Last night, it was confirmed that at least some of the hemorrhagic deaths in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo are from an ebolavirus—but it looks like it’s species Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV), rather than the one ravaging Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and trying to get a foothold in Nigeria: species Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV). Technically, EBOV is the only member virus within the species Zaire ebolavirus, but let’s keep it simple. …simpler.
In other words, while the two outbreaks involve members of the same family (Filoviridae) and the same genus (Ebolavirus), they are not the same species.
It might help to think about cats.Ian Mackay uses cars, and goes into much more detail. But frankly, it’s the internet. Cats are the obvious go-to. Like these guys:
While these cats are both members of the same family (Felidae) and the same genus (Felis), their species are different. In fact, black-footed cats and the common domestic house cat look similar enough that it’s often hard to tell them apart without either being an expert or getting a genetic test.
Which is pretty much how it works with SUDV and EBOV, too.
So keep that in mind when people start sky-is-falling about Africa: there are currently two species of the genus Ebolavirus in (probable) outbreak, and there is no known link between the two. And, for what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time both SUDV and EBOV have occurred at the same time. As a matter of fact, the very first known outbreak of both overlapped.More than one person, myself included, has wondered if we might be seeing some sort of weather- or animal migration-related pattern emerging.
Because, contrary to popular opinion, humans don’t always suck, people seeing these posts immediately started asking what they can do to help and began brainstorming ways to crowd-fund supplies. However, as Twitter user Macrophagic so succinctly put it, the best thing to do right now is use established supply lines.For more information on why this is the case, read Harvard professor Calestous Juma’s excellent Al Jazeera op-ed on how the lack of infrastructure in the affected region and how this affects all public health.
In support of both people’s inclination to give, and to have that giving filter through established supply lines, here is a list of trustworthy organizationsTrustworthy as defined by me, based on research, name recognition, and Charity Navigator if possible. Vague, I know, but I wanted to get an international-as-possible list up as quickly as I could. that, as of Sunday, August 17, are still operating in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. I’ll update this list as I come across more information, or as people enter/leave the affected region(s). Feel free to add your suggestions in comments.
Please check to see if your workplace does matching donations for charity.
The CDC Foundation The CDC Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that connects individuals and the private sector with CDC’s expertise and distribution channels. The Fund’s Global Disaster Relief Response Fund is only activated during extreme emergencies, and has been activated for the Ebola crisis. They are providing personal protective equipment, communications equipment, emergency operations equipment, and funds for public health campaigns. The CDC Foundation received a rating of 96.07 from Charity Navigator.Donations are accepted worldwide.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network. Their donation page currently has a Syria crisis appeal, but if you select “donate,” the second option is for their Ebola campaign. You can also make a donation to your specific Red Cross or Red Cresent; here is the link to the American Red Cross website; that donation is tax-deductible. (I would recommend donating directly to the IFRC website, as that is guaranteed for Ebola efforts.) The American Red Cross receives an 85.25 rating from Charity Navigator.
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders MSF has been pushed to its limits in the outbreak region, and vocal about it. What they need right now, however, is not more supplies, but more people. Their current fundraising campaign for Ebola is listed as fulfilled, and they are requesting that donations be made to their general fund for a more flexible response. MSF anticipates being in the West African region for at least six more months, so it’s entirely likely that they will re-open fundraising for that region. That said, given the extended timeline, it’s plausible general funds will be used. However, they are working in multiple regions of the world, so there is no guarantee that donations to the general fund will be used in West Africa. MSF/Doctors Without Borders receives a 92.03 rating from Charity Navigator. Donations are tax-deductible.
Added 21 August World Food Programme
With quarantine (quite literally cordon sanitaires) enacted in many of the Ebola-affected regions, food supplies are becoming critical. The World Food Programme is ramping up efforts to feed people caught in the Ebola quarantines. You can read more about that here, and donate at this link. World Food Programme is 100% funded by donations, and the US arm of the organization receives an 89.11 from Charity Navigator. US residents who would like their donation to be tax deductible can donate here.
Added 25 August UC San Francisco: Support the Emergency Ebola Response
UCSF clinician Dan Kelly has returned to Sierra Leone to operate a nationwide distribution network for emergency medications and supplies from their international partners; support the Ebola isolation and referral center at Kono’s Public Hospital; implement strict screening and control measures at the UCSF facility in Sierra Leone; coordinate emergency referrals to Ebola treatment centers in Kailahun District; collaborate with the District Health Management Team to implement effective contact tracing and sensitive community engagement. There is a matching gift opportunity here; every gift of $250 or more will be matched up to $50,000 total, through 30 September, thanks to the generosity of an Anonymous Donor. International donations are accepted, and US donations are tax-deductible.
