Bay Area experts discuss immediate solutions for Ebola crisis

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Bay Area experts who've been on the front lines in Africa say the immediate solutions to the Ebola crisis are basic.

With the toll from the Ebola crisis in West Africa now approaching nearly 2,000 victims, the World Health Organization is calling for accelerated testing of new drugs and possible vaccines.

While some show promise, a number of Bay Area experts who've been on the front lines in Africa say the immediate solutions are more basic.

"There isn't basic gowns, gloves, there isn't even safe burial equipment," UCSF Global Health Group's Dr. Gavin Yamey says.

Yamey recently traveled to West Africa. He says the infrastructure of hospitals and clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone are not only short of protective gear for doctors but also lack the facilities to safely isolate the growing number of patients.

"When you know that a person has it, they need to be isolated. You need to trace everybody that could have been infected," he says.

In 2011, an ABC7 News crew traveled to Sierra Leone to profile the country's efforts to rebuild its health care system after a brutal, 10-year civil war.

Much of the effort then focused on combatting malaria and introducing early care for children under 5-years-old. While successful, there were fewer capital resources available to expand clinics and hospitals now needed for isolation.

"On the ground, I'm seeing health care systems collapse around me and really seeing this hit rock bottom," UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Dan Kelly says.

Kelly is spearheading an effort to bring both training and quarantine supplies to Sierra Leone through a non-profit called the Wellbody Alliance.

"I'm doing infection control training, also trying to build a structure and build capacities," he says.

In the meantime, the recovery of two American healthcare workers has helped reignite interest in an experimental drug they were given called Zmapp.

San Francisco's Gladstone Institutes' Warner Greene says the drug is a combination three antibodies that work against the Ebola virus.

Still, he cautions that it has not been tested in humans and believes other measures are likely to have a more immediate impact.

"We can stop the spread of this virus. We know exactly how to do it, but the quarantine and personal protection equipment must be utilized and contact tracing must be done," Greene says.

It's a battle likely to continue in the trenches as the war against the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak rages on.

Meanwhile, the Wellbody Alliance is continuing to raise money both here in the Bay Area and internationally to help bring badly needed supplies to West Africa.

Written and produced by Tim Didion
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healthu.s. & worldebolaworld health organizationchildren's healthhealth careSan FranciscoUCSF
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