Infected EBOLA carriers escape quarantine hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Image: Infected EBOLA carriers escape quarantine hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A new and growing Ebola outbreak is hitting the Democratic Republic of Congo, and additional concerns have been raised as three infected people escaped their quarantine hospital, potentially infecting countless others.

The three patients had been quarantined in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, a port city with a population of nearly 1.2 million. Two of the patients have passed away, while a third has been found alive and brought back to the hospital for observation. Medecins Sans Frontieres said that two of the escapees had been brought by their families to a church to pray.

World Health Organization Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told ABC News that while the incident was very concerning, it isn’t unusual for people to wish to spend their final moments in their homes with loved ones. WHO staff is now redoubling its efforts to track down everyone who might have come into contact with these patients.

The problem is compounded by the fact that Ebola is so easily spread. Exposure to the body, fluids, or even personal items of someone who has died from the disease can spread it easily, something that not everyone there is aware of. The WHO is working with community and religious leaders to get the word out in hopes of keeping infections to a minimum.

Another challenge is the fact that traditional practices in the area don’t match up with health recommendations, particularly when it comes to funeral practices. In addition, some of the rural population does not believe in Ebola in the first place and has no faith in the ability of Western medicine to help.

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Workers from the WHO and Oxfam are going door to door to let everyone know what hygienic precautions they can take to lower their chances of contracting the deadly disease. They’re also letting them know about symptoms to look out for, which include headache, muscle pain, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, and bleeding or bruising.

How far will the current outbreak spread?

Until recently, the current Ebola outbreak had been confined to the country’s rural areas, but it has now made its way to bigger cities like Mbandaka, where it has the potential to spread to many more people. The city’s location along the Congo River and its use as a transit hub is raising fears about just how far the outbreak could spread. The city of Kinshasa, which has a population of 10 million, is just downstream, and across the river is the Republic of the Congo’s capital, Brazzaville.

So far, 58 people have reported hemorrhagic fever symptoms in the country, although it’s likely that there are many more cases going unreported given the general mistrust of doctors in the country. Thirty cases have tested positive for Ebola, 14 are suspected, and 14 are considered probable. Some of the infected include health care workers. Twenty-two people have died so far in what is the country’s ninth outbreak since the deadly virus was first identified in 1976, and the outbreak only started earlier this month.

Experts have said that the outbreak has now reached a critical point, with the next few weeks indicating whether they’ll be able to keep the outbreak under control or if it will hit urban areas in full force. Health workers have a list of more than 600 people who are known to have come into contact with confirmed cases, and they are working hard to keep it from becoming a repeat of past outbreaks. One of the biggest Ebola outbreaks struck Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia between 2013 and 2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

Sources for this article include:

DailyStar.co.uk

ABCNews.go.com

CBC.ca

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Ebola’s lessons, painfully learned at great cost in dollars and human lives


A year after it began, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to be unpredictable, forcing governments and aid groups to improvise strategies as they chase a virus that is unencumbered by borders or bureaucracy.

The people fighting Ebola are coming up with lists of lessons learned — not only for the current battle, which has killed more than 7,500 people and is far from over, but also for future outbreaks of deadly contagions.

Many of the lessons are surprising and specific — the color of body bags turns out to be important, as does the design of Ebola clinics. The most common-sense lesson is that all Ebola is local; solutions can’t be dictated from Geneva or New York.

The broader and more ominous lesson is that global health organizations aren’t ready for a pandemic. There are countless conferences, reports and carefully wrought strategies for stopping epidemics, but this terrible year has demonstrated how hard it is to get resources — even something as simple as bars of soap and buckets of bleach — to vulnerable people on the front line of an explosive disease outbreak.

Man vs. microbe is certain to be a recurring narrative in the 21st century. It’s a natural consequence of a burgeoning human population. Our vulnerability to new pathogens will not be easily fixed.


Archie C. Gbessay, coordinator of the Active Case Finders and Awareness Team in West Point, discusses Ebola efforts with his team in a school classroom in Monrovia, Liberia.
LESSON: Rely on the local leadership

When Peggy Chilcott looks back on the great Ebola outbreak of 2014, she will picture herself in a remote village in West Africa where the inhabitants feared that outsiders had come to poison them.

Chilcott, 34, a doctor with the charity group Samaritan’s Purse, traveled from Spokane, Wash., to Liberia in November. One day she and two colleagues made a journey by helicopter to a remote village in Gbarpolu County, north of Monrovia. Two people there had tested positive for Ebola.

The villagers were skeptical of the outsiders and their medicines, which included malaria pills. Go away, one man said, “and take your poison with you.” Chilcott tried to reassure them by swallowing pills as they watched.

But the mood became increasingly hostile. Alarmed, Chilcott sent an emergency satellite signal for the helicopter to return. It arrived in 21 minutes and swooped everyone away before they had even buckled their seat belts.

