Tag Archives: West Africa

As deadline nears, $1.1 trillion spending bill is agreed upon

To avoid a government shutdown, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have agreed on a $1.1 trillion spending bill.

The new bill was passed in part to avoid the looming political struggle surrounding President Obama’s new immigration policy.  By agreeing on the new spending bill, this struggle will be delayed for at least another month.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told the AP, “The federal government’s going to run out of money in two days. … We’ve been trying to work with Republican leaders to avoid a shutdown.”

Republicans are responsible for negotiating the new spending bill which implements a number of new policy measures.  Some of the new measures include, according to Reuters, the easing of environmental regulations as well as regulations aimed at financial derivative trading.  The bill is also adding funds to fight the Islamic State militants as well as funds to help fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

According to Politico, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is receiving a $35 million budget increase from the new bill, bringing their total budget to $250 million.  The Securities and Exchanges Commission is also receiving a budget increase of $150 million, putting their budget close to $1.5 billion.

While some measures are added or changed, many of the original policy measures from the fiscal 2015 domestic spending plan are not hampered or hindered.  This means all government agencies are being funded through September 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security which is only funded to Feb. 27.

One measure which was excluded from the new bill was the federal terrorism insurance measure passed after 9/11.  The insurance was up for a six-year extension, but instead of being included in the spending bill, the extension will be considered on its own at a later date.

Nurse in Maine defies quarantine, may take case to court

Kaci Hickox has defied her home quarantine Thursday morning by going for a bike ride, and she has said she might take her case to court if her quarantine is not lifted.

“I truly believe this policy is not scientifically nor constitutionally just, and so I am not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public,” Hickox said from her home in Maine on Today, according to the Raw Story.

Hickox was in West Africa recently to help treat Ebola patients.  After testing negative for the virus upon her return from West Africa, Hickox was released from quarantine in New Jersey but placed back in quarantine upon her return to her home in Maine.  She has been fighting her quarantine since her return and told reporters, according to NBC News, “I hope that we can continue negotiations and work this out amicably… There is no legal action against me, so I’m free to go on a bike ride in my hometown.”

It is not clear how the state of Maine will respond to Hickox’s ride just yet.  According to the New York Times, state officials said they might consider a court order to enforce the quarantine if Hickox left her home.

Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine), said Wednesday, “While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”

Mary Mayhew, the Maine Health Commissioner, has said, according to CNN, she does not trust the information she has received concerning Hickox’s health status, saying the information lacks “reliability” and “trustworthiness.”

Mayhew also does not understand why Hickox is challenging the quarantine.  “(This is) a reasonable request to ensure — out of an abundance of caution — that we are protecting the people of this state,” said Mayhew.  

Hickox will continue to fight the quarantine though, saying she believes she has science, as well as the US Constitution, on her side.

U.S. Ignores the CDC’s Advice on Ebola Prevention, Spends Over $39 Million on Less Important Programs

In the midst of the current Ebola outbreak, the United States is scrambling to find answers. Despite previous advice to fund centers that would monitor and contain possible outbreaks of the virus in other countries, and despite the current need for a vaccine, the U.S. is pouring over $39 million into other programs that appear insignificant in comparison to the Ebola virus.

The Washington Times reported that in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggested that the Obama administration “establish 18 regional disease detection centers around the world to adequately safeguard the U.S. from emerging health threats like Ebola.”

However, in 2014, the CDC has only 10 centers, none of which are in West Africa, the home to the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus.

In a previous memo from the CDC to the Obama transition team, the CDC described a plan that focused on being proactive, and using their disease detection centers to monitor “threats in hotspots overseas,” before they were able to spread to the United States.

The existing centers have already proven their effectiveness and impact on detecting and responding to outbreaks including avian influenza, aflatoxin poisoning, Rift Valley fever, Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks,” said the memo.

As previously reported, a recent audit of the United States Department of Homeland Security showed that if a potential pandemic were to occur, the U.S. would be “ill-prepared.” In addition to lacking the supplies needed to combat deadly viruses, such as Ebola, the United States has also not yet developed a vaccine.

The debate over how much money should be devoted to finding a cure for Ebola has ignited controversy among U.S. lawmakers. According to the Washington Times, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has lost $1.2 billion in funding over the last four years. Francis Collins, the Director of NIH, attributes the agency’s lack of vaccine to the budget cuts.

Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready,” Collins said.

However, the Washington Free Beacon reported that it has “uncovered $39,643,352 worth of NIH studies within the past several years that have gone to questionable research.

Instead of pouring money into a vaccine for Ebola, in 2014 NIH added an additional $670,567 to a study that seeks to find out why the majority of lesbians are obese, which now has a total price tag of $2,873,440.

The institute also devoted $2,075,611 to a program that promotes community choir for the elderly, and it continues to sponsor a number of studies that test the power of “text message interventions.”

One study, which has received $674,590, involves researchers sending text messages to drunk individuals at bars, in an attempt to get them to stop drinking. Another study involved researchers sending text messages to individuals who are considered obese, and encouraging them to lose weight. It has received $2,707,067 in funding.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that, although Health and Human Services will receive $8.6 million to research and test a possible vaccine for Ebola, they are only receiving “a fraction of NIH funding,” when compared to other programs.

First Ebola related death in the US confirmed

The first Ebola patient in the US has died at 7:51 a.m. on Wednesday, reports say.

