TIME ebola

WHO Politics Interfered With Ebola Response, Panel Says

The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .
Raphael Satter — AP The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .

Office politics were largely responsible for the WHO's slow Ebola outbreak response, a panel says

An advisory panel selected to assess the response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Ebola outbreak blamed the agency’s politics and rigid culture for the poor response to the epidemic. The outbreak has infected more than 27,500 people and killed more than 11,200 in West Africa.

In a report published Tuesday, the panel blamed the organization as a whole for being late in activating emergency procedures, despite early warnings from other groups like Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. The panel concluded that the agency made noise about the outbreak with little action and poor preparation: “Although WHO drew attention to the ‘unprecedented outbreak’ at a press conference in April 2014, this was not followed by international mobilization and a consistent communication strategy,” the authors write.

The panel argues that the culture at the WHO greatly prohibited action, writing:

“WHO does not have a culture of rapid decision-making and tends to adopt a reactive, rather than a proactive, approach to emergencies. In the early stages of the Ebola crisis, messages were sent by experienced staff at headquarters and the Regional Office for Africa, including after deployments in the field, about the seriousness of the crisis. Either these did not reach senior leaders or senior leaders did not recognize their significance. WHO does not have an organizational culture that supports open and critical dialogue between senior leaders and staff or that permits risk-taking or critical approaches to decision-making. There seems to have been a hope that the crisis could be managed by good diplomacy rather than by scaling up emergency action.”

The panel says that a number of factors were responsible for the delay in declaring the outbreak a pubic health emergency of international concern, including a late understanding of the gravity of the situation, denial among country authorities, culture problems within the WHO and a failure of the international community as a whole to take notice.

The report suggests instituting a variety of reforms and priorities, including focusing on fast-tracking vaccines and drugs and calling upon WHO member states and partners to immediately contribute $100 million in voluntary contributions for an emergency fund.

Response to the report has been mixed. As the Associated Press reports, some members of the public health community involved were disappointed that individuals were not called out by name and that the agency was already focusing on lessons learned, when the outbreak is still ongoing.

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases Resurface in Liberia After 2 Months of Being Ebola-Free

Liberia Ebola West Africa
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in an area where a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on June 30, 2015.

A teenage boy died from the virus and may have infected others

Liberia has reported its second case of Ebola on Tuesday after nearly two months of being Ebola-free.

Liberia had been declared officially Ebola-free on May 9 after it had gone 42 days with no new cases.

On Sunday, the body of a teenage boy was discovered in a rural area outside of the capital Monrovia and was confirmed to have the virus, Reuters reports. The news was not made public until Tuesday. People who came into contact with the boy have been isolated, and at least one of those patients has tested positive.

Though Liberia was declared free from Ebola infections in May, the outbreak has continued in Guinea and Sierra Leone, which share borders. “There is no known source of infection and there’s no information about him traveling to Guinea or [Sierra Leone],” a spokesperson for the ministry of health told Science.

So far, Ebola has infected 27,400 people in all three countries, killing over 11,200.

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in June, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Tomas Munita’s powerful work on Burma’s persecuted Rohingya minority. The photographs, made on assignment for The New York Times, capture a camp in Sittwe, Burma, where some 140,000 Rohingya live in bamboo huts without electricity, in conditions that partly explain why thousands of the Muslim ethnic group have tried to migrate across Asia these past few months.

Tomas Munita: For the Rohingya of Burma, a Hardscrabble Existence (The New York Times)

James Nachtwey: The Plight of the Rohingya (TIME LightBox) TIME’s contract photographer travelled to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, to document the plight of Asia’s newest boat people.

Pete Muller: Seeking the Source of Ebola (National Geographic) World Press Photo winner Muller’s excellent pictures track the Ebola outbreak from Democratic Republic of Congo to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast.

Rena Effendi: In the Footsteps of Gandhi (National Geographic) Effendi’s beautiful color photographs look at the great Indian leader’s impact, past and present.

Robin Hammond: Chronicling the Struggles of LGBT People Around the World (TIME LightBox) Moving portraits series on survivors of discrimination

David Guttenfelder: Illuminating North Korea (The New York Times) Yet another fascinating look at the hermit kingdom by the National Geographic Society Fellow.

Matt Black: Geography of Poverty (MSNBC) The new Magnum nominee is expanding his project documenting poverty from California to rest of the U.S.

Philip Montgomery: Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union (The New York Times Magazine) Stunning black and white pictures document the fight to protect workers’ rights in Wisconsin.

