Health Notes

Understanding Ebola Risk and Stopping the Deadly Disease

by Dr. Jessica Jones on August 14, 2014

Every day it seems the numbers climb. Today, the official number of Ebola cases is nearing 1,900, with more than 1,000 deaths just since February. As the disease spreads, so does the fear and the rush to contain it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made the deadly Ebola virus their number one priority, working together to better understand and manage the public health risks posed by the disease. Because of the circumstances of the rampant outbreak with no known cure or vaccine, the WHO issued a statement saying it is ethical to offer experimental treatments to patients, even when the efficacy of those treatments are unknown.

There are glimmers of hope in the fight against Ebola. Canada announced yesterday it would donate 800 to 1,000 doses of its experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the WHO. The vaccine is actually licensed to NewLink Genetics, a company in Ames, Iowa. The company says it could manufacture tens of thousands of doses over the next couple of months. Another vaccine is being developed by the National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Anyone watching the news out of West Africa can’t help but be blown away by tragedy unfolding there: More than 1,300 people in three countries and a death toll now topping 720 people, all from a single, highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus.

The current West Africa outbreak started in Guinea in March, and within days the virus spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It’s the biggest outbreak ever of Ebola, and two American health care workers are now among the seriously ill. One man, an American, died in Nigeria after visiting the region.

The devastating disease carries a fatality rate of anywhere from 50 to 90 percent depending on the strain and on where the outbreak is. It has no vaccine and no specific treatment. The only glimmer of hope comes from early intervention with intravenous saline solution, which has raised survival rates to as high as 75 percent in one small clinic in Guinea.

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Health News Headlines: Chikungunya Hits Near Home, Whooping Cough Outbreak

July 24, 2014

Chikungunya Arrives in Douglas County The first case of the mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya has been confirmed in Douglas County. Lab tests confirmed the infection, Nebraska’s fourth known case. The 50-year-old patient became ill after being bit by an infected mosquito during a recent trip to Puerto Rico. Chikungunya has been found in the Caribbean, […]

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World Hepatitis Day Shines Global Light on Disease

Thumbnail image for World Hepatitis Day Shines Global Light on Disease July 10, 2014

On July 28th, the world will turn its attention to a viral epidemic that kills 1.4 million people across the globe, yet remains largely ignored. World Hepatitis Day urges the public to “think again” about this silent killer. Viral hepatitis – inflammation of the liver causing acute and chronic liver disease – is a group […]

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The Only Contagious Thing You Should Catch

Thumbnail image for The Only Contagious Thing You <i>Should</i> Catch June 26, 2014

And no, this time we’re not talking about a bug or a virus. It’s something that when one person catches it, it’s almost impossible to not at least smile. They say laughter is the best medicine. And they just might be right. Especially when it comes to your heart. A study done in 2005 at […]

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What Bites Back When Summer Stings

Thumbnail image for What Bites Back When Summer Stings June 12, 2014

It’s that time of year again, when the creepy crawlies of spring and summer start to emerge. They’re out in full force, and they’re hungry. The most common bug bites come from ticks and mosquitos. And while most of the time they are fairly harmless, some pack a nasty punch. Here’s a guide to the […]

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Talking to Teens Vital in Stopping Spread of STDs

Thumbnail image for Talking to Teens Vital in Stopping Spread of STDs May 8, 2014

Omaha and Douglas County rank well above the national average… but it’s not a title to be proud of. Since 2004, the Omaha area has had epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In 2012, more than 4,400 cases of STDs were reported in Douglas County alone. In the 2007 “Big Cities Health Inventory,” Omaha […]

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Health News Headlines: MERS Outbreak, Killer Disease and World Malaria Day

Thumbnail image for Health News Headlines: MERS Outbreak, Killer Disease and World Malaria Day April 24, 2014

Deadly Virus Spreading Quickly in Middle East A violent surge in a deadly virus spreading across the Middle East is sounding alarms for disease experts. The number of confirmed cases of MERS in Saudia Arabia has skyrocketed. MERS is a viral respiratory illness, much like SARS, which causes symptoms such as coughing, fever, shortness of […]

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Got Your Vaccine? Measles Make a Comeback

Thumbnail image for Got Your Vaccine? Measles Make a Comeback April 10, 2014

The headlines are shocking… 115 reported cases nationwide, with thousands more exposed. In two separate cases, unvaccinated students traveled overseas and brought the measles back with them. The highly contagious disease is off to a skyrocketing start for 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there were only 189 cases in all of […]

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Health News Headlines: Deadly Virus, Devastating Illness and the Importance of Vaccines

Thumbnail image for Health News Headlines: Deadly Virus, Devastating Illness and the Importance of Vaccines March 27, 2014

Flu-Like Virus Kills Nebraska Student A 20-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student has died from complications of a flu-like virus. Kyle VerMaas died March 16th at Bryan West in Lincoln after the virus had taken over his brain. Family members say VerMaas had been healthy, always eating right and working out at the gym. However two […]

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