• Ebola quarantine period may be too short – study


    As one of the Ebola epicentres, the district of Kailahun, in eastern Sierra Leone bordering Guinea, was put under quarantine at the beginning of August. ECHO expert Cyprien Fabre visited the distrtict which is home to the largest Ebola treatment and isolation centre ever erected. (Photo credits: ©EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre)

    PENNSYLVANIA, United States, Wednesday October 22, 2014 – The prevailing wisdom in the current Ebola epidemic states that 21 symptom-free days after exposure to the virus indicates that the potential patient has escaped infection.

    The family and friends of Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan – a Liberian national who came down with Ebola while visiting Texas and subsequently died in a Dallas hospital – were quarantined for 21 days.

    So, too, were colleagues and family of a Spanish nurse who contracted the disease while treating repatriated Ebola victims in Madrid.

    And airline personnel have been tasked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ask sick passengers if they were in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone in the past 21 days.

    Now, however, new research that appeared in “PLOS Currents: Outbreaks” is questioning whether 21 days is really long enough to rule out Ebola.

    “While the 21 day quarantine value currently used may have arose from reasonable interpretation of early outbreak data, this work suggests a reconsideration is in order and that 21 days may not be sufficiently protective to public health,” wrote Drexel University professor Charles N. Haas in “On the Quarantine Period for Ebola Virus.”

    On examining incubation times for the virus in previous outbreaks in Congo, Zaire and Uganda, Haas found that “12 percent of the time, an individual case will have a greater incubation time than 21 days,” and said some models indicated a 31-day quarantine might be in order.

    Data examined in the New England Journal of Medicine shows incubation times even longer than that.

    Haas said the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) needed to go back to the drawing board, according to a Washington Post report.

    “I think the CDC or NIH or whoever is empowered to set policy — or WHO — needs to sit down with the data and do a real analysis of costs and benefits and reconsider the 21-day time criteria,” he told The Post.

    Haas said a disease’s incubation time can be underestimated looking at a small sample of victims. He believes Ebola’s purported 21-day incubation is based on a relatively small outbreak in Zaire in 1976 that may no longer be relevant.

    “If you randomly pull 21 people from The Washington Post newsroom and measured their height, somebody would be the tallest,” he said. “But they would likely not be the tallest person in DC.”

    While Haas did not recommend a specific quarantine period, he said officials at CDC “probably try too much to allay public concern by portraying an air of confidence.”

    As he wrote in his paper: “Twenty-one days has been regarded as the appropriate quarantine period for holding individuals potentially exposed to Ebola Virus (EV) to reduce risk of contagion. … There does not appear to be a systematic discussion of the basis for this period.”

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    October 22, 2014 4:15 PM EDT
  • Jamaica’s security minister defends $4m spent to deport Abu Bakr


    National Security Minister Peter Bunting (File photo)

    KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday October 22, 2014, CMC - National Security Minister Peter Bunting has sought to justify the amount of money spent to deport Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the Jaamat Al Muslimeen in Trinidad and Tobago.

    In a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, Bunting said the JA$4 million spent to send Bakr back to Trinidad last week Wednesday, should be regarded as a home insurance premium.

    The National Security Minister was responding to criticisms about the cost incurred last week to deport Abu Bakr on a private jet.

    “I regard this expenditure the same way I do a home insurance policy.We regret having to pay the premium when nothing happens but we are really happy to have that insurance n place when a hurricane hits,” he said.

    He told the House that an attempt was made to return the Muslim leader on a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight, but Abu Bakr did not cooperate and had to be accompanied by immigration and security personnel .

    “He was placed in an economy class seat, but became boisterous, un-cooperative and refused to comply, citing medical issues among other reasons,” the minister said.

    Abu Bakr had came to Jamaica last week to attend the 19th anniversary celebration of the Nation of Islam’s Million Man March, but was denied entry by Immigration officials.

    Bunting noted that CAL authorities indicated that it would be a breach of security protocol to have a non-compliant passenger fly in the first class cabin which, in any event, was already booked.

    He said that the flight was unwilling to depart, given Abu Bakr’s display of resistance, and the entire flight was at risk of being cancelled as the other passengers became increasingly concerned.

    Bunting referred to Section 28 of Jamaica’s Immigration Act which states that “ in these circumstances, it is the duty of the State that refuses a person leave to land to bear the cost of the return of the individual from its public funds.”

    The minister said it was “clearly in the interest of national security to not allow Abu Bakr to land in Jamaica and to remove him from Jamaica at the earliest opportunity”.

    Bunting said his ministry’s security planning did not recognise the Nation of Islam as representing any threat. However, it considered the possibility that the occasion might be used as a cover for others to enter Jamaica for purposes detrimental to national security.

    “While the cost of Abu Bakr’s removal by a private charter was significant, it pales in comparison to what the attempted coup d’etat cost Trinidad in 1990, or what a terrorist incident would cost Jamaica today, or even with the billions of dollars that the mishandling of the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke extradition cost this country in 2010,” he stated.

    Bunting said there was a possibility that there are now connections between radicals and militants in Trinidad, and some of the most dangerous and ruthless terrorist organisations in the world.

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    October 22, 2014 4:10 PM EDT
  • More than 200 Canadians infected with Chikungunya virus according to health agency

    Close up a Mosquito sucking human blood_set A-2OTTAWA, Canada, Wednesday October 22, 2014, CMC – Canada’s health agency says more than 200 Canadians have been infected by the chikungunya virus that has affected thousands of people in the Caribbean.

    On Tuesday, Health Canada reported that 201 Canadians have been infected with the mosquito borne virus.

    Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for Health Canada, said the cases have been confirmed among travelers returning from endemic areas in 2014.

    “A very significant rise in infections by this virus has occurred in 2014, which is consistent with the large outbreak in the Caribbean region and ongoing activity in the Asia-Pacific area.”

    He said the majority of the Canadian cases stem from travel to Caribbean,adding that there is no evidence of local transmission in Canada, since the specie of mosquito that transmits the virus is not native to the country.

    The first case of the disease in the Western Hemisphere was documented on St. Martin last December.

    Chikungunya has been present in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region for decades.

    Almost 800,000 people have been infected in the Caribbean, the majority of them in the Dominican Republic.

    The Public Health Agency of Canada urged travelers to consult a health-care provider, or visit a travel-health clinic, at least six weeks before going to the Caribbean.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said while there is no vaccine or treatment to fight the virus, most infected patients recover fully.

    “But in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years,” WHO said.

    “Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints.Serious complications are not common; but, in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death,” it added.

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    October 22, 2014 4:07 PM EDT
  • Two shot, killed in St Vincent including young mother

    a close up of a gun at a crime sceneKINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Wednesday October 22, 2014, CMC –
    Police are searching for the gunmen who shot and killed two people here including a 24-year-old woman on Monday night.

    Police said that Aninka Stowe, a mother of an eight-year-old girl, died at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where she had been taken after being shot in the chest in the Central Kingstown village of Green Hill.

    In the other incident, an unidentified male was shot and killed in Calder. The police say they have no motive for the killings that bring the homicide count this year to 30.

    The deaths come two days after residents of Glen staged a peace rally to highlight and recommend solutions to the crime situation in that East St. George community, where a number of murders has taken place this year, including two in September.

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    October 22, 2014 4:01 PM EDT
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