01 September 2014
Special Report
EBOLA - latest updates

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Special Report

EBOLA - latest updates



Ghana to serve as int'l logistics base for Ebola-hit countries


English.news.cn   2014-08-31 06:01:16           

by Justice Lee Adoboe

ACCRA, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations (UN) and other international organizations seeking to send logistics support to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa will use Ghana as their logistics base for onwards transmission into those countries, information received from the presidency late Friday said.

It said President John Mahama had agreed to a request from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to that effect.

"This follows a Friday evening telephone conversation between President Mahama and Ban Ki-moon. The UN and other International Organizations will therefore use Accra as a Center for airlifting supplies and personnel to the most affected countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea," the statement said.

Friday, Senegal also reported its first case of Ebola when a student from Guinea who was suffering from the Eola Virus Disease (EVD) escaped to a hospital in Dakar, the Senegalese capital seeking treatment.

Most regular commercial flights into the affected areas in West Africa have been suspended, making it difficult for equipment, logistics and personnel to reach the affected nations.

"Using Accra as the Logistics and Coordination Center would therefore open a vital corridor to get urgently-needed supplies and health personnel into the affected countries and areas," according to the statement.

It said the UN and Ghana will work closely to put in place appropriate screening and prevention measures to avoid any adverse effects on Ghana as a result of the operations of the Logistics Center.

In addition to that, it said the UN would also assist Ghana in reviewing and strengthening the country's Ebola preparedness, as steps are taken to prevent the virus from entering the country.

The World Health Organization puts the EVD infection cases in West Africa at over 3,000 with over half of that figure already dead.



West of England P&I Club has now a dedicated webpage on Ebola virus (www.westpandi.com/Special/Ebola-Virus) providing all latest updates, information and useful weblinks for the situation arised due to the outbreak in West Africa.

The Club reports that  so far there are no restrictions to entry into Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria being the main countries are affected by Ebola. The only restrictions are those posted in Club's last update:

  • Argentina's River Plate area - pilots will not be allowed to go on board any vessels coming from ports affected with Ebola until further notice.
  • Brazil - ANVISA guidelines - all vessels calling at Brazilian ports must present a Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH) to be submitted 12 hours prior to the vessels arrival in port.
  • US Coast Guard bulletin 7 August - all vessels coming to US ports from Ebola affected ports must inform the relevant port authority 15 days prior to arrival if anyone on board has any communicable disease including Ebola.
  • South Africa - stowaways/crew  - greater restrictions and inspections for vessels coming from affected ports to determine if anyone on board is infected. This will cause delays and problems particularly with landing stowaways at these ports.

 

Crew should be carefully monitored for any signs or symptoms of the Ebola virus particularly after vessel's departure from an affected port. The main symptoms to look out for are:

  1. Sudden onset of fever
  2. Intense weakness, muscle pain and headaches
  3. vomiting and diarrhoea
  4. rash, internal and external bleeding

Further information may be found at West of England P&I Club website

 

Also click at the following articles to learn more about the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa and how to protect crew



 

New procedures for travel to and from Ebola virus high risk areas

South African Airways (SAA) has introduced new procedures for travel to and from Ebola virus high risk areas with passengers required to seek permission to travel from the national Department of Health.

“All travellers between South Africa and the Ebola high-risk areas in West Africa must follow the new procedures introduced for the airlines aimed at ensuring compliance with a recent cabinet decision.

“The measures are effective as we speak,” SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said on Friday.

Government has previously advised South Africans to avoid all non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone but in cases where travel is absolutely essential, permission must be obtained from the relevant authorities.

The new procedures state that all intending travellers must request permission to travel from South Africa to the high risk areas or from the high risk areas to South Africa.

Permission to travel must be sought from the national Department of Health. All requests from travellers must be addressed to the Director-General: Health, for the attention of Dr Frew Benson and sent to the following address:   Nathoc1@health.gov.za and Nathoc2@health.gov.za;Tel: (012) 395-9367 or (012) 395-9366.

The following information must be provided when requesting permission to travel:

·       Full personal details, including residential addresses of South African citizens or in the case of non-South Africans, the address of residence while in South Africa (ie, hotel, etc.);

·       Next of kin details in the case of South African citizens; 

·       Full details of the reasons for travel to or from South Africa;

·       The traveller must complete a Traveller Health Questionnaire and submit it with the request to travel;

·       A written response from the national Department of Health will be provided informing the applicant of the outcome of their request to travel.

However, travel restrictions do not apply to all five destinations namely Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal that SAA flies to in West Africa.

“None of them fall under high-risk category. Our schedule to those destinations remains unaffected,” explained Tlali.

SAA remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of national and international health protocols associated with air transport in the interests of its passengers and the destinations it flies to.

Last week, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that South Africa has taken the decision to impose a total travel ban for all non-citizens traveling from identified high risk countries to limit the spread of Ebola to the country, unless the travel is considered absolutely essential.

Addressing media at a briefing in Pretoria, Minister Motsoaledi said in addition, citizens of South Africa who wish to travel to these countries will be requested to delay their travel unless it is also absolutely essential for them to travel.

The Minister was briefing media following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, where he presented an update on the Ebola outbreak.

Over 1 000 people have died from the virus in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have each declared the outbreak a national disaster. - SAnews.gov.za

 

Ebola toll tops 1,550, outbreak accelerates: WHO

An Ebola victim is buried.The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,552 people out of 3,069 known cases in four countries and "continues to accelerate", the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

The epidemic in the region, the deadliest since the disease was first discovered in 1976, has killed nearly as many people as all the previous known outbreaks combined.

"More than 40 percent of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities," the United Nations health agency said in a statement.

The WHO is later due to launch a new strategic plan for tackling the spread of the virulent disease.

A separate Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, identified as a different strain of the virus, is not included in the latest figures which cover Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The disease has overwhelmed West Africa's already fragile health infrastructure. On Wednesday, the head of the African Development Bank said it was causing enormous damage to the economies of the region.

The WHO on Thursday warned that the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa could infect more than 20,000 people.

The United Nations health agency issued a strategic plan to combat the oubreak in four West African nations where it said the actual number of cases could already be two to four times higher than the reported 3,069.

"This roadmap assumes that in many areas of intense transmission the actual number of cases may be 2-4 fold higher than that currently reported. It acknowledges that the aggregate case load of Ebola Virus Disease could exceed 20,000 over the course of this emergency," the WHO said.

The deadly outbreak that began in Guinea in March and has spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as to Nigeria requires a massive and coordinated international response, the WHO said.

"Response activities must be adapted in areas of very intense transmission and particular attention must be given to stopping transmission in capital cities and major ports, thereby facilitating the larger response and relief effort," the WHO said.

The virus is still being spread in a "substantial number of localities", aggravating fragile social and economic conditions and has already killed an unprecedented number of health workers, the agency said.

A wider U.N.-led plan being launched by the end of September is "expected to underpin support for the increasingly acute problems associated with food security, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, primary and secondary health care and education, as well as the longer-term recovery effort that will be needed," the WHO said.

              Message from the Road Freight Association of SA                                             27.8/2014  08h30                                   

Dear Members

Regarding the closure of borders because of the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC the following:

Botswana.

Botswana is still not allowing any truck drivers that are traveling from DRC to enter the country at the Kazungula border post. There is also no indication on when they will re-open the border for drivers traveling from the DRC. Trucks that only travelled as far as Zambia are still allowed to cross. Trucks that are already at Kazungula can be re-routed via Victoria Falls. They can then travel through Zimbabwe to SA. We can assist with diesel in Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Beitbridge in Zimbabwe. Cash can be collected in Livingstone before crossing to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe

Truck drivers traveling from DRC are at the moment still crossing into Zimbabwe at the Chirundu border post. There are also no indication that they will prevent drivers traveling from DRC to enter Zimbabwe. Trucks traveling through Chirundu can collect diesel in Chirundu, Kadoma, Harare and Beitbridge in Zimbabwe. Cash can be collected in Chirundu on the Zambian side before crossing, as well as in Harare.

