Guinea’s Ebola Virus Outbreak | Connecting the Classroom to Current Events

Guinea, Africa. Photo courtesy of cjlvp user.
Guinea, Africa. Photo courtesy of cjlvp user.

Ebola Virus Outbreak in Guinea

Medical students spend hours upon hours in the classroom learning about the transmission, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases on a daily basis. While it is important to learn as much as possible from professors and textbooks in order to be successful doctors, it is equally imperative for medical students to stay informed about current events, especially those that are medically related. Of note, there is currently a dangerous outbreak of Ebola virus in the country of Guinea in West Africa that has led to over 100 infections and already 83 deaths in the past month alone. In fact, there have been multiple reports of the virus spreading to the densely populated capital city of Conakry, which is troubling due to the fact that it has historically only been seen in rural parts of the world. In light of this deadly disease, here are a few points of information about Ebola virus that are important to know:

What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus that belongs to the Filoviridae family of enveloped and single-stranded, negative-sense RNA viruses. Since 1976 when Ebola was first reported in the country formerly known as Zaire, there have been 5 documented species of Ebola virus known to cause infection. Each one is classified by the country or region in which they were found to have caused an outbreak of disease, which include Sudan, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, and even Virginia, where lab primates imported from the Philippines were found to have been infected.

What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease?
Upon entry into a human host, the virus causes damage to the blood vessels of the body leading to an array of different symptoms. The incubation period usually lasts between 2-21 days. Initially, the clinical presentation involves intense weakness, fever, muscle pain, and other influenza-like symptoms. As the virus damages the circulatory system and elicits inflammatory responses by the human immune system, more severe issues such as hypovolemic shock and hemorrhagic fever develop.  Of note, this viral disease has a 90% fatality rate.

Transmission electron micrograph causative RNA filovirus of Ebola. Photo courtesy of CDC:Cynthia Goldsmith.
Transmission electron micrograph causative RNA filovirus of Ebola. Photo courtesy of CDC:Cynthia Goldsmith.

How is it spread?

Although there is still controversy over the natural reservoir of Ebola virus, it has been well documented that fruit bats (Hypsignathus monstrosus, Epomops franqueti and Myonycteris torquata) are the most likely candidates. In many rural parts of Central and Western Africa, fruit bats are considered a delicacy leading to the initial infection in humans. In addition, the handling of other exotic animals such as non-human primates and rodents that have been infected, has been reported to further spread of the disease. Once a human is infected, the virus can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact of blood, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids.

How is it treated/prevented?
There is currently no vaccine or antiviral agent to prevent or treat Ebola virus disease. If an outbreak is suspected, quarantining is vital to limiting the spread of infection. In addition, raising awareness of the potential threat of infection to those who are risk is also an important task, which includes educating people in rural areas to avoid consumption and handling of exotic animal meat.

Is there ongoing research to come up with a vaccine?
Many pharmaceutical companies and academic laboratories are currently working on creating both effective vaccines and treatments against Ebola virus. In fact, an article recently published in the International Business Times reports that a Canadian pharmaceutical company called Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp3. has begun clinical trials for a drug called TKM-EBOLA to treat Ebola viral infections. According to the article, “in January the company dosed the first human subject in a clinical trial” and in March received a “fast-track designation” from the Food and Drug Administration to expedite the trial process.


Clinical General Innovation Opinion Public Health

A Quick Guide to HPV Vaccination

ThinPrep of CIN 1/HPV Photo from Ed Uthman
ThinPrep of CIN 1/HPV
Photo from Ed Uthman

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are non-enveloped, double-stranded DNA viruses which infect human mucosal and epithelial tissues. They survive well in the environment and can be spread through direct contact with a wart, a fomite (ex. doorknob or toilet seat), or when an infant passes through the birth canal.  HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US1. Even though most infections resolve spontaneously without further progression, it can lead to the formation of skin warts and has been associated with cervical cancer since the 1990s. HPV-6 and HPV-11, two types of HPV, are known to cause genital warts and low-grade cervical abnormalities, while HPV-16 and HPV-18 cause about 70% of cervical cancers. Despite the prevalence and potential severity of this viral infection, there is no specific treatment for HPV. Medical intervention involves treating clinical manifestations of the infection, including removal of warts or cervical neoplasias.

The spread of HPV can be reduced, but not prevented, through the use of condoms and other methods of physical barrier protection. In addition, two new inactivated subunit HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, were recently approved by the FDA. The vaccines have no therapeutic effect on those who are already infected and the duration of vaccine protection is unknown, but studies are underway to determine if immunity wanes as time goes by. Both vaccines use the L1 capsid protein, which is produced through recombinant technology. This capsid protein then self-assembles into noninfectious virus-like particles (VLP), which function to elicit a memory immune response.

