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Ebola Virus: What YOU can do to help

At this point I can safely assume that everyone has heard of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) that is out of control in Western African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and with a few cases of infected people in several other African, European countries and the United States of America.

As I read news from around the world I can’t stop feeling that there must be something I could be doing. I know I don’t have the qualifications or the experience to go fight this on the front line or even in the hospitals and between you and me, I’m glad I can’t go because I would be terrified.

Fortunately for all of us there are people brave enough to face this horrible threat and there is something that we, the “ordinary” people, can do to help.

Here I compiled a list of all the non-governmental organisations currently in the affected Western African countries that are helping the governments and locals deal with this epidemic.


Ebola Virus

Here’s what YOU can do:

  • Donate to the organisation(s) of your choice (see list below).
  • Send them an e-mail thanking them for their effort.
  • See if any of your local organisations are helping with the cause and volunteer.
  • Create petitions and/or contact your local representative to request their help to send funds, material or food to countries struggling.
  • Raise awareness by sharing this list.



List of non-governmental organisations currently helping Ebola afflicted countries:


Name: ActionAid

What they do: “Your donation can help to provide medical supplies, protective gear and sanitation materials and food aid, to those most in need.”

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Name: Adventist Development and Relief Agency

What they do: “ADRA is delivering life-saving supplies to hospitals in West Africa to help stop the spread of Ebola. Our latest shipment to Cooper Adventist Hospital in Liberia included nearly $100,000 worth of necessities, including crucial isolation tents. A shipment of similar resources has also just gone to Waterloo Adventist Hospital in Sierra Leone.”

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Name: Africare

What they do: “Africare is providing emergency medical supplies and educating communities on how they can keep themselves safe from the virus.”

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Name: AmeriCares

What they do: “AmeriCares is sending emergency medical aid to Sierra Leone and Liberia, including personal protective equipment for health workers at great risk in the battle to contain the deadly disease.”

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Name: Brother’s Brother Foundation

What they do: “BBF has sent a large number of face masks, protective gowns and protective gloves as well as disinfectant and general medical supplies to support medical facilities in Sierra Leone that are coping with the Ebola outbreak.

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Name: Concern

What they do: “Concern Worldwide is responding in Liberia and Sierra Leone with the following: (…) Support of health structures including health staff trainings on ebola symptoms and prevention. Provision of personal protective equipment to health facilities.”

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Name: Center for Disease Control Foundation

What they do: “More than 100 CDC staff have been deployed in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone assisting with various vital response efforts such as surveillance, contact tracing, database management, and health education.”

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Name: Develop Africa

What they do: “We are working to help provide the needed protective equipment / resources to health personnel so that they can keep themselves safe and preventing further spread of the disease. Funds will also enable sharing of information / sensitization (through radio and other media) so that people can take preventive action to protect themselves from infection. We are also providing health kits and emergency food aid.”

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Name: Direct Relief

What they do: “Direct Relief has sent twelve emergency shipments valued at more than $6.8 million dollars to more than 1,000 hospitals and clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The shipment contents includes rehydration solutions, antibiotics and personal protective gear for use by medical staff treating Ebola.”

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Name: Doctors of the World

What they do: “In Liberia, Doctors of the World are training local health workers to identify and treat suspected cases, as well as providing medications and essential protective equipment. In Sierra Leone, Doctors of the World are supporting the efforts of local communities and healthcare authorities to prevent Ebola’s transmission in the Koinadugu district, in the north of the country.”

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Name: Emergency

What they do: “An Italian charity, Emergency has opened in September a Treatment Centre for Ebola patients in Lakka, a few kilometres from the capital of Sierra Leone. “

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Name: Episcopal Relief & Development

What they do: “The Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting awareness-raising efforts and providing food supplies in addition to personal protection equipment and disinfectants to under-resourced hospitals and clinics in the affected areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

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Name: Giving Children Hope

What they do: “GCH has sent two shipments of supplies already and will continue to do so with your help. Items that are most need that GCHope is sending include, gloves, soap, sanitation supplies, cleaning supplies and other relief items.”

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Name: Global Communities

What they do: “Your gift helps us teach communities on the history, signs and symptoms, transmission mode, and devastating impact of the Ebola outbreak and train and support burial teams in all 15 counties in Liberia.”

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Name: Global Health Ministries

What they do: “In close communication with the Ministry of Health in Liberia, the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL), and our partner hospitals in Liberia, the GHM is responding to the Ebola virus outbreak by sending urgently needed PPEs (personal protection equipment – gloves, gowns, masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, etc.) via suitcases, air freight, and sea containers.”

