TIME Infectious Disease

Sierra Leone Dispatches Troops to Enforce Ebola Quarantine

Troops and police have sealed off clinics and homes in hardest-hit localities

Updated 6:09 p.m. ET Aug. 6

Sierra Leone has dispatched 750 soldiers to the epicenters of the nation’s Ebola outbreak to enforce sweeping new quarantine measures as the virus’ global death toll rose to at least 932 people as of Wednesday. Liberia’s president ordered a 30-day state of emergency because of the Ebola outbreak late Wednesday, according to a radio broadcast.

Troops and police have been stationed outside of local clinics and family homes, the New York Times reports, amid reports of concerned family members trespassing into quarantined areas and coming into contact with sick patients and infected bodies. In Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, Reuters reports that relatives of Ebola victims have anonymously dumped infected bodies in the streets rather than face quarantines. Forces have also been deployed in Liberia to maintain order, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, health experts and epidemiologists convened Wednesday at the World Health Organization to begin a two-day discussion about containment measures and to ensure healthcare systems in West Africa are not overwhelmed by a rising tide of cases. Infections have continued to spread from remote precincts into more heavily populated areas, despite sweeping quarantine measures announced last week by Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the three most heavily-hit countries – including school closures and heavy surveillance of at-risk populations.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, reported a second Ebola death and five additional cases in Lagos on Wednesday, while Saudi Arabia announced that it was testing a man who reportedly died of Ebola-like symptoms after returning from a business trip to Sierra Leone. However, the cause of the man’s death remains unconfirmed, the BBC reports.

[NYT]

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Claims 887 Lives in Africa

CDC Ebola
The Ebola virus in an undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC/AP

As total deaths from Ebola pass 800, Nigeria reports a doctor who treated their first victim now has the disease

Updated 1:34 p.m. ET

Nigeria reported its second victim of the deadly Ebola outbreak Monday, as the World Health Organization said the death toll from the virus in Africa increased to 887.

A doctor who treated a Liberian-American man who died of the Ebola virus in Nigeria was confirmed Monday to be infected with the disease, making it the second case in the most populous African country.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu says there are test samples pending for another three people with symptoms of the disease who were part of the first man’s treatment, the Associated Press reports, and officials are trying to identify and isolate other people who may be at risk.

Emergence of the disease in Nigeria is cause for concern as the virus continues to spread. Health workers are at a particular risk for contracting the disease if they are not adequately protected, and it can take up to 21 days before symptoms of the infection begin to appear. There have been a total of 1,603 cases since the outbreak started in Guinea, the WHO said.

One American with the disease has been evacuated to the U.S. for treatment, and another infected American is due to arrive home Tuesday. For the basics on Ebola, check out the infographic below.

[AP]

Sources: WHO, CDC, Mayo Clinic
TIME ebola

No, The UK Isn’t About To Be Hit By an Ebola Epidemic

GUINEA-HEALTH-EBOLA
Doctors Without Borders staff carry the body of a person killed by viral haemorrhagic fever, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014. Seyllou—AFP/Getty Images

Though an infected person could technically arrive in the UK, the risk of onward transmission is exceedingly low

A Liberian asylum-seeker was tested for Ebola-like symptoms at a British immigration center earlier this week, The Telegraph reported Thursday. The day before, media outlets said another man had been similarly examined in Birmingham, England. Both tested negative for the often-fatal virus.

The United Kingdom’s Department of Health said that Ebola “is not an issue that affects the UK directly.” It added that should an infected person arrive in the UK., there are “experienced people who are ready to deal with [Ebola] if it were to arrive here.” Two agencies under the Department of Health, the National Health Service and Public Health England further pointed out that the threat Ebola poses to the UK is “very low.”

Strangely, this advice has been largely ignored by a number of national media outlets. The Daily Mail, a right-leaning tabloid, questioned whether “the world’s deadliest disease” — which Ebola certainly isn’t — was heading for Britain. For eight paragraphs, the paper told a terrifying tale: A man had arrived in Britain from Lagos, Nigeria with Ebola. According to the Daily Mail, “[Ebola] would soon be spreading across the country, killing almost everyone it touched.”

Then, in paragraph nine, came relief: “Fortunately this is an imaginary situation.”

This clear scare-mongering might be expected of a tabloid, but The Telegraph, a national broadsheet, has also opted for alarmism. In a seemingly impartial report on the Liberian asylum seeker — whose symptoms had been spotted by immigration officials — the newspaper added, with no explanation: “The incident shows how easy it would be for the deadly disease to enter Britain through illegal channels.”

There is no denying that Ebola is a terrifying illness. Approximately 728 of the 1,322 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries hardest-hit by the virus, have died of it, according to the World Health Organization. Ebola has no vaccine, no cure and its most terrifying symptom — external hemorrhaging — makes it perfect media fodder.