South Africa

Truck drivers traveling from DRC are still allowed to enter the country at all border posts.

Zambia

Drivers and trucks are still allowed to enter Zambia from DRC at the Kasumbalesa border post.

Tanzania

Drivers travelling from DRC are still allowed to enter Tanzania through the Nakonde border post. Diesel can be collected  along the route to Dar es Salaam.

Namibia

Drivers traveling from DRC are still allowed to enter Namibia. You can collect diesel at Katima Mulilo, Swakopmund and Buitepos.

Regard

 

The Road Freight Association

japan ready to offer trial Ebola drug

2014-08-25 07:44

Tokyo - Tokyo stands ready to offer an experimental drug developed by a Japanese company to help stem the global tide of the deadly Ebola virus, the top government spokesperson said on Monday.

"Our country is prepared to provide the yet-to-be approved drug in co-operation with the manufacturer if the WHO requests," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been discussing the use of unapproved drugs as a way of getting a handle on an outbreak in Africa that has already cost more than 1 400 lives, with thousands more people infected.

There is currently no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, and the WHO has declared the latest outbreak a global public health emergency.

Several drugs are under development.

Ethical debate

The use of an experimental drug called ZMapp on two Americans and a Spanish priest infected with the virus while working in Africa has opened up an intense ethical debate.

The drug, which is in very short supply, has reportedly shown promising results in the two Americans, although the priest died.

US company Mapp Bioparmaceutical which makes the drug said this month it had sent all its available supplies to west Africa.

The WHO earlier said a panel of medical experts had determined it is "ethical" to provide experimental treatments.

Healthcare fields

Suga said on Monday: "Even before the WHO reaches a conclusion, we are ready to respond to individual requests [from medical workers] under certain conditions if it is an urgent case."

The medication Suga was referring to is Avigan, a drug in tablet form that was approved as an anti-influenza drug in Japan in March and is currently in clinical tests in the United States.

Its developer Fujifilm Holdings said it had received inquiries from abroad but declined to say how many and from which countries.

The company, which has diversified into healthcare fields, has "no problem" over the amount of stockpiles, according to spokesman Takao Aoki.

"We have sufficient supplies for more than 20 000 people," he said.


Meanwhile Benin, which had planned to host the 64th session of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) committee of African health ministers from September 1-5, haqs delayed the meeting.

"This important meeting … has been postponed after consultations with (WHO) authorities," said Benin Foreign Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako, "to express full solidarity with the countries affected by Ebola." Delegations from more than 40 African countries had been expected.

Benin has not yet recorded an Ebola case, but sees a huge inflow of commercial traffic each day from Lagos, the economic capital of neighbouring Nigeria, which has registered 14 cases, including five deaths.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever in West Africa — the worst since the disease was discovered in the jungles of Central Africa in 1976 — has so far killed at least 1,427 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and neighbouring Guinea.

Two American doctors, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and were evacuated to the US, left hospital last week after receiving treatment with an experimental drug, ZMapp.

Reuters, AFP

WHO warns of "shadow zones" and unreported Ebola cases

Saturday 23 August 2014 06:34

REUTERS

Despite initial assertions by regional health officials that the virus had been contained in its early stages, Ebola case numbers and deaths have ballooned in recent months (REUTERS)

Families hiding infected loved ones and the existence of "shadow zones" where medics cannot go mean the West African Ebola epidemic is even bigger than thought, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.
   
Some 1 427 people have died among 2 615 known cases of the deadly virus in West Africa since the outbreak was first identified in March, according to new figures released by the WHO.
   
However the UN agency, which has faced criticism that it moved too slowly to contain the outbreak, said that many cases had probably gone unreported.
   
Independent experts raised similar concerns a month ago that the contagion could be worse than reported because some residents of affected areas are chasing away health workers and shunning treatment.
   
Despite initial assertions by regional health officials that the virus had been contained in its early stages, Ebola case numbers and deaths have ballooned in recent months as the outbreak has spread from its initial epicentre in Guinea.
   
"We think six to nine months is a reasonable estimate," Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's Assistant Director-General for Health Security, said during a visit to Liberia, speaking of the time the agency now believes will be required to halt the epidemic.
   
An Ebola outbreak will be declared over in a country if two incubation periods, or 42 days in total, have passed without any confirmed case, a WHO spokesperson said.
   
Under-reporting of cases is a problem especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, currently the two countries hardest hit. The WHO said it is now working with Medecins Sans FrontiŠres (MSF) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce "more realistic estimates".
   
Nigeria, the fourth country affected, confirmed two new cases on Friday, bringing the total number of recorded cases there to 14.

The country's health minister said both patients caught the disease from people who were primary contacts of the Liberian man who first brought it to the economic capital Lagos.
   
The stigma surrounding Ebola poses a serious obstacle to efforts to contain the virus, which causes regular outbreaks in the forests of Central Africa but is striking for the first time in the continent's western nations and their heavily populated capitals.
   
"As Ebola has no cure, some believe infected loved ones will be more comfortable dying at home," the WHO said in a statement detailing why the outbreak had been underestimated.
   
"Others deny that a patient has Ebola and believe that care in an isolation ward - viewed as an incubator of the disease - will lead to infection and certain death."
   
Corpses are often buried without official notification. And there are "shadow zones", rural areas where there are rumours of cases and deaths that cannot be investigated because of community resistance or lack of staff and transport.
   
In other cases health centres are being suddenly overwhelmed with patients, suggesting there is an invisible caseload of patients not on the radar of official surveillance systems.

Ebola: SA imposes total and partial bans on travel

South Africa has taken the decision to impose a total travel ban for all non-citizens traveling from identified high risk countries to limit the spread of Ebola to the country, unless the travel is considered absolutely essential.

Addressing media at a briefing in Pretoria, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in addition, citizens of South Africa who wish to travel to these countries will be requested to delay their travel unless it is also absolutely essential for them to travel.

The high-risk countries are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia – with Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia being identified as medium risk.

He said the travel advisory was part of enhanced precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Ebola into South Africa.

“All South Africans are hereby advised to avoid non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. South Africans are not restricted from travelling to these countries, however all returning travellers from these countries will be subjected to rigorous screening and medical assessments before being allowed entry into the country,” said the minister.

He said South African citizens returning from these countries will have to be subjected to a stricter screening process.

This will include completing a comprehensive health questionnaire before gaining entry back into the country and if the comprehensive medical questionnaire and the temperature screening reveal something, they will have to subject themselves to a complete medical examination.

Minister Motsoaledi said all travellers and crew members arriving into South African Points of Entry must have completed a travel health questionnaire upon arrival.

“If found to have any of the symptoms or signs suggestive of Ebola, they will be referred to one of the designated hospitals for further investigations and management,” he said.

Passengers who travelled from or through Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last month of arrival into South Arica must undergo additional screening at the Points of Entry.

The minister was briefing media following Cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday, where he presented an update on the Ebola outbreak.

Over 1000 people have died from the virus in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have each declared the outbreak a national disaster.

“Cabinet noted with concern the extent of the outbreak and the increase of cases in three of these countries, i.e. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, over the last week.

“Cabinet recognised that even though the outbreak has been limited to these countries in West Africa, the spread to other countries needs to be contained,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

He said Cabinet recognised that containing the outbreak at the source will be essential and limit the spread and mortality caused by the disease to these particular parts of the world.

Countries have been divided into three categories, namely high risk which includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, medium risk which includes Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia-  although some of them do not have Ebola yet; most  people travelling from West Africa to South Africa travel via these countries as well as low risk countries.