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. A regional chief intervened. He vouched for the integrity of the foreign health workers and pleaded for them to return to help people survive the deadly contagion. The village also exiled a local troublemaker.

With the level of trust higher, Chilcott, her colleagues and other aid workers trekked back through the rain forest to the village and this time were greeted with smiles and clapping.

Countless variations of this story have played out across West Africa.

“You can’t just blast into a place and expect people to drop everything and do what you tell them to do,” says David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy on Ebola. “They have to be utterly convinced your motives are good. They have to be able to share their view with you.”

Archie C. Gbessay, a Liberian who is coordinator of the Active Case Finders and Awareness Team in Monrovia, said recently that if foreign intervention and billions of dollars in contributions were all it took to stop the disease, “we should already be celebrating the eradication of Ebola from my country.”

This same lesson was hammered home by Monique Nagel­kerke, who recently wrapped up two months as the head of mission in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders.

“It’s the experts that get interviewed, but it’s people from the region themselves that come to work day after day,” Nagelkerke said. “They are the real heroes.”


The body of a 12 year-old boy is taken to the newly constructed morgue and then buried near the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia. (Michel du Cille/The Washington Post )
LESSON: Be sensitive to peoples’ cultures

Julienne Anoko, an anthropologist working on the Ebola response in Guinea, faced a situation involving a pregnant woman who had died of Ebola with her dead baby inside her. Tribal custom required that the baby be removed from the womb and buried separately. The doctors forbade the baby’s removal, saying such surgery could spread the disease.

Anoko had to find a way to satisfy the family and the medical establishment. She tracked down an 80-year-old ritualist. He put together a culturally acceptable set of rituals that included the sacrifice of a goat and prayers to appease the ancestors.

The people suffering through this epidemic, Anoko said, “have something to say, and it’s important to listen to them first, instead of building solutions elsewhere and saying to the community, ‘We know your problem; this is the solution.’ ”

LESSON: Simple changes can yield significant results

Many lessons were learned on the fly, in crisis mode, and they amounted to slight adjustments in tactics based on feedback from locals. For example, Western aid workers initially used black body bags for burials in Liberia. But white is a traditional color of mourning, especially for Muslims, and Liberians balked. Simple fix: Officials ordered white body bags.

Another simple innovation involved the design of Ebola treatment units.

“By the end of July, no one had ever heard of an Ebola treatment unit, and at the same time there was a requirement to move fast, at scale, and mount a response that could intercept this crazy, increasing infection rate,” said Nancy Lindborg, a top official at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Family members didn’t want to send loved ones to the centers, afraid they might never see them again. They had seen too many people simply vanish. Officials came up with an innovation: transparency. They replaced walls with fences and added windows, which improved air circulation and offered a glimpse inside.

“Make it look less like Guantanamo Bay and make it more of a patient-friendly kind of environment,” Nagelkerke said.


Dominic Kollie, an Ebola survivor, suits up to go inside an Ebola ward as other staff members move in to the MSF (Doctors without Borders) ELWA3 Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia.
LESSON: Speed and agility matter more than size

Ebola has repeatedly outfoxed and outraced global responders.

The United States developed a plan in late summer for a massive intervention in Liberia, centered on the construction of up to 17 large Ebola treatment units — but then the infection rate began dropping rapidly.

The result is that Americans are, at great cost, finishing ETUs that have many beds but few patients. These are temporary structures that can’t be used for other purposes and, when the epidemic is over, will probably be burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone has surpassed Liberia as the country with the highest infection rate. The global response has been divided up along colonial-era lines: Britain is focused on Sierra Leone and France on Guinea.

The United States is starting to shift some resources to Sierra Leone, deploying additional personnel under the auspices of USAID, sending two Defense Department laboratories and talking to nongovernmental organizations and other global partners about dispatching more of their health-care workers, according to a senior administration official.

“You can get a strategy and it becomes an immovable constraint,” Lindborg said. As the epidemic has evolved, she said, the United States has decided to shift to “a rapid-response strategy” aimed at smothering Ebola wherever it pops up. “You have to be adaptable to the course of the disease.”


President Barack Obama holds a meeting with senior aides at the White House to discuss the U.S. fight against the Ebola virus on Dec. 12, 2014.
LESSON: We’re all connected — and unprepared for the consequences

In an increasingly interconnected world, affluent countries have to be aware of — and care about — what’s happening in the poorest.

“This is the poster child for why we should pay attention to fragile states,” Lindborg said. “This is a wake-up call. Thank God it was Ebola and not something airborne.”

Ken Isaacs, top official at Samaritan’s Purse, the North Carolina-based Christian missionary organization that has been working in West Africa, argues that the global community cannot merely rely on the World Health Organization, which has a decentralized management structure and got caught flat-footed by Ebola. He would like to see a new structure formed, one with political leverage, laboratory research capabilities and a global reach.

