Magazine article Newsweek

This 'Scorecard' Makes It Easier to Fight Ebola Outbreaks; the Tool Calculates the Severity of an Ebola Case and Could Save Lives If the Epidemic Returns

Magazine article Newsweek

This 'Scorecard' Makes It Easier to Fight Ebola Outbreaks; the Tool Calculates the Severity of an Ebola Case and Could Save Lives If the Epidemic Returns

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessica Wapner

As a scientist collecting data during the Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2015, Mary-Anne Hartley watched doctors agonize about which patients among the hundreds to treat first. "How do you know who will deteriorate the fastest?" says Hartley. "You need an objective measure to decide."

After the outbreak--which led to more than 11,000 deaths between 2013 and 2015--Hartley decided to find that measure. At the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, where she studies infectious diseases, Hartley created a scoring system that calculates the severity of an Ebola case. If the epidemic returns--and experts say it will--this simple prognostic tool could save lives.

Hartley created two scorecards, one for diagnosis and one for daily rounds of hospitalized patients. Each assigns points for pertinent characteristics, such as age, the amount of virus in the bloodstream (the "viral load"), symptoms and how long a patient had those symptoms before coming to the clinic. A 50-year-old receives nine points for age, and seven points if he or she is disoriented. Persistent disorientation adds 10 points. The total indicates the risk of dying: A 30-year-old patient (zero points for age) without muscle pain or confusion (zero points for symptoms) would be considered low-risk, whereas the 50-year-old with confusion would be in the high-risk group. The scorecard, published recently in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, correctly predicted 97 percent of Ebola deaths at or soon after diagnosis. …

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