TIME ebola

Ebola Doctor Recounts His Battle with the Virus in New Book

WaterBrook Press

Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife Amber detail the physician's work on Ebola—and his survival of it

A year after Dr. Kent Brantly captivated the world as the first American with Ebola to be treated in the United States, the medical missionary and his wife Amber have penned a new book, Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic, which chronicles their experiences as two medical missionaries unexpectedly propelled into a devastating outbreak.

Among the most captivating—and disturbing sections—are the Brantlys’ retelling of when Ebola first crept into West Africa, and Kent’s detailed description of what it felt like when the virus invaded his body. “I also developed a petechial rash: small red spots from my chest out to my arms,” Kent writes, clinically describing the progression of symptoms. “Their appearance meant blood vessels had broken in those areas. Over the next couple of days, the rash would progress until the spots coalesced into generalized, large red erythematous rash from head to toe.”

Though the year of Ebola epidemic news coverage has increased public understanding of the virus, Kent’s narrative reiterates how devastating and serious an Ebola diagnosis was, and still remains. He vividly describes moments of panic when during which he wrapped himself around the ankles of victims’ family member, begging them not to take the contagious bodies of their loved ones home.

While the Brantly family—among a handful of other patients—put a face to the outbreak, the couple dedicate a large portion of the book to describe Ebola’s unseen victims. There was Harris the plumber, who tried to help a woman get her Ebola-infected husband to a hospital, only to catch and die from the disease himself. There was Lusu, a mother who watched both her daughters die before she succumbed herself. The Brantlys also recount some of the factors that contributed to the epidemic’s spread, like the dearth of latex gloves in hospitals. Despite the fact that Liberia is one of the largest producers of raw latex, most of it is exported.

The Brantlys’ story is also emotional, tacking between Kent and Amber’s recollections of the same events: Kent, in Liberia, unsure he can breathe much longer, while a heartbroken Amber prays in the United States that her husband makes it through the night. Those who followed the Brantly family’s story in real-time will remember how often Kent thanked God for his life during his discharge press conference from Emory University Hospital. The book is written in a similar vein, with plenty of references to Bible versus and prayer. Brantly addresses potential critics head-on, writing that he’s never used his medical position to evangelize, and he explains his own occasional struggles to reconcile God with science:

“I know that some consider it controversial for me to claim that God saved my life when I had received an experimental drug and some of the greatest medical care available in the world. I can see how these two realities appear to contradict each other. I also feel the dissonance with claiming God saved my life while thousands of others died. These issues are not clear-cut for me. I wrestle with these tensions… Some may call it a grand coincidence, and I couldn’t argue against them. But when I see the unlikely and highly improbable events that occurred—not only during my illness, but also for decades preceding the Ebola epidemic in West Africa—I see the hand of God at work, and I give him the credit.”

The Brantly family recently returned to Liberia to visit the country they previously called home. In May Liberia was declared Ebola-free, but by July 1 officials announced the country has new cases of the disease. So far, Ebola has infected over 27,690 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, killing over 11,260.

TIME Liberia

4 Remaining Ebola Patients in Liberia Have Recovered

However, Liberia cannot be declared Ebola transmission-free again until it goes 42 days without any new cases

(MONROVIA, Liberia) — The four remaining patients infected during Liberia’s recent string of Ebola cases have recovered, meaning there are currently no confirmed cases in the country though more than 100 people are still under surveillance, a health official said Friday.

“There are no Ebola cases anywhere in Liberia as we speak,” Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah told The Associated Press.

In an interview earlier with state media, he said the four patients had recovered and would be discharged in a ceremony on Monday.

“It is still too early to say is it is over,” Nyenswah cautioned in the interview, noting that 123 contacts were being monitored.

Ebola killed more than 4,800 people in Liberia before the country was declared Ebola transmission-free on May 9. But in late June, a 17-year-old boy died from the disease. That transmission chain has produced five more cases, including the four patients Nyenswah said had been cured and a woman in her 20s who died earlier this week.

The cases originated in Nedowein, a community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Monrovia. Samples taken from the 17-year-old boy show the virus is genetically similar to viruses that infected many people in the same area more than six months ago, the World Health Organization has said.

That finding by genetic sequencing suggests it is unlikely the virus was caught from travel to infected areas of Guinea or Sierra Leone, where the disease is hanging on, or from an animal, the organization said.

Liberia cannot be declared Ebola transmission-free again until it goes 42 days — twice the maximum incubation period — without any new cases.

