Tag Archives: EBOLA

Iraqi media says ISIS militants have contracted Ebola

1 Jan

What’s to keep ISIS from taking advantage of this and spreading the disease to the U.S.?

Fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria.

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Reports that Islamic State militants in Mosul have contracted Ebola swirled though Iraqi media sources on Wednesday. World Health Organization officials said they haven’t confirmed the cases, but the organization has reached out to offer assistance.

Three outlets reported that Ebola showed up at a hospital in Mosul, a city 250 miles north of Baghdad that’s been under ISIS control since June 2014. The reports, however, have perpetuated mostly in pro-government and Kurdish media.

“We have no official notification from [the Iraqi government] that it is Ebola,”

“We have no official notification from [the Iraqi government] that it is Ebola,” Christy Feig, WHO’s director of communications told Mashable.

Feig added that WHO is in the process of reaching out to government officials in Iraq to see if they need help investigating the cases, a task that could be a challenge, given the restrictions that would come with operating in ISIS-controlled territory.

It’s unclear if any disease experts or doctors in Mosul are even able to test for the Ebola virus. A Kurdish official, who was convinced the cases are Ebola, told the Kurdish media outlet Xendan that the militants’ symptoms were similar to those of the Ebola virus.

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However, Ebola symptoms — nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and bruising — are also similar to those associated with a number of other diseases, including malaria, Lassa fever, yellow fever viruses and the Marburg virus. Also, most confirmed Ebola cases in this recent outbreak have originated in West Africa.

Citing an unnamed source in a Mosul hospital, Iraq’s official pro-government newspaper, al Sabaah, said the disease arrived in Mosul from “terrorists” who came “from several countries” and Africa.

While ISIS has recruited foreign fighters, very few of them — if any at all — are believed to have traveled from West Africa.

While ISIS has recruited foreign fighters, very few of them — if any at all — are believed to have traveled from West Africa.

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The majority of the Islamic State’s African fighters came from Tunisia, according to a Washington Post report. Others came from Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Somalia — none of which reported any Ebola cases in 2014.

If the cases in Mosul turn out to be Ebola — a scenario that, at this point, seems highly unlikely — it would mark the first time the virus had been detected in an area controlled by ISIS, a group that doesn’t embrace science and modern medicine.

Over the past few weeks, militants affiliated with ISIS have executed more than a dozen doctors in Mosul, according to Benjamin T. Decker, an intelligence analyst with the Levantine Group, a Middle East-based geopolitical risk and research consultancy.

“U.N. workers have thus far been prohibited from entering ISIS-controlled territory in both Iraq and Syria,” Decker, who specializes in Iraq, told Mashable.

“In this context,” he said, “the lack of medical infrastructure, supplies and practitioners in the city suggests that the outbreak could quickly lead to further infection of both ISIS fighters and residents of Mosul.”

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Scientists try to predict number of US Ebola cases

2 Nov
Nov 1, 10:41 PM EDT

Didn’t the president tell us to trust the science in this case?

By MARTHA MENDOZA AP National Writer

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Top medical experts studying the spread of Ebola say the public should expect more cases to emerge in the United States by year’s end as infected people arrive here from West Africa, including American doctors and nurses returning from the hot zone and people fleeing from the deadly disease.

But how many cases?

No one knows for sure how many infections will emerge in the U.S. or anywhere else, but scientists have made educated guesses based on data models that weigh hundreds of variables, including daily new infections in West Africa, airline traffic worldwide and transmission possibilities.

This week, several top infectious disease experts ran simulations for The Associated Press that predicted as few as one or two additional infections by the end of 2014 to a worst-case scenario of 130.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a huge outbreak here, no,” said Dr. David Relman, a professor of infectious disease, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University’s medical school. “However, as best we can tell right now, it is quite possible that every major city will see at least a handful of cases.”

Relman is a founding member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advisory board for biosecurity and chairs the National Academy of Sciences forum on microbial threats.

Until now, projections published in top medical journals by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have focused on worst-case scenarios for West Africa, concluding that cases in the U.S. will be episodic, but minimal. But they have declined to specify actual numbers.

