Doctors Without Borders Launch Massive measles vaccination campaign in Guinea

Doctors Without Borders says it is launching a massive measles vaccination campaign with Guinea’s government after at least 14 deaths and more than 3,400 cases were confirmed so far this year.

The aid group said Friday that thousands of people were left unprotected in 2014 and 2015 when the Ebola outbreak swept through the West African nation. Vaccination activities were reduced because of infection risks, and frightened families stayed away from health facilities…

MSF health policy analyst Dr. Mit Philips says Guinea now faces health issues without the funding and support promised during the Ebola outbreak to build better systems there. Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in the region and devastated health care systems.

Yup. Unforeseen consequences at work. Who might have foretold an epidemic outbreak grounded in fear of going to a clinic. Yet, Ebola in epidemic stage is so frightening the response was almost automatic.

Now, people have returned to strapped health clinics all too slowly and the measles vector expands into the unvaccinated population.

The ignoranus middle class anti-vaxxers of America should be required to spend a month or so in Guinea as volunteers. They can witness firsthand what life can be in a nation unprotected by basic vaccination. Which is how I grew up – not one year out-of-sequence; but, in an America that hadn’t yet instituted the whole range of vaccine protection now available to our children.

In case you wonder why I hold no forgiveness for folks fighting against vaccination.

Why was the last Ebola epidemic so much worse than previous?

❝ In late 2013, the Ebola virus began spreading through a small village in the West African nation of Guinea following human contact with an animal, likely a fruit bat. This was the start of what turned out to be the most widespread of all recorded Ebola outbreaks, resulting in 28,646 confirmed and suspected cases of illness, and 11,323 recorded deaths.

The unprecedented outbreak left a devastating toll on the social and economic infrastructure in West Africa, but it also forever changed the perspective from which virologists and epidemiologists study and track infectious diseases.

❝ Kristian Andersen…set out to determine why the recent epidemic was different from previous Ebola outbreaks. Specifically, his team wanted to figure out exactly how the virus spread so rapidly—and why it had such devastating effects on the people infected.

❝ Ebola is in a category of viruses that are especially prone to mutations because they lack the ability to correct mistakes during replication. This means that a virus such as Ebola can rapidly change as it spreads, for example, by evolving into a more deadly virus. That is the scenario that appears to have played out during the epidemic in West Africa.

But how? As described in a paper in the recent issue of Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal focused on the life sciences, Andersen and his group found what could be the smoking gun: a mutation—dubbed the GP-A82V mutant—on a particular type of protein, the viral receptor glycoprotein, in samples of the virus from the epidemic. This mutation increased the ability of the virus to infect human dendritic cells, the type of immune cells that the Ebola virus uses to make copies of itself.

A few more links in the article are useful for further perusal. I think we’re all fortunate that Andersen’s study landed on target in a reasonable stretch of time. No one knows when and exactly where the next outbreak of Ebola will strike. Perhaps by then his research will have better equipped other medical professionals to fight back and save more lives.

Pic of the Day


Ebola handshake going strong as Ebola cases decrease

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Dr. Peter Graaff, the World Health Organization’s representative in Liberia, are among the first to publicly use the Ebola handshake. It’s a trend that’s catching on.

When this new form of salutation was introduced in disease-torn west Africa in October, it was considered yet another way to temper the Ebola epidemic. Today, bumping elbows, hitting arms and knocking shoes — each considered an Ebola handshake — is the new normal, especially among young men.

It’s not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. As the three hardest hit nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — cope with the aftermath of Ebola, some are considering new ways to institute safer health practices. In parts of hard-hit Sierra Leone, where some 3,000 have died from Ebola, the handshake is law…

The Ebola handshake has even spread beyond the borders of Africa. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was seen using the Ebola handshake.

Maybe this will help us all out with the flu, as well.

The psychology of irrational fear

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Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN: “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert…

It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks…

Of course, Ebola is partly a stand-in for our ongoing collective anxieties, ever simmering and child-leash-purchase inducing. In calmer times, we might instead be wringing our hands over gluten, swine flu, or that illegal immigrants are coming here to “steal our jobs.”

