In Joeblow, Liberia, every mother has been killed by Ebola leaving a village full of confused and devastated children
By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
11:35AM GMT 05 Jan 2015
For 11-year-old Montgomery Philip, childhood is over. Six months ago he would have been playing football with his schoolmates, but now his job is to care for his 10-monthold baby brother Jenkie. The pair are both victims of the Ebola virus. Not because they caught the disease, but because they live in Joeblow, Liberia, where the devastating outbreak has killed every mother in the village.
The women died because social convention decrees it is they who tend to the sick and bury the dead.
When a man brought Ebola to the village and passed it on to his wife, it was 14 mothers who cared for her and eventually laid out her body. One by one they caught the disease and died, leaving 15 children orphaned.
Chloe Brett, 28, from Norwich, has been working with the British charity Street Child to try to find homes for the children left behind in the aftermath of the outbreak.
“Seeing Montgomery struggle to change the baby’s nappy without any guidance is something that made me realise just how devastating this disease can be on those left behind,” she said. “He was a helpless 11-year-old having to become a man well before his time.
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“Although it feels like Liberia is coming out of the end of the crisis, it is now dealing with the aftermath, and what it has left behind is huge groups of children who are on their own. When we visited Joeblow, it seemed normal at first, with children in the street, men, a couple of old women. But then we realised there were no other women anywhere.
“We talked to a man who had survived Ebola and he told us what had happened.
All of the women had caught the disease.
“It’s now a village of no mothers and very confused children with blank looks on their faces.”
Nearly 7,000 people have died from Ebola and more than 18,000 have caught the disease, mainly in West Africa. Liberia has been hit the hardest, with 3,290 deaths so far compared with 2,085 in Sierra Leone and 1,525 in Guinea.
Street Child been working in Liberia to find homes for orphaned children over the past five years, but the Ebola crisis has made the situation far worse.
The charity estimates that the disease has left 30,000 orphans in West Africa. So far, it has helped 8,000 find new homes with relations or neighbours. Many children are being looked after in two shelters in the country’s capital, Monrovia.
Children with sick parents also need to be quarantined for 21 days to make sure they have not contracted the illness.
The orphans are placed in groups of three, but if a child starts to show symptoms of Ebola, they are isolated immediately – a terrifying prospect for a youngster who has just lost their parents.
According to Unicef, just 800 children have been resettled in Liberia to date.
“The future for these children is bleak if they do not find new homes,” added Miss Brett, who is the Liberia programme director at Street Child.
“I saw Montgomery carrying his 10-month-old brother – that is life for him now. He won’t be able to go back to school if he is looking after his brother.
“All the children wear rags because all their clothes and possessions have had to be burnt as a precaution because of the disease.
“We try to find relatives or neighbours to take the children in, but the community is scared.
“We went to one slum where every home had been affected. Every door we knocked on, we found more children who needed homes.”
Chloe Brett has been working to find homes for children left behind in the aftermath of the outbreak
Miss Brett has come across households in the back streets of Monrovia where children have been sleeping with the dead body of their father for three days.
Neighbours had turned away the youngsters, fearing they could be infected.
Many simply cannot afford to feed another mouth. Ebola has caused the price of rice to increase by at least 20 per cent in Monrovia, and in some locations it has almost doubled.
Tom Dannatt, Street Child’s chief executive, said: “Thirty thousand children in West Africa will have spent this Christmas mourning the loss of a mother or father as a result of Ebola.
“They want for the most basic of human needs while the majority of us in the UK have been enjoying indulgence and celebration.”
He added: “I have no doubt that aid from larger organisations is coming, but there is an immediate need which we at Street Child can meet right now. We just need the financial support.
“On my last trip to Sierra Leone in November, when I spent time with Street Child teams visiting some of the hardest-hit communities, I learnt three things.
“Firstly, we know about Western aid and medical Ebola heroes, but the heroism of so many Sierra Leoneans at community level is inspiring – and underreported. We should invest more in these people.
“Secondly, the medical and military effort is impressive, but the pure humanitarian aid response appears to have hardly begun.
“Thirdly, not enough Sierra Leoneans know ‘enough’ about Ebola – especially in the most rural and poorest places.”
“Montgomery looks after his brother now. That is his life”.
Visit street-child.co.uk/ebolaresponse for more information
I do not know how well any of you are following the health news day to day but it has not been good for quite a while now.
