Dr. Rick Sacra Returns To Liberia


Dr. Rick Sacra is returning to Liberia after a surviving a battle with the deadly Ebola virus.

Sacra, 52, was a family physician from Massachusetts who survived Ebola. He underwent treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center after contracting the virus while treating patients in Liberia. He was released on Sept. 26.

Clinical Trials For Ebola Medicine To Start In Africa Next Month; Death Toll At 5,160

Ebola healthcare workers are trained on ways to treat infected patients at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 12 November 2014

According to the BBC, clinical trials to try to find an effective treatment for Ebola patients are to start in West Africa next month.

Meanwhile, the number of people killed by the worst outbreak of Ebola has risen to 5,160, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

The medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which has been helping lead the fight against the virus, says three of its treatment centres will host three separate research projects.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lifted the state of emergency imposed in the country.  She warned “this is not because the fight against Ebola is over”.

It marks the progress being made in the country, where the weekly number of new infections is falling.  In Guinea, the frequency of new cases no longer appears to be increasing, but remains high in Sierra Leone.

In a radio address she told the nation that night curfews would be reduced, weekly markets could take place and preparations were being made for the re-opening of schools.

Differing Reports On U.S. Soldiers In Liberia

Mission : So far, there are 547 U.S. troops in West Africa, serving in Senegal and Liberia (pictured), where they have reportedly been holing up in improvised quarters in hotels and local government facilities

Some sources are claiming that the U.S. soldiers being sent to Liberia to help stop the spread of Ebola are only getting 4 hours of training. This number seemed to originate with The Daily Beast, which stated:  “Soldiers preparing for deployment to West Africa are given just four hours of Ebola-related training before leaving to combat the epidemic.”

Other sources like Newsmax or The American Thinker are quoting the Daily Beast.

At the same time, Slate is claiming that they get two weeks of training.

Slate:  “They undertook a two-week, 14-session course to prepare specifically for Ebola, beginning with lessons on what it is, how it’s spread, and what its symptoms are.”  Slate also states, “Refresher courses will be given throughout the mission.”


The UK Daily Mail claims the soldiers only get 4 hours of training, but adds a word to describe it: “hazmat.”

“U.S. soldiers are being flown to West Africa to combat Ebola following just four hours of hazmat training…”

Does this mean the 4 hours refers to hazmat-only training?

Most publications agree that there are between 500 and 600 American troops on the ground in the West African region now.  However, some sources state that “at least 700 members of the division will deploy” soon.

USA Today (from October 17th):  “There are 547 U.S. troops there, primarily in Liberia though some are in Senegal, according to the Pentagon.

USA Today (from October 9th):  “At least 700 members of the division will deploy to Liberia starting next week as part of the U.S. military’s 4,000-soldier humanitarian mission, which is expected to last up to a year and is aimed at building 17 100-bed Ebola care centers and training hundreds of health care workers.”

The Daily Mail:  “So far, there are 547 U.S. troops in West Africa, serving in Senegal and Liberia, where they have reportedly been holing up in improvised quarters in hotels and local government facilities.”

The Daily Beast:  “There are just over 500 military service members in West Africa, serving in Senegal and Liberia.”

Slate:  “The American operation is the largest military foreign aid effort in the region to fight Ebola: Congress has so far approved $750 million for the mission, and about 600 military personnel are already on the ground.”

The total number of troops to be sent seems to vary from 3000 to 4000.

Slate: “Some 3,500 to 4,000 American troops are being deployed to Liberia to help efforts to quell the Ebola outbreak devastating the region.”

The UK Daily Mail:  “Yesterday, it was reported that the U.S. Army is preparing to provide as many as 3,000 troops to help combat the Ebola epidemic.”

USA today gives a number of 4000 total troops:  “At least 700 members of the division will deploy to Liberia starting next week as part of the U.S. military’s 4,000-soldier humanitarian mission, which is expected to last up to a year and is aimed at building 17 100-bed Ebola care centers and training hundreds of health care workers.”

There seems to be a general consensus on the mission:

Again, USA Today states that the mission “…is expected to last up to a year and is aimed at building 17 100-bed Ebola care centers and training hundreds of health care workers.”

Stars and Stripes states the same thing.

The Daily Beast:  “A major part of their mission is logistics and construction: The U.S. military is  building a 25-bed hospital and 17 Ebola treatment units, as well as training health-care providers in Liberia.”

The Uk Daily Mail:  “This is while the military builds a 25-bed hospital, ‘life support areas’ and 17 treatment centers in Liberia, where they can train local professionals to care for and conduct tests on potential victims.”

How exposed will the troops be to the virus?

The UK Daily Mail:

“Despite the trainers’ apparent shock tactics, the Army maintains that the risk of soldiers contracting the virus is minimal because it is airborne and they will not have contact with sick patients.

‘It’s been shown that this disease is most manifest when handling bodily fluid—blood, other sorts of fluids, said Major General Darryl Williams, who leads America’s operations center in Liberia.

“‘There is no plan right now for U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to do that’.”

USA Today:

“The soldiers, with specialties in areas such as combat hospitals, aviation, logistics, transportation and engineering, will not be providing direct treatment or having contact with Ebola patients, so the risk is considered to be low, said Lt. Col. Brian DeSantis, the 101st Airborne’s spokesman.

“But at Thursday’s safety training, soldiers were briefed on how Ebola is spread and what symptoms to look for. They were told to seek medical care at the first sign of trouble and not to shake hands or touch residents. They were told not to eat or drink anything that wasn’t provided by the U.S. government.”

According to Slate:

“Though troops are prepared to suit up to keep them from contracting Ebola, the scope of the military operation is intended to limit their direct interaction with patients. Their mission is to help build infrastructure and care facilities and to work with public health organizations on transportation. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, and the Liberian government are taking on more of the responsibilities of training local communities and public health workers and testing, isolating, and treating patients.”

The Daily Beast:

“The first 500 American troops in Liberia are so far living in improvised quarters in hotels and government building, according to congressional and military sources.

“’The hotels are fairly well controlled in terms of access… They have a fairly well-structured screening process going in and out,’ a Senate aide briefed by the Pentagon on the military’s procedures told The Daily Beast. ‘It sounds like they have an adequate level of screening and protective measures in place. That being said, once they move to a self-contained quarters, that will probably be better.’

“The military maintains that American service members have only limited interactions with locals on the ground. But some American soldiers are working with the Armed Forces of Liberia on a day-to-day basis, and others are training health-care providers on how to combat the virus.

“Further, the military acknowledges that it is currently sharing hotels and businesses with foreign nationals.

“‘We are here with the permission of the Liberian government and we do not clear out local hotels and businesses during our stay,’ said an Army spokesman. ‘We chose hotels with the safety of our service members in mind, and the hotel staffs monitor all employees and guests and allow us to conduct safety inspections of their facilities to ensure they meet our safety criteria.'”

“Soldiers based in Liberia have their temperature measured several times per day, and are not permitted to shake hands. They are also are required to frequently wash their hands with a chlorine solution. Some locations even employ chlorine mats that service members are required to wipe their feet on in order to enter.

“’The facilities that we’re in have been vetted by our doctors. [They] have gone through the facilities to make sure that they’re safe for our soldiers,’ Army spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Indovina said. ‘We’re very confident. We’ve had very good luck from the time when we’ve arrived on the ground.’”


Confusion Over Direct Flights To And From West Africa

BritishAirways1There seems to be a fair amount of confusion over whether the U.S. has direct flights to or from the Ebola-stricken West African nations.

Some sources claim that there are no direct flights from the U.S. to or from the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea and there were none to begin with.  The only way to come to the U.S. from those countries is by taking a connecting flight, usually through Europe.

According to ABC News (AP): 

There are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone to the U.S. Officials say that about 150 passengers a day arrive in the U.S. from those countries after making a connecting flight, usually in Europe. Most arrive at one of five airports, where screening for fever — a symptom of the disease — began this week.

That is how the Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Duncan came to the U.S.  Sources state Duncan took a flight from Liberia to Belgium.  He then flew from Belgium to Dulles in Washington D.C. and then on to Dallas-Forth Worth.

What are the flight bans like in other countries?

The publication The Province states:


United Kingdom: No formal ban. No direct flights from the three affected countries to London’s Heathrow Airport since British Airways suspended service there in August due to the outbreak. There is passenger screening at Heathrow and soon at two other airports.

Germany: No ban and no plans for one. There is no formal monitoring or screening of arriving passengers. Like the U.S., Germany doesn’t have any direct flights from those three African countries.

France: The government advises against non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. Air France suspended flights to Sierra Leone but has maintained once-a-day flights from Guinea, a former colony. Beginning Saturday, temperature checks for passengers arriving in Paris from the Guinean capital of Conakry.

Netherlands: The government advises against travel to the same three nations and urges Dutch citizens in those countries to leave. No direct flights. Currently no extra screening at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, although passengers on flights to and from Nigeria receive flyers with information about Ebola.

Ireland: No ban planned. No Ebola monitoring at airports. Ryanair flies to Morocco but not to any of the countries in the Ebola epidemic. The U.S. has customs stations at Dublin and Shannon airports for U.S.-bound travellers.

Czech Republic: Starting Tuesday, medical checks at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport for passengers who visited Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone in the previous 42 days.

Albania: No ban.

Turkey: Passengers from Liberia and Nigeria are undergoing more intensive screening. Those with high fever or other symptoms are being quarantined. Six travelers suspected of having Ebola turned out to have malaria instead.

Apparently the “flight bans” instituted by England and France are voluntary bans by the airline companies British Airways and Air France themselves.

Congressman Dennis Ross Direct Flight Ban:

Congressman Dennis Ross

According to the Huffington Post, Friday on MSNBC, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) argued that instituting a flight ban makes sense and said he plans to introduce a bill doing so once Congress reconvenes in November.

The problem is that there are no direct flights to and from the U.S. and Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

“I believe we can nip this in the bud, if you will, at least by banning those flights temporarily until such time as the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] believes the epidemic is under control and also make sure we don’t issue visas to travelers from over there. We have a good border patrol, believe it or not, and they can catch these people with fake passports and fake visas as they come across the border. It just seems to me we ought to have the debate on this and flush this out and that’s why I filed the bill to allow for the banning of these flights,” he said.

Since there are no direct flights between the hardest-hit nations and the United States, the Florida Republican was pressed to specifically identify which flights he wanted to impose restrictions on.

“I believe there are some flights,” Ross responded.

“There are no flights. There are no direct flights that come to the United States from West Africa. That is incorrect,” rebutted New York Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters.

“Then we don’t have any problem. Everybody’s contained, correct?” Ross responded sarcastically. “They are not. They are traveling. They are traveling.”

It is true they are traveling – from connecting flights from other countries.


Family And Friends Of Man With Ebola Are Shunned

The Ebola patient in isolation at a Texas hospital has begun treatment with an experimental drug that was authorized by the federal government for certain patients, the hospital said.

Thomas Eric Duncan, who is being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after being the first person diagnosed with Ebola within the United States, is listed in critical condition.

“He is now receiving an investigational medication, brincidofovir, for Ebola Virus Disease,” hospital spokeswoman Candace White said in a tweet Monday, later adding in a statement that he had been getting the drug since 2:14 p.m. on Saturday.

The announcement comes a day after Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said: “As far as we understand, experimental medicine is not being used.”

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said that the CDC relies on the hospital to make announcements related to patient conditions and treatment. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital did not immediately respond to calls for comment on the 48-hour gap between the administration of the drug and its Monday announcement.

The announcement that he is being treated with an experimental anti-viral medication called brincidofovir comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized its use in certain experimental cases, according to the biopharmaceutical company Chimerix, which makes the drug. Chimerix, a Durham, North Carolina-based company, said its use was permitted through an Emergency Investigational New Drug Applications program by the FDA. The FDA would not comment about the use of drug on Duncan.

“Based on in-vitro data from work conducted by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, suggesting brincidofovir’s activity against Ebola, we are hopeful that brincidofovir may offer a potential treatment for Ebola Virus Disease during this outbreak,” M. Michelle Berrey, the president and CEO of Chimerix, said in a statement.

Duncan may not be the only person to receive the experimental medication. The company reports that they are “working closely with the FDA to finalize a clinical trial protocol,” according to the release.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that the second phase of the clean-up of the apartment where Duncan was staying was completed Monday. He said that all of his personal items have been destroyed and “a drum is being taken away” with other possibly infected items.

Judge Clay Jenkins visited the family Monday at the home where they are now staying in an undisclosed gated community to see if there was anything that needed to be addressed, the mayor said.

Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said that this will be “an important week” for the relatives of Duncan because they are hitting the time frame when most infected individuals begin showing symptoms. He stressed that each of the relatives has their temperature checked twice daily and have not shown any symptoms yet.

In addition to the four isolated relatives, Dallas health officials are keeping track of up to 50 other people who could have come into contact with Duncan and “100 percent of the people we’re-evaluating, 100 percent they don’t have it,” Lakey said.

The Liberian man’s trip to the United States to plan a wedding with his longtime girlfriend turned into an Ebola-fueled nightmare after he became the first person diagnosed with the disease on U.S. soil — and remains in a fight for his life.

He had recently reconciled with Louise Troh when he upended his life in Monrovia, leaving his job without notice, and jumped on a plane to Dallas to join family in the Texas city, Troh’s pastor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

It was Duncan’s first trip to the United States. He landed Sept. 20; eight days later, he was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, a statistic now known as the first case of Ebola diagnosed on U.S. soil.

“She is managing the best she can under the most strenuous of circumstances,” George Mason, the senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church, told the newspaper. “She had hopes and dreams of great things happening with him coming.”

Duncan’s condition worsened over the weekend as the hospital announced he is now critically sick. And at least 10 people, including Troh and three family members, are considered at “high risk” for contracting the disease after having close contact with Duncan once he began showing symptoms of Ebola.

Troh, her son and two other relatives will remain isolated until Oct. 19 as health officials monitor them twice daily for signs of the disease. Other relatives, including Troh’s daughters, say they’ve been forced into self-imposed isolation and shunned by the Dallas Liberian community as news of Duncan’s diagnosis has garnered international attention, the Washington Post reported.

Duncan, 42, abruptly left his job in Monrovia when he came to the United States to plan a wedding with his longtime girlfriend, Louise Troh.

“This whole Ebola thing — this virus is tearing people apart,” Mawhen Jallah, 28, told the newspaper. “Since the whole thing occurred, nobody has come to visit.”

Duncan’s arrival stateside in September was months before he originally planned after he got early visa approval, according to the Post. He walked out of his job as a driver with SafeWay Cargo, a shipping company.

But good riddance to the former employee, the company’s owner, Henry Brunson, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“He was very arrogant,” he said. “Every time I gave him instructions, he became confrontational. He didn’t like to follow the rules.”

Officials in Liberia say Duncan did not follow at least one important rule there before he left the country. Duncan will likely be prosecuted in the West African nation because he reportedly lied on a questionnaire asking him if he’d had contact with any Ebola victim.

Wilfred Smallwood says his half-brother, Thomas Duncan, is a good man who got sick trying to help others.

Just four days before he left Monrovia, Duncan helped take a badly ill, pregnant Ebola victim to several clinics and hospitals.  They were turned away at each, and the woman later died.

Duncan did not have a fever when he departed Liberia on Sept. 19, but began showing symptoms of Ebola as early as Sept. 25. He was hospitalized three days later.

“He’s a good man,” Wilfred Smallwood, Duncan’s half-brother, told the Star-Telegram from Phoenix. “He attends church. He tried to save that woman’s life in Monrovia.”

Duncan has family in Arizona, Texas and North Carolina, but it’s relatives in Dallas who have been rejected by their community members. Some 50 people who had any sort of contact with Duncan are being evaluated daily by health officials trying to prevent a U.S. outbreak of the disease.  But other community members are taking matters into their own hands, refusing to associate with relatives, even those cleared by health authorities.  One neighbor pointed at the door of Duncan’s relative’s home and said, “That’s the Ebola family there,” according to the Washington Post.

Friends and relatives have been thrust into an unending media spotlight, even as they struggle with the personal tragedy of Duncan’s deteriorating condition.

“They made a plan for him to come to the states … and plan a wedding,” Mason told the Star-Telegram of Troh. “Every indication I have is that it was a long-standing plan and not related to his being infected.”  The wedding is on hold as Duncan struggles to survive.

“They were going to talk to me about it,”  the pastor George Mason told the newspaper, “but never got a chance to make those plans.”