September 2014 – ROSWELL, GA – CBS46 News has confirmed the Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines to U.S. funeral homes on how to handle the remains of Ebola patients. If the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus is in West Africa, why are funeral homes in America being given guidelines? The three-page list of recommendations include instructing funeral workers to wear protective equipment when dealing with the remains since Ebola can be transmitted in postmortem care. It also instructs to avoid autopsies and embalming. Alysia English is Executive Director of the Georgia Funeral Directors Association, the oldest and largest funeral association in Georgia. Georgia is comprised of 700 funeral homes and 2,000 funeral directors. CBS46 asked English if Georgians should be alarmed by these guidelines. “Absolutely not. In fact, if they weren’t hearing about it, they should be a whole lot more concerned,” said English. She said Georgia has one of the country’s most thorough public health plans. That includes detailed planning for all hazards such as floods and the flu. “If you were in the middle of a flood or gas leak, that’s not the time to figure out how to turn it off. You want to know all of that in advance. This is no different,” said English. –CBS46
Readying for Ebola: How U.S. hospitals are gearing up – ‘not a question of if there’s a case, but when’
September 2014 – HEALTH – Federal health-care officials, hospital administrators and emergency-care doctors are preparing for the first cases of Ebola here in the United States. Experts say it’s not a question of if, but rather when it will happen. The good news is that the public health infrastructure in the United States — from the epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control to the weekend physician at the local doc-in-a-box — has been mobilized for this very eventuality. Many hospitals, even those in many rural areas, are prepared with virus-proof protective gear and isolation units for sick patients. The bad news is that the disease continues to grow unabated in West Africa, and that containing the spread is getting tougher every day. “We will see cases,” said Alessandro Vespignani, a physics professor at Northeastern University who has developed a biological model of the worldwide spread of Ebola based on current infection rates, population trends and air traffic from the affected zone. “The good news from our modeling is the size of the outbreak is very limited. Even in the worse case, the size of the outbreak in the United States is just two or three individuals.” Vespignani’s model estimates probability of an infected Ebola patient — not an infected health care worker — showing up on a given day currently in the United States at 3 or 4 percent. That number jumps to 20 percent by the end of October.
On Sunday, an American health-care worker who was exposed to the Ebola virus was flown to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., according to the CDC. As the U.S. ramps up its response to Ebola, including sending 3,000 troops to help build hospitals and train local workers, it’s likely that more will be following soon. But more worrisome is someone who shows signs of fever, nausea, perhaps bleeding, who traveled to the area, and who may have come in close physical contact with a carrier of Ebola. That scenario played out recently in Alabama, according to David Pigott, a doctor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham department of emergency medicine and member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. In mid-August, a man who had recently returned from West Africa showed up at an emergency room in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he was quarantined in a special isolation unit, Pigott said. “We had one physician with the kind of gear you see on TV, he was all garbed up in a space shield, gown boots, everything to go and evaluate the guy,” Pigott said. “Turns out he had malaria.” Pigott believes that news of the epidemic’s spread from Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighboring Guinea and Nigeria has put most, if not all, U.S. health workers on notice. Federal health officials say they are planning for scenarios as well, such as an airline passenger showing signs of Ebola while flying to a U.S. airport, for example, or a U.S. resident who stays home after getting sick instead of going to a local hospital. –Discovery News
Ebola outbreak “out of all proportion” and severity cannot be predicted
Homeland Security News Wire
A mathematical model that replicates Ebola outbreaks can no longer be used to ascertain the eventual scale of the current epidemic, researchers find. When applying the available data from the ongoing 2014 outbreak to the model, it is “out of all proportion and on an unprecedented scale when compared to previous outbreaks,” says the model developer.
A mathematical model that replicates Ebola outbreaks can no longer be used to ascertain the eventual scale of the current epidemic, finds research conducted by the University of Warwick.
Dr. Thomas House, of the University’s Warwick Mathematics Institute, developed a model that incorporated data from past outbreaks that successfully replicated their eventual scale.
A UW release reports that the research, published by eLife, shows that when applying the available data from the ongoing 2014 outbreak to the model, it is, according to Dr. House, “out of all proportion and on an unprecedented scale when compared to previous outbreaks.”