The projections are complicated, but Ebola has been a fairly predictable virus – extremely infectious, contagious only through contact with body fluids, requiring no more than 21 days for symptoms to emerge. Human behavior is far less predictable – people get on airplanes, shake hands, misdiagnose, even lie.

Pandemic risk expert Dominic Smith, a senior manager for life risks at Newark, California-based RMS, a leading catastrophe-modeling firm, ran a U.S. simulation this week that projected 15 to 130 cases between now and the end of December. That’s less than one case per 2 million people.

Smith’s method assumes that most cases imported to the U.S. will be American medical professionals who worked in West Africa and returned home.

Smith said the high end may be a bit of an overestimate as it does not include the automatic quarantining measures that some areas in the U.S. are implementing.

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Those quarantines “could both reduce the number of contacts for imported cases, as well as increase the travel burden on – and perhaps reduce the number of – U.S. volunteers planning to support the effort in West Africa,” he said.

In a second simulation, Northeastern University professor Alessandro Vespignani projected between one case – the most likely scenario – and a slim chance of as many as eight cases though the end of November.

“I’m always trying to tell people to keep calm and keep thinking rationally,” said Vespignani, who projects the spread of infectious diseases at the university’s Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems.

In an article in the journal PLOS ONE, Vespignani and a team of colleagues said the probability of international spread outside the African region is small, but not negligible. Longer term, they say international dissemination will depend on what happens in West Africa in the next few months.

Their first analysis, published Sept. 2, proved to be accurate when it included the U.S. among 30 countries likely to see some Ebola cases. They projected one or two infections in the U.S., but there could be as many as 10.

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So far, nine Ebola patients have been treated in the U.S., and one has died. Seven became infected in West Africa, including Thomas Eric Duncan, the first to arrive undiagnosed and the first to die. He was cared for at a Dallas hospital, where two of his nurses were also infected.

Duncan, who was initially misdiagnosed and sent home from the emergency room, is Vespignani’s worst-case scenario for the U.S.

A similar situation, if left unchecked, could lead to a local cluster that could infect, on the outside, as many as 20, he said.

The foreseeable future extends only for the next few months. After that, projections depend entirely on what happens in West Africa. One scenario is that the surge in assistance to the region brings the epidemic under control and cases peter out in the U.S. A second scenario involves Ebola spreading unchecked across international borders.

“My worry is that the epidemic might spill into other countries in Africa or the Middle East, and then India or China. That could be a totally different story for everybody,” Vespignani said.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a Harvard University professor and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said he’s not worried about a handful of new cases in the U.S. His greatest worry is if the disease goes from West Africa to India.

“If the infection starts spreading in Delhi or Mumbai, what are we going to do?”

Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, pegs the range of cases in the U.S. between five and 100.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prefers not to focus on a particular number. But spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Ebola will not be a widespread threat as some outside the agency have warned.

“We’re talking about clusters in some places but not outbreaks,” she said.

The CDC is using modeling tools to work on projections in West Africa, but “there isn’t enough data available in the U.S. to make it worthwhile to go through the exercise.”

University of Texas integrative biology professor Lauren Ancel Meyers said there are inherent inconsistencies in forecasting “because the course of action we’re taking today will impact what happens in the future.”

Her laboratory is running projections of Ebola’s spread in West Africa.

The U.S. simulations run for the AP had fairly consistent results with each other, she said. And they are “consistent with what we know about the disease.”

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Mark Caserta: President failed to be proactive in dealing with Ebola

30 Oct

ebola 8ebola 6QUARANTINE

Oct. 30, 2014 @ 12:24 AM

The Obama administration has consistently demonstrated an inability to proactively think a policy through its unintended consequences. And any “common sense” option seems always to be circumvented for the purpose of protecting this president politically. The reaction to the Ebola outbreak has been no different.

Common sense dictates containing the Ebola virus at its source until it can be eradicated. But with an estimated 150 people traveling to the United States each day from West Africa, travel restrictions alone would be insufficient since there are no direct, non-stop commercial flights from countries hardest hit by the virus to any U.S. airport. All new visas to the U.S. for citizens of Ebola-stricken nations would need to be banned until the outbreak has been controlled period.

