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Did the DoD prepare for a US Ebola pandemic before April?

Posted on October 17, 2014
BioFire Diagnostic s BioSurveillance Program   JBAIDS System

BioFire Diagnostics JBAIDS System. Click image to see full size.

Many will probably accuse me of wearing my tinfoil hat while I write this, but I’m about to ask a legitimate question: With Ebola only beginning to spread in West Africa, why did Congress issue biological diagnostics kits to our National Guard in all 50 states before April? Oh, you didn’t know that? Here’s a quote from a House of Representatives Armed Services Committee document relative to a statement to them by Carmen J. Spencer, Joint Program Exec. Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense:

To address the need for a near term capability to combat emerging threat materials, we have already provided Domestic Response Capability kits to the National Guard weapons of mass destruction civil support teams resident in all 50 states. These kits provide emerging threat mitigation capability that includes detection, personnel protection, and decontamination. [emphasis added]

If I understand the purpose of this document, the statement is part of an explanation for budgetary requests for FY 2015. Syria and the threat of biological/chemical warfare is also mentioned, but why send the biokits to the National Guard? This document is dated April 8, 2014, and it states that these kits had already been distributed.

President Obama has just signed an Executive Order that activates reserve and guard troops for deployment to West Africa. Are they going to help or to learn? Probably both.

I can’t say for certain if the kits sent to the Guard units are the same as the brand pictured in this article, but here is a picture of a unit that must be similar, and the description at the website, lists Ebola as one of the pathogens that can be detected using the kit. What can we take away from this?  At the very least, it indicates that the DoD has been preparing the National Guard for a biological or chemical event, either overseas (during a planned deployment) or domestically.

Let’s pray that neither becomes a reality.

EV-D68? Greenfield PD investigates death of 4-year-old with flu-like symptoms

Posted on October 16, 2014
Police in Greenfield, Indiana are investigating the sudden death of a 4-year-old boy whose parents said he’d been complaining of ‘flu-like symptoms’ but had seemed fine at bedtime. Indiana has already reported around two dozen cases of enterovirus D68, a disease which has been sweeping the nation for the past 6 months or so, leaving some children paralyzed and a few dead. EV-D68 is a cousin to the dreaded polio virus, which may be why its effects include paralysis in some limbs and even difficulty breathing.

With Ebola news sucking up most of the MSM air these days, EV-D68 stories, which would ordinarily take prominence, have been shunted to the back burner. As I’ve said numerous times on PID Radio when we’ve been reporting on the enterovirus outbreak, all parents need to pay close attention anytime a child says he is having trouble breathing. Currently, there is no vaccine for EV-D68, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we see a candidate for study soon (which is another can of worms to worry about!)

For more on the child’s death and the investigation, see: Greenfield PD investigates death of 4-year-old with flu-like sym – 13 WTHR Indianapolis.

A Dismal Halloween: MoBS Publishes their Ebola Predictions for Oct. 31

Posted on October 16, 2014

MoBS Predictive Table showing cases by country by Oct. 31st. Click this image to read the entire report and view all tables.

If you’re not a science geek, then you probably don’t know that MoBS stands for Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems. In other words, they’re really good with statistics and predictive extrapolations. Honestly, I wasn’t all that keen on the studying Statistics back in college (partly because my graduate assistant teacher barely spoke English), but even someone with no background can see trouble brewing from the MoBS projections. I’ve included one of their graphics, but be sure to click on it, which will take you to the MoBS ‘live paper’ of the ongoing computer predictions. Bookmark this one for future reference.

The table to the left (click on it for the full report and other tables) indicates that there is about a 75$ chance that the US will see other imported Ebola cases if we do not set up travel restrictions. That number can be reduced to about 25% with some restrictions. No, restrictions aren’t perfect, but the Thomas Eric Duncan case has resulted in at least 2 other cases, so every imported case we stop is a three-fold victory. Also, this model is from Oct. 14th, so MoBS may not have included the revelation that Ebola-positive nurse Amber Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines from Cleveland to DFW just hours before reporting symptoms to Texas Health. The CDC now reports that she may have been symptomatic during that flight, which also means she could have been communicating Ebola virus. This will become a ‘he said, she said’ event, as media are also reporting that Vinson claims the CDC cleared her to travel.

Bloomberg is also saying that MoBS data indicates that the US will have as many as two dozen new cases by Halloween. If true,perhaps, a Hazmat suit for Halloween isn’t such a bad idea.