Dr. House commented: “If we analyze the data from past outbreaks we are able to design a model that works for the recorded cases of the virus spreading and can successfully replicate their eventual size. The current outbreak does not fit this previous pattern and, as a result, we are not in a position to provide an accurate prediction of the current outbreak.”
Chance events, Dr. House argues, are an essential factor in the spread of Ebola and many other contagious diseases. “If we look at past Ebola outbreaks there is an identifiable way of predicting their overall size based on modelling chance events that are known to be important when the numbers of cases of infection are small and the spread is close to being controlled.”
Chance events can include a person’s location when they are most infectious, whether they are alone when ill, the travel patterns of those with whom they come into contact or whether they are close to adequate medical assistance.
The Warwick model successfully replicated the eventual scale of past outbreaks by analyzing two key chance events: the initial number of people and the level of infectiousness once an epidemic is underway.
“With the current situation we are seeing something that defies this previous pattern of outbreak severity. As the current outbreak becomes more severe, it is less and less likely that it is a chance event and more likely that something more fundamental has changed,” says Dr. House.
Discussing possible causes for the unprecedented nature of the current outbreak, Dr. House argues that there could be a range of factors that lead it to be on a different scale to previous cases;
“This could be as a result of a number of different factors: mutation of virus, changes in social contact patterns or some combination of these with other factors. It is implausible to explain the current situation solely through a particularly severe outbreak within the previously observed pattern.”
In light of the research findings and the United Nations calling for a further $1 billion to tackle the current outbreak, Dr. House says that “Since we are not in a position to quantify the eventful scale of this unprecedented outbreak, the conclusion from this study is not to be complacent but to mobilize resources to combat the disease.”
— Read more in “Epidemiological Dynamics of Ebola Outbreaks,” eLife (12 September 2014)
Concerns about use of Ebola as a bioweapon exaggerated: Experts
Homeland Security News Wire
The stabbing of a federal air marshal with a syringe at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, three weeks ago has raised concern about the possibility that the Ebola virus could be harvested by terrorists and used as a bioweapon. Security experts say that worries about the Ebola being used as a weapon by terrorists are exaggerated, since it would be very difficult for terrorists to grow large quantities of the virus and then turn the virus into an effective, dispersible weapon to cover a wide area in order to infect and kill a large number of people. Still, experts say the possibility of Ebola as a terror weapons cannot be completely discounted – especially small-scale attacks on individuals, like the attack on the air marshal at Lagos airport. Potentially even more dangerous would be a bioattack by suicide infectors – individuals who deliberately infected themselves for the purpose of carrying the virus out of an epidemic zone in order to infect people in other areas or even other countries.
The stabbing of a federal air marshal with a syringe at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, three weeks ago has raised concern about the possibility that the Ebola virus could be harvested by terrorists and used as a bioweapon (“U.S. air marshal in quarantine after suspected Ebola syringe attack at Lagos airport,” HSNW, 9 September 2014).
The syringe used in the Lagos attack was recovered at the scene and its contents examined at a biodefense forensics laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The FBI said the syringe did not contain the Ebola virus or other threatening agents. The marshal who was stabled was released from a Houston, Texas hospital with no sign of illness.
The New York Times quotes security experts say that worries about the Ebola being used as a weapon by terrorists are exaggerated, since it would be very difficult for terrorists to grow large quantities of the virus and then turn the virus into an effective, dispersible weapon to cover a wide area in order to infect and kill a large number of people.
“The bad guys are more likely to kill themselves trying to develop it,” Dr. Philip K. Russell, a retired major general who was the commander of the Army Medical Research and Development Command, told the New York Times.
Still, experts say the possibility of Ebola as a terror weapons cannot be completely discounted – especially small-scale attacks on individuals, like the attack on the air marshal at Lagos airport. Potentially even more dangerous would be a bioattack by suicide infectors – individuals who deliberately infected themselves for the purpose of carrying the virus out of an epidemic zone in order to infect people in other areas or even other countries.
“To truly isolate the virus takes a lot of resources,” Dr. Ryan C. W. Hall, a Florida psychiatrist who has written about the psychiatric impacts of bioterrorism attacks, told the Times. “But if you have people who are willing to die and willing to inject themselves with the blood of someone who has been infected, you don’t need a Biosafety Level 4 lab,” he said, referring to the special security facilities used to research the most deadly pathogens.