An Ebola vaccine that has been in development for 15 years has been shown in a clinical trial to be up to 100 percent effective at preventing the deadly virus. But it won’t stop sporadic cases from popping up, nor will it be immediately available to some who are most vulnerable to the virus.
Marie-Pierre Preziosi, head of the Initiative for Vaccine Research at the World Health Organization, which led the trial, says the vaccine is only meant to be used to stop the spread of an existing outbreak. Once WHO identifies new Ebola cases, only people most at risk of being exposed to a sick person—like family members, health-care providers, or sanitation workers—would receive the vaccine if it’s approved.
Preziosi says the vaccine won’t be administered as a preventive vaccine on a large scale, like vaccine campaigns for smallpox or polio, because there’s not enough data to show how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. If the vaccine is approved by drug regulators, it wouldn’t be used for a “long-term strategy” to thwart new Ebola cases, she says.
The Ebola virus has consistently stayed several steps ahead of doctors, public officials and others trying to fight the epidemic. Throughout the first half of 2014, it spread quickly as international and even local leaders failed to recognize the severity of the situation. In recent weeks, with international response in high gear, the virus has thrown more curve balls.
The spread has significantly slowed in Liberia and beds for Ebola patients are empty even as the U.S. is building multiple treatment centers there. Meanwhile the epidemic has escalated greatly in Sierra Leone, which has a serious dearth of treatment centers. And in Mali, where an incursion was successfully contained in October, a rash of new cases has spread from an infected imam.
Predicting the trajectory of Ebola rather than playing catching-up could do much to help prevent and contain the disease. Some experts have called for prioritizing mobile treatment units that can be quickly relocated to the spots most needed. Figuring out where Ebola is likely to strike next or finding emerging hot spots early on would be key to the placement of these treatment centers.
Kent Brantly, un médecin américain contaminé par le virus Ebola alors qu’il se trouvait au Liberia, devrait sortir, jeudi 21 août, de l’hôpital d’Atlanta où il est soigné depuis plusieurs semaines.
Selon Franklin Graham, le directeur l’organisation non gouvernementale (ONG) Samaritan’s Purse, pour laquelle travaillait le médecin bénévole, l’homme de 33 ans est désormais guéri, ce que l’hôpital n’a pas confirmé dans l’immédiat. Les services médicaux doivent tenir une conférence de presse dans l’après-midi, lors de laquelle ils évoqueront le cas de M. Brantly et celui Nancy Writebol, autre bénévole de l’ONG contaminée par le virus. La chaîne ABC affirme que M. Brantly prendra la parole devant la presse.
Dans son dernier bilan, diffusé mardi 19 août, l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) recense 2 240 personnes atteintes, dont 1 229 sont mortes. Entre les 14 et 16 août, il y a eu 113 nouveaux cas et 84 morts dans les quatre pays concernés – Guinée, Sierra Leone, Liberia et Nigeria.
The CALL came in on a Friday morning, as Dr. Michael S. Phillips worked at his desk at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. A patient had arrived in the emergency room burning with fever after returning from a trip to Liberia.
Dr. Phillips knew instantly what this might mean: Ebola.
Within minutes, he dispatched one member of his staff to make sure that the sick man remained isolated and that doctors and nurses were taking precautions to protect themselves against contracting the virus. Then he turned to a second staff member.
“Stop what you’re doing right now,” Dr. Phillips told him, and sent him to the hospital’s laboratory.
Dr. Phillips, the director of the infection prevention and control unit at NYU Langone, was already envisioning what his staff had not: a tube of the patient’s blood, loaded with the Ebola virus, landing in the hospital’s nerve center and contaminating thousands of blood and tissue samples, endangering lab technicians and potentially bringing operations at the hospital to a halt.
“It bumps your pulse up a bit,” Dr. Phillips said, with considerable understatement, as he recalled that hectic Aug. 1 morning.
The patient, it turned out, did not have the virus. But with an Ebola epidemic spreading across West Africa, Dr. Phillips and hospital epidemiologists in New York City are grappling with yet another worry as they go about their day-to-day work of preventing, tracking and controlling potentially deadly infections and diseases.