I previously wrote a story concerning the 1918 “Flu Pandemic” which as it turns out was biological warfare. The reason I was
so interested in the subject is that my Grandmother, whom I never had the chance to meet, died in 1919 of the “Flu Pandemic”.
I did not come to be until 1960. My Father was 18 month’s old when she succumb to this horrible “Flu”.
EBOLA has been unleashed, by whatever means – either naturally or the planned demise of yet another group of people – and “it”,
like the killer virus of 1918 knows no boundary’s.
There are also other virus’ on the rise which are a real threat as well. The main three are:
This is a very serious situation and I hope everyone is paying close attention and planning to take appropriate precautions when
A “facebook friend” of mine named Moses N. lives in Uganda, Africa. After not having heard from him for a while I sent him a message
to see how things were. The reply was:
October 2nd, 6:54am
hi sweelie how are you
STILL ALIVE – DONT FEEL GREAT – WORRYING ABOUT THIS EBOLA THING GOING ON…ITS HERE IN THE US NOW.
stay safe sweet love u so much
THANKS U TOO – WE WILL KEEP IN TOUCH AS LONG AS WE CAN.. SEND ME MESS EACH DAY.
i will dia
Hey, just checking on you over there….Ebola??? It’s not looking good from any side. Other stuff going on too. Please stay safe – take care of yourself and as many as you can….Peace/Luv
9 hours ago
THERE you are!
You doing alright over there?
Are YOU SICK????
I saw your status update – please mess me so i know your still with us! Much Love to you and all…
Chat Conversation End
(Mose’s highlighted in yellow)
Note that the last thing he said to me was “hi”… This is NOT his usual way of greeting me as you can see from a previous conversation…
The most heart wrenching was his status which reads:
11 hrs ·
maberg is now here in uganda.Ebola is on the door knocking banange stop shaking hands to each other (broken english)
I have not gotten any further messages from him and have been watching to see if he is o.k.
So there it is, straight from Uganda to me – Marberg is there and so is Ebola – what next?
Please join me in saying a prayer to your creator for these people in their (and our) hour of need.
DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY! IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!
Now look at these related articles:
2002 American Medical Association study concludes Ebola and Marberg best bio-weapons choice for use against populace –
Mathematics of the Ebola outbreak reveal near-impossibility of global containment: it’s already too late
Have ‘FEMA coffins’ been stockpiled to meet CDC requirements for disposing of bodies during a pandemic?
Ebola outbreak may already be uncontrollable; Monsanto invests in Ebola treatment drug company as pandemic spreads
Be aware and be prepared! What is actually going on is usually not reported on the evening news!
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the first case of Ebola in the United States has been diagnosed, and the patient is currently being treated in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The man remains in critical condition at this time.
On September 19, the patient boarded a plane in Liberia and arrived in the U.S. the next day.
CDC Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters:
[The patient] had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country. But four or five days later on the 24th of September, he began to develop symptoms. The next steps are basically threefold. First, to care for the patient … to provide the most effective care possible as safely as possible to keep to an absolute minimum the likelihood or possibility that anyone would become affected, and second, to maximize the chances that the patient might recover.
The man who was in Texas reportedly visiting relatives, actually came to the emergency room on the 26th, but was given antibiotics and released. He was admitted two days later as his condition worsened.
On Wednesday morning, Fox & Friends anchor, Peter Doocy, reported that the man is a “Liberian national.” Of course, Liberia is currently in the grips of an unprecedented Ebola outbreak, in which at least 1,830 people have died from the virus over the last few months, according to a CDC report.
While the CDC is quick to downplay the risk of a widespread Ebola outbreak on U.S. soil, it is not known how many people this patient came into contact with since landing in Dallas, and is likely impossible to discover. It also unknown at this time why the Obama administration has not banned all travel from Liberia, as well as the other countries in West Africa where Ebola is ravaging the populations.
U.S. airports currently have no system in place to screen travelers for Ebola.
Patient who recently returned from Liberia tested positive at a hospital in Dallas, Texas, health officials say.
Last updated: 01 Oct 2014 00:57
A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced.
Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and that the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.
The patient is a Liberian national who was admitted on Sunday, a government official told Al Jazeera.
The hospital had announced a day earlier that the patient’s symptoms and recent travel indicated a case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.
Infographic: Just how deadly is Ebola?
Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, held a news conference at the centre’s headquarters in Atlanta late on Tuesday.
“The infected person came from Liberia on September 19 and began to develop symptoms on September 24. He first sought care on the 26th of September and on the 28th was admitted in Texas,” Frieden said.
“Blood samples tested positive for Ebola… The Ebola test is highly accurate,” Frieden said, adding: “There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here (in the US).”
The CDC has said 12 other people in the US have been tested for Ebola since July 27. Those tests came back negative.
Four American aid workers who have become infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a US doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The US has only four such isolation units but the CDC has insisted that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
According to the CDC, Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
Jason McDonald, spokesman for the CDC, said health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus.
“The first and foremost determinant is have they traveled to the region (of West Africa),” he said.
The second is whether there’s been proximity to family, friends or others who’ve been exposed, he said.
US health officials have been preparing since summer in case an individual traveler arrived here unknowingly infected, telling hospitals what infection-control steps to take to prevent the virus from spreading in health facilities.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure.
Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
(NaturalNews) A global outbreak of deadly Ebola is underway and has crossed national borders. One infected victim of the horrifying disease flew on international flights, vomiting on board and exposing hundreds of people to the deadly virus which can be transmitted through airborne particles. Ebola has an 8-10 day incubation period, meaning thousands of people could be carrying it right now and spreading it across the cities of the world without even knowing it.
Passengers in Hong Kong and the UK have already shown symptoms of the disease and are being tested, reports USA Today. (2) The Peace Corps has evacuated its volunteers from the region after two were exposed to Ebola. (3)
“Expert claims panic over death of U.S. man in Nigeria is ‘justified'” reports the Daily Mail. (1) “He warned the spread of Ebola could become a global pandemic.”
Ebola is the closest thing to real-life zombie infections
With apologies to those victims who have suffered the horrible fate of Ebola, I’m offering a medically accurate description here as a warning to everybody else. Believe me when I say you do NOT want to contract Ebola. Warning: Graphic language below.
Ebola is a gruesome disease that causes cells in the body to self-destruct, resulting in massive internal and external bleeding. In its late stages, Ebola can cause the victim to experience convulsions, vomiting and bleeding from the eyes and ears while convulsing, flinging blood all over the room and anyone standing nearby, thereby infecting those people as well. This gruesome ending is the reason Ebola spreads so effectively. The virus “weaponizes” the blood, then causes the victim to fling it around on everyone else almost like you might see depicted in some horror zombie flick.
“Haemorrhaging symptoms begin 4 – 5 days after onset, which includes hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, pharyngitis, bleeding gums, oral/lip ulceration, hematemesis, melena, hematuria, epistaxis, and vaginal bleeding,” reports the Pathogen Safety Data Sheet from the Public Health Agency of Canada. (8) That same publication also explains, “There are no known antiviral treatments available for human infections.”
Read that again: There are NO KNOWN TREATMENTS for human infections.
Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor tragically died yesterday from an Ebola infection. Although well trained in infectious disease, even he underestimated the ability of this insidious killer to leap from person to person. Around half of those infected with Ebola die, making it one of the most fatal diseases known to modern medical science. And yet medical staff around the world still aren’t exercising sufficient precautions when interfacing with infected patients.
Monsanto and Dept. of Defense help fund pharma company that could earn billions from Ebola treatment
There are some experimental drugs under development by pharma companies that show some promise, but nothing is commercialized yet. (9)
One fascinating development worth investigating further is that TEKMIRA Pharmaceuticals, a company working on an anti-Ebola drug, just received a $1.5 million cash infusion from none other than Monsanto. Click here to read the press release, which states “Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on advancing novel RNAi therapeutics and providing its leading lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology to pharmaceutical partners.”
The money from Monsanto is reportedly related to the company’s developed of RNAi technology used in agriculture. The deal is valued at up to $86.2 million, according to the WSJ. (11)
Another press release about Tekmira reveals a $140 million contract with the U.S. military for Ebola treatment drugs:
TKM-Ebola, an anti-Ebola virus RNAi therapeutic, is being developed under a $140 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Medical Countermeasure Systems BioDefense Therapeutics (MCS-BDTX) Joint Product Management Office.
Additional Tekmira partnership are listed at this Tekmira web page.
