TIME ebola

WHO Vows Reform After Ebola Outbreak Mistakes

The agency is establishing a $100 million contingency fund

The World Health Organization (WHO) is implementing “fundamental changes”—including a establishing a $100 million contingency fund—after the poor response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The world was ill-prepared to respond to an outbreak that was so widespread, so severe, so sustained, and so complex,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan at the annual World Health Assembly on Monday.”WHO was overwhelmed, as were all other responders. The demands on WHO were more than ten times greater than ever experienced in the almost 70-year history of this Organization.” The assembly is the decision-making body of WHO and the meeting is attended by delegates from the WHO member states.

Chan told those present at the event that the WHO is making changes to ensure it is better equipped for a similar health-related emergency in the future.

First, the WHO says it is developing a new program specifically focusing on health emergencies that will have performance benchmarks for what must happen 24, 48 and 72 hours after the beginning of an outbreak. The WHO is also establishing a global health emergency workforce and will strengthen its trained emergency response staff through a proposed increase in budget. The agency is also streamlining its managerial and logistical procedures. Lastly, Chan said the agency is establishing a $100 million contingency fund that will be financed through voluntary contributions. This, Chan said, is to make sure the WHO has the necessary resources needed.

“I do not ever again want to see this Organization faced with a situation it is not prepared, staffed, funded, or administratively set up to manage,” said Chan. “We will move forward on an urgent footing. I plan to complete these changes by the end of the year.”

TIME ebola

Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola in Italy

Getty Images

The patient was a healthcare worker volunteering in Sierra Leone

A healthcare worker in Italy has been diagnosed with Ebola, the first time a person has received an Ebola diagnosis in the country. The patient is currently undergoing treatment for the disease.

The worker was volunteering in an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, and on May 7, the volunteer flew from Freetown, Sierra Leone to Rome, stopping in Casablanca, Morocco. The patient had no symptoms at that time. It wasn’t until May 10, when the patient was already in Italy, that they began to experience symptoms of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the patient isolated themselves in their home before they were transported on the May 11 to the Hospital of Sassari, Sardinia. On May 12th, samples from the patient confirmed that they did indeed have Ebola.

The patient was then transferred from the Hospital of Sassari to he National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) Lazzaro Spallanzani of Rome in a special aircraft.

Since the patient did not start experiencing symptoms until 72 hours after returning to Italy, WHO says it is not necessary to conduct contact tracing of individuals who were on the same plane. Ebola can only be transmitted via the bodily fluids of a symptomatic person.

More than 26,720 cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the start of the outbreak, and more than 11,000 people have died.

TIME ebola

Watch an Ebola Survivor’s Powerful Speech to Med School Grads

"The most important thing we do is enter into the suffering of others"

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the Americans who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia, told graduates of the Indiana University School of Medicine on Saturday that failure isn’t the focus of being a physician.

Brantly, among the “Ebola Fighters” honored as TIME’s Person of the Year, recalled his experience treating—and losing—patients as a missionary doctor in Liberia, the Indianapolis Star reports. After he contracted Ebola last summer, he was transferred to the U.S. for care and later declared virus-free.

“Losing so many patients certainly was difficult, but it didn’t make me feel like a failure as a physician,” the Indianapolis native said at the commencement ceremony, “because I had learned that there was so much more to being a physician than curing illness. That’s not the most important thing we do. The most important thing we do is enter into the suffering of others.”

“We were able to hold the hands of people as they died, to offer dignity in the face of humiliating circumstances,” Brantly said. “You are going to share in the most intimate parts of your patients’ lives. You will share in their moments of tragedy. But you will also share in their moments of greatest joy. You will make a difference in people’s lives, and you will make a difference in the world.”

Brantly, a graduate of the same medical school, also proudly shared the news that the World Health Organization, earlier in the day, had declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

[Indianapolis Star]

TIME Innovation

Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Motherhood

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

These are today's best ideas

1. Motherhood is a cultural invention. It might be time to rethink it.

By Kathleen McCartney in the Boston Globe

2. You should want Facebook to give away your data.

By Tara E. Buck in EdTech

3. Do we have Alzheimer’s completely wrong?

By Turna Ray at Science Friday

4. On the brink of becoming Ebola-free, Liberia should embrace its survivors.

By AllAfrica

5. Can an app improve America’s crumbling infrastructure?

By Ashley Tate in NationSwell

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

Doctors Stumped After Ebola Survivor’s Eye Changed Colors

His blood was declared Ebola-free, but the virus remained in an eye

Ebola may stick around longer in survivors than researchers previously believed, and it may even cause eyes to change color, according to a case study released Thursday.

Dr. Ian Crozier, who contracted the virus while working as a World Health Organization volunteer at a treatment center in Kenema, Sierra Leone, underwent an intensive struggle with the disease after being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Less than two months after he was released in October, the New York Times reports, based on the study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Crozier was experiencing vision issues and pain in his left eye. Test results would later show that although Crozier’s blood had been declared Ebola-free, his eye was still full of the virus. Not only that, but the iris turned from blue to green.

