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.

TIME ebola

Ebola Fighters Say Now Is Not the Time to Let Up

Barack Obama, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Alpha Condé
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP President Barack Obama, flanked by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, left, and Guinean President Alpha Condé, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, to discuss the progress made in the international Ebola response.

Cases may be nearing zero in certain areas, but the threat of the disease lingers

There were only 37 confirmed cases of Ebola last week, just a year after the deadly virus was spreading quickly across Western Africa. But key stakeholders in the effort to reduce the number of cases to zero said Thursday that success is not guaranteed.

“We are dealing now with the most difficult areas,” said Bruce Aylward, the assistant director-general of polio and emergencies at the World Health Organization. “We’re dealing with issues of fear, of trust with communities that have been marginalized. That have not been fully engaged.”

Alyward added, “These are issues that take time to resolve.” What’s more, the most affected areas are nearing their annual rainy season in April and May, which could exacerbate the disease’s spread. And, Alyward says, the eradication effort is running out of money.

“The only thing that’s falling faster than this graphic right here,” he said, holding up a chart that showed new confirmed cases, “is the one that shows you new financial contributions.”

The message on Thursday was clear: in the fight against Ebola, there’s no room for complacency. That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. There has been a decline in new cases over the past several weeks and Liberia is inching closer to zero cases. In Sierra Leone, there were nine cases this past week and the week before. In Guinea, the situation is more mixed—there were 28 cases this week, up from 21 the week before. In an effort to keep numbers low, the government instituted a four-day stay-at-home policy in the most infected area so that teams can go to homes and share information.

Alyward, who joined WHO Director General Margaret Chan and others for a roundtable briefing at the United Nations Foundation on Thursday, said it’s important to keep up the fight, because if a single case or contact is missed, the community will suffer the consequences.

That message was similar to one that President Obama reiterated before meeting with leaders from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea at the White House on Wednesday. “We can’t be complacent. This virus is unpredictable,” Obama said. “We have to be vigilant, and the international community has to remain fully engaged in a partnership with these three countries until there are no cases of Ebola in these countries.”

Presidents from the three countries will also appear Friday with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to discuss the continued effort to get to zero. The meetings and appearances on the Ebola effort come in the wake of a scathing New York Times report that said the U.S.’s response to the crisis was too much, too late. Few of the treatment centers the U.S. military spent resources and manpower to complete have been put to use, the report found.

David Nabarro, who has organized the UN’s response to Ebola, said Thursday the American response should be commended. “This immediate and rapid response by the U.S. to use military to build treatment centers was amazing,” he said. “Instead of feeling abandoned by the world, they felt there was a group who believed they were worth supporting.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 16

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

1. Go ahead and start a new career in your fifties. It’s easier than you think.

By Donna Rosato in Money

2. This is what sex-ed would look like if it took place entirely on social media.

By Kate Hakala in Mic

3. Here’s why the FDA doesn’t really know what’s in our food.

By Erin Quinn and Chris Young at the Center for Public Integrity

4. What critical resource helps the sharing economy make billions? People trusting people.

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor

5. Could a continent-wide CDC for Africa stop the next Ebola outbreak?

By Jim Burress at National Public Radio

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 Infectious Disease

African CDC to Open in 2015

The goal for the agency is to support the continent with active disease surveillance and response

Secretary of State John Kerry signed an agreement Monday to help establish a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Africa.

The memorandum of cooperation, signed by Kerry and African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Nkosanzana Dlamini Zuma, makes formal the relationship between the United States CDC and AUC, and mandates the establishment of an African CDC. The new institute, set to launch in 2015, will work to prevent and respond to future outbreaks in the continent, like the Ebola epidemic.

“The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African ministries of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to any disease outbreak,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, in a statement. “This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the United States to advance public health across Africa and global health security.”

The formation of an African CDC has been under development for a few years, and the physical launch of the health institute will happen later this year. An African Surveillance and Response Unit will be established with an emergency operations center. Five regional centers will also be identified with a coordinating center in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Like the U.S. CDC, there will be epidemiologists at the various locations who will perform disease surveillance, investigation and tracking of infection trends. The new unit will also provide response expertise during large outbreaks.