Experts have warned for years that all countries need to do more to improve their ability to detect and curb outbreaks. Multiple initiatives on that front have had mixed results.

In February, in the middle of a Washington snowstorm, the White House launched the Global Health Security Agenda. The United States has pledged to help 30 countries bolster their capacity to deal with biological threats of any kind, from natural epidemics to bioterrorism. Vulnerable countries should also take several steps to protect themselves, such as identifying and tracking the most prevalent deadly pathogens and being able to activate an emergency operations center within hours of an outbreak.

In the current epidemic, countries in West Africa were slow to create a functional “incident command” structure, one in which officials were empowered to make decisions quickly.

Money for the Global Health Security Agenda is materializing: Congress just approved over $5 billion in emergency Ebola funding, more than $800 million of which will go to efforts to stop future epidemics.


Alice Jallabah, head of a bushmeat seller group, holds dried bushmeat in Monrovia.
LESSON: An ounce of prevention

The year of Ebola showed that it is a lot cheaper and easier to stop a viral outbreak early, before it metastasizes into a full-blown epidemic. But that common-sense notion collides with another one: Watching out for emerging diseases­ and other proactive efforts aren’t terribly glamorous.

The epidemic that didn’t happen is like the nuclear power plant that didn’t have a meltdown — desirable, but not headline-grabbing. That can make such efforts a tough sell, politically.

Ebola surveillance and research is now getting abundant funding, but Ebola isn’t necessarily the most dangerous pathogen that humanity could face in the near future.

“We’re always chasing what just happened,” said Jonna Mazet, a professor of epidemiology and disease ecology at the University of California at Davis and the director of the Predict project, a disease-surveillance program funded largely by USAID and operating in 20 countries.

The project Mazet oversees has set up dozens of labs in the developing world. It has tested thousands of animals — bats, rats and monkeys among them — and identified about 800 previously unknown viruses.

“If we don’t start getting ahead of the curve on pandemics, we’re sitting here like victims waiting for the next one,” said Peter Daszak, a well-known disease ecologist who works on the same project.

In an office 17 floors above West 34th Street in Manhattan, analysts working for Daszak pour data into complex mathematical models, trying to decipher the most likely places an epidemic might surface next. The data behind those “heat maps” come from intense detective work around the globe, from Thailand and Tanzania to Bolivia and Bangladesh.

In Vietnam, for example, researchers affiliated with Oxford University head out almost daily to slaughterhouses and animal farms. They visit open-air markets teeming with ducks, porcupines, bamboo rats and other animals to understand what viruses and bacteria the animals harbor and to watch closely for the moment any of them might infect humans.

This kind of work is more crucial than ever, said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“The early 21st century is about as good as it gets for emerging viruses and pathogens,” he said. “Changes in trade, travel and population — it’s a perfect storm for viral emergence.”

LESSON: Keep fear in check

When Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visited Liberia in August, he went to a crematorium that operated day and night as the bodies of Ebola victims were immolated.

Soon afterward, he developed a nosebleed. “To have blood spurting out of your nose in the middle of an Ebola outbreak is a little bit anxiety producing,” he recalled.

Rationally, he knew he didn’t have Ebola. He figured the nosebleed was caused by the dryness from his recent flight. His main concern was that people would think he had Ebola. But even the CDC director wrestled with nagging doubts about his health.

“You worry about every symptom, like a sore throat,” he said, “even if you had no chance of being infected.”

One of his deputies, Jordan Tappero, spent five weeks in Liberia in late summer and had a bout of travelers’ diarrhea. “Stuff goes through your head when you’re getting up in the middle of the night,” Tappero said. “I was always able to talk myself off the ledge.”

These anxieties were minor compared with the national hysteria that accompanied the Ebola epidemic when it crossed the Atlantic. More than one school system shut down over a worry that the parent of a student possibly had contact with an Ebola victim. A controversy broke out over whether returning humanitarian volunteers should be quarantined for weeks. Scientists who had been to West Africa were disinvited to a medical conference.

 

In mid-October, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and plane were dispatched to a cruise ship off the coast of Mexico to obtain blood samples from a passenger on vacation. She had, 19 days earlier, been working in a lab at a Dallas hospital and possibly had come in contact with a sealed vial of blood belonging to Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who became the first person to die of the disease in the United States. She had no symptoms.

The plane flew her sample to Austin, where lab technicians confirmed what doctors already knew: She did not have Ebola. The Coast Guard spent $86,256 to retrieve and deliver the blood, an agency spokesman said.

This eruption of alarmism came despite repeated assurances from experts that Ebola is not very contagious, as viral diseases go. The only two people who caught Ebola in the United States were nurses caring for Duncan.

But Frieden acknowledges a basic mistake in his communication efforts. In a Sept. 30 news conference after it was confirmed that Duncan had Ebola, Frieden assured the public that the virus wouldn’t spread here. “I have no doubt that we will stop it in its tracks in the U.S.,” he said.

