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Monday
Sep012014

Human Trial for Ebola Vaccine to Begin This Week

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The first human trial for an investigational Ebola vaccine is set to begin this week.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted the National Institutes of Health to expedite safety testing for several vaccines already in the works. Since March, the deadly virus has killed 1,552 people, according to the World Health Organization, which predicted last week that the virus could infect 20,000 people in the next six months.

An Ebola vaccine is different from the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which two Americans received last month and is designed to treat an existing Ebola infection rather than prevent one.

"There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

The NIH is developing the vaccine with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Although Fauci said the vaccine has "performed extremely well" in primate studies, it has not yet been tested in humans.

The phase 1 clinical trial set to begin this week at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will involve 20 human subjects between the ages of 18 and 50, according to the NIH.

Researchers will use the study to determine whether the vaccine is safe and see whether it prompts an immune response necessary to protect against Ebola. No human subjects will be infected with Ebola.

A $4.7 million grant will also go toward Ebola vaccine trials in September at the University of Oxford in England, as well as centers in Gambia and Mali, according to GlaxoSmithKline. In all, 140 patients will be tested.

Though Ebola was discovered nearly 40 years ago, it was so rare that drug manufacturers weren't interested in investing in finding a vaccine for it, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Its rarity also made it impossible for scientists to conduct field studies.

"There's always the layperson's query of 'Why don't they rush this?' 'Why don't these guys work a little later at night?'" Schaffner told ABC News in July. "It's a little more complicated than that."

GlaxoSmithKline became involved in the Ebola vaccine because it bought Swiss vaccine company Okairos AG in 2013. Okairos, originally a Merck spinoff, had been working on the vaccine with the NIH since 2011, a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman told ABC News.

Although Fauci said in July that it would take until late 2015 for a vaccine -- if successful -- to be administered to a limited number of health workers, GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement that the grant will also enable it to manufacture 10,000 doses of the vaccine while the trials are ongoing. If the vaccine trials are successful, it will be able to make stocks available immediately to the World Health Organization.

The NIH said it should have initial data from the trial in late 2014.

The trial for different vaccine is set to begin at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. This vaccine was a collaboration between the federal Department of Defense and Iowa pharmaceutical company NewLink Genetics Corp.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep012014

'Ebola Is Real' on Streets of Monrovia

Dr. Richard Besser/ABC News(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK by ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser

The rain-soaked roads of Monrovia tell an ominous truth: Ebola is real.

The message is spray-painted on walls in the capital of Liberia, the country hardest hit by the worst-ever Ebola outbreak. Nearly 700 people have died here, but denial and government mistrust continue to fuel the virus’s spread.

A group of young adults wearing colorful paper hats stood out on the earth-toned streets. “Ebola can kill,” one hat read. “Tell someone about Ebola,” read another. I asked the group what they were doing and they called over their leader. "We should be in school but this is more important," he told me. "We are going door to door to people's homes in our community telling them about Ebola. Telling them it is real. Telling them how to prevent it."

Some people do not believe that Ebola exists. They believe it’s all a government hoax. Just two weeks ago, an angry mob stormed an treatment center in West Point, a slum that has since been quarantined. The mob told patients they had malaria, not Ebola, and encouraged them to flee. When government mistrust runs this high, communities need to spread public health messages.

"What are you telling people to do? How do you prevent Ebola?" I asked the men and women wearing paper hats. "Don't touch anyone," one young man replied -- advice the group itself was heeding. No arms were linked, no hands were held. "Don't go to funerals," the man added. "Don't take care of sick people."

How hard those warnings must be to sell. What community doesn't want to gather to remember lost loved ones? Who doesn't want to care for the sick? To hold the hand of someone who is dying?

As simple as this group seems, its actions will make inroads at a time when governments and aid organizations can only reach so far. Ordinary people educating their own communities.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug312014

Ebola Virus Arrives in Fifth Country During Worst-Ever Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Ebola virus arrived in a fifth country this week, after health officials reported that a man with Ebola symptoms showed up at a hospital in Senegal. The man was a student from Guinea, where the virus has affected 648 and killed 430.

Across West Africa, the virus has already killed more than 1,552 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

While doctors and government officials have spent months trying to stop the outbreak, the infections continue to rise: More than 40% of the total cases in this outbreak have occurred within the past 23 days.

Here are things you should know about the outbreaks as fears continue to mount in Africa and beyond.

Congo Reports Possible Ebola Cases, Deaths

The Democratic Republic of Congo may be 800 miles from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but the Central African country has reported 24 suspected cases, including 13 deaths. None of the patients or their close contacts had traveled to West Africa, according to WHO.

"At this time, it is believed that the outbreak in [the Democratic Republic of Congo] is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa," the agency said in a statement, adding that samples from the Congo cases are being tested for the virus.

