The bad news -Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the disease was still out of control. Thanks to the mistake with a plane, a few US schools have closed, and whole neighborhoods are being roped off. How fast does a 19Kb string of information spread? Outside Africa, Norway has one case, Germany has had one death, one survivor, and one case. Spain has lost two, and is treating one. France and the UK have a survivor each. Today, at least, Senegal has been declared free of Ebola.
The WHO organization has admitted it botched the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
“In a draft internal document obtained by The Associated Press, the agency says “nearly everyone” involved in the response failed to notice the potential for Ebola’s explosive spread.
The agency acknowledged that its own bureaucracy was a problem, pointing out that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa.”
The good news - CSL have said they will develop a plasma product from survivor’s blood. At the moment this is the most pragmatic possible treatment. There are 3000+ survivors who have antibodies, which appear to save the lives of victims (Brantly, Writebol, an American journalist, and hopefully the Texan nurses). It could still take a long time to produce, and it all hinges on how fast it can be done. It could save the medical staff who are so at risk and so important. That would mean more medical staff and other volunteers would be happy to volunteer. Then it could be provided to some patients and their sole carer to potentially stop transmission from wiping out whole families, or leaving children orphaned, and importantly reduce the Ro rate.
CSL say the biggest problem is getting blood of survivors. Dare I suggest: pay them, and the free market will provide. The survivors will benefit. The GDP per capita in these West African nations is $400 – $800 US a year. Our money makes much more difference there than waiting to spend it on victims here. Stop it at the source.
What will stop this if we don’t?
Evolution of viruses on a continent of one billion people and countless billion animals that may act as reservoirs and future carriers is a risk we don’t want to run. The exponential curve is relentless — there are ten million people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and while the disease has only afflicted a tiny 0.2% of their populations so far, the only thing stopping that growing to 100% is the West. As Albert Einstein said, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. The number of cases doubles every 3 to 4 weeks. We may be
twelve eleven doublings away from wiping out 7 million people and unleashing who-knows-what mutation on the world. Does anyone think that border control will keep that carnage within their national boundaries? Ebola has been detected in rats, chimps, antelopes, monkeys, dogs and bats. They won’t stop at the border checkpoint.
The West is already surely a magnet for any potentially exposed people in West Africa who have a passport to get to there. If you had the means, and knew you were at risk, would you stay in Monrovia?
The latest UN Situation report – 15 October 2014 listed around 600 new cases a week in Liberia as of a few weeks ago. Ominously, the statistics are falling, but no one is happy, because it’s believed the real numbers are getting worse and the reporting is falling rather than the infections. There are around 500 new cases in Sierra Leone each week, and 200 new cases in Guinea. Approximately half the new cases are from the capitals — showing the virus is now well established in Monrovia and Freetown. There a pockets of good news. “There does appear to have been a genuine fall in the number of cases in Lofa district…”
The Australian – CSL, the Australian maker of blood-plasma therapeutics, has been asked by Bill Gates to explore whether it can develop a plasma product to treat Ebola.
Chief executive Paul Perreault said he formed a small team to assess the feasibility at the request of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a few weeks ago.
He called it a “highly unusual” request, but said CSL responded right away. CSL wasn’t previously exploring an Ebola treatment.
CSL (CSL) also said earlier this week it was in talks with the World Health Organisation over a treatment for Ebola.
The idea would be to collect antibody-rich plasma from people who have recovered from Ebola, purify it and develop it into a “hyper-immune” product that can be transfused into patients.
“Technically, we can do it, “ Mr Perreault said. The hope is that antibodies from the recovered patient would help others fight the virus.
But it is apparently still a long way from being reality.
CSL would supply the finished product to West Africans if it ultimately makes such a product. “If people were collecting plasma in Africa and sending it to us, we’d send it back to Africa,” he said.
Mr Perreault said CSL responded right away to the Gates Foundation request, but said it’s “early days” and the company still hasn’t decided on a plan. If CSL does decide to try to develop a product, the company would look to recover its costs, but not to make money, he said.
“We’re prepared to step in and do what we can,” he said. “We can’t do anything unless we get the plasma. That’s the biggest logistic issue.”
If getting plasma is an issue, why not offer $1,000 to each survivor who also tests free of HIV, Hep B, malaria and other major diseases? They would come from far and wide for testing (and we ought cover the costs of those who came for testing and didn’t qualify). It would be cheaper than letting this run unchecked. Do I even need to mention hospitalization costs in the West, with high-level quarantine units with negative air pressure and Class 3 Haz-mat suit protection for medical staff?
Or the human toll.