Ebola death toll in West Africa reaches 729, two US aid workers in grave condition

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard


Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

The bad news keeps getting worse on the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Today, the number of people killed by the virus in the current cycle hit 729. And two American aid workers who became infected in West Africa are in "stable but grave" condition, and are being transported to the US for treatment.

"String-like Ebola virus peeling off an infected cell." Heinz Feldmann, Peter Jahrling, Elizabeth Fischer and Anita Mora, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health


"String-like Ebola virus peeling off an infected cell." Heinz Feldmann, Peter Jahrling, Elizabeth Fischer and Anita Mora, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Today, the World Health Organization reported 57 new deaths up to July 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. This brought the total death toll to 729. The WHO says the total number of Ebola cases now exceeds 1,300.

Reuters:

Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine Ebola victims, joining neighbouring Liberia in imposing controls as the death toll from the outbreak of the virus hit 729 in West Africa.

The World Health Organisation said it would launch a $100 million response plan on Friday during a meeting with the affected nations in Guinea. It is in urgent talks with donors and international agencies to send more medical staff and resources to the region, it said.

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a statement Wednesday night that the health crisis is an “extraordinary” challenge that requires “extraordinary measures.” From the Washington Post:

Among the steps announced:

• Sealing off towns and homes where the disease is identified until they are cleared by medical teams.
• Restricting public meetings and gatherings.
• “Active surveillance and house-to-house searches” designed to trace Ebola victims and people who might have been exposed.
• New protocols for screening both arriving and departing passengers at the country’s main airport.

Government health workers are seen during the administration of blood tests for the Ebola virus in Kenema, Sierra Leone June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Umaru Fofana


Government health workers are seen during the administration of blood tests for the Ebola virus in Kenema, Sierra Leone June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Umaru Fofana

In an undated photo, Dr. Brantly wears protective gear at the case management center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr. Brantly contracted Ebola and has been described as stable but suffering from some symptoms of the contagious disease. Reuters


In an undated photo, Dr. Brantly wears protective gear at the case management center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr. Brantly contracted Ebola and has been described as stable but suffering from some symptoms of the contagious disease. Reuters

"Emory University Hospital in Atlanta has been informed of plans to transfer a patient with the Ebola virus to its special facility containment unit within the next several days," reports USA Today. "It is not known when the patient will arrive."

A medical transport plane departed the United States on Thursday afternoon, headed to Liberia to pick up an American Ebola patient. Two American medical missionaries working with Ebola patients in Liberia have been diagnosed with the virus. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who worked at a medical center operated by the North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse, were listed in stable but grave condition, according to a statement from the organization.

Kent Brantly, a doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia, shown with colleagues in this undated photograph provided by Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse//Reuters


Kent Brantly, a doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia, shown with colleagues in this undated photograph provided by Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse//Reuters

From the Los Angeles Times:

In a White House press briefing Thursday, spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. was working with the CDC to explore Medevac options for humanitarian aid workers in West Africa who have contracted the disease. While U.S. officials would facilitate the effort, Earnest said, private companies would perform the evacuation.

The Director of the US Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Thomas Frieden, today told reporters he doubts Ebola will spread in the United States. "That is not in the cards," he said.

What steps are airlines taking to protect passengers and crew? From the Wall Street Journal:

Meanwhile, international airline and health authorities are considering changes to passenger-screening rules and procedures, as well as possible steps to facilitate air-ambulance services for Ebola victims, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the aviation arm of the United Nations.

Airlines for America, the U.S. trade group, said Wednesday that its members remain in contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention"on actions the U.S. government is taking regarding potential health concerns."

United Continental Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL -1.00% are continuing their flights to and from West Africa.

Rose Komono poses for a picture at a health clinic after overcoming the Ebola virus in Gueckedou, Guinea April 3, 2014. Komono became the first victim to have beaten the disease in the region of Gueckedou, which has borne the brunt of the deaths in the impoverished West African nation. REUTERS/Misha Hussain


Rose Komono poses for a picture at a health clinic after overcoming the Ebola virus in Gueckedou, Guinea April 3, 2014. Komono became the first victim to have beaten the disease in the region of Gueckedou, which has borne the brunt of the deaths in the impoverished West African nation. REUTERS/Misha Hussain

In Nigeria, evangelical pastors and traditional healers have been warned not to make bogus claims that they can cure or protect against the deadly Ebola virus.

From CAJ News Africa:

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba, specifically advised the citizenry to be wary of the activities of alleged fraudsters who were reportedly making spurious claims about their ability to provide cure for the deadly virus.

He called on those who wanted to rip off members of the public to desist from such claims of cure or risk arrest and prosecution.

"Only medical solutions are known to be appropriate for the disease," said Ibirogba.

Government health authorities in Nigeria are in the process of attempting to track over 30,000 people who may be at risk of contracting Ebola, after the virus surfaced in Lagos. A Liberian man died in that city last Friday after testing positive for Ebola. After the discovery, the hospital where he was treated was closed.

From Voice of America:

Professor Sunday Omilabu, from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, told Reuters the health authorities are now tracing everyone who may have had contact with the victim.

"We've been making contacts. We now have information about the manifest. We have information about who and who were around. So, as I'm talking, our teams are in the facility, where they've trained the staff, and then they [are] now asking questions about those that were closely in contact with the patient," said Professor Omilabu.

'We're actually looking at contacting over 30,000 people in this very scenario. Because any and everybody that has contacted this person is going to be treated as a suspect," said Yewande Adeshina, a public health adviser.