News

TTIP Films on line now from 6 billion ways plus reach 1million signatures

by on Oct.22, 2014, under News

Thanks a lot to every­one who made it to TTIP: Cap­it­al­ism on Ster­oids at Rich Mix last week.All the films are now up our site - feel free to use or adapt them for your own events, or sug­gest oth­ers we’ve missed in the comments.

Next steps

We also prom­ised some next steps on TTIP organ­ising. Here are three for starters:
  1. Make sure you’ve signed and shared the European Cit­izens Ini­ti­at­ive on TTIP to help get it to 1 mil­lion sig­na­tures: http://stop-ttip.org. Over 700,000 have signed so far.
  2. Get some cop­ies of the TTIP Times to give our in your area — email the World Devel­op­ment Move­mentWar on Want or Friends of the Earth for cop­ies or view online.
  3. Organ­ise a TTIP event loc­ally — you can sub­mit it to be lis­ted on the #noT­TIP web­site here: http://www.nottip.org.uk/contact/
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Listen here to Sussex Defend The NHS: ‘Who’s Got Their Finger In The Healthcare Pie?’ Talk

by on Oct.13, 2014, under News

 

CUPP Sem­inar: ‘The NHS Cit­izen’ with Simon Bur­all and Anthony Zacharzewski

LISTEN HERE

Radio Free Brighton recently recor­ded the CUPP sem­inar: ‘The NHS Cit­izen’ with Simon Bur­all and Anthony Zachar­zewski, held on 10th October.

Simon and Anthony are part of a lar­ger part­ner­ship devel­op­ing NHS Cit­izen. A national sys­tem of pub­lic and patient engage­ment being developed to hold the Board of NHS Eng­land to account. While the sys­tem is national, most patients and cit­izens exper­i­ence the health ser­vice at a local level. This sem­inar will explore how the sys­tem is being designed to work and will invite par­ti­cipants to draw on their exper­i­ence, expert­ise and know­ledge to help answer ques­tions about whether and how such sys­tems can plug into local spaces where cit­izens are already debat­ing health and social care. Simon is the Dir­ector of Involve and Anthony is Dir­ector of Dem­soc and both are involved in numer­ous innov­a­tions to enhance civic participation.

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Ebola: we can stop it‏

by on Oct.08, 2014, under News

I’m Dr Louisa Bax­ter and I’ve just come back from Sierra Leone where the Ebola epi­demic is fast spiralling out of con­trol.The virus is killing up to 70% of those who catch it and the num­bers of people infec­ted is doub­ling every 20 days.Chil­dren and fam­il­ies there, and across West Africa, des­per­ately need the inter­na­tional com­munity to do more to defeat Ebola. And they need them to do it fast.

Will you join me in call­ing on world lead­ers to act?

Next month, lead­ers of the 20 most power­ful and richest coun­tries meet at the G20 Sum­mit in Australia.

It’s crit­ical they agree to make enough money, equip­ment and people avail­able to stop this killer virus.

Your voice will be join­ing with thou­sands of oth­ers across the globe as people from Sydney to San Fran­cisco, unite to demand action.

This is the largest Ebola out­break we’ve ever seen and there is only a mat­ter of weeks to con­tain it.

Please sign our peti­tion to the G20 lead­ers today.

We must stop Ebola. With your help we can.

My jour­ney back to Ebola ground zero

By Peter Piot Nearly 40 years after he was first dis­patched to invest­ig­ate a mys­ter­i­ous new virus, Peter Piot returns to a vil­lage – and a people – changed for ever by the advent of Ebola

Microbiologist and physician Peter Piot in Matonge, Kinshasa in February, at a clinic for sex workers that he co-founded©Michael Chris­topher Brown­Mi­cro­bi­o­lo­gist and phys­i­cian Peter Piot in Matonge, Kin­shasa in Feb­ru­ary, at a clinic for sex work­ers that he co-founded

Get on that plane now! You know, they are crazy here!” shouts the man­ager of Kin Avia, a rare charter air­line in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo with a decent safety track record. It is nearly 10am and for the past few hours we have been try­ing to get through all the form­al­it­ies required to travel from the dilap­id­ated domestic air­port of Ndolo in the heart of Kin­shasa to Bumba – in other words, to get through immig­ra­tion for a domestic flight. Bumba is the nearest air­port in north­west­ern Congo to our final des­tin­a­tion, Yam­buku, a vil­lage in Equateur province about 1,000km from the cap­ital. I am spend­ing two weeks in the coun­try to cel­eb­rate my 65th birth­day and to thank the people who played such an import­ant role in two defin­ing exper­i­ences of my life: invest­ig­at­ing the first known out­break of Ebola haem­or­rhagic fever in 1976 and uncov­er­ing a sig­ni­fic­ant het­ero­sexual epi­demic of HIV/Aids in 1983. I am here with an Amer­ican film crew mak­ing a doc­u­ment­ary on epi­dem­ics, along with my wife Heidi, an anthro­po­lo­gist, and my friends Jean-Jacques Muyembe, dir­ector of the DRC’s National Insti­tute for Bio­med­ical Research, Eugene Nzila, a pion­eer of Pro­jet Sida (Africa’s first big Aids research pro­ject, foun­ded in 1984) and Annie Rimoin, an epi­demi­olo­gist from UCLA.