And as fear of an outbreak in the U.S. escalates, the idea of such a travel ban is gaining momentum among House and Senate Republicans.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, became the latest Republican lawmaker to announce plans to introduce a measure that would temporarily ban new visas for people from the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The bill, which Rubio plans to introduce when the Senate returns after the Nov. 4 mid-term elections, would go into effect immediately and continue until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention certifies that the outbreak has been contained. It could also be expanded to any future countries experiencing an outbreak of the virus.

But at this point, these precautions are like closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. The Obama administration has mishandled the Ebola situation from the very beginning.

The first Ebola patient, a teenage boy now known as “patient zero,” was identified in the West African country of Guinea way back in December 6, 2013. The boy died from the disease.

By March 24, 2014, authorities in Guinea reported 87 suspected cases of Ebola. Soon after, Liberia and Sierra Leone began reporting cases of the dreadful disease. By late September Ebola was reported as “out of control” in West Africa and “unprecedented” in its scope.

But even by Sept. 16, when Obama reassured Americans the chances of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. were “extremely low,” he had incredulously failed to institute any travel restrictions from infected regions.

Finally, amid increasing pressure, President Obama instituted restrictions for travelers flying into the U.S. from the heavily impacted West African countries. Beginning last Wednesday passengers will be funneled through international airports in New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and Newark, New Jersey. These five airports will reportedly have specialized Ebola screening steps.

In preparation, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey announced last week a joint policy mandating a 21-day quarantine for anyone flying into their states after having contact with Ebola sufferers in West Africa.

But President Obama should have been more proactive in his approach to dealing with this deadly disease. His hesitation to act has needlessly placed Americans at risk. One can only pray this doesn’t end in catastrophe for Americans.

Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

State Department plans to bring foreign Ebola patients to U.S.

28 Oct

STATE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENT REVEALS PLANS

ebola to us

The State Department has quietly made plans to bring Ebola-infected doctors and medical aides to the U.S. for treatment, according to an internal department document that argued the only way to get other countries to send medical teams to West Africa is to promise that the U.S. will be the world’s medical backstop.

Some countries “are implicitly or explicitly waiting for medevac assurances” before they will agree to send their own medical teams to join U.S. and U.N. aid workers on the ground, the State Department argues in the undated four-page memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Times.

“The United States needs to show leadership and act as we are asking others to act by admitting certain non-citizens into the country for medical treatment for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) during the Ebola crisis,” says the four-page memo, which lists as its author Robert Sorenson, deputy director of the office of international health and biodefense.

More than 10,000 people have become infected with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the U.S. has taken a lead role in arguing that the outbreak must be stopped in West Africa. President Obama has committed thousands of U.S. troops and has deployed American medical personnel, but other countries have been slow to follow.

In the memo, officials say their preference is for patients go to Europe, but there are some cases in which the U.S. is “the logical treatment destination for non-citizens.”

The document has been shared with Congress, where lawmakers already are nervous about the administration’s handling of the Ebola outbreak. The memo even details the expected price per patient, with transportation costs at $200,000 and treatment at $300,000.

A State Department official signaled Tuesday evening that the discussions had been shelved.

“There is no policy of the U.S. government to allow entry of non-U.S. citizen Ebola-infected to the United States. There is no consideration in the State Department of changing that policy,” the official said.

Another official said the department is considering using American aircraft equipped to handle Ebola cases to transport noncitizens to other countries.

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“We have discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third-countries, subject to reimbursement and availability,” the second department official said.

The internal State Department memo is described as “sensitive but unclassified.” A tracking sheet attached to it says it was cleared by offices of the deputy secretary, the deputy secretary for management, the office of Central African affairs and the medical services office.

A call to the number listed for Mr. Sorenson wasn’t returned Tuesday.

Mr. Obama has been clear about his desire to recruit medical and aid workers to fight Ebola in Africa.