Hospitals for Humanity
Hospitals for Humanity provide quality and affordable health care in disaster areas and people in the developing world. In addition to providing care, they also provide medical training and education to the local population. You can help by either volunteering for a medical mission or donating. Hospitals for Humanity has applied for 501(c)(3) status, but not received it yet. They are not rated by Charity Navigator.
Ebola continues to spread across West Africa, with the number of those affected continuing to rise dramatically. The latest report from the World Health Organization counts 3,069 cases of Ebola in the region and 1,552 deaths from the disease so far.
Global Giving’s Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund focuses on getting grant money on the ground fast, so that rapid responses to changing situations can be made. They are in the middle of a 400,000 fundraising appeal. Here is a full list of grants to date:
-Â BRAC (Sierra Leone) — $10,000
– DEVELOP AFRICA (Sierra Leone) – $26,000
-Â DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (Sierra Leone) — $5,000
-Â FOUNDATION FOR RESTORING WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE TO LIBERIA (Liberia) – $18,000
-Â GBOWEE PEACE FOUNDATION (Liberia) — $5,000
-Â GREATEST GOAL MINISTRIES (Sierra Leone) – $20,000
-Â IMANI HOUSE (Liberia) – $30,000
-Â INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS (Sierra Leone) – $10,000
-Â INTERNEWS (Guinea) — $10,000
-Â LIFELINE ENERGY (Liberia) — $5,000
-Â WEST POINT WOMEN FOR HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT (Liberia) — $10,000
Global Giving is a charity fundraising web site that receives an impressive 97.94 rating from Charity Navigator. An anonymous donor is matching all new recurring monthly donations to the Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. Donations are tax deductible for Americans.
One of the more interesting aspects of the constant media coverage of the latest Ebola outbreak has been watching how developed nations like the United States, Britain, and Canada assume that the entire world is Just Like Them. The Seattle Times had a charming example of this yesterday, with American doctors questioning the CDC guidelines for how to care for an Ebola patient in America. An example of the ignorance on display comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma emergency physician Justin Fairless, who says that health care workers in West African nations
are wearing the highest level of protection, but the CDC recommendation lets us go down to the lowest level of protection.
Now, the CDC has repeatedly said that caring for patients in African nations is quite different than caring for patients in America, Canada, other developed nations, but apparently Dr. Fairless and others need a pictorial show-and-tell to understand that not everyone lives and works in a state-of-the-art world.
But first, a bit of description to set the stage for the pictures you are about to see. (Note: There are no sick or dead bodies in the following photographs.) This is from a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting report on maternal/fetal care in Guinea, published in February of 2014, before the international community was aware of the Ebola outbreak:
“The biggest problems at Donka are no electricity, no water, no equipment, no sanitation and very high rates of infection,” said Bintu Cisse, adjunct midwife supervisor, who has worked at Donka National Hospital for 20 years … External support provides some operational assistance, but Donka lacks basic facilities due to the inefficiency of Guinea’s under-performing infrastructure … Inside the maternity ward operating room, Cisse pointed out that the equipment did not work and doctors used suspended basins of water and a mixture of chlorine to sanitize. The main light sources were open windows””outside garbage was burning.
Cisse is describing the largest medical center in Guniea, Donka Hospital, which is also the university teaching hospital for the country.
This is what their isolation unit looks like:
Those are tents. Here’s what those tents look like on the inside:
When patients are inside, they are lined up on cots, one after another. There is nothing separating the patients from anyone, or anything. There is no airflow system—isolation wards in regions where Ebola is active tend to work by setting up large barriers to prevent people from getting close enough to worry about contagion; this could be large plastic sheeting, it could be fences that indicate the line at which people should not pass.
This is what an isolation unit looks like at your average, developed world, fully-equipped hospital:
So, as you can see, Dr. Fairless, and others, things are just a little bit different in countries where the GDP is more than USD 6 billion a year.
The major difference in treatment, aside from already-discussed issues, is who is in isolation. More specifically, in places like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, while patients are isolated from other people in order to curtail infection, the health care workers are the ones “in isolation”—they’re the ones who are kitted up in bunny suits, in full Tyvek, layers of gloves, and the whole nine yards. Because: see above. The effort here is to keep the HCW in a protective environment to limit transmission to the worker, because it’s impossible to keep the patients inside a protective environment, due to the economy, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of ability because there’s no technology, there’s no power.
