Tag Archives: Ebola

Nigeria: Drug Mule Left to Die At Madrid Airport

A Nigerian drug mule has died in a Spanish airport after cocaine bags inside his body split open – because airport staff refused to touch him fearing he had Ebola.

The man collapsed in the customs area of the Madrid-Barajas airport outside the capital after arriving on a flight from Istanbul. Upon hearing that the man was from Nigeria, staff were too afraid to approach the man and left him in shivers on the airport floor.

The man, who had landed on a flight from Istanbul on October 18, died 90 minutes later from a massive drugs overdose, Spain’s El Mundo newspaper said. It later transpired that the man was suffering the effects of a cocaine overdose after several bags of the drug burst in his stomach. 

Reuters / Rafael Ibarra

A passenger accompanying the Nigerian later told police that he had flown from Madrid to Istanbul on October 14 and had not been to Nigeria for four years.

Ebola has killed 4,877 people in the past six weeks, almost all of whom were infected with the virus in West Africa.


Did One Liberian Prostitute Give Ebola to Eight Soldiers?

On Monday, a Liberian newspaper reported on a ‘concubine’—most likely a commercial sex worker—who somehow infected eight soldiers with the virus; the soldiers later died. The never-ending story of the 2014 Ebola outbreak took several new turns Monday.

A nurse in Spain contracted Ebola after caring for a known case; the U.S. patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, received an antiviral medication previously untested for human Ebola; Texas’ intensely anti-big government governor, Rick Perry, declared the federal government should be doing more to assist Texas in handling their one case; and, in the Liberian newspaper Daily Observer, a story was published describing the Ebola death of eight barracked soldiers—possibly related to the appearance of a mysterious “concubine” who was herself turned out to be infected.

I don’t know much about the Daily Observer. A look at its front page suggests it is a responsible newspaper doing the best it can in trying circumstances.

Granted, it has run one recent letter from Dr. Cyril Broderick, a plant pathologist, suggesting that Ebola and HIV were genetically engineered infections created by Big Pharma and the U.S. Department of Defense. But a letter is a letter.

Nor do I know exactly what a “concubine” is, exactly, in this context, though the article mentioned she slept in the barracks with one of the men. Perhaps a girlfriend, but most likely a commercial sex worker.

Nor am I certain whether the sex-and-death innuendo from the story—a woman brought in a disease to eight soldiers that eventually killed them—is standard fare for the Daily Observer and its readership (no other articles were particularly lurid).

But I can comment on a few aspects of the plausibility of the story. The notion that Ebola might be a sexually transmitted disease remains plausible if unproven.

The biologic plausibility is based on presence of the virus in semen and vaginal secretions; the implausibility is whether people who are sick with the disease actually are interested in having sex. At the core of this last concept is the observation that still holds up, 8,000 cases later, that people are not contagious unless they have symptoms.

Saliva, stool, tears, semen, and breast milk all showed clear evidence of detectable virus whereas no virus at all could be detected from urine, sputum, and vomit.

More to the point, I have read the world’s published medical literature on Ebola virus in various body fluids; it is not that difficult—there is only one such article in the easily accessible National Library of Medicine-based index.

Here is what this group of intrepid scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Uganda, and Tulane University did. During a 2000 outbreak in Gulu, Uganda, caused by the same Ebola species now affecting West Africa, they collected samples from patients who gave their permission for the research to be performed.


Examined bodily fluids included saliva, vomit, urine, sputum (lower airway mucus), stool, breast milk, semen, and tears. In all, 38 samples were collected from 23 acutely infected patients. In addition, another set of samples was collected in patients who were convalescing from the often-fatal disease.

The investigators, led by Daniel Bausch, also tracked just how many days into the illness the specimens were collected, knowing that those at the height of illness were likeliest to have large amounts of the virus. Overall, the average duration of illness at sampling was nine days.

The researchers found that only about one-third (37 percent) of the body fluid specimens from acute cases were positive when tested by very sensitive molecular detection (PCR) techniques.

Though only a few samples per body fluid were collected, saliva, stool, tears, semen, and breast milk all showed clear evidence of detectable virus whereas no virus at all could be detected from urine, sputum, and vomit.

Of course the hallmark of Ebola—an overwhelming propensity to hemorrhage—might result in blood leaking into these latter-three fluids (urine, sputum, and vomit), but no virus could be detected in this group of non-hemorrhagic samples.

25 March

It is possible that more samples on more patients, particularly those with far-advanced disease, would have yielded higher rates of positivity above the 37 percent observed. Furthermore, a larger sampling might have found virus in vomit or urine or sputum—but the data remains important and useful in formulating approaches to control.