When I was 27 and still in train­ing, I had one of the greatest oppor­tun­it­ies an aspir­ing micro­bi­o­lo­gist could dream of: the chance to dis­cover a new virus, invest­ig­ate its mode of trans­mis­sion and stop the out­break. It all star­ted when my labor­at­ory at the Insti­tute of Trop­ical Medi­cine in Ant­werp received a ther­mos from what was then called Zaïre. It con­tained the blood of a Flem­ish nun who had died of what was thought to be yel­low fever. From that sample, how­ever, our lab isol­ated a new virus, con­firmed by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol in Atlanta and sub­sequently called Ebola, after a river about 100km north of Yam­buku, the centre of the epi­demic. It turned out to be one of the most deadly vir­uses known. In early Septem­ber 1976, Mabalo Lokela, the head­mas­ter of the local school, had died with a high fever, intract­able diarrhoea and bleed­ing. His death sent a shock­wave through the small mis­sion com­munity. Soon the hos­pital was full of patients with a sim­ilar ill­ness and nearly all died within a week.

This was the begin­ning of the first known out­break of Ebola, a virus that is believed to cir­cu­late in bats, which acci­dent­ally infects people through con­tact with blood or infec­ted droplets. There are four known sub­types affect­ing humans, includ­ing the “Zaïre” type, the most deadly strain, with more than 90 per cent mor­tal­ity. Trans­mis­sion between people is through con­tam­in­ated injec­tions, con­tact with blood and body flu­ids, sex, and it prob­ably passes from mother to child. Approx­im­ately one week after infec­tion, patients develop severe fever, diarrhoea and vomit­ing. They then start bleed­ing and are affected by “dis­sem­in­ated intravas­cu­lar coagu­la­tion”, whereby small blood clots develop in the body’s blood ves­sels, ulti­mately res­ult­ing in gen­er­al­ised organ fail­ure, shock and death one week after the onset of symp­toms. Close to 90 per cent of the 318 people dia­gnosed with the dis­ease would even­tu­ally die dur­ing the Yam­buku out­break. So would more than half of the hos­pital staff and 39 people from among the 60 fam­il­ies liv­ing at the mis­sion. The entire region was dev­ast­ated, with some vil­lages los­ing one in every 11 inhab­it­ants to Ebola.

Piot (second from left) on October 20 1976, the day of his arrival in Yambuku, together with fellow scientists and local health workersPiot (second from left) on Octo­ber 20 1976, the day of his arrival in Yam­buku, together with fel­low sci­ent­ists and local health workers

Get­ting on a mil­it­ary C130 to Bumba in 1976 for the three-hour flight over the world’s second-largest equat­orial forest was less com­plic­ated than catch­ing a pas­sen­ger flight in 2014, even though back then we had to load a Land Rover, med­ical equip­ment and bar­rels of fuel on to the cargo plane. We were a Zairean, an Amer­ican, a French­man and two Bel­gians in a plane – like one of those jokes. But the pilots were in a foul mood. They resen­ted hav­ing to fly to the epi­demic zone. Hadn’t fel­low pilots told them that birds were fall­ing from the sky over the forest around Yam­buku and that dead bod­ies were lin­ing the roads? When we landed, the plane came abruptly to a halt but the pilots never came out of the cabin. They didn’t even stop the engines. They wanted to take off again as soon as pos­sible and avoid any con­tact with loc­als. When I walked through the open load­ing dock at the back of the plane, I saw hun­dreds of people, star­ing at us in silence, fol­lowed by shouts of “Oyé! Oyé!” when we drove out the Land Rover. Ours was the first air­craft to break the quar­ant­ine that the whole region had been put under because of the epi­demic and expect­a­tions were high that we would stop the dis­ease, and bring food and medi­cines. As soon as the plane was unloaded, the pilots shouted “Bonne chance!” and off they went.…

Bumba, the nearest town to Yambuku©Heidi Lar­son­Bumba, the nearest town to Yambuku

This time there is a slight sense of déjà vu when we finally land on the red-earth air­strip of Bumba. The Con­golese pilot recog­nises me from his time in the Zairian air force in the 1970s. “Has Ebola star­ted again?” he asks anxiously. Only a few people are at the air­strip, apart from the unavoid­able immig­ra­tion and secur­ity officers. One man is wait­ing for us just as he was in 1976: Father Car­los Rom­mel, the Flem­ish Cath­olic par­ish priest of Notre Dame, who has been work­ing in the Congo for 51 years, mostly in Bumba. He had arranged all our logist­ics to per­fec­tion, just as he unflap­pably man­ages a hos­pital, a par­ish and four schools in a coun­try where noth­ing can be taken for gran­ted. Our con­voy of jeeps makes its way to the Bumba mis­sion, where we will stay for the next few days, just as we did nearly four dec­ades ago. Not much has changed – there is not a single paved road in this town of about 150,000 people and very few houses are made of brick or cement. This used to be a major port on the Congo River but years of war, loot­ing and cor­rup­tion have taken their toll. River boats are gradu­ally return­ing – the 1,000km jour­ney to Kin­shasa can take up to six weeks in the dry sea­son – always over­loaded with people, cars and goods. Des­pite being loc­ated on the mighty Congo, there is no run­ning water in Bumba. Girls and women fetch water from the river, except in the neigh­bour­hoods where Father Car­los has drilled wells. He seems to be the only real investor in infra­struc­ture and social ser­vices in the city, some­times using his own money. There is no elec­tri­city, besides what is pro­duced by a lonely and noisy gen­er­ator. The first thing I see when vis­it­ing the pub­lic hos­pital is a large black truck near the entrance with “Morgue” painted across it. Not encour­aging. Cattle graze between the pavil­ions. The hos­pital is largely empty as patients have to pay for everything and there are hardly any medi­cines, includ­ing anti‑HIV drugs and tests. For years, the state has not provided any support.