In 2006, Gardasil, a quadrivalent vaccine (HPV4), was approved by the FDA for both males and females of ages 9 to 26. Gardasil is composed of HPV6, HPV11, HPV 16, and HPV 18 and is administered in a 3 dose course. If a patient has not had all 3 vaccine doses by the age of 26, the remaining rounds can still be administered. HPV4 vaccination is also recommended for all immunocompromised males and men who have sex with men under the age of 26. In 2009, Cervarix, a bivalent vaccine (HPV2) containing HPV 16 and HPV 18, was approved by the FDA. HPV2 is approved for females ages 10 to 25, but is not approved for use in males. Neither HPV4 nor HPV2 contain any preservatives or antibiotics, and more than 99% of those who are vaccinated produce an antibody response to the viral types present in the vaccines.  Prior infection with one of the virus types does not diminish the protection against the other types of HPV present in the vaccine.

The vaccines should not be administered to those who are allergic to any vaccine components, are acutely ill, or pregnant women. If a woman becomes pregnant prior to completing the 3-dose vaccination, the remaining doses should be postponed until the completion of the pregnancy. Side effects of HPV vaccination include pain or swelling at the site of vaccination and fever. Overall, no serious adverse reactions have been documented.

Dr. John Kreider's son and grandson with a historical marker recognizing Dr. Kreider and Dr. Mary K. Howett's work which lead to the development of the HPV vaccination. Photo courtesy of PennStateNews.
Dr. John Kreider’s son and grandson with a historical marker recognizing Dr. Kreider and Dr. Mary K. Howett’s work which lead to the development of the HPV vaccination. Photo courtesy of PennStateNews.

Despite the fact that HPV-16 and HPV-18 are highly associated with cervical cancer, controversy has surrounded the HPV vaccines. In general, parents are understandably reluctant to vaccinate their children against a sexually transmitted infection at such a young age, perhaps because the duration of the protection resulting from vaccination is still unknown. Dr. Diane Harper of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine does not believe the vaccine should be mandated by law since only 5% of women infected with HPV develop cervical cancer2. While that seems valid logically, the basic principle of vaccination is to prepare the body’s immune defenses for eliminating virulent agents before they can lead to harmful medical conditions. As an example, consider poliovirus. Poliovirus affects each individual differently, with up to 95% of the total cases being inapparent or asymptomatic3. Only a small percentage of those who are infected with poliovirus get paralytic polio, the condition which was seen in the public eye so often.  Even though infection with poliovirus rarely leads to paralytic polio, parents do not usually hesitate to vaccinate their children in order to prevent this outcome. So, both vaccines prevent a serious outcome which rarely occurs as a byproduct of viral infection, yet polio vaccination has general support around the globe. Despite the fact that the HPV infection doesn’t always result in cervical cancer, parents should not overlook this vaccine, as it drastically reduces the risks of this serious complication even further.



General Lifestyle Narrative Reflection

Stop, Look, Go | An Approach to the Medical Student Lifestyle

Medical school is not what I expected. I’m neither saving lives day in and day out, nor am I the most knowledgeable person in my class. I’m not performing medical miracles and I’m not revolutionizing medicine as I envisioned I would be (yes, with just my twenty odd years of “life experience”). Instead, I feel as though I am trying to drink from a full powered water hose that won’t shut off. I am continuously faced with my own idiocy, ineptitude, and more importantly, fear. I see these super-human, overly capable figures who bear the name of doctor and wonder if I’ll ever be able to stand beside them. And then I stop, look and go.

Stop, Look and Go” is a theory discussed by a monk who goes by the name of David Steindl Rast. He believes that the key to happiness is to be grateful for every moment that one has in life. However, he stipulates that this can only come about once one realizes that in every moment there lie an infinite number of opportunities at ones disposal. Now, keep in mind that this is, of course, easier said than done. I am far more comfortable wallowing in my self-loathing guilt-infested thoughts about all the opportunities I’ve missed, than focusing on the promise of the moment at hand. Rast’s ideas challenge human beings to do more−all by employing a simple rule we learned to follow as children before crossing roads.

So, what do I gain from the application of said rule? Here is an example of my utilization of this theory, albeit on a rather small scale:

When I Stop, I allow myself to be in the here and now. I am not thinking about the amount of material I have to learn over the next few days, or what I neglected to go over the night before. I am simply absorbing what is provided to me in this moment in time.

Then I Look. Of course, this requires so much more than simply looking. It requires the utilization of every sense to, as Rast puts it, take in the enormous amount of richness provided to us. Looking is the process of making associations and enjoying the present. It requires full awareness. For example, I happen to encounter a patient with inguinal hernias in a clinical setting, after just learning about the condition in the classroom setting. This is a highly enriching experience−an invaluable experience.

