Health Highlights: March 3, 2015
Escape of Dangerous Bacteria in Louisiana Research Lab Remains a Mystery Ebola Outbreak Slowing, But Fight Against Disease Must Continue: U.N. U.S. Nurse Who Contracted Ebola Sues Employer
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Escape of Dangerous Bacteria in Louisiana Research Lab Remains a Mystery
Investigators have not been able to determine how a potentially deadly strain of bacteria escaped from a research laboratory and infected monkeys in another part of the Tulane National Research Primate Research Center in Louisiana.
The strain of bacteria -- called burkholderia pseudomallei -- is common in Southeast Asia and northern Australia and infects people and animals when contaminated soil and water gets into cuts in the skin, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Tulane's high-security laboratory is studying the bacteria. Spokesman Michael Strecker said at least five rhesus monkeys not being used in the research were infected with the bacteria, possibly as early as last November, ABC News reported.
The monkeys were later euthanized.
Despite weeks of investigation by a number of federal and state agencies, it's not known how the bacteria traveled from the lab to the monkeys. A federal investigator tested positive for the bacteria after visiting the research center, but it's not clear if he was exposed to the bacteria at the center or while visiting an infected region, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman told ABC News.
The CDC said there is no risk to the general public, but has told Tulane to suspend all research until the investigation is concluded.
Ebola Outbreak Slowing, But Fight Against Disease Must Continue: U.N.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has slowed, but this is no time for complacency, United Nations officials warn.
The spread of the deadly disease has fallen to about 10 percent of what it was last September, but the fight against Ebola has reached a "second phase, getting to zero, and it really is the hardest part," U.N. Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro said Monday, the Associated Press reported.
In order to eradicate the disease, everyone who is ill needs to be treated and everyone they have contact with must be tracked, Nabarro explained.
"It's a really difficult, painstaking task," he said Monday ahead of a major international conference on Ebola that's being held in Belgium and is expected to draw around 600 delegates, the AP reported.
Ebola has infected nearly 24,000 people and killed more than 9,600, according to the World Health Organization. The number of new cases is now about 100 per week, compared to 800 to 900 a week at the height of the outbreak, U.N. data shows.
Despite that progress, much more needs to be done, said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the U.N. agency handling the emergency response to the outbreak, the AP reported.
"We are reaching the most difficult phase, where there is a fatigue among the governments among the population, certainly among the donors, and we are not yet there," he said.
U.S. Nurse Who Contracted Ebola Sues Employer
An American nurse who contracted Ebola is suing her employer.
The lawsuit by Nina Pham against Texas Health Resources claims that the employer failed to provide Pham with the proper training and equipment needed to treat a patient with Ebola, CBS News reported.
As dayside primary nurse, Pham spent 12 to 14 hours a day treating Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola. A few days after Duncan died, Pham tested positive for Ebola.
Pham, 26, believes her Ebola infection was a direct result of a lack of training, according to her attorney Charla Aldous, CBS News reported.
The lawsuit also alleges that Texas Health Resources violated Pham's privacy and used her as a "PR pawn."