“We know that the best way to protect Americans ultimately is going to stop this outbreak at the source,” the president said at the White House on Tuesday, praising U.S. aid workers who are already involved in the effort. “No other nation is doing as much to make sure that we contain and ultimately eliminate this outbreak than America.”

About half of the more than 10,000 cases in West Africa have been fatal.

Four cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., and three of those were health care workers treating infected patients. Two of those, both nurses at a Dallas hospital, have been cured.

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Several American aid workers who contracted the disease overseas were flown to the U.S. for treatment.

The United Nations and World Health Organization are also heavily involved in deploying to the affected region, but other countries have been slower to provide resources to fight Ebola in West Africa or to agree to treat workers who contract the disease.

The State Department memo says only Germany has agreed to take non-German citizens who contract Ebola.

European nations are closer to West Africa, making transport easier, the State Department memo said.

Officials said the U.S. is the right place to treat some cases, notably those in which non-Americans are contracted to work in West Africa for U.S.-based charities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“So far all of the Ebola medevacs brought back to U.S. hospitals have been U.S. citizens. But there are many non-citizens working for U.S. government agencies and organizations in the Ebola-affected countries of West Africa,” the memo says. “Many of them are citizens of countries lacking adequate medical care, and if they contracted Ebola in the course of their work they would need to be evacuated to medical facilities in the United States or Europe.”

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The memo says the State Department has a contract with Phoenix Aviation, which maintains an airplane capable of transporting an Ebola patient. The U.S. can transport noncitizens and have other countries or organizations pay the cost.

The U.S. has helped transport three health care workers to Germany and one to France.

In the U.S., the department memo lists three hospitals — the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta — that are willing to take Ebola patients.

According to the memo, Homeland Security Department officials would be required to waive legal restrictions to speed the transport of patients into the U.S. “A pre-established framework would be essential to guarantee that only authorized individuals would be considered for travel authorization and that all necessary vetting would occur,” the memo says.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman didn’t return emails seeking comment.

Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning public interest watchdog, revealed the existence of a State Department plan this month. When The Times described the document to Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, he said it is evidence of why the administration balked at adopting a travel ban on those from affected countries.

“Under this theory, there could be people moving here now, transporting people here now, and it could be done with no warning,” Mr. Fitton said. “If our borders mean anything, it is the ability to make sure that dire threats to the public health are kept out.”

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After those initial reports surfaced, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, sent a letter asking for answers. On Tuesday, he said the document The Times obtained “raises more concerns and questions than answers.”

“President Obama should be forthcoming with the American people about the scope of his plan to bring non-U.S. citizens infected with Ebola to the United States for treatment,” Mr. Goodlatte said in a statement.

Ebola can survive on surfaces for almost TWO MONTHS

27 Oct

This just keeps getting worse…but here are some tips for avoiding the virus.

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Tests reveal certain strains survive for weeks when stored at low temperatures

  • Research claims certain strains of Ebola can remain on surfaces for 50 days
  • It survived the longest on glass surfaces stored at 4° (39°F)
  • Centres for Disease Control and Prevention claims Ebola typically lives on a ‘dry’ surface for hours – including doorknobs and tables
  • But when stored in moist conditions such in mucus, this is extended 
  • Survival time depends on the surface, and the room temperature
  • Virus can be killed using household bleach and people must come into direct contact with the sample to risk infection 

The number of confirmed Ebola cases passed the 10,000 mark over the weekend, despite efforts to curb its spread.

And while the disease typically dies on surfaces within hours, research has discovered it can survive for more than seven weeks under certain conditions.

During tests, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) found that the Zaire strain will live on samples stored on glass at low temperatures for as long as 50 days. 

The left-hand charts plot survival rates of Zaire strain of Ebola (Zebov) and Lake Victoria marburgvirus (Marv) on glass (a) and plastic (b) at 4° (39°F) over 14 days. The right-hand charts reveal the survival rate under the same conditions over 50 days. Both viruses survived for 26 days, and Ebola was extracted after 50 days

The tests were initially carried out by researchers from DSTL before the current outbreak, in 2010, but the strain investigated is one of five that is still infecting people globally.

