Canada restricts visas amid Ebola scare
Canada has joined Australia in suspending entry visas for people from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa in an attempt to keep the deadly disease away.
Canada’s Conservative government said Friday it is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of countries with “widespread and persistent-intense transmission” of Ebola virus disease.
Canada has not yet had a case of Ebola. Canadians, including health-care workers, in West Africa will be permitted to travel back to Canada, the government said.
The countries most severely hit by the worst Ebola outbreak ever are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Canada receives very few travelers from those countries, which have no direct flights to Canada.
A similar move by Australia was slammed Wednesday by Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization’s director general, who said closing borders won’t stop spread of the Ebola virus.
Liberia opens 1 of largest Ebola treatment centers
Liberia’s president opened one of the country’s largest Ebola treatment centers in Monrovia on Friday, remembering the days when “the dying, the sick, the dead who could not picked up on time” as officials hope the disease is on the decline in this West African country.
American and U.N. officials as well as Cuban doctors were among the crowd as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf opened the treatment center, which can currently hold 200 patients and could eventually treat as many as 300. With the opening of the center, an Ebola treatment unit at JFK Medical Center has been closed. Many people with other diseases had been nervous about going to the nation’s largest referral hospital, and officials hope they will now come back.
The official opening comes as fewer people are showing up for treatment at various centers. Officials are not sure how to interpret that. Some believe it’s a sign that the Ebola outbreak is finally on the wane in Liberia, but others believe Sirleaf’s order that the bodies of Ebola victims in the capital be cremated has led to people with symptoms hiding at home, because cremation violates traditions.
For example, Doctors Without Borders, known as MSF, said that as of Tuesday there were around 80 patients in its 250-bed facility. “MSF teams are looking into the reasons for this; a widespread aversion to the government’s mandatory cremation policy, poor ambulance and referral systems, changes in behavior, and other factors may play a role,” the aid group said.
Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads the government’s Ebola response, told The Associated Press the JFK Ebola medical team and a team of Cuban doctors will be in charge of the new center, located in Congo Town in eastern Monrovia.
The World Health Organization said this week that the rate of infection in Liberia appears to be falling but warned that the response effort must be kept up or the trend could be reversed.
Foreign aid is now pouring into Liberia and other West African countries hard hit by Ebola. The United States has promised up to 4,000 American troops for Liberia and is building 17 treatment centers and helping to train thousands of health care workers.
More than 13,700 people have been sickened by the disease, and nearly 5,000 have died. The outbreak has hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea hardest and all three countries have resorted to extraordinary measures to combat it.
Lawsuit: Surgical gowns let diseases pass through
A lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark Corp. falsely claimed its surgical gowns met the highest standards for protecting against Ebola and other infectious diseases.
Lead attorney Michael Avenatti says the Texas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola used to stock the gowns but it’s not clear if the nurses had used them.
The $500 million fraud suit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of a surgeon who wore the gowns.
The lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark knew for a year that the gowns failed industry tests and allowed the transfer of bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, but the company still promoted them as having the highest level of impermeability.
The maker of Kleenex and other consumer products says it doesn’t comment on lawsuits but stands behind its products’ safety.
North Korea said to impose vast Ebola quarantine on travelers
For U.S. health officials fretting over states going their own way on Ebola quarantines, consider this: North Korea, which in the best of times allows a limited number of people in or out, is rattled enough about the virus that it reportedly will quarantine anyone coming into the country from anywhere.
The country’s state-run news media reported on Thursday that all those returning from overseas trips will be quarantined for 20 days. And The Associated Press, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, said that diplomatic missions there were told that foreigners coming into the country would be quarantined under medical observation for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the disease. (It was unclear why there was a discrepancy in the quarantine periods.)
“We are doubling our efforts to detect potential patients in time,” the North’s state-run Pyongyang Radio said on Thursday, reporting tightened quarantine efforts at ports, borders and airports. The North Korean radio was monitored by the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Building a better mouse to study Ebola
Scientists wearing anti-pathogen “spacesuits” and working in a government biocontainment laboratory have shown that genetically diverse strains of mice can accurately model the devastating health effects of the Ebola virus, according to new research.
In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers argued that collaboratively-bred lab mice can now replace monkeys as Ebola research animals – a development that could save scientists money and help avoid potential ethical dilemmas in future research.
Traditionally, scientists have used macaques, guinea pigs and Syrian hamsters to study the virus, but not lab mice.
The reason for this, according to senior author Michael Katze, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington, is that while Ebola will kill conventional lab mice, it will not provoke the same symptoms seen in humans.
Study coauthor Angela Rasmussen, a microbiology researcher at the University of Washington, said that inbreeding of lab mice was the root of the problem.
“Most of the conventional laboratory strains … only have about 10 percent the overall genetic diversity in mice,” Rasmussen said.
For their research, the study authors used Collaborative Cross project mice, mice that are bred by an international group of researchers. Collaborative mice cover 90 percent of the diversity of the species.
Nations in Americas join in battle against Ebola
Representatives of countries from around the Americas, including the United States, have agreed to work together in their response to Ebola, adopting similar procedures in such things as the establishment of epidemiological monitoring centers and coordinating the transport of biological samples.
About 200 epidemiology experts and health officials from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, met in Havana on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss their response to the epidemic.
A document from the meeting lays out “lines of action” that the countries say they'll follow to combat the disease.
The meeting was called by ALBA, a forum of left-leaning Latin countries founded by Cuba and Venezuela as a counterweight to U.S. influence. The meeting is part of Cuba’s anti-Ebola effort that includes sending at least 256 doctors and nurses to West Africa this month.
Among those attending was meeting was Nelson Arboleda, the Guatemala-based director of the Central American Regional Office for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.