TIME Liberia

Schools in Liberia Reopen After a Six-Month Closure Due to Ebola

Liberia Ebola West Africa
Abbas Dulleh—AP Liberian school children wash their hands before entering their classrooms as part of the Ebola prevention measures at Cathedral High School as students arrive in the morning to attend class in Monrovia, Liberia, Feb. 16, 2015.

Cases of the deadly virus have been in decline over the past few weeks

After a six-month closure due to the Ebola epidemic, many schools in Liberia reopened their classroom doors on Monday.

Before lessons began, pupils lined up to wash their hands in chlorinated water while teachers took their temperatures as part of new safety measures, reports the BBC.

Though students were excited to get back to school, some were worried that the virus had not been completely eradicated.

Liberia was one of the worst affected countries by Ebola with at least 3,800 people killed. However, there has been a general decline of the deadly disease in recent weeks.

According to the World Health Organization, only three new confirmed cases were reported in Liberia in the week leading to Feb. 8.

The reopening of schools comes a day after leaders of the three worst affected West African states — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — vowed to achieve “zero Ebola infections within 60 days,” during a meeting in the latter on Sunday.

[BBC]

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Valentine’s Day Chocolate Will Be Pricey This Year

The price of cocoa harvested in West Africa has risen in the last year, causing chocolate producers to raise prices as well.

Watch the latest #KnowRightNow to find out how this will affect your wallet come Valentine’s Day.

TIME ebola

Ebola Bodies Are Infectious a Week After Death, Study Shows

The virus is also detectable in corpses for up to 10 weeks

Scientists have known for some time that the closer a person with Ebola is to death, the more infectious they are. A dead body with Ebola has been frequently referred to as a “viral bomb.” But what was unclear was how long bodies remained infectious. Now, researchers working for the National Institutes of Health in Hamilton, Montana released new findings on Thursday showing the Ebola virus may remain infectious in dead bodies for a week, and detectable for 1o weeks.

In the study, the researchers infected five macaque monkeys—a species they believe can serve as models for humans—with Ebola, then eventually euthanized them. They placed the dead monkeys in a temperature- and environment-controlled chamber to simulate the climate of West Africa. Over several weeks, the researchers sampled and swabbed the tissue of their nose, mouth, blood, lung, spleen, liver and muscle.

MORE TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

They concluded that infectious Ebola virus remained in the macaques’ organs for three days, and in their blood for seven days, after death. Viral RNA, which wasn’t infectious, was still detectable for 10 weeks.

The new findings underline the continued need for vigilance when burying the bodies of Ebola victims, as well as safer funeral practices. In the beginning of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the spread of the virus could often be traced to funerals. Prior to massive education efforts, people living in the three affected countries often participated in intimate practices with the dead. In Liberia, for example, washing and kissing the corpse was a common custom.

The research also gives scientists a better understanding of how long the virus can remain in dead animals, since an outbreak is is typically spurred from contact between an infected animal and a human. It also provides a warning for researchers in the field who may handle primate carcasses, the researchers note.

Read next: How Today’s Ebola Response Reflects the History of Colonialism in Africa

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME ebola

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

Health workers take temperature of boy who came in contact with woman who died of Ebola virus in Paynesville neighborhood of Monrovia
James Giahyue—Reuters Health workers take the temperature of a boy who came in contact with a woman who died of Ebola virus in the Paynesville neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia, Jan. 21, 2015

Thousands are due to receive the experimental drug

Liberia has commenced the first large-scale trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine.

Scientists aim to immunize around 30,000 volunteers and health care workers in the country starting Monday, the BBC reports. The trial will involve injecting each of them with a tiny amount of chimpanzee cold virus that carries safe genetic material of Ebola, tricking the human body into producing an immune response.

The medicine has been hidden in a secret location in the country since it arrived one week ago.

British pharmaceutical and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline developed the vaccine alongside the U.S. National Institutes of Health; should the trial be successful, it would be the first preventative vaccine against the killer virus.

More than 8,500 people have died during the current Ebola outbreak, with 3,600 succumbing to the disease in Liberia alone. The number of new Ebola cases is in steady decline, however.

[BBC]

TIME ebola

WHO Chief Unveils Reforms After Ebola Response Criticized

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva
Pierre Albouy—Reuters World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Jan. 25, 2015.

"The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings"

The head of the UN’s global health agency has laid out a set of reforms to better and more quickly fight disease outbreaks, in a frank acknowledgement that the organization struggled to confront the scale of the 2014 Ebola outbreak that killed more than 8,600 people.

“This was West Africa’s first experience with the virus, and it delivered some horrific shocks and surprises,” said World Health Organization (WHO) director General Margaret Chan in a speech on Sunday. “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us.”

The needed changes, she said, include country-specific emergency workforces trained with “military precision”; a strengthened team of epidemiologists for detecting disease and a network of other providers to allow responders to reach “surge capacity.”

“The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings in this organization’s administrative, managerial, and technical infrastructures,” she said, calling for a “dedicated contingency fund to support rapid responses to outbreaks and emergencies.”

The remarks came as the WHO’s executive board prepared to meet in Geneva to discuss reform proposals that many in the international community consider to be overdue. The response to Ebola by the UN’s health agency was seen by many as slow and ineffectual.

Indeed, Sunday’s speech did not mark the first time Chan acknowledged her organization’s shortcomings. In October, she told TIME that “the scale of the response did not match the scale of the outbreak.”

