US to provide USD 75 mn to expand Ebola care centers

The American aid agency has announced it would donate USD 75 million to fund 1,000 more beds in Ebola treatment centers in Liberia and buy 130,000 more protective suits for health care workers.

US to provide USD 75 mn to expand Ebola care centers

West Africa’s struggling health systems have buckled under the pressure of an Ebola outbreak that has already killed about 1,900 people. Nurses in Liberia are wearing rags over their heads to protect themselves from the dreaded disease, amid concerns that shortages of protective gear throughout the region are responsible for the high Ebola death toll among health workers.

The US Agency for International Development also urged American health care workers to respond to the outbreak. Rajiv Shah, the agency’s administrator, told The Associated Press that several hundred more international experts are needed and the agency will help send Americans health care workers there.

“This will get worse before it gets better,” he said. “We have a coherent and clear strategy … But it will take weeks to months to get operational at that scale.”

The USD 75 million comes in addition to about USD 20 million the agency has already donated to fight the outbreak that was first identified in March in Guinea, and has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The killer virus is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, urine or diarrhea.

Health workers account for about 10 per cent of the deaths so far. Much of the protective gear they use must be destroyed after use, so Ebola wards need a constant flow of clean equipment.

One nurse at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, said she and her colleagues have resorted to cutting up their old uniforms and trying them over their faces to protect themselves, looking out through holes in the fabric. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to talk to the media.

“It is really pathetic,” she said. “We are not equipped to face the situation.”

With no goggles to protect them, their eyes burn from the fumes of chlorine used to disinfect the ward, the nurse said.

David and Nancy Writebol, American missionaries who worked at another hospital in Liberia, echoed those concerns, speaking to the AP in North Carolina. They said doctors and nurses are overwhelmed by a surge of patients and there aren’t enough hazard suits to keep them safe.

Source: business standard

Two U.S. Ebola Patients Released From Hospital

Two American missionaries who contracted Ebola in Liberia have recovered from the deadly illness and been discharged, Emory University Hospital officials said Thursday.

Smiling broadly as he appeared at a hospital news conference and looking as fit as he had in photos taken before he became ill, Kent Brantly said he was grateful to have survived a disease that kills the majority of those infected.

Two U.S. Ebola Patients Released From Hospital

“I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family,” said Dr. Brantly, a 33- year-old medical missionary from Fort Worth, Tex.

Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol, 59 years old, spent more than two weeks in a special isolation unit at the hospital after a medical evacuation from Liberia by the two Christian charities for whom they worked. Mrs. Writebol was discharged and quietly left the hospital Tuesday, officials said Thursday.

The patients, who contracted the disease while working at the same hospital in Liberia, no longer have symptoms and don’t have traces of the deadly virus in their blood, said Bruce Ribner, who heads the isolation unit where they were treated.

“There is no evidence of Ebola virus infection in their bodies,” he said. They pose “no public health threat.” Recovered Ebola patients generally “are not contagious, they don’t as a general rule relapse, and they don’t spread the virus to anyone else.”

Moreover, they are immune to the strain of Ebola virus that infected them, Dr. Ribner said—a strain that caused an outbreak that has infected at least 2,473 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, killing 1,350 of them.

The two were discharged by Emory after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials in Georgia and North Carolina, Dr. Ribner said.

The bearded Dr. Brantly, wearing khaki pants and a blue shirt with the logo of Samaritan’s Purse, the charity he works for, appeared healthy as he addressed journalists, with his wife Amber by his side. He choked up at times while thanking his medical team and the charity. He then hugged the roughly 30 people from his treatment team, including doctors, nurses and support staff, conveying that he was no longer infectious. Many recovered Ebola patients in West Africa are shunned. “God saved my life, the direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” he said.

Dr. Brantly said he would be going away with his family for a while to recover. Mrs. Writebol already is with her husband at an undisclosed location, said SIM USA, the Christian charity where she worked.

In a statement issued Thursday, her husband, David Writebol said,”The lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition. Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs at this time.”

While in treatment in Liberia, the two Americans received an experimental drug, called ZMapp, which is made by San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. and had never been tested in humans. On Thursday, Dr. Ribner said it’s impossible to know what the effect of the drug was on the two.

“Frankly we do not know whether it helped them, whether it made no difference, or even theoretically if it delayed their recovery,” Dr. Ribner said.

