Emergency responders investigate possible Virginia Ebola case
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Medics, firefighters and a hazardous materials team investigated a possible case of the deadly Ebola virus in a Virginia suburb of Washington on Thursday, an official said.
Emergency crews transported a patient from an apartment in the Clarendon section of Arlington County to Virginia Hospital Center using Ebola precautions, said Lieutenant Sarah-Maria Marchegiani of the county’s fire department.
A second UK military healthcare worker has been flown to England following “likely exposure” to the Ebola virus via a needle-stick injury in Sierra Leone.
The patient is being monitored at London’s Royal Free Hospital and does not currently have a diagnosis or symptoms of the virus.
Public Health England says there is no risk to the general public.
The patient will be watched for 21 days to see if they develop Ebola.
Another military health worker was sent to the UK on Saturday following a similar incident and is also being observed at the hospital.
Prof Paul Cosford of Public Health England said: “We can confirm that all the appropriate support is being offered to this individual and that strict protocols have been followed to transfer them back to the UK.
“We would like to emphasise that there is no risk to the general public’s health.
“Our thoughts are with both of the healthcare workers, and their families, affected at this time.”
Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Francois said: “This is entirely a precautionary measure and our priority is the wellbeing of the individual involved.
“Their family has been informed and will receive all possible support from the government.”
He said although the two similar incidents had occurred within a short space of time, they appeared to be unrelated.
“Our personnel receive the highest standard of training and briefing prior to deployment,” he said.
Needle-stick injuries involve a piercing of the skin by a sharp instrument or object, typically a needle.
Experts have said such injuries are one of the most dangerous risks for infection as the virus could be delivered directly into the bloodstream.
Ebola tests negative for Texas soldier found dead in yard
KILLEEN, Texas — Officials are investigating the death of a Fort Hood soldier who was found outside an off-base apartment after he returned from deployment in West Africa.
A Fort Hood statement says two tests on the 24-year-old soldier Tuesday showed no signs of Ebola, and that there is “no evidence of a public health threat.”
Killeen police, a hazmat team and several ambulances responded to the soldier’s home Tuesday morning after a report came in of a man’s body being found outside, reports CBS affiliate KWTX in Waco.
A neighbor told KWTX that he saw the body at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug says the soldier, whose name was not released, returned with his unit last week from Liberia, where he helped construct an Ebola treatment camp. Haug says he wasn’t exposed to patients.
Haug says the soldier self-monitored his health and was allowed off-post after his return.
Soldiers from Fort Hood have deployed often to West Africa as part of the Pentagon’s efforts at assisting in combating the Ebola outbreak there.
Last November, Fort Hood was designated as one of five U.S. installations at which troops returning from deployments to West Africa to help in the fight against Ebola would be housed and isolated for 21 days.
There have been no reports so far of any American soldiers returning from the field with the disease.
Officials are blaming the H3N2 strain, a particularly aggressive form of the flu that is not adequately covered by this season’s vaccine.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that this year’s flu has been particularly problematic for individuals over 65, and another five children have died since the CDC’s last report, bringing the total up to 26, according to a CNN report. Those deaths will likely rise as confirmed reports roll in.
The CDC does not track deaths of adults to the flu, but the organization noted that this strain of flu is particularly threatening to the elderly and those with health conditions that compromise their immune systems.
A major part of the reason the flu has reached epidemic levels is that the vaccine that was designed for this flu season is ineffective against the most common strain that emerged, which means the vaccine isn’t effective in two thirds of cases. As a result, Frieden is strongly urging doctors to treat people with anti-viral medications like Tamiflu to fight the virus, noting that anti-viral medications are very much under-prescribed and could prevent thousands of hospitalizations — or even death.
Still, not everyone will need such medications, just the very young or old who are at the most risk, doctors caution.
The CDC knew this season would likely be bad due to the H3N2 strain, which is what is causing problems for most people and is a “nastier” form of the virus that isn’t adequately covered by the vaccine, according to Frieden.
Fortunately, the flu season is starting to wind down, although there are still weeks of it left as it lasts until the spring.
Frieden advised those who have not gotten a flu shot to do so, as even though it does not provide the best protection possible for people, it can still reduce the severity of symptoms for someone who comes down with the flu.
Officials: U.S. medical worker exposed to Ebola overseas
OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — Nebraska medical officials say an American health care provider who had high-risk exposure to the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone will be observed at a biocontainment unit in Omaha.
Nebraska Medicine says in a statement that the unidentified patient will arrive Sunday afternoon aboard a private air ambulance.
Phil Smith, medical director of the facility’s biocontainment unit, says the patient “is not ill and is not contagious.” He says officials will take “all appropriate precautions.”
The patient will be observed for possible infection during the 21-day incubation period of the disease, both by monitoring for symptoms and through blood tests.
Three patients with Ebola have been treated at Nebraska Medicine, which is a clinical partner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
First Ebola boy likely infected by playing with bats
By Michelle RobertsHealth editor, BBC News online
The Ebola victim who is believed to have triggered the current outbreak – a two-year-old boy called Emile Ouamouno from Guinea – may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of bats, say scientists.
They made the connection on an expedition to the boy’s village, Meliandou.
They took samples and chatted to locals to find out more about Ebola’s source.
It sits deep within the Guinean forest region, surrounded by towering reeds and oil palm cultivations – these are believed to have attracted the fruit bats carrying the virus passed on to Emile.
During their four-week field trip in April 2014, Dr Fabian Leendertz and colleagues found a large tree stump situated about 50m from Emile’s home.