Isolation units in America and other developed countries, on the other hand, function to keep the patient inside isolation; patients are isolated from others to curtail infection, and that includes being “in isolation”: that is, the protective bubble that bunny suits and Tyvek create for HCWs in Guinea, etc, is extended around the patient in the form of negative air pressure rooms and glass walls.
In that sort of environment, the basics of gloves, gown, and mask are more than sufficient to care for a patient with Ebola—or any other highly infective agent. Which is why that’s what the CDC recommendations are; because technology and care levels are different, and the basic approach to isolating and isolation can change.
It’s also worth remembering that bunny suits and Tyvek weren’t always around when people were fighting Ebola. Here’s what Peter Piot was wearing in 1976, when Ebola was first recognized:
That’s how the outbreak was stopped in 1976. In conditions that in many ways were worse than in the pictures shown above.
The doctors and other health care workers in that Seattle Times piece should be ashamed of themselves, demanding bunny suits and Tyvek and full protective gear when not only is it unnecessary, it’s a waste of money. But more than that, and even more than the myopic view of the world that appears to assume everywhere is just like their tidy and neat and well-staffed and well-maintained medical center, it illustrates the continued “me me me” reaction people in the developed world have around Ebola.
…after all, you don’t hear anyone suggesting that full isolation suites be sent to Guinea, or Sierra Leone, or Liberia, so that those countries can revert to the simpler CDC recommendations, do you?
But just because the WHO recommendation follows what I’ve been arguing for the last 10-odd days doesn’t mean that the argument is actually over. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s just getting worse, where worse should be interpreted to mean “even more people coming out of the woodwork to argue about ethics when they don’t have any familiarity with ethics.” Granted, Twitter is full of sample bias, but still. It is for this reason that I think it’s still important to post this statement on the ethics of providing unproven interventions that my husband (a real life bioethicist) and I worked on last week. We were side-tracked by needing to actually verify the science behind ZMapp, as well as the additional hands-throwing-up of hearing that ZMapp was provided for a Spanish priest after various US public officials stated there was none left to give.2After it was confirmed that the Spanish priest received ZMapp, also discussions about disparate treatment of people from the Developed vs Developing World.3Again, to clarify: This was finished on Saturday afternoon. Obviously, in that time frame, we have learned that a third Westerner was given ZMapp, it was released to two West African doctors, and WHO’s medical ethicspanel convened and—pleasantly—reached the same conclusion we did. This is merely a more detailed argument for the release of unproven interventions. [Cross-posted at The Broken Spoke.]
Paternalism, Procedure, Precedent
The Ethics of Using Unproven Therapies in an Ebola Outbreak
A “secret serum.” A vaccine. A cure. A miracle. With the announcement of the use of ZMapp to treat two Americans sick with the Ebola virus with apparently no ill effect, the hum and buzz on social media, commentary websites, and even the 24/7 news cycle, has become one of “should the serum be given to Africa? Will it?” The question has dominated for more than a week, and become something that the World Health Organization feels it needs to address by convening a panel of medical ethics experts to offer an analysis of what should be done.
And the general question about untested cures/vaccines in the event of a disease pandemic is an important one; there are already guidelines for what kind of treatments can and will be made available during a flu pandemic, and it seems quite sensible that a guideline be developed for all potential pandemic pathogens. However, it isn’t a question that is relevant in the current context, because we are already past that.
While people may be stating “should the serum be made available?” that’s not the question being asked. Continue reading
If you catch me on Twitter, or read the fantastic Red Ink, you might have seen my corrections and edits to the first page of a genuinely awful, fear-mongering piece on Ebola that was inexplicably published by Pacific Standard.Per policy, I won’t drive traffic to horrible pieces. You can find it on your own relatively easily. You might have also realized why:
I was forbidden from grading in red ink when I TA’d (“did you dip that in red ink?”);
I was consistently voted most likely to become a doctor or teacher in those elementary school “most likely” contests.
Sorry about that. Well, at least the second one; handwriting has never been my strong suit. Due to said possibly challenging handwriting, I figured I would go ahead and expand on my comments here.Okay, most of this is taken from a Facebook rant the other day that accompanied a snapshot of the edits I did. I’m not sure if this counts as self-plagiarism or self-citing. Continue reading
You have to live each hour as if it’s your last, and each day as if you were immortal.