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Name: GlobalGiving

What they do: “Funds will be used for medical supplies to care for those already infected, protective equipment to keep health workers safe, and educational campaigns to inform the public about Ebola and how it spreads.”

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Name: Heart to Heart International

What they do: “Heart to Heart International will open and operate an Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia. The facility is already under construction and is expected to open in November. We are recruiting doctors and medical personnel to help us, as well recruiting Liberian health workers to operate the 70-bed facility. We will also continue to ship supplies like protective suits and gloves to help the the hands of health workers on the ground in the Ebola hot zone. “

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Name: International Medical Corps

What they do: “IMC is operating the Ebola Treatment Unit in Bong, Liberia which is currently comprised of 70 beds with more than 200 specially-trained staff, and a 50-bed unit in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, with sites for a laboratory and an expansion area for a training center and staff accommodation.”

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Name: International Rescue Committee

What they do: “The International Rescue Commitee is saving lives by training and protecting medical workers; preventing people from catching Ebola with “alert” systems, contact tracing and community awareness; and providing medical care to people with treatable diseases who would otherwise die because they are afraid to visit health centers.”

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Name: MAP International

What they do: “In March, MAP International began providing protective gear to healthcare workers on the ground in West Africa.”

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Name: Management Sciences for Health

What they do: “MSH is mobilizing its expertise and resources at the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia to help the Ministry of Health develop community care centers for Ebola separate from the health facilities; “

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Name: Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders

What they do: “MSF’s West Africa Ebola response started in March 2014 and now counts activities in three countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. MSF currently employs 276 international and around 2,977 locally hired staff in the region. The organisation operates six Ebola case management centers (CMCs), providing nearly 600 beds in isolation. Since the beginning of the outbreak, MSF has admitted more than 4,500 patients, among whom more than 2,700 were confirmed as having Ebola. Around 1,000 have survived. More than 807 tonnes of supplies have been shipped to the affected countries since March.”

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Name: Medical Teams International

What they do: “MTI is training in the basics of Ebola and how to protect themselves from infection and sending shipments of Personal Protective Equipment kits (PPEs), gloves and body bags to Liberia.”

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Name: MedShare

What they do: “Through the generous donations of our individual, hospital, and corporate partners, we are continuing to add life-saving supplies and protective clothing items – disposable gowns, gloves, operating room caps, shoe covers, and masks – to our special air shipments and 40-foot containers headed to West Africa.

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Name: Operation USA

What they do: “Operation USA is taking action to help combat the further spread of Ebola by providing material aid support to those on the front lines battling the outbreak. If you or someone you know works for a corporation who can provide any of these materials new, in bulk, contact us.”

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Name: Outreach

What they do: “Life-saving meals were packed to be sent to Ebola patients in Liberia. 300,000 meals were shipped from Outreach’s warehouse on September 18. The second shipment of 300,000 meals will leave on October 9. Two additional container shipments of 300,000 meals will be sent prior to Christmas.”

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Name: Oxfam America

What they do: “Oxfam’s response to the epidemic is focused on prevention by providing water infrastructure to health centers, training health workers and supplying protective gear like masks, overalls, gloves, and boots, as well as equipment like sprayers and mops.”

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Name: Partners in Health

What they do: “Partners In Health is leading a coalition to combat this outbreak, working alongside two outstanding grassroots organizations—Last Mile Health in Liberia and Wellbody Alliance in Sierra Leone. These long time PIH partners are already working to train health workers, identify sick patients, and deliver quality care.”

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Name: PCI

What they do: “PCI is responding to the crisis by equipping communities and health professionals with the knowledge, infrastructure, and supplies necessary to prevent the spread of Ebola. Specifically, PCI is actively providing critical help by expanding community education campaigns; training health care providers; constructing infrastructure for the isolation of suspected cases; and providing personal protective equipment and sanitation necessities to minimize the spread of the virus.”

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Name: Project HOPE

What they do: “Project HOPE delivers essential medicines and supplies, health expertise and medical training to respond to disaster, prevent disease, promote wellness and save lives around the globe.”

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Name: Samaritan’s Purse

What they do: “Samaritan’s Purse is aggressively responding in Liberia, where we have had a country office for more than a decade, by establishing and managing Community Care Centers in areas hit hard by the disease. Other Samaritan’s Purse public health initiatives in the country include caregiver training and kit distribution, as well as a massive public education campaign focused on infection prevention and control.”

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Name: Stop Hunger Now

What they do: “Stop Hunger Now is shipping a container of meals and and donated medical personal protection equipment to Liberia as part of relief operations in response to the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.”