Then the two nurses got sick.

“Clearly I did not convey adequately the degree it was going to be hard” to stop the virus, Frieden recently told The Washington Post, “and that we would be adjusting and learning.”

CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak


An Ebola awareness mural in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015.

Four years after the United States pledged to help the world fight infectious-disease epidemics such as Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dramatically downsizing its epidemic prevention activities in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out, U.S. government officials said.

The CDC programs, part of a global health security initiative, train front-line workers in outbreak detection and work to strengthen laboratory and emergency response systems in countries where disease risks are greatest. The goal is to stop future outbreaks at their source.

Most of the funding comes from a one-time, five-year emergency package that Congress approved to respond to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. About $600 million was awarded to the CDC to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics. That money is slated to run out by September 2019. Despite statements from President Trump and senior administration officials affirming the importance of controlling outbreaks, officials and global infectious-disease experts are not anticipating that the administration will budget additional resources.

Two weeks ago, the CDC began notifying staffers and officials abroad about its plan to downsize these activities, because officials assume there will be “no new resources,” said a senior government official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss budget matters. Notice is being given now to CDC country directors “as the very first phase of a transition,” the official said. There is a need for “forward planning,” the official said, to accommodate longer advance notice for staffers and for leases and property agreements. The downsizing decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The CDC plans to narrow its focus to 10 “priority countries,” starting in October 2019, the official said. They are India, Thailand and Vietnam in Asia; Jordan in the Middle East; Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal in Africa; and Guatemala in Central America.

Countries where the CDC is planning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerging infectious disease, such as China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo. Last year, when Congo experienced a potentially deadly Ebola outbreak in a remote, forested area, CDC-trained disease detectives and rapid responders helped contain it quickly.

In Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, an emergency operations center established last year with CDC funding is operational but still needs staffers to be trained and protocols and systems to be put in place so data can be collected accurately from across the country, said Carolyn Reynolds, a vice president at PATH, a global health technology nonprofit group that helped the Congolese set up the center.

This next phase of work may be at risk if CDC cuts back its support, she said. “It would be akin to building the firehouse without providing the trained firemen and information and tools to fight the fire,” Reynolds said in an email.

If more funding becomes available in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, the CDC could resume work in China and Congo, as well as Ethiopia, Indonesia and Sierra Leone, another government official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss budget matters.

In the meantime, the CDC will continue its work with dozens of countries on other public health issues, such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, polio eradication, vaccine-preventable diseases, influenza and emerging infectious diseases.

Global health organizations said critical momentum will be lost if epidemic prevention funding is reduced, leaving the world unprepared for the next outbreak. The risks of deadly and costly pandemic threats are higher than ever, especially in low- and middle-income countries with the weakest public health systems, experts say. A rapid response by a country can mean the difference between an isolated outbreak and a global catastrophe. In less than 36 hours, infectious disease and pathogens can travel from a remote village to major cities on any continent to become a global crisis.

On Monday, a coalition of global health organizations representing more than 200 groups and companies sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking the administration to reconsider the planned reductions to programs they described as essential to health and national security.

“Not only will CDC be forced to narrow its countries of operations, but the U.S. also stands to lose vital information about epidemic threats garnered on the ground through trusted relationships, real-time surveillance, and research,” wrote the coalition, which included the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium and the Global Health Council.

The coalition also warned that complacency after outbreaks have been contained leads to funding cuts, followed by ever more costly outbreaks. The Ebola outbreak cost U.S. taxpayers $5.4 billion in emergency supplemental funding, forced several U.S. cities to spend millions in containment, disrupted global business and required the deployment of the U.S. military to address the threat.

“This is the front line against terrible organisms,” said Tom Frieden, the former CDC director who led the agency during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. He now heads Resolve to Save Lives, a global initiative to prevent epidemics. Referring to dangerous pathogens, he said: “Like terrorism, you can’t fight it just within our borders. You’ve got to fight epidemic diseases where they emerge.”

Without additional help, low-income countries are not going to be able to maintain laboratory networks to detect dangerous pathogens, Frieden said. “Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epidemic that travelers will catch or spread to our country,” Frieden said.

The U.S. downsizing could also lead other countries to cut back or drop out from “the most serious multinational effort in many years to stop epidemics at their sources overseas,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said the agency and federal partners remain committed to “prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.”

The United States helped launch an initiative known as the Global Health Security Agenda in 2014 to help countries reduce their vulnerabilities to public health threats. More than 60 countries now participate in that effort. At a meeting in Uganda in the fall, administration officials led by Tim Ziemer, the White House senior director for global health security, affirmed U.S. support to extend the initiative to 2024.

“The world remains under-prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberately released,” Ziemer wrote in a blog post before the meeting. “. . . We recognize that the cost of failing to control outbreaks and losing lives is far greater than the cost of prevention.”