“With the African CDC in place, these volunteers and others can be organized to form a deployable force ready to serve Member States during future health emergency responses on the continent,” said a CDC statement.

TIME ebola

American Treated for Ebola Released From NIH Hospital

Patient was volunteering for an aid group in Sierra Leone

The American patient being treated for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was declared Ebola-free and released on Thursday.

The patient, whose identity has not been released, was volunteering for the aid group Partners in Health (PIH) in Sierra Leone, one of the three countries hit hardest during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The patient had arrived for treatment at the NIH treatment unit in Bethesda, Md., on March 13.

PIH says the patient, who had two Ebola tests come back negative before NIH declared them Ebola-free, was one of several of the aid group’s volunteers who were brought back to the United States for monitoring. None of the other volunteers were infected.

The group says two of its volunteers who returned to the U.S. for precautionary monitoring are heading back to Sierra Leone to continue their work. “We’re cheering here in rural Liberia and in Sierra Leone, and are sure our co-workers in Boston and Haiti and Rwanda and Peru and elsewhere are too,” Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder and chief strategist for PIH, said in a statement.

The PIH volunteer is the second person with Ebola to be successfully treated for Ebola at the NIH. The facility’s team also treated Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola last fall after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

To date, there have been 25,178 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia and 10,445 have died from the disease.

TIME ebola

A New Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise

With nearly a dozen Ebola vaccines now in various stages of development, researchers of one report promising results against the recent strain

A vaccine designed from a crippled virus with Ebola genes stitched in—the first tested against the strain that caused the outbreak in West Africa that has killed 10,000 and infected thousands more—protected every monkey tested from being infected with Ebola.

Reporting in the journal Nature, Thomas Geisbert, a virologist from the University of Texas Medical Branch, and his colleagues describe a vaccine made from a virus that commonly infects cows—called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)—that’s had some of its genetic material replaced with genes for surface proteins from the Ebola virus. None of the eight monkeys inoculated with the shot showed any signs of severe Ebola infection after being exposed to the virus 28 days later, while both of the control animals died of the disease seven and eight days after infection.

MORE: Ebola Vaccine Is Safe and Effective, According to First Study

The vaccine is the second generation of one that Geisbert and Heinz Feldmann, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, co-developed in the 2000s. But because the vaccine relies on a live, albeit hampered virus, it raised concerns about safety that killed-virus vaccines, like polio and hepatitis A, don’t have. Neither the VSV nor Ebola virus are capable of replicating, since the VSV has part of its genome cut out and replaced with Ebola material, and the Ebola virus only has its outer surface genes and none of its dividing machinery. But a growing virus, even a slowly growing one, can cause problems. That’s what researchers saw in an early human trial of the first generation VSV Ebola vaccine, which was tested among 40 healthy volunteers in the Washington DC area. Some developed arthritis-like conditions, which added to existing concerns about the vaccine’s safety profile.

MORE: The Ebola Fighters

“Clearly there was a lot of room for improvement. It’s a balancing act,” says Geisbert. “What makes it such a good vaccine is that it grows. But we are trying to find the balance between efficacy and safety.”

MORE: The First Ever Large-Scale Ebola Vaccine Trial Begins in Liberia

He may have hit upon that parity with the latest version of the shot. By changing where in the VSV genome he inserted the Ebola genes, he found a vector that seems to deliver the same immune response against the Ebola virus, yet at lower cost to the person being vaccinated. The VSV loaded with Ebola grew at a five to 10 times slower rate than it did in the first vaccine, and animals inoculated with the newer vaccine showed 10 to 50-fold lower levels of both VSV and Ebola in their blood compared to animals given the first generation shot.

The slower growing VSV, says Geisbert, “in a well ordered universe is associated with less possibility of an adverse event” from the vaccine.

That won’t be known for sure until the vaccine is tested in the first healthy human volunteers, which may happen as soon as this summer.

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