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EU well armed to prevent an Ebola epidemic: experts
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Oct 09, 2014

Record million-euro payout for Romania child AIDS victim
Bucharest (AFP) Oct 09, 2014 - A Romanian woman who contracted HIV as a baby in hospital in 1990 will receive one million euros in compensation after a landmark court decision in the country with Europe's highest number of child AIDS victims.

Bacau Hospital in northeast Romania has been ordered to pay 4.6 million lei (1 million euros, $1.3 million) to the unnamed woman on Friday following an unprecedented 10-year trial, a judicial source told AFP.

The woman is one of more than 13,600 AIDS cases in Romania, of which more than 8,000 were children under 14 when they were diagnosed.

Activists say thousands caught the virus as a result of blood transfusions in hospitals where blood was not tested and needles were not sterilised.

"This is an important moral reparation for all of us," said Iulian Petre, president of the National Union of Organisations of Persons Infected/ Affected by HIV/AIDS in Romania.

"For the first time, the courts have recognised that these children were contaminated in a hospital, something the health authorities have always refused to admit," he added.

The pro-life politics of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was overthrown in 1989, meant tens of thousands of children were abandoned in orphanages.

With the Communist country mired in poverty, many orphans suffered from malnutrition and doctors were often brought in to carry out "fortifying" transfusions.

The blood was rarely tested for AIDS and often the same syringe was used for several children.

Haiti's cholera epidemic still emergency: UN envoy
Washington (AFP) Oct 09, 2014 - Haiti's cholera epidemic is still an emergency and a let up in response based on the decreasing number of cases could have "tragic consequences," a UN special envoy said Wednesday.

"I fear that the enormous progress we have made leads people to believe that the problem has been resolved. It is not resolved," Pedro Medrano, the UN coordinator overseeing cholera response in Haiti, told AFP in Washington.

Between January and August of 2014, only 8,600 cases were recorded, in stark contrast with the 200,000 documented last year, Medrano said.

"That's still an emergency situation," the Chilean diplomat said, adding that any belief otherwise "is not only an error but could have tragic consequences."

The UN's role in the cholera epidemic has been controversial.

The disease had not existed in Haiti for at least 150 years until it was allegedly introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent there in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

The source of the cholera epidemic was traced to a river that runs next to a UN camp in the central town of Mirebalais, where Nepalese troops had been based.

The strain of cholera is the same as one endemic in Nepal.

But the United Nations has refused to recognize responsibility for the outbreak, arguing it is impossible to determine its origin, even as lawsuits have been filed in US courts.

Since the beginning of the cholera epidemic in 2010 through March 2013, approximately 700,000 people have become ill, of whom more than 8,500 have died.

The European Union must fill gaps to stop the spread of Ebola now that an infected nurse in Spain has exposed these failings, but it is well armed to prevent an epidemic, EU officials and experts said.

Taking into account the level of health and medical standards in Europe, "the situation cannot be compared to what is happening in Africa," said the spokesman for the European health commissioner, Frederic Vincent.

"An Ebola epidemic in Europe is highly unlikely. When the security measures are put in place, the risk is checked," Vincent said.

Until the Spanish nurse caught the virus, he said, the 28-country EU had only eight cases of Ebola, all of them caregivers who were repatriated from African countries where they took ill.

However, a European diplomat said there was still a need to "sound an alarm bell" because there was a flaw that allowed the Spanish nurse to catch the virus from a patient who had returned from Africa.

A doctor treating the nurse said she may have become infected with Ebola when she touched her face with a glove as she removed her protective suit after treating an infected missionary.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has already drawn a lesson by deciding Wednesday to step up information for travellers and medical staff.

The goal is to detect as quickly as possible any accidental entry of people with the disease.

European officials do not rule out revising procedures for putting people in hospital and criteria for determining whether or not someone is at risk of having contracted Ebola.

Medical staff, an EU expert said, are expected to have rules and material as well as techniques for putting on and removing protective suits.

- Ebola and pets -

"But we realise it's not 100 percent effective because few diseases require such precautions to avoid contagion, and the reflexes are not a given," added the expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The case of the nurse's family dog, which was put down as a precaution, triggering an uproar from animal rights activists, is far from being just a curiosity.

For months, the European Union has been fashioning its response to an eventual outbreak of the disease by identifying the hospitals and staff it would mobilise.

But, "to my knowledge, nobody until now has asked himself the question about what to do with pets," he added.

"The majority of big countries have equipped themselves with the required measures, but the mesh in the net is still too loose to exclude errors," said Professor Nathan Clumeck, a specialist in infectious diseases at a top Brussels hospital.

That is especially the case in countries hit with the biggest spending cuts, such as Greece and Spain, where staff and resources are lacking, Clumeck said.

Nevertheless, according to the web site Europolitics, which quoted an internal EU document, Portugal ranks among the countries best equipped to fight Ebola.

It has 37 beds in isolation wards, compared to Denmark with 42 beds, Italy with 21 and France with 20 beds.

Clumeck said it was "certain that patients will arrive in Europe" but said the region's ability to diagnose and isolate the disease meant there would be no mass outbreak.


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