First and foremost, blood is bad. Each of the patients had detectable virus in blood but far fewer had virus found in other body fluids. This is the basis of the stringent admonition to avoid contact with blood made by CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and others, including donning the elaborate Hazmat-like suits, gloves, and goggles worn by those in direct contact with patients.

17-20 September

Second, the presence of virus in semen (and in vaginal secretions, though this was not tested in the 2007 article) makes it possible that Ebola indeed entered the Liberian barracks with the concubine, though it does not explain, really, exactly how it spread from the one man she was visiting to the others. Without more details, it is impossible to sort out the sequence of events.

Third, the virus could not be found in sputum, further supporting the clear observation that airborne spread does not occur. The greatest disagreement between the public health experts and those who are suspicious of the same people’s confident pronouncements is around this assurance.

The Ebola epidemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives across West Africa, with more than half of those deaths in Liberia

Somehow there is a sense that the experts secretly know that airborne spread has and will occur and are cavalierly ignoring the facts. But the facts are not confusing. Ebola does not have the molecular equipment to spread through the air and will not develop it despite its zillion mutations per minute habit.

Finally, this sort of plain laying out of the facts in full sight apparently is nearly useless to quell panic and anger over the Texas case. Scientific observation, rather than being a place of respite from fear, itself has become something else to rail against.

As with so many other health topics where passions lead and facts in turn are accepted or rejected according to their ability to conform to that closely held belief. In other words, science is yet another victim of the historic 2014 Ebola virus outbreak.

How mobile phone surveillance is helping track and tackle Ebola

How mobile phone surveillance is helping track and tackle Ebola

Mention web or mobile surveillance, and you’re sure to raise a few hackles. But the current Ebola outbreak is showing that the data collected from handsets can be extremely useful. The idea of tackling a disease with ‘big data’ gathered from mobile phones might seem a little odd, but it’s actually an incredibly valuable source of information.

Telecom firms such as Orange have been working with data scientists, using anonymized data gathered from phones to track population movement in regions affected by Ebola.

The BBC points out that even in relatively poor countries in Africa, mobile phone ownership is still high. Experts have been able to use this data to determine the best places to set up treatment centres, and it’s an idea that has been pounced upon by the CDC.

Used in conjunction with existing data, information pulled from mobile phone masts helps to provide a broad overview of what is happening in any given area. For example, by monitoring mobiles, it would be possible to notice a spike in calls to health and helplines.

This could be indicative of a problem in the area so resources could be better concentrated. Mobile phone masts can also be monitored to track changes in population movement – compare current activity level to historic data and it’s easy to see when patterns change. 

Monitoring phone and web usage, even when done so anonymously, is generally frowned upon, but so-called ‘big data’ makes it possible to see trends faster than would otherwise be possible.

Hospitals and health centres are tied up treating people and don’t necessarily have the time or resources to report back in real-time about the numbers of people they are treating. Analyzing previously unavailable big data allows for faster responses and better deployment of resources.

The technique is not new – mobile phone data was also used during the cholera outbreak that followed the Haiti earthquake in 2010 – but, while it helps to provide valuable data, it’s still not quite enough. Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture Health, explains that data from other sources is also needed as well as the ability to successfully analyse it:

Big data analytics is about bringing together many different data sources and mining them to find patterns. We have health clinic and physician reports, media reports, comment on social media, information from public health workers on the ground, transactional data from retailers and pharmacies, travel ticket purchases, helpline data, as well as geo-spatial tracking.

Interconnected systems mean that it is also very easy to track the movement of groups and individuals around the world. Bank details, phone records, social media usage, and information from travel agencies can all be used to follow people from disease prone parts of the world.

Should it be suspected that an individual is an Ebola carrier, the task of tracking them down is a great deal easier than it would have been a few years ago.

But the problem with big data is the very fact that it is big. Pulling in information from mobile phones, web searches, and population movement involves working with a massive amount of data.

It is comparable to the NSA trawling the web and trying to pick out the few snippets of data that are useful. The analysis of big data is a developing art form, but it’s one that’s improving all the time. Surveillance and data collection isn’t always a bad thing after all.

Here are the 35 countries one flight away from Ebola-affected countries

The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 is unlike any past pandemic. With more than 670 West Africans dead, it has already killed 50% more people than the first—and, until now, deadliest—outbreak in 1976. That may be because this year’s involves the most lethal strain of the five known Ebola viruses. But its mysterious arrival in bustling West Africa also marks Ebola’s urban debut; past outbreaks have been confined to the remote jungles of central Africa.


