Public health

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Some steps taken by schools, businesses for fear of Ebola seen as excessive

    The plane carrying Amber Joy Vinson, the second Texas nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola, on the trip she took to from Cleveland to Dallas,is now in isolation in a Denver hangar.The 800 passengers who flew on the same planes as Vinson are being asked to self-quarantine for roughly twenty-one days. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas has postponed recruiting applicants from Africa. Some see these and similar measures as excessive.

  • 21-day quarantine for Ebola may not be enough to prevent spread of virus: Study

    As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. A new study looks at the murky basis for our knowledge about the virus, namely previous outbreaks in Africa in 1976 (Zaire) and 2000 (Uganda), as well as the first nine months of the current outbreak, and suggests that twenty-one days might not be enough completely to prevent spread of the virus.

  • Medical advances should not lead to complacency regarding possible flu pandemic: Scientists

    There have been five such pandemics in the past 100 years, the worst of which — the 1918 Spanish Flu — cost fifty million lives worldwide. As our ability to assess the pandemic risk from strains of influenza virus increases with the latest scientific developments, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent that the most substantial threats have been identified, argue an international consortium of scientists.

  • CDC assigns risk management teams to hospitals

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that it would send a team of experts to any hospital in the country with a confirmed Ebola case, saying that if such a precaution had been taken at the recent botched infection case on 8 October in Dallas, Texas that facility staff would not have been at risk for infection. These disease control specialists will be able to manage situations including infection control, lab science, personal protective equipment, and the overall management of Ebola units and wards.

  • CDC’s disease detectives help deal with Ebola crisis

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service(EIS) is the federal government’s intelligence gathering arm for mysterious or unidentified diseases anywhere in the world.The program is staffed with postdoctoral fellows who often go on to hold significant positions in public health or medical academia. The United States Public Health Service (now the CDC) established the EIS in 1951 out of concerns about biological warfare against the U.S. homeland during the Korean War.

  • IAEA to provide nuclear detection technology to help diagnose Ebola in West Africa

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would provide specialized diagnostic equipment to help Sierra Leone in its efforts to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. Later, the support is planned to be extended to Liberia and Guinea. The support is in line with a UN Security Council appeal and responds to a request from Sierra Leone. The IAEA assistance will supplement the country’s ability to diagnose EVD quickly using a diagnostic technology known as Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). RT-PCR is a nuclear-derived technology which allows EVD to be detected within a few hours, while other methods require growing on a cell culture for several days before a diagnosis is determined.

  • How are nurses becoming infected with Ebola?

    WHO, CDC, and health authorities in many countries recommend health workers treating Ebola wear surgical masks for protection, along with other personal protective equipment such gowns, gloves, and goggles. A glaring inconsistency of these guidelines is that lab scientists working with Ebola are recommended to use respirators, which offer more protection than surgical masks, while masks are deemed adequate for doctors and nurses at the front line. The hospital ward, however, is a far more contaminated and volatile environment than the sterile, highly controlled lab, and nurses have the closest contact with patients, and deserve all available protection for their occupational health and safety. In most responses, lack of knowledge about infection control may not be critical, but in the case of Ebola it may cost lives. The price of getting it wrong with flu guidelines might be a week in bed, but for Ebola it is far more likely to be death. The risk analysis equation we need to use must consider not only the probability of Ebola turning up on our shores, but also the consequences.

  • U.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.