“There is a crying need for research on these agents,” he said.Three doctors in Liberia have been given the same drug, and all are responding, said Director of Social Welfare John Sumo at the Ministry of Health. He didn’t know if or how those doctors were being monitored for research purposes.

On its website, Mapp says that the combination of antibodies that make up ZMapp were identified only last January, and that “larger trials are necessary to determine whether ZMapp is safe and effective.” The company declined to comment on its use on the American and Liberian patients.

Dr. Ribner said the Emory medical team learned several things in treating the two Americans, particularly involving replacing fluid and electrolytes in sick patients, and is writing guidelines for practitioners in Africa.

Source: The wall street journal

US to invest $11 million to curb HIV

US to invest $11 million to curb HIV

The US government has reviewed the progress of the National HIV-AIDS Strategy in the past four years, and has announced new funding to fight the scourge, media reported Wednesday.

In a report released by the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services will invest $11 million to fund the Community Health Centres’ to help communities highly affected by HIV, Xinhua reported.

“This initiative, funded through the Affordable Care Act and the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, aims to build sustainable partnerships between public health and health centres to help achieve the goals of the strategy,” the report said.

In addition, the government will expand investment in research to address gaps in the HIV Care Continuum, including investigations of the effectiveness of methods to identify HIV-infected people earlier and to provide them with necessary treatments.

On July 15, 2010, US President Barack Obama released the first comprehensive National HIV-AIDS Strategy.

This strategy envisions that “US will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination”.
Source: business

First MERS case confirmed in Bangladesh


Bangladesh has confirmed the first case of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) after a man returned from the US via Abu Dhabi was found afflicted with it.

Mahmudur Rahman, director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR), said Sunday that the man was recuperating in a hospital, reported.

“We have notified it to the WHO,” he said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The virus was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has remained a global concern since then.

It has spread to 22 countries, including Bangladesh, from the Middle East.

So far, the WHO recorded 699 cases of MERS with a mortality rate of 30 percent.

Source: business standard

Alzheimer’s disease may kill as many as cancer in US

Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease are under-reported in the United States and the most common form of dementia may be taking as many lives as heart disease or cancer.

Alzheimer’s disease currently ranks sixth among causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is first, and cancer second.

But researchers reported in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, that Alzheimer’s-linked deaths could be six times more common than thought.

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are under-reported on death certificates and medical records,” said study author Bryan James of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“Death certificates often list the immediate cause of death, such as pneumonia, rather than listing dementia as an underlying cause.”

For the study, researchers followed more than 2,500 people aged 65 and older who were tested annually for dementia.

A total of 559 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease during the course of the study, and the average time span from diagnosis to death was four years.

People aged 75 to 84 who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s were also four times more likely to die than those without it.

One third of all deaths among those aged 75 and older were attributable to Alzheimer’s disease, said the study.

According to James, the findings would translate to an estimated 503,400 deaths from Alzheimer’s in the US population over age 75 in 2010.

That figure is six times higher than the 83,494 reported by the CDC based on death certificates.

“Determining the true effects of dementia in this country is important for raising public awareness and identifying research priorities regarding this epidemic,” said James.

Source: Channel news asia


Solitary confinement: A man lives 29 years in a box

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Robert King still remembers well the dimensions of his cell: 6 x 9 x 12 feet. There was a steel bed and a sink that doubled as a toilet where he would also wash clothes.

King spent 29 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana. He has been free since 2001, but still has difficulty with geographical orientation.

“I get confused as to where I am, where I should be,” he said.

King joined researchers and legal experts at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago this month to talk about the mental and physical health consequences of solitary confinement.

“The widespread consensus among mental health professionals is that solitary confinement, for the overall majority of mentally ill prisoners, places them at severe risk of additional harm,” said Craig Haney, director of the program in legal studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The talk was timely. This week, New York state agreed to several changes that would limit the use of solitary confinement for disciplining some groups of inmates, including those under 18 or pregnant women. The agreement stemmed from a class-action lawsuit.

The New York State Department of Corrections provided to CNN a statement from its acting commissioner, which read in part: “These are important reforms that will make the disciplinary practices in New York’s prisons more humane, and ultimately, our state’s criminal justice system more fair and progressive, while maintaining safety and security.”


A department spokesperson said no statement was available on the general use of solitary confinement.

A brief history of solitary confinement
There are about 80,000 people being held in some sort of solitary-type confinement in the United States, Haney said.

