• Switzerland's news in English

Swiss study calls for five-day Ebola quarantine

AFP · 9 Oct 2014, 13:49

Published: 09 Oct 2014 13:49 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

One of the three west African countries hardest hit by the raging epidemic that has killed nearly 3,900 people, Sierra Leone launched a nationwide three-day shutdown last month in a bid to find unreported cases.
But a team of scientists at ETHZ has determined through sequencing of early cases in the country that the average incubation period of the virus is around five days.
This means Sierra Leone, which turned up hundreds of new cases thanks to the shutdown, could have discovered many more if it had extended the quarantine for a few more days.
"You might happily stay home for three days but then on day four the disease breaks out when you actually leave the house again, and then you would transmit," research team head Tanja Stadler told AFP.
While the average incubation period for Ebola is five days, a person can carry the virus without showing symptoms or being contagious for anywhere from two to 23 days, she pointed out.
It remains unclear if nationwide shutdowns are effective at all, but if countries do opt for that route they should take guidance from the average incubation period, Stadler said.

How many missing links?

Her team, which works out of an ETHZ lab in the Swiss city of Basel, genetically sequenced 72 people infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone in May and June to build a virus family tree in a bid to reveal more about its transmission path.
Since Ebola mutates slightly each time it is transmitted to a new person, the scientists looked at how similar the virus was in different patients to evaluate how many missing links, or unreported cases, there were in their reconstituted transmission chain.
Their findings, published in the scientific journal PLOS earlier this week, show that each infected person on average transmitted Ebola to 2.18 others and that around 30 percent of cases had gone undetected.
Devastatingly, the data clearly shows that Ebola spread constantly through June, meaning that "whatever public health interventions were performed in Sierra Leone at that time did not help," Stadler said.
Sierra Leone in June counted only a few hundred infections and around 50 deaths, and it remains unclear if the findings can help inform the country's response today, as infections soar towards 2,800, with nearly 900 people already dead.
"Unfortunately, we don't have data from after the shutdown, because the method we developed would allow us to quantify if during (or following) the shutdown the transmission actually decreased," Stadler said.
Accessing Ebola data is complicated, since only a few dozen labs around the world have the security clearance to work with the deadly pathogen, and because it is dangerous for people on the ground to handle and send out the blood samples.
At least five of the doctors and nurses who helped gather the samples the Swiss study is based on have since died of Ebola, Stadler pointed out.
But she stressed that if armed with new data her team's method could quickly and quite accurately calculate the number of undetected cases in a given area.
"Hopefully people now know they should forward us new data if they get it," she said, adding that she hoped the research might inspire other labs to "dig deeper with other data sets."

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available