An aerial photograph of a typical settlement in the Yambuku area, taken on Piot’s first visit to the region©Peter PiotAn aer­ial pho­to­graph of a typ­ical set­tle­ment in the Yam­buku area, taken on Piot’s first visit to the region

Together with Muyembe and Rimoin, two of the world’s lead­ing experts on mon­keypox, I see a nine-year-old girl who has con­trac­ted the dis­ease from her brother. DRC has the world’s largest num­ber of cases of this dis­ease, which resembles the now erad­ic­ated small­pox, and is acquired from con­tact with vari­ous wild anim­als, not just mon­keys. It is another illus­tra­tion of how animal vir­uses can cause infec­tions and even epi­dem­ics in humans (both HIV and influ­enza come from anim­als). In con­trast to the pub­lic hos­pital, the mission-run Notre Dame hos­pital is clean and full of patients but even here there is a short­age of medi­cines. Muyembe and I have lengthy con­ver­sa­tions about the causes of this total neg­lect of people’s health and what we can do about it as aca­dem­ics. He repeatedly reminds us all of the motto of the Uni­ver­sity of Kin­shasa, where he had been dean of medi­cine, and which was also the slo­gan of the Cath­olic high school of Bumba: “No sci­ence without con­science”.… Look­ing across the court­yard from our bed­room at the mis­sion evokes one of the most dra­matic moments of my stay in 1976. Early one after­noon, an Allou­ette heli­copter (a gift from French pres­id­ent Valéry Gis­card d’Estaing to Zaïre’s pres­id­ent, Mobutu Sese Seko) arrived in Yam­buku to take me to meet some high-ranking US offi­cials in Bumba. As it was get­ting very dark, and I resen­ted that these men did not want to come to where the action was, I decided not to fly. It saved my life – the heli­copter crashed in the forest 15 minutes later and all three pas­sen­gers died, includ­ing a worker from the mis­sion who had taken my place in order to visit his fam­ily in Bumba. I always felt that poor man died for me.

Piot in Yambuku with nurse Sukato Mandzomba, who survived the initial Ebola outbreak©Heidi Lar­son­Piot in Yam­buku with nurse Sukato Mand­zomba, who sur­vived the ini­tial Ebola outbreak

Three days later I had to recover the bloated corpses after a hunter found them, two hours’ walk from the nearest vil­lage through almost impen­et­rable forest. As there were no coffins, I had to make them myself at the mis­sion work­shop back in Bumba, which was the only place that had wooden planks. For years I could not talk about it and even now see­ing a pile of planks at that work­shop is extremely emo­tional. Bumba, this morn­ing, offers many dis­trac­tions as well as memor­ies but I am impa­tient to see Yam­buku. Road R337 is a red soil track through the green foliage of the dense equat­orial forest. It is dry sea­son and dur­ing a four-and-a-half-hour drive of more than 100km, we see two trucks full of goods and people, four motor­cycles and many more people on or push­ing bicycles, loaded with rice, pea­nuts, dried fish and bush meat, manioc, palm oil and bana­nas. As we wend our way down the bumpy road from Bumba to Yam­buku, I’m firmly hold­ing on to a handle so as not to be ejec­ted from the front seat and my head is spin­ning with memor­ies of my first visit. The forest is a bit fur­ther away from the vil­lages now, with trees hav­ing been cut down for fuel over the years, and there are far more chil­dren than I remem­ber. There are also some new cement build­ings in sev­eral of the vil­lages we pass – often only one among the mud huts and King­dom Halls of Jehovah’s Wit­nesses. There used to be palm oil plant­a­tions here, owned by Uni­lever, but these have been aban­doned along with the paddy fields because of the wars and a deteri­or­a­tion in infra­struc­ture and trans­port. With them went the last jobs, and many people are now liv­ing in a state of aut­archy – flee­ing into the forest for weeks at a time when vari­ous armed groups have invaded the area.