“For medium and low risk countries, the normal surveillance that has been going on will just be enhanced.

“There is a special category of individuals who are South Africans but work there in the mines, communications, security and retail. For these groups, we have called a special meeting tomorrow, which will deal with their unique situation,” explained the minister.

He said at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a decision was taken to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) to deal with the coordination of the response.

“Cabinet further approved funding requested by the Department of Health to the tune of R32.5 million, from the African Renaissance Fund to support containment and prevent further spread of the virus to South Africa and other countries.

“Part of the funds will be used to deploy the mobile laboratory in Sierra Leone, fund transport and accommodation for the team and training for health care workers.”

The Minister said the department had taken measures to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals in public and private sectors, designate health facilities for the treatment of patients, deployed personal protective equipment (PPE) to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the NICD.

Regarding the patient from Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg that was suspected of having the virus, the Minister once again reiterated that his results for Ebola tested negative.

 

EBOLA SCARE NOW ALSO AFFECTING SA TOURISM DESPITE ASSURANCES

 

Fears are mounting that the South African tourism industry may not only be badly affected by new immigration and visa regulations, but now also by the Ebola scare, which has already prompted tourists and business people from Brazil and Asia to cancel their trips to the country and neighbouring Namibia.

Newspaper reports say that a number of tourists have cancelled their plans to travel to SA in August, September and October and have cited the virus as a reason for the cancellation.

Executive head of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), has confirmed (to Die Burger newspaper) that a group of 1 500 tourists from Thailand, have cancelled their trip, while a number of smaller groups from around Asia have done the same.

News24 reports that tour operators are concerned that if someone should test positive in SA it would create mass hysteria and further hurt tourism. They say Chinese tourists are very health conscious and get easily put off when a health scare arisies. Another group from Brazil cancelled a trip to Namibia to attend a conference there.

Fact is that, to date, there have been no positive results in SA or Namibia.

Last week a woman who arrived in SA from Guinea was found to be negative after undergoing tests for the deadly virus, while on Sunday another man – a health worker - who had arrived back from Liberia was also brought in for testing, which also proved negative.

Travellers from South Africa and the rest of Africa now require a health certificate to enter Indonesia, as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Airlines seem to be largely unaware of the new requirement. Passengers without correct documentation risk being denied entry into the country when applying for a visa-on-arrival.  

The Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Cape Town and the embassy in Pretoria have advised travellers bound for Indonesia that they now require a health certificate from their local health practitioner to confirm they are not infected with the Ebola virus as part of the visa requirement process.

South Africa is located thousands of miles from the Ebola infected West African countries and poses no threat to tourism in South Africa. This was pointed out by SA  Communications Minister Faith Muthambi who on Tuesday said South Africa remained the destination of choice for tourism.

"No cases of the Ebola virus have been reported in the country, and government is confident of the systems and protocols that are in place to address any incidence of the virus."

She was responding an article in The Times about the Asian cancellations

"It is unfortunate that the newspaper would choose to report that a handful of tourists cancelled their trip due to fears, which according to the report are based on erroneous facts about the virus."

Muthambi said the risk of Ebola being introduced into South Africa remained low and the tourism industry remained vibrant and lucrative.

 

Tourism Terminator

 

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has made it clear that he has no intention of changing South Africa’s new immigration regulations and has failed to respond to several requests by tourism and airline organisations to meet with them and discuss their concerns.

The TBCSA requested a meeting with the Minister last month, but Gigaba will not set a date and it is unclear whether the minister has any intention to meet with the industry.

Nicknamed by many as the “Tourism Terminator” in the general, trade as well as the social media, Gigaba remains unwavering in his determination to see the regulations implemented as planned at a briefing last week.

“With regard to Immigration Regulations, I think when people are finished with complaining, they must comply. Let me be very clear about this,” said Gigaba. “There is absolutely no way that we are going to change these regulations.”

“I think we need to balance; and that is what we are trying to do; to strike a correct balance because South Africa will never have tourism if we become a society of mass crimes,” said Gigaba.

Gigaba also questioned whether the regulations would deter tourists from coming to SA. “The interesting thing … is that the countries that are sending South Africa more tourists are those that require visas to come to South Africa and those that have visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists,” he said.

“If the argument, therefore, is that applying for a visa is a deterrent to tourism, why is it that countries with visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists than those where they must apply for visas?”

According to figures provided by Statistics SA, the country’s largest source markets for 2013 were the UK, the US and Germany – all visa-exempt countries.

Also concerned is the International Air Transport Association (Iata) which on Tuesday said it would meet with the Ministry of Home Affairs to discuss concerns relating to some of the new immigration requirements and their implementation to ensure that these did not lead to “unintended consequences harmful to air connectivity”.

Questioned at the Iata Aviation Day Africa Conference held in Sandton on Monday and Tuesday on whether the proposed stringent new immigration laws would hamper the African aviation industry’s objective of improving air connectivity, Raphael Kuuchi, vice-president: Africa at Iata, commented: “Government regulation plays a vital role in air connectivity and it can either enable greater connectivity, or it can suppress it. Wherever possible, Iata works with governments to ensure that regulations — often implemented with good intentions — do not lead to unintended consequences harmful to air connectivity."

He noted that the South African government’s initiative to take up the battle against child trafficking had to be commended. “However, we have engaged the Ministry of Home Affairs to discuss concerns relating to some of the new requirements and their implementation so that we can gain a better understanding of South Africa’s Government’s plans to communicate, implement and enforce the new requirements,” Kuuchi said.

With Die Burger, The Times, Business Day, SABC News, SA News, News24, Tourism Update, Travel Buyer and Sapa.

Another Ebola problem: Finding its natural source

2014-08-18 01:33

Washington - A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks.

Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere - probably bats - but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature.

That has had to wait until they can tame the current outbreak, which has claimed more than 1 100 lives in four countries - the worst toll from Ebola in history.

"First and foremost get the outbreak under control. Once that piece is resolved, then go back and find what the source is," said Jonathan Towner, a scientist who helped find the bat source of another Ebola-like disease called Marburg. Towner works for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Others say finding Ebola's origins is more than a down-the-road scientific curiosity.

"Confirming the source would definitely be important," said Dr Richard Wenzel, a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Throughout history, some of the biggest wins against infectious diseases have involved not just limiting person-to-person spread, but also finding and controlling the sources in nature fueling new cases.

Plague was halted after the germ was tied to rat-riding fleas. With the respiratory disease SARS, civet cats played a role. With typhus it was lice, and with bird flu, live poultry markets. Efforts to control MERS, a virus causing sporadic outbreaks in the Middle East, include exploring the role of camels.

Eating, handling infected animals

In the case of Ebola, health experts think the initial cases in each outbreak get it from eating or handling infected animals. They think the virus may come from certain bats, and in parts of Africa, bats are considered a delicacy.

But bats may not be the whole story or the creature that spread it to humans.

The World Health Organisation lists chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines as possibly playing a role. Even pig farms may amplify infection because of fruit bats on the farms, the WHO says.

"It's not clear what the animal is. It's going to take a lot of testing," said Dr Robert Gaynes, an Emory University infectious disease specialist who worked for the CDC for more than 20 years.

Part of the puzzle is how long the virus has been in West Africa. Previous outbreaks have been in the east and central regions of the continent.

The current outbreak began in rural Guinea, and the first suspected first case was a 2-year-old child who died in Gueckedou prefecture in December, researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine in April. They did not speculate on how the child may have become infected.

Some scientists think the virus has been lurking in the area for years. They point to the case of a lone scientist who got sick in 1994 after doing an autopsy on a wild chimpanzee in Ivory Coast and to a recent study that explored the possibility that past Ebola cases in the region have gone undiagnosed.