Though the image of a patient weeping blood is the very stuff of horror films, Ebola isn’t that easy to catch. The virus is spread through contact with the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person, and a person is only contagious when they’re symptomatic.

“It’s not like flu or the SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] virus,” says David Lalloo, Professor of Tropical Medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine adds. “You can’t catch Ebola through the air.”

Sitting next to someone with the early flu-like symptoms of Ebola wouldn’t lead to infection. A victim with the later symptoms — hemorrhaging, vomiting and diarrhea would likely be too sick to board a plane.

“The reality is the risk to the UK’s public health is really quite small,” says Lalloo. Though it is possible that an infected person may make it undetected to the UK — Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days — they would most likely be prevented from infecting all of Britain. “All [UK health workers] have been alerted to the possibility that people traveling from the region might be infected with Ebola if they’re displaying a fever,” Lalloo adds.

Public Health England, a government health agency, told TIME that comprehensive measures are in place to deal with the potential arrival of an Ebola patient. They have created a detailed algorithm for healthcare workers to assess and treat people suspected of suffering from a viral hemorrhagic fever that may be caused by Ebola. “If there is a symptomatic person on board the flight, the aircraft contacts air traffic control, who makes contact with primary responders and the health control unit at Heathrow [Airport], a Public Health England spokesperson said. “Other airports would send the person to [the] hospital for assessment if that was appropriate.”

Anyone found to have Ebola would be immediately quarantined, and anyone they had contact with would be tested.

“There have been odd cases of viral hemorrhagic fever that have come into the UK,” says Lalloo. However, fast and effective treatment has meant “there hasn’t been onward transmission.”

It’s likely that the media hysteria was sparked by the arrival of an infected Liberian official in Nigeria on July 20. The man later died, and news outlets were frantic that a similar traveler could reach the UK. What wasn’t as widely reported was that the Lagos hospital was evacuated and quarantined, and Nigeria’s current number of confirmed Ebola cases remains at one. As Lalloo points out, the current epidemic “has been going on for three to four months now … the only difference is someone arrived in Nigeria with Ebola.”

The West isn’t about to be hit by an Ebola epidemic soon. Well-resourced and prepared for such diseases, any case will most likely be rapidly contained and dealt with. Ebola is tearing through West Africa because the three impoverished nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone lack the facilities and staff to manage Ebola — Western media would do well to focus on that.

 

TIME Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Declares Health Emergency Amid Ebola Outbreak

"Fellow citizens, this is a national fight, and it behoves all of us to stand together to promote the truth about this deadly disease."

Updated 9:16 a.m. ET July 31

The president of Sierra Leone has declared a public health emergency over a deadly Ebola outbreak that has killed 729 people across West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

In a statement posted online late Wednesday, President Ernest Bai Koroma said he is implementing for up to 90 days a series of measures aimed at tackling the Ebola virus, including quarantining areas where the disease has emerged and banning most public meetings. Koroma also said he is canceling a planned trip to the United States and instead meeting with regional leaders to address the outbreak.

“Fellow citizens, this is a national fight, and it behoves all of us to stand together to promote the truth about this deadly disease,” Koroma said in the address. “Ebola is real, and we must stop its transmission.

“I hereby proclaim a State of Public Emergency to enable us take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak,” he added.

Koroma also called on the country’s parliament to convene and for officials to avoid non-essential foreign trips.

The measures, which came a day after Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, Sheikh Umar Khan, died from complications caused by the disease, are in line with similar policies announced Wednesday in Liberia, which said it would shutter schools.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Peace Corps said it was pulling all 340 volunteers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia amid what has become the worst-ever global Ebola outbreak, while two volunteers were isolated after having been exposed to a person who was later killed by the virus.

Sources: WHO, CDC, Mayo Clinic

For more on the Ebola outbreak, see the infographic and video above.

TIME West Africa

Peace Corps Pulls Volunteers Out of West Africa Amid Ebola Scare

GUINEA-HEALTH-EBOLA
Gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guéckédou, on April 1, 2014 Seyllou—AFP/Getty Images

Because of the spread of the Ebola virus, the organization announced Wednesday

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it’s pulling volunteers out of parts of West Africa amid an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Volunteers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are being recalled until further notice.

“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,” the group’s statement reads. “A determination on when volunteers can return will be made at a later date.”

The organization currently has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia and 130 in Sierra Leone, it says. On Wednesday, CBS News reported two Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia had been quarantined after possibly being exposed to the deadly virus, though neither currently exhibits symptoms.

As of July 23, 672 people have died from Ebola during the current outbreak, which has spread between Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other parts of West Africa. Earlier this week, a hospital in Nigeria shuttered its doors after admitting a man who had contracted and later died from the virus.

