Category Archives: Epidemiology



Published; 4/19/17 AT 7:29 AM

Smugglers are forcing unaccompanied child refugees to sell their bodies in exchange for money to aid their traveling through Europe, a new report from Harvard University has claimed.

There is a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece,” say the report’s co-authors, Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, at Harvard University’s center for health and human rights.

Informants in Greek migrant camps told Digidiki and Bhabha that men prey on unsuspecting child refugees, sexually abusing those without proper adult supervision. The actual number of children who have been abused is unknown as many do not report it, fearing reprisal.

A psychologist in one of the camps told the researchers: “[Many children] do not want to report [the incident], because they are afraid that the offender will take revenge on them. They also do not believe that the police can help them.”

Unable to afford exorbitant fees charged by smugglers to help them reach European nations where they can seek asylum, children who have fled conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are selling sex to fund their journeys.

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Child refugees at the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 20, 2016.REUTERS/GIORGOS MOUTAFIS

The report includes an interview with a child refugee who told a journalist: “I never thought I’d have to do something like this. When the money ran out I had to learn to do this. He said “it was the first time I did this, I had no experience.”

The average price of a sexual transaction between a child and a smuggler is 15 euros, the researchers say, adding that the majority of those forced into prostitution are Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan boys.

Offenders, primarily men aged 35 or older, target the children who are found in Athens’ Victoria Square and Pedion tou Areos, a park next to departure areas for buses traveling towards Greece’s northern border.

“There is a reason why these two places have been chosen. They have been key centers for the drug and sex trade for years now. The only difference is the age of people involved. Before you wouldn’t see children. Now you do,” one informant said.

Digidiki told The Guardian that the international community cannot ignore the situation of child refugees in Europe: “We can no longer sit idle while migrant children are abused and forced to sell their bodies in broad daylight and plain sight in the heart of Athens simply to survive.”

“It is our responsibility as human beings to face this emergency head on and take immediate action at every level to put an end to this most heinous violation of dignity and human rights,” she said.




How ‘guerilla’ start-ups can make the world a better place

Thanks;  & Word Economic Forum

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REUTERS/Thomas Peter

At the Stockholm Tech Fest this year, Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström issued a rare and refreshing call to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their next startup idea. As founder of Skype, he knows a thing or two about opportunity-spotting.

The UN goals involve complex problems, but when it comes to clever startups, a lot can happen between now and 2030. After all, some of the most exciting ideas in recent decades have come from the “guerilla” startups rather than from the “gorilla” corporations; use of the guerilla’s creativity could help to find solutions to sustainable development problems.

However, it is important to ask: Is Zennström’s call to action just fluff, or is there are a deep enough bench of entrepreneurs with robust ideas? Are there resources to support such startups through different phases of growth?

Historically, keeping the growing body of “social” entrepreneurs nourished has largely fallen to impact investors, foundations, NGOs and a few progressive government agencies. so far, the track record of guerillas has not been stellar; far too often it is the same handful of examples that make the rounds. This is a field that, while not starved for people or ideas, is in need of fresh sources of nourishment. Getting big “gorilla” corporations to work with the “guerilla” startups could provide this nourishment.

Findings from our Inclusion, Inc. research initiative suggest that large corporations are well-placed to unblock startups’ path to wider impact.


How do we find ideas?

There is a growing pool of budding social entrepreneurs; the Skoll World Forumevent alone offers an encouraging and uplifting glimpse of the many guerillas in our midst. We are experiencing a surge in interest and ideas on university campuses. At UC Berkeley, the Blum Center has highlighted examples of businesses and people already helping to fulfil the goals.

Closer to home, The Fletcher School’s collaboration with the One Acre Fund’s D-Prize draws numerous contestants with ideas for social enterprises that take on “poverty solutions”; in recent years, we have funded a startup that used bus networks to distribute solar lamps to far-flung communities in Burkina Faso; a venture finding sponsors for girls’ high school education; and a ground transportation brokerage to serve as “the connective tissue” between smallholder farmers and transporters.

A second piece of good news is that capital is ready to be mobilised. A 2014 study by J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) identified $46bn in impact investments under management, with annual funding commitments estimated to increase by 19% in 2014. Sir Ronald Cohen, chair of the Global Social Impact Investment Taskforce, believes the impact investing market can grow to match the “$3tn of venture capital and private equity.”