The CDC has about $150 million remaining from the one-time Ebola emergency package for these global health security programs, the senior government official said. That money will be used this year and in fiscal 2019, but without substantial new resources, that leaves only the agency’s core annual budget, which has remained flat at about $50 million to $60 million.

Officials at the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Security Council pushed for more funding in the president’s fiscal 2019 budget to be released this month. A senior government official said Thursday that the president’s budget “will include details on global health security funding,” but declined to elaborate.

The WHO Warns We’re Officially on The Path to a Global Pandemic


We need to prepare.

 

We have a problem. A serious one. At any moment, a life-threatening global pandemic could spring up and wipe out a significant amount of human life on this planet.

The death toll would be catastrophic; one disease could see as many as 100 million dead.

It sounds like a horrifying dream. It sounds like something that can’t possibly be true. But it is. The information comes from Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization.

He spoke today at the World Government Summit in Dubai, and according to his assessment, things are not looking good.

“This is not some future nightmare scenario,” said Tedros (as he prefers to be called by Ethiopian tradition).

“This is what happened exactly 100 years ago during the Spanish flu epidemic.” A hush fell across the audience as he noted that we could see such devastation again, perhaps as soon as today.

Tedros was equal parts emphatic and grave as he spoke: “A devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time and kill millions of people because we are still not prepared. The world remains vulnerable.”

What is the cause of this great vulnerability? Is it our inability to stave off Ebola? Rising incidents of rabies in animal populations? An increased number of HIV and AIDS cases?

No. According to Tedros, the threat of a global pandemic comes from our apathy, from our staunch refusal to act to save ourselves – a refusal that finds its heart in our indifference and our greed.

“The absence of universal health coverage is the greatest threat to global health,” Tedros proclaimed.

As the audience shifted in their seats uncomfortably, he noted that, despite the fact that universal health coverage is “within reach” for almost every nation in the world, 3.5 billion people still lack access to essential health services.

Almost 100 million are pushed into extreme poverty because of the cost of paying for care out of their own pockets.

The result? People don’t go to the doctor. They don’t seek treatment. They get sicker. They die. And thus, as Tedros explained, “the earliest signals of an outbreak are missed.”

Surveillance is one of the most vital forms of protection the world’s public health agencies can offer, but these agencies rely on the money of the governments they serve.

And in the United States, which is presently enduring a flu season of record-breaking severity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced they would be cutting their epidemic prevention programs back by 80 percent.

Programs for preventing infectious diseases, such as Ebola, are being scaled back in 39 of the 49 countries they’ve been employed in, according to The Washington Post.

The reason? Quite simply, governments are pulling money from these programs, and it’s not clear whether any more will ever be allocated – at least, not in the US during the current administration.

It might seem a bit obtuse. But, as Tedros pointed out, too often we “see health as a cost to be contained and not an investment to be nurtured.”

Aside from the obvious – avoiding a global pandemic that ravages humanity – healthy societies are advantageous for reasons that are more economic than epidemiological.

“The benefits of universal health coverage go far beyond health,” Tedros said. “Strong health systems are essential to strong economies.”

We know that the quality of pre- and post-natal care a person receives when a child is born has a direct impact on how soon they’re able to return to work (if they choose to).

If we want our children to grow up healthy enough to become functioning, contributing members of society, then the quality of care they receive from birth throughout childhood can’t be underestimated.

“We do not know where and when the next global pandemic will occur,” Tedros admitted, “but we know it will take a terrible toll both on human life and on the economy.”

While Tedros acknowledged there’s no guarantee we’ll one day create a completely pandemic-free world, what is within our reach – if we have the investment and support – is a world where humans, not pathogens, remain in control.

We can do better. And if most of us are to survive in the long term, we must.

IBM Creates A Molecule That Could Destroy All Viruses


One macromolecule to rule them all, from Ebola to Zika and the flu

flu virus

The influenza virus.

CDC/ Dr. Erskine. L. Palmer; Dr. M. L. Martin via Flickr

Finding a cure for viruses like Ebola, Zika, or even the flu is a challenging task. Viruses are vastly different from one another, and even the same strain of a virus can mutate and change–that’s why doctors give out a different flu vaccine each year. But a group of researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore sought to understand what makes all viruses alike. Using that knowledge, they’ve come up with a macromolecule that may have the potential to treat multiple types of viruses and prevent them from infecting us. The work was published recently in the journal Macromolecules.

For their study, the researchers ignored the viruses’ RNA and DNA, which could be key areas to target, but because they change from virus to virus and also mutate, it’s very difficult to target them successfully.

Instead, the researchers focused on glycoproteins, which sit on the outside of all viruses and attach to cells in the body, allowing the viruses to do their dirty work by infecting cells and making us sick. Using that knowledge, the researchers created a macromolecule, which is basically one giant molecule made of smaller subunits. This macromolecule has key factors that are crucial in fighting viruses. First, it’s able to attract viruses towards itself using electrostatic charges. Once the virus is close, the macromolecule attaches to the virus and makes the virus unable to attach to healthy cells. Then it neutralizes the virus’ acidity levels, which makes it less able to replicate.

