Health

US begins screening airline passengers from Uganda for Ebola


Worried by the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, the Biden administration on Thursday said travelers who have already arrived in that country will be redirected to airports where they can be tested for the virus and warned doctors to be on the lookout for possible cases in the United States.

No cases of Ebola have been recorded outside Uganda, but the virus – spread only through contact with bodily fluids and not through the air – is highly contagious. US officials are closely monitoring the Uganda outbreak because there is no approved drug or treatment for the Ebola virus that caused the outbreak there.

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention command screening at the airport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs give a warning said the measures would apply to all passengers, including US citizens.

Autopsies are expected to begin on some passengers on Thursday, an official familiar with the plan said, but the travel restrictions won’t take effect until next week, according to an official. familiar with this plan.

As of Thursday, there were 44 confirmed cases and 10 deaths in Uganda, with several dozen possible cases and 20 deaths still under investigation, making this an outbreak. largest in that country in 20 years. At least six cases of infection and four deaths occurs among healthcare workers.

Passengers who have been to Uganda in the past 21 days will be taken to one of five US airports: Kennedy Airport, in New York; Newark Liberty International Airport, in New Jersey; O’Hare International Airport, in Chicago; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and Dulles International Airport, in Washington, DC

An administration official said 62% of air passengers that had arrived in Uganda passed through those airports. Upon arrival in the United States, passengers will have their temperature checked and a health questionnaire filled out, which will be shared with local officials, before arriving at their final destination.

The CDC also urges doctors to collect travel histories from patients they suspect have Ebola.

“Although there are no direct flights from Uganda to the United States, travelers from or through affected areas in Uganda may enter the United States on connecting flights from other countries,” warned the agency. CDC said.

In the wake of the coronavirus and monkeypox pandemics, President Biden and other federal officials are well aware that infectious disease outbreaks also carry political risks, which could put the administration at risk. must be cautious. But there is also precedent for travel restrictions.

In February 2020, after the coronavirus appeared in China, the Trump administration prohibited entry by most of the foreign nationals who have recently visited the country and brought some Americans Traveler under quarantine as it has been declared a rare public health emergency.

And amid the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, the Obama administration forced passengers to fly to US airports with screening procedures in place. President Barack Obama is engaged in the Ebola response after cases emerged in the United States.

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease found mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The infection begins with mild respiratory symptoms, but left untreated can quickly damage internal organs.

The patient ended up bleeding from his eyes, nose, mouth and rectum – severe symptoms that fueled fears about the virus. Ebola kills about half of those infected on average, often within two weeks of the onset of symptoms.

The CDC and the World Health Organization both provide information on how diagnose and treat patients infected with the virus.

The outbreak was first detected in Mubende, Uganda, but has spread to four other counties within a 75-mile radius. Dr Fiona Braka, emergency executive director at WHO’s regional office for Africa, based in Brazzaville, said there would be many more cases and deaths before the virus could be contained.

“We are concerned because we have not reached the peak yet,” Dr. Braka said.

Dr Braka said, even after the first patient was diagnosed, health officials were only able to trace three-quarters of people who might have been exposed.

The remaining contacts have dispersed, raising the possibility that cases will arise in other parts of the country or around the world.

Ebola is highly contagious and previous outbreaks quickly spiraled out of control. The largest blast crossed West Africa in 2014 and accounted for more cases than all previous cases combined. Ultimately, WHO reported 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths.

This number includes 11 Americans, nine of whom contracted the disease outside of the United States. Two of them died.

The World Health Organization has twice declared a public health emergency of international concern – its highest level of alert – for Ebola: in 2014, and again in 2019when the virus appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Vaccine and treatments approved for Ebola targeting the Zaire species, the main source of previous outbreaks. But they are not effective against the Sudanese species currently circulating in Uganda.

Anticipating that a vaccine against the Sudan species might one day be needed, the scientists studied at least eight candidates.

The farthest development is a single-dose vaccine developed by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health, which has been licensed to the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Vaccines have been shown to be safe, producing many antibody against the virus, and was highly protective against Sudan virus in monkeys. About 100 doses are available.

Another vaccine candidate, developed by a British team, targets both Zaire and Sudanese species, but is in the early stages of testing. Only 81 doses are available.

Both candidates could be put into clinical trials during the current outbreak, pending approval from Ugandan health authorities.

Sabin also has enough material to produce 40,000 doses of its vaccine, which is stored at a biotech company called ReiThera, in Italy. However, according to Dr. Rick Koup, acting director of the federal vaccine center, filling and completing those doses in the vials will take at least the end of the year.

Health officials have raised similar obstacles to procuring doses of monkeypox vaccine, which hampered response in the first weeks of the outbreak in the US. That vaccine is still in short supply worldwide.

“These are two cases in a row that happen so quickly that we clearly need to come up with a better solution,” said Dr.

Very few facilities can inject and run out of vaccines, creating bottlenecks when doses are urgently needed. On the other hand, the finished dose expires faster, requiring emergency stock to be replenished continuously.

Two months ago, Dr Koup said, he had predicted that the sudden completion of the necessary doses of the vaccine would “not be a big deal”. But in hindsight, he said, “obviously, we should have a few thousand doses.”

Activists praise federal scientists for foresight in developing vaccines for emerging pathogens. But instead of depending on private companies, the government should own and control a facility that makes vaccines that can be used during an outbreak, said James Krellenstein, founder of PrEP4All, a group promote access to HIV care.

“How many outbreaks must we see out of control because of a lack of vaccine production capacity before the US government fixes this problem?” Mr. Krellenstein said. “What’s very frustrating is, this is actually a fixable problem.”

Scientists are also developing so-called monoclonal antibodies that can broadly neutralize many Ebola species and reverse symptoms. An antibody cocktail has been shown to alleviate even severe symptoms in Ebola-infected monkeys of the Zaire, Sudan and Bundibugyo species. But the treatment is still in the early stages of testing.

“If you go fishing for these rare rainbow unicorn antibodies, you can certainly find neutral antibodies,” said Kartik Chandran, a virologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. cross-containment and cross-protection” against different types of Ebola. helped develop treatments.

“We know it’s only a matter of time before we have another Ebola outbreak that wasn’t caused by Zaire,” he added.

In Uganda, officials quickly scaled up the response to the sudden outbreak. Contact tracing continues to increase, and about 950 village health workers in affected districts have been trained to monitor for symptoms. Dr Braka said they were provided with personal protective equipment, thermometers and beds.

Learning from previous outbreaks, officials moved testing from the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe to a mobile lab in Mubende, the epicenter of the outbreak, she added. Confirmation of the diagnosis currently takes just six hours.

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