UN: Ebola ‘a threat to international peace and security’

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

With the death toll rising rapidly, the [b]UN Security Council[/b] has declared the Ebola outbreak in [b]West Africa[/b] a ‘threat to international peace and security’. [s]Reuters Health[/s] reports that UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon said: ‘The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency.’ He added that he will appoint a special envoy to head the [b]UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response[/b], which will push a ‘rapid and massive mobilisation’ of people, material and financial resources.

Between 550,000 and 1.4m people in West Africa could be infected with the Ebola virus by 20 January, 2015, according to the [b]US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[/b]. [s]SABC News[/s] reports that the top estimate assumes that the official number of cases, 5,864 according to the [b]World Health Organisation (WHO)[/b], is significantly under reported. CDC emphasised that the projections, from an epidemiological model based on data available in August, do not account for the recently announced [b]US[/b] relief effort. A [b]WHO[/b] update puts the number of dead health workers in [b]Sierra Leone[/b] at 61, out of a total of 96 who had the virus. The revised figure is higher than the previous estimated health worker mortality rate of four out of 10.
Full SABC News report

South Africa’s Department of Health[/b] will set up a R10m 40-bed field hospital in [b]Sierra Leone[/b] within a month. [s]The Times[/s] reports that the tented unit will have back-up power generators and a medical-waste disposal system, including an incinerator. The plan is to send about 211 staff to the hospital: doctors, 111 nurses, 41 nursing assistants and 30 support staff and about 10 epidemiologists.

Aid agencies have warned that a shortage of volunteers to staff the new Ebola clinics and hospitals the international community is building in [b]West Africa[/b] threatens efforts to bring the virus rapidly under control. ‘The missing link is staff,’ Athalia Christie, deputy for global health at the [b]US CDC[/b] is quoted in [s]Reuters Health[/s] as saying. Each 100-bed Ebola treatment centre under construction needs 230 trained staff, US officials said. That would mean nearly 4,000 personnel for the [b]Liberian[/b] facilities due to start opening in October and it is unclear where they will come from.

A three-day curfew aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak in [b]Sierra Leone[/b] has been declared a success by authorities, reports [s]BBC News[/s]. They say more than a million households were surveyed and 130 new cases discovered. Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst affected by the outbreak, with nearly 600 of the almost 2,800 total deaths recorded so far. Some health groups criticised the lockdown, however, saying it would destroy trust between patients and doctors.

Concern that the virus could gain capability to transmit through the air was fuelled by a top infectious disease expert, Michael Osterholm, director of the [b]Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy[/b] at the [b]University of Minnesota[/b]. Yet, [s]Reuters Health[/s] reports, many other virus and infectious disease specialists say that while the prospect of an airborne Ebola virus is not impossible, it isextremely remote. Dr Anthony Fauci of the [b]US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases[/b] told a US senate hearing that the changes so far observed in Ebola, while prolific, were generally ‘not associated with a biological change or a biological function’ of the virus, meaning they were highly unlikely to give it the ability to transmit in droplets in the air.

A black market for the blood of Ebola survivors is emerging in the epicentre of the outbreak in [b]West Africa[/b], according to the [b]WHO[/b]. Blood from Ebola survivors is rich with antibodies against the deadly virus, and since there is currently no approved drug to fight it, some have become desperate enough to take fate into their own hands and turn to the black market for the experimental serum. [s]The Independent[/s] reports that it’s unclear how successful convalescent serum has been in treating Ebola, but with close to half of its victims still alive, the potential pool of donors is substantial. In addition to WHO’s work, doctors at [b]Emory University Hospital[/b] in [b]Atlanta[/b] and [b]Nebraska Medical Centre[/b] in [b]Omaha[/b] are building a registry of survivors by blood type to help future victims.

A woman in [b]Oxford, England[/b] has become the first [b]UK[/b] volunteer to be injected with an experimental Ebola vaccine. And, reports [s]The Guardian[/s], in an unprecedented move, the untested vaccine has already gone into mass production. Some 10,000 doses are being manufactured by the UK drug company [b]GlaxoSmithKline[/b], funded by the [b]Wellcome Trust[/b] and the UK government, which are also supporting the Oxford trial. If the vaccine is effective, there will be supplies available to protect thousands of health workers in [b]West Africa[/b], who will be the first to receive it.

At least 98 people have reportedly been placed under Ebola quarantine in [b]Harare[/b], as [b]Zimbabwe[/b] takes steps to strictly monitor visitors coming into the country. [s]News24[/s] reports that according to reports, 84 of the 98 people who have been quarantined came from [b]Nigeria[/b]. A recent [b]SADC[/b] summit recommended that people entering any SADC country from an affected country would be subject to screening. This was in accordance with the [b]WHO[/b] guidelines. [b]Harare City Council[/b] health director Prosper Chonzi is quoted as saying: ‘Anyone coming from West Africa, they are screened first at the ports of entry and if they do not have any signs and symptoms, we do not put them under quarantine, but we put them under surveillance for 21 days.’

In the [s]New England Journal of Medicine[/s], the [b]WHO[/b] Ebola response team gives an analysis of the first nine months of the epidemic and forward projections. The journal also carries a collection of articles and other resources on the Ebola outbreak, including clinical reports, management guidelines, and commentary.

Full Reuters Health report
Full report in The Times
Full Reuters Health report
Full BBC News report
Full Reuters Health report
Full report in The Independent
Full report in The Guardian
Full News24 report
New England Journal of Medicine article summary
New England Medical Journal editorial
NEMJ clinical reports and commentary

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