Prisoners in solitary confinement tend to be restricted to cells of 80 square feet, not much larger than a king-size bed, Haney said. Sleeping, eating and defecating all take place inside that space. For exercise, prisoners in solitary confinement often get a short time in a cage rather than an outdoor yard — perhaps one hour per day.

Haney, who has studied prisons and punishment for more than four decades, estimates that about one-third of people in solitary confinement in this country are mentally ill, although some prison systems do not permit mentally ill inmates to be placed in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement was used broadly in the 19th century, but the punishment was then largely abandoned because of the view that “it was doing more harm than good,” Haney said.

Correctional practice began to reincorporate solitary confinement in the late 1970s and 80s, as prisons began to get overcrowded, Haney said. He believes prison systems turned to solitary confinement as a short-term solution to controlling disruptive or violent behavior, lacking the resources to provide positive incentives or programming.

But overcrowding in prisons turned out to be permanent and mostly increased each year.
Prison systems continued to struggle over what to do to resolve conflicts or stop violence or disruption in the institutions. They put more prisoners in solitary confinement and left them there for longer periods of time, Haney said.

“I think the cost of solitary confinement is now being critically examined and rethought, and prison systems are beginning to ask themselves whether this is worth it, and whether or not it does not create more harm than good,” he said. “Courts are pushing them to consider the inhumanity of the practice, as well.”

Source: CNN news

Family Fights to Block Deportation of Comatose Exchange Student

A Pakistani exchange student, in a coma since a November car accident, faces possible deportation next week as his visa expires and the Minnesota hospital caring for him seeks to send him home amid mounting, unpaid medical bills, claims the man’s family.

The immigration status of Shahzaib Bajwa, 20, has gained the U.S. State Department’s attention, while near his bed at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, his family wages a strained battle with the hospital to keep Bajwa at that facility, off an airplane, and in the United States. He was in a one-semester program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior before a car in which he was a passenger struck a deer.

“They asked us to sign a consent form to take him back to Pakistan in this condition. We just want what’s best for my brother, to stay here, to be treated in the United States,” said the student’s brother, Shahraiz Bajwa.

“There is one doctor at this hospital who has put a lot of effort in sending my brother back, and he must be very heartbroken that we are still here. He is doing it because my brother is costing them money,” Bajwa said. “In his condition, it would be a big risk. It would be 24 hours to get there. And they do not have the same medicines in Pakistan.”

The young man’s family is in the U.S. on visitors’ visas. His travel insurance plan was capped at $100,000 for emergency medical care.

Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Talarico said patient-privacy laws prevent her from addressing the family’s claims and allow her to report only that Shahzaib Bajwa is in fair condition.

“We are working collaboratively with Mr. Bajwa’s family and caregivers along with the U.S. and Pakistani governments to reach the best possible outcome for the patient and for his family,” Talarico said.

His family is watching both the calendar and the clock.


Bajwa has slowly regained the ability to open his eyes, wiggle his toes, and squeeze his mother’s hand – although inconsistently, and he remains unable to speak, his brother said, adding: “We don’t know what’s going on in his mind.” Based on a common neurological scale, Bajwa may be emerging from his coma.

While the ensuing months of bedside vigil may be many, the family sees the hours dwindling before his student visa expires Feb. 28.

“When we asked the hospital to convert his student visa into a medical visa, first they said they would help us. Then they took that offer from the table,” Shahraiz Bajwa said. His brother’s medical expenses, he confirmed, exceed $350,000, adding the family – visiting from Pakistan – does not have the money or medical insurance to cover to those bills.

Now, federal agencies are examining the issue.

During a Feb. 13 briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked if the agency had decided not to extend Bajwa’s student visa while he remains in a coma.

“No, that’s not true,” Harf said. “… The State Department is continuing to work with the hospital, with the student program sponsors. He is in the United States on a State Department-sponsored J-1 (student) exchange program …

“… It’s not accurate to say that the State Department isn’t extending the visa. That’s just not how the process works, right? So we’re working with his family as they decide on treatment options and we’ll help them maintain flexibility in terms of his status,” Harf said.

Minneapolis-based immigration attorney Saiko McIvor, working on behalf of the Bajwa family, said the State Department seems not to favor extending Bajwa’s student visa. She’s in talks with the local branch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“We are working to get things resolved so that he would stay in legal status in the United States beyond Feb. 28. But trying to get a J-1 extended may be very difficult because that would require U.S. State Department’s cooperation and I don’t think they might be willing to do that,” McIvor said.

Source: NBC news