UPDATED: Mark Zuckerberg announces $25 million CDC donation to fight Ebola
UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, officials from the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital announced that a second healthcare worker who was treating the late American Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, had contracted the virus and that there is a "very real possibility" that there may be more cases. It is unclear at this time precisely what breach in protocol led to the infections.
- In a post to his Facebook account on Tuesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife Priscilla will be donating $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in order to support efforts to contain the ongoing Ebola outbreak.
- There are more than 100 CDC experts posted in the African countries where the epidemic is at its worst, including Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The agency, alongside the U.S. National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the main institutions working on Ebola treatments, response, and containment efforts.
- According to newly-released official estimates, the current pandemic has killed nearly 4,500 people in Africa (although the true number is likely much higher) and infected a handful of Americans. Its mortality rate has also jumped from 50% to 70%. The CDC announced on Monday that it will be stepping up Ebola training for U.S. health workers and wants every state to have dedicated Ebola hospitals in the event of a worsening outbreak in America.
Zuckerberg certainly understands the urgency of the ongoing epidemic. A new report released by the WHO on Tuesday warns that there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week by December if the outbreak isn't contained. "The Ebola epidemic is at a critical turning point. It has infected 8,400 people so far, but it is spreading very quickly and projections suggest it could infect 1 million people or more over the next several months if not addressed," wrote Zuckerberg in his post.
"We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn't spread further and become a long term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio. We believe our grant is the quickest way to empower the CDC and the experts in this field to prevent this outcome."
There are at least eight Ebola treatments currently in various stages of development, including Mapp Biopharma's ZMapp, Chimerix's experimental broad spectrum antiviral, Tekmira's TKM-Ebola, GSK's Ebola vaccine, and Sarepta Therapeutics' Ebola drug. A Chinese pharma company announced on Tuesday that it is trying to expedite approval of an ostensible Ebola cure, and researchers at the University of Utah say they've isolated a universal Ebola drug target that could become a key for developing cures.
You can read Zuckerberg's full post here.