TIME Infectious Disease

This Is What It Feels Like to Survive Ebola

David Morrison—© 2014 Samaritan's Purse Dr. Kent Brantly hugs his wife Amber after being discharged from Emory University Hospital

Since he started treating patients with Ebola in West Africa, Dr. Kent Brantly had seen only one person survive. Then he tested positive for the disease himself. What it’s like to outlive the worst outbreak of Ebola on record

Ebola is ravaging West Africa like a wildfire out of control.

The morning I woke up with Ebola, I felt a little warm. My temperature was 100.0–higher than normal, but not too concerning. I decided to stay home from work that morning just to play it safe. I had spent the last seven weeks fighting the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in Liberia, where I was working as a physician with Samaritan’s Purse. I thought I just had a cold, but I was not naive enough to think I was immune to the possibility of Ebola.

By noon, my temperature had increased to 101.4. I took a rapid malaria test; it was negative–not a good sign. I called our team leader, who sent physician colleagues to my home in full protective gear.

After two more negative malaria tests, I knew I would be in isolation for at least three more days. Often the blood test for Ebola will remain negative for the first three days of illness, so we had to wait a few days for an accurate result. In the meantime, I grew sicker. My fever hit 104.9. I felt nauseated and began having diarrhea. Eventually the team started an IV in my arm and gave me fluids. We all hoped it could be dengue fever.

On the fourth day the team leader came to my bedroom window with news. “Kent, buddy, we have your test results. I am really sorry to tell you that it’s positive for Ebola.” I didn’t know what to think. I just asked, “So what’s our plan?”

In the middle of October 2013, I had moved to Monrovia with my wife Amber and two children. We planned to serve as medical missionaries with Samaritan’s Purse for two years. The first time I heard about the Ebola outbreak was at the end of March, at a picnic for expatriates living in the area. Someone asked if I had heard about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. I had not, but within a couple of months I was one of only two doctors in Monrovia treating Ebola patients.

Samaritan's Purse
Samaritan’s PurseDr. Kent Brantly and his wife Amber and their children in Liberia before Dr. Brantly was infected with Ebola

On June 11 our hospital, called ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), received a call from the Ministry of Health. They were bringing two Ebola patients to our isolation unit. In the two hours it took for us to prepare everything, one of the patients died in the ambulance. Over the next month and a half the number of patients grew exponentially. We were overwhelmed.

On July 20, we opened a larger isolation unit and consolidated our smaller facility with the patients from another nearby hospital. That’s the same day I dropped off Amber and the kids at the airport to return to Texas for a family wedding. I was supposed to meet them a week later. But just three days after their departure, I got sick.

Even with the bad news, I felt calm. I never shed a tear when I called my wife and said, “Amber, my test is positive. I have Ebola.” Though the rest of my family wept, I felt strangely at peace. God blessed me with that peace that surpasses understanding. Since we had started treating patients with Ebola in Monrovia, we had only had one survivor. I had watched too many people die from this disease. Amber and I were both at the disadvantage of knowing how this illness ends.

At some point, I was told about an experimental drug. It had worked on monkeys, but had never been tested in humans. I agreed to receive it, but then decided that Nancy Writebol should get it first, since she was sicker. I was not trying to be a hero; I was making a rational decision as a doctor.

Over the next couple of days, though, my condition worsened. My body began shaking, my heart was racing. Nothing would bring down my temperature, and I had fluid in my lungs. I felt hot, nauseated, weak–everything was a blur. I had friends and colleagues praying outside my house–and all over the world. The doctor decided to give me the drug, and within an hour my body stabilized a bit. It was enough improvement for me to be safely evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

During my own care, I often thought about the patients I had treated. Ebola is a humiliating disease that strips you of your dignity. You are removed from family and put into isolation where you cannot even see the faces of those caring for you due to the protective suits–you can only see their eyes. You have uncontrollable diarrhea and it is embarrassing. You have to rely on others to clean you up. That is why we tried our best to treat patients like our own family. Through our protective gear we spoke to each patient, calling them by name and touching them. We wanted them to know they were valuable, that they were loved, and that we were there to serve them.

At Emory the doctors were able to see that my potassium level was low and replenish it–something that could not be done in Liberia and could have killed me. I finally cried for the first time when I saw my family members through a window and spoke to them over the intercom. I had not been sure I would ever see them again. When I finally recovered, the nurses excitedly helped me leave the isolation room, and I held my wife in my arms for the first time in a month.

Even when I was facing death, I remained full of faith. I did not want to be faithful to God all the way up to serving in Liberia for ten months, only to give up at the end because I was sick. Though we cannot return to Liberia right now, it is clear we have been given a new platform for helping the people of Liberia.