Not to invoke any charges of collusion or conspiracy here, but a whole lot of people are going to have raised eyebrows over the fact that Monsanto just happened to be giving a cash infusion to a key pharma company working on an Ebola cure right in the middle of a highly-publicized Ebola outbreak which could create huge market demand for the drugs. The fact that the U.S. Department of Defense is also involved with all this is going to have alternative news websites digging hard for additional links.
Sadly, the history of medicine reveals that drug companies, the CDC and the WHO have repeatedly played up the severity of disease outbreaks in order to promote sales of treatment drugs. I’m not saying this outbreak isn’t very real and very alarming, of course. It is real. But we always have to be suspicious when windfalls profits just happen to line up for certain corporations following global outbreaks of infectious disease. Vaccine manufacturers, remember, made billions off the false swine flu scare, and tens of millions of dollars in stockpiled swine flu vaccines later had to be destroyed by the governments that panicked and purchased them.
Has air travel doomed humanity to a pandemic outbreak?
Air travel creates the “perfect storm” for Ebola to devastate humanity. It all starts with these irrefutable facts about air travel:
1) All passengers are confined to the same enclosed space.
2) All passengers are breathing THE SAME AIR.
3) Ebola can become airborne via very small particles in the air, and just a single Ebola virus riding on a dust particle is sufficient to infect a human being (see below).
4) Following the flight, infected passengers then intermingle with thousands of other people at the airport, each doing to a different unique destination somewhere else across the country or around the world.
5) The speed of air travel vastly out-paces the speed of governments being able to deploy infectious disease prevention teams.
A global pandemic wipeout from Ebola, in other words, could originate from a single person on a single international flight. And it could circle the globe in less than 48 hours.
Just one organism is sufficient to infect a new host
Just how much Ebola virus does it take to infect someone? Alarmingly, as the Public Health Agency of Canada explains, “1 – 10 aerosolized organisms are sufficient to cause infection in humans.” (8)
Read that again: it takes just ONE aerosolized organism (a microscopic virus riding on a dust particle) to cause a full-blown infection in humans. This is why one man vomiting on an international flight can infect dozens or hundreds of other people all at once.
Some experts fear that has already happened. As the Daily Mail reports: (1)
Nigerian health officials are in the process of trying to trace 30,000 people, believed to be at risk of contracting the highly-infectious virus, following the death of Patrick Sawyer in Lagos. It comes as Nigerian actor Jim Lyke sparked outrage, posting a picture of himself wearing an Ebola mask while sitting in a first class airport lounge as he fled Liberia.
Dave Hodges of The Commonsense Show reports: (7)
A desperate search is on to find the hundreds of passengers who flew on the same jets as Sawyer. A total of 59 passengers and crew are estimated to have come into contact with Sawyer and effort is being made to track each individual down. There is an inherent problem with this “track down”. Presumably, some of the passengers connected to other flights, which known to be the case. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that only 20 people, a low estimate given the nature of the airports that Sawyer was traveling in, were connecting to other flights, the spread of the virus would quickly expand beyond any possibility of containment because in less than a half a day, nearly a half a million people would be potentially exposed. Within a matter of a couple of hours, Sawyer’s infected fellow travelers would each have made contact with 200 other passengers and crew. Hours later, these flights would land and these people would go home to the friends, families and coworkers across several continents.
CBS News adds: (4)
“Witnesses say Sawyer, a 40-year-old Liberian Finance Ministry employee en route to a conference in Nigeria, was vomiting and had diarrhea aboard at least one of his flights with some 50 other passengers aboard. Ebola can be contracted from traces of feces or vomit, experts say.”
American family members quarantined in Texas
A U.S. doctor named Dr. Kent Brantly has reportedly contracted Ebola. “Brantly and the couple’s 3- and 5-year-old children left Liberia for a scheduled visit to the United States on July 20. Days later, Kent Brantly quarantined himself in the isolation ward of a hospital where he had been treating Ebola patients after testing positive for the disease,” reports CBS News. (3)
That same story goes on to say, “Amber Brantly and the children are in Abilene, Texas, under a 21-day fever watch,” which is essentially a quarantine. This means the necessary quarantine of American citizens on U.S. soil has already begun.
Nobody is yet talking about what all this might mean if a large U.S. city shows an outbreak of infections. Will the federal government use the military to quarantine an entire city? Ultimately, it must! And make no mistake: this possibility is already written up and on the books for national emergencies. One declaration of martial law is all that’s required to seal off an entire U.S. city at gunpoint.
