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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ebola predictions for viral epidemic are ominous

Ebola is a global disease because everyone is now at risk for contracting the virus. Epidemiologists know, from studying the history of viral pandemics, that viral infectious organisms are difficult to destroy. Finding a cure for the Ebola virus will require a much better understanding about how the virus grows. Studies are desperately needed to better understand why some people who are infected survive, while others die (about a 50 percent mortality rate), and how to create a drug to treat the disease. At this point, this urgency must happen soon, because the World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting ominous predictions about how rapidly Ebola is spreading in Africa. Predictions about 10,000 new infections a week clearly translates into Ebola becoming a world wide pandemic. Obviously, money is badly needed to respond to the growing Ebola crises. Unfortunately, government corruption is rampant in many of Africa's developing nations. Bribery has taken advantage of the money earmarked to fight the spread of the virus. This corruption must be identified and brought to swift justice with strict penalties.

CNN- There could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of this year as the outbreak spreads, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.

"It is impossible to look into a glass ball and say, 'we (will) have this many or that many,' but we anticipate the number of cases per week at that time, it's going to be somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 a week," WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Bruce Aylward told reporters. "You know, it could be higher, it could be lower but its gonna be somewhere in that ballpark."

Compare those December projections to the latest figures. As of Tuesday morning, there were a total of 8,914 Ebola cases and 4,447 deaths reported to the WHO, Aylward said.

In other words, things could get worse before they get better. Aylward told reporters that in 90 days, officials have a goal they're aiming for: They want to see the number of cases dropping from week to week.

To start to decrease the rate of infection, the WHO says it hopes to isolate 70% of Ebola patients and have 70% of Ebola victim burials performed safely by December 1. Getting responders, facilities and plans in place to meet the goal will be very difficult, Aylward said.

Missing the goal will mean that more people will die than should have and that even more resources will be needed because the infection rate will continue to climb, he said.

Infected Spanish nurse's assistant improves

Health authorities in Spain said that a nurse's assistant who is the first person to contract Ebola in Europe in the current outbreak is still in serious condition but doing better.

And even as Teresa Romero Ramos lies in a hospital bed, she's doing everything she can to take care of doctors, nurses and herself, said Dr. Marta Arsuaga, who is helping treat her.

"She is helping us to treat her. ... She was where I am now, so she knows what I have to do," Arsuaga said.

The case of Romero, like that of a nurse infected in Texas, has raised serious questions about how equipped hospitals are to cope with the Ebola outbreak.

Romero is stable but remains in serious condition, Antonio Andreu, director of the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, said at a news conference.

There is a slight improvement in her clinical state, which gives hope to the health care workers treating her, he said.

Andreu insisted that Spain's health care professionals have the situation under control.

Earlier, a source at Carlos III Hospital, where she is being treated, told CNN that Romero is producing antibodies to fight Ebola.

The news came hours after a German hospital said a United Nations medical worker who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia had died. (note- high risk for medical workers!)

Besides treating Romero, Spanish authorities are monitoring 81 potential Ebola cases -- 15 in hospitals and 66 at home, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health.

None of the 81 people is showing symptoms of Ebola, the ministry said.

Andreu said it was possible that more Ebola patients would come to Spain and that the health care system needs to be prepared.

"Until we start to diminish the outbreak, we have to contemplate the possibilities of imported cases. And for that, our health care system has to be perfectly prepared," he said.

More training will be given to health care workers and new guidelines will be prepared, he said.

"Ebola is not a problem of Spain. It is not a problem of the United States. It's a global problem," he added.

German isolation ward

The 56-year-old man who died in Germany was Sudanese, a spokesman for St. Georg hospital in Leipzig said. He was being treated in a secure isolation ward there.

After the man's death, Germany is treating only one other Ebola patient, said hospital spokesman Constantin Sauff. 
The other patient is being treated in Frankfurt, he said. Another patient who was being treated in Hamburg has been discharged from a hospital after recovering, Sauff said.

A nurse in Dallas was this week confirmed as the first to have contracted the virus in the United States. The nurse, Nina Pham, had cared for Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and died of the illness at a hospital.

"I'm doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers," Pham said Tuesday, according to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where she is being treated. "I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world."

Liberia is one of the countries worst affected by the deadly virus, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 4,400 people have died from confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.

Hospital, protective gear training criticized

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday that the Madrid hospital treating Romero doesn't meet all the standards set for centers capable of Ebola care. And in a scathing letter, Javier Limon, Romero's husband, said she received only 30 minutes of training in putting on protective gear and called for the resignation of Madrid's regional health minister over how the case has been handled. Romero helped care for one of two Spanish missionaries who were brought back to Madrid for treatment after being infected with the virus in West Africa. Both men died of the illness. A spokesman for a special committee created in Spain to keep people informed about Ebola told CNN that Spain will have a contagious diseases reference center in each of its regions. 

Police, firefighters and ambulance personnel, as well as hospital staff, will be trained to deal with Ebola cases.

CNN's Laura Perez Maestro reported from Madrid, while Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London and Catherine E. Shoichet wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN's Alexander Felton, Claudia Otto, Elwyn Lopez and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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