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Name: University of California San Francisco Platform

What they do: “Gifts will not only help us treat and prevent ebola but will also help us continue to train local villagers to serve as public health workers who can stop the spread of the virus in their own community.”

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What they do: “In Liberia, UNICEF is helping the government train 400 additional mental health and social workers. A total of 50,000 kits will be shipped for distribution to the five counties with the highest rates of Ebola. Each kit contains protective gowns, gloves and masks, as well as soap, chlorine and a sprayer, along with instructions on the use and safe disposal of materials.”

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Name: World Food Program USA

What they do: “WFP is providing life-saving food assistance to quarantined communities that have been cut off from markets and serving as the logistics leader for the UN by utilizing its delivery expertise to transport medical supplies and basic infrastructure, including tents, warehouses and prefabricated offices.”

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Name: World Hope International

What they do: “WHI has 76 staff and 9 trucks. We are using this resource to distribute airlifted medical supplies to hospitals and clinics. We are also providing borehole water wells and sanitation facilities for Ebola treatment centers using our experienced Water and Sanitation team.”

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Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with any of this organisations. All the information you see here can be found on their websites.

Tom and Jerry: Fatal attraction or something else?

How many of us grew up watching Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse constantly fighting and teasing each other to our own amusement? This show created in 1940 has been a source of entertainment for millions of children worldwide for decades. It shows us the reality of the animosity between cats and mice, but how real is it?
Do cats and mice really hate each other? Do they fight? Do naughty mice track down, tease and get cats in trouble?
The answer to all these questions might be slightly different than you think.

Domestic cats and urban mice are natural enemies the same way that lions and zebras are. One is the predator and one is the prey and while the former does whatever it takes to track down and hunt the other, the latter would do all it can to avoid that fate. They don’t exactly hate or fight each other for their own entertainment, they just do what they need to do to in order to survive.

Tom the cat chasing Jerry the mouse. From Warner Bros

Tom and Jerry   © Warner Bros

So why does Jerry keep on trying to chase and annoy Tom? Wouldn’t he just leave him alone and try to be sneaky and quiet as a mouse to the best of his abilities as that would be the difference between survival and being a snack?
Scientifically speaking there is one very good explanation to why Jerry does this (apart from the fact that they are clearly just cartoons and not realistic interpretations of cat-mouse interactions).

There’s a very well known parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that is the source of one of the most feared diseases for pregnant women, toxoplasmosis. While in humans it can cause life long damage if passed from pregnant mother to fetus, in mice the consequences are quite different.

Mice have evolved a healthy avoidance of predators, especially cats, for millions of years. They can detect signs of the presence of felines and alter their behaviour in order to avoid crossing its path. If it wasn’t for this trait passed from generation to generation we wouldn’t have mice nowadays.

But this is nothing special. All living beings strive for survival and that doesn’t exclude the parasitic protozoan, Toxoplasma gondii. Our friend gondii, even though it is able to live inside almost any warm blooded animal, has a thing for cats. They live their lives either inside a cat or doing whatever they can to convince another animal to get inside one. Over millions of years of evolution they have perfected their technique.


This is a conversation I imagined went between gondii pals:

  • “Hey Steve have you seen Carlos recently? Ever since he met that cat he’s doing well in his life. He can even reproduce sexually now!”
  • “No way Andre! I thought we could only reproduce asexuality. I must try this cat technique. How does this cat thing work?”
  • “It seems that we need to get ourselves inside a cat’s stomach and once we’re there it’s like heaven or something. That’s what Carlos told me though but he tends to overreact, you know that.”
  • “I must try this anyway. The problem is that we are inside a mouse now and they hate cats. How can we make this work?”
  • “Hum.. I know it! Let’s just make this mouse think that cats’ smell is the best smell in the world. Instead of avoiding it, it must get so excited about it that it will do its best to find the cat. Once it finds it we know what happens.. the cat will just eat our host, the mouse, and we end up in the cat’s stomach just as planned!”
  • “Dude, you’re a genius. Let’s do this!”


And this is pretty much what happens (with some creativity from my part). Toxoplasma gondii is capable of permanently changing the mouse host’s behaviour for its own benefit. This parasite increases the activity of the limbic regions of the mouse’s brain to react to a cat’s urine with sexual attraction instead of fear, forcing the mouse to seek the sexy company of the cat instead of hiding and escaping it.

The funny thing is that studies even show that this fatal attraction doesn’t happen with other species, only between cats and mice. It takes a Tom and Jerry for this scene to happen and all the other normal behaviours, senses and general health of the mouse remain unaltered. They just seem to suddenly feel extremely attracted to sexy cats..