Finally, I Go. Now that I have grounded myself in the present and made associations about the overlap of opportunities of that present, I move to motivate myself to do something with this newfound peace and knowledge. This ranges from sharing my thoughts with a colleague who might appreciate them; to renewing my interest in a subject matter I am studying thereby incentivizing myself to continue studying when weary.

For some, all of the above may very well prove to be an exercise in futility and I certainly do not know if everyone will take from this theory what I have−wise monk or not. What I will say is that this has very much widened my perspective on the power of purposeful action and, in my opinion, enhanced my ability to learn and absorb the waterfall that is medical knowledge. To me, medical school is a lot of things. Some days it’s a nightmare, other day the bees knees. Some days it’s taking over my life, other days it is my life. It is difficult but awe-inspiring; fun but tiring. If it were a drug, I’d be an addict and if it were a person we’d be in a torrid love affair.  Overall, medical school and being part of the medical profession is surely an invaluable opportunity and I strive to remind myself of my fortunate position as often as necessary, fueling my daily work and propelling me into the future. Thank you brother Rast.

Narrative Reflection

Ghost | Reflections on Anatomy Lab

The towel felt heavy the first time I lifted it,
Weighed down,

I held in my breath while we grabbed the ends of the white damp cloth and peeled it back,
In part from the acrid smell of formaldehyde,
And in part because of,
The fear.

Its chin was jutting upwards to the ceiling,
The black buds of a sloppy row of stitches closed the deep fissure running along the clavicle and towards the midline.
This was where the blood was drained.

I braced myself,
The cold iron table sucked the life through my hands and from my body as I braced myself on the dissection table.
And then I saw it.

I felt nothing.
Just a floating,
Lightheaded feeling,
As I begun the ascent,
Levitating into the ethereal space that fills the gap between the world of the living and the world of,
The dead.

Like purgatory,
I was completely still.
Dissected from reality.
Cutting away,
Just naming—
The structures.

Then later,
The day was done.
We coated it with formaldehyde through a spray-bottle.
Like gardeners tending a plot,
As though the skin we just eviscerated would sprout back.
And then we covered it with the white towel and hosed that down too.

My foot was poised on the step-lever to hoist down the dissection table,
But I was disturbed.
There was the white towel in front of me.
What was underneath it?
Her body outlined a humanoid shape along the matted towel.
She was someone that was loved, and had loved.
Where was the gash where she bled?
She was someone’s daughter.
I could not dissociate dead from alive anymore.
The idea of what was underneath,
The idea of life,
I had touched a ghost.

The thin white veneer that wrapped the outside of her body,
It was a canvas.
Upon which you paint an image of an offshore breezy fishing town.
She lived there for a while, I’d like to think.
In that little idyllic village off the coast.
With her husband,
A hardworking man with a stout jaw,
A stern and powerful jaw.
He was an Irishman by blood,
And made a living off the boats.
Often he was away from home but he always brought her back a handful of daffodils on his way from the marina.

There wasn’t much pollution there,
If any it was from the tugboats wrangling along unwelcome fishing seiners.
This was evidenced by the lack of carbon pigment deposition on the lung tissue,
Seen on gross dissection and histological analysis.

The years weighed on and on like lead,
The grief of the love that passed on and along the waves more days than not.
No longer did love linger lightly on her like the tiara of trillium I always imagined she wore on her wedding day.
So her back bent and broke under the load of grief.
Anterior T12-L1 compression fractures secondary to osteomalacia,
Evidenced by post-mortem CT imaging.

When her neighbors asked when her old man would be back,
And joked of a love affair with a mermaid.
Her back started hurting again.
Tears welled in her eyes.
And the lump in her throat made it so hard to—
That one we excised out.
The lump.
It was a thyroglossal duct cyst.
Characterized by the presence of parafollicular cells seen on an H+E stained tissue sample.

Through the many years she was still a good woman to him.
Though he died one day,
The way that things usually die.
According the literature women live longer than men.
Approximately by an average of 5 years.
She lived.

I had to slip underneath her right arm to cut open her neck,
In her icy embrace I swore I heard her speak to me in that moment.
We had cleared the cobwebs from her throat.

General Innovation MSPress Announcements

Welcome to the Medical Student Press: Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to welcome you all to the Medical Student Press through the launching of the MSPress Blog. In merely five months, the MSPress has grown to have an international team of medical students serving as editors, peer reviewers, graphic designers, and writers. Our journal has had countless submissions and our diverse blog writers are eager to share their experiences with the medical student community at large. We have made incredible strides and welcome all of those interested in supporting the scholarly expression of medical students to join our team (see application: here).


This project was inspired by of one of my dearest professors at Stanford University, Professor John Willinsky. In my junior year, I decided to take a course entitled “Learning, Sharing, Publishing, and Intellectual Property” through the School of Education. I found myself in a beautiful turret providing a beautiful view of the sunset. In this course, Professor Willinsky taught about the classical and current debates within the publishing world. He explored modern methods of sharing educational resources, and taught us the specifics of John Locke’s theories concerning the commons (Professor Willinsky’s book on this topic is currently in the making). I stayed in the course for the rest of the semester, enjoyed the sunset, and gleaned as much as I could from this publishing giant.