According to Judith Rodin and Margot Brandenburg of the Rockefeller Foundation: “Aspirational estimates suggest that impact investments could one day represent 1% of professionally managed global assets, channeling up to hundreds of billions of dollars towards solutions that can address some of our biggest problems, from poor health to climate change.”

What are the bottlenecks?

So, why does all this good news not translate into more meaningful outcomes? Two bottlenecks are worth highlighting. The first is what a Monitor and Acumen study calls the “pioneer gap”. Their 2012 study, From Blueprint to Scale, observes that pioneer firms are starved of capital and support at very early stages in their development.

The second choke point occurs in the phase of actually getting to scale. A second report, Beyond the Pioneer, identifies a chain of barriers to scale, ranging from those within the firm and the industry to those in the domain of public goods and the government.

These bottlenecks represent different forms of market failures. An approach to the first of them involves “de-risking” early stage social ventures. However, a key source of risk is the chain of barriers to scale in later stages. If we can make meaningful advances on lowering the barriers, it helps in de-risking and also supports early-stage startup development.

Given the breadth of the barriers to scale, impact investors, NGOs and foundations would find it challenging to facilitate end-to-end solutions. Apart from funding and convening, such organisations have few other levers. Large corporations, on the other hand, can tackle business model and managerial issues within the firm and help boost negotiating power within the value chain or the public sector.

The biggest questions, of course, have to do with whether the gorilla corporations can ever be organisationally and culturally compatible with the startups. Given the potential for value creation these gaps are worth taking on.

The Monitor and Acumen study lists potential barriers: “firm level” barriers, which include weak business models, propositions to customers/producers, leadership and managerial and technical talent and a lack of capital.

Eye Mitra, launched in 2013, had trained over 1,000 young entrepreneurs and reached 150,000 people by the end of 2015. The business helps individuals to set up eye care provider businesses in rural communities using low-cost products.

According to a study by Dalberg Global Development Advisors [pdf], the programme added $4m a year in impact across the six districts surveyed; with Essilor’s scaling resources, Eye Mitra could represent the potential to unlock economic impact of $487m a year across India.

“Value chain barriers”

There are also value chain barriers which include lack of suitable labour inputs and financing for bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) producers and customers, weak sourcing channels and weak distribution channels involving BoP producers and customers, and weak linkages and support service providers.

Corporations with experience have become adept at finding creative ways around barriers in the value chain. Consider Unilever’s Project Shakti, which enables rural women to become entrepreneurs by distributing goods to hard-to-access rural communities.

Over 70,000 Shakti Entrepreneurs distribute Unilever’s products in more than 165,000 villages, reaching over 4m rural households. At the other end of the value chain, Coca-Cola’s Source Africa initiative facilitates sustainable and financially viable supply chains for key Coca-Cola agricultural ingredients, e.g. mango production in Kenya and Malawi and citrus and pineapple production in Nigeria.

In another sector, when Saint-Gobain builds a plant in a new country, it trains the local workforce in collaboration with YouthBuild. The latter trains disadvantaged youths in professional skills, while Saint-Gobain adds training in construction science.

“Public goods barriers”

Then, there are the public goods barriers: Lack of hard infrastructure; lack of awareness of market-based solutions; lack of information, industry knowhow and standards.

Olam offers a good illustration of a company’s deep involvement in a nation’s hard infrastructure. Olam jointly owns Owendo, a port in Gabon and is a key partner in the country’s special economic zone. On the “soft” public goods front, Janssen, a unit of J&J, works with multiple stakeholders to increase access to medicines and has formed the Janssen Neglected Disease Task Force to advocate for legislation to support new research into treatments for neglected diseases. It also coordinates a consortium to support HIV patients and their caretakers in managing the disease.

Fourth and finally, there are the government barriers: inhibitory laws, regulations and procedures; inhibitory taxes and subsidies; adverse interventions by politicians or officials.

MasterCard and its growing collaboration with the Association for Financial Inclusion to educate public officials about issues relevant to financial inclusion. This includes technical capacity building, developing national-level public-private engagement strategies, research and best practices to inform policymaking and exposing officials to innovative products, business models and approaches.

