Viruses and pathogens

  • U.S. to commit 4,000 soldiers, $750 million in the next six months to fight Ebola in Africa

    The Pentagon’s effort to help eradicate Ebola in West Africa will require roughly 4,000 American soldiers, cost $750 million for the next six months, and may last longer than a year.American troops will help build seven testing labs and seventeen treatment facilities by mid-November, but troops will be on the ground in Liberia for at least a year.A majority of U.S. soldiers will not come in direct contact with Ebola patients, but a few dozen troops trained to operate in nuclear, biological, and chemical environments will be assigned to testing labs.

  • Texas officials question state preparedness for an outbreak

    Following the death of Texas Ebola patient Thomas Duncan, many leaders in Texas are considering whether the state is prepared to handle a more wide scale public health emergency. The problem, analysts say, is that many local health departments in the state are run autonomously, and have split funding between local, state, and federal sources. As a result, they are not often all held to the same standard, and these disparities could be what would ultimately lead to disjointedness and failure to respond properly to an outbreak.

  • The U.S. is not at risk of an Ebola epidemic: Experts

    The United States is highly unlikely to suffer an Ebola outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). Although U.S. hospitals have not had to deal with Ebola in the past, Western health institutions have studiedthe disease since it was first discovered in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, positioning the CDC better to inform the public about Ebola, its symptoms, and how it spreads.

  • Computing for Ebola Challenge

    Researchers at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) have been using a combination of modeling techniques to predict the spread of the Ebola outbreak. As part of those efforts, the team created an adaptable set of global synthetic populations, allowing for rapid response as the situation continues to unfold. The synthetic populations and other informatics resources are now openly available to aid other researchers and citizen scientists. The NDSSL is hosting a Computing for Ebola Challenge from 3 October to 10 October 2014. The goal of the hackathon is to develop an application to combat the Ebola epidemic. All are welcome to join.

  • Candidates of both parties use Ebola crisis to attack opponents

    Democratic and Republican campaign officials are uncertain about the political ramifications of Ebola’s arrival in the United States, but some congressional candidates have already used the topic to connect with voters. A poll by the National Republican Senatorial Committee(NRSC), the campaign group for Senate Republicans, found that 60 percent of voters believe Ebola should be treated as a major crisis by the White House if a single case of Ebola is found in the United States. Even congressional Democrats who have been supportive of Obama’s position toward the Ebola crises have used the Ebola epidemic against opponents.

  • CDC urges hospitals to follow Ebola-related protocols

    The CDC had called for medical facilities to be on high-alert for Ebola-like symptoms, but these plans are only as effective as the practices of each hospital, and the recent Dallas case was marked by a mix-up at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. “We’re reiterating the message for every health worker in this country — think about travel history. If someone’s been in West Africa within twenty-one days and they’ve got a fever, immediately isolate them and get them tested for Ebola,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said.

  • Securiport’s advanced biometric immigration control systems help in fight against Ebola

    Securiport says it is supporting the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa by providing advanced biometric screening technologies and comprehensive contact tracing data analytics to help governments and health organizations monitor and control the spread of the virus. The company’s immigration control systems are now in place across a total of seven West African nations, including Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

  • Dallas Ebola patient was sent home as a result of a flaw in software used by many hospitals

    Before Thomas Eric Duncan was placed in isolation for Ebola at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospitalon 28 September, he sought care for fever and abdominal pain three days earlier, but was sent home. During his initial visit to the hospital, Duncan told a nurse that he had recently traveled to West Africa — a sign that should have led hospital staff to test Duncan for Ebola. Instead, Duncan’s travel record was not shared with doctors who examined him later that day. This was the result of a flaw in the way the physician and nursing portions of our electronic health records (EHR).EHR software, used by many hospitals, contains separate workflows for doctors and nurses.

  • Sandia researchers find clues to superbug evolution

    Imagine going to the hospital with one disease and coming home with something much worse, or not coming home at all. With the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistance pathogens, healthcare-associated infections have become a serious threat. On any given day about one in twenty-five hospital patients has at least one such infection and as many as one in nine die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A team of Sandia National Laboratories microbiologists for the first time recently sequenced the entire genome of a Klebsiella pneumoniae strain, encoding New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1). Klebsiella pneumoniae is not typically a ferocious pathogen, but now armed with resistance to virtually all antibiotics in current clinical use.

  • Quarantine works against Ebola but over-use risks disaster

    Quarantine, in the form of isolation, is an important component of the response to Ebola infection. As people are infectious only once they develop symptoms, isolating them and having health-care workers use personal protective equipment significantly reduces the risk of onward transmission. While quarantine is an important weapon in our arsenal against Ebola, indiscriminate isolation is counterproductive. The World Health Organization has warned that closing country borders and banning the movement of people is detrimental to the affected countries, pushing them closer to an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Still, this didn’t stop Sierra Leone from imposing a stay-at-home curfew for all of its 6.2 million citizens for three days from 19 to 21 September. Quarantine is an excellent measure for containing infectious disease outbreaks, but its indiscriminate and widespread use will compound this epidemic with another humanitarian disaster.

  • U.S. hospitals unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste

    A board of biological safety experts has warned that many U.S. hospitals may be unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste safely, should the disease arrive in any great number within the mainland. Many waste management companies are refusing to perform any service where waste items – such as soiled sheets and medical protective gear involved with treating the disease – would have to be handled. They cite federal guidelines which state that such items would require special training and packaging by people with hazardous materials training.

  • CDC: First Ebola case diagnosed outside Africa; patient being treated in Dallas, Texas

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday evening announced the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the current outbreak, which has so far killed more than 3,000 people this year. The CDC said the patient left Liberia on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until 24 September, when he was already in Dallas. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday, 27 September. The possibility of treating the patient with experimental therapies was being discussed with the patient’s family. If the Texas patient receives the experimental treatment for Ebola, he will be the fifth to do so in the United States (a sixth American – a carrier of dual American-Liberian citizenship who worked for Liberia’s Ministry of the Treasury – contracted the disease in Monrovia in July and dies a few days later in a Lagos, Nigeria hospital). The FDA has issued warning letters to three privately held companies marketing what they claim are treatments to prevent or treat Ebola.

  • Contrary to scientific evidence, the media continue to fan fears of airborne Ebola infection

    Despite solid evidence presented by scientists to quell rumors that the deadly Ebola virus could be passed through the air, many American media outlets continue to raise alarm and fuel debates with flimsy sources.These outlets publish articles which revive an earlier scientific debate over whether the Ebola virus can be transmitted through the air — but scientists say this debate has been decided, and that the Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air.

  • Ancient plague offers insights on how to improve treatments for infections

    Dangerous new pathogens such as the Ebola virus invoke scary scenarios of deadly epidemics, but even ancient scourges such as the bubonic plague are still providing researchers with new insights on how the body responds to infections. Researchers have detailed how the Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague hitchhike on immune cells in the lymph nodes and eventually ride into the lungs and the blood stream, where the infection is easily transmitted to others. The insight provides a new avenue to develop therapies that block this host immune function rather than target the pathogens themselves — a tactic that often leads to antibiotic resistance.

  • Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

    The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”