“It felt almost personal that the virus could be in my eye without me knowing it,” he said, adding that the color change felt “like an assault.” Dr. Crozier’s sight and eye color later returned, mystifying doctors who had been helping treat his eye inflammation called uveitis, but his case shows researchers there is still much to learn about the deadly virus.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME movies

Olivia Wilde on Celebs and Social Media: ‘The Nature of Society Has Changed’

'Home' Premiere, Tribeca Film Festival 2015
Dennis Van Tine—Geisler-Fotopres/AP Olivia Wilde attends the Shorts Program World Pemiere of 'Body Team 12' during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Regal Battery Park 11 on April 19, 2015 in New York City.

The actress discusses her Ebola documentary, "Body Team 12"

Correction appended, April 23

Olivia Wilde may be best known for her work onscreen in the likes of House and Tron: Legacy. But she’s increasingly getting more involved behind the camera, most recently in producing the documentary short Body Team 12.

The film, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and has a planned release in the fall, is directed by aid worker David Darg. It depicts the work a Liberian woman named Garmai Sumo, whose work hauling the bodies of the dead during the Ebola crisis is both arduous and emotionally taxing. In the time since, Sumo has moved from burying the dead to feeding the living and is involved in aiding the orphans of Monrovia through her Ebola Orphan Project. “It’s a wonderful tale of redemption for Garmai,” Darg says.

The film upsets and overwhelms with scenes of Sumo facing angry families even as she places herself at grave risk, but the film provides viewers uplift in the form of a fairly direct way to support Sumo’s work today. It emerged from Darg’s aid work in Liberia; he embedded with a body team along with journalists from the Washington Post and China’s CCTV. Wilde came in at a later stage of production; Darg and producer Bryn Mooser “approached me about coming on as an executive producer, and I wanted to help in any way I could to facilitate the process and help people see it.”

That’s a role with which Wilde has grown more and more comfortable. The actress joined Twitter in an attempt to raise money after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. “That’s ancient history now,” she said, “and I’ve embraced it for both valuable causes and complete bulls—.”

Wilde, who in recent bookings on TV has brought Darg and Mooser along to speak authoritatively about Ebola, is on the forefront of celebrities who’ve embraced the power of celebrity to draw attention to causes, even if it erodes mystique.

“I think a lot of celebrities are coming around to the idea that Twitter and the Internet in all ways is not necessarily as representative of defeat as it was once seen,” she says. “When Twitter started, I think a lot of celebrities thought, ‘This is the ultimate betrayal of privacy, blah blah blah’—that it would ruin all sense of separation between people and celebrities.”

Instead, though, stars who use social media to promote causes are widely lauded, a change that Wilde pegs to broader societal indulgence of a life online. “It used to be very separated, and there was this sense of maintaining the illusion, and that an actor had to be anonymous so people would believe you in character. But I think the nature of society has changed and it’s happened for everyone, not just celebrities. People share more, and people expect to be shared with. There’s just a sense of acceptance of a more complex and dynamic life, a more varied personality.”

The one risk, perhaps, is Wilde’s believability as an actress given how out-front she is as a public persona. She’s unbothered: “Maybe there’s someone who won’t buy me because they’ve seen me speaking about Ebola on the Today show. Who knows? But that would seem very rigid to me.”

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described David Darg, who directed Body Team 12. He is an aid worker.

TIME Infectious Disease

An Experimental Ebola Drug Shows More Promise

TKM Ebola, which at least a few US and European health care workers may have received to treat their Ebola infection, is upgraded and proves effective in animal studies

When the Ebola outbreak hit last spring, there were a handful of potential treatments at the experimental stage in labs around the world. Some of them—like the drug TKM Ebola—that had shown promise in primates were given to U.S. and European health care workers who had been infected. Assessing how effective these drugs were in humans, however, posed some unique challenges.

That’s because many of the patients who got experimental treatments were also given a number of other therapies—making it impossible to know what was responsible for their recovery. But in a new paper published Wednesday, several of the scientists responsible for developing TKM Ebola, led by Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch, report that the drug worked on all the monkeys it used it on, even after the monkeys were given a lethal dose of Ebola.

The animals exposed to Ebola that didn’t get the drugs all died at day eight or nine.

The study used an updated version of the drug that is made up of snippets of the Ebola virus’ genome encapsulated in fatty particles. The fragments bind to their matching counterparts on the circulating virus and become a genetic monkey wrench that prevents Ebola from copying itself and infecting more cells.

MORE: WHO Outlines Timeline for Experimental Ebola Drugs

It turns out that the virus responsible for the current outbreak in west Africa differs from the 1976 strain at three points in the Ebola genome, so Geisbert and his team adjusted the drug accordingly. That’s one of advantages of the TKM Ebola approach, he says, compared to therapies such as vaccines or other drugs that rely on antibodies to the virus. These regimens are designed to attack the broadest range of virus strains possible, but in doing so, they may give up some of their virus-fighting potency. With gene sequencing technology becoming more refined and accessible, however, having drugs that are specifically targeted against a particular strain of a virus is actually a realistic goal. “It’s especially important when you look at how big this outbreak is, and it’s continuing for over a year,” says Geisbert of such matched therapies. “With this technology, we could theoretically turn around a new treatment in something like weeks. This outbreak taught us a lot about how to prepare for the future.”

