Category: Featured

Panel Debates Lessons from Ebola

November 4th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Today posted on November 4, 2014. By Lisa Chedekel

It was the bike ride seen ’round the world.

When Maine nurse Kaci Hickox hopped on a bike last Thursday, openly defying a quarantine order to stay home after she returned to this country from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, she intensified a legal and ethical debate likely to have far-reaching consequences in the United States. This according to a panel of BU and Massachusetts health experts convened last Thursday on the Medical Campus to discuss the Ebola outbreak.

“There are actually two epidemics going on,” said panel member George Annas, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a professor at the Schools of Medicine, Law, and Public Health, where he is chair of health law, bioethics, and human rights. “There’s an Ebola epidemic in West Africa. And there’s an epidemic of ignorance in the United States.”

The US epidemic Annas was referring to was both the overblown alarm about Ebola and the resulting government actions, including the forced quarantine of Hickox, who was isolated in a tent at a New Jersey hospital for four days after she landed at Newark Liberty International Airport October 24. She tested negative for Ebola, but was ordered to self-quarantine when she was allowed to go home to Maine. On Friday, a Maine judge rejected state efforts to confine her in her home, but required her to submit to daily monitoring for the virus until November 10, when the incubation period for contracting the disease will be over.



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The Ebola Fight’s HR Problem

October 28th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Marketplace posted on October 27, 2014. By Dan Gorenstein

The federal government and the states are still figuring out just what they should do with health workers who return from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

And while that question is part logistics and part politics, there is a pretty big human resources question in there, too. How do groups like Doctors Without Borders recruit healthcare workers who are urgently needed to contain the outbreak?

“From the beginning of the outbreak until now, it’s been difficult to find people who have the experience, the willingness and the flexibility. It’s not an easy ask,” says United Nations spokesperson Nyka Alexander.

The U.S. and Britain both plan to build Ebola treatment centers in West Africa. Countries and individuals like Paul Allen along with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan and Bill and Melinda Gates are pledging millions in aid. And Cuba, China and Ethiopia are among the other nations who are sending teams to West Africa.

But still the World Health Organization says several hundred more foreign medical workers are needed. Guinea, with the highest proportion of doctors among the three affected West African nations, has just 10 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States.

Everyone agrees the way to keep the American public safe is to beat this virus over there. But no one agrees who should travel across the Atlantic to fight it. Most healthcare workers in the U.S aren’t going. Some may worry about getting sick, or wonder whether they have the right skills or think they’ll be treated like a pariah when they come back.

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A Doctor’s Diary: Encountering Chaos And Kindness In An Ebola Ward

October 27th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NPR posted on October 26, 2014. By Nahid Bhadelia

I am an infectious disease (ID) physician at Boston Medical Center, and I serve as the Director of Infection Control at National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, helping design medical response programs to potential exposures to viruses that cause viral hemorrhagic fevers. This summer I spent 12 days in Sierra Leone, serving as part of a team treating patients at Kenema Government Hospital’s Ebola treatment center. The center was supported by the World Health Organization with guidance, logistics and clinicians. My colleagues and I were recruited through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, a network that WHO hosts. I traveled with Dr. George Risi, a fellow ID doc, and Kate Hurley, RN, MSN, from St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula, which provides medical backup to Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

My journey to Sierra Leone and Kenema Hospital to serve as a physician in the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) started more than a month before I actually traveled there. It is as much a mental journey as a physical one. What was once a textbook understanding of the virus quickly became an intimate experience of losing many around me to the disease. Before I left, traveling to West Africa to take care of these patients was an abstract humanitarian imperative for me. Now that I’m back, having seen what I have seen, I could never forgive myself if I did not make another trip.

The first day in Sierra Leone, the day of arrival, all of the flight attendants put on gloves shortly before we landed. As I walked out into the customs halls in Lungi Airport in Freetown, every wall was plastered with posters providing information about Ebola. We were asked to complete a health questionnaire and fever check — one of dozens I would receive during my time in the country. In the dark rainy night, the water taxi that carried us from Lungi airport to Freetown seemed otherworldly. Seeing my co-clinicians, who had arrived a few hours before me, at the hotel was a big step in helping me reorient to the purpose of my journey.


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Communication and Computing Technology in Biocontainment Laboratories Using the NEIDL as a Model

October 24th, 2014 in Featured, Lab Updates

Original article from: Pathogens & Disease posted on June 10, 2014. By John McCall & Kath Hardcastle

This article provides very interesting examples of some of the new approaches that are being developed for communicating within containment laboratories at the NEIDL. It describes the application of state-of-the-art systems for researchers to communicate within and between laboratories and provides examples on how communication is initiated and how the equipment is installed inside a laboratory.


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The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

October 24th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: LiveScience posted on October 23, 2014. By Anne Harding

Humans have been battling viruses since before our species had even evolved into its modern form. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have allowed us to keep infections from spreading widely, and have helped sick people recover. For one disease — smallpox — we’ve been able to eradicate it, ridding the world of new cases.