Ebola has changed everything in West Africa. We cannot sit back and say, “Oh, those poor people.” We must think outside the box and find ways to help. People are fearful of isolation units because “that is where you go to die.” They stay home instead and infect their families. Perhaps we need to find a way to provide safe home care that protects the caregivers. The national governments of West Africa are overwhelmed. They are not capable of handling this outbreak with simply a little help from some NGOs. This is a global problem and it requires the action of national governments around the world. We must take action to stop it–now.

Dr. Kent Brantly is a missionary doctor with the organization Samaritan’s Purse. He recently survived Ebola after treating patients in Liberia.

TIME Environment

California Set to Enact First Statewide Ban of Plastic Bags

Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari
Rich Pedroncelli—AP California Governor Jerry Brown, left, listens as Republican challenger Neel Kashkari speaks during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 4, 2014

After state lawmakers passed a bill

California is poised to become the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags after Governor Jerry Brown said Thursday that he expected to sign a bill nixing their use.

The legislation — which would oust single-use plastic bags from grocery stores and pharmacies in 2015, as well as from convenience and liquor stores a year later — is similar to laws on the books in more than 100 California municipalities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as in individual towns and cities across the U.S.

Like those municipal laws, the California bill also authorizes stores to levy a $.10 charge on paper or reusable bags. In addition, it extends some $2 million in loans to plastic-bag manufacturers in an effort to soften those factories’ shift toward producing reusable bags.

American environmentalists and lawmakers have seized on banning non-biodegradable bags as a way to cut down on waste and clean up the country’s waters. But bag manufacturers have lobbied fiercely against such measures, warning that as bags disappear, so do the jobs in their factories.

Brown has until the end of September to sign the bill, passed by state lawmakers in a 22-to-15 vote last week.

“I probably will sign it, yes,” said the Democrat on Thursday evening, during a televised debate with his Republican rival Neel Kashkari, who is challenging Brown in the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election, the Los Angeles Times reports. “This is a compromise. It’s taking into account the needs of the environment, and the needs of the economy and the needs of the grocers.”

Republicans in California’s legislature had opposed the bill, calling it unwarranted government involvement in local business, as well as a burden to job-creating manufacturers.

Kashkari — who trails the incumbent Brown by 50% to 34% in recent polling — said in the Thursday debate that there was “no chance” he would sign the bill.

TIME deals

Tesla Is Going to Build Its Huge Battery Factory in Nevada

6,500 jobs to be created in Reno

Tesla Motors has picked Nevada as the location of the electric-car company’s $5 billion battery plant, dubbed the Gigafactory.

The deal is expected to bring 6,500 much needed jobs to the state’s Reno area, reports USA Today.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told the audience at the official announcement Thursday that the plant would “enable the mass production of compelling electric vehicles for decades to come.”

But before the deal can be finalized, USA Today reports, Nevada will have to cough up a huge incentive package estimated to be worth $1.5 billion over 20 years.

Tesla aims to be pumping out lithium-ion battery cells on a huge scale from the plant by 2020, which will ultimately bring down their cost.

“I am grateful that Elon Musk and Tesla saw the promise in Nevada,” said Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. “These 21st century pioneers, fueled with innovation and desire, are emboldened by the promise of Nevada to change the world.”

With an eye to sustainability, the plant will produce its own energy and adopt labor-saving construction techniques.

The deal will now go to the state’s legislature for approval and is due to be called in a special session next week.

[USA Today]

TIME Health Care

Obamacare Website Was Hacked in July

Obamacare's 6-Million Target Hit As Exchange Sees Visits Surge
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marketplace guide Stephanie Cantres works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website as she helps a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at a Westside Family Healthcare center enrollment event in Bear, Delaware, on March 27, 2014.

No personal information was stolen in the breach

A hacker managed to breach cybersecurity at HealthCare.gov and implant malicious code on the federal Obamacare website, officials revealed Thursday.

Healthcare.gov hosts the federal insurance exchange on which millions of Americans have purchased health insurance since the Affordable Care Act mandate that most people be insured began rolling out last year. Officials said they learned of the hack, which took place in July, last week.

The attack is apparently the first instance of a hacker successfully breaking through the site’s defenses, an anonymous employee of the Department of Health and Human Services told The Wall Street Journal.

Officials said the attacker does not appear to have stolen any personal data and only broke in to a server used to test run software for the site. HHS said the Healthcare.gov site doesn’t seem to have been a specific target of the attack.

“Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information; data was not transmitted outside the agency, and the website was not specifically targeted,” HHS said in a statement to the WSJ. “We have taken measures to further strengthen security.”

Investigators found that hackers had not coordinated an assault to get valuable personal information, but had intended to install malware to allow other computers to control the Healthcare.gov system for later mass attacks, like a DDOS attack, designed to send so many visitors to a website it overwhelms the site’s ability to function. Investigators said they believe the hack is not the work of another government or government sponsored group.