Combining global reach with entrepreneurial creativity

Perhaps the best mechanism for bringing gorilla and guerilla together is through a corporate venture or impact investing fund. Consider Unilever Ventures as an example. It has invested in a range of enterprises, including ones that focus on water management as part of its “sustainable living” portfolio, e.g. Recyclebank, a social platform that creates incentives for people to take environmentally responsible actions, WaterSmart, that develops tools for water utilities to help customers save water and money or Aquasana, Voltea and Rayne Water that develop water purification, desalination and filtration technologies.

Gorillas have the global reach and scale but they need the proximity to the problem, local knowledge and the entrepreneurial creativity of the guerillas. Zennström’s call-to-action requires guerillas and gorillas to dance. It is, no doubt, an awkward coupling; but it can – and must – happen for guerilla entrepreneurs to have gorilla impact on the world’s hardest problems.

MERS cases increase again; infection outside of hospitals reported


The Korea Herald

Publication Date : 24-06-2015

Korea quarantines 298 more people to prevent possible infection

South Korea reported four more cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome Wednesday, while announcing that it has placed 298 more people under quarantine to prevent possible infection.

The Health Ministry also reported the nation’s first MERS case that occurred outside of hospitals, which may be a sign that community transmissions of the disease have taken place in the country.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the virus has killed 27 people and infected 179. No death was reported on the same day, although 16 patients are currently in unstable condition. Meanwhile, 13 more patients have been discharged from hospitals, raising the total number of recovered individuals to 67.

According to health authorities, the nation’s 175th patient is believed to have been infected by his late wife, the 118th patient, who died from MERS on June 13, while staying at home together.

His late wife was infected by the 14th patient while caring for her husband, who had been hospitalised at the Good Morning Hospital in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, for pneumonia from May 23-29. After being discharged, he and his 67-year-old wife were placed under quarantine together at home until June 10, the day the wife was officially diagnosed with MERS. She died three days later.

The 175th patient, 75, had been asymptomatic even after his wife’s death, but started experiencing fever on June 21. He was officially diagnosed with MERS earlier this week. Considering the maximum incubation period of MERS is 14 days, the Health Ministry said it is most likely that the 175th patient was infected by his late wife at home, not at the hospital in Pyeongtaek.

While concerns are rising over the possibility of community-transmission of MERS, the World Health Organisation assured on Friday that the risk to the general public is low.

“Even if transmission spills over into the general community, such cases are not likely to sustain further transmission,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of WHO, told reporters in Seoul last week.

Discovery of Bacteria That Hasn’t Evolved in 2 Billion Years Is New Validation of Darwin’s Theory


Liz Neporent:Givology MagZ.



“Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.”

It was with shock that 33-year-old Nigerian-American academic Idris Bello read this sentence, signaling the rejection of a friend’s Nigerian brother-in-law to the Texas community college based solely on his citizenship. “I didn’t believe it, I was so surprised. I thought: This cannot be,” Bello says.

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A lead entrepreneur in Africa, with a master’s degree in global health from Oxford University, Bello received a copy of the letter from Dr. Kamor Abidogun, a mechanical engineer and friend of his in Houston. Abidogun’s brother-in-law also decided to apply to Navarro, and used his address as the point of contact. Along with the letter he received rejecting his 29-year-old brother-in-law, Abidogun received an identical one for his 20-year-old nephew, who had also decided to apply from Nigeria.

According to the letter, the small community college 20 miles outside of Dallas has decided to stop accepting students from places with confirmed cases of Ebola. Nigeria, it seems, is an odd place to enact that policy. The country of 174 million has only registered 20 total cases of Ebola since the index patient in July, a response so strikingly effective that the CDC dispatched a team to the country to study their methods.

Already through the first 21-day incubation period following the initial cases, the country is now just five days away from being officially declared by the World Health Organization as Ebola-free. Much of the response is believed to center around what WHO has declared “world-class epidemiological detective work,” which traced all 20 cases back to one passenger at the Lagos airport—ironically, an American.

Unlike its three most affected neighboring countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, citizens in Nigeria are under no threat of becoming infected with the disease within their borders, or at least no more than the threat we face in our country—and definitely not as much risk as an institution merely minutes away from its own outbreak.

The country of 174 million has only registered 20 total cases of Ebola since the index patient in July, a response so strikingly effective that the CDC dispatched a team to the country to study their methods.