But as the Ebola outbreak now devastating West Africa demonstrates, we’re a long way from winning the fight against viruses.

The strain that is driving the current epidemic, Ebola Zaire, kills up to 90 percent of the people it infects, making it the most lethal member of the Ebola family. “It couldn’t be worse,” said Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola virus expert and associate professor of microbiology at Boston University.



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Scientists Fight For Superbug Research As U.S. Pauses Funding

October 24th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NPR posted on October 23, 2014. By Nell Greenfieldboyce

An unusual government moratorium aimed at controversial research with high-risk viruses has halted important public health research, scientists told an advisory committee to the federal government on Wednesday.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said Friday that the federal government will, for now, not fund any new research proposals that might make three particular viruses more virulent or contagious. The three viruses are those that give rise to influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The White House also said it would encourage “those currently conducting this type of work — whether federally funded or not — to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed.”

Some researchers who study these germs say they received “cease-and-desist” letters from their funder, the National Institutes of Health.

The moratorium has hit efforts to develop a small-animal model for MERS, the troubling virus that’s recently emerged in the Middle East, says Kanta Subbarao, a biologist who studies influenza, SARS, and MERS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

She notes that currently scientists have no rodent models to use for testing drugs or other treatments for MERS. Her group developed such a model for SARS by creating a form of the virus that makes mice sicker, and she wants to do the same for MERS.



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Why Has Nurse Amber Vinson Recovered From Ebola So Quickly?

October 24th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NBC News posted on October 23, 2014. By Maggie Fox

Amber Vinson’s blood tested negative for Ebola virus just nine days after she was first diagnosed. Her fellow nurse, Nina Pham, is now in good condition.

The two nurses infected when they treated the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, have seemingly fared better than most patients with the disease. Is that thanks to early treatment, did the two nurses just get a smaller dose of the virus to start with, or are other factors at work?

Doctors familiar with Ebola say it’s almost impossible to know. Only seven people have ever been treated for Ebola in the United States. Six recovered and only Duncan died. Even with such small numbers it’s a stark contrast to the epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the World Health Organization says 70 percent of patients are dying.

“It is rare that recovery happens this fast,” said Thomas Geisbert, an expert on infectious diseases and Ebola treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “It could be related to a number of things including the fact that these patients were diagnosed in the U.S. and treatment was presumably initiated quickly,” he told NBC News.


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Reality Check: How People Catch Ebola, And How They Don’t (Elke Muhlberger Interview)

October 22nd, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: WBUR’s CommonHealth posted on October 22, 2014. By Carey Goldberg

It’s confusing. You hear that Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan was so contagious that two Dallas nurses in protective gear caught the virus. But then you hear, in more recent days, that apparently nobody else did, including the inner circle who lived with him and cared for him. The CDC announced today that all of Mr. Duncan’s “community contacts” have completed their 21-day monitoring period without developing Ebola.

How to understand that? And how to address alarmists’ claims that for the nurses and so many West Africans to have caught Ebola, it must have gone “airborne”?

I turned to Dr. Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola expert long intimate with the virus — through more than 20 years of Ebola research that included two pregnancies. (I must say I find this the ultimate antidote for the fear generated by the nurses’ infections: A researcher so confident in the power of taking the right precautions that she had no fear — and rightly so, it turned out — for her babies-to-be.)

Dr. Muhlberger is an associate professor of micriobiology at Boston University and director of the Biomolecule Production Core at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (widely referred to as the NEIDL, pronounced “needle”) at Boston University. Our conversation, lightly edited:



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Universities To Speakers Who’ve Visited West Africa: En Garde!

October 20th, 2014 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NPR posted on October 18, 2014. By Eleanor Klibanoff

By now, it’s well known that there are a limited number of ways you can contract Ebola: from the blood, sweat, saliva or other bodily fluids of someone who already is ill with the disease.

There are many more ways you can’t get Ebola: by meeting someone who has recently spent time in West Africa, for example, or sitting through a lecture about Ebola. You can’t even get Ebola if someone with Ebola happens to be near you. To become infected, you’d have to be exposed directly to their bodily fluids.

Yet in the past week, organizations have begun to crack down on events featuring West Africans or those who have returned from a trip to West Africa. The panic surrounding Ebola, a disease about which we actually know a fair amount, has led to some decisions that incorporate very little of that knowledge. Here are four:


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Boston Doctor Training Others to Fight Ebola on Front Lines (Dr. Bhadelia Interview)

October 20th, 2014 in Featured, In The News, Video

Original article from: CBS News posted on October 20, 2014

The death toll from Ebola in West Africa now tops 4,500, and the spread of the deadly virus shows little sign of slowing.

But among those fighting the disease is a Boston doctor who cared for Ebola patients in the region, and is now training other doctors, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s mock Ebola ward in Anniston, Alabama, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia showed medical clinicians how to get in and out of their personal protective equipment.

Dr. Bhadelia knows first-hand that these suits and important training, can save doctors’ lives from the Ebola virus.


Watch Full Interview on CBS News