Another CBS News article reports: (4)
“If it gets into a big city, that’s everybody’s worse nightmare,” said Dr. Tim Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology at University of Texas Medical Branch, in an interview with CBS News. “It gets harder to control then. How do you quarantine a big city?”
The answer, by the way, is by deploying America’s armed forces against its own citizens in a domestic national emergency scenario. Everybody in the federal government already knows that. It’s only the mainstream media that pretends such plans don’t already exist.
Ebola detection kits deployed to all 50 U.S. states
Although the federal government’s official reaction to all this is low-key, in truth the U.S. government is rapidly preparing for the possibility of an Ebola outbreak reaching the continental USA.
As reported above, the U.S. Department of Defense already has a $140 million contract awarded to Tekmira for its Ebola treatment drugs.
Additionally, as SHTFplan.com reports: (5)
The Department of Defense informed Congress that it has deployed biological diagnostic systems to National Guard support teams in all 50 states, according to a report published by the Committee on Armed Services. Some 340 Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS) units have thus far been given to emergency response personnel. The systems are “rapid, reliable, and [provide] simultaneous identification of specific biological agents and pathogens.”
On one hand, we might all applaud the government’s preparedness actions in all this. It’s smart to have diagnostic systems deployed nationwide, of course. But it begs the question: When was the government planning on telling the public about all this? Probably never. There’s no sense in causing a panic when half the people won’t survive an outbreak anyway, they figure.
The perfect bioweapon against humanity?
I also need to make you urgently aware that Ebola is a “perfect” bioweapon. Because of its ability to survive storage and still function many days, weeks or years later, it could be very easily harvested from infected victims and then preserved using nothing more than a common food dehydrator.
As the Public Health Agency of Canada explains: (8)
The virus can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days (23). Infectivity is found to be stable at room temperature or at 4 (C) for several days, and indefinitely stable at -70 C.
To translate this into laymen’s terms, this means the Ebola virus can be:
• Stored in a liquid vial and easily smuggled across international borders.
• Dehydrated and stored in a dried state, then easily smuggled.
• Frozen at very low temperatures where it remains viable indefinitely.
Once dried, contained or frozen, Ebola pathogens can be smuggled into target countries with ridiculous ease. In the United States, for example, people can literally walk right through our Southern open borders with zero security whatsoever.
Open borders is an open invitation for bioweapons terrorism
Once inside the target country, a bioweapons terrorist could then easily infect people in public transit hubs such as subway stations, airports, bus stations and so on. Unfortunately, spraying a few Ebola particles into people’s faces is ridiculously easy, especially if the terrorist carrying out the activities decides he is on a suicide mission and doesn’t care about self-exposure.
An outbreak of Ebola in a major U.S. city would quite literally threaten the public health of the entire nation. That’s why an “open borders” policy in the middle of a global Ebola outbreak is unconscionable from the point of view of public health. CDC officials must be tearing their hair out over this issue.
Think about it: America is a country where public health officials freak out and go crazy when two children acquire whooping cough in a public school in Maryland. But when tens of thousands of people are streaming into the country, unbounded, with near-zero medical scrutiny in the middle of an international Ebola outbreak, federal officials do almost nothing at all. If there is an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., this is most likely how it will arrive.
Sources for this article include:
When Dr. Peter Piot was a young scientist, in 1976, he received a shiny, blue thermos in his Antwerp lab. It was filled with the blood of a Belgium nun who worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire). The woman had fallen ill with a mysterious sickness, and Piot was asked to screen the blood for yellow fever.
“We didn’t even imagine the risk we were taking,” Piot, now the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wrote in his memoir No Time to Lose. The sample tested negative for yellow fever and a range of other pathogens. But Piot would later discover that — in that “soup of half-melted ice” and cracked vials — lurked a deadly virus he named Ebola.
Just before his discovery, Piot’s professors told him that he had no future in infectious diseases. Back then, many people believed that science had solved the problems viruses created in humans with new vaccines and antivirals. Then came Ebola — a disease for which we still have no cure — and later HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.