Seven days after receiving the letter from Navarro, Abidogun had yet to break the “bad news” to his brother-in-law and his nephew. Neither applied to other universities. Living in Ibadan, Oyo State, neither are anywhere close to the small epidemic that swept through Nigeria in July—nor have either of them ever visited the most affected countries.

While Bello says he’s faced this kind of misinformed fear himself—he was recently stopped at a gym in Houston and asked if he’s Liberian, for example—he was most shocked to find an actual college making the same judgments. “I’ve had several people in the community act that way, but this is the first time I was going [heard] that from an institution,” says Bello. “An institution of learning, for that matter.”

He wasn’t the only one appalled by the news. When Bello posted the letter on his website, many took to Twitter to express similar feelings of disappointment. “@NavarroCollege so you won’t be accepting any Americans given Texas has confirmed cases? Seems like your enrollment will plummet. #messedup,” wrote one user. “I’m sure they didn’t mind discriminating against students from Africa beforehand, but this just gives them a new easy out,” posted another. “What a gross display of open bias. They descended too low. My brother, just choose another school,” said a third.

For Bello, spreading the message of this case isn’t about Navarro. Instead, it’s about influencing how American universities handle the epidemic in relation to their admissions moving forward. “I understand the fear about Ebola, but we’re not going to tackle epidemics by being scared or by misinformation, it’s going to be true education,” says Bello. “They are teaching students to be leaders in the future. Someone from that school needs to step forward and say, listen we made a mistake we are going to fix that mistake.”

UPDATE: Navarro College sent The Daily Beast the following statement—Our college values its diverse population of international students. This fall we have almost 100 students from Africa. Unfortunately, some students received incorrect information regarding their applications to the institution. As part of our new honor’s program, the college restructured the international department to include focused recruitment from certain countries each year. Our focus for 2014-15 is on China and Indonesia. Other countries will be identified and recruitment efforts put in place once we launch our new honors program fall 2015. We apologize for any misinformation that may have been shared with students. Additional information regarding our progress with this new initiative will be posted on our website.


@BreakingNews tweeted: Enhanced screenings for Ebola have begun at JFK Airport in New York City

OCTOBER 11, 2014

As Ebola continues to ravage West Africa and fears grow that the virus will spread around the globe, enhanced screenings began on Saturday at Kennedy Airport in New York.

Travelers coming from three hard-hit African countries are being singled out, having their temperatures taken and questioned about their possible exposure to Ebola. Kennedy was the first of five American airports to introduce Ebola screening protocols, and the new measures were the latest indication of the risk that the disease presented.

Airports in Canada and Europe plan to take similar measures in coming days.

But even as nations try to reassure anxious citizens that they are doing all they can to prevent an outbreak within their borders, public health officials cautioned that the only way to truly eliminate the threat posed by the virus would be to defeat it in West Africa.

“As Ebola continues its slow-motion incursion into developed countries, right now the U.S. and Spain, there is an understandable level of fear growing among people about this terrible virus, even though the chances of seeing anything like the calamity in western Africa is profoundly remote,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and a special adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

While the screenings might catch a few cases, he said, the focus needs to remain on battling the disease at its source and reacting quickly and effectively to new cases when they appear.

The difficulty and complexity of monitoring people without symptoms but thought to have been at risk of exposure to Ebola was demonstrated on Friday night when the New Jersey Health Department ordered a crew from NBC News that recently returned from Liberia to be quarantined.

The crew included the network’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who lives in Princeton, N.J. Dr. Snyderman had been covering the outbreak alongside Ashoka Mukpo, a freelance cameraman who was infected with the virus. Mr. Mukpo is being treated in isolation at a hospital in Omaha.

Citing privacy concerns, the authorities declined to provide information about the other crew members who were ordered to be quarantined.

New Jersey health officials said that upon returning from Liberia, the crew members agreed to isolate themselves from the community and monitor themselves for 21 days, the longest documented period of time it has taken for someone infected with Ebola to develop symptoms. “The NBC crew was ordered to be quarantined after failing to adhere to an agreement they made with health officials,” the department said in a statement without elaborating. “The order will be enforced by the Princeton Health Department in collaboration with the Princeton Police Department. The NBC crew remains symptom-free, so there is no reason for concern of exposure to the community.”

A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment on the quarantine, but said she expected the crew would comply with the department’s orders.

The decision to screen travelers entering the United States was announced on Wednesday, the day the first person with a case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States died.