The first known case in Congo occurred in a pregnant woman who became ill after butchering a "bush animal" that her husband killed, according to WHO. She died on Aug. 11. Health care workers who tended to her, including a doctor, two nurses and a ward boy developed similar symptoms and died, the agency said.

Ebola was first discovered in the Congo in 1976 and is named for the Ebola River.

African Patients Who Got ZMapp to Leave Hospital

There's no cure for Ebola, but at least six people have received the experimental drug ZMapp: American health workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a Spanish priest, two African doctors, and one African nurse. Brantly and Writebol survived but the Spanish priest and one of the African doctors did not.

The remaining African ZMapp recipients were expected to be discharged from the hospital this week.

Still, experts say it's unclear whether ZMapp -- a cocktail of three antibodies that attack the virus -- actually helped those who received it. Before Brantly received his dose, the drug had only been tested in monkeys.

"Frankly we do not know if it helped them, made any difference, or even delayed their recovery," said Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory University Hospital's infectious disease unit, where Brantly and Writebol were treated.

Officials Warn of 'Shadow Zones,' 'Invisible' Cases

The Ebola outbreak is already the deadliest on record, and WHO officials say the impact may be far worse than reported.

The number of known infections -- currently 2,615 -- is underestimated because of those who hide the infected and bury the dead in secret, WHO said in a statement Aug. 22. The number also excludes so-called "shadow zones," which are rumored to have Ebola cases that go unconfirmed because of community resistance and a lack of medical staff, the agency said.

Health officials also suspect an "invisible caseload" in Liberia because new treatment facilities are filling with previously unidentified Ebola patients as soon as they open.

One in Four Americans Fears Ebola Outbreak, Poll Shows

About a quarter of Americans fear that they or someone in their family will come down with Ebola in the next year, according to a Harvard School of Public Health poll.

Harvard and SSRS, an independent research company, conducted the poll of 1,025 adults last week and found that 39 percent of respondents feared a large Ebola outbreak in the United States.

According to the poll, 68% of Americans thought the disease could spread "easily" and 33% said they thought there was an available treatment for it, both highlighting a lack of understanding about Ebola in this country.

In reality, the virus is only transmitted through contact with bodily fluids like blood and urine, and there is no cure. It's unclear whether ZMapp, the unofficial drug given to the American Ebola patients, helped or hindered their recovery, experts say.

Officials Request Exit Screenings at Airports, Seaports

The World Health Organization has requested exit screenings at international airports, seaports and land crossings in all countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

"Any person with an illness consistent with [Ebola virus disease] should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation," WHO said in a statement. "There should be no international travel of Ebola contacts or cases, unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation."

Ebola symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain and sore throat, before they progress to vomiting, diarrhea and rash. Some people may also experience bleeding.

The WHO Ebola Emergency Committee advised against international travel or trade restrictions at this time.

Governments Are Reviving the 'Cordon Sanitaire'

Officials from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have implemented a "cordon sanitaire" or sanitary barrier -- a cross-border isolation zone designed to contain people with the highest infection risk.

The tactic, used to prevent the spread of plague in medieval times, literally blocks off an area thought to contain 70% of the epidemic. But some experts say there's little proof that isolation zones can prevent the spread of disease.

"It may not be sufficiently structured so it can prevent people from leaving," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

FDA Warns Against Fake Ebola Treatments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people to avoid fake Ebola treatments and vaccines being sold online. The agency said products claiming to protect people from the infection began popping up online after the outbreak began in March.

"There are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola," the agency said in a statement. "Although there are experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development, have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness, and the supply is very limited.

"There are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet," the FDA added. "By law, dietary supplements cannot claim to prevent or cure disease."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug302014

Kraft Recalls 8,000 Cases of American Singles Cheese Slices

Kraft News Center(NEW YORK) -- Kraft is voluntarily recalling 8,000 cases of its American Singles cheese slices.

The company says a supplier did not store an ingredient according to the company's temperature standards which could lead to premature spoilage and food borne illness. The packages have "Best When Used By" dates of February 20, 2015 and February 21, 2015.

There have been no reports of illness.

Consumers who return the recalled Kraft cheese slices will receive full refunds.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug302014

Researchers Say New Heart Failure Drug Could Save Lives

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say a new heart failure drug could save lives by lowering the mortality rate of heart failure.

According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new drug, called LCZ696, showed improved results. The drug combines valsartan, which has long been used in heart failure treatment, with sacubitril, an investigative treatment for cardiovascular conditions.

Those who received the LCZ696 had 20 percent better year-to-year survival rates than those who took a medicine that is part of standard heart failure care. Those same patients also experienced improved symptoms.


Watch more news videos | Latest from the US


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug292014

WHO Releases Ebola Roadmap, Update on Outbreak

Dr. Richard Besser/ABC News(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The World Health Organization on Friday issued a Roadmap Situation Report on the ongoing Ebola outbreak that contained data on the spread thus far and the international response.

