The latest on the African Ebola outbreak

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared an Ebola outbreak.

The government says that as many as 13 patients may have died from the disease, including a doctor and a few nurses. The government says that the area is already quarantined and people will not be permitted to enter or leave. As of today, these cases had not been confirmed by the WHO. DRC says that the strain isolated from two of the cases is different from the strain currently causing Ebola elsewhere. Again, that has not been demonstrated by the WHO.

Ebola outbreaks tend to occur during the dry season (roughly the end of October to March.) That’s the timeframe when the current West African outbreak started. The government of the DRC did not release any information as to whether any of the suspected Ebola patients had been out of the country. The DRC is a more common site of Ebola. Ebola in West Africa, until now, was rare.

The WHO, and a personal contact I know who is working closely on the Ebola outbreak, both suggest that the outbreak seems to be slowing a little in Nigeria and Guinea.

“[The]WHO expressed “cautious optimism” that the spread of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation where four deaths out of 12 confirmed cases have been recorded since July, could be stopped.

Tourist photographer travels on a pirogue on the jungle of the central Africa. In 30 september, Congo Brazzaville, Africa. Tourist photographer travels on a pirogue on the jungle of the central Africa. In 30 september, Congo Brazzaville, Africa.

Tourist photographer travels on a pirogue on the jungle of the central Africa. In 30 september, Congo Brazzaville, Africa. Tourist photographer travels on a pirogue on the jungle of the central Africa. In 30 september, Congo Brazzaville, Africa.

It also described the situation in Guinea, where the virus made its first appearance in West Africa in December, as currently “less alarming” than in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said it was working with the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure food delivery to 1 million people living in Ebola quarantine zones cordoned off by local security forces in a border zone of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

Some of the affected countries have instituted blockades of areas within their territories to prevent the movement of those suspected of having Ebola. The governments are now making sure that food, some medications and other supplies are available to that populace. Leaving them unsupplied would only encourage them to travel to obtain needed food. One are, West Point a slum in Monrovia, has been cordoned off. Water and supplies are being passed into the residents, but no people are allowed in or out.

Those Ebola patients who fled the Liberian quarantine site when it was attacked by rioters, have been found and placed back in isolation at another hospital. A government spokesman says that teams of workers will go door-to-door in Monrovia. They will try to educate and calm the locals and get them to come in to a clinic if they feel ill.

Three African doctors in Liberia, who are infected with Ebola were treated with ZMapp. Mapp, the manufacturer of ZMapp has no more of the drug left. Even if more were available, the primary method of stopping the outbreak would still be quarantine and control of infected citizens, protective garb, frequent hand washing, etc.

Abraham Borbor, one of three doctors in Liberia who had contracted Ebola and had received the experimental drug, ZMapp, died.

Even though the WHO is supposed to be supplying the affected areas with money and supplies, apparently it is slow in doing so. Some Liberians report that burials in some areas have been halted due to the lack of body bags. Protective rubber boots are almost gone, as is hand sanitizer.

Reports seem to show that all of the cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone stemmed from one woman. A healer-herbalist claimed that she could cure Ebola. This triggered a wave of patients to come from Guinea to visit her for her “treatment.” Officials feel that the influx of patients brought Ebola to Sierra Leone. The herbalist became ill herself with Ebola. However she apparently continued to infect others even after her death through mourning rituals that allowed attendees to come into contact with her. The virus spread in the region and there have been about 365 deaths from Ebola.

A British nurse, William Pooley, a volunteer who had been working in Sierra Leone, is the first UK citizen confirmed with Ebola. He was flown back to Britain, in isolation, and has been taken to a hospital there for treatment.

Nigerian doctors, who had been on strike over pay and working conditions issues with the government, finally agreed to suspend the strike and go back to work. So far, there have been about 15 cases of Ebola reported in Nigeria with five deaths.

The New York Times has a good article profiling a nurse, and her colleagues, from Sierra Leone. She is in charge of the Ebola isolation unit at a hospital. Most of her colleagues have died from Ebola. Some health care personnel have been thrown out of their homes by family or spouses who fear that they will get Ebola.

A possible case of Ebola, isolated in Sacramento, CA tested negative for the disease.

Patients have been placed in isolation, suspected of having Ebola, in a number of areas throughout the world: Vietnam, Myanmar, Germany, Ireland and a few other locations.

As a reminder, most of these cases are being isolated even if there is a tiny chance that they could have Ebola. The watchwords are that medical facilities and doctors are using an “abundance of caution” when confronted with anyone who is showing symptoms that could be Ebola coupled with a positive recent travel history to the involved countries.

Some countries are closing their borders to travelers from the countries involved in the outbreak. Some airline crews are refusing to fly into countries where Ebola is found. Additional airlines are canceling flights to the region. Of course, this is making economic conditions worse in these countries that already have such poor economies. Nigeria, with a much more robust economy is not feeling the bite as yet. But should Ebola continue to spread there, it could also suffer economic repercussions.

The Japanese government says that a drug developed by Toyama Chemical company, Avigan, might prove useful against Ebola. The drug was developed for treatment of influenza. Researchers postulate that it might be effective against Ebola, but it’s never been tested for that use. It has been approved in Japan for use in treating the flu. The company has about 20,000 doses available and will send them to the affected areas if the WHO requests the medicine. Toyama is discussing the possibility of testing the drug against Ebola in humans.

A Canadian drug manufacturer reported that it has an anti-Ebola vaccine that looks promising. Four monkeys, immunized with the vaccine survived a dose of Ebola virus that should have been fatal to them. Two other monkeys who got the virus dose, but not the vaccine, died within a week.

A few other vaccines are in various stages of development. Two may enter clinical trials as in just a few weeks.

However, production and human of vaccines will take quite some time. The emphasis now needs to be on diagnosis and isolation of people stricken with the disease.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • Drew2u

    Bbbut, isn’t the real question how the Ebola outbreak is affecting oil supplies??? /snark

  • Bill_Perdue

    “Dogma in the extreme is worse than Ebola.” Do you mean christer dogma, the kind expressed by the roman cult’s archbishop in Mozambique “The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately. Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected “in order to finish quickly the African people”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7014335.stm

    If that’s what you meant I’d agree.

    Or do you mean the widely accepted claim by leftists that Africa is not underdeveloped, it’s over exploited by colonialists and neo-colonialists. If that’s what you meant by dogma i’d have to disagree. I don’t think it’s dogmatic at all to insist that all military and police aid by the Obama regime and EU states should be ended and the money multiplied by a huge factor and then used to treat the disease, educate people about how it’s transmitted, follow the patterns of transmission to warn people and develop meds.

    Your comment about Amazonian tribes doesn’t seem to relate to the question of Ebola. The Amazon is in South America and the outbreak is in Africa.

  • GarySFBCN

    Yeah, I noticed how the Amazonian tribes that are left alone establish world-class health clinics, successful health education campaigns and learn to fight viruses.

    Dogma in the extreme is worse than Ebola.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It’s getting very serious and will likely spread even more because of lack of education about how it’s transmitted and distrust of American and European medical aid that’s often tied to religious groups. As Tutu noted “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

    The resources are not in place to stop the rapid spread of Ebola because of the policies of neocolonialist nations that drain the resources and labor of Africans but contribute minuscule amounts of medical and technological aid in return. All US and EU military and police aid to right wing African governments should be stopped and replaced a hundred fold by emergency medical aid.

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