That patient, Thomas E. Duncan, traveled to Dallas from Liberia, and like all airline passengers leaving the West African countries at the center of the epidemic — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — he was screened for symptoms before being allowed to board his flight.

Over the last two months, 36,000 people have been screened in Africa, and only 77 were kept off flights because of illness. Many of the 77 had malaria, and none were infected with Ebola.

Mr. Duncan did not have a fever or any other symptoms associated with Ebola when he left Liberia. He did not become ill until several days after arriving in Dallas.

Under the new protocols, Customs and Border Protection officers have been directed to single out travelers arriving from the three countries based on their passport information.

If any travelers have a fever or other symptoms, or are revealed to have possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine officer.

“The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment,” according to the guidelines released by the agency.

In New York City, officials have designated Bellevue Hospital Center as the destination for any travelers who need to be put into isolation. Since September, the city’s Health Department has had the ability to test blood for Ebola and make a diagnosis within four to six hours.

Travelers who have no fever, symptoms or known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.

Buntouradu Bamgoura, 54, from Guinea, said she was examined by a health worker after arriving at Kennedy on a flight from Paris on Saturday afternoon. “They did take my temperature,” Ms. Bamgoura said as she left the airport.

She said that the examination was not burdensome and that she was not taken to a separate room. “It took like 15 minutes,” she said, adding that she felt fine and was sent on her way with a list of symptoms to watch for.

Beginning next week, Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta international airports will employ the same screenings as those put in place at J.F.K. About 150 people enter the United States every day from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and nearly all of them come through those five airports.

Since at least the 14th century, when the bubonic plague devastated Europe, posting medical officers at a port of entry has been one of the main tools used to try to halt the spread of disease.

An outbreak of yellow fever in 1878 led the United States Congress to grant the federal government the authority to order a quarantine to prevent its spread.

Those powers were enhanced in 1892 to try to prevent another scourge, cholera.

For several decades, starting in the 1970s, the quarantine program in the United States was neglected until another threat, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, prompted Congress and the C.D.C. to bolster the program.

Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air, but rather only through bodily fluids; people are contagious only when they are symptomatic. There is no vaccine.

Stopping an outbreak requires isolating infected patients, tracing all contacts and then isolating all of those who begin to show symptoms. That process must be repeated until there are no more new cases.

KILLER 200 Ebola Deaths Recorded in One Day

Thanks; Tom Miles


GENEVA (Reuters) – The death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history has jumped by almost 200 in a single day to at least 2,296 and is already likely to be higher than that, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

The WHO said it had recorded 4,293 cases in five West African countries as of Sept. 6, a day after its previous update.

But it still did not have new figures for Liberia, the worst-affected country, suggesting the true toll is already much higher. The WHO has said it expects thousands of new cases in Liberia in the next three weeks.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Tuesday she expects the Ebola crisis gripping her country to worsen in the coming weeks as health workers struggle with inadequate supplies, a lack of outside support and a population in fear.

“It remains a very grave situation,” she told an audience at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, via Skype from Liberia’s capital Monrovia. “It is taking a long time to respond effectively …. We expect it to accelerate for at least another two or three weeks before we can look forward to a decline.”

Liberia’s defense minister told the United Nations Security Council that Ebola posed a mortal threat to the country.

“Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence. The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our State,” said Liberian Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai.

As well as struggling to contain the disease, the U.N. health organisation is having difficulty compiling data on the number of cases, said Sylvie Briand, the director of WHO’s department of pandemic and epidemic diseases.

“We know that the numbers are under-estimated,” Briand told a news briefing in Geneva. “We are currently working to estimate the under-estimation.

“It’s a war against this virus. It’s a very difficult war. What we try now is to win some battles at least in some places.”

The outbreak began last December and has been gathering pace for months, but about 60 percent of Liberia’s cases and deaths occurred within the last three weeks, the data showed.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that Liberia’s Montserrado County, which includes the capital, Monrovia, needs 1,000 beds to treat Ebola patients but the medical charity can only provide around 400 of those.

“We know that every day there are more people that need to be taken care of than we can include in our program. At the moment, there are insufficient beds,” MSF emergency coordinator Laurence Sailly told a news conference on Tuesday.


Sailly said MSF was lobbying other non-governmental organizations and the United Nations to increase their response in the three countries, particularly in Liberia.