Scientists in the United States and Sierra Leone looked back at hundreds of blood samples that were sent to a testing laboratory in eastern Sierra Leone from 2006 through 2008. The samples initially were checked only for Lassa fever, which is common in West Africa. But when the scientists recently went back and tested for other infections, they found nearly 9% was Ebola.

One or more types of Ebola virus have "probably been there in the mix" for some time but for some reason didn't explode into a widespread epidemic in West Africa until this year, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University infectious disease expert.

Bad luck

Ebola's jump from animals to people is thought to be rare. Experts say there may be a large degree of bad luck in becoming infected - in a cave associated with a Marburg outbreak, Towner found the virus in only 3% of bats he tested. Even if an animal source is clearly identified and people are warned, "there is always likely to be an occasional exposure - someone who drives off the highway, in essence," Morse said.

But with other diseases, control measures have paid off.

In 2003, when civet cats were tied to SARS, "you could just see the potential for animal-to-human spread" in live animal markets where they were sold and butchered for food, and control of those markets in southern China helped limit the outbreak, said Dr Jeffrey Koplan, an Emory University professor and former head of the CDC.

"If you can eliminate the market either by providing substitute protein sources" or outlawing the sale of that meat, "you can have an impact", Koplan said.

That's tough unless you can provide other food, Towner said.

"It can be a hard sell" to convince people trying to feed families to stay away from something possibly dangerous, he said.


- AP

SAMHS ready if Ebola appears

SA Military Health Service ready for EbolaSouth African soldiers deployed continentally on peacekeeping and peace support operations need have no fear about Ebola. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) has a sophisticated system in place, including a portable isolation capability, to deal with the highly contagious disease.

Additionally, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) director: corporate communications, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, all three the country’s military hospitals, especially I Military in Thaba Tshwane, are geared “to received and isolate any suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola Viral Disease (EVD)”.

He said SAMHS in collaboration with the National Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is continuously monitoring the EVD outbreak in West Africa.

“A contingency plan is in place to manage any outbreak of EVD in South Africa as well as in mission areas where the SANDF is deployed,” he said.

The portable isolation capability - a negative pressure room isolating system – is rated “highly sophisticated” he said.

“A formal training programme for isolating serious risk patients has been running for several years and SAMHS has a large group of trained healthcare professionals to implement high-level isolation.

“A strategic stockpile of protective clothing has been released from the SAMHS Depot and was distributed by SAMHS to all government hospitals identified by the Minister of Health in the country, military hospitals and to mission areas.

“A screening process, in line with the process implemented at International airports in South Africa, has also been implemented at AFB Waterkloof and AFB Bloemspruit for international flights returning from external deployments.

“In collaboration with the private sector, healthcare information on diagnosing EVD has been distributed within the SANDF. Sickbays managing members returning from external deployments have been cautioned to be alert to possible EVD cases,” Mabanga said adding there was “close co-operation” between government, private and military health sectors to manage an EVD outbreak either in South Africa or continental mission areas where the SANDF is deployed.

“The Office of the Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, has also compiled and issued an internal information bulletin on EVD. This is distributed on all internal SANDF communication platforms,” Mabanga said.

National carrier, SAA, will continue flights to West African destinations, an airline spokesman said earlier this week.

The decision is in line with the position adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and IATA (International air Transport Association).

SAA has stepped up measures to protect passengers, air crew and ground staff.

These include checking for passengers who show specific symptoms associated with EVD, isolating them and having tests done by health authorities.

Aircraft are also equipped with protective gear and biohazard waste disposal kits.

“SAA flies to five destinations in West Africa, Abidjan in Ivory Coast; Accra in Ghana; Cotonou, Benin; Dakar, Senegal and Lagos in Nigeria. There is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the virus in that region.

“The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of international health protocols associated with air transport.

“SAA will remain in communication with local health authorities and monitor the situation on a continuous basis. This will enable the airline to constantly do risk assessment and review its decisions should there be developments that warrant such a review.

“SAA would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the necessary precaution and be vigilant,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said.

WHO allays fears about air travel


New York
- The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) has allayed fears amid reports that airlines are suspending flights over the Ebola outbreak, by sending out social media messages with assurances that “unlike infections like influenza and tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne”.

“The chance of having someone who is sick with Ebola getting in a plane is small,” WHO tweeted on Thursday. “Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so unwell that they can't travel.”

The agency, which also had a press conference providing "clarifications" on air travel, has declared the current outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international concern.

UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon has appointed Dr. David Nabarro as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola, in support of the work done by WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan and her team.

According to the latest WHO update, between 10 and 11 August, 128 new cases of Ebola virus disease, as well as 56 deaths, were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, bringing the total number of cases to 1 975 and deaths to 1 069.

The agency said in the update that contact tracing in Guinea, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone has resulted in a range between 94 percent and 98 percent of contacts of Ebola cases being identified and followed-up, but in Liberia, efforts are underway to strengthen contact tracing, but help is needed in this area.

WHO said it was disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa. It is “hard to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in,” the health agency tweeted following a press conference.

“Ebola-affected countries, international airlines are putting systems in place to screen passengers for possible infection. Countries with big airports with high volumes of travellers are not the same as countries with land borders with Ebola-affected countries,” WHO said.

WHO has repeatedly said the Ebola virus is highly contagious – but not airborne. Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, as can occur during health-care procedures, home care, or traditional burial practices, which involve the close contact of family members and friends with bodies.

The incubation period ranges from 2 to 21 days, but patients become contagious only after the onset of symptoms. As symptoms worsen, the ability to transmit the virus increases.

As a result, patients are usually most likely to infect others at a severe stage of the disease, when they are visibly, and physically, too ill to travel.

The highest Ebola virus level is found in a dead body, according to WHO, hence, currently the highest risk of Ebola transmission is during burial ceremony.

SAA continues to fly to West Africa

Meanwhile, on Thursday, South African Airways (SAA) said they would continue operating in West Africa.

The airline said the Emergency Committee of WHO on the Ebola outbreak held a meeting in Geneva from 6 - 7 August. The meeting, said SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali, concluded that there “should be no general ban on international travel or trade” to that region.

“Having noted the announcement by WHO, SAA has stepped up measures aimed at protecting its passengers, crew and ground staff,” said Tlali.

SAA flies to five destinations in West Africa, namely Abidjan (Ivory Coast); Accra (Ghana); Cotonou (Benin); Dakar (Senegal) and Lagos (Nigeria).

“There is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the virus in that region. The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of international health protocols associated with air transport,” said Tlali.

The measures include ensuring that the airline has in place vigilant staff that will be on the lookout for passengers who bear specific and visible symptoms associated with the Ebola virus. SAA staff is adequately trained to manage incidents of this nature, should a need to do so arise.

In cases where a passenger may bear visible symptoms associated with the infection at check-in, such passengers will be isolated from the others. This will be followed with passenger interviews and tests conducted by the health authorities in order to determine the possible cause of the symptoms.

“In the event that there is any doubt regarding the medical condition of any suspected passenger, SAA may elect to deny such passenger/s to board its aircraft.

“In cases where passengers develop symptoms after the aircraft has commenced its flight, the crew on board will initiate specific procedures that include isolating such passengers from others on board the aircraft,” said Tlali.

This will eliminate possible physical interaction of affected passengers with other passengers.

Each of SAA’s aircraft has been equipped with special protective gear for crew on board to wear and to enable them to respond to any passengers suspected of having been infected, or displaying the listed symptoms that include sweating, nose bleeding or vomiting.

There is also a special biohazard waste disposal kit intended for the safe disposal of waste.

SAA will remain in communication with its local health authorities and will monitor the situation on a continuous basis. This will enable the airline to constantly do risk assessment and review its decisions, should there be developments that warrant such a review.

“SAA would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the necessary precaution and be vigilant,” said Tlali.