Piot is reunited with Father Carlos Rommel, who has worked in the Congo for 51 years©Heidi Lar­son­Piot is reunited with Father Car­los Rom­mel, who has worked in the Congo for 51 years

As we get closer to Yam­buku the driver points to an over­grown area which was part of a vil­lage whose inhab­it­ants had fled dur­ing the Ebola epi­demic and never returned. Sud­denly, the forest opens up and the road meanders through neg­lected cof­fee plants and bam­boo before we finally see Yam­buku. We are wel­comed by sec­tor chief Chris­tophe Nzan­golo, two doc­tors and four Con­golese nuns, who have been wait­ing for us since noon on the ter­race of the mis­sion. Warm beer is served, form­al­it­ies are exchanged and we are dir­ec­ted to our rooms. They are in dire con­di­tion, as is the rest of the build­ing. The Cath­olic mis­sion in Yam­buku was foun­ded by the Order of Sch­eut in the 1930s with the sup­port of a colo­nial cot­ton com­pany in the then Bel­gian Congo. It was later joined by Sis­ters of the Sac­red Heart of Mary. For many years, the vil­lage was a flour­ish­ing centre for edu­ca­tion, health­care and agri­cul­ture, and in some ways was a picture-postcard loc­a­tion. But the 1976 Ebola epi­demic, com­bined with a sharp eco­nomic down­turn and serial wars, has led to a decline on all fronts. The mis­sion was looted first by Mobutu’s sol­diers and most recently by Bemba rebels, who were fight­ing the cur­rent gov­ern­ment of Joseph Kab­ila and stole the ambu­lance and side­band radio, the vil­la­gers’ only means of com­mu­nic­a­tion with the out­side world. (It took me a while to real­ise that the numer­ous small holes in the pil­lars of the convent’s ter­race were actu­ally bul­let holes.) Since the depar­ture of the Flem­ish nuns about 10 years ago, leav­ing some Con­golese sis­ters, there has been no money avail­able to replace or to main­tain the vast con­vent build­ings. The aus­tere guest house where we stayed was slowly implod­ing, chil­dren at the primary school were sit­ting and writ­ing on the dirt floor, and the hos­pital was without drugs and had only a few mat­tresses. The power­ful elec­tri­city gen­er­ator we had left behind in 1976 was intact but lacked some essen­tial parts, which together cost only a few hun­dred pounds. But the money was not there and, in any case, the sis­ters had no idea how to order the miss­ing parts.

The school room where Piot and his colleagues slept in 1976©Heidi Lar­sonThe school room where Piot and his col­leagues slept in 1976

The jungle had invaded the once flour­ish­ing cof­fee plant­a­tions, which used to employ a sig­ni­fic­ant part of the pop­u­la­tion. People now sur­vive on what the fer­tile land, veget­a­tion and wild­life can offer. In con­trast to Kin­shasa, there is no obesity in Yam­buku and, accord­ing to the local doc­tors and as far as we can see, not much ser­i­ous mal­nu­tri­tion either, in spite of a mono­ton­ous diet based on manioc, fried plantain and bana­nas, with occa­sional fish or bush meat. Des­pite all the dif­fi­culties and lack of reg­u­lar work, how­ever, it is inter­est­ing to note how impec­cably dressed the chil­dren and adults are. When we go for an early morn­ing walk to enjoy some cool air before the steam­ing heat envel­opes the vil­lage, we can see women sweep­ing the court­yards in front of their thatched-roofed mud huts, going to col­lect water and wash­ing their chil­dren. These are among the world’s bot­tom bil­lion, strug­gling to sur­vive with what nature has to offer. They have just enough, but no spare capa­city for an emer­gency.… When we arrived in Yam­buku on Octo­ber 20 1976, we went straight to the guest house, which sat between the nuns’ and fath­ers’ con­vents. Three European sis­ters and a priest were stand­ing out­side, with a cord between them and us. They had read that in case of an epi­demic it was neces­sary to estab­lish a cor­don sanitaire, which they had inter­preted lit­er­ally. A mes­sage hung from a tree, say­ing in the Lin­gala lan­guage that people should stay away as any­body com­ing any closer would die, and to leave mes­sages on a piece of paper. When the sis­ters shouted in French, “Don’t come any nearer! Stay out­side the bar­rier or you will die!” I imme­di­ately under­stood from their accent that they were from near my part of Flanders. I jumped over the bar­rier, say­ing in Dutch, “We are here to help you and to stop the epi­demic. You’ll be all right.” They broke down, hold­ing each other and cling­ing to my arms, cry­ing. We could see the ter­ror in their faces as they were con­vinced they too would soon die, just like four of their col­leagues and a priest who had all suc­cumbed to the Ebola virus in the course of a few weeks. Once we had all settled down, the sis­ters pre­pared a solid din­ner of Flem­ish beef stew and star­ted to tell the story of the epi­demic. They explained in great detail how their col­leagues had died, who the first vic­tims were at the mis­sion and then in other vil­lages, and that noth­ing seemed to work as treat­ment. One sis­ter had kept care­ful notes on each patient. They decided that we should sleep on the floor in the school classroom as we did not know whether the bed­rooms in the con­vent were con­tam­in­ated. But I didn’t sleep much that first night in Yam­buku, with a thou­sand ques­tions going through my head and the sounds of the rain­forest outside.