As an alternative way to fight, the macromolecule also contains a sugar called mannose. This sugar attaches to healthy immune cells and forces them closer to the virus so that the viral infection can be eradicated more easily.

The researchers tested out this treatment in the lab on a few viruses, including Ebola and dengue, and they found that the molecule did work as they thought it would: According to the paper, the molecules bound to the glycoproteins on the viruses’ surfaces and reduced the number of viruses. Further, the mannose successfully prevented the virus from infecting immune cells.

This all sounds promising, but the treatment still has a ways to go before it could be used as a disinfectant or even as a potential pill that we could take to prevent and treat viral infections. But it does represent a step in the right direction for treating viruses: figuring out what is similar about all viruses to create a broad spectrum antiviral treatment.

UN Classifies Antibiotic Resistance as a Crisis, Putting It on Par With Ebola and HIV


IN BRIEF

Antibiotic resistance, the ability of bacteria to evolve to combat treatment, has been declared a crisis by the United Nations. The classification will hopefully lead to the funding and research needed to combat, or even fully eradicate, the problem, which is currently responsible for more than 23,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone.

SUPER DRUG, SUPER BUG

Since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have come to revolutionize medicine in the 20th century. By systematically killing off microbes that cause infections, antibiotics made it easy to cure bacterial infections from wounds as well as highly communicable diseases such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Along with vaccines, antibiotics have considerably improved the life expectancy of people all over the world.

Here’s the rub: like humans, microbes can adapt.

When exposed to antibiotics frequently enough, bacteria can evolve to combat the treatments. Also known as antibiotic resistance, this phenomenon results in bacteria that is more resistant (if not fully immune) to the drugs that could treat them before. A report from Quartz showed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that 23,000 people die each year as a direct consequence of antibiotic resistance, and that’s just in the U.S.

The issue is so serious that the United Nations has now elevated the problem of antibiotic resistance to crisis level.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/ramanan_laxminarayan_the_coming_crisis_in_antibiotics

TAKING COLLECTIVE ACTION

The new categorization puts antibiotic resistance on par with Ebola and HIV as a threat to humanity, and while the declaration alone won’t be enough to completely eradicate the problem of antibiotic resistance, it marks a global commitment to combating the issue and saving lives. With 193 member states of the UN General Assembly signing the document, the world is clearly in agreement that action needs to be taken.

As more companies in those countries, particularly those in the pharmaceutical and food industries, adopt policies aimed to reduce the overuse of antibiotics and more research is conducted on the topic, we should see a decrease in the number of deaths related to antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the next ruling the UN makes on the issue will be one in the other direction, from crisis level to problem of the past.

 CDC Quarantine Committee Working To Force Vaccinate All Americans


I am currently reading the Federal Register article on the CDC’s proposed measures for “Control of Communicable Diseases.”

This is REAL.

If you remember the movie, “Contagion,” the CDC’s power grab reads like the script.
Detainment, imprisonment (indefinite), forced medical examinations, forced treatment, forced vaccination…
for MEASLES.

CDC-quarantine-vaccines

The CDC is lumping MEASLES in with Ebola.

If you have seen the outrage over Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the national anthem, and you don’t think he has reason to protest the actions of the United States, you need to read this article. The United States government is rapidly surpassing Hitler in their oppressive and illegal use of force against citizens who refuse to inject themselves or their children with experimental vaccines that have never been tested for carcinogenic or mutagenic effects, or for impairment of fertility.

Our government is so financially invested in vaccines that they are passing rules and regulations to take away your BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS to say NO to forced vaccination – for what is a mild, childhood infection, and for which the death rate in the United States had decreased nearly 100% BEFORE the vaccine was even invented.

If this regulation passes, entire cities could be under forced quarantine and citizens lined up and vaccinated under government force – whenever there is a case of suspected measles identified. That means this will be happening routinely – and especially at the beginning of every school year when recently vaccinated children are spreading measles to their classmates.

Melissa Sfura has put out a very important ACTION ALERT – which I fully support and hope you will attend to.

This is NOT A JOKE.

If you value your liberty and the principles on which the United States was founded, you had better get active NOW and work to protect them.

