and there were “clear signs for hope,” 17 days after first developing symptoms of the disease. –Daijworld
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U.S. embassies in Ebola-stricken countries are still processing visas for non-US citizens

October 2014 AFRICA - Despite the outbreak of Ebola, it is still possible to get a visa from the three West African countries at the heart of the outbreak, and a key congressman is demanding to know why. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, sent a sternly worded letter to Secretary of State John Kerry about the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Royce said he was “deeply concerned” U.S. embassies in those countries were continuing to process visas for non-U.S. nationals despite the outbreak of the deadly disease. An estimated 100 people per day are applying for U.S. visas at the three embassies, according to Royce. “Of course,” he added, “once these individuals are issued a visa by the embassy, they are free to travel to the United States.” In the letter, Royce urged Kerry to contain the Ebola virus “at its source” in Africa before any additional cases reach the United States.
“I was surprised that the Department of State has not already exercised its authority to suspend consular services, which is standard procedure in countries experiencing a major security disruption,” Royce wrote to Kerry. “This would be a prudent measure to mitigate the risk of Ebola exposure and contain its spread—a bedrock principal (sic) of health crisis management.” Royce recommended the State Department stop issuing visas for non-U.S. nationals in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a “containment measure that may help mitigate the risk of further translocation to the United States.” That idea has drawn criticism from experts. The Heritage Foundation’s Steven Bucci and Ellen Prichard wrote for The Daily Signal last week that banning travel is the wrong approach: Ebola presents a major challenge to authorities for managing and protecting U.S. citizens. Sealing off the borders from these countries is not feasible and does not present the best solution for dealing with the virus. America must resist the urge to react out of fear and use wisdom instead. A prudent additional step of increasing screening will help. A panicked overreaction will not. –Daily Signal
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