Piot is now one of the world’s foremost infectious diseases experts, and a former under-secretary general of the United Nations. He’s been watching the world’s largest-ever epidemic unfold from his post in London, and we spoke with him about his thoughts on the outbreak and how the global community can prevent future tragedies of this scale. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Julia Belluz: You’ve been working on Ebola since you co-discovered the virus in 1976. For nearly 40 years, this disease has largely been ignored by the international community except for brief flashes of interest, mostly spurred by Hollywood. Now we are seeing unprecedented attention and political galvanization around Ebola. What changed?
Peter Piot: In the 38 years since 1976 until this current outbreak, there have been something like 1,500 people who died in total. So that’s less than 50 deaths per year. Up to now, it was not a real public health problem. This year, nearly 3,000 have died. All 24 previous outbreaks were both time and place limited to very confined communities. Even in the worst case, Ebola would kill 300 people. Here it has involved entire countries, and it has been going on for over nine months now.
JB: But the death toll was rising rapidly for months before the international community responded. What do you think finally sparked collective action?
PP: It was the Americans getting Ebola, I’m afraid. Beyond that, I don’t know what changed it, really. Early in the second or third week of July, I gave an interview with CNN and I said this crisis requires a state of emergency and a quasi-military operation. After the interview, I thought maybe I exaggerated. But I felt that it was really getting out of hand and it looked like a completely different type of Ebola outbreak than we’d seen before. Then it took another month, so I really don’t know.
“It took 1,000 deaths before a public health emergency was declared, and cynically it took two American doctors to become infected.”
JB: Before this year, could you have imagined an Ebola outbreak of this size?
PP: I never thought it would get this big. I always thought it was an accident of history where someone becomes infected — from a bat probably — and then an outbreak is contained. Ebola came and went. I really never thought this could happen. But it shows again: when the right, or bad conditions are all combined with each other, then these things will happen again.
JB: We’ve seen a surge in the number of deaths now for weeks with no sign that the virus is slowing down. Why do you think this outbreak spun so far out of control?
PP: I think this is a result of a perfect storm of a lack of trust in authorities, in western medicine, dysfunctional health services, a belief in witchcraft as cause of disease and not viruses, traditional funeral rites, and a very slow response both nationally and internationally. The longer we wait, the longer there is an insufficient response, the worse it will get, the more difficult it will be to control this epidemic through quarantine and isolation and all the methods that worked in the past.
JB: Most of what you point out here has to do with things that we had no control over — an accident of geography, local beliefs. Can you point to a place where the ball was dropped in this Ebola response, something that should have been done to minimize the suffering in West Africa?
PP: It took more than three months to diagnosis the epidemic. The first case was in December and then they only diagnosed that it was Ebola in March. But then it took far too long before the international community did anything. That goes from the WHO, to the US, and UK governments. It took 1,000 deaths before a public health emergency was declared by the WHO, and cynically it took two American doctors to become infected. I think that’s where particularly the local office of the WHO was inadequate, that’s for sure. But it’s not just WHO. It’s the member states of the WHO, the ones who decide about the budget at the WHO.
JB: What do you think will be the lessons learned from this epidemic?
PP: This outbreak has highlighted the fact that we need to make sure we are far better equipped for epidemics in general. There will be others. But the good news is also that experimental therapies and vaccines for Ebola are now being tested for their efficacy so I think that’s positive. For the next outbreak, we should have stockpiles of vaccines and therapies.
I also think this outbreak is changing the paradigm that there will be more investment, and accelerated development of drugs for rare diseases. Another impact is that there will be a financially protected team that can deal with outbreaks at the WHO and that there will be massive support to strengthen the health systems and services in these countries.
JB: Strengthening health systems seems to be the thing we need most to make sure all nations can identify and respond to outbreaks like this, but that’s also the hardest thing to fix.
PP: I don’t think you can fix it. Each country is different. There is an illusion that there is one fix for the three neighboring countries [battling Ebola — e.g. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea]. But they all have different problems. It’s important to have a commitment to the long-term view — so when we’re talking about global health programs and international development, that there is the long-term view that includes building health systems. That’s not a matter of two or five years, that’s ten years you need as a horizon.
JB: Those long-term timelines don’t exactly square with political agendas, which are short term. What happens when the political will and interest falls away?
PP: We’ve been there before. After war, we say ‘never again.’ After Katrina, we say ‘we’ll do this and that,’ and then it gets out of the public eye. I don’t know how to do it. I hope that the Ebola epidemic is a wake up call for that if we don’t invest more in these health systems, that we are at risk for a repetition of the current Ebola crisis.
