It’s been one year since the Ebola outbreak in western Africa caused 10,000 deaths and worldwide panic. A major Ebola diagnostic advancement in the past year comes from a surprising source – 16-year old high school student Olivia Hallisey (NY). Hallisey’s independent project for her science class won her the top prize in the Google science fair this year and it’s a promising new test for Ebola.
“My teacher advised me just to look in the news and find something I was passionate about or felt outraged by or something that could be done better. And, that’s when I began looking at the Ebola outbreak and how it is growing so quickly and ways to limit that growth,” Hallisey told CNN News recently.
The diagnostic test that Hallisey created has a few major advantages over the currently used tests. First, it is inexpensive and simple. Also, it can diagnose someone who is not showing any symptoms, and takes just 30 minutes to complete. But, the most important advantage is that the test is temperature independent. The current Ebola diagnostic test needs a constant chain of refrigeration from point of manufacture to point of administration. This is a tricky and expensive feat to accomplish when transporting the test into western Africa’s rural areas where the virus was most prevalent. Hallisey’s test does not need refrigeration, because she used a silk fibroid solution that is temperature stabilized.
“I want to see this test used at travel checkpoints, in communities … a measure to test people before they are showing symptoms, and if they are positive, they can be isolated before spreading the virus to other people. Because, when someone is asymptomatic, they’re not contagious,” said Hallisey.
With Ebola, the sooner the diagnosis equals the best chance of survival and the best way people can reduce the spread of the disease. Hallisey says that with her project, she really wanted to give people hope.
“Usually with Ebola, it’s a death sentence. With this project, I hope if somebody is diagnosed when they’re asymptomatic, they can receive better care, and also they won’t infect their family and people around them. That’s definitely a goal for this project – to save lives,” she explained.
While Hallisey’s test is promising, U.S. healthcare facilities need to be ready for the next Ebola (or other major disease) outbreak. Last year, many facilities started implementing procedures and policies in an effort to be prepared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for hospitals that included wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), isolating Ebola patients in a single room with its own bathroom with a closed door, limiting use of needles, avoiding AGPs, frequent handwashing, monitoring exposed personnel and more. But, have all major healthcare facilities across the nation put these guidelines into place? Are we ready for the next pandemic?
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Tell us in the comments below.