Too Much Protective Gear? Really?

Posted on October 16, 2014
Not surprisingly,  Texas Health Presbyterian is fighting back this morning, protesting claims made yesterday by the Nurses’ Union in Texas that staff at Texas Health were given inadequate training and equipment. But Tom Frieden had this to say:

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also said that breaches of protocols led to the infection of the two nurses, but added that nurses were wearing too much protective gear, increasing the difficulty of suiting up properly and increasing the risk of contamination while undressing. [emphasis added]

Yes, he actually said the nurses had ‘too much’ protection against a BSL-4 pathogen. The nurses had complained that protocol used while treating Thomas Eric Duncan left their necks exposed, and that they were told to ‘use medical tape’, which is permeable. With a virus that is measured in nanometers, you don’t want permeable, but you do want ‘covered’.

Healthcare cannot exist without nurses, so I suspect that both Texas Health and Frieden will be eating their words soon. In fact, the CDC’s response to the US outbreak hasn’t been stellar, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find Frieden resigning soon. It’s a shame to see anyone ‘take the fall’, but honestly, the CDC should have sent in a team right away or insisted that Duncan be evacuated to Emory right away.

Read the entire morning report via ​Ebola: Texas hospital denies breach of protocols – CBS News.

Who’s in charge of our national Ebola response? Early mistakes could lead to more infections

Posted on October 15, 2014
HHS Secretary Burwell on Ebola

Screencap of HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell being interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show, Oct. 15, 2014.

Sometimes, I feel as if I’m watching the script of a biotech thriller being played out in the press lately—but I’m afraid it’s all too real. Yesterday, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas announced that a second nurse had tested positive for Ebola. This nurse, named this morning as Amber Joy Vinson, also worked with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died on October 8th from Ebola virus disease. Both Vinson and Nina Pham have been placed in isolation, which is comforting, but other news connected with the two women isn’t quite as comforting.

This morning, CBS News in Dallas reported[i] that Vinson traveled on a Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to DFW on October 13th, the day before she reported her symptoms and was isolated for Ebola virus. Now, everyone on that flight must be contacted and perhaps even placed into self-imposed quarantine. Frontier Airlines says they have thoroughly cleaned the aircraft, and it has been removed from service as ordered by the CDC. Read the rest of this entry →

What’s in the needle? A look at Ebola vaccine candidate VSV-EBOV

Posted on October 14, 2014

Transmission Electron Microscope image of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (source: Wikipedia)

Beginning about fifteen years ago, several teams of researchers in various nations began in earnest to pursue a viable vaccine against Ebola and Marburg filoviruses. In about 2013, two candidates reached monkey experiments (what are commonly called ‘non-human primate’ trials) and reported rousing success. Today, we’ll discuss one of those candidates, VSV-EBOV.

Yesterday, news percolated throughout the MSM that VSV-EBOV would be the first filovirus vaccine to be tried on humans in the United States (currently, a human trial is being conducted in West Africa on health worker volunteers, but more on that tomorrow). According to an article from

The first human clinical trials of a Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine, VSV-EBOV, begin in Maryland today to assess the vaccine’s safety and determine the appropriate dosage to fight the virus that has killed more than 4,000 people, largely in West Africa, Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced.

“We are able to share some very promising and hopeful news in the fight against Ebola,” Ambrose said from Calgary.

[…]The vaccine, which was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, will be tested on 20 healthy volunteers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md.[i]

So, what’s in the vaccine? To begin with, VSV-EBOV is a type of recombinant vector vaccine. This technology is relatively new, and simply means that the genome of the ‘vector’ has been altered. Vectors are like molecular trucks, and in this case the ‘truck’ is VSV. Read the rest of this entry →

Spanish HCW’s Mistake: She touched her face

Posted on October 09, 2014
According to reports from Spain this afternoon,  Spanish Healthcare Worker (HCW) Maria Teresa Romero Ramos admits that she ‘may have touched her face’ when removing her PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). Doctor German Ramirez, a physician at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, told reporters from the Washington Post that Ramos is uncertain, but she believes it happened this way:”She has told us of the possibility that her suit had contact with her face…. It could have been an accident. It looks like it was the gloves.”

Every HCW must wear a PPE with at least two pairs of gloves when working with a BSL-4 pathogen like Ebola. Sometimes, we make errors, but an error when working with Ebola patients can prove dangerous if not fatal.

For more about this recent revelation, see today’s Washington Post article via

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