All eyes continue to turn towards West Africa as health experts from around the world struggle to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak, which as of last week had claimed almost a thousand lives. On Friday, the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak has been classified as a public health emergency, and over the next few weeks, the CDC will send 50 disease experts to the region to help develop healthcare infrastructure and assist in public education outreach efforts. Doctors Without Borders already has 676 staff members deployed in three countries and is calling on other organizations with "the capacity to do community education, health promotion, and contact tracing to step up their activities in the affected areas."
Hospitals in the U.S. have also been placed on alert. The CDC has advised U.S. physicians to be cognizant of early Ebola symptoms and to take into account a patient's recent travel history.
What to look for in the coming week: Some kind of policy on how to treat patients with the disease. There is currently no approved treatment or vaccine to combat the disease, which kills between 60% and 90% of infected patients. WHO is convening a panel of ethicists to discuss policies for use of experimental Ebola drugs, and the Obama administration is forming a working group to consider broad "principles of decision-making." Last week, Canadian drugmaker Tekmira Pharmaceuticals announced that the FDA had removed a "clinical hold" on the company's experimental Ebola drug. The drug, which falls under a $140-million contract with the U.S. government, has shown some positive results when used to treat non-human primates. The FDA had put a stop to the drug's progress in the agency's approval process last month over safety concerns.
Meanwhile, the two Americans being treated for the disease at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta were both treated with an experimental serum, ZMapp. While it is undetermined if they will survive, the pair continue to exhibit slow improvement.
Meanwhile, this week on Healthcare Dive...
We take a look at the healthcare spending trend. While spending overall has evened out, prescription spending is up a lot. Is Sovaldi to blame or are there other factors are contributing to that increase? What does this trend mean for providers?
Want to know more?
- The Smithsonian Magazine reviewed Richard Preston's #1 best-selling "scientific thriller" about the Ebola virus, The Hot Zone, in June of 1995.
- ABC News asks, what would happen if Ebola landed in the U.S.?
- Healthcare Dive took a look at what hospitals can learn about biohazard safety from recent anthrax and smallpox incidents.