And with the recent spread to Lagos, Nigeria’s densely populated commercial capital, this is also the first time the Ebola virus has been spread via a commercial airplane passenger (at least in recent history). Witnesses say Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government consultant who succumbed to Ebola after arriving in Lagos, began vomiting and having diarrhea mid-flight (though accounts vary).

Anyone on that flight who came in contact with those fluids and touched their own mucus membranes may have contracted the virus—a prospect made more worrisome by the fact that Nigeria’s health authorities don’t seem to know where all of Sawyer’s fellow passengers are right now.

Guinea Sierra Leone Ebola Map April 14 2014 png.png

If that could happen, where else could Ebola go? In theory, to quite a few global hub airports. Flights out of major airports in the affected countries arrive in 39 airports in 35 other countries. There are seven in Europe, in the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands; four in the Middle East; and three in the US (Houston, Atlanta and New York).

That doesn’t mean it’s time to panic about the possibility of this virus spreading across the world via commercial flights. The combination of the virus’s swift onset and its brutality—among other things, it causes its victims to bleed from mucus membranes, and sometimes the nose, gums and eyes—means the infected usually struggle to make it to the hospital, let alone through a baggage-check.

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“[P]eople generally transmit the infection when they are very sick, have a high fever and a lot of symptoms—and in these situations, they don’t travel,” Kamiliny Kalahne of MĂ©decins Sans FrontiĂšres, a non-governmental medical organization, told CNN.

So far, the World Health Organization hasn’t endorsed any travel restrictions. “We would have to consider any travel recommendations very carefully, but the best way to stop this outbreak is to put the necessary measures in place at the source of infection,” Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesperson, told CBC. Closing borders “might help, but it won’t be exhaustive or foolproof,” he said.

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West African airports are now stepping up their Ebola vigilance—albeit perhaps a little late. At the time Sawyer departed from Monrovia—on Jul. 20—Liberian health authorities were not screening outbound passengers for signs of Ebola.

Now they are, as Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced earlier today. Nigeria, Guinea, and Togo—where Sawyer’s ill-fated flight to Lagos stopped over—also say they are screening outbound passengers for signs of the virus. Meanwhile, Asky Airlines—that’s the airline on which Patrick Sawyer flew—has temporarily halted flights to Monrovia and Freetown.

Health authorities in Hong Kong and Birmingham, UK, quarantined air passengersflying from Kenya and Nigeria, respectively (though the virus hasn’t shown up anywhere near Kenya, where the Hong Kong passenger returned from, she was reportedly exhibiting symptoms). It turned out neither passenger had the virus.

Still, scary public health possibilities remain. Aside from coming into contact with open cuts, Ebola likely enters a person’s body through mucus membranes, such as the surface of the eye or by clinging to cells in their throat. Because the virus is bloodborne—it grows only in an animal’s bloodstream—it’s not as easily transmitted as something like, say, the flu. Still, it can survive in liquid or dried materials for a number of days outside a human host. It also is an STD of sorts, having been found in semen 61 days after its onset, with transmission occurring seven weeks after the patient recovered. Otherwise, the incubation period—meaning, between exposure and when a person begins to show symptoms—is between two and 21 days.

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That’s a big reason why it’s unnerving that Nigeria’s health authorities allowed Sawyer’s fellow passengers to leave the airport after briefing them on Ebola symptoms: The 100 or so passengers on Sawyer’s flight might not fall ill for another couple of weeks. The airline has yet to provide the Lagos state health ministry with a passenger list for the flights the victim was on, Reuters reports, though the authorities also say they’ve tested 20 out of 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer, reports CBC.

Even more unnerving is that, despite the fact that Ebola had been raging in other West African countries for at least five months, Sawyer’s sickness apparently took the Nigerian health system completely by surprise. After he collapsed in the Lagos airport and was taken to a private hospital, Sawyer was initially treated for malaria, for which he tested positive, reports Buzzfeed. But it was only when he began hemorrhaging blood that doctors thought to check for Ebola as well, after which they isolated him. The hospital is now closed for disinfection, say health authorities.

While the World Health Organization is stepping up its efforts to contain any potential spread in Nigeria, things continue to worsen elsewhere in West Africa. A surge in new cases in Guinea, the heart of the hot zone, suggests that it’s being transmitted in ways that health authorities don’t yet understand, says the WHO. Monrovia has run out of hospital space to care for Ebola patients, making it impossible to isolate them. And the virus has now claimed the lives of two of the region’s top Ebola doctors, Sierra Leone’s Dr. Sheik Umar Khan and Liberia’s Dr. Samuel Brisbane.

