Ebola update

Nancy Writebol, the US missionary with Ebola, arrived in Atlanta yesterday in a biocontainment unit and was transferred to Emory University Hospital’s isolation unit. She’ll join Dr. Brantley, who arrived at the unit Saturday, for treatment.

A woman in the Columbus, Ohio area has been admitted to a local hospital with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. She recently returned from West Africa. Testing for Ebola and other diseases is underway. The patient is in an isolation unit and doing well. Ebola test results are pending.

Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC has hospitalized a patient with a recent revel history to one of the countries having an Ebola outbreak. They and the health department feel that there is a low probability that the patient has Ebola. Definitive test results from the CDC should be available today. The hospital acted quickly to isolate the patient minutes after he entered the ER there. He is the third patient in NYC to have been thought to have a chance of having Ebola in the past week. Bellevue Hospital and Langone NYU have both had patients who had returned from West Africa and who presented with possible symptoms of Ebola. Those two patients did not have Ebola. The CDC has alerted hospitals to be vigilant for possible cases of Ebola virus and they are reacting quickly to isolate and investigate possible Ebola patients.


Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone -- the three countries facing an Ebola outbreak in west Africa (via Shutterstock)

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — the three countries facing an Ebola outbreak in west Africa (via Shutterstock)

Spain will be accepting a Spanish missionary priest for treatment of Ebola. Father Miguel Pajares was confirmed with Ebola and is currently in isolation in Liberia. He will be returned to Spain for treatment within the next few days.

The CDC says that there may be 5 possible cases in Nigeria. It says that these cases haven’t been confirmed, as yet, but they are in isolation. One is a female doctor who treated Mr. Sawyer (the Liberian-American patient who brought Ebola to Nigeria). Reportedly, the Nigerian government is debating whether to try to get ZMapp (the untested monoclonal antibody drug used to treat the Americans who became infected with Ebola) to give her. She and all of the other suspected cases had close personal contact with Sawyer after he developed symptoms of Ebola.

In Liberia, some people are dumping the bodies of Ebola victims in the streets rather than notifying the government to come to pick them up for cremation. Some of the people in Monrovia, Liberia are afraid that they themselves, might be taken off to quarantine if they notify the government. A number of people there feel that Ebola was brought into the country by healthcare workers. That healthcare workers may deliberately infect them is the workers come to their homes.

They also view the isolation wards as death houses where, once admitted, they’ll surely die of Ebola. Of course, doing something like this will probably only make the epidemic worse. Family members who do have Ebola won’t get early treatment and will be able to spread the disease once they begin to show symptoms. Liberia and Sierra Leone are using police and military personnel to enforce quarantine and screening regulations.

Some healthcare workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone are not going into work at their assigned clinics. They are afraid that they may catch Ebola from patients at the clinics. The government in Nigeria is establishing some quarantine units in hospitals in the country to handle isolating possible suspected Ebola patients. One Nigerian healthcare worker said, anonymously, that workers at some of these sites don’t want quarantine units set up there. They worry that this will put them at risk of contracting Ebola.

They also feel that their equipment and supplies won’t be adequate to safeguard them from infection. This will complicate the situation in Nigeria if more cases of Ebola develop. Not only are the healthcare workers afraid, most of Nigeria’s doctors are on strike because of a conflict with the government. So even though Nigeria has somewhat marginally better healthcare systems than the other affected countries, these complications could make an Ebola epidemic there much worse.

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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5 Responses to “Ebola update”

  1. MarilynRStroup says:

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  2. Roland says:

    If you were a resident of Liberia, and someone in your household was sick with symptoms of EVD, what do you suppose the authorities would do if you told them about the situation?

    Smart answer: Quarantine everyone in the household, at least until its verified the person doesn’t have EVD.

    Given that the probability that the sick person in your household has Malaria is far higher than the probability they have EVD, and that being quarantined will result in dire economic consequences for your family (you loosing your livelihood). What would you do?

    Smart answer: DON’T tell the authorities about it.

  3. Roland says:

    Well, it’s good that people returning from the countries where the outbreak is occurring are at least aware of the possibility that if they get sick, it may be because of EVD and thus are taking precautions, even though the chance is slim. This in itself would do much to contain the disease if, per chance, it is brought back from one of the affected countries.

  4. Indigo says:

    I did not imagine how staggeringly complicated by internal posturing paired with a horrifying disease the situation is. A solution isn’t obvious, a workable program doesn’t look like it can do much, and the public is not entirely cooperative. Might as well consult the I Ching.

  5. HereinDC says:

    “Some of the people in Monrovia, Liberia are afraid that they themselves, might be taken off to quarantine if they notify the government.”
    Geeze…where’d they get that rumor from…….Could it be that Liberia has their own form of FOX-NEWS over there?
    Really does sound like something FOX-NEWS would “speculate” “infer” could happen here in America.

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