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Ireland tests suspected Ebola case after death

Irish authorities are testing a "suspected case of Ebola virus" after a person who travelled to an affected area in Africa was found dead, the health service said on Thursday.

"The public health department was made aware earlier today of the remains of an individual, discovered early this morning, who had recently travelled to the one of the areas in Africa affected by the current Ebola virus disease outbreak," the Health Service Executive (HSE) said in a statement.

"Until a diagnosis is confirmed, and as a precautionary measure, the individual's remains will stay in the mortuary pending the laboratory results."

The suspected case is in Donegal in northwest Ireland. Test results are expected late on Friday.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa is the largest ever and has killed 1,350 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since March.

"We await the outcome of the laboratory tests before we will know whether or not this individual had contracted Ebola virus disease," said Darina O'Flanagan, the head of the HSE health protection surveillance centre.

"The appropriate public health guidelines are being followed at every stage in this process as a precaution."

Lack of leadership hurts Ebola fight in West Africa - MSF

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Efforts to curb the deadly Ebola epidemic that swept across four West African states are being undermined by a lack of leadership and emergency management skills, the international head of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.

In an interview, Joanne Liu also said the world's worst ever outbreak of Ebola has caused widespread panic and the collapse of health care systems particularly in Liberia, where pregnant women have lost babies while seeking a safe place to deliver.

She said Western nations must dispatch more experts in tropical medicine, especially field workers who know how to help communities prevent the often lethal virus from spreading.

And the World Health Organisation (WHO) must fulfil its leading role in coordinating the international response to the epidemic, the president of the global, Swiss-based medical charity told Reuters by telephone.

"I think they are in the process of bringing more people from the WHO but the reality is that this epidemic will be not be contained unless there are more players," Liu said.

"We are missing everything right now. We are missing a strong leadership centrally, with core nation capacity and disease emergency management skills. It's not happening."

The infectious disease has killed 1,350 people among 2,473 cases in four countries - Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to the United Nations health agency.

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has deployed 1,000 of its own staff in the stricken region, running centres that currently have 300 beds, according to Liu who spent 10 days in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone earlier this month.

"All of our centres are overcrowded right now. We have an Ebola centre in Lofa county in Foya (Liberia) which is close to the epicentre. It was meant to be a centre with a capacity of 20 beds. We have more than 125 patients right now," Liu said.

"The same thing with our centre in Monrovia, which we opened only last weekend, with 125 beds and now it's already filled.

We're entertaining the idea of increasing the capacity, if not doubling it," she said.

"GLOBAL FEAR IN LIBERIA"

Security forces in the Liberian capital fired live rounds and tear gas on Wednesday to scatter a stone-throwing crowd trying to break an Ebola quarantine imposed on their neighbourhood. [ID:nL5N0QQ2FU]

"We are right now, I would say, in a state of global fear in Liberia," Liu said.

"It's paramount now to re-establish access to basic health care. Because we might be facing the ridiculous situation of having people dying more of non-Ebola pathologies than from Ebola. Right now in Monrovia for example, if you have malaria, nobody knows where to go and consult (for health care)."

Liu said that she had received an email from MSF staff with a sad and telling tale of pregnant women in Monrovia seeking a health care centre where they could safely give birth.

"We had this week six pregnant women who ended up walking for hours in the city trying to find a place to deliver and by the time they got to our centre, which was not the right place to be, the babies had died in their wombs," she said.

"I find this identifies very well what we are facing in terms of having a health care system being collapsed from the Ebola epidemic."

Western and African experts are needed to help with education to prevent spread of Ebola, trace contacts of infected people, and care for those in isolation wards, she added.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is sending some 55 epidemiologists, but more are needed, Liu said.

"The U.S., Canada, France, Germany, those big nations who have big schools of tropical disease, who have know-how in working in highly contagious set-ups, who can mobilise, who have money," Liu said.

"But the reality is that all of us today are navigating in unknown waters. We've never faced something as big as this in the whole history of Ebola, it has never been as big, we have never faced Ebola in an urban setting."

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Global warming 'hiatus' means heat is hiding in ocean

An apparent slowdown in the Earth's surface warming in the last 15 years could be due to that heat being trapped in the deep Atlantic and Southern Ocean, researchers said Thursday.

The findings in the journal Science suggest that such cycles tend to last 20-35 years, and that global warming will likely pick up again once that heat returns to surface waters.

"Every week there's a new explanation of the hiatus," said co-author Ka-Kit Tung, a University of Washington professor of applied mathematics and adjunct faculty member in atmospheric sciences.

"We looked at observations in the ocean to try to find the underlying cause."

Tung and Xianyao Chen of the Ocean University of China studied deep-sea temperatures from floats that sample the water as deep as 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) depth. They found that more heat began to sink around 1999, just when the rapid warming of the 20th century began to flatline.