“We are working also in Guinea and Sierra Leone, so we will not be able to have more than 300 to 400 beds here in Montserrado. We are not going to go more than that, and it is not going to do anything with the scale of the epidemic here,” Sailly said.

An American doctor infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the fourth patient with the virus to be taken to the United States from West Africa for treatment, the hospital said.

The doctor, who has not been identified, wore a full-body biohazard suit as he walked gingerly into the hospital where two other Americans were successfully treated, television images showed.

Some 33 people are being kept in quarantine in a run-down house in the Senegalese capital Dakar after a student from neighboring Guinea arrived in the city two weeks ago bringing Ebola.

The student is now in isolation in a Dakar hospital, his condition improving, according to the health ministry.

In Guinea and Sierra Leone, the other two countries at the center of the outbreak, only 39 percent of cases and around 29 percent of deaths have occurred in the past three weeks, suggesting they are doing better at tackling the outbreak.

The new figures also showed two new suspected cases in Senegal in addition to one previously confirmed case there. In Nigeria, the overall number of cases fell to 21 from 22, as at least one suspected case turned out not to be Ebola.

(Additional reporting by James Harding Giahyue in Monrovia, Emma Farge and Andrew Oberstadt in Dakar, Colleen Jenkins in the United States, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Ken Wills)

Chinese experts join fight against Ebola

Thanks;Shan Juan and Li Lianxing
China Daily
Publication Date : 12-08-2014

China has sent three teams of experts to Ebola-affected West African countries to help fight the deadly virus.

It is the first time Beijing has offered overseas assistance in response to a public health emergency.

Li Qun, emergency response chief at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the move will help with China’s own Ebola response.

“Our experts’ communication with local frontline medics for Ebola control and treatment will help with our response to the virus at both clinical and future research sites,” he said, adding that China has never had an Ebola outbreak or used the virus strain for research purposes.

The teams left on Sunday night and will travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A statement issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission on Sunday said each team comprises an epidemiologist and two specialists in disinfection and protection. Team members are from the China disease control centre and other institutions.

Sun Hui, an epidemiologist on the Guinea mission, said the tasks include information and technical support for China’s embassy and consulates there on distribution and use of relief supplies, and training local Chinese on disease response.

On Thursday, China announced humanitarian aid supplies worth 30 million yuan ($4.87 million) for Ebola-hit countries to help contain the outbreak.

The aid was expected to arrive on Monday or Tuesday, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Sun Jiwen said.

Sun Hui said each team will work for three days mainly with staff members from China’s diplomatic and consular missions.

“The mission is aimed at helping to curb the further spread of the virus in the affected countries and enhancing the protection of Chinese nationals there against the outbreak,” he said.

The disease control center has taken out insurance policies for the medical teams.

Feng Zijian, deputy director of the center, said, “Given that they are public health experts, they won’t work on the clinical side, which involves contact with the patients.”

Song Shuli, a spokeswoman for the Health and Family Planning Commission, said a training session was held on Sunday to help prepare the team.

Li Zhenjun, an expert going to Sierra Leone, the hardest-hit country, said information on biosafety, African social customs and preventive advice was given during the session.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation declared the epidemic an international health emergency, advising countries to be prepared to help with the evacuation and repatriation of nationals, including health workers who had been exposed to Ebola, which has killed nearly 1,000 people to date.

However, Feng said China has no plan at the moment to withdraw its nationals from the countries affected.

Chinese medical teams from Beijing and Heilongjiang and Hunan provinces are continuing to perform their duties in the three countries.

Wang Yaoping, director of the medical team in Sierra Leone, said, “We won’t withdraw under any circumstances and will more actively participate in combating Ebola here.”

Ebola in Spain: Spanish Priest Quarantined in Madrid with Ebola


By Reuters
Filed: 8/7/14 at 10:03 AM | Updated: 8/7/14 at 10:14 AM

Filed Under: World, Ebola, Spain

MADRID (Reuters) – The first European infected by a strain of Ebola that has killed more than 932 people in West Africa, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, was stable in a Madrid hospital on Thursday after being airlifted from Liberia, health authorities said.

Pajares, 75, was working for a non-governmental organization in Liberia and was repatriated along with his co-worker Juliana Bohi, a nun who has tested negative for the disease.