Such security breaches are not uncommon but the attack raises concerns about the security of the website, which contains confidential personal details of millions of Americans. Republicans, who are united in opposition to the law and its implementation, have long warned the site was at risk of attack by hackers.

“If this happened anywhere other than HealthCare.gov, it wouldn’t be news,” a senior DHS official told the WSJ.

[WSJ]

TIME Crime

Georgia Murder Case Brings Unprecedented Attention to Hot-Car Deaths

Justin Ross Harris sits in Cobb County Magistrate Court in Marietta, Georgia in this July 3, 2014 file photo.
Reuters Justin Ross Harris sits in Cobb County Magistrate Court in Marietta, Ga., on July 3, 2014

Whether that attention will help decrease the number of children who die in hot cars remains to be seen

The Georgia father whose 22-month-old son died of heat stroke in June after being left in the backseat of a car was indicted on three murder charges by a Georgia grand jury Thursday.

With salacious details that led to an unusual murder charge, the legal drama has brought unprecedented attention to the issue of hot-car deaths. But whether that attention will help decrease the number of children who die in hot cars remains to be seen.

Janette Fennell, a safety advocate who runs the organization KidsAndCars.org, said that awareness of the issue has risen to its highest point in her years of advocacy the issue thanks to the case. That perception is bolstered by survey results released last week suggesting that more than 85% of people have heard about the issue, compared with 69% in April.

“Before this case, there were 12 tragedies this year, and when this happened everything was lit on fire,” Fennell said. “There has never been a case that has gotten this much media attention.”

The case began as a typical, if tragic, case of a father planning to drop of his child off at day care and forgetting. Groups rallied to support a man who seemed to be a grieving father.

But shocking details emerged and transformed public perception. Police say Justin Ross Harris, the father, had searched the Internet for information about animals dying in hot cars and researched living without a child. While his child withered away in the car, Harris allegedly sent sexually explicit photos to women.

While many parents have been charged for negligence or even manslaughter after the deaths of their children in hot cars, experts say they’re not aware of cases where there has been intent. Jan Null, a meteorologist who researches the issue, said more than 50% of deaths were caused by parents who accidentally forget their child, with the rest caused by children who accidentally trapped themselves in a car without parental supervision.

The alleged intent in this case was at least an element of what led authorities to pursue murder charges. The first count, malice murder, explicitly alleges that Harris killed his son with “malice aforethought.” He also faces seven other charges, including cruelty to children and dissemination of harmful material to minors.

Fennel said the Harris case has led some in the public to believe that any heat-stroke death must have been intentional. In one case, she said, a father from Ohio whose child had died accidentally in the back of a car was confused with Harris and accused of murdering his child.

“We’re on this teeter-totter,” she said. “If it turns out there was intent, then you’re going to have this one case that everybody can refer to and take that idea and apply it to any of these cases.”

TIME Civil Rights

Justice Department Opens Civil Rights Probe Into Ferguson Police

US Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks on the Justice Department’s efforts in Ferguson, Missouri.
Shawn Thew—EPA US Attorney General Eric Holder responds to a question from the news media on the Justice Department’s efforts in Ferguson, Missouri during a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on Sept. 4, 2014.

"Our investigation will assess the police department’s use of force, including deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches, and arrests."

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department would open a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department in the wake of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager last month.

The Aug. 9 encounter prompted riots and days of protests in the St. Louis suburb, and the Department of Justice is already separately investigating whether any civil rights laws were violated during the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown.

Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference on Thursday that city leaders would be cooperating with the investigation into whether there was a pattern or practice of discrimination in the force. He also said the so-called “pattern or practice” investigation could be expanded to include police departments in neighboring jurisdictions.

“In Ferguson, our investigation will assess the police department’s use of force, including deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches, and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson’s city jail, in addition to other potentially discriminatory policing techniques and tactics that are brought to light,” Holder said.

The Department was given the legal authority to open “pattern or practice” investigations in 1994 and in the past five years it has opened 20 such investigations across the country.

TIME States

Former Virginia Governor Guilty of Corruption

Bob McDonnell,  Eileen Reinaman
Steve Helber&—AP Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, second left, talks to his sister Eileen Reinamanas they arrive at federal court for the third day of jury deliberations in his corruption trial in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.

Bob McDonnell and Maureen had argued they were too estranged to conspire

A Virginia jury found former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen guilty of corruption, fraud and conspiracy on Thursday, capping a dramatic political fall for a man once considered a future presidential candidate.

McDonnell, a Republican, was found guilty on 11 of the 13 counts he faced, and Maureen on nine counts. The two were accused of conspiring to accept more than $177,000 in cash, loans and gifts—including a Rolex and designer clothes and handbags—from a local businessman in exchange for political favors. The two waged an unusual bad-marriage defense, arguing they were so estranged they couldn’t have conspired together.