***ACTION ALERT HIGH PRIORITY***

Alright, so the CDC wants to Round up citizens and force vaccinate them without medical testing, just because they think they can. See the proposed regulation here:
http://www.regulations.gov/document?D=CDC-2016-0068-0001

Next, submit your public comment by October 14, 2016 (CDC Rally day, interestingly enough) here: http://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=CDC-2016-0068-0001

After that, you need to contact YOUR representatives. Find them here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Let the CDC Quarantine Oversight Committee know how you feel. Find them here: https://energycommerce.house.gov/about-ec

Finally, join us at the CDC in Atlanta on October 14th to fight for truth and transparency. More details here: http://tinyurl.com/rally-Oct-14

Read more. URL:https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/08/15/2016-18103/control-of-communicable-diseases#h-32

Zika, Ebola offer lessons for managing future pandemics


How can lessons from the Zika and Ebola outbreaks prepare the world for the next pandemic? That was the question discussed by experts during a webcast hosted by theHarvard Global Health Institute on August 22, 2016. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, was joined by Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator, and Helen Branswell, infectious diseases and public health reporter for STAT.

Watch the video discussion. URL:https://youtu.be/jKV_FPrwU44

What we really know about Zika virus?


Whatever we read and know it’s just an iceberg.
This is not mentioned in medical text or any text of virology..even if mentioned..not in such detail. It’s great that no report of Zika infection from Rio..thanks to the people of Brazil who made this Olympic safe from Zika.
So the issues are which we should discuss are…
1) Why suddenly this Zika became too infective and spread from Brazil to Florida beach?
2) Is there a direct relationship of Zika and Microcephaly?
3) Are the banned pesticides or larvacides responsible for microcephaly? And not the virus itself?
4) For those who are infected may develop pre senile dementia in the long run? Does Zika affects the adult brain too?
5) Is this Zika spread like Ebola is related to global warming?
6) Till now we don’t have a cure for Zika infection. Whatever is there is just symptomatic like in cases of Ebola or Dengue.
7) People are claiming for a vaccine but how effective would be this in phase IV ?
😎 Convince me that it’s not a normal strain..and it’s a some GM?
9) How GM mosquitoes work against Zika?
10) Chemitrail….Yes or No. This was done in Florida few days back but the government is covering this. Why?

 

I hope someone would answer my silly questions.

Please post your comment in the comment box.

Is the global health community prepared for future pandemics? A need for solidarity, resources and strong governance


In the wake of recent outbreaks of Zika, Ebola and the MERS-CoV viruses, many are asking: how prepared is the global public health community to deal with future emerging pandemics? Collective action at national, regional and global levels is the best way forward.

In the wake of recent outbreaks of Zika, Ebola and the MERS-CoV viruses, and with trust in global institutions at an all-time low, many are asking: how prepared is the global public health community to deal with future emerging pandemics? A recent report by the Commission on the Global Health Risk Framework, convened by the US National Academy of Medicine, stated that “we are underinvested and underprepared” (GHRF Commission, 2016). What needs to be done? Our experience so far shows that collective action at national, regional and global levels, backed by strong political will and sufficient resources, is the best way to enhance pandemic preparedness and deal with what is not just a health, but a much wider global security issue.First, any effective global response to pandemics will be only as effective as national preparedness, as “the best way to prevent the global spread of diseases is to detect and contain them while they are still local” (Rodier et al, 2007). The Ebola crisis in West Africa demonstrated the dire consequences of fragile health systems unprepared to deal with a massive epidemic. National preparedness is based on the capacities for surveillance, rapid diagnosis, case management, a trained health workforce and surge capacity within the health infrastructure to deal with large numbers of affected persons. WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR), which covers surveillance, monitoring, containment and core capacity building, serves as a guide for countries to strengthen their national health infrastructure and pandemic preparedness. Within a larger context, the strengthening of health systems through provision of universal health care is necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Touraine et al, 2014), and pandemic preparedness must be seen as a part of the overall health infrastructure in a holistic and integrated manner.

Unfortunately, many developing countries are not sufficiently prepared to deal with an emerging pandemic owing to limited resources, competing priorities and lack of political commitment. An ongoing concern, for example, is the weak and patchy implementation of the IHR, which would better prepare these countries for dealing with pandemics (Lancet, 2014). To underline this urgent need to upgrade public health infrastructure and capabilities of low- and middle-income countries, a recent report proposed spending US$3.4 billion/year to improve global resources for pandemic preparedness and responses (GHRF Commission, 2016).

Second, better regional preparedness will facilitate early warning of potential pandemics and improve international coordination of collective actions for its containment. Effective regional cooperation requires a platform for dialogue and action based on solidarity, trust and goodwill, and, most importantly, a commitment to sharing information rapidly and openly. In South-East Asia, for example, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) provides a high-level political and strategic platform for coordinated action, which is supported by regional surveillance initiatives, such as the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance network. Elsewhere, plans by the European CDC and the African Union to create an African CDC are similarly important initiatives.

There are other strong arguments in favour of regional responses over a more slowly evolving global response. Countries in the region are in closer contact with each other, understand each other and are in a better position to quickly render assistance in the spirit of “helping neighbours”. While efficient regional responses remain a laudable goal, the approach has been dogged by the fairly low profile of health issues in most developing countries, which has, in turn, resulted in a lack of commitment, expertise and resources.