TIME ebola

Ebola Kills Woman in Liberia

The country had been disease-free for nearly two months

A Liberian woman has died from Ebola, igniting fears of a comeback of the virus that ravaged the region from December 2013 through early this year.

The newest cases are centered around Montserrado County, home to the country’s capital Monrovia, and neighboring Margibi County, where the disease was first reported to have emerged last month, according to Reuters. There have now been six confirmed cases of the virus in the area.

The woman died only a few hours after being admitted to the hospital.

Liberia had been celebrating nearly two months of being Ebola-free prior to the latest reemergence of the virus. Health experts believe the virus was dormant during that time, but could have been transmitted sexually by an Ebola survivor.

The first death of the most recent outbreak occurred earlier in July when a teenage boy died from the virus.

TIME ebola

What It’s Like To Fight Ebola When the World Stops Listening

My first deployment into the Ebola outbreak was in September, when I was sent to Liberia. After three months there I was eventually stationed in Guinea, another Ebola-affected region where I am currently serving as an emergency response coordinator.

Over the last year, the Ebola outbreak has infected more than 27,500 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and killed more than 11,200 of those people. It’s still ongoing. When I first joined the response, the situation was very serious. Cases were increasing exponentially, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was putting out calls for help and for more actors to get involved. The calls were largely ignored and unfulfilled until later.

Today in Guinea there are many people and organizations involved, but there is virtually no external interest. Despite the fact that we are still seeing cases of Ebola every week—something that would have been considered a disaster just two years ago—the outbreak has stopped dominating the public conversation and news cycle.

Have we noticed the world has stopped paying attention? Yes, we have. Are we surprised by it? No, we’re not. It’s the news cycle, and we know that. Many of my colleagues have a healthy dose of cynicism that goes along with idealism. We wouldn’t pursue this job if we didn’t, because you don’t last long if you let yourself be disappointed. People lose interest. It happened with Haiti, it happened with Nepal, it happens every single time. In some ways, it reinforces our conviction that this is the right place for us to be.

We still have about twelve to eighteen cases of Ebola per week in Guinea, and a third of the cases we saw last week were not on a contact list—meaning they were surprises. When there are unexpected cases, it’s dreadful from a public health point of view. The current situation is better than it has been, but it’s not as good as it should be. In an absolutely perfect and best-case scenario, we could see an end for Ebola in Guinea by October. But that’s an optimistic estimate.

We are aware everyone is tired. The national authorities are tired— they have been working on this non-stop and they just want the outbreak to end. The people of Guinea are tired of the uncertainty and fear. This is an observant Muslim country, and people are very affected by the fact that they can’t go on pilgrimage to Mecca until the epidemic is over. The public is tired of hearing about Ebola. MSF has been working on this for more than a year. We are tired.

But the outbreak is not over yet. And while the lack of attention is normal, it’s not very helpful. The problems that contributed to the scale of this outbreak still exist in many places. People need to realize that the World Health Organization (WHO) is only as good as its member states. If people want to help, they should insist that their country respects its commitments to donations and spending. They should realize that these problems do not exist in isolation and that to some extent they affect everybody.

We understand that people cannot believe that the Ebola outbreak is not over. Neither can we. But we can’t stop paying attention.

Anna Halford is the Ebola Emergency Coordinator in Guinea for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

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 ebola

A Rapid Ebola Test Can Diagnose the Disease In Just Minutes

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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
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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

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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 global health

Man Dies of Rare Lassa Fever in New Jersey

He had recently returned from traveling in Liberia

A man died of a rare African virus in New Jersey Monday after recently returning from Liberia, officials confirmed.

The man died of Lassa fever, a virus that causes hemorrhagic symptoms but is very different from Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Lassa fever is only fatal for 1% of those who are infected, while Ebola can be fatal for 70% of those infected without treatment. Lassa fever is also much harder to spread from person to person (it’s usually picked up from rodent droppings). About 100,000 to 300,000 Lassa fever cases are reported in West Africa every year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths.

The man with Lassa fever had arrived at JFK airport from Liberia on May 17, and went to a hospital the following day complaining of fever, sore throat and tiredness, officials said. At that time, he did not say he had been traveling in West Africa, and he was sent home the same day. On May 21 his symptoms worsened and he returned to the hospital, at which point he was transferred to a facility equipped to deal with viral hemorrhagic fevers. The patient was in “appropriate isolation” when he died Monday evening. The CDC is working to compile a list of people who may have encountered the patient while he was sick, and they are monitoring close contacts for 21 days to see if they develop the virus.

TIME ebola

Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola in Italy

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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.

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