JB: What is the biggest public-health threat on the horizon?
PP: The biggest threat remains a flu pandemic. There I think we’re better prepared with early alerts and the good news is that China is quite open now. The first cases of flu often come from China. In more recent years — still fortunately small outbreaks — there was open and prompt reporting [to the international community about flu cases]. I think there we have made real progress. But I think it’ll come back to the fact that there has to be some central leadership.
By Kate Kelland
LONDON Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:28am EDT
(Reuters) – Normally it takes years to prove a new vaccine is both safe and effective before it can be used in the field. But with hundreds of people dying a day in the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, there is no time to wait.
In an effort to save lives, health authorities are determined to roll out potential vaccines within months, dispensing with some of the usual testing, and raising unprecedented ethical and practical questions.
“Nobody knows yet how we will do it. There are lots of tough real-world deployment issues and nobody has the full answers yet,” said Adrian Hill, who is conducting safety trials on healthy volunteers of an experimental Ebola shot developed by GlaxoSmithKline.
Hill, a professor and director at the Jenner Institute at Britain’s University of Oxford, says that if his results show no adverse side-effects, GSK’s new shot could used in people in West Africa by the end of this year.
Even if a drug is shown to be safe, it takes longer to prove it is effective – time that is simply not available when cases of Ebola infection are doubling every few weeks and projected by the World Health Organization to reach 20,000 by November.
Among questions that scientists are grappling with: should an unproven vaccine be given to everybody, or just a few? Should it be offered to healthcare workers first? The young before the old? Should it be used first in Liberia where Ebola is spreading fastest, or Guinea where it is closer to being under control?
Should people be told to assume it will protect them from Ebola? Or should they take all the protective measures they would if they hadn’t been vaccinated? And if so, how will anyone know whether the vaccine works?
GSK is one of several drug firms that have either started or announced plans for human trials of candidate Ebola vaccines. Others include Johnson & Johnson, NewLink, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Profectus Biosciences.
The WHO says it hopes to see small-scale use of the first experimental Ebola vaccines in the West Africa outbreak by January next year.
It has convened vaccine specialists, epidemiologists, pharmaceutical companies and ethicists, for a meeting on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the moral and practical issues.
“Normally safety is the absolutely paramount thing when you’re developing a new vaccine, but this time we’re going to have to take more risks,” said Brian Greenwood, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who will take part in the WHO-led meeting.
“Quite how we do that, and what risks we take, hasn’t really been thought through yet. That’s what people are trying to figure out.”
TWO THINGS AT THE SAME TIME
The chaos caused by the epidemic itself makes it even more difficult to deploy and track use of a new vaccine, said Hill.
“You’re trying to do two things at the same time: you’re trying to evaluate a vaccine and deploy it – when normally you would evaluate the vaccine first, by doing a randomized double blind controlled trial, and then you’d deploy it if it was shown to be safe and effective.”
Because Ebola virus is so deadly, those who receive a trial vaccine must be told to take all other precautions and protect themselves fully. This could make it harder for researchers to decipher whether the protective clothing and safety protocols, or the new vaccine, is what kept them safe.
Normally researchers testing a vaccine would give some volunteers a placebo, or dummy, to create a “control” group to compare against those who get the real drug. That seems unthinkable in a situation where disease with a death rate of up to 90 percent is raging through villages.
“Would it be ethical to do a trial where some people don’t get the vaccine because they are in the control group? Most people think it wouldn’t be – especially if you have reasonable evidence that the vaccine might work,” said Hill.
Jeremy Farrar, an infectious diseases expert and director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity, said limited supplies of any candidate vaccine could result in a form of natural control group being formed anyway. Researchers can compare populations where the vaccine is available with those where it isn’t.
GSK has said it is aiming to have 10,000 doses of its experimental shot by the end of the year, while Canada has given 800 vials of the NewLink candidate vaccine to the WHO, expected to yield at least 1,500 doses.
Most experts interviewed by Reuters favor the idea of the first doses going to frontline healthcare workers, since their exposure to risk is so high. Researchers could then compare infection rates among health workers who receive the vaccine to those working in regions still waiting for it.
Peter Piot, a co-discoverer of the Ebola virus in 1976 and now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that however complicated the ethics, reverting to the traditional years-long process of testing vaccines, and withholding them from West Africa until then, is not an option.
