Mapp Bio Steps onto Global Stage as Ebola “Hot Zone” Gets Hotter

8/29/14Follow @bvbigelow

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public health assistance in Liberia and elsewhere said, “The short answer to what’s needed now is more funding.”

In Liberia, where the number of Ebola cases is doubling every 35 days, O’Donnell said food shortages and violence have left the government reeling. What was known as a health emergency in March, when PCI joined the public health effort against Ebola in Liberia, is now “a dire crisis,” he said. “People are running scared, and rightfully so. It’s fair to say that certain systems are crumbling.”

PCI provides medical supplies, training for healthcare workers, and public health awareness and education, O’Donnell said. As the epidemic has spread, there have been shortages of basic medical supplies like masks, gowns, and gloves. As a result, O’Donnell said 360 healthcare workers have contracted Ebola, and about 70 percent died.

“A doctor shouldn’t die because he doesn’t have gloves to wear,” Saphire observed. “This is a solvable problem.”

Ebola virus (image: Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC)Even so, American medical volunteers and healthcare workers in West Africa are trained to work with Ebola, which is spread by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of infected patients. A spot of blood that is 1 square centimeter might have as many as 1 billion viruses, Saphire said, and healthcare workers can make mistakes when they are working 15-hour days.

Nevertheless, “These are highly trained personnel who know what they’re up against,” she added. “So how did they get infected? That is a real mystery, and something we need to know.”

In contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks, which had mortality rates as high as 90 percent and were usually confined to remote villages where infections “burned out” within a few weeks or months, Saphire said the contagion along the West African coast has lasted longer and spread … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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