World leaders are on high alert in light of the outbreak, which is the largest in history. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and intense weakness; the fatality rate of this epidemic is about 60%.

TIME Infectious Disease

Infographic: Ebola By the Numbers

West African countries are trying to contain the deadly disease

Updated September 17, 2014

The number of Ebola cases have continued to climb this week in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. Here’s everything you want to know about the disease.

Illustration by Heather Jones for TIME / Sources: WHO; CDC; Mayo Clinic; Northeastern University; University of Florida; Fred Hutchinson Center

You can also read more here.

 

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Quarantines Hospital as Ebola Spreads to Most Populous City

The death marks the first recorded case of the highly infectious disease in Africa's most populous country

Updated 4:53 p.m. ET Tuesday, July 29

Nigeria has evacuated and quarantined a hospital in the city of Lagos after a patient died from Ebola, the first reported case to reach one of Africa’s most densely-populated countries.

Reuters reports that the patient, Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s finance ministry, collapsed shortly after his flight landed at Lagos airport on July 20. He died while in treatment at First Consultants Hospital. Health officials said that doctors and nurses who came into contact with Sawyer have been isolated and closely monitored.

“The private hospital was demobilized (evacuated) and the primary source of infection eliminated,” said Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris, Reuters reports.

In Sierra Leone, a prominent doctor, Sheik Umar Khan, who was instrumental in the fight to contain the virus died on Tuesday, roughly one week after the government disclosed that he had contracted the virus, the BBC reports. The news comes after a Liberian doctor died of the virus over the weekend and two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, continued to struggle under intensive care in Monrovia, Liberia.

The number of Ebola cases continues to climb in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the virus has infected 1,201 people and claimed 672 lives since it was first reported in West Africa in February, according to the World Health Organization. But the emergence of the disease in Lagos, a city of 21 million people, has officials fearing a greater challenge to containment.

Nigerian officials said that they were monitoring 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer, including doctors, nurses and people at the airport. However, the airline on which he arrived in Lagos had not yet released the names of passengers.

Meanwhile, Obama administration officials said that U.S. President Obama was being updated regularly about the outbreak. Calling it a “very worrying epidemic,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the U.S. would continue to assist local and international efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

“We are very much present and active in trying to help the countries of the region and the international authorities like the World Health Organization address and contain this threat.”

West African carrier Asky Airlines, meanwhile, announced Tuesday it is suspending some flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone because of Ebola fears.

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Here’s What You Need to Know Now About the Ebola Crisis

After a passenger brought Ebola to Africa’s largest city, health officials are on alert for signs of the infection among passengers. Here's the latest

The Ebola outbreak has already led to more than 670 deaths in West Africa, but a man who became ill on a flight from Liberia to Lagos, Africa’s largest city, has raised alarms for public-health officials after he later died of the virus.

Liberia has closed most of its borders, and airports in Nigeria are now screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for Ebola’s symptoms, which include fever, headache, joint pain, lack of appetite, difficult breathing and sore throat. In its advanced stages, Ebola leads to diarrhea, vomiting and internal bleeding. While the airport screenings are meant to ease travelers’ minds, the reality is that the Ebola virus can’t be detected soon after infection — the first signs of the virus are red eyes and a rash, which could be caused by many different things. Plus, outgoing flyers are not being tested and its unclear at this point if over countries will follow suit. People have recovered from infection with the virus, but the mortality rate ranges from 50% to 90%.

(MORE: Here’s What It Will Take to Contain the Worst Ebola Outbreak in History)

Who can spread the virus?

The virus takes anywhere from two to 21 days to incubate and start causing symptoms, but Dr. Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telebriefing Monday that infected patients only spread the disease when they have symptoms. Because the virus is transmitted through direct contact with fluids like saliva or blood from infected patients, airport officials are essentially looking for passengers who might have severe vomiting, diarrhea or other bodily secretions that could reach other travelers.

Are Nigeria’s airport screenings enough?

Nigeria is screening incoming passengers for such symptoms and may also take passengers’ temperature. Nigerian officials have also created holding rooms to isolate patients or passengers who are suspected of being infected, so they can be triaged to further medical care.

But because some of the early symptoms of Ebola mirror those of other ailments, including malaria, CDC officials say the strongest way to contain spread of infectious diseases is by instituting travel restrictions at the source. That’s why Liberia has closed all its borders except for three land crossings where travelers can be screened and treatment services provided if needed.

Dr. Marty Cetrone, director of the division of global migration and quarantine at the CDC, said during the briefing that officials can also try to contain the outbreak by using questionnaires asking travelers at these checkpoints about their recent travel history as well as their potential exposure to the virus through friends or other close contacts.