Former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, the prosecution’s star witness, spent 15 hours on the stand detailing how he felt his relationship with the McDonnells was a business one and that he expected some kind of quid pro quo for his generosity. The defense argued that the couple, who did hold parties for and take photos with William’s products, did help Williams within the bounds of ethics rules and that Williams’ financial aid was considered more support from a friend, especially for Maureen McDonnell. Maureen, they argued, developed an “emotional relationship” with Williams as she struggled with the stress of being First Lady of Virginia. Both sides said that neither engaged in a sexual relationship.

McDonnell could have shielded his wife from the charges against her and pled to one felony count, but the former trial attorney wanted to avoid jail so badly he took the riskier option of fighting the 14-count corruption charges in court. McDonnell spent days detailing the collapse of his marriage, telling the court he struggled with loneliness and his wife’s rages, taking solace in her ever-closer relationship with Williams, which seemed to calm her. The former governor testified that his “soul mate” was so haranguing that the governor’s mansion staff unanimously signed a petition against her, and that he felt compelled to work late every day. “I want to be in love, not just watch movies about it,” McDonnell wrote his wife an e-mail that went unanswered.

Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand. The couple, both 60, remains married, though they are not living together. Bob McDonnell had been viewed as a possible running mate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 and perhaps even a future presidential candidate himself.

Virginia has some of the most lax ethics laws of any state in the country. Government officials can take gifts as long as they are disclosed. Even in the wake of the case, the Virginia State Legislature has not passed any measures to tighten those ethics rules.

The McDonnells are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6. They could face up to 30 years in prison.

McDonnell’s Democratic successor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said he was “deeply saddened by the events of the trial that ended in today’s verdict, and the impact it has had on our Commonwealth’s reputation for honesty and clean government.”

TIME technology

Google VP Megan Smith Gets Top White House Tech Job

Megan Smith Chief Technology Officer
Sascha Baumann—Getty Images Megan Smith of Google speaks during the Digital Life Design women conference (DLDwomen) at Bavarian National Museum on June 30, 2011 in Munich, Germany.

The Google exec will be the nation's third CTO and first female to hold the position

The White House announced Thursday that it has named Megan Smith, most recently Vice President at Google’s X labs, as the nation’s next Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President.

Smith, an MIT-educated engineer and entrepreneur, will “guide the Administration’s information-technology policy and initiatives,” according to a blog post from John Holdren, the White House Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “I am confident that in her new role as America’s chief technology officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people.”

Smith—the first woman and third person ever to hold the position—will be joined by the legal expertise of Alexander Macgillivray, former General Counsel of Twitter, who the White House named as deputy CTO. Macgillivray will focus on Internet policy, intellectual property policy, and the future of big data, privacy and security.

At Google X, Smith was responsible for co-creating “SolveForX,” a think tank project, and Google’s “Women Techmakers” diversity initiative. Smith first joined Google in 2003 as vice president of business development and oversaw several important acquisitions related to platforms like Google Earth, Google Maps and Picasa.

Prior to her work at Google, Smith was COO and CEO at PlanetOut, an interactive media company serving the gay and lesbian community.

TIME

Shark! Great White Goes After Massachusetts Kayakers

What started out as a relaxing paddle in the Atlantic Ocean ended with a terrifying encounter with a shark for two women—and large bite marks on their kayaks to prove it. Ida Parker and her friend were kayaking off Plymouth, Mass., on Wednesday when the fin of a great white crept out of the open water.

“It came completely out of the water and got the bottom of the boat,” Parker, wrapped in a towel, said as she struggled not to cry. “It flipped [my friend] over and it knocked my kayak completely over…”

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Environment

Judge Places Most Blame on BP for 2010 Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon site
Carrie Vonderhaar—Ocean Futures Society/Getty Images Deepwater Horizon site

British energy giant's conduct called "reckless"

A New Orleans judge ruled on Thursday that British energy giant BP’s gross negligence led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said BP was mostly to blame for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, which killed 11 people and spewed oil into the water for 87 days.

Barbier attributed 67% of the fault to BP, 30% to Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and 3% to Halliburton, the cement contractor.

“BP’s conduct was reckless,” Barbier wrote in the decision, according to Bloomberg. “Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent.”

Barbier oversaw a trial last year to distribute fault for the spill. BP could face up to $18 billion in fines, Bloomberg reports, though appeals will likely delay if and when any penalties are settled. The company pleaded guilty in 2012 to 14 federal counts and agreed to pay $4 billion to end the criminal case.

BP said in a statement it would appeal the decision. Its shares were down nearly 6% at 12:12 p.m. ET on Thursday.

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