TIME ebola

Ebola Cases in Sierra Leone Will ‘Soon Eclipse’ Liberia

Members of the burial team carry a body to his grave at King Tom Cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Nov. 19, 2014.
Members of the burial team carry a body to his grave at King Tom Cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Nov. 19, 2014. The Washington Post/Getty Images

1,339 cases of the country's 6,599 overall were recorded in three weeks in November

Sierra Leone will “soon” dethrone Liberia as the hardest-hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization cautioned Wednesday.

Nearly one-fifth of Sierra Leone’s total cases of Ebola were reported in a three-week period that ended Sunday, according to new figures released by the global health agency. WHO reports that 1,339 of the country’s 6,599 known cases (including 1,398 deaths) were reported in the 21 days prior to Nov. 23.

Six hundred cases were reported throughout the three most-affected countries overall in the past week.

Transmission remains “intense” in Sierra Leone, the assessment states, mostly due to heavy transmission in the western and northern regions. That’s in contrast with Guinea, where more than 2,100 cases (including 1,260 deaths) have been reported, and in Liberia, which is currently the worst-hit, with 3,016 of its 7,168 cases having proven fatal.

The uptick comes after the United Nations recently announced it will not reach its goal of Ebola containment in the three most-impacted nations by Dec. 1.

The U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has deployed personnel and resources to West Africa to control the outbreak. Some experts say more mobile treatment facilities are needed instead of large 100+ bed facilities, since many of the countries’ outbreaks are popping up in regions that are more spread out and hard to reach.

In Sierra Leone, however, the capital of Freetown remains the worst-affected area. Overall, more than 15,935 people have contracted the virus, resulting in at least 5,689 deaths.

TIME ebola

U.S. to Grant Temporary Protection Status for People From Ebola-Hit Nations in West Africa

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
A mother and child stand atop their mattresses in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

People from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were in the U.S. as of Thursday

The United States will issue a temporary protected status to people residing in the country from the three nations hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, homeland security officials said in a report Thursday.

Reuters reports that people from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were in the U.S. as of Thursday would be eligible for deportation protection for at least 18 months and could also apply for work permits. The 8,000 people estimated to be eligible will be unable to visit home and return in a bid to prevent more Ebola cases arriving in the U.S.

Any extension of the protection will be reassessed after 18 months based on how severe the Ebola outbreak remains in West Africa, the report adds. More than 5,000 people have died from the virus in the worst outbreak in recorded history, the World Health Organization reports.

Read more at Reuters

TIME ebola

Cost of Ebola for West Africa Far Lower Than Once Feared

Financial toll for hardest-hit region could fall between $3 billion and $4 billion, or about one-tenth of what the World Bank initially forecast. In its latest report on the global Ebola epidemic, WHO counted 5,177 deaths out of 14,413 reported cases of the disease

An aggressive response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has reduced a massive $32.6 billion economic tab initially forecast by the World Bank, a top official at the organization said Wednesday.

Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank’s chief economist, said at a lecture in Johannesburg that the outbreak’s total financial toll in the region could fall between $3 billion and $4 billion, according to Reuters. Ferreira pointed to successful efforts to contain the disease in some West African countries as a sign that the World Bank’s worst-case scenario is unlikely. But, he also warned that Ebola could still spread if those efforts are not maintained.

“It has not gone to zero because a great level of preparedness and focus is still needed,” Ferreira said, according to Reuters.

In its latest report on the global Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization counted 5,177 deaths out of 14,413 reported cases of the disease. Liberia has seen the most deaths by far, at greater than 2,800, followed by Sierra Leone and Guinea at more than 1,000 each. The United States has had four reported cases of the disease and one confirmed death.

This year’s outbreak has affected businesses in West Africa and worldwide. A number of airline stocks dipped last month following reports that a potentially-infected woman had flown from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Airlines. Meanwhile, the stock market in general suffered in October, in part due to investor concerns over the spread of the disease.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Food & Drink

The World Could Be Heading Toward a Global Shortage of Chocolate

Chocolate Bar
Getty Images

You might want to stockpile a few bars

People are consuming more cocoa than farmers are able to produce, according to two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, who say that a global shortage of chocolate might be on the cards.