TIME ebola

Mali Is Now Ebola-Free

Mali Ebola Spared No More
Baba Ahmed—AP A health worker sprays disinfectants near a mosque, after the body of a man suspected of dying from the Ebola virus was washed inside before being buried in Bamako, Mali

The country has gone 42 days without reporting a new case

Mali is officially Ebola-free after going 42 days without reporting a new case, according to the World Health Organization.

The country’s Health Minister Ousmane Kone made an announcement during a national broadcast on Sunday night.

During his speech, Kone heaped praise on the country’s health workers and Malian authorities for “weeks of intense work” that led to the result, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mali recorded its first Ebola case in October after a 2-year-old contracted the deadly virus. Following the incident, the country launched a massive eradication campaign.

In total, the disease only infected eight people in the country, but six of them were killed by it, according to statistics compiled by the WHO.

More than 8,400 people have succumbed to the deadly virus in West Africa.

TIME ebola

FDA Approves Roche’s Ebola Test

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Getty Images

A fast-acting Ebola test gets a green light for emergency use

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved pharmaceutical company Roche’s fast-acting Ebola test for emergency use.

It can take almost a full day to get results from Ebola tests on the market, but Roche’s new LightMix Ebola Zaire rRT-PCR Test provides results in just over three hours. Reuters reports that the test had been used temporarily by some labs in the U.S. and other countries to identify the strain of Ebola spreading in West Africa. The test is still not approved for general use.

Early diagnosis can lead to faster response and treatment. So far, 7,693 people have died of Ebola in West Africa and 19,695 have contracted the disease. The test is used on patients who begin to exhibit symptoms of the disease.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

Expert: Ebola Outbreak Will Probably Last All of Next Year

Baz Ratner—Reuters Professor Peter Piot still says he is encouraged by the progress made in Sierra Leone, where he believes the epidemic will soon peak

Professor Peter Piot still says he is encouraged by the progress made in Sierra Leone

Correction appended: Dec. 24, 2014, 7:00 a.m. E.T.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is likely to continue through 2015, says Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We need to be ready for a long effort, a sustained effort [for] probably the rest of 2015,” he told the BBC after returning from Sierra Leone.

Piot, who was one of the scientists who discovered Ebola in 1976, said he was impressed by the progress he had seen in the country, where mortality rates have fallen to as low as one in three.

“You don’t see any longer the scenes where people are dying in the streets,” he said.

But although the outbreak has peaked in Liberia and probably will do so in Sierra Leone too in the coming few weeks, the epidemic could have a “very long tail and a bumpy tail.”

“The Ebola epidemic is still very much there,” he said. “People are still dying, new cases are being detected.”

[BBC]

The previous version of this article identified Peter Piot as the director of the World Health Organization. He is the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

TIME ebola

There Are 53 Drugs That Could Treat Ebola

University of Utah Researchers Work Toward Cure For Ebola Strains
George Frey—Getty Images A container holds a Peptide that contains a potential new drug candidates for testing against a part of Ebola that is vulnerable to drugs, at the University of Utah on Oct. 14, 2014 in Salt Lake City.

New research raises prospect of treatments to be found in already available drugs

Scientists have identified 53 existing drugs that could be effective in fighting Ebola, according to newly published research.

There is currently no vaccine or drug available to treat the disease, which is one of the primary reasons the virus has been able to infect 18,603 people so far, and kill 6,915. A vaccine is undergoing clinical trials in humans, but a drug to treat people who already have the disease is critically needed. The experimental drug ZMapp has been used on a handful of Ebola patients, but resources of it are exhausted and it has not undergone adequate testing.

Running against the clock, some groups of scientists have decided that one of the most efficient ways to go about tackling the task of developing and distributing an Ebola drug is by screening drug compounds already available to see if any of those compounds could be used to create an effective drug.

MORE: Scientists Explore 10,000 Compounds for an Ebola Drug

In a new study published in the Nature Press journal Emerging Microbes and Infections, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said they’ve identified 53 promising drug compounds. The team used high speed technology to scan through a library of 2,816 U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved compounds already used for other ailments. Their method, which uses a virus-like particle that contained Ebola proteins, was calibrated to identify drugs that could prevent Ebola from infecting human cells by 50%.

Among these 53 promising compounds are ones used in cancer drugs, antihistamines, antibiotics, and antidepressants.

The compounds will be tested in animals to see what effects they have on Ebola, as well as their side effects. If a drug is proven both safe and effective, the government may use it in Ebola zones.

As TIME reported in October, scientists at Emory University Hospital are taking a similar approach to their library of 10,000 drug compounds. They think it’s possible Ebola could be treated similarly to the the treatments they’ve developed for viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C.

TIME ebola

U.N.: Ebola Outbreak Will Take Several More Months to Contain

Liberia Ebola Missed Goals
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear spray the shrouded body of a suspected Ebola victim with disinfectant at an Ebola treatment center at Tubmanburg, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on Nov. 28, 2014

The U.N. goal of containing 100% of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 will not be met

The U.N.’s special envoy on Ebola said Thursday that it would be several months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control.

Dr. David Nabarro said international governments as well as local communities had taken a “massive shift” in responding to the crisis over the past four month, the Associated Press reports.

However, he noted that more needed to be done to contain the spread of the disease in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali.

“It’s going to take, I’m afraid, several more months before we can truly declare that the outbreak is coming under control,” Nabarro said.

The World Health Organization aimed to have 100% of cases isolated by Jan. 1, but acknowledges that previous targets have not been met.

[AP]

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