What a mess, right? While we here at the Pandora Report have been watching the Ebola outbreak in West Africa since March, it seems coverage in the news media has reached a fever pitch as the effects of the virus reach further and further.
This week we cover Ebola—a case in Nigeria, the evacuation of Peace Corps, the transfer of patients to the U.S. and treating the disease.
Early in the week we learned of the first case of Ebola in Nigeria. It is important to note in this case, that the virus was imported from an American man, Patrick Sawyer, who travelled from Liberia. Fears rose over the importation to Africa’s most populous capital city—Lagos—and the hospital he was in was evacuated and is going through the process of decontamination.
Reuters UK—“Authorities were monitoring 59 people who were in contact with Sawyer, including airport contacts, the Lagos state health ministry said, but it said the airline had yet to provide a passenger list for the flights Sawyer used.
Derek Gatherer, a virologist at Britain’s University of Lancaster, said anyone on the plane near Sawyer could be in “pretty serious danger,” but that Nigeria was better placed to tackle the outbreak than its neighbors.”
On Wednesday, the Peace Corps announced the evacuation of 340 volunteers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Two volunteers from Liberia, however, were unable to leave. It is reported that the volunteers had contact with an individual who died from Ebola; they have to remain in an isolation ward for 21 days before leaving.
The Peace Corps—“The Peace Corps has enjoyed long partnerships with the government and people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and is committed to continuing volunteers’ work there. A determination on when volunteers can return will be made at a later date.”
News came this week that two Americans infected with Ebola would be transferred to the U.S. for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been working at a treatment center in Liberia, was flown on a jet with a special containment area for patients with infectious diseases. He walked into Emory Hospital on Saturday unaided and is the first case of Ebola to arrive in the U.S.
Emory has an isolation unit built 12 years ago to treat patients exposed to highly infectious diseases.
Wall Street Journal—“Bruce Ribner, an infectious-diseases doctor and head of a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital, said Friday there were good reasons to airlift the two to Emory. “We can deliver a substantially higher level of care, a substantially higher level of support, to optimize the likelihood that those patients will survive this episode,” he said.
Dr. Ribner added that he was “cautiously optimistic” the two have a good chance of recovery once they reach Emory, and that the transfer would be safe.”
Vaccine development for Ebola has been being worked on for years, but with the increasing severity of this outbreak in West Africa, there has been discussion in the U.S. about fast-tracking vaccine trials for this virus. Even with this option—once approval is received from the FDA—many doubts persist and scientists who study the virus warn that the success is hardly guaranteed. Even if the vaccine proves to be effective in tests, questions remain as to who would receive it and how to figure out optimal dosages.
In short, even the development of vaccine candidates does not ensure success or virus eradication.
The New York Times—“The vaccine to be tested in humans relies on a benign virus that carries two proteins from the surface of the Ebola virus. The proteins help the virus penetrate human cells. If successful, the immune system will be trained to recognize the proteins and to mount a strong response should it encounter the virus.”
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