MORE: The Ebola Fighters

These results will still have to be repeated in human patients, to ensure TKM Ebola is both safe and effective, but they strongly hint that the drug could be a critical part of future anti-Ebola strategies. The company that is developing TKM, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, is now testing this latest form of the drug in Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, west Africa.

TIME Pulitzer Prize

Daniel Berehulak, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Win Photography Pulitzer Prizes

Medical staff carry James Dorbor, 8, suspected of having Ebola, into a treatment facility in Monrovia, Liberia.
Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux Medical staff carry James Dorbor, 8, suspected of having Ebola, into a treatment facility in Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 5, 2014.

Coverage of the Ebola outbreak and Ferguson protests was recognized

Daniel Berehulak, a photographer with Getty Images Reportage, has won the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for his extensive coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Pulitzer Prize committee called Berehulak’s images “gripping” and “courageous.”

Berehulak, who covered the outbreak for the New York Times, was in Liberia and Sierra Leone for more than 14 weeks in 2014. “Most media outlets have people that stay here for around five to 10 days,” Berehulak told TIME last year. “Editors are extremely nervous — there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of restrictions.”

The finalists in the Feature Photography category were Bulent Kilic of Agence France-Presse “for his compelling photographs of Kurds fleeing ISIS attacks in small Kurdish towns on the Syrian-Turkish border,” the Pulitzer committee said in a statement, and Bob Owen, Jerry Lara and Lisa Krantz of the San Antonio Express-News “for chilling photographs that document the hard road Central American migrants must follow to seek refuge in the U.S.”

Read How a Photographer is Covering Ebola’s Deadly Spread

In the Breaking News category, the Pulitzer Prize went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s photo staff for “powerful images of the despair and anger in Ferguson, Mo., stunning photojournalism that served the community while informing the country,” the committee said.

Joseph Putlizer created the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from the 1878 merger of the St. Louis Dispatch and the St. Louis Evening Post.

“When all the world’s media leaves, this is still our neighborhood,” the newspaper’s director of photography Lynden Steele told TIME last year. “We have to work knowing that what we do now will come back to us a month from now. We have to be able to stand by what we’re doing now because we’re going to be in that neighborhood weeks, months, years from now.”

Read Inside Ferguson With Photographers From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

TIME ebola

WHO Has Acknowledged the Failings of Its Ebola Crisis Response

Health workers walk inside a new graveyard for Ebola victims, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia on March 11, 2015.
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers walk inside a new graveyard for Ebola victims, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia on March 11, 2015.

“Our current systems ... simply have not coped”

Top leaders at the World Health Organization (WHO) have admitted to being “ill prepared” to handle the Ebola outbreak and released a comprehensive list of agency failings as well as suggested reforms they and global policymakers must realize moving forward.

“We can mount a highly effective response to small and medium-sized outbreaks, but when faced with an emergency of this scale, our current systems — national and international — simply have not coped,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Deputy Director-General Anarfi Asamoa-Baah and the organization’s regional directors in a joint statement dated April 16.

The statement listed eight lessons WHO learned from the crisis, including “communicating more clearly what is needed.”

The statement also articulated nine remedies WHO must undergo to better handle large outbreaks in the future — such as intensifying “our advocacy with national authorities to keep outbreak prevention and management at the top of national and global agendas,” as well as establishing a “Global Health Emergency Workforce” and a contingency fund.

In a separate “situation report” dated April 15, WHO said there were 25,791 suspected Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with 10,689 deaths.

TIME Africa

Ebola Nations Request Debt Cancellation and Billions in Aid

People stand in line for food to be distributed to them as a health worker makes an announcement in Freetown, Sierra Leone on March 27, 2015.
Michael Duff—AP People stand in line for food to be distributed to them as a health worker makes an announcement in Freetown, Sierra Leone on March 27, 2015.

The countries in West Africa affected most by the Ebola outbreak are asking donors to cancel their debts and give them $5 billion to $6 billion in aid over two years.

“Our social services are ruined, our economies have halted, and we need a real Marshall Plan to take us out of the woods,” Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone, told Reuters Thursday.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are working on a regional reconstruction program, but they will need about $4 billion in debt relief on top of the billions they are requesting to rebuild their countries. The countries’ will unveil their program at a meeting on Friday with the heads of the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.

“If that (debt) is canceled and support is provided to our regional program, it will take us a long way forward in our transformation agenda,” Koroma said.

There were only 37 cases of Ebola reported in the region last week. But as leaders in West Africa and the World Health Organization have made clear, much more money and time is needed to fully eradicate the disease and help get the countries ruined by its spread.

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