Bikes left as pledges in Yambuku’s pharmacy©Heidi Lar­son­Bikes left as pledges in Yambuku’s pharmacy

It quickly became clear that some­thing was wrong at the hos­pital. Epi­demi­olo­gical detect­ive work by our team con­firmed the sus­pi­cions: people were being infec­ted at the hos­pital through injec­tions made using con­tam­in­ated needles and syr­inges (only five syr­inges and needles were issued to the nurses each morn­ing), and hos­pital staff and attendees at funer­als were fall­ing vic­tim through expos­ure to body flu­ids infec­ted with the virus. In addi­tion there seemed to be trans­mis­sion from moth­ers to babies. Clos­ing the hos­pital (which, in any case, had been aban­doned by frightened patients) was the decis­ive action that stopped the Ebola epi­demic, and the last vic­tim died on Novem­ber 5. In simple terms, poor med­ical prac­tice had killed hun­dreds of people. The mis­sion­ar­ies were undoubtedly doing highly valu­able work in edu­ca­tion and com­munity devel­op­ment but man­aging a hos­pital (without a phys­i­cian, since they could not find one who would work in such a remote place) was bey­ond their expert­ise. On Decem­ber 16 1976, the quar­ant­ine was offi­cially lif­ted after four long months. The mil­it­ary trans­port plane that came to pick us up with our pre­cious samples, lab equip­ment and Land Rover was the first con­tact with the out­side world since we had arrived three months earlier. It was nearly stormed by people who wanted to leave the area.

The village graveyard©Heidi Lar­sonThe vil­lage graveyard

I had a heated argu­ment with the pilots, who were filling the plane with rat­tan fur­niture that belonged to Gen­eral Bumba, their big boss, and allow­ing other people who had bribed them on to the plane. There was hardly any space left for us and our goods. Noth­ing could be taken for gran­ted in Zaïre! I argued and swore and joked, and in the end we all got on the air­craft. I sud­denly real­ised I had become assert­ive. That was not the end of the story. The Buf­falo plane was over­loaded, as well as badly loaded, and the pilots took off straight into a for­mid­able trop­ical storm. We touched the top of some trees and before reach­ing cruis­ing alti­tude the plane dived for what felt like a few hun­dred metres. There were no seat belts and we were hit by heavy fly­ing boxes. Even­tu­ally we made it safely to Kin­shasa but my legs were trem­bling when we got out of the plane. For me, fly­ing had been more dan­ger­ous than caring for patients or hand­ling virus samples.… Dec­ades later, it is a great joy to see Sukato Mand­zomba slowly walk­ing towards me. “How are you?” he asks simply. “How is the fam­ily? My wife and I are so happy you came back.” He is smil­ing shyly and as if we had seen each other just a few days ago. Sukato is one of the few sur­viv­ors from the 1976 Ebola epi­demic. As a 24-year-old nurse, he was infec­ted while caring for dying patients with haem­or­rhagic fever but never developed the severe, fatal form of the infec­tion which causes massive bleed­ing and shock. Sukato was among the first people we saw on our arrival in Yam­buku in 1976, and after he had recovered from his ill­ness he volun­teered to look after patients and helped us with our clin­ical and epi­demi­olo­gical work.

Piot with Sukato Mandzomba in the latter’s makeshift laboratory in Yambuku©Heidi Lar­son­Piot with Sukato Mand­zomba in the latter’s make­shift labor­at­ory in Yambuku

He now runs the rudi­ment­ary hos­pital labor­at­ory, with a micro­scope and a hand cent­ri­fuge as his only equip­ment. Typ­ic­ally for Sukato, the labor­at­ory log­book has impec­cable records, and he shows me the char­ac­ter­istic bacilli in the spu­tum smears of numer­ous tuber­cu­losis patients. The hos­pital looks the same as I remem­ber it but with far fewer patients, even if there is now a com­pet­ent doc­tor. The main reas­ons for people stay­ing away are the lack of afford­able drugs (the gov­ern­ment has not sent any for more than two years) and extreme poverty pre­vents them from pay­ing the vari­ous fees that are charged in the absence of any health insur­ance scheme. Medi­cines are bought at the weekly mar­ket in nearby Yan­dongi and then sold at a profit to sub­sid­ise the hos­pital. In the tiny hos­pital phar­macy we see six bicycles, palm oil and a few bags of rice, left as secur­ity by patients who could not pay for their drugs. The Yam­buku “health zone” cov­ers 14,000 sq km and 260,000 inhab­it­ants but has no ambu­lance, no means of com­mu­nic­a­tion, hardly any medi­cines and just one fridge for vac­cines. The two doc­tors and the nurses are try­ing to find solu­tions without any sup­port from their gov­ern­ment or the inter­na­tional com­munity. Many would have given up but they are beacons of pro­fes­sional com­mit­ment and dig­nity amid abject poverty, the state hav­ing abdic­ated all responsibility.