No sign of Ebola in SA

Also on Thursday, South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi dismissed claims that the Ebola Virus Disease had arrived in South Africa.

This after the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloem caused a public panic with claims that a lady, from Guinea, who went into labour at the Rahima Moosa Hospital, west of Johannesburg, had contracted the disease.

The Minister said the lady tested negative for the disease and there is still no sign of the disease in the country.

“She did not even have symptoms…” he said.

“We did the PCR on the lady and she is negative -- that’s the normal test that the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) does for Ebola. We still took precautions… we did the serology, although it was not necessary, and it was also negative,” said Minister Motsoaledi on Thursday.

The test, called DoD EZ1 Real-time RT-PCR Assay, is designed for use on individuals who have symptoms of Ebola infection, who are at risk for exposure or who may have been exposed.

He added that no one should panic because there was no reason to. – SAnews.gov.za

Ebola-hit S/Leone sanitizes transport sector

The government in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone has launched a spirited campaign to prevent more people from contracting the deadly virus while using the country’s overcrowded public transport system.
The local press on Wednesday quoted a statement by the Ministry of Transport as prohibiting overloading, which is a common feature of commercial transport vehicles plying routes from the capital Freetown to other parts of the country.

‘Operation No Overloading, No Standing’ launched earlier this week has henceforth prohibited taking passengers in excess of the stipulated number.

Under the new measure no passenger will be allowed to stand in public buses.

However, there are fears that privately owned commercial vehicles will not observe the new regulations and the ministry said it is pinning its hope on the commercial drivers union to enforce them for the good of all.

The ministry said this was necessary given that the deadly virus is transmitted by physical contact, with the number of infected cases caused largely by infected persons fleeing to uninfected parts of the country in their desperate bid to escape isolation.

Transport Minister Leoneard Balogun Koroma described public transport vehicles as vectors of the virus and warned that overloading exposes passengers to the chance of infection.

The Sierra Leone Transport Corporation which operates the government owned public transport recently fumigated all its buses.

Out of 730 confirmed cases of the highly contagious Ebola virus, 315 deaths have been registered as Sierra Leone becomes one of the epicenters of the disease.

The others are Liberia with 599 cases and 323 deaths, Guinea with 506 cases and 373 deaths and Nigeria with a recorded 13 cases and three deaths.

Signature : APA

TIMES LIVE

Ebola false alarm

Olebogeng Molatlhwa, AFP and Reuters | 15 August, 2014 00:36
SCARE: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, flanked by Prof Janusz Paweska of the Centre of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases and Gauteng MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu, addresses an emergency briefing
Image by: MOELETSI MABE

South Africa's readiness to deal with Ebola was put to the test this week when a pregnant woman from Guinea arrived at a Johannesburg hospital with a fever.

Even though a high temperature is a symptom of many diseases and can occur during labour, doctors reacted cautiously and isolated her at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

"This was done as a precaution," Motsoaledi said, because of her country of origin.

But Motsoaledi said the woman should not have been tested as she had no contact with people with the disease.

"Anyone trained in health will know that pregnant women in labour can develop a fever," he said. "Nothing about the case even suggested it was a suspected case of Ebola."

The health department was forced to publicly respond to the case after the DA's Jack Bloom created a scare when he released a statement about a "suspected case" of Ebola in the country.

The country has identified 11 academic hospitals with existing isolation facilities to be used in the event of an Ebola outbreak.

Motsoaledi said Gauteng's Steve Biko and Charlotte Maxeke academic hospitals each had 100 health workers on standby to deal with an Ebola outbreak.

At other hospitals there were 50 health workers on standby.

Ebola has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation but it had not issued a travel ban. The SA Medical Association Trade Union president Phophi Ramathuba called on people to stop spreading rumours about Ebola cases in the country.

She said "rumours were causing panic and confusion".

Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected with it but a higher survival rate is possible if one is treated early. There is no cure.

The countries at the centre of the outbreak, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have declared the disease an emergency. More than 1000 people have died.

Guinea says its outbreak is under control, with the numbers of new cases falling.

But new measures are needed to prevent further infection from the countries. Health services in the worst-affected countries are stretched to breaking point, and the mistrust of health workers among some rural communities means authorities are battling to control the disease.

Yesterday Nigeria also declared the disease a national emergency after an 11th person died from the illness.


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SAPA 
13.8.2014 09.08 pm

SAA still flying to West Africa

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons (Joe Ravi)


South African Airways on Wednesday said the decision to continue flying to West Africa, in light of the Ebola outbreak, is consistent with the position adopted by the World Health Organisation and the International Air Transport Association.

Spokesman Tlali Tlali said the emergency committee of the WHO on the Ebola outbreak held a meeting and concluded that “there should be no general ban on international travel or trade” to the region.

“Having noted the announcement by the WHO, SAA has stepped up measures aimed at protecting its passengers, crew and ground staff,” he said in a statement.

“The measures include ensuring that the airline has in place vigilant staff that will be on the lookout for passengers who bear specific and visible symptoms associated with the Ebola virus.”

Tlali said the SAA staff were adequately trained to manage incidents of this nature, should a need to do so arise.

He said cases where a passenger may bear visible symptoms associated with the infection at check-in, such passengers would be isolated with others.

This would be followed by passenger interviews and tests conducted by health authorities to determine the possible cause of the symptoms.

“In the event that there is any doubt regarding the medical condition of any suspected passenger, SAA may elect to deny such passenger/s to board its aircraft,” said Tlali.

“In cases where passengers develop symptoms after the aircraft has commenced its flight, the crew on board will initiate specific procedures that include isolating such passengers from others on board the aircraft.”

He said this would eliminate possible physical interaction of affected passengers with the rest of the passengers.

The virus was not airborne and no transmission may occur due to air circulation in the cabin, it was transmitted through infected bodily fluids of a sick passenger, he said .

“Once isolated, such passengers may not present a risk to fellow passengers as the Ebola virus is not transmitted in the air, but through body fluids such as blood and saliva among others,” Tlali said.

SAA aircrafts have been equipped with special protective gear for crew on board to wear.

Tlali said there was also a special biohazard waste disposal kit for the safe disposal of waste.

SAA would continue to fly to five destinations in West Africa, including Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Accra in Ghana, Cotonou in Benin, Dakar in Senegal and Lagos in Nigeria.

Tlali said there was no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

“SAA will remain in communication with its local health authorities and will monitor the situation on a continuous basis,” he said.

“This will enable the airline to constantly do risk assessment and review its decisions should there be developments that warrant such a review.”

SA ports on high alert

Due to the global threat of Ebola, all ships coming into South African ports from West Africa are being quarantined, but desite rumours, no confirmed cases have been reported so far

"All ships from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria are required to be quarantined while checks are done. All ships have to declare that there are no illnesses on board and satisfy certain port health requirements," the deputy director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Lucille Blumberg, said.

She said that in most instances the checks were made before the ships docked.

The declaration that there is no sickness on a ship is usually submitted three days prior to its arrival, but it appears that at-risk ships are now being checked by port health officials while moored close offshore.

At least two people, including a crewman of a ship that docked in Durban 10 days ago, have been tested for Ebola in South Africa in the past few weeks. All tests have been negative.

There were reports yesterday that a container ship coming into the northern KwaZulu-Natal port of Richards Bay had been quarantined because of a suspected case of Ebola on board. This was denied by port and health officials.

The Hammonia Pacificum was to have docked in Richards Bay on Saturday night but moored outside the port and a quarantine flag was hoisted.Health officials said it was in line with new protocols

WHO approves experimental Ebola drugs

2014-08-13 08:50
Roman Catholic priest Miguel Pajares, who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, being transported from Madrid's air base to the Carlos III hospital. (Inaki Gomez, AFP)

Roman Catholic priest Miguel Pajares, who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, being transported from Madrid's air base to the Carlos III hospital. (Inaki Gomez, AFP)

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Geneva - The World Health Organisation authorised the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola as the death toll topped 1 000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to succumb to the outbreak.