“It may be that without a vaccine, we can’t really stop this epidemic,” he said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Peter Graff)
The Associated Press Posted: Sep 19, 2014 9:36 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 19, 2014 7:34 PM ET
Sierra Leone confined its 6 million people to their homes Friday for the next three days as the Ebola-ravaged West African country began what was believed to be the most sweeping lockdown against disease since the Middle Ages.
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In a desperate effort to bring the outbreak under control, thousands of health care workers began going house to house in crowded urban neighbourhoods and remote villages, hoping to find and isolate infected people.
President Ernest Bai Koroma urged his countrymen to co-operate.
“The survival and dignity of each and every Sierra Leonean is at stake,” he said Thursday night in an address to the nation.
Health officials said they planned to urge the sick to leave their homes and seek treatment. There was no immediate word on whether people would be forcibly removed, though authorities warned that anyone on the streets during the lockdown without an emergency pass would be subject to arrest.
‘Many of our people have died’
More than 2,600 people have died in West Africa over the past nine months in the biggest outbreak of the virus ever recorded, with Sierra Leone accounting for more than 560 of those deaths.
Many fear the crisis will grow far worse, in part because sick people afraid of dying at treatment centres are hiding in their homes, potentially infecting others.
Police guard a roadblock as Sierra Leone’s government enforces a three-day lockdown on movement of all people in an attempt to fight the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Friday. (Michael Duff/Associated Press)
However, international experts warned there might not be enough beds for new patients found during the lockdown, which runs through Sunday.
Most people seemed to be taking the order seriously, and there were no immediate reports of resistance.
“It will protect our country from this dangerous virus,” said Ishmail Bangura, a Freetown resident. “Many of our people have died — nurses and doctors, too — so if they ask us to stay home for three days, for me it is not bad.”
Attacks on aid workers, journalists
Across West Africa, health care workers have been attacked by villagers who accused them of spreading Ebola. Some citizens have also violently resisted efforts to quarantine them.
In the latest case of violence against health care workers, six suspects have been arrested in the killings of eight people in Guinea who were on an Ebola education campaign, the Guinean government said Friday.
The victims were attacked by villagers armed with rocks and knives. The dead included three local journalists.
As the lockdown took effect, wooden tables lay empty at the capital’s usually vibrant markets, and only a dog scrounging for food could be seen on one normally crowded street in Freetown.
Amid the heat and frequent power cuts, many residents sat on their front porches, chatting with neighbours.
Ambulances were on standby to bring any sick people to the hospital for isolation. The health care workers also planned to hand out 1.5 million bars of soap and dispense advice on Ebola.
“We hope and pray that when we talk to people they will take it as counselling,” said Rebecca Sesay, a community Ebola education team leader. “That is why we are all out here.”
Largest lockdown in recent history
The World Health Organization said it has no record of any previous nationwide shutdown of this scale and suggested it has not happened since the plague devastated Europe during the Middle Ages.
Guinea’s Red Cross health workers wear protective suits at an Ebola treatment centre in Conakry, Guinea’s capital city. (Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images)
The closest parallel seems to have been a plague scare in India in 1994, when officials closed off a region around the city of Surat, shutting down schools, offices, movie theatres and banks.
UNICEF said the government campaign provides an opportunity to tell people how to protect themselves.
“If people don’t have access to the right information, we need to bring lifesaving messages to them, where they live, at their doorsteps,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF representative in Sierra Leone.
In a statement, the UN children’s agency said the operation needs to be carried out “in a sensitive and respectful manner.”
Team of health workers and journalists helping fight Ebola found dead in Guinea
Nine Guineans, including three reporters, went missing after being attacked in village.
Their bodies were found Thursday, government spokesperson says.
BY Deborah Hastings
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 5:26 PM
A team of medical workers and journalists trying to raise awareness about the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa have been found dead in Guinea, authorities said Thursday.
The group had disappeared after being attacked in a remote village near the city of Nzerekore.
Villagers had pelted the nine Guineans with stones as they visited. The government said eight bodies were recovered. Among the dead were three radio journalists. Their identities have not been revealed.
The team was believed to have been held captive before the death of its members. Health workers in other areas have been attacked by villagers who mistakenly believed the visitors were actually spreading the fatal virus.
The current Ebola outbreak was first identified in the country in March. More than 2,600 people have died in surrounding countries, including Sierra Leone and Liberia.