Thus far, the WHO says, the total number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in West Africa number 3,052, with 1,546 deaths. The report details the cases found in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, though isolated cases have been noted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

Last week, the WHO says, saw the highest weekly increase in Ebola cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. That figure "highlights the urgent need to reinforce control measures and increase capacity for case management."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug292014

Ebola Outbreak Spreads: Senegal Reports Its First Case

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Senegalese Health Ministry has reported its first Ebola case, a Guinean student who had been in contact with sick people in Guinea and was later hospitalized in Senegal.

Earlier this week, the Democratic Republic of Congo -- 800 miles from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- reported 24 suspected Ebola cases, including 13 deaths. None of the patients or their close contacts had traveled to West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

“At this time, it is believed that the outbreak in [the Democratic Republic of Congo] is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa,” the agency said in a statement, adding that samples from the Congo cases are currently being tested for the virus.

The first known case in Congo occurred in a pregnant woman who became ill after butchering a “bush animal” that her husband killed, according to the WHO. She died on Aug. 11. Health care workers who tended to her, including a doctor, two nurses and a ward boy, developed similar symptoms and died, the agency said.

Ebola was first discovered in the Congo in 1976 and is named for the Ebola River.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug292014

Utah Woman Injured After Drinking Sweet Tea Laced with Lye Speaks, Calls for Change

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Utah woman who was poisoned after being served tea lace with lye said on Friday that dangerous chemicals should have colors or markers that ensure they can't be mistaken for food ingredients.

Jan Harding spoke at a Friday news conference. "It's not my nature to be made at people, it's not my nature to be vengeful," she said, adding that she holds no ill will against the restaurant worker who poured the lye into her beverage.

She may have been saved by the fact that she was drinking through a straw, meaning only a small amount of the drink -- and the lye -- went down her throat before she felt the effects.

Lye is used as a heavy-duty cleaner. Police believe an employee accidentally mixed the cleaner into the tea.

Harding was immediately rushed to a hospital with severe burns to her mouth and throat. She was the only individual injured, employees dumped the vat of iced tea after her injury.

"I asked God if I wasn't going to make it through this...if he would send an angel to help me with...because it was just so hard," Harding said Friday.

She hopes that the restaurant industry will take action in response to her accident.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug292014

Experimental Ebola Drug Shows Positive Signs in Animal Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study tested the efficacy of the experimental drug ZMapp on treating Ebola-infected monkeys, with potentially promising results.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, a small group of monkeys, infected with the Ebola virus, were given either the ZMapp antibody cocktail or another antibody combination. Of the six monkeys given the ZMapp cocktail, all six were cured.

Researchers note that the study is just the very beginning, as the study involved a small sample size and animal subjects. The Ebola strain the monkeys were infected with was also a different strain than the current outbreak in West Africa.

Because of the nature of the study, it cannot provide insight into whether Americans Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly were aided by having been given the ZMapp cocktail.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug292014

Apps Aim to Prevent Sexual Assault, Rape on Campus

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A slew of new apps aim to prevent assault and rape on college campuses, under the assumption that students are never too far from their smartphones.

Two are in development at the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. One, SPOT a Problem, is actually a party-planning app that lets students upload guest lists, photos and a playlist, while also keeping tabs on suspicious activity.

It works with a flexible, smart wristband that the party host wears, and that bracelet lights up when someone at the party sends an alert. The message can be about a neighbor complaint, a police officer who showed up or a potential sexual assault.

"We've all been at an event or at a party and seen something that didn't quite sit right with us, but we didn't have the tool to be able to respond to that," said Kosa Goucher-Lambert, a Ph.D .student in engineering who worked on the app. "That's the gap we wanted to address."

Students can ping the host to point out a problem, and the data all disappears when the party is over.

Another app in the works is called NightOwl, which also aims to get bystanders who see potential sexual assaults involved. That one works by alerting friends of a partygoer who might be in danger, so they know to check on that person.

Donna Sturgess, the Integrated Innovation Institute's executive in residence, worked on the app concepts with the students, and says she hopes they'll be built and available for the public to download within the next year.

As many as 1 in 5 female college students are assaulted, the White House has said, but many organizations say the figure is higher.

"This is not a social problem that we're going to sit around and wait for other people to fix," Sturgess said.

But many apps that aim to reduce sexual assault are already available to students. Some colleges have partnerships with one called LiveSafe, which lets students send photos or text messages to the nearest police station if they see something shady. It also gives students an easy way to tell friends where they are, using location data, and tracks crimes on campus.

Loyola University in Chicago released the app I'm Here For You last fall. It provides students information about on-campus resources as well as city services to report dating violence, stalking and assault.

And the app Circle of 6, which emerged from a White House challenge, is also popular among schools. It uses GPS to pin down users' location and alerts a user’s inner circle if there's trouble. With just a couple of taps, users can send a text message like, "Come and get me. I need help getting home safely" to a friend, along with their location data.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio