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from John Lloyd:

Lessons of Ebola: Unequal in life, unequal in death

Health worker is reflected in a mirror as he prepares protective equipment near Rokupa Hospital

The most important and tragic speech of these times was given earlier this week, though the author was too busy to voice it herself. Dr. Margaret Chan, who leads the World Health Organization, sent her chief of staff to a WHO regional conference in Manila to spotlight something we rarely keep in our conscious mind and don't, collectively, do much about: Inequalities can be a matter of ever-longer life, or a most miserable death.

Chan’s speech was given by proxy because she, her aide explained, had stayed in the organization’s Geneva base to refine WHO’s response to what is “unquestionably the most severe, acute public health emergency in modern times.” That’s certainly at the top of most minds, if for no other reason than Ebola is creeping into the richer parts of the globe. But Chan wasn't about to reassure us that her organization can keep the incidence of the disease tiny. As the world's most senior medical figure, she had decided to use the horror to make a moral point -- one that had, she said, fallen on deaf ears till now.

Samples from her speech: “I have never seen a health event spread such fear and terror, well beyond the affected countries. … I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies ... I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure. ... [T]he outbreak spotlights the dangers of the world’s growing social and economic inequalities. The rich get the best care. The poor are left to die. … Ebola has been, historically, geographically confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually nonexistent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay.”

Just what Chan’s remarks mean was revealed in an article datelined Makeni, Sierra Leone, by Adam Nossiter of the New York Times. It was a piece of reportage and photojournalism that -- as Leon Wieseltier saluted it in the New Republic -- took a courage “beyond belief” to get. A photograph by Michel du Cille showed men and women lying dead or dying on mattresses spread on a floor, surrounded by pools of urine and feces. Nossiter noted that “a corpse lay in the corner -- a young woman, legs akimbo, who had died overnight. A small child stood on a cot watching as the team took the body away, stepping round a little boy lying immobile next to black buckets of vomit.”

from Breakingviews:

Ebola shows dangers, and power, of globalisation

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Ebola is still spreading, bringing death, fear and economic damage. The tragedy is testimony to a glaring weakness in the modern economy – the stubbornness of inequality. But globalisation could yet, belatedly, relieve the disaster.

from Breakingviews:

Fear is key to Ebola’s economic contagion

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Fear is key to the economic contagion of Ebola. The gruesome disease that has claimed 1,145 lives in parts of Africa has yet to travel beyond that region’s borders. But Asia’s crisis with severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 showed what might happen if it does. Changes to behaviour hurt growth and productivity more than the actual disease.

from The Great Debate:

Remember the movie ‘Outbreak?’ Yeah, Ebola’s not really like that.

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The Ebola outbreak continues to spread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries hardest hit by the disease. More than 1,000 people have now died from the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its highest-level alert for a response to the Ebola crisis. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The disease is intensifying in West Africa, but the epidemic poses minimal risk to Americans. So why are we so afraid?

Scientists think about the risk of Ebola in terms of how likely someone will get it and die. That probability of someone in this country dying from Ebola is miniscule. But how the average person thinks about risk is more complicated. Other factors -- including fear of the exotic, dramatic and gruesome -- heighten our anxieties and capture our imaginations.

from The Human Impact:

Frontline reflections on Guinea’s battle against Ebola

 

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Nobody would have thought that Gueckedou, a market town in southern Guinea, was the front line in West Africa’s battle against the deadly Ebola virus.

When I arrived to report on the outbreak, it was business as usual on the dusty, potholed streets. Traders set up their stalls under tattered, sun-bleached parasols and waved hand-held fans to stop the food spoiling in the tropical heat.

from The Human Impact:

Can the world get rid of tuberculosis?

It would be easy to think that tuberculosis is under control. TB, one of the world’s top two infectious disease killers, has been declining slowly but steadily and in some parts of the world it has been almost eradicated.

But one of the oldest epidemics afflicting mankind has come back with a new face: drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is on the rise globally and experts warn that deadly strains are spreading at an alarming rate, threatening to unravel much of the progress made in tackling TB.

from The Human Impact:

Q+A- Sierra Leone cholera outbreak spreading unusually quickly – ChildFund

Poor road networks and heavy rains are limiting the ability of aid workers to accelerate the fight against a severe cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has claimed the lives of at least 250 people and infected more than 15,000, according to charity ChildFund International.

Insufficient resources, a lack of proper toilets and insecure access to safe drinking water are also complicating relief efforts, Billy Abimbilla, national director for ChildFund Sierra Leone, told AlertNet.

from Photographers' Blog:

Hope in the fight against AIDS

By Mike Segar

The photos in this project, conceived ahead of this week's International AIDS Conference, are not the dramatic, heartbreaking, moving sort that we have been used to seeing of AIDS patients from the ‘80s and ‘90s. What I came to quickly realize is that this story, or I should say this portion of it, is about hope - hope and recovery. Living and learning to live as best one can with a disease the world has come to know all too well as an indiscriminate killer.

Take for example the hope that I saw in the eyes of 40-year-old AIDS patient Bobby Billingsly, a man who was close to death when he arrived at Broadway House in Newark, New Jersey, with a CD4 count near zero in 2009, an indication of what is known as Full blown AIDS.

from The Human Impact:

How can contraception cut child deaths?

LONDON (TrustLaw) - It’s well known that good family planning vastly reduces the risk of women dying from pregnancy complications and helps prevent miscarriages and still births.

What is far less recognised is the effect that spacing out pregnancies has on the survival of children way beyond birth.

from The Human Impact:

Researchers hope to reduce sub-Saharan Africa newborn deaths

Clinical trials are underway to test a new treatment for pregnant women, which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have said.

A large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted--reproductive tract infections (STIs - RTIs), according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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