Friday, October 3, 2014

Ebola: Separating fact from fiction

DISCUSSIONS AND COLLABORATIONS: Panelists Monera Wong, MD, MPH, left, and Lynn Black, MD,

The 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak is the most extensive in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. On Sept. 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the U.S. The MGH is monitoring this situation closely, and hospital leaders continue to meet regularly to ensure that staff are prepared to care for patients who may have been exposed to or infected with the virus, should the need arise.

Recently, the MGH Center for Global Health convened members of the MGH community for a seminar discussing a range of issues related to the outbreak, including the latest research, hospital preparedness and reports from the field.

“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is an unprecedented public health emergency and a time for us all to come together to understand this emergency and how we can best respond,” said David Bangsberg, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Global Health, who offered opening remarks.

Hilarie Cranmer, MD, director of Global Disaster Response at the center, introduced three speakers who each brought unique perspectives on the dynamics of the epidemic. Pardis Sabeti, MD, DPhil, a computational geneticist with the Broad Institute and Harvard University, discussed her work studying the genomics of diseases like Ebola and Lassa fever in West Africa.

Paul Biddinger, MD, medical director for MGH Emergency Preparedness, and David Hooper, MD, chief of the MGH Infection Control Unit, discussed the hospital’s preparation and ability to treat suspect cases of Ebola, in the unlikely event one should present in a clinical department.

“It is absolutely key for everyone to take a look at the travel history of our patients and also at the risks of exposure, particularly if they have had contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids,” said Hooper. “This is a scary disease, but we are extraordinarily fortunate here in the U.S. to have resources to manage these types of close-contact, highly transmissible viruses.”

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion with members of the local health care community who have worked in West Africa –including Mardia Stone, MD, senior advisor to the MGH-Harvard Liberia Working Group; Mohamed Bailor Barrie, MD, chief strategic officer for Wellbody Alliance, a nonprofit health care organization in Sierra Leone; Lynn Black, MD, of the MGH Department of Medicine and the Liberian health care nonprofit Last Mile Health; and Monera Wong, MD, MPH, interim chief of Geriatric Medicine, who was born in Sierra Leone and works with the local Sierra Leone community to educate and recruit volunteers to assist in the crisis.

“We know that we are not going to find the answer to this outbreak in one day,” said Cranmer. “But discussions like these and collaborations can play an important role in confronting these types of crises.”

For updated information on the Ebola outbreak and the Office of Global Disaster Response, visit

Read more articles from the 10/03/14 Hotline issue.


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