Mars, Inc. and Swiss-based chocolate giant Barry Callebaut say demand is likely to outstrip production by one million metric tons by 2020, the Washington Post reports.

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa is produced in the Ivory Cost and Ghana but growing conditions in West Africa have not been ideal.

Drought has ravaged many cocoa plantations and a fungal disease called frosty pod has wiped out between 30 to 40 percent of cocoa production. Farmers are looking to other cash-crops such as corn, to make their living.

At the same time, demand for the tasty treat keeps rising and this is likely to force the price of chocolate to rise.

[Washington Post]

Read next: The 13 Most Influential Candy Bars of All Time

TIME ebola

Liberia Lifts Ebola State of Emergency

Liberian President Sirleaf And USAID Administrator Shah Hold Press Conference
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks at a press conference on October 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. She met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at her office at the Liberian Foreign Ministry. Sirleaf, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, has called on the international community to do more to help combat the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with roughly half of that total in Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) John Moore—Getty Images

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease there

The President of Liberia said she would not extend a state of emergency on Thursday, amid encouraging signs that the spread of the deadly Ebola virus there has slowed.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s announcement effectively lifts the state of emergency, which had expired earlier this month, Reuters reports.

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease in Liberia, the hardest hit country in an outbreak that has claimed over 5,000 lives. But the rate of increase there appears to have slowed.

“Notwithstanding these gains, a number of our compatriots are still lying in ETUs (Ebola Treatment Units), hot-spots are springing up in rural areas, and a few more of our compatriots are still dying of Ebola,” Sirleaf said.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

Ebola Treatment Clinical Trials to Start in West Africa

Experimental trials to find an Ebola treatment will begin next month in West Africa

An international health organization that has been leading the fight against the Ebola outbreak said Thursday that it will start experimental trials of treatments in West Africa next month.

MORE: Ebola death toll passes 5,000

There is currently no known cure for the virus, which has claimed at least 5,160 lives in the current epidemic. Doctors Without Borders, along with three different research partners from Belgium, France, and the U.K., will be leading the trials, which will test two antiviral drugs in Guinea and an unconfirmed location. The third trial in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, will use the blood of recovered Ebola patients to treat sick patients.

The World Health Organization and regional health authorities are also collaborating with the research partners.

Conducting clinical trials during a humanitarian crisis is unprecedented but MSF and partners have set up the trials with exceptional speed in an attempt to quell an outbreak with a fatality rate of around 70%.

MORE: Republicans grill Obama officials on Ebola funding request

“We need to keep in mind that there is no guarantee that these therapies will be the miracle cure” says Dr Annick Antierens, coordinating Doctor Without Borders’ investigational partnerships. “But we need to do all we can to try the products available today to increase the chances of finding an effective treatment against Ebola.”

The trials are expected to begin in December and initial results could be available as early as February 2015.

TIME ebola

Facebook Wants You to Help Fight Ebola

Facebook

Over the next week, a donation prompt will appear atop your News Feed

Facebook announced a new initiative on Thursday that it hopes will encourage its massive user base to donate and help tackle the worst Ebola outbreak on record.

Over the next week, the social network said in a blog post, users will see a message at the top of News Feeds that will ask for donations to organizations like the International Medical Corps, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children. All donations will go directly to the charities.

Beyond that, Facebook is working with UNICEF to spread key information about Ebola symptoms and treatment and collaborating with NetHope in order to provide emergency voice and data services for health and aid workers in the three hardest-hit countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The Ebola response in West Africa has seen a smaller flow of individual charitable donations than other recent relief efforts. An analysis by the CNNMoney last month found that the American Red Cross had raised $486 million in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, while it had raised just $100,000 in individual donations toward combatting Ebola, aside from a $2.8 million foundation contribution.

Philanthropists, meanwhile, have represented the largest source of private donations, including a $100 million pledge from Microsoft’s Paul Allen and a $25 million donation from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

TIME ebola

The Spanish Nurse Who Survived Ebola Leaves Hospital Disease-Free

Spain Ebola
Teresa Romero, bottom right, arrives with medical workers to give a press statement before she leaves the Carlos III hospital in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Andres Kudacki—AP

"I don't know what went wrong," Teresa Romero said

The Spanish nurse’s aide believed to be the first person to have contracted Ebola outside Africa was on Wednesday released from a Madrid hospital.

