What we’re reading: Controlling Ebola, confronting drug-resistant TB

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Impact of Increasing the Number of Ebola Surveillance Officers – When the West Africa Ebola outbreak came to Sierra Leone’s Kambia district  in September 2014, three public health workers handled disease surveillance for the entire population of about 344,000 people and their task of investigating all suspected cases, isolating all confirmed cases, and tracing their contacts over the district’s 1,200 square miles was virtually impossible. This “Note From the Field” in the most recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report tells how over the months that followed, as more surveillance staff became available to the district, the two biggest staff increases were matched by the two biggest drops in Ebola incidence, the second quadrupling the original size of the surveillance staff and turning the trajectory of the outbreak there.

“People’s Science”: How West African Communities fought the Ebola epidemic – This IRIN article examines how communities initially learned and confronted the dangers that caring for the sick, and burying the dead posed, and reflects how including and equipping community members in education and responses earlier would have controlled the outbreak quicker.

Spread of highly drug resistant tuberculosis sparks concernsSTAT‘s Helen Branswell reports on a New England Journal of Medicine report showing that the spread of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis can be credited much more to the transmission of strains of the disease that don’t respond to first- and second-line treatments, than to uncompleted treatment among those with the disease. The ramification, that people are catching, at higher rates than thought, the extremely difficult to treat form of the disease that kills from 50 to 80 percent of those sick with it, as one doctor puts it, “Because you could just be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” underscores the need for new treatments that are more effective and less toxic.

Clinical trial for drug-resistant TB treatment starts – This release from Médecins Sans Frontières describes the launch of a clinical trial aiming to replace current lengthy, debilitating and damaging treatment regimens for drug-resistant tuberculosis with a six-month, safer course of medicines. Building on results from earlier trials, the humanitarian organization is hopeful the outcomes of the trial, which began in Uzbekistan Jan. 17, will mark a turning point that improves the odds for people sick with drug-resistant TB, and for those who care for them.

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