Soon, I began working closely with Professor Willinsky and one of his projects: Open Journal Systems. This open-access software enables editorial teams to collaborate within a seamless online platform. Further, it publishes content that is widely-indexed, thereby providing journal submissions with the opportunity to be widely read and cited. I worked with OJS during my Stanford years as EIC of Intersect: the Stanford Journal of Science, Technology and Society. After the journal was live for three years, it became international and was strongly cited by other scholars (see the Intersect citation line-up here).

The Medical Student Press

The Library of Babel Illustration by Erik Desmazieres
The Library of Babel Illustration by Erik Desmazieres

An MS1 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, I was determined to find a way to continue working with publishing. The MSPress began as a collaboration between myself and Gabriel Glaun, an MS1 at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. We were both involved with scholarly publishing in our undergraduate years and sought out an opportunity to continue this involvement as medical students; a search I assumed would be similar to bumbling through Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel. While we easily found well-established medical publishers, we surprisingly did not find any large-scale projects that were exclusively for and by medical students. Further, the collaboration between international medical students was one that was seldom seen. A well-indexed, organized, easily accessible, international, and approachable medical student publishing organization was clearly needed, and so our work on the MSPress began.

After a great deal of work and support from other medical students, I am elated to make our medical student publishing organization live. We operate using Open Journal Systems and support open-access publishing through our use of a Creative Commons license for all of our content. Currently under our auspices are The MSPress Journal and The MSPress Blog.

The MSPress Journal accepts research essays, theses excerpts, interviews, scientific papers, medical ethics essays, creative writing, sound pieces, and visual art pieces.  This platform runs directly through the Open Journal System, ensuring our articles are widely disseminated and strongly published.

The MSPress Blog supports those students interested in long term writing, as well as those interested in occasional writing. This platform accepts informal pieces, narratives, sound pieces, visual art pieces, news articles, and pilot studies.

Recognizing that medicine is dynamic, we aim to support the ideas of all students. Get in touch with our team to share your creative ideas. The education of medical students continues far after class and clinic sessions are over. Remain engaged, expressive, and innovative by contributing to the MSPress. We are proud to support the scholarly expression of medical students and welcome all readers, contributors, and creative minds.

We are a versatile team with an exciting new project that is full of potential, so to stay up to date with us, follow our blog, our Facebook page, and our website.


Cheers to the scholarly expression of medical students,

Mica Esquenazi

The MSPress, Editor-in-Chief


MSPress Announcements

Join the MSPress Team

Interested in becoming a blogger, editor, or public relations liaison for Medical Student Press? Get in touch with our editorial board through our online application.

NOTE: To complete your application, you must email your CV to
If you are interested in becoming an editor or writer, please also send along a writing sample of at least 500 words, the subject of which is at your discretion.

Editor: Editors work closely with the Open Journal System software which we run our editorial process through. This includes assigning and communicating with peer reviewers. Once a submission is accepted, the editor moves to finalize the submission via author communication. This requires strong writing skills. As we are a new publishing group, editors also have a role in public relations. To apply for this position, please send along a CV and a writing sample of at least 500 words the subject of which is at your discretion.

Copy Editor: The copy editor is the final reader of all submissions, ensuring no grammatical or writing errors. This requires attention to detail and strong writing skills. To apply for this position, please send along a CV and a writing sample of at least 500 words, the subject of which is at your discretion.

Web/Graphic Designer: Our primary systems run via CSS in conjunction with Open Journal System and WordPress. For those interested in this role, prior experience is appreciated but not required. To apply for this position, please send along a CV.

Blogger: Bloggers are required to submit a writing piece once a month. These pieces will be posted on our WordPress blog site. The posts will be informal, but still edited by the editorial team. To apply for this position, please send along a CV and a writing sample of at least 500 words, the subject of which is at your discretion.

Peer Reviewer: All medical students (including residents and fellows) are eligible to be peer reviewers. Simply register via our website with your credentials and hospital email address to enter our pool of peer reviewers.

MSPress Announcements

Call for Submissions – May 5th

Dr. Robert Montgomery
Dr. Robert Montgomery

The Medical Student Press Journal is now open to submissions.

Be part of the first journal edition from the Medical Student Press and support the international scholarly expression of medical students. Our upcoming edition will include an interview with Dr. Robert Montgomery, Chief of Transplant Surgery at Johns Hopkins, and leadership from the much awaited Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center, one of the largest in the country.

Time to create an expressive community with online open-access publishing. Join the cause.

Orlando Veterens Affairs Medical Center
Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center