The findings are also quoted in advice from the Public Agency of Health in Canada. 

Ebola was discovered in 1976 and is a member of the Filoviridae family.

This family includes the Zaire ebolavirus (Zebov), which was first identified in 1976 and is the most virulent; Sudan ebolavirus, (Sebov); Tai Forest ebolavirus; Ebola-Reston (Rebov), and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (Bebov) – the most recent species, discovered in 2008.

HOW LONG DOES EBOLA SURVIVE?

For their 2010 paper, ‘The survival of filoviruses in liquids, on solid substrates and in a dynamic aerosol’, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) tested two particular filoviruses on a variety of surfaces.

These were the Lake Victoria marburgvirus (Marv), and Zaire ebolavirus (Zebov).

Each was placed into guinea pig tissue samples and tested for their ability to survive in different liquids and on different surfaces at different temperatures, over a 50-day period.

When stored at 4° (39°F), by day 26, viruses from three of the samples were successfully extracted; Zebov on the glass sample, and Marv on both glass and plastic.

By day 50, the only sample from which the virus could be recovered was the Zebov from tissue on glass. 

For their 2010 paper, ‘The survival of filoviruses in liquids, on solid substrates and in a dynamic aerosol’, Sophie Smither and her colleagues tested two particular filoviruses on a variety of surfaces.

These were the Lake Victoria marburgvirus (Marv), and Zebov.

Each was placed into guinea pig tissue samples and tested for their ability to survive in different liquids, and on different surfaces at different temperatures, over a 50-day period.

When stored at 4° (39°F), by day 26, viruses from three of the samples were successfully extracted; Zebov on the glass sample, and Marv on both glass and plastic.

By day 50, the only sample from which the virus could be recovered was the Zebov from tissue on glass.

‘This study has demonstrated that filoviruses are able to survive and remain infectious, for extended periods when suspended within liquid and dried onto surfaces,’ explained the researchers.

‘Data from this study extend the knowledge on the survival of filoviruses under different conditions and provide a basis with which to inform risk assessments and manage exposure.’

The researchers do stress that these tests were carried out in a controlled lab environment, and not in the real world, but published their findings to highlight the survival rates. 

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Ebola guidelines following the rise in infections. 

Ebola (pictured) was discovered in 1976 and is a member of the Filoviridae family. This family includes the Zaire ebolavirus (Zebov), which was first identified in 1976 and is the most virulent; Sudan ebolavirus, (Sebov); Tai Forest ebolavirus; Ebola-Reston (Rebov), and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (Bebov)

Ebola (pictured) was discovered in 1976 and is a member of the Filoviridae family. This family includes the Zaire ebolavirus (Zebov), which was first identified in 1976 and is the most virulent; Sudan ebolavirus, (Sebov); Tai Forest ebolavirus; Ebola-Reston (Rebov), and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (Bebov)

The centre explained that Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food and a person infected with Ebola can’t spread the disease until symptoms appear.

The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear, known as the incubation period, is two to 21 days, but the average time is eight to 10 days.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advises:

• DO wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Do NOT touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.

• Do NOT handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles,or medical equipment.

• Do NOT touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.

Ebola is spread through direct contact, through broken skin or through eyes, nose, or mouth, via blood and body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, or objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola. 

Signs of Ebola include fever and symptoms like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising. 

Dr Tom Fletcher of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who has treated victims in Guinea and Sierra Leone, says: ‘The initial symptoms are quite non-specific and similar to a flu-like illness. 

‘They include fever, headache and lethargy. This progresses to severe diarrhoea and vomiting.’ 

Officials have emphasised there is no risk of transmission from people who have been exposed to the virus, but are not yet showing symptoms.  

But, specialists at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta found that the virus is present on a patient’s skin after symptoms develop, underlining how contagious the disease is once symptoms set in.

According to the CDC, the virus can survive for a few hours on dry surfaces like doorknobs and countertops and can survive for several days in puddles or other collections of body fluid. 