Villagers reported that children used to play frequently in the hollow tree.
Emile – who died of Ebola in December 2013 – used to play there, according to his friends.
The villagers said that the tree burned on March 24, 2014 and that once the tree caught fire, there issued a “rain of bats”.
A large number of these insectivorous free-tailed bats – Mops condylurus in Latin – were collected by the villagers for food, but disposed of the next day after a government-led ban on bushmeat consumption was announced.
While bushmeat is thought to be a possible source of Ebola, the scientists believe it didn’t trigger the outbreak.
Instead, it was Emile’s exposure to the bats and their droppings as he played with his friends in the hollowed tree.
The scientists took and tested ash samples from the tree and found DNA traces that were a match for the animals.
While they were unable to test any of the bushmeat that the villagers had disposed of, they captured and tested any living bats they could find in and around Meliandou.
No Ebola could be detected in any of these hundred or so animals, however.
But previous tests show this species of bat can carry Ebola.
Dr Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, and his colleagues say this must be a pretty rare occurrence though.
Dr Leendertz said: “That is also obvious when you think about how many tonnes of bat meat is consumed every year.
“If more bats carried the virus, we would see outbreaks all the time.”
He says it is vital to find out more about the bats.
“They have moved into human settlements. They do not just live in the trees but also under the roofs of houses in the villages.
“The Ebola virus must jump through colonies from bat to bat, so we need to know more.”
But culling the animals is not the answer.
“We need to find ways to live together with the wildlife. These bats catch insects and pests, such as mosquitoes. They can eat about a quarter of their body weight in insects a day.
“Killing them would not be a solution. You would have more malaria.”
Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey transferred to London unit
A health worker who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Scotland from Sierra Leone has arrived at a specialist treatment centre in London.
Pauline Cafferkey, who flew to Glasgow via Casablanca and London Heathrow, was taken to the Royal Free Hospital.
She is understood to have been flown to RAF Northolt in a military plane after leaving Glasgow in a convoy.
Passengers on flights she took to the UK are being traced, but officials say the risk to the public is very low.
Ms Cafferkey was part of a group of up to 50 NHS healthcare workers who returned to the UK at the weekend after volunteering in Sierra Leone.
The associate public health nurse at Blantyre Health Centre, South Lanarkshire, left Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow just after 03:00 GMT on Tuesday.
Six police cars accompanied two ambulances as she was taken to Glasgow Airport. She was taken to an isolation unit at the north London hospital from the RAF base in west London.
UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said NHS safety measures in place were working well.
Mr Hunt, who chaired an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday evening, said the government was doing “absolutely everything it needs to” to keep the public safe.
“We are also reviewing our procedures and protocols for all the other NHS workers who are working at the moment in Sierra Leone,” he added.
The BBC’s Andy Moore: “She is here being treated in an isolation unit”
Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing another Cobra meeting to discuss the matter later on Tuesday.
Ms Cafferkey, who had been working with Save the Children in Sierra Leone, arrived in Glasgow on a British Airways flight on Sunday but was placed in an isolation unit at Gartnavel Hospital on Monday morning after becoming feverish.
Under UK and Scottish protocol, she was moved to the high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital.
UK nurse William Pooley – who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone earlier this year – was successfully treated at the same facility.
Dr Stephen Mepham explains how the isolation unit works
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee on Monday, said the risk to the public was “extremely low to the point of negligible”.
She added that Ms Cafferkey was thought to have had direct contact with only one other person between arriving in Glasgow and attending hospital on Monday.
The United States’ months-long effort to stop the deadly Ebola outbreak is reaching a “pivot point,” but Americans should expect more domestic cases, White House Ebola czar Ron Klain said Sunday.
“We will see (cases) from time to time,” Klain told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “There’s still work to be done in Sierra Leone and Guinea. But we’re nearing a pivot point.”
Klain was appointed to the post in October by President Obama to lead the U.S. response to Ebola, days after the first death on U.S. soil as a result of the disease.
Thomas Eric Duncan died October 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, in Dallas, after returning for Liberia, one of the countries in West Africa where Ebola has killed roughly 7,600 people this year.
Duncan went to the hospital days earlier with Ebola-like symptoms, but was treated and released. The situation combined with two of Duncan’s nurses becoming infected raised widespread concerns about lapses in protocol and the potential for a U.S. outbreak.
Among the roughly 19,340 cases recently confirmed by the World Health Organization, Sierra Leone has the most with 8,939, followed by Liberia at 7,830 and Guinea with 2,571.
In September, Obama assigned 3,000 U.S. military members to West Africa to help with the outbreak, providing medical and logistical support for the region’s overwhelmed health care systems.
Klain, a long-time Democratic operative and former chief of staff to Vice President Biden, also told CBS that the number of cases in that region is now at five to 10 a day, compared to 50 to 100 daily.
“But this won’t be over until we get to zero,” he said.
The most recent case of Ebola being diagnosed in the U.S. occurred on October 23 when the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported one in a medical aid worker who had returned to the city from Guinea, where he had served with Doctors Without Borders.
The patient recovered and was discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center on Nov. 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Klain called the CDC’s mishandling last week of an Ebola sample “unacceptable” but said the technician involved has so far shown no signs of infection.
He called the use of an Ebola blood test at the “point of care” a “very significant step” in the fight to stop the outbreak in West Africa.
Klain said the Ebola vaccine recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled for release in three to four weeks and will help “tens of thousands of people.”