Liberia has declared a state of emergency over the crisis.

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“The patients have arrived well, though a little disoriented. They are both now in quarantine,” Madrid health official Javier Rodriguez told a news conference.

The medical plane flown out to Liberia to bring Pajares and Bohi back to Spain touched ground at a military base in Madrid at 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) before the two were escorted by police motorbikes and cars to the Carlos III hospital.

The hospital has cleared the entire sixth floor to treat the two patients, the health union said.

Highly contagious, Ebola, which has no known cure, kills more than half of the people who contract it. Victims suffer from fever, vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding.

Giant viruses blur clear line between life-forms


Thanks:SHOJI KODAMA, Nikkei senior staff writer

April 17, 2014 12:00 am JST

Pithovirus is over 10 times larger than the influenza virus and rivals the size of some bacteria. (Courtesy of Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS-AMU)

TOKYO — Giant viruses discovered over the past decade are redefining the notion of life.

     The latest giant virus, which had been trapped in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, is so big that it can be seen with a regular light microscope and is larger than many types of bacteria.

     Scientists may need to rethink evolution and life-form classification because of the giants. They differ from common viruses in numerous ways.

Frozen surprise

In 2003, scientists identified the Mimivirus, which is 0.75 micron in size, three times bigger than the largest viruses known at the time. It was so large that it was first mistaken for a bacterium. Investigation under an electron microscope revealed its true identity.

     Last year, another type of large virus was discovered in ocean sediments off the coast of Chile. Called Pandoravirus, these viruses are around 1 micron in length.

     And then came the report of the Pithovirus this March.

     Finding viable viruses in a 30,000-year-old sample of frozen soil from Siberia is news in itself. But the virus that the French scientists discovered is 1.5 microns long and 0.5 micron wide.

     Pithovirus is over 10 times the size of the influenza virus. Also, its oblong shape is unusual, as viruses tend to take on more geometric forms.

      Viruses are not defined as life forms because they cannot synthesize proteins on their own and must parasitize living cells to replicate. But the newly discovered giant viruses are very different.

     Mimivirus has both RNA and DNA, which breaks the presumed rule that viruses only have one or the other. It remains unclear whether this RNA is active when the virus invades cells to replicate, but its mere existence goes against conventional wisdom.

     “The discovery of Mimivirus shattered the definition of viruses,” said Hiroyuki Ogata of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

     In addition, although Mimiviruses do not have ribosomes, which are the molecular machines used by cells to synthesize proteins, the giant viruses do have a number of genes that code for protein synthesis. “These viruses have over 100 kinds of proteins, so they must have some complex means of making copies,” Ogata said.  

     It is not just size that separates these giant viruses. The Pandoravirus genome, for example, is roughly 2.5 million base pairs long, which is more than that of some small bacteria. Also, parts of the virus are surrounded by lipid molecules, as found with bacteria.

     Science now classifies life forms into three domains: bacteria, archaea (which look like bacteria, but have some fundamental differences) and eukaryotes.

     The giant viruses may require the addition of a fourth domain of life, argue French microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie and his colleagues who identified Mimivirus and helped find the other giant viruses.

Which came first?

The information gleaned from genome analysis has given support to the theory that viruses may have played a major role in the evolutionary development of eukaryotes, the domain of life that includes fungi, plants and humans.

     Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus, unlike bacteria and archaea. The new line of thinking is that this nucleus evolved from a distant, symbiotic relationship between viruses and archaea. In fact, poxviruses and eukaryotes share a close ancestry of genes that code for enzymes involved in DNA replication.

     “The spate of discoveries of giant viruses further supports the hypothesis,” said theory proponent Masaharu Takemura of the Tokyo University of Science.

     Analysis of the Mimivirus genome, for example, places the viruses on the phylogenetic tree somewhere before the branching of eukaryotes and archaea from their common ancestor.

     The existence of giant viruses blurs the line that until now clearly separated viruses from bacteria and other life forms. At the same time, genetic analysis makes clear that even among the giant viruses, there are major differences in evolutionary ancestry.

     “The giants have triggered a sea change in thinking about the relationship between viruses and living cells,” Takemura said.

     It may even upend the notion that viruses evolved after the origin of cells.

     Whatever the answer, studies of these giant viruses should provide important clues to help solve the riddles of the evolution of life.