Arnau Bach: Stranded in Marseille (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Bach won the Pierre and Alexandra Boulat grant in 2013 and used the funds to make a portrait of one of the poorest French cities.

Charles Ommanney: The Black Route to Europe (The Washington Post) These photographs track one Syrian family’s journey from Aleppo to Austria| More on the Washington Post In Sight blog: Pt.1 and Pt. 2.

TIME Innovation

The Myth of the Lone Wolf Terrorist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. There’s no such thing as a lone wolf terrorist in cyberspace.

By Gabriel Weimann at Reuters Great Debate

2. Crowdsource the end of sexual violence.

By Elsa D’Silva at Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health

3. Scientists may someday treat brain disease with artificial neurons.

By Katarina Sternudd at Karolinska Institutet

4. An almost-instant field test for Ebola will be a game-changer for the next outbreak.

By Jake Miller at Harvard Medical School

5. This self-fixing solar-powered toilet could close the sanitation gap for billions around the world.

By Kimm Fesenmaier at CalTech

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME ebola

A Rapid Ebola Test Can Diagnose the Disease In Just Minutes

521695521
Getty Images

The new test is faster and as effective as the current standard practice, one study finds

A new Ebola diagnostic test that can identify in minutes whether a person has Ebola has proven to be faster and just as sensitive as diagnostics performed in a lab, according to new data published in the journal The Lancet.

Currently, to confirm someone has Ebola, a vial of blood must be sent to a specialized laboratory where it is tested. The new rapid diagnostic test (RDT), called Corgenix ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test kit, can be done right at the bedside with just a drop of blood. A rapid test puts fewer people at risk of infection, significantly cuts down on waiting time and helps health care workers determine who has the disease so they can be quickly isolated.

In a study of 106 suspected Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, researchers tested the patients with both the new tool and the standard laboratory procedure. They found that both tests detected all of the confirmed cases of Ebola, and the RDT was faster.

“Although the RDT requires refrigeration, this is already available in many health centers in endemic areas, particularly those that store vaccines and other medical products,” said study co-author Dr. Jana Broadhurst from Partners In Health in a statement.

The current Ebola outbreak infected 27,443 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, killing 11,207. Though the outbreak appears to be waning, having a better diagnostic tool is still desirable—and having a tool at the ready, should another outbreak arise in the future, could be critical to quicker diagnosis.

TIME ebola

Ebola Returns to Sierra Leone Capital After Weeks of No New Cases

ebola
Getty Images

Cases found in a densely populated slum

Two new cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been recorded in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, about three weeks after the most recent new cases were found, underscoring the difficulty of ridding the region of the disease.

“This is worrisome because we had already closed all Ebola quarantine structures in Freetown since we had gone for weeks without a case,” Sidi Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) told Reuters. The cases were found in a densely populated slum called Magazine.

Sierra Leone, one of the three West African nations hit hardest during the outbreak, has so far experienced more than 13,000 cases and more than 3,900 deaths. Guinea is still struggling to hit zero cases; Liberia, which at one point last year led all three in the highest number of cases, was declared Ebola-free in May.

Altogether, the three countries have reported more 27,350 cases and more than 11,170 deaths. Overall infections are on the decline, with fewer than 25 cases in Ebola treatment units last week.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

There Are Now Fewer Than 25 Cases of Ebola

128587211
Getty Images

Guinea and Sierra Leone have around 10 patients each

There are currently just 23 confirmed cases of Ebola in West Africa, according to the latest numbers on the outbreak.

The World Health Organization confirmed to TIME that there are 10 cases in treatment centers in Guinea as of June 18, and 13 confirmed cases in Sierra Leone as of June 17. Case numbers are low, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t be more cases if infections continue to spread.

The outbreak has so far infected 27,352 people and killed 11,178. The hardest hit countries were Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There is still currently no drug or vaccine for the fatal disease, though the infections have significantly declined.

Read next: TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

TIME public health

#theBrief: Why Isn’t There a Vaccine for the MERS Virus?

A treatment for MERS just isn't profitable

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—MERS—has infected at least 165 people and has killed at least 23 in South Korea, but there still isn’t a vaccine to prevent or treat it.

And there might not be for a very long time.

MERS is a virus similar to SARS, and easily confused with the flu or common cold. It’s also highly contagious.The disease was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and since then, has shown up in 25 different countries.

But a vaccine could be a long way off. Watch the Brief to find out the three key reasons why.