Teresa Romero, 44, thanked God and her caregivers for “giving her back life,” the New York Times reports.

Health officials said it was impossible to discern which of several factors — including the use of an experimental Ebola drug and blood plasma from another survivor — had beaten the often fatal disease

Romero had tested positive for the illness almost a month ago, after treating a missionary who had come down with the disease in West Africa and later died in Madrid.

Her case had stoked fears that Ebola could threaten countries with advanced health care systems — worries that reached new heights when two health care workers in Dallas also contracted the illness — and played into a furious blame game.

“I don’t know what went wrong, I don’t even know if anything went wrong,” Romero said. “I only know that … if my infection can be of some use, so that the disease can be studied better or to help find a vaccine or to cure other people, here I am.”

[NYT]

TIME ebola

Obama Asks for $6.2 Billion to Fight Ebola

President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 5, 2014.
President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 5, 2014. Larry Downing—Reuters

U.S. has previously committed $500 million and more than 3,000 troops

President Barack Obama is seeking more than $6 billion in emergency funds from Congress to fight Ebola in West Africa and prevent the virus from again reaching the United States.

If approved, the Associated Press reports, $2 billion would be allocated to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and $2.4 billion would be set aside for the Department of Health and Human Services. Another $1.5 billion would go to a contingency fund. With the new funding, the report adds, the U.S. would create dozens more treatment centers and secure additional safety suits.

Health officials have long warned that the U.S. is not safe from Ebola until the outbreak is stopped at the source in West Africa. New figures released by the World Health Organization on Wednesday detail the virus’ wrath in the region, with more than 13,000 reported cases, including some 4,800 deaths, as of Nov. 2.

The U.S. has previously committed $500 million to deploy more than 3,000 troops, some of whom are erecting treatment facilitates. As TIME reported in September, Obama also requested another $88 million from Congress, which included $58 million to speed up the development of experimental drugs.

The international community has been criticized by medical aid groups like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross for reacting too late to the outbreak.

[AP]

TIME ebola

WHO Pillories Drug Industry on Failure to Develop Ebola Vaccine

World Health Organization and UN officials hold briefing on West Africa Ebola outbreak in Washington
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan (L) and Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease Dr. David Nabarro appear at a briefing to discuss the Ebola outbreak in West Africa at the UN Foundation in Washington on September 3, 2014. Gary Cameron—Reuters

Director-General Margaret Chan says "a profit-driven industry" has no incentive to develop drugs for poor countries who can't pay

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday castigated the pharmaceutical industry for failing to develop a vaccine for Ebola over the some 40 years that the virus has threatened West Africa.

Speaking in Cotonou, Benin, Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, wondered rhetorically why clinicians are “still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure” for Ebola, even though the disease first appeared some four decades ago.

The answer, said Chan, is at least in part that “Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations.” She lambasted drug manufacturers for not taking an interest in an Ebola vaccine until the disease became a threat to non-African countries, including the U.S.

“The R&D incentive is virtually nonexistent,” she continued. “A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay.”

Chan also reiterated that the West African outbreak has been so severe because her organization’s calls for advanced investment in the region’s underdeveloped health system have gone unheeded. So, the three hard-hit countries had scant public-health infrastructure that was bound to buckle when confronted by an infectious disease, she said.

“Two WHO arguments that have fallen on deaf ears for decades are now out there with consequences that all the world can see, every day, on prime-time TV news,” said Chan.

The Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 in what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), killing more than 400 people both there and in Sudan. Similar outbreaks in in the 1990s and early 2000s also killed hundreds of people in Congo and Uganda.

In the most recent outbreak, which has killed at least 4,951 people, almost all of the some 13,567 Ebola cases have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The U.S. has confirmed four cases of the virus, while Spain has confirmed one case.

The WHO has said it plans to begin treating health care workers in the three most affected countries with an experimental vaccine in the first quarter of 2015.

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