The declaration by the UN's health agency came on Tuesday after a US company that makes an experimental serum called ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit west Africa.

"In the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention", WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny said in Geneva after a meeting of medical experts.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced plans to step up the global response to the outbreak, while urging governments to "avoid panic and fear" over an easily-preventable disease.

The epidemic, the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago, has killed 1 013 people since early this year, the WHO said.

The announcement came before West African regional bloc Ecowas said one of its officials had died from the disease in Nigeria, taking the total number of deaths in the country to three.

Cases have so far been limited to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which account for the bulk of victims, and Nigeria.

Terror has gripped the impoverished West African countries ravaged by the disease, with harrowing tales emerging of people being shunned by their villages as the virus fells those around them.

Promising vaccines

When AFP visited the Liberian village of Ballajah, some 150km from the capital Monrovia, 12-year-old Fatu Sherrif had been locked away with her mother's body without food and water for a week.

Her cries went unanswered as panicked residents fled the village when both her parents fell sick.

Fatu later died and her brother Barnie, aged 15, despite testing negative for Ebola, was left alone and hungry in an abandoned house.

"Nobody wants to come near me and they know, people told them that I don't have Ebola", he told AFP.

Elderly Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who became infected while helping patients in Liberia, died in a Madrid hospital on Tuesday, five days after being evacuated.

He had been treated with ZMapp, which failed to save him but has shown positive effects on two US aid workers also infected in Liberia.

The Economic Community of West African States said a staff member of its Lagos Liaison Office, 36-year-old Jatto Asihu Abdulqudir, had died.

Abdulqudir, a protocol assistant, was among those who assisted the Liberian delegate to a regional meeting, Patrick Sawyer, who died from Ebola at a Lagos hospital on 25 July.

The official had been quarantined since Sawyer was confirmed as having Ebola.

There is currently no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, which the WHO has declared a global public health emergency, and the use of experimental drugs has stoked a fierce ethical debate.

Despite promising results for the ZMapp treatment, made by private US company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, it had only been tested previously on monkeys.

ZMapp is also in very short supply and the company said it had sent all available doses to West Africa free of charge, after an outcry over its use on foreign aid workers.

The WHO's Kieny said the UN agency had been told three doses were sent to Liberia.

Sierra Leone's health ministry spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis told AFP the country had officially requested a shipment of the serum.

While the ZMapp stock has been exhausted for now, Kieny stressed there were other "potential therapies and vaccines, considered very serious alternatives" and that two possible vaccines were moving rapidly towards clinical trials.

She pointed out that plenty of drugs had been developed "to a point", but companies had not footed the bill for expensive clinical trials as the virus was "typically a disease of poor people in poor countries where there is no market".

The use of unauthorised drugs that had proven safe and effective in monkeys could be a "potent asset" in the fight against Ebola, she said.



Liberian doctors to get US experimental Ebola drug

2014-08-12 05:53

Monrovia - Liberia announced on Monday that it would soon receive doses of an experimental Ebola drug and give it to two sick doctors, making them the first Africans to receive some of the scarce treatment in a spiralling outbreak.

The US government confirmed that it had put Liberian officials in touch with the maker of ZMapp, and referred additional questions to Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.

In a statement, the California-based company said that in responding to a request from an unidentified West African country, it had run out of its supply of the treatment.

The news comes as anger is growing over the fact that the only people to receive the experimental treatment so far have been Westerners: two Americans and a Spaniard, all of whom were evacuated to their home countries from Liberia.

Late Monday, the World Health Organisation said 1 013 people had died in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Authorities have recorded 1 848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease, the UN health agency said.

The updated WHO tally includes figures from 7-9 August when 52 more people died and 69 more were infected.

There is no Ebola vaccine or treatment available, but there are several in development besides ZMapp. That treatment is so new that it hasn't been tested for safety or effectiveness in humans. And the company has said it would take months to produce even modest quantities.

It was unclear how much of the treatment would be sent to Liberia.

"The US Government assisted in connecting the Government of Liberia with the manufacturer," the US Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. "Since the drug was shipped for use outside the US, appropriate export procedures had to be followed."

‘Çompassionate use’

The Liberian statement, posted on the presidency's website, said it was also receiving an experimental treatment from the World Health Organisation. It was unclear if this was also referring to ZMapp or another treatment.

In the past few weeks, the experimental drug was given to two American aid workers diagnosed with the disease while working at a hospital that treated Ebola patients. On Monday, officials in Spain disclosed that the treatment was also given to a Spanish missionary priest who fell ill while working in Liberia.

The Americans are said to be improving, but there's no way to know whether the drug helped, or if they are getting better on their own, as others have. Around 40% of those infected with Ebola are surviving the current outbreak.

But some called for the untested drug to be given to Africans, too. The outbreak was first identified in March in Guinea, but it likely started months earlier. It has since spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, and possibly to Nigeria.

"There's no reason to try this medicine on sick white people and to ignore blacks," said Marcel Guilavogui, a pharmacist in Conakry, Guinea. "We understand that it's a drug that's being tested for the first time and could have negative side effects. But we have to try it in blacks too."

Some are using Twitter to demand that the drug be made available.

"We can't afford to be passive while many more die," said Aisha Dabo, a Senegalese-Gambian journalist who was tweeting using the hashtag "GiveUsTheSerum"on Monday. "That's why we raise our voice for the world to hear us."

The ethical dilemmas involved prompted the UN health agency to consult on Monday with ethicists, infectious disease experts, patient representatives and the Doctors Without Borders group.

Most participants in the closed teleconference were from developed countries, but Uganda and Senegal were represented. The World Health Organisation said it would discuss the results of the meeting at a press conference on Tuesday.

Companies can provide experimental drugs on a "compassionate use" basis, usually after they have been fully tested in humans. The Food and Drug Administration approves such uses in the US, but has no authority overseas. Ultimately, the companies alone decide whether or not to share their products.

Spain's Health Ministry said it obtained ZMapp this weekend with company permission to treat Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old priest evacuated from Liberia and placed in isolation on Thursday at Madrid's Carlos III Hospital.

"The medicine was imported from Geneva where there was one dose available in the context of an accord between the laboratory that developed the medicine, WHO and (Doctors Without Borders)," the ministry said, invoking a Spanish law permitting unauthorised medication for patients with life-threatening illnesses.

‘Certain death’

Spanish authorities refused to comment beyond the ministry's statement, but Geneva University Hospital told The Associated Press it was involved in getting the drug to Madrid.

The evacuated American aid workers, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have been improving at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. They got the treatment after their international relief group Samaritan's Purse asked Kentucky BioProcessing, which produces it for Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

The treatment is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola. It is made from antibodies grown inside tobacco plants

A Sierra Leone official said they had not asked for the drug, but the other governments said they want any treatment that might help patients recover, despite the risks of unproven medicines.

"The alternative for not testing this is death, a certain death," Liberia's information minister, Lewis Brown, told The AP in an interview before the announcement.

Guinea said on Monday it wants some, too.

"Guinean authorities would naturally be interested in having this medicine," said Alhoussein Makanera Kake, spokesperson for the government committee fighting Ebola.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a sick person. It begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and can escalate to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding.

In other Ebola developments on Monday:

- An African nun who worked with the infected Spanish priest died from Ebola in Liberia, their Catholic aid group said.

- A nurse who treated Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who flew into Nigeria and died last month, also died of Ebola, Nigerian health authorities said, raising the number of locally confirmed Ebola cases to 10. Nigeria is monitoring 177 contacts of Sawyer to contain the outbreak. The WHO has yet to confirm any Ebola cases in Nigeria.