How did this outbreak get so bad?

Health officials aren’t sure why this particular outbreak has led to a historic number of deaths, but note that social and cultural practices may be driving spread of the virus. In many of the communities where the virus remains active, there is still denial about the disease, and stigma associated with getting ill, which discourages patients from getting early hydration and nutrition that can help them to overcome the infection. While there is no treatment for the virus, these measures can lower the death rate for some. Funeral practices that involve touching the deceased may also help the virus move from host to host.

How at-risk are Americans?

Monroe says the risk of Ebola for U.S. citizens who haven’t traveled to West Africa remains low. There are no restrictions on travelers entering the U.S., but the CDC has issued a Level 2 travel advisory for people traveling to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, recommending that they avoid contact with blood or other bodily fluids that might contain the virus, and use the proper protective equipment to avoid infection. The advisory applies mostly to health care or humanitarian aid workers, who so far make up the largest group of people affected by Ebola. “[Transmission] involves not only touching the contaminated body fluid but introducing it through some mucous membrane or cut on the skin,” said Monroe.

For anyone who has recently traveled to those countries or might have been exposed to someone who was ill in that area, health officials are advising a 21-day fever watch to ensure that no active infection is occurring.

What if an infected person flies into the U.S.?

The CDC is also preparing for the remote possibility that a passenger from the region who is ill boards a plane and lands in the U.S. and starts infecting residents. The agency is informing its network of physicians in state and local public-health facilities about how to look for signs of Ebola. “We are sending Health Alert Network notices about the importance of taking steps to prevent spread of the virus,” said Monroe. That includes procedures on asking patients about their recent travel history, as well as using the proper personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and gowns if they suspect an Ebola infection.

They’re confident that these measures will be effective, since infection with a virus related to Ebola, Marburg, was successfully contained in the Netherlands with isolation and barrier procedures. No health care workers contracted the virus from that patient. Health officials hope that with the proper preparation and education, that record can apply to Ebola as well, if it makes it beyond the heavily affected countries in West Africa.

TIME infectious diseases

Liberia Closes Borders to Curb Ebola Outbreak

Outbreak is already the largest on record

The Liberian government closed off most of the country’s border crossings Sunday in an effort to curb an Ebola outbreak that has already killed over 670 people across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and become the largest outbreak of the virus on record.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the airport will remain open, but that all travelers coming in and out will be tested for the virus, Reuters reports. “All borders of Liberia will be closed with the exception of major entry points,” she said. “At these entry points, preventive and testing centers will be established, and stringent preventive measures to be announced will be scrupulously adhered to.”

Ebola kills around 90% of those who contract it, although the current outbreak has only killed around 60%. Numerous medical personnel have succumbed to the most recent outbreak, including Dr. Samuel Brisbane, one of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors, who died Saturday.

Two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, have contracted the virus and are currently in stable condition, NBC reports. Both worked for North Carolina-based aid group Samaritan’s Purse, and spokeswoman Melissa Strickland said that they are both “alert.”

Brantly and Writebol had followed all CDC and WHO guidelines and worn full protective equipment when treating Ebola patients, including gloves, goggles, face protection, and full body coverings, Strickland said.

Since Ebola is highly contagious, Liberia has also restricted public gatherings such as marches and demonstrations until the outbreak is brought under control. “No doubt, the Ebola virus is a national health problem,” President Sirleaf said in a statement. “And as we have also begun to see, it attacks our way of life, with serious economic and social consequences.”

TIME Terrorism

Boko Haram Kidnaps Wife of Cameroon’s Deputy Prime Minister

Third attack since 22 militants were sentenced to prison in Cameroon Friday

Over 200 Nigerian Boko Haram militants attacked a town in northern Cameroon Sunday, kidnapping the wife of Cameroon’s deputy Prime Minister and killing at least 3 people, Cameroon officials told Reuters.

Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali had been at home with his family in Kolofata Sunday to celebrate the Ramadan fast when his wife and her maid were kidnapped in what government officials call a “savage attack.”

The militants also kidnapped the mayor of Kolofata (who is a religious leader) in a separate attack on the town, as well as five of his family members.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma confirmed to Reuters that Boko Haram militants had attacked the Ali’s home in Kolofata. “They unfortunately took away his wife,” he said.

The attack on Kolofata was the third Boko Haram attack since 22 Boko Haram militants were sentenced to prison Friday in Maroua, a major city in the northern part of the country. At least four soldiers were killed in the other two attacks over the weekend.

Boko Haram opposes Western education and seeks to create an Islamist separatist state in northern Nigeria. They kidnapped over 200 girls from a boarding school in April and threatened to “sell them on the market.” The girls have not yet been returned.

[Reuters]

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