The movement of more heat into the water explains how surface temperatures could stay close to the same, even as mounting greenhouse gases trap more solar heat at the Earth's surface, researchers said.

They also found that contrary to earlier studies, the Pacific Ocean was not the hiding place for the heat.

"The finding is a surprise," Tung said.

"But the data are quite convincing and they show otherwise."

The change also coincided with an increase in saltier, denser water at the surface of the northern part of the Atlantic, near Iceland.

This dynamic caused changes in the speed of the huge current in the Atlantic Ocean that circulates heat throughout the planet, the study said.

"When it's heavy water on top of light water, it just plunges very fast and takes heat with it," Tung said.

"There are recurrent cycles that are salinity-driven that can store heat deep in the Atlantic and Southern oceans," Tung added.

"After 30 years of rapid warming in the warm phase, now it's time for the cool phase."

Researchers said the current slowdown may last another decade, then the rapid warming is likely to return.

The study was funded by the US National Science Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Instant noodles carry health risks for women: study

Women who eat instant noodles, like Ramen, at least two times a week face a greater risk of high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and high cholesterol, US researchers said Thursday.

The study looked at data from 10,711 adults -- just over half of whom were women -- in the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Researchers at Harvard University found that there was a 68 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome among women, but not men, who ate instant noodles more than twice per week.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It includes carrying too much fat around the waist.

"The consumption of instant noodles was associated with increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome in women, independent of major dietary patterns," said the study in the Journal of Nutrition.

In other words, it didn't matter if women ate a largely traditional diet of rice, fish and vegetables, or a diet heavier in meat and fried foods -- if they ate instant noodles twice weekly, they were at higher risk of health problems.

It was unclear why the effect was seen in women but not men.

Since the data was based on surveys, researcher Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, said it may be that women reported their diet more accurately than men, or that women were more sensitive to the effects of carbohydrates, fat and salts.

So how much is too much when it comes to instant noodles?

"Once or twice a month is not a problem," Hu was quoted as telling The New York Times.

"But a few times a week really is."

Ebola: Care and recovery of 2 American aid workers

NEW YORK (AP) — Two American aid workers have recovered from Ebola and left an Atlanta hospital, after weeks of intensive treatment in a special isolation unit.

They were first two Ebola patients ever brought to the United States.

Dr. Kent Brantly was released from Emory University Hospital on Thursday, nearly one month after he first developed Ebola symptoms while working in West Africa's Liberia. He read a statement at a press conference at the hospital Thursday.

One of his colleagues in Liberia, Nancy Writebol, was quietly released Tuesday, hospital officials disclosed on Thursday.

Some questions and answers about their care and recovery:

Q: Are they cured?

A: Yes, doctors say. There is no more virus in their blood and their symptoms are gone, said Emory's Dr. Bruce Ribner. They will need some time to get their strength back, but they have recovered, he said.

Q: But could they still infect someone else?

A: No, Brantly and Writebol are not considered contagious. Emory's staff demonstrated that by hugging Brantly as he left the press conference. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the release of the two patients poses no threat to the public. (The CDC does advise survivors to avoid sex for three months or use condoms because the virus can be found in semen for seven weeks.)

Q: They both got an experimental treatment. Did it work?

A: Brantly credited his recovery to a number of things, including the ZMapp drug. But Emory doctors and government health officials said it's simply not known whether ZMapp helped them get better, made no difference or hindered their recovery. A Spanish missionary priest who also got the experimental drug has died.

Q: Is there any more available?

A: The small supply is now exhausted; the last of it went to three health care workers in Liberia. It is expected to be many months before any more can be produced by its U.S. maker. The drug aims to boost the immune system to fight off the virus.

Q: Didn't Brantly get a blood transfusion, too?

A: Before he left Africa, Brantly was given blood from a 14-year-old boy who survived Ebola while in his care. The intent was to provide Brantly with antibodies to help fight the infection. And, again like ZMapp, doctors simply don't know if it had any effect.

Q: Well, then what cured them?

A: There's no simple answer. Since there's no specific treatment, care is focused on easing symptoms to give the body enough time to fight off an infection. Patients are given fluids, nutrients and medicines to counter the bleeding, vomiting, and severe diarrhea that can lead to organ failure and death. It probably helped that Brantly and Writebol were considered healthy and well-nourished just before they were infected and received prompt care.

Q: Do many people recover from Ebola?

A: Ebola is an unusually deadly disease, but some do recover —and with far less aggressive treatment than what Brantly and Writebol received in Atlanta. The mortality rate in the current outbreak in West Africa ranges from 30 percent to 90 percent depending on the area, according to the World Health Organization.

Q: Can the Americans get Ebola again?

A: Doctors believe they are immune from the Ebola virus that's caused the current outbreak in West Africa. They may not have much natural protection from other Ebola viruses, however.

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