A recent survey from Chapman University found that Americans are most afraid of walking alone at night, identity theft, safety on the Internet, becoming the victim of a mass shooting, and having to speak in public.

The study also found that Democrats were most likely to be worried about personal safety, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans, meanwhile, had the highest levels of fear about the government, immigrants, and “today’s youth.” It also found that having a low level of education or watching talk- or true-crime TV was associated with harboring the most types of fear. Despite the fact that crime rates have decreased over the past 20 years, most Americans, the survey found, think all types of crime have become more prevalent…

RTFA. A compendium of silliness we get to view every day of our lives in what is reputed to be the leading modern nation on this planet. I’m more certain of the silliness than the leadership part.

Thanks, Mike

Arizona coppers wake up pastor at 2 AM to see if he had Ebola


Shift change for Tucson Police Department

A Tucson Pastor, Michael Petzer, who returned from Zambia in early September, was awakened by two Tucson police officers pounding on his door at 2 AM. They wanted to know if he had Ebola.

It turns out that a woman from his congregation went to the hospital with self-described “possible Ebola symptoms” and she shared with doctors that her Pastor had been to Africa.

The hospital called the cops, and TPD sent out two officers to check it out.

The officers did a welfare check on Petzer after a request from UAMC, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman. Officials with UAMC confirmed that was true, and said they followed protocol. The hospital did not contact the Pima County Health Department.

“The only way we could figure out if it was a real contact to be concerned about was to find out the travel history. That is why the police were sent out,” said Dr. Andreas Theodorou, chief medical officer at UA Medical Center. “The health department doesn’t have the capacity to do that.”…

“When a patient comes to the ER and has a fever and West African contact, it triggers the process, and we have to take it seriously,” he said.

Well, of course Zambia is not near the infected areas of Africa, and the good pastor was well beyond the 21 day period.

“I think this is hysteria, and a zero understanding of geography,” said Petzer, explaining that Zambia is in south-central Africa, about 2,500 miles away from the affected areas in West Africa…

“I traveled from a noninfected country to one (United States) where there are people in quarantine,” Petzer said. “I think this is an issue of public ignorance and not an issue of public health. People hear Africa, and everyone thinks ‘Ebola.’ Most Americans do not have a clue that Africa is a large continent and not a country. People have to stop the hysteria of it all.”

Please mail me a penny postcard when you bump into local officials, police or ignorant bumpkins who will admit they don’t know bupkis about geography, public health or civil liberties. Especially after they screw up like this.

Yes, that obviously includes hospital administrators.

Bobby Jindal leads Republican pack in stupid Ebola policies


Governor Jindal announcing policies for health care workers

Louisiana has a message for many of the scientists and medical experts studying Ebola and aiding efforts to fight the deadly virus in West Africa — stay away.

The state sent a letter to members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which is holding its annual conference in New Orleans next week. If they’ve recently been to any of the West African countries where the virus has infected more than 13,000 people, they shouldn’t attend the meeting…

The society of researchers, medical professionals and scientists dates back more than a century, according to its website, and has members around the world.

The letter disinvites any registrants who’ve cared for people with Ebola in the last three weeks…

There are 3,588 people registered to attend the meeting, though the society doesn’t know how many have recently been in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, where the outbreak is located.

Current U.S. policy suggests that people who’ve cared for Ebola patients but haven’t been exposed to the virus monitor themselves for three weeks. The White House has said that mandatory quarantines of health workers from outbreak zones, such as those implemented by New York and New Jersey, aren’t based on science and may discourage relief workers from volunteering…

Tropical diseases thrive in warm, wet, rural conditions that often have poor sanitation, said Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans…“We want people to be able to come back from these regions and discuss and share what they’ve learned,” Garry said in a telephone interview. “That’s what these meetings are all about.”

I expect scare tactics, fear-mongering, ignorance and opportunism from Republican politicians. It’s been their stock in trade for more than a half-century – or longer. But, the addition of STUPID as the leading edge of anti-intellectualism, anti-science ideology really is something new.

The saddest part I fear is that their success at diminishing America’s education system – capability, capacity and modernity – has laid the groundwork for an electorate doing their level best to vote against every rational self-interest.

