Viruses and pathogens

  • Lack of federal authority makes fashioning coherent national Ebola policy difficult

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issued new guidelines on how states should deal with travelers from Ebola-stricken regions, but a lack of federal authority to mandate such guidelines has led to conflicting strategies, varying from state to state, which includes mandatory at-home quarantine for some travelers. Under current U.S. law, the states have the authority to issue quarantine or isolation policies, and they also control the enforcement of these policies within their territories.

  • Infection projections: how the spread of Ebola is calculated

    Ebola is an example of an emerging infectious disease (EID): one that has newly appeared in a population or has undergone a rapid increase in incidence. Bioinformatics plays a key role in detecting, monitoring and responding to EIDs. In the case of Ebola, the bioinformatics community has responded rapidly. For example, the current outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone was first detected in May, but by September a study reported sequencing 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients diagnosed with the disease between late May and mid-June. Bioinformaticians have been developing and refining algorithms for sequence assembly since the late 1980s, and are constantly adapting them so they can handle new sequencing technologies and ever-larger scales of assembly. Bioinformatics is, and will continue to be, a core component of the international response to Ebola and other EIDs, and patients, medical staff and those close to them need all the help they can get.

  • Legality of mandatory quarantine of asymptomatic individuals questioned

    Roughly three decades ago, patients in New York were forced into isolationafter an outbreak of tuberculosis, and about seventy years before that, an influenza pandemic led to mass quarantine in major American cities. Today, fear of an Ebola outbreak in the United States has led some states to mandate quarantine of individuals suspected of having the Ebola virus, but legal analysts question the legality of such measures.

  • Experts consider implications of Ebola strain being stolen from lab

    As the Ebola virus continues to plague several Americans and Europeans and thousands in Africa, researchers are beginning to examine the outcomes should a strain of Ebola be stolen from a testing laboratory. Many scientists in U.S. labs study the Ebola virus in order to find out how they can fight it. They wonder, however, what set of procedures are in place if a sample of the virus was stolen.

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  • Insurance companies now write Ebola exclusions into policies; offer Ebola-related products

    U.S. and British insurance companies have begun to write Ebola exclusions into their policies for hospitals, event organizers, airliners, and other businesses vulnerable to disruption from the disease. As a result, new policies and renewals will become more expensive for firms looking to insure business travel to West Africa or to cover the risk of losses from Ebola-driven business interruptions (BI).The cost of insuring an event against Ebola, for example, would likely be triple the amount of normal cancellation insurance — if the venue was in a region not known to be affected by the virus.

  • Private cleaning firms had to improvise when cleaning apartments of U.S. Ebola patients

    Officials responsible for disinfecting the Ebola-infected homes of Thomas Eric Duncan’s fiancee, and of the two nurses he infected, relied on best decontamination practices, but note that an official manual for responding to a home contaminated with the Ebola virus was nonexistent at the time. OSHA recently announced official guidelines for “Cleaning and Decontamination of Ebola on Surfaces” for workers and employers in non-healthcare/non-laboratory settings.

  • First New York Ebola case confirmed

    Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors without Borders in Guinea and treating Ebola patients before returning to New York City on 14 October, was taken to Bellevue Hospital yesterday (Thursday) and placed in strict isolation. Tests later determined that he had contracted the Ebola virus. Spencer is the first New Yorker diagnosed with Ebola. As if in anticipation of a case like Dr. Spencer’s, more than 5,000 healthcare workers in New York participated in a three-hour session earlier this week to prepare for Ebola should an infected person arrive in the New York City region.

  • RMS develops probabilistic model of West African Ebola outbreak

    Current outbreak has the potential to be the deadliest infectious disease event since the 1918 flu pandemic. The outbreak will worsen and could reach as many as 1,400 new cases per day within a month, according to pandemic risk experts. According to a new model developed by RMS, until a tipping point is reached at which the number of new daily cases declines rather than increases, the severity of the outbreak will continue to multiply, with the total number of new cases approximately doubling each month.

  • Connecticut issues new Ebola guidelines

    Officials in Connecticut have issued new guidelines which require individuals returning from West Africa with no symptoms of Ebola to be quarantined for twenty-one days. Although the guidelines require travelers with no symptoms of Ebola to be quarantined at home, state Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen recently said that her office would review each quarantine-eligible case before enforcing the measure.

  • Ebola kills, but it may be immunizing others at the same time

    As Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, it may be silently immunizing large numbers of people who never fall ill or infect others, yet become protected from future infection. If such immunity is confirmed, it would have significant ramifications on projections of how widespread the disease will be and could help determine strategies that health workers use to contain the disease.

  • U.S. officials mull quarantines, other options should Ebola spread

    With the possibility of a wider spread of Ebola in the United States, U.S. officials are weighing the legal authority of instituting quarantines, while also keeping public panic to a minimum. while medical expertise and updated guidelines have been provided by the CDC, federal government officials are also considering the implications of quarantines, bans on travel to-and-from other countries, and public health emergency declarations which could tap into more earmarked funds for larger operations.

  • Congress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

    Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

  • States’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

  • WHO missed several opportunities last spring to prevent outbreak from spreading

    The global response to the Ebola epidemic has been slow and inadequate, according to aid organizations and governments in West Africa. The World Health Organization(WHO), the United Nationsagency tasked with coordinating international response to disease outbreaks, missed opportunities to prevent the disease from spreading when it was first diagnosed last spring, according to a draft internal WHO report.

  • Responses to Ebola markedly different from responses to AIDS

    While there are some similarities between the AIDS epidemic and the Ebola outbreak, the response to the diseases by health officials and governments are completely different. The global response to Ebola has been swift compared to the response to AIDS, which was identified in 1981 but which did not receive international intervention until the mid-1990s, when the United Nations’ UNAIDS program was launched.