Third, in the face of a potential global spread of a pandemic, global responses must continue to play a central role. WHO’s GOARN (Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network) remains at the centre of global coordination efforts but, of course, relies on efficient, accurate and rapid reporting from affected countries. At a higher policy level, WHO continues to be the major international public health agency with a mandate to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which it has done three times in relation to pandemic influenza, the resurgence of polio and Ebola. Besides alerting the world to a potential pandemic, a PHEIC declaration raises global awareness, facilitates coordinated action and, importantly, helps to mobilize resources to mitigate the impacts of a pandemic. At the front lines, global responses by international NGO’s such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the International Red Cross have also been critical in dealing with rapidly deteriorating situations, such as with Ebola in West Africa.

But, as with national and regional preparedness, the recent pandemics have highlighted shortcomings of the global responses. There has been strong criticism, for example, of WHO’s inadequate response to the Ebola crisis. An independent expert panel concluded that the organization was slow in recognizing the severity of the situation and did not issue a PHEIC until 5–6 months after the problem began to emerge as a serious threat (Maurice, 2015). The panel also determined that WHO did not have the capacity “to deliver a full emergency public health response” against a severe epidemic outbreak.

However, there are things what WHO can and cannot do. The WHO is not an organization, which can, in 48–72 h, mobilize 100 doctors, 100 nurses and 100 tons of equipment and then transport them to crisis hotspots around the world. Despite the fact that one of its core functions is “to provide technical support to Member States”, it is not an emergency response organization and it is not equipped to do so. What it can, and perhaps should have done, was to be a information clearing house to more rapidly alert the world of the impending emergency. The delay was partly attributed to WHO’s organizational structure and delays in information flows between its regional offices and its headquarters in Geneva (Maurice, 2015). MSF, on the other hand, responded heroically on the front lines but was soon overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the Ebola outbreak. WHO has borne the brunt of the criticisms, but questions have also been raised about the role of other entities during the Ebola crisis, including the World Bank, the governments of the affected countries, NGOs and other humanitarian groups, and the African Union. In addition, bilateral government responses from the militaries and agencies of the USA, the UK and France were instrumental in helping to deal with the Ebola crisis, but such responses have important diplomatic and political repercussions, which require more analysis and dialogue.

The expert panel report recommended many remedial actions for WHO to be better prepared in the future, such as forming a new Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response (Maurice, 2015). Beyond these recommendations, another key question that is being asked by many is “what new structures beyond WHO and MSF might be needed to efficiently and effectively address emerging pandemics at the global level?”

Before addressing the issue of creating new global structures, we should clarify some of the criteria and requirements needed for a more effective global public health response to future pandemics. Four are proposed: (i) reforming, consolidating and strengthening key WHO functions; (ii) providing significant and sustainable resources to rapidly responding to outbreaks: suggestions have been made, for example, for a contingency fund of US$100 million to be established at WHO and a much larger Pandemic Emergency Facility to be set up between WHO and the World Bank; (iii) high-level political commitment and mechanisms to ensure rapid and coordinated global action, perhaps through the imprimatur of the UN Security Council which declared a resolution on Ebola (Gostin & Friedman, 2014); and (iv) the need for a more multi-sectoral approach. For instance, in lieu of the fact that many emerging diseases have animal origins, organizations involved in animal health should also participate, through a “One Health” approach, in joint monitoring and surveillance efforts (McCloskey et al, 2014).

Are such new structures really needed to fulfil these roles efficiently and globally? While it may be attractive in the current atmosphere of disappointment with global institutions to propose a new “Global Fund for Health” (Ooms & Hammonds, 2014), this decision should not be taken lightly. There are already many entities and the creation of new structures has huge implications with regard to the risk of fragmentation of efforts, governance, resources and political issues, which extend well beyond health. Prudence dictates that strengthening existing structures and mechanisms, based on the lessons learned from recent pandemics, would be a better strategy. To give the needed effort the necessary political boost, it has been suggested that a high-level summit meeting should be convened, ideally by a respected third party outside of the United Nations, which will allow all interested parties to objectively compare their diagnoses of what is needed, and suggest solutions for enhancing preparedness (Garrett, 2015). Such an opportunity may occur in May 2016 during the G-7 Summit at Ise-Shima in Japan where outbreak preparedness is likely to be on the agenda as part of the broader theme of human security.

In conclusion, global preparedness for future pandemics must be considered at three closely inter-connected levels: national, regional and global. Strong national public health infrastructures, effective coordination, solidarity, goodwill, trust, sufficient resources, and a strong emphasis on decisive, collective and rapid action are the foundations for a better global response system to deal with future pandemics. It will also be important to manage the tensions that exist between national sovereignty and the importance of international collective action. The time to act is now or “there is genuine danger that financial commitments from the G-7 nations, disease surveillance promises made by 194 nations, and essential improvements needed in the global governance of outbreaks will all simply fade off into the sunset of forgotten urgency”