However, bleach solutions, including household bleach, can kill it.

As Ebola grabs headlines, how close to curing it are we?

Ebola is only spread through direct contact, through broken skin or through eyes, nose, or mouth, via blood and body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, or objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola. It can be killed using bleach 

CDC to release new guidelines for returning Ebola workers

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola, but experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development.

The CDC advises people wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, to protect themselves. 

It warns to not touch the blood or body fluids, including urine, faeces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen of people who are sick. 

Ebola was once thought to originated in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat.

But scientists now believe that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus, and that apes and humans catch it from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on, or by coming in contact with surfaces covered in infected bat droppings and then touching their eyes or mouths. 

The current outbreak seems to have started in a village near Guéckédou, Guinea, where bat hunting is common, according to Doctors Without Borders.

US Ambassador Power will abide by quarantine requirements

Officials have emphasized that there is no risk of transmission from people who have been exposed to the virus (pictured) but are not yet showing symptoms. But, specialists at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta found that the virus is present on a patient’s skin after symptoms develop

Ebola was once thought to originated in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat. But scientists now believe that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus, and that apes and humans catch it from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2809803/Ebola-surfaces-TWO-months-Tests-reveal-certain-strains-survive-weeks-stored-low-temperatures.html#ixzz3HP7Z5G4I
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Obama forces Chris Christie into embarrassing U-turn to allow Ebola nurse to leave New Jersey quarantine tent

27 Oct

OBAMA ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL THE STATES?????

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  • New Jersey governor said Monday that the CDC has cleared a nurse on 21-day quarantine to go home after she tested negative for Ebola twice
  • The health care worker was held after returning from Sierra Leone, and threatened a federal lawsuit to get herself released
  • A 21-day Ebola quarantine order for Americans returning from western Africa was put in place by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
  • Under White House pressure, Cuomo changed his rules to allow home quarantines for those with no symptoms
  • Obama aides already lobbied Christie to rethink New Jersey’s rules after the nurse twice tested negative for Ebola 

Chris Christie was forced on Monday to allow a nurse being kept in a tent in a hospital parking lot to go home after intense White House pressure to relax a mandatory 21-day quarantine the New Jersey Governor had imposed at a state level.

The embarrassing turnaround came after Obama chaired a White House meeting on the rules and successfully lobbied Christie’s New York counterpart, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to relax their quarantine rules – even as Americans grow more concerned about the possibility of a pandemic emergency.

Cuomo gave in on behalf of New Yorkers. But as of Sunday Christie was still pushing for more aggressive measures to protect New Jerseyans, saying he had ‘no second thoughts’ about the policy. 

Christie is a likely entrant into the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary, and the intergovernmental Ebola skirmishes will provide both major political parties with new ammunition.

Nurse Kaci Hickox tested negative for Ebola twice, but she had remained in a forced hospital quarantine as of Monday morning.

The governors of New York and New Jersey announced last week mandatory quarantine for people returning to the United States through airports in their states who are deemed 'high risk' but the rules have now been relaxed to allow self-quarantine at home.  New Jersey, led by Chris Christie, pictured,  first resisted pressure to roll back the new rules but caved under pressure from the White House today

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, says mandatory 21-day quarantines are 'a little bit draconian'

The two states each have one of the five airports where passengers who have spent time in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea are allowed to enter the United States.

Illinois, home to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, also has a similar quarantine order in place, in open defiance of the White House.

The Obama administration pushed back on Sunday, following the latest all-hands Ebola meeting in the White House.

‘We have also let these states know that we are working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers that will protect the American people against imported cases, while, at the same time, enabling us to continue to tackle this epidemic in West Africa.’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on the CBS program ‘Face the Nation’ that state-level quarantines send a message to health care professionals that volunteering in the Ebola hot zone will present new levels of inconvenience when they return. 

The New York Times first reported that aides to Obama were lobbying Christie and Cuomo to relax their new rules.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) says he doesn't know how his 'mandatory' quarantine would be enforced

There has been sharp criticism of the guidelines after Hickox was forcibly quarantined in a New Jersey hospital isolation unit, even though she had displayed no symptoms and had tested negative for Ebola.