- Ivory Coast, which shares borders with Liberia and Guinea, banned direct flights from the infected countries and said it would increase health inspections and enforcement of its borders, but stopped short of closing them entirely.

- George Weah, a Liberian former FIFA world player of the year, joined awareness efforts by recording a song titled "Ebola is real," with proceeds going to the Liberian Health Ministry.

- AP

Eight Chinese quarantined as panic grips Ebola-hit west Africa

This colorized transmission electron micrograph obtained March 24, 2014 from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion
Eight Chinese medical workers have been placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone, as health experts grappled Monday with ethical questions over the use of experimental drugs to combat the killer Ebola virus.

Gripped by panic, west African nations battling the tropical disease ramped up drastic containment measures that have caused transport chaos, price hikes and food shortages.

The World Health Organization scrambled to draft guidelines for the use of experimental medicines at a meeting in Geneva as the death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history neared 1,000.

There is currently no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, which the WHO has declared a global public health emergency.

The disease has hit doctors hard in the ill-equipped and fragile health systems of the worst-hit west African nations, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Workers unload medical supplies, coming from China and worth 4.9 million USD, for countries hit by the Ebola outbreak from an airplane at the Conakry airport on August 11, 2014
Workers unload medical supplies, coming from China and worth 4.9 million USD, for countries hit by the Ebola outbreak from an airplane at the Conakry airport on August 11, 2014

Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone Zhao Yanbo told journalists seven doctors and one nurse who treated Ebola patients had been placed under quarantine, but would not be drawn on whether they were displaying symptoms of the disease.

In addition 24 Sierra Leonean nurses, most from the military hospital in the capital, have also been placed under quarantine, according to figures from Yanbo and hospital director Dr Sahr Foday.

Foday said a senior physician at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital had contracted Ebola and was responding well to treatment. The nation’s sole virologist, who was at the forefront of its battle against the epidemic, died from Ebola last month.

Yanbo handed over Ebola protection kits, disinfectants and other medical material, which China also donated to Liberia and Guinea on Monday.

- ‘Everyone is afraid’-

In Liberia — where Ebola has already claimed over almost 370 lives — a third province, Lofa, was placed under quarantine on Monday after similar measures in Bomba and Grand Cape Mount.

Workers read a flyer on the Ebola virus at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on August 11, 2014
Workers read a flyer on the Ebola virus at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on August 11, 2014

“From now on, no one will be allowed to go to Lofa, no one will come out of there,” President Ellen Johnson Sirfleaf said. “We want to protect areas that have not been yet affected.”

While impoverished Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone account for the bulk of the cases, the latest outbreak has spread further afield. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has so far counted two deaths.

Numerous countries have imposed a raft of emergency measures, including flight bans or screening of passengers.

In the latest such move, the Ivory Coast announced on Monday it was banning all flights from the three hardest-hit nations.

And it said in the past few days it had turned back around 100 Liberians trying to flee across the border into Ivory Coast, which not reported any Ebola cases.

Niger, which also has yet to confirm any cases, has put in place an “emergency plan” at a cost of 183,000 euros ($250,000), boosting checks at borders, airports and stations and training health workers, the government said Monday.

Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated, June 28, 2014
Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated, June 28, 2014

Togo has also strengthened health screenings, but people in the capital Lome are far from reassured.

“It’s a general psychosis. Everyone is afraid,” student Paul Magnissou told AFP.

Ebola causes fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding, and can be fatal in 25 to 90 percent of cases, according to the WHO.

The virus spreads by close contact with an infected person through bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and tissue.

The latest outbreak — which the WHO says is by far the worst since Ebola was discovered four decades ago — has left 931 dead and infected nearly 1,800, a mortality rate of up to 60 percent.

- Ethical thing to do? -

The use of an experimental drug called ZMapp on two Americans and a Spanish priest infected with the virus while working in Africa has opened up an intense ethical debate.

The drug, made by private US company Mapp Pharmaceuticals, has shown promising results but is still in an extremely early phase of development and had only been tested previously on monkeys.

ZMapp is in extremely short supply, but its use on Western aid workers has sparked controversy and demands that it be made available in Africa.

This undated photo obtained July 30, 2014 courtesy of Samaritan's Purse shows US Dr Kent Brantly, who contracted the Ebola virus and received the experimental drug ZMapp, near Monrovia, Liberia
This undated photo obtained July 30, 2014 courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse shows US Dr Kent Brantly, who contracted the Ebola virus and received the experimental drug ZMapp, near Monrovia, Liberia

“Is it ethical to use unregistered medicines to treat people, and if so, what criteria should they meet, and what conditions, and who should be treated?” said WHO assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny ahead of Monday’s meeting.

“What is the ethical thing to do?”

A Ghanaian priest became the third member of a Spanish charity which the evacuated priest worked with to die from the virus.

In Guinea, where the outbreak first erupted in March, President Alpha Conde urged investment in the health system to better deal with health crises.

“The most important … is to have the capacity to face epidemics in our hospitals, to have enough laboratories and trained doctors. Ebola will pass but tomorrow, there could be another disease.”

© AFP


New Ebola precautions ordered for West Africa

Nigeria has banned the transport of corpses over national and state borders. This comes a day after Guinea closed its borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia in a bid to halt an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 900.easures against Ebola outbreak in Nigeria

The newspaper Leadership reported Sunday that Nigerians would have to bury Ebola victims in the communities where they die. So far, two people have died in Nigeria of Ebola, which is spread through blood and other bodily fluids and has an overall fatality rate of 90 percent.

"Henceforth dead bodies will not be allowed to be transported from one part of the country to another," Dr. Khalliru Alhassan, the second in command at the Health Ministry, said Saturday in Kano, according to the newspaper.

Seven people are known to be infected in Nigeria. Six cases remain unconfirmed. About 70 people remain under surveillance.

Ebola, which causes hemorrhaging and has no vaccine or treatment, has killed 900 people this year in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia (pictured). On Friday, the World Health Organization declared the current outbreak of Ebola an international emergency.

Four continents worry

A 40-year-old who died in Jeddah after returning from Sierra Leone did not have Ebola, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry announced on Saturday. According to officials, samples submitted to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a laboratory in Germany had come back negative for the Ebola virus. Saudi Arabia will not issue visas to Mecca pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea this year.

A patient in Canada has also tested negative, according to the province of Ontario's Health Ministry. Doctors put the man into isolation after he showed Ebola-like symptoms and ran a fever upon landing from Nigeria.

In Madrid, doctors will treat the priest Miguel Pajares - infected in Liberia and the first known Ebola carrier on European soil during the current outbreak - with the experimental drug ZMapp, Spain's Health Ministry announced on Sunday. Doctors have determined that the 65-year-old Spanish nun Juliana Bonoha Bohe, who worked at the same hospital as Pajares in Liberia, does not have Ebola.

The condition of two American Ebola patients improved after they received treatment with ZMapp, though it remains unclear how much of that result is correlation.

The charity Pajares and Bohe worked for had petitioned Spain for permission to bring in two African missionaries who became infected with Ebola while helping treat patients at the same hospital, but the country turned the request down. One of those two missionaries, a Congolese nun, died of Ebola on Saturday, the charity announced.

A Sierra Leonean in the German city of Hamburg has tested negative, the news agency dpa reported on Sunday. Doctors have released the man, admitted on Saturday afternoon with a fever and vomiting.

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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Nigeria declares state of emergency

2014-08-08 19:34

Abuja - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national state of emergency on Friday over the Ebola outbreak in Africa's most populous country, and he approved $11.6m of emergency funds to contain it.

Nigeria has confirmed seven cases of Ebola since a man fell sick on arrival from Liberia, two of whom have died. Several dozens of people who came into contact with the man are under surveillance.

