Thursday, 29 February, 2024
HomeFocusWHO launches multi-million dollar Ebola plan

WHO launches multi-million dollar Ebola plan

The worst ever Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700 people in [s]West Africa[/s] and is moving faster than efforts to control it, the head of the [b]World Health Organisation (WHO)[/b] warned. [s]Associated Press[/s] reports that Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, said the meeting in [b]Guinea’s[/b] capital [b]Conakry[/b] ‘must be a turning point’ in the battle against Ebola, which is now sickening people in three African capitals for the first time. WHO has launched a $100m response plan that includes deploying hundreds more health care workers but [b]Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)[/b] said the WHO pledge ‘needs to translate to immediate and effective action.’ Chan emphasised that the general public ‘is not at high risk of infection,’ but also said: ‘Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.’

[b]West African[/b] leaders have agreed to take stronger measures, including steps to isolate rural communities, reports [s]Reuters Health[/s]. They agreed to deploy security forces to isolate the frontier regions where 70% of the 1,323 cases have been detected. They banned the cross-border transportation of anyone showing signs of disease, and pledged strict controls at international airports. They agreed to step up protection of local healthcare workers and to encourage them to return to work.

The [b]US National Institutes of Health[/b] will begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine in people as early as September, reports [s]CNN[/s]. The agency has been working on the vaccine over the past few years and has seen positive results when testing on primates. This comes as the [b]Centres for Disease Control and Prevention[/b] raised its travel alert [b]for Guinea, Liberia[/b] and [b]Sierra Leone[/b] from level two to level three, warning against any nonessential travel to the region. The CDC is sending 50 additional personnel to the three countries.

In [b]Liberia's[/b] capital of [b]Monrovia[/b], relatives of Ebola victims were dragging bodies onto the dirt streets rather than face quarantine, officials are quoted in a [s]Daily Maverick[/s] report as saying. [b]Information Minister[/b] Lewis Brown said some people may be alarmed by regulations imposing the decontamination of victims' homes and the tracking of their friends and relatives. With less than half of those infected surviving the disease, many Africans regard Ebola isolation wards as death traps.

The risk of the virus moving to other continents was low, disease spec ialists quoted in a [s]Business Day[/s] report said. ‘The most important thing is good surveillance of everyone who has been in contact or could have been exposed,’ said Prof David Heymann, head of global health security at [b]Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs[/b].

Professor Lucille Blumberg, a deputy director at [b]SA’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD)[/b] pointed out that unlike the [b]US[/b] or the [b]UK, SA[/b] deals with different viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHF) on a daily basis – for example, regularly testing for Congo Fever or Rift Valley Fever. [s]Health24[/s] reports that [b]WHO[/b] has advised that given the frequency of travel between SA and western Africa, there is a risk of Ebola being imported into SA. ‘But overall this risk is thought to be low,’ it said. It has warned SA to treat healthcare or international agency workers with ‘a high index of suspicion’, advising that a detailed history of travel and contact with suspected cases is ‘extremely important’. The SA [b]Department of Health[/b] says, meanwhile, that it ‘has taken the necessary steps to detect and treat cases if they arrive in the country’.

However, Dr Ayo Olowolagba, head of the [b]Communicable Disease Services for eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal[/b], said Ebola could be the new Black Death and ‘we’re not doing enough’ to stop it entering SA. Dr Olowolagba is quoted in the [s]Sunday Tribune[/s]: ‘Illegal immigrants entering the country are a serious threat and should be our biggest concern. They could bring the virus into the country because monitoring this is beyond the control of authorities,’ said Olowolagba. Spokesperson for the DOH, Joe Maila, said that surveillance for viral haemorrhagic fevers has been strengthened at all ports of entry.

[b]Ghana[/b] is the first country to put a travel ban on [s]N[b][/b]igeria[/s] over Ebola. According to a [s]Premium Times[/s] report, flights from N[b][/b]igeria were banned, alongside those from [b]Guinea, Liberia[/b] and [b]Sierra Leone[/b].

An experimental serum used in the treatment of two US missionaries who contracted Ebola has raised hopes of an effective treatment for the disease after doctors reported a ‘miraculous’ improvement in the health of one of them. [s]CNN[/s] reports that the experimental drug, known as [b]ZMapp[/b], was developed by the biotech firm [b]Mapp Biopharmaceutical[/b]. The patients were told that the treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

Three companies, the [b]US[/b] government and the [b]Public Health Agency of Canada[/b] are behind the experimental drug, reports [s]BBC News[/s]. ‘ZMapp was first identified as a drug candidate in January 2014 and has not yet been evaluated for safety in humans. As such, very little of the drug is currently available,’ Mapp Biopharmaceutical said. ‘Mapp and its partners are co-operating with appropriate government agencies to increase production as quickly as possible.’

‘The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on this planet is the virus,’ the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Joshua Lederberg is quoted in an article in [s]The New Yorker[/s] as saying. Michael Specter writes there is no bomb, no poison, no plan of attack with the potential to do as much damage. He notes, however, that although Ebola is truly deadly, the many lurid headlines predicting a global pandemic miss a central point. Ebola won’t kill us all, but something else might, he says.

Meanwhile, resources being diverted to fight Ebola has hampered efforts to fight a cholera epidemic in northern [b]Cameroon[/b], which has killed at least 65 people and probably infected about 1,300 people in two months, reports [s]Reuters Health[/s]. And, health experts say, the insurgency by [b]Islamist[/b] sect [b]Boko Haram[/b] was also hampering efforts to control the outbreak. The death toll isexpected to climb as more cases are confirmed by laboratory testing.

[link url=]Full Associated Press report[/link]
[link url=]Full Reuters Health report[/link]
[link url=]Full Daily Maverick report[/link]
[link url=;jsessionid=69E891DC09EBACBEF9136F9EC81C3975.present2.bdfm]Full Business Day report[/link]
[link url=]Full Health24 report[/link]
[link url=]Full Sunday Tribune report (subscription needed)[/link]
[link url=]Full Premium Times report[/link]

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