Under the new New York guidelines, medical professionals who have had contact with Ebola patients can now be quarantined at home instead and receive twice-daily monitoring, if they have no symptoms.

Family members will be allowed to stay, and friends may also visit with the approval of health officials.  

Senior administration officials had called the initial decision on Friday by the governors to impose such rules ‘uncoordinated and hurried.’ 

Meanwhile, Hickox, the first nurse forcibly quarantined in New Jersey under the state’s new policy, said her isolation at a hospital was ‘inhumane,’ adding: ‘We have to be very careful about letting politicians make health decisions.’

Hickox is now suing and has now hired Norman Siegel, a high profile civil rights attorney, to challenge the order.  

Christie on Sunday defended quarantining as necessary to protect the public and predicted it ‘will become a national policy sooner rather than later.’

‘The government’s job is to protect safety and health of our citizens,’ Christie said on Fox News Sunday. ‘I have no second thoughts about it.’

In a  telephone interview with CNN, Kaci Hickox, the nurse quarantined at a New Jersey hospital because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, said the process of keeping her isolated is 'inhumane'

In a telephone interview with CNN, Kaci Hickox, the nurse quarantined at a New Jersey hospital because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, said the process of keeping her isolated is ‘inhumane’

Nurse Kaci Hickox was the first medical professional to be quarantined in New Jersey immediately upon returning to the United States from West Africa, where she had worked in treating Ebola patients.S he lashed out at Christie for giving her a diagnosis of sorts as 'obviously ill.'

Previously, Christie had characterized Hickox as ‘obviously ill.’

‘I’m sorry, but that’s just a completely unacceptable statement in my opinion,’ Hickox said Sunday during a phone interview with CNN. ‘For him—a politician who’s trusted and respected—to make a statement that’s categorically not true is just unacceptable and appalling.’

Cuomo also came under scrutiny over the weekend for criticizing Craig Spencer, a doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, for not obeying a 21-day voluntary quarantine. However, on Sunday, he called the health care workers ‘heroes’ and said his administration would encourage more medical workers to volunteer to fight Ebola.

Under the revised protocols Cuomo detailed on Sunday night, the state also will pay for any lost compensation if the quarantined workers are not paid by a volunteer organization.

‘My personal practice is to err on the side of caution,’ Cuomo said. ‘The old expression is, ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” 

‘We’re staying one step ahead,’ Cuomo said. ‘We’re doing everything possible. Some people say we’re being too cautious. I’ll take that criticism.’

For much of the weekend, the governors had been under fire from members of the medical community and the White House in what they saw as an overreaction. 

President Barack Obama gives a hug to Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, the day she was declared free of the virus

Patient Nina Pham is hugged by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outside of National Institutes of Health (NIH) . Pham, the first nurse diagnosed with Ebola after treating an infected man at a Dallas hospital is free of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (left), director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the mandatory, 21-day quarantining of medical workers returning from West Africa is unnecessary and could discourage volunteers from traveling to the danger zone

‘The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci made the rounds on five major Sunday morning talk shows to argue that policy should be driven by science — and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. And even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

He said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa — an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made.

‘If we don’t have our people volunteering to go over there, then you’re going to have other countries that are not going to do it and then the epidemic will continue to roar,’ Fauci said.  

Fauci said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa, an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made

The New York-area quarantine measures were announced after Spencer returned to New York City from treating Ebola victims in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center Thursday to be treated for Ebola. In the week after his return, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant.

Hospital officials said Sunday that Spencer was in serious but stable condition, was looking better than he did the day before, and tolerated a plasma treatment well.

Hickox, the quarantined nurse who just returned from Sierra Leone, said she had no symptoms at all and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation.

‘It’s just a slippery slope, not a sound public health decision,’ she said of the quarantine policy. ‘I want to be treated with compassion and humanity, and don’t feel I’ve been treated that way.’