Piot with Mandzomba on a return visit in 1986Piot with Mand­zomba on a return visit in 1986

Since that first visit, there have been more than 20 out­breaks of human Ebola haem­or­rhagic fever, all in Africa, except for a few laboratory-acquired cases. This year, and for the first time, Ebola virus caused a multi-country epi­demic in west Africa that ori­gin­ated in Guinea-Conakry. Humans are an acci­dental host, as a virus that kills its host in a couple of weeks could not sur­vive in nature. It is not clear how the virus reached this part of the con­tin­ent though its gen­ome has been found in a fruit-eating bat in Gabon. In gen­eral, Ebola is a dis­ease of close con­tact with wild­life, of poverty and par­tic­u­larly of dys­func­tional hos­pit­als, which can become deadly centres of viral spread through unsafe injec­tions and lack of basic hygiene. Health­care work­ers are usu­ally the first and most affected pop­u­la­tion. In prin­ciple it is very easy to con­tain an Ebola out­break: with gloves, hand-washing, safe injec­tion prac­tices, isol­a­tion of patients, safe and rapid dis­card­ing of the corpses of those killed by Ebola, and tra­cing of con­tacts and sub­sequent obser­va­tion for a few weeks. In real­ity, the health infra­struc­ture where Ebola strikes is usu­ally very poor and panic often leads to dis­sem­in­a­tion of the infec­tion, with people flee­ing affected areas, as is the case now in west Africa. As long as health ser­vices are inad­equate, there will be occa­sional out­breaks of Ebola in parts of Africa where the virus is hid­ing in some animal. In the­ory, there is no need to send in numer­ous out­side experts as con­trol meas­ures are very simple and inex­pens­ive and can be imple­men­ted by local pro­fes­sion­als and volun­teers. How­ever, the real­ity is that because of their high mor­tal­ity rate and con­ta­gious char­ac­ter, as well as today’s mobil­ity of people across bor­ders, out­breaks due to Ebola and other dan­ger­ous vir­uses must always be con­sidered as a global threat, amply jus­ti­fy­ing inter­na­tional sup­port and research. The cost of pub­lic panic and soci­etal dis­rup­tion can be enorm­ous, with health­care work­ers dis­pro­por­tion­ately affected – going far bey­ond the actual impact in terms of deaths due to Ebola.… My last visit to Yam­buku had been in 1986, 10 years after the first Ebola epi­demic. Along with col­leagues from the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, we tested the blood samples we had col­lec­ted in 1976 for HIV anti­bod­ies and found that 0.8 per cent were infec­ted – five years before the first reports on Aids were pub­lished in the US. I had gone back to find out what had happened to the indi­vidu­als who were HIV pos­it­ive and also to explore whether that other virus in my life had spread fur­ther in the region. We found that three had died but also that two men and women had been liv­ing with HIV for at least a dec­ade and appeared fairly healthy. The level of HIV infec­tion in the pop­u­la­tion at large was still 0.8 per cent though it was as high as 11 per cent among pros­ti­tutes in the region. Around the same time, HIV pre­val­ence among adults in Kin­shasa was as high as 6 per cent (today HIV pre­val­ence in the cap­ital has declined to 3 per cent).

The four nuns killed in the initial oubreakThe four nuns killed in the ini­tial oubreak

Our research showed not only that people can live for at least 10 years with HIV but also that the virus had exis­ted at low levels for many years in cent­ral Africa. Together with later genetic stud­ies of HIV isol­ates from all over the world, and the dis­cov­ery that chim­pan­zees can be infec­ted with a virus very closely related to the human immun­ode­fi­ciency virus, these find­ings helped elu­cid­ate the ori­gins of HIV.… On our last day in Yam­buku, the film crew wants to inter­view me on the front porch of the con­vent. It is now bar­ri­caded for secur­ity reas­ons but when I was here dur­ing the out­break, this was my favour­ite place to work and reflect while I watched people strolling by. It is with mixed feel­ings that I have to leave this beau­ti­ful place and people. A dream I wrote about in my mem­oir has come true: I have come back to Yam­buku, to “Ebola ground zero”, a place and exper­i­ence which changed my life. But I am left with many unanswered ques­tions: how do people live, sur­vive and die here? And what are their aspir­a­tions for their chil­dren? It is upset­ting to see the deteri­or­a­tion in liv­ing con­di­tions and infra­struc­ture, redu­cing people to their most basic con­di­tion humaine.

The Ebola virus photographed in 1976The Ebola virus pho­to­graphed in 1976

As I sit next to Father Car­los on the return trip to Bumba, I ask what drives him. He says his real reli­gion is fight­ing poverty and injustice. Then sud­denly he turns to me and says: “You chal­lenged me in 1976: why did I not do more for the daily life of the people of Bumba, besides all the reli­gious activ­it­ies? That is when I decided to start a hos­pital. You really turned around my life.” It is stun­ning that I had had any influ­ence on a priest but it is also a pro­foundly happy moment. Two days later, back in Kin­shasa, we take our first real shower in a week before going to a con­cert by super­star Papa Wemba, together with more than 20 former col­leagues with whom I had worked on Aids in the 1980s and 1990s in Pro­jet Sida. As always, I find the rumba and soukous lib­er­at­ing. The vital­ity expressed in Con­golese music reflects the cre­ativ­ity and love for life of the Con­golese people. They deserve bet­ter than their daily struggle for sur­vival. New vir­uses will unavoid­ably con­tinue to emerge, par­tic­u­larly where people and anim­als live in prox­im­ity but war, greed and cor­rupt gov­ernance are man-made dis­asters, and they can be pre­ven­ted. Peter Piot is a micro­bi­o­lo­gist and phys­i­cian, and dir­ector of the Lon­don School of Hygiene & Trop­ical Medi­cine. His book, ‘No Time to Lose: A Life in Pur­suit of Deadly Vir­uses’, is pub­lished by Norton. To com­ment on this art­icle please post below, or email magazineletters@ft.com

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Astronomical Simulations Lecture with Dr. Llian Lliev, Chichester Lecture Theatre, 20th November

by on Oct.08, 2014, under News

On 20th Novem­ber, Dr.Llian Lliev will be giv­ing a free pub­lic lec­ture at Sus­sex Uni­ver­sity on Astro­nom­ical Sim­u­la­tions. The event will be held at Chichester Lec­ture Theatre on the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex Falmer Campus. The talk should last an hour with time for ques­tions after­wards. This will be fol­lowed by wine and nibbles.