Nurse quarantined in NJ to go home, boy in NY to be tested for Ebola

Kaci Hickox speaks to her lawyer Norman Siegel from a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Hyman/Handout via Reuters

A 5-year-old boy who arrived from Guinea showed a low-grade fever and would be tested for Ebola in New York, while a nurse held in quarantine in New Jersey will be allowed to go home, officials said on Monday.

Nurse Kaci Hickox, held at a New Jersey hospital under the state’s Ebola quarantine policy, didn’t present any symptoms and could complete her quarantine at home, state Governor Chris Christie said on Twitter.

Hickox arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday after treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

She had said she planned to challenge her quarantine in a lawsuit, saying it violated her constitutional rights.

However, with indications she will be released, a lawsuit is unlikely, her attorney said on Monday.

“She was quietly happy,” said attorney Steven Hyman, who said he had spoken to the nurse by telephone. “She wants this part of her ordeal to be over. She wants to return to her life.”

Hickox will be transported home to Maine, the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement.

She remains subject to the state’s 21-day mandatory quarantine, the department said. She had no symptoms when she arrived in Newark on Friday, but developed a fever that prompted putting her in isolation, it said.

She is now symptom-free, it said.

In New York, a 5-year-boy who visited West Africa and has a low-grade fever will be tested for Ebola, City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. The results will be available later on Monday, she said.

The boy’s exposure history to the virus was unclear, she said.

“He has … traveled to one of the three affected countries and has a fever, and that’s what triggers an assessment,” she said.

Local media said the child lived in New York City’s Bronx borough.

Four people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The handling of the first case, a Liberian visitor to Texas in September who died, was riddled with missteps. Two nurses who treated the man contracted the disease but have recovered.

The only patient now being treated for Ebola in the United States is a New York doctor, Craig Spencer, who was diagnosed on Thursday. He had worked in Guinea treating Ebola patients with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

The mandatory quarantine policies put in place Friday by the governors of New York and New Jersey have been criticized amid concern they may discourage health care workers from traveling to West Africa to help in the fight against Ebola.

The virus has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa, where Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit.

Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and not transmitted by asymptomatic people.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo struck a conciliatory tone on Sunday about the new quarantine policy after the White House said mandatory isolation could impede the Ebola fight.

Cuomo said New York wanted to encourage personnel to go to West Africa, lauding their “valor” and “compassion” while protecting public safety at home.

Health care workers and travelers exposed to people with Ebola and who live in New York may stay in their homes for the 21-day quarantine and be checked upon twice daily by healthcare professionals, Cuomo said, adding the state would provide financial assistance if needed.

Hickox, the first health worker isolated under the rules, was placed in 21-day quarantine in a New Jersey hospital after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

She went public over the weekend, saying she underwent hours of questioning at Newark Liberty International Airport and had been transferred to a hospital isolation tent.

In response, the state health department said: “While in isolation, every effort was made to insure that she remained comfortable with access to a computer, cell phone, reading material and nourishment of choice.”

Christie said on Sunday that under New Jersey quarantine policy, a New Jersey resident who had contact with someone with Ebola would be quarantined at home. Non-residents would be transported home if feasible or quarantined in New Jersey.

5-year-old NYC boy being tested for Ebola develops fever

5-year-old NYC boy being tested for Ebola develops fever

A video obtained by The Post shows a heavily bundled 5-year-old Bronx boy being rushed by workers in hazmat suits to Bellevue Hospital, where he developed a low-grade fever Monday morning and was being tested for Ebola.

The boy’s mother can also be seen in the video, emerging with just a face mask on behind her son at the East 172nd Street building.

The family returned Saturday night from Guinea, one of three West African countries ravaged by the disease.

The child did not have a fever when he was initially examined Sunday night at Bellevue, according to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. He developed the fever about 7 a.m. Monday.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said on MSNBC that the boy has a low-grade fever and that the test results are expected by early afternoon.

Mayor de​ ​Blasio said Monday morning ​that ​the boy was rushed to Bellevue out of “an abundance of caution” because of his travel history and because he was showing signs of being ill.

“The child was having some difficulties but it was not clear the symptoms were related to Ebola,” de Blasio said, explaining that he was being purposely vague to protect the family’s privacy.

“There were some signs of an illness, [it was] not clear what illness was, so we did the cautious thing.”

The family’s apartment and building have not been decontaminated, he said, because there is “no evidence of Ebola so no decontamination would be appropriate.”