Hickox has access to a computer, her cellphone, magazines and newspapers and has been allowed to have takeout food, New Jersey Health Department officials said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Hickox a ‘returning hero’ and charged that she was ‘treated with disrespect,’ as if she done something wrong, when she was put into quarantine. He said that she was interrogated repeatedly and things were not explained well to her. 

Commuters ride inside an L train subway car. This is the same train line that Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who tested positive for the Ebola, had taken to visit a bowling alley in Brooklyn

Official questions mandatory quarantines on health workers

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is on a trip to West Africa, said returning U.S. health care workers should be ‘treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done.’

In other developments, President Barack Obama met Sunday with his Ebola response team, including ‘Ebola czar’ Ron Klain and other public health and national security officials. 

According to a statement released by the White House, Obama said any measures concerning returning health care workers ‘should be crafted so as not to unnecessarily discourage those workers from serving.’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered twice-daily monitoring for 21 days of anyone returning from the Ebola-stricken areas.

The World Health Organization said more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the outbreak that came to light last March, and nearly half of them have died, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Three US states impose Ebola quanantines

New York City Council District 7 Community Liason Fidel Malena hands out flyers about Ebola risk near the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

New York City Council District 7 Community Liason Fidel Malena hands out flyers about Ebola risk near the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

Postal worker Keven Ngo, wearing a protective mask and gloves, prepares to deliver to the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

 

Ebola cases hit 10,000 mark

25 Oct

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  • October 2014 08.59 EDT

The number of people infected in the outbreak of Ebola has risen above 10,000, with the mortality rate now approaching 50%.

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that the death toll had risen to 4,922 out of 10,141 known cases globally in eight countries as at 23 October. Those figures show about 200 new cases since the last report, four days ago.

The three worst-affected countries in west Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – account for the vast majority of cases, with only 10 deaths and 27 cases recorded elsewhere, WHO said.

Of the eight districts of Liberia and Guinea that share a border with Ivory Coast, only two have yet to report confirmed or probable Ebola cases.

The overall figures include outbreaks in Nigeria, where there were 20 cases and eight deaths, and Senegal, where there was one case and no deaths, that the WHO has deemed to be over. It also included isolated cases in Spain, the US and a single case in Mali.

However, the totals are still likely to be an underestimate because many people in the worst-affected countries have been unable or too frightened to seek medical care. A shortage of labs capable of handling potentially infected blood samples has also made it difficult to track the outbreak.

The latest figures show no change in the total number of cases in Liberia, suggesting that they may not reflect the real situation.

A total of 450 healthcare workers are known to have been infected with Ebola: 80 in Guinea; 228 in Liberia; 11 in Nigeria; 127 in Sierra Leone; one in Spain; and three in the US. A total of 244 have died from the virus.

WHO said on Friday that Ebola vaccine trials will start in West Africa in December, a month earlier than planned, and hundreds of thousands of doses will be available by mid-2015.

Authorities in Mali have taken action to calm fears over Ebola as the disease claimed its first victim: a toddler who was contagious while travelling more than 1,000km on public buses with her grandmother before being treated.

The WHO is treating the situation in Mali as an emergency because the two-year-old girl was secreting bodily fluids during the journey, which began in Guinea and took about 24 hours. The virus is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids.

“Bleeding from the nose began while both were still in Guinea, meaning that the child was symptomatic during their travels through Mali … multiple opportunities for exposure occurred when the child was visibly symptomatic,” the WHO said.

The Malian authorities were attempting to trace all those who had contact with the girl and her grandmother, placing 43 people under observation.

Mali had long been considered highly vulnerable to Ebola, as it shares a border with Guinea.

The UN flew about one ton of medical supplies to Mali on Friday to help combat the outbreak. The cargo included hazard suits for health workers, surgical gloves and face-shields.

Meanwhile, anyone flying into New York and New Jersey after having contact with Ebola sufferers in West Africa will face mandatory 21-day quarantine, the governors of the two states said on Friday.

The first person to be isolated under the new policy has tested negative for the virus.

The woman, who has not been identified, had no symptoms when she arrived at Newark Liberty airport but developed a fever after being admitted to hospital, the state health department said.

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