Ebola vaccine sat on the shelf ready to test for a decade

Almost a decade ago, scientists from Canada and the United States reported that they had created a vaccine that was 100 percent effective in protecting monkeys against the Ebola virus. The results were published in a respected journal, and health officials called them exciting. The researchers said tests in people might start within two years, and a product could potentially be ready for licensing by 2010 or 2011.

It never happened. The vaccine sat on a shelf. Only now is it undergoing the most basic safety tests in humans — with nearly 5,000 people dead from Ebola and an epidemic raging out of control in West Africa.

Its development stalled in part because Ebola is rare, and until now, outbreaks had infected only a few hundred people at a time. But experts also acknowledge that the absence of follow-up on such a promising candidate reflects a broader failure to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries. Most drug companies have resisted spending the enormous sums needed to develop products useful mostly to countries with little ability to pay…

The NY TIMES doesn’t need to waste space on defending the greed of corporate pharmaceutical giants. That’s what Congress is for.

Now, as the growing epidemic devastates West Africa and is seen as a potential threat to other regions as well, governments and aid groups have begun to open their wallets. A flurry of research to test drugs and vaccines is underway, with studies starting for several candidates, including the vaccine produced nearly a decade ago.

A federal official said in an interview on Thursday that two large studies involving thousands of patients were planned to begin soon in West Africa, and were expected to be described in detail on Friday by the World Health Organization.

With no vaccines or proven drugs available, the stepped-up efforts are a desperate measure to stop a disease that has defied traditional means of containing it.

Kind of like white folks noticing we don’t live in a post-racial society regardless of what Republicans say. The TIMES notices what anyone who cares about public health has always known. If it can make a bunch of money, any illness can receive study and attempts at a cure from the medical-industrial complex. The rest can waste their energy on hope.

Thanks, Mike

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to film in New Mexico


Morocco, Shmorocco – I can’t tell the difference either

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was scheduled to shoot in Africa, but with the Ebola virus epidemic going on there, it’s probably best to stay home. Instead, it looks like Deming, New Mexico will be filling in as a replacement location. Henry Cavill News spotted a posting on the New Mexico Film Office website, which was looking for extras for a Warner Bros. movie back in September…

According to the casting notice, entire families age 8 and older are needed to re-create an African village scene. The deserts in New Mexico can easily pass for Morocco, the location in Africa that they originally wanted to shoot at. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice crew is expected to film in New Mexico in mid-November, right after they’re done in Chicago, Illinois…

Holy Javelina, Batman!

Thanks, Mike

The Western media focus on Ebola

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 6.29.11 PM

The Western media circus has lapped up the Ebola epidemic and paraded it around as its newest act. It’s everywhere you look — stories about “necessary” precautions, tales of children and even police cars under quarantine, fear that the disease has spread to other parts of the country. And it all has one singular focus: America and the West.

André Carrilho, an illustrator and cartoonist based in Lisbon whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and New York magazine, chose to play up this disparity in an August illustration, drawn shortly after two white missionaries stricken with Ebola were admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Thanks, Mike

Dallas hospital changes story — admits docs knew patient arrived from Liberia

Late Friday officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said that the nurses and doctors who initially treated and released an Ebola patient knew that the man, Thomas E. Duncan, had recently arrived from Liberia.

Earlier the hospital claimed the its electronic health record used separate workflows for physicians and nurses so that the travel history in the nursing section “would not automatically appear in the physician’s standard workflow.”

In its latest statement “the hospital effectively retracted that portion of its statement, saying that ‘there was no flaw‘ in its electronic health records system. The hospital said ‘the patient’s travel history was documented and available to the full care team in the electronic health record (E.H.R.), including within the physician’s workflow…’

The hospital’s initial account triggered significant discussion of potential problems with EHRs.

The hospital offered no explanation for the conflicting accounts.

Har. Anyone can be guilty of a screwup but doctors. Nurses may have known and didn’t tell the doctors. The updated electronic health records system required by Obamacare must have been flawed – and therefore the doctors didn’t know the patient may have been exposed to Ebola.

Hogwash! One can only presume by Monday the hospital administration will have come up with a new and creative excuse for sending Thomas Duncan away the first time he arrived at the ER.