Many residents in the six-story building ​– where cops on Monday erected a police barrier to keep the media out ​– told The Post they were unaware of the situation.

“I saw the workers suited up taking the boy out,” said first-floor resident Tawana Johnson, 36, who took the video. “He looked out of it. I hope he’ll be OK. They’re a nice, hardworking family. 
 I heard he was playing with the neighbor’s kids and she sent them to school today.”

Johnson complained about the lack of information from officials.

“We should’ve been notified that a boy was taken with possible Ebola. We know we can’t catch it through the air, but we should at least be told,” she said.

“The building hasn’t been cleaned and the mother came out yesterday wearing just a face mask. I’m upset we haven’t been told anything and the building hasn’t been cleaned.”

She said the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, New York’s first Ebola resident to be diagnosed with Ebola, was treated differently.

“Here in the Bronx it seems they aren’t doing anything,” she said. “They should be handing out flyers telling people about Ebola and how you catch it just like they did for that doctor. It’s not right.”

Spencer, de Blasio said, remained in stable condition Monday.

Luis Gonzalez, the superintendent, was mopping Monday while wearing a pair of gloves with his arms exposed.

“It hurts that we haven’t been told what happened. I found out through my neighbor,” Gonzalez said.

“I’m not doing anything differently. I called management and they basically said, ‘Do what you need to.’ I don’t think management even knew because this happened late. I’m worried, of course. I hope that little boy will be OK. People need to be careful because nobody knows for sure how you catch it. People spit on the floor. Be careful.”

The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decided to test the boy for the virus because of his recent travel history and pattern of symptoms. He also is being evaluated for other childhood illnesses.

Detectives also are tracing the boy’s contacts to identify who may be at potential risk. Several members of the boy’s family are being quarantined inside their apartment, sources have told The Post, although the boy’s mother remained with him at the hospital.

The boy’s family declined to comment Monday. A young boy said through the closed door:

“My parents aren’t home. We can’t talk.”

Ebola outbreak: Number of people believed infected rises above 10,000

A health worker checks the temperature of a woman leaving Guinea at the border with Mali, the sixth West African country to report an Ebola case.

Death of toddler in Mali who had contact with at least 300 during journey prompts Mauritania to close border


More than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola and nearly half of them have died, according to figures released Saturday by the World Health Organization, as the outbreak continues to spread.



The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the largest ever outbreak of the disease with a rapidly rising death toll in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been cases in three other West African countries, Spain and the United States.

The UN health agency said Saturday that the number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases has risen to 10,141. Of those cases, 4,922 people have died. Its figures show about 200 new cases since the last report, four days ago.

Even those grisly tolls are likely an underestimate, WHO has warned, as many people in the hardest hit countries have been unable or too frightened to seek medical care.

A shortage of labs capable of handling potentially infected blood samples has also made it difficult to track the outbreak. For example, the latest numbers show no change in Liberia’s case toll, suggesting the numbers may be lagging behind reality.

‘Together, we’re going to beat it’

On Thursday, authorities confirmed that the disease had spread to Mali, the sixth West African country affected, and on the same day a new case was confirmed in New York, in a doctor recently returned from Guinea.

Mali had long been considered highly vulnerable to the disease, since it shares a border with Guinea. The disease arrived there in a 2-year-old, who travelled from Guinea with her grandmother by bus and died Friday.

The toddler, who was bleeding from her nose during the journey, may have had high-risk contact with many people, the World Health Organization warned. So far, 43 people are being monitored in isolation for signs of the disease, and WHO said Saturday that authorities are continuing to look for more people at risk.

Malian border police said Saturday that neighbouring Mauritania closed its border with Mali in the wake of the case.

To help fight Ebola, the UN humanitarian flight service airlifted medical supplies to Mali late Friday. The seats of the plane were removed to make room for the cargo, which included hazard suits for health workers, surgical gloves, face shields and buckets, according to the World Food Program, which runs the flights.

In Liberia, the country hardest hit by the epidemic, U.S. forces have been building desperately needed treatment centres and helping to bring in aid. On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, who was in charge of the troops assigned to the Ebola response, handed power to Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the 101st Airborne commander.

“I’ve been told that by a number of people that the task we face is extremely hard. Well, a fairly famous person once said hard is not impossible,” Volesky said. “Together, we’re going to beat it.”

Meanwhile, some in Ghana were worried that a strike by health care workers that began Friday could leave the country vulnerable to Ebola. Ghana does not border any country with reported cases, but it is serving as the headquarters for the U.N. mission on Ebola.