THESE TALKS ARE WELL WORTH GOING TO : ALL WELCOMEFREENO NEED TO BOOK

LISTEN HERE: Mak­ing Use of Uncer­tainty: From Quantum
Phys­ics to Quantum Tech­no­lo­gies by Dr Jacob Dunningham

NEXT IN SERIES
• 11th Novem­ber 2014 – Smash­ing Phys­ics: Inside the World’s
Biggest Exper­i­ment by Prof. Jon But­ter­worth
• 9th Decem­ber 2014 – Rise of a Giant: The European Extremely
Large Tele­scope by Dr Aprajita Verma
• 10th Feb­ru­ary 2015 – Map­ping the Uni­verse
by Dr Karen Mas­ters
• 10th March 2015 – Jewel of the Solar Sys­tem:
Cel­eb­rat­ing 10 years of Cas­sini at Sat­urn
by Dr Caitríona Jackman

 

www.iop.org www.sussex.ac.uk/physics physicsoutreach@sussex.ac.uk

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LISTEN HERE: Murder Clinic — The Scrap of Lace (Radio Play)

by on Oct.08, 2014, under News

Listen here to The Scrap of Lace — a murder mys­tery radio play read by Radio Free Brighton volun­teers and work exper­i­ence stu­dents from Down­lands School.

 

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Lecture: Bioregional Photography Panel at Brighton University.

by on Oct.04, 2014, under News

LISTEN HERE

A lec­ture and panel dis­cuss­ing the envir­on­ment, hos­ted by Nina Emmet founder of Foto­Doc­u­ment and Pooran Desai, founder of Biore­gional and One Planet Liv­ing. This lec­ture looks at some excel­lent pho­to­graphic col­lec­tions put together by the panel, cen­ter­ing on key envir­on­mental themes such as water usage, waste and recycling.

Held at the Sal­lis Ben­ney Theatre, Brighton, three of the ten com­mis­sioned pho­to­graph­ers, Thomas Ball, Sophie Ger­rard and Mur­ray Bal­lard, took part in the dis­cus­sion about their One Planet City photo essays now installed in pub­lic spaces around Brighton & Hove. . The pro­ject was launched under the Brighton Photo Bien­nial 2014 — core arts part­ner for the pro­ject Photoworks.

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Howard Johns: Power To The People!

by on Oct.02, 2014, under News

Howard Johns is the founder of South­ern Solar Ltd, and has been installing solar hot water sys­tems and other small scale renew­able energy sys­tems for over ten years. Dur­ing this Power To The People speech, he talks about renew­able energy, spe­cific­ally Solar Power.

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Permission for hundreds of homes and jobs at derelict fruit and veg market, Circus Street, Brighton

by on Sep.18, 2014, under News

Coun­cil­lors have approved a major regen­er­a­tion scheme in cent­ral Brighton which will deliver hun­dreds of jobs and homes.

The plan­ning com­mit­tee today (Septem­ber 17, 2014) agreed the Public-Private Part­ner­ship scheme by Cathed­ral (Brighton) Ltd, the Uni­ver­sity of Brighton and the city coun­cil to trans­form the one–hectare site off Cir­cus Street.

The former muni­cipal fruit and veg mar­ket would become a mixed-use scheme and ‘innov­a­tion quarter’, expec­ted to cre­ate 400 jobs and inject £200m into the city’s eco­nomy over the next 10 years.

Per­mis­sion includes 142 new homes, 20 per cent affordable.

New teach­ing and research facil­it­ies would be cre­ated for the Uni­ver­sity of Brighton, includ­ing a new lib­rary.  Pres­sure would be taken off the city’s fam­ily homes by the inclu­sion of 450 units of stu­dent accom­mod­a­tion, say officials.

Along­side will be a new dance stu­dio for South East Dance, expec­ted to attract 70,000 vis­it­ors and users a year.

Work­spaces would be aimed at start-up busi­nesses, artists and lar­ger com­pan­ies.  A mod­ern office build­ing, includ­ing over 3,000 sqm of flex­ible space would help grow­ing cre­at­ive and digital busi­nesses remain and flour­ish in the city.

Per­mis­sion includes res­taur­ants or shops at ground floor level, around a new pub­lic square.  Cathed­ral are prom­ising a “new genre” of urban devel­op­ment with green walls, green roofs, 78 new trees and allot­ments for food grow­ing — pro­du­cing over 200kg of food per year for residents.

Developers have agreed to pay £250,000 to improve local trans­port and recre­ation pro­vi­sion and to use at least 20 per cent local labour for construction.