Thomas Duncan, 42, was a Liberian man who had recently traveled to Africa, and was the first US citizen to have contracted the deadly virus.  Duncan died while in isolation care at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 am,” said a spokesman from the hospital in Dallas, according to the BBC.

In recent days, the New York Times reports Duncan’s condition had worsened from serious to critical condition.  Medical staff were on hand to support Duncan after this with fluids and electrolytes to replenish the lose of fluids which occurs when one is infected with Ebola.  Duncan was also being treated with an experimental drug, called brincidofovir, to help combat the virus.

Upon returning from his trip to Africa, Duncan went to the hospital complaining of a stomach ache and fever, but hospital staff failed to test for Ebola on this visit and sent Duncan home.  It was only days later when Duncan returned to the hospital that the virus was found to be in Duncan’s system.

According to CNN, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, offered his condolences to the Duncan family after this death.  “He is a face that we associate now with Ebola,” said Frieden.

According to the same report, in order to help prevent the spread of Ebola, the body of Duncan will be cremated.

As of now, Duncan’s family members and close to 50 other Dallas residents are being monitored after having come into either first or second degree contact with Duncan after he returned from Africa.

Ebola Virus Has Mutated Rapidly Since Latest Outbreak

The latest outbreak of the Ebola virus has caused an epidemic that is flooding West Africa. On Thursday, a new study published in the journal Science, shows that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus has mutated rapidly, which impedes finding a cure for the disease.

The current epidemic has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries, and although it is moving quickly, the Washington Post reported that the results from the latest study “offer new insights into the origins of the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreak in history.”

The first outbreak of the Ebola virus was in 1976. According to the New York Times, Scientists believe “bats are the natural reservoir for the virus,” and that humans originally caught the virus “from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on, or by coming in contact with surfaces covered in infected bat droppings and then touching their eyes or mouths.”

Doctors Without Borders reported that the current outbreak seems to have started “in a village near Guéckédou, Guinea, where bat hunting is common.”

The recent study on the virus was conducted in June, by health officials in Sierra Leone who worked with scientists at Harvard University. They sequenced the 99 Ebola genomes from 78 individuals in Sierra Leone who had been diagnosed with the virus.

According to the Washington Post, five of the paper’s more than 50 co-authors died from Ebola before publication which shows the toll the virus has taken on both the general public, and health workers.

The lead author of the study, and a computational biologist at Harvard University, Pardis Sabeti, reported that the Ebola virus twice the mutations spreading through humans it West Africa, than it did while spreading through animals in the last decade. “We’ve found over 250 mutations that are changing in real time as we’re watching,” Sabeti said.

“In general, these viruses are amazing because they are these tiny things that can do a lot of damage,” said Sabeti. “The more time you give a virus to mutate and the more human-to-human transmission you see, the more opportunities you give it to fall upon some [mutation] that could make it more easily transmissible or more pathogenic.

An infectious disease reporter at Harvard, and one of the study’s co-authors, Stephen Gire, reported that through the study they “uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks.

Although we don’t know whether these differences are related to the severity of the current outbreak, by sharing these data with the research community, we hope to speed up our understanding of this epidemic and support global efforts to contain it,” Gire said.

Ebola has been called one of the world’s most deadly diseases by Doctors without Borders, due to the fact that it is “a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it.” They went on to write that although the World Health Organization has declared the current Ebola epidemic an “international public health emergency,” the international effort to stem the outbreak has been “dangerously inadequate.”

Ebola fears rise as Liberian clinic is attacked and looted

As patients were being treated for Ebola in a quarantined clinic of Monrovia, Liberia, citizens from the surrounding neighborhoods stormed the facility while at least 30 patients, and other clinic workers, fled the grounds this past Saturday.

Looters stole mattresses, bloodstained sheets, and other medical equipment from the quarantined clinic.  These supplies, which could potentially be infected with the Ebola virus, were then carried to the surrounding neighborhoods where some 50,000 people live.

According to CNN, the assailants had no desire to free patients from the facility, rather, the citizens who stormed and looted the facility did not want the clinic there in the first place.

Yahoo News is also reporting the people who attacked the clinic were armed with clubs, and while they stormed the clinic shouted “there’s no Ebola.”

Liberian National Police spokesman Sam Collins also told CNN on Sunday, “It was an attack from people afraid of Ebola… Everybody is afraid.”

According to the Washington Post, the area surrounding the clinic is known as the West Point slum.  Residents of the slum were angry at how infected individuals from all over Monrovia were being brought to the clinic in the destitute area.

The virus has killed approximately 1,145, and infected some 2,000 in the surrounding nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia.  However, the Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown has called the raid on the facility, according to ABC News, the “greatest setback” of the campaign to stop the virus.

The virus  is known to spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, and while medical authorities are trying to spread this knowledge throughout the area, many misconceptions are still prevalent in communities.  One of the most prevalent fallacies about the virus is that doctors from the West, who are supposed to be treating the virus, are responsible for spreading it.

While the virus is spreading at a slow rate, the World Health Organization has recommended no restrictions be put on trade items or travel to or from the infected countries.  Instead, WHO urges infected countries to screen people who are leaving their country for the virus, but the spread of the disease through airline travel is unlikely.  WHO is also recommending people who are known to be infected not to travel at all.

The clinic has yet to reopen and police have since restored order to the area.