- Reuters

How many people have been infected?
More than 1,975 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have contracted Ebola since March, according to the World Health Organization, making this the biggest outbreak on record. More than 1,050 people have died. Two American aid workers infected with Ebola while working in West Africa were taken to a containment unit in Atlanta for treatment.
Guinea0200400600Mar 22Aug 11377deaths510casesLiberia0200400600Mar 22Aug 11355deaths670casesSierra Leone0200400600Mar 22Aug 11334deaths783casesNigeria0200400600Mar 22Aug 113deaths12cases
Where is the outbreak?

Confirmed and

probable cases

Suspected

cases

Areas with military roadblocks

and restrictions on travel

Borders closed

GUINEA-BISSAU

MALI

GUINEA

Conakry

Atlantic Ocean

SIERRA

LEONE

Guéckédou

Freetown

IVORY

COAST

WEST AFRICA

LIBERIA

Monrovia

NIGERIA

DETAIL

100 Miles

Note: Areas affected as of August 11.

Sources: European Commission; U.S. Department of State.

What are the chances of getting Ebola in the United States?
Two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus while working in West Africa are being treated at a hospital in Atlanta, in a containment unit for patients with dangerous infectious diseases. But the risk that anyone will contract Ebola in the United States is extremely small, experts say.

Doctors across the country are being reminded to ask for the travel history of anybody who comes in with a fever. Patients who have been to West Africa are being screened and tested if there seems to be a chance they have been exposed. Heightened concern about the virus led to alarms being raised at three hospitals in New York City. But no Ebola cases have turned up. If someone were to bring the virus to the United States, standard procedures for infection control are likely to contain it.

It helps that Ebola does not spread nearly as easily as Hollywood movies about contagious diseases might suggest. In 2008, a patient who had contracted Marburg – a virus much like Ebola – in Uganda was treated at a hospital in the United States and could have exposed more than 200 people to the disease before anyone would have known what she had. Yet no one became sick.
How does this compare to past outbreaks?
It is the deadliest, eclipsing an outbreak in 1976, the year the virus was discovered.

Ebola cases and deaths by year, and countries affected

Cases

Deaths

1976

1995

2000

2007

2014

2nd-worst year

5th

3rd

4th

1st

Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

Uganda

Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo

Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria

602 cases

431 deaths

315 cases

254 deaths

425 cases

224 deaths

413 cases

224 deaths

1,975 cases

1,069 deaths

as of August 11

How contagious is the virus?
You are not likely to catch Ebola just by being in proximity with someone who has the virus; it is not airborne, like the flu or respiratory viruses such as SARS.

Instead, Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids. If an infected person’s blood or vomit gets in another person’s eyes, nose or mouth, the infection may be transmitted. In the current outbreak, most new cases are occurring among people who have been taking care of sick relatives or who have prepared an infected body for burial.

Health care workers are at high risk, especially if they have not been properly equipped with or trained to use and decontaminate protective gear correctly.

The virus can survive on surfaces, so any object contaminated with bodily fluids, like a latex glove or a hypodermic needle, may spread the disease.
Why is Ebola so difficult to contain?
The epidemic is growing faster than efforts to keep up with it, and it will take months before governments and health workers in the region can get the upper hand, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In some parts of West Africa, there is a belief that simply saying “Ebola” aloud makes the disease appear. Such beliefs have created major obstacles for physicians, who are trying to combat the outbreak. Some people have even blamed physicians for the spread of the virus, opting to turn to witch doctors for treatment instead. Their skepticism is not without a grain of truth: In past outbreaks, hospital staff members who did not take thorough precautions became unwitting travel agents for the virus.

Ahmed Jallanzo/European Pressphoto Agency

Liberian health workers on the way to bury a woman who died of the Ebola virus.

How does the disease progress?
Symptoms usually appear about eight to 10 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At first, it seems much like the flu: a headache, fever and aches and pains. Sometimes there is also a rash. Diarrhea and vomiting follow.

Then, in about half of the cases, Ebola takes a severe turn, causing victims to hemorrhage. They may vomit blood or pass it in urine, or bleed under the skin or from their eyes or mouths. But bleeding is not usually what kills patients. Rather, blood vessels deep in the body begin leaking fluid, causing blood pressure to plummet so low that the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs begin to fail.
How is the disease treated?
There is no vaccine or definitive cure for Ebola, and in past outbreaks the virus has been fatal in 60 to 90 percent of cases. The United States government plans to fast-track development of a vaccine shown to protect macaque monkeys, but there is no guarantee it will be effective in humans. The question of who should have access to the scarce supplies of an experimental medicine has become a hotly debated ethical question. Beyond this, all physicians can do is try to nurse people through the illness, using fluids and medicines to maintain blood pressure, and treat other infections that often strike their weakened bodies. A small percentage of people appear to have an immunity to the Ebola virus.
Where does the disease come from?
Ebola was first discovered in 1976, and it was once thought to originate in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat. But scientists have since ruled out that theory, partly because apes that become infected are even more likely to die than humans.

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.
How does Ebola compare with other infectious diseases in the news?
The biggest headlines have tended to involve outbreaks of deadly viruses that medical workers have few, if any, tools to combat. The four most prominent are compared below. No cure is known for any of them, nor has any vaccine yet been approved for human use.

EbolaMarburgMERSSARS
Emerged / identified1976; latest outbreak in 20141967; latest major outbreak in 20052012-20132002-2003
LocusOriginally, Congo Basin and central Africa; latest strain, West AfricaOriginally, central Europe; latest major outbreak, AngolaArabian peninsulaSouthern China
Suspected sourceFruit bats, by way of monkeys and other animalsFruit bats, sometimes by way of monkeysBats, by way of camelsBats, by way of civets
Type of virusFilovirusFilovirusCoronavirusCoronavirus
Type of illnessHemorrhagic feverHemorrhagic feverRespiratory syndromeRespiratory syndrome
Fatality rate in outbreaks50% to 90%24% to 88%About 30%About 10%
Known cases4,000+570+830+8,200+
Known deaths2700+470+290+775+
Person-to-person transmissionReadily by close contact or fluids; not by aerosolReadily by close contact or fluids; not by aerosolNot very readily; mechanism unclearVery readily by aerosol, fluids or close contact
r: Emerged / identified
Ebola: 1976; latest outbreak in 2014
Marburg: 1967; latest major outbreeak, 2005
MERS: 2012-2013
SARS: 2002-2003
r: Locus
Ebola: Originally, Congo Basin and central Africa; latest strain, West Africa
Marburg: Originally, central Europe; latest major outbreak, Angola
MERS: Arabian peninsula
SARS: Southern China
r: Suspected source
Ebola: Fruit bats, by way of monkeys and other animals
Marburg: Fruit bats, sometimes by way of monkeys
MERS: Bats, by way of camels
SARS: Bats, by way of civets
r: Type of virus
Ebola: Filovirus
Marburg: Filovirus
MERS: Coronavirus
SARS: Coronavirus
r: Type of illness
Ebola: Hemorrhagic fever
Marburg: Hemorrhagic fever
MERS: Respiratory syndrome
SARS: Respiratory syndrome
r: Fatality rate in outbreaks
Ebola: 50% to 90%
Marburg: 24% to 88%
MERS: About 30%
SARS: About 10%
r: Known cases
Ebola: 4,000+
Marburg: 570+
MERS: 830+
SARS: 8,200+
r: Known deaths
Ebola: 2700+
Marburg: 470+
MERS: 290+
SARS: 775+
r: Person-to-person transmission
Ebola: Readily by close contact or fluids; not by aerosol
Marburg: Readily by close contact or fluids; not by aerosol
MERS: Not very readily; mechanism unclear
SARS: Very readily by aerosol, fluids or close contact





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