 

For more inform­a­tion you can visit:

http://www.cathedralgroup.com/current-projects/grow-brighton-2/

http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/permission-hundreds-homes-and-jobs-derelict-fruit-and-veg-market

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Latest news on our Pledge to Save the NHS

by on Aug.13, 2014, under News

<defendthenhs@gmail.com>

Our Pledge to Save the NHS! What you can do now.…

Sus­sex Defend the NHS and Brighton & Hove Keep Our NHS Pub­lic are seek­ing sup­port from local Uni­ons and Com­munity Groups for their Pledge to Save the NHS (attached here).  It’s aimed at pro­spect­ive par­lia­ment­ary and coun­cil can­did­ates, and the cam­paign to get them to sign it will be launched at the end of the sum­mer, with press events, a web site, let­ter writ­ing and a hust­ings planned lead­ing up to the elec­tions in 2015.
We’ve got off to a good start: so far we’ve secured sup­port from the GMB, Brighton & Hove NUJ, Uni­son Sus­sex Part­ner­ship Branch, Brighton & Hove Uni­son, Brighton & Hove People’s Assembly, and Brighton & Hove Trades Coun­cil. And there are more in the pipeline. (We’ll be adding logos shortly)
Are you a Trade Union mem­ber? If so, please raise sup­port­ing our Pledge to Save the NHS with your branch so that we can add your Logo and show the local par­lia­ment­ary and coun­cil can­did­ates where their pri­or­it­ies should lie. We’d be happy to provide a speaker at your next branch meet­ing to tell you more about our campaign.
And if you are a mem­ber of a Com­munity Group, please see if it will lend its sup­port too.
Events com­ing up

Can you join us? Let us know if you can help out for a while at any of these stalls or if you plan to come to our meet­ings. We also have work­ing groups for our Roll of Dis­hon­our, Pledge to save the NHS, & SMS cam­paigns, if that is more your style. Let us know!

<defendthenhs@gmail.com>

Sat 6 Sept

999 Call for the NHSPeople’s #march4nhs Rally for end of march from Jarrow

West­min­ster Lon­don– details to follow

Tues 9 Sept 

 Health and Well Being Board

4pm Hove Town Hall

(lobby for SMS tbc)

Tues 9 Sept

Sus­sex Defend the NHS organ­ising meet

7pm Brighthelm Centre

Wed 10 Sept           

Health Over­view and Scru­tiny Committee

4pm Hove Town Hall

Tues 23 Sept

B&H Clin­ical Com­mis­sion­ing Group Board and AGM

2–4.30 & 4.30−6 Brighthelm Centre

Tues 14th Oct

Health and Well­being Board

4pm Hove Town Hall

Thurs 16th Oct

Policy and Resources Committee

4pm Hove Town Hall
Cupp Sem­inar: ‘The NHS Cit­izen’ with Simon Bur­all and Anthony Zachar­zewski
1.30 — 2.30pm, Fri­day 10th Octo­ber — A500 Check­land Build­ing, Falmer cam­pus
Simon and Anthony are part of a lar­ger part­ner­ship devel­op­ing NHS Cit­izen<http://www.nhscitizen.org.uk/>. A national sys­tem of pub­lic and patient engage­ment being developed to hold the Board of NHS Eng­land to account. While the sys­tem is national, most patients and cit­izens exper­i­ence the health ser­vice at a local level. This sem­inar will explore how the sys­tem is being designed to work and will invite par­ti­cipants to draw on their exper­i­ence, expert­ise and know­ledge to help answer ques­tions about whether and how such sys­tems can plug into local spaces where cit­izens are already debat­ing health and social care. Simon is the Dir­ector of Involve<http://www.involve.org.uk/> and Anthony is Dir­ector of Dem­soc<http://www.demsoc.org/> and both are involved in numer­ous innov­a­tions to enhance civic participation.

This sem­inar is free and open to all but advance book­ing is required. Refresh­ments will be avail­able.
Book on to this event<mailto:cupp@brighton.ac.uk>

 

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What Climate Change propaganda is/isn’t telling us…

by on May.26, 2014, under News

Graph depict­ing the increased pres­ence of Meth­ane, Car­bon Diox­ide and Nitrous Oxide, all of which pose a dir­ect threat to the polar ice caps and cli­mate at large.

With the increased pres­ence of the Green Party in both Europe and on our own turf after the recent elec­tions, the cli­mate change dia­logue is becom­ing more and more trans­par­ent. Below are links to two pieces of pro­pa­ganda: the first being the Exxon Out­look for Energy 2040, a pub­lic­a­tion aimed at Exxon share­hold­ers and the politi­cians who work for them; the second being a report from the Arc­tic Meth­ane Emer­gency Group, backed by sci­ence and sci­ence alone.

The former makes no men­tion of meth­ane and fails to acknow­ledge the rap­idly accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change crisis. The lat­ter uses inform­a­tion from the IPCC to try and identify areas of weak­ness and for­mu­late some pro­gres­sion from where we are now, pla­cing ser­i­ous cata­strophe within a four year reach. Who are you going to believe?

Down­load the Exxon report here:

http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/Reports/Outlook%20For%20Energy/2014/2014-Outlook-for-Energy-low-resolution.pdf

View and share the AMEG inform­a­tion here: 

http://ameg.me/index.php/emergency

 

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