TIME public health

Here’s the Difference Between MERS and Ebola

Another disease without treatment or vaccine is spreading

The news sounds familiar: a virus with no treatment or cure is spreading abroad. But while Ebola dominated the infectious disease news over the last year, the latest infection making headlines is the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has most recently hit South Korea, infecting 87 there and killing 6.

Could the two viruses cause similar damage?

Currently, MERS doesn’t appear to be able to spread like Ebola can. Though it’s in the same family of viruses as SARS and the common cold—both highly contagious—MERS appears to be less transmittable. While Ebola spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, MERS doesn’t spread easily from person to person, and though it spreads through the respiratory tract, very close contact is needed, which is why the risk is higher for health care workers.

Both diseases have high fatality rates (around 3 to 4 of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died) and like Ebola, there is no vaccine or cure for MERS. But right now, MERS is more of a mystery to the medical community.

“Ebola has been around for 40 years so we have a pretty good sense of how it functions and its genome has been pretty stable,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “MERS emerged in 2012 and we are still learning about it, and it may still be learning about us and evolving. It’s believed that when SARS spent more time circulating among humans, it evolved and became more transmissible.” Frieden says they haven’t yet seen that in MERS, but they’re watching: the CDC is currently sequencing the genome of the virus to understand how it might be changing, and to track its course.

The chance that MERS could change to become more transmittable worries experts. “Personally, I am more concerned about MERS following the course of SARS than I ever will be regarding Ebola becoming widespread outside of certain regions of Africa,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh.

MORE What Is MERS? Here’s What You Need To Know

MERS has yet to take that course, Frieden says, but hospitals can be hotbeds for the infection. Through intensive investigations in affected countries, the CDC has determined that more than 90% of the cases could be traced health care exposures. So far there hasn’t been evidence of sustained community spreading. “Hospitals can become amplification points,” says Frieden. “It’s the case in measles, it’s the case for drug-resistant tuberculosis, it’s the case for MERS and SARS and Ebola. That’s where sick people go and that’s where vulnerable people are. It really emphasizes the importance of good infection control in the health care system.”

In May of 2014, the U.S. experienced two cases of MERS. In both instances, the patients were health care providers who lived and worked in the Middle East. Health departments around the U.S. have the ability to test for the virus, and the U.S. has already tested around 550 people in 45 states as a precaution since the disease first emerged in 2012.

MERS and Ebola share an important similarity: a lack of treatments or vaccinations. There’s currently no vaccine. “If there were a vaccine, it’s the kind of thing that might be useful in the camel population, but that’s very theoretical for the future,” Frieden says.

Only 20% of countries are currently able to rapidly detect, respond to or prevent global health threats from emerging infections, like MERS and Ebola, according to CDC data. Countries around the world and official health emergency responders like the World Health Organization have vowed to increase their ability to act during outbreaks that public health experts say are undeniably in our future. Frieden says the CDC in partnership with other countries is accelerating its Global Health Security program, which will increase preparedness worldwide. The CDC is making visits to eight countries in the next six weeks to move the program forward.

“Bottom line, both Ebola and MERS are emerging infections that show us why it’s so important for every country in the world to be prepared to find and stop health threats when and where they emerge,” Frieden says. “We do think the South Korea outbreak will well grow, but there’s no reason to think it can’t be controlled as other outbreaks have been controlled.”

Read next: 6 Dead, 87 Infected, 2,300 Quarantined: South Korea’s MERS Crisis

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Infectious Disease

Bill Gates Thinks This Is the Deadliest Threat to Humankind

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks at a breakfast meeting with the theme "Dialogue: Technology Innovation for a Sustainable Future" during the Boao Forum For Asia Annual Conference 2015 in Qionghai city, south Chinas Hainan province, 29 March 2015.
Cui hao—Imaginechina/AP Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks at a breakfast meeting with the theme "Dialogue: Technology Innovation for a Sustainable Future" during the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015 in Qionghai city, China's Hainan province, on March 29, 2015

He says it could kill tens of millions

In the next 20 years, is it likely that nuclear war, gigantic earthquakes or asteroids could kill 20 million people? Bill Gates doesn’t think so.

But he did tell Vox that such numbers could be felled by a major outbreak of disease — something the 59-year-old billionaire believes has a “well over 50%” chance of happening in his lifetime.

“The Ebola epidemic showed me that we’re not ready for a serious epidemic, an epidemic that would be more infectious and would spread faster than Ebola did. This is the greatest risk of a huge tragedy,” Gates said, claiming that a serious epidemic could kill more than 10 million people a year.

Read more at Vox

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com