That would explain why Jerry is so obsessed with Tom; always trying to get him in trouble, tease him and being naughty in general. He’s just a mouse in love..


Jerry the mouse kissing Tom the cat. From Warner Bros

Tom and Jerry   © Warner Bros

That’s all folks!




Is Immortality Real?

Immortality has been a subject that has fascinated human beings for the longest time. Many legends and mythologies discuss the possibility of supernatural beings and creatures with everlasting life and tell tales of heroes and adventurers seeking the fountain of youth or the elixir of life. In reality, humans are forced to be content with what little time we have on this Earth but left wondering; is immortality possible?

Ageing and eventually dying are natural processes that are a part of the rules of life, however, there are a few organisms that are capable of bending or even breaking these rules.

The animal kingdom is richly diverse and, as you might expect, different animals have vastly different lifespans and many have very brief lives, for example, the worm-like gastrotrich only has a few precious days of life in which to do all of its eating, fighting and mating.



A gastrotrich is a tiny worm-like aquatic creature that has one of the shortest lifespans in the natural world, only a few days. Photo Credits.

On the other end of the scale are animals that are extremely long-lived. An Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) that died in a zoo in India in 2006 was believed to have been born in around 1750 making him over 250 years old! The oldest mammals are believed to be bow-head whales (Balaena mysticetus); one individual caught in 2007 was found to have a 19th century harpoon embedded in its neck!

These remarkable cases might make our human lifespans seem measly by comparison, however, there are some organisms who live on a time-scale far beyond what we could ever experience. Some species of Antarctic glass sponges, hexactinellids, could live for as long as 15,000 years! Imagine a life longer than the whole history of human civilization.


Antarctic Hexactinellid Glass Sponges

Hexactinellids are glass sponges found in Antarctic waters. They are actually animals and may live for as long as 15,000 years! Photo Credits.

Longevity is impressive, but it is quite different from immortality. As unbelievable as it may seem, however, there are organisms that may be able to live forever.

Lobsters (family: Nephropidae) are animals that we are quite familiar with (mainly as an expensive meal), but they have some fascinating characteristics, most notably; they do not age. Lobsters grow continually throughout their lives but they do not get weaker or lose any function as they go, indeed, it has also been suggested that they become more and more fertile as they grow. A giant lobster (named George) was caught off the coast of Newfoundland in 2008 and was believed to have been approximately 140 years old! It is theorised that if left alone, lobsters might have the potential for immortality, growing indefinitely until they are killed by an external force such as a predator or disease. Lobsters achieve their longevity thanks to enzymes that repair damage to their DNA.



Lobsters are a family of marine crustaceans. They grow continually throughout their lives but do not age. Photo Credits.

Turritopsis dohrnii is a species of tiny jellyfish that has a unique lifestyle that potentially qualifies it as immortal. These creatures live their lives up until a certain point, when conditions are right, when they will regress back to their infant form, a polyp. Almost like Benjamin Button, they age in reverse but they can repeat this cycle many times, potentially forever. Each time they revert to their immature stage, they are also capable of budding and producing whole new colonies of individuals.

So it seems as if some creatures have unlocked the secrets of immortality, however, immortality is quite different from invincibility. The process of ageing is also called senescence; this is where cells and organs deteriorate over time, whether as a result of being exposed to the stresses of everyday living, or the gradually increasing ineffectiveness of DNA replication. However, organisms that have beaten senescence are not guaranteed never ending life, there are my threats to their existence such as disease, fatal injury, predation etc. For example, the ‘Benjamin Button jellyfish’ rarely gets to even complete one of its life cycles in the wild because it is usually eaten by something first!

There are creatures that also attempt invincibility too: Tardigrades (sometimes called by the cuter names water bears or moss pigs) are microscopic animals that have a remarkable ability to survive extreme conditions; they earn the title of ‘extremophile‘. It seems to be very hard to kill a tardigrade; they can survive extreme sub-zero temperatures as easily as boiling water, they can survive the extreme pressures of the deep ocean as easily as the vacuum of space, they can survive without any food or water for years on end and can even tolerate extremely strong radiation. They can be found almost everywhere on Earth and have lived happily for tens of millions of years. Individual tardigrades can live for several decades depending on environmental conditions; not immortal but pretty close to indestructible!


A Tardigrade, or Water Bear

Tardigrades, or Water Bears, are microscopic animals that can survive almost any extreme condition. Photo Credits.

Humans have accomplished many great things, but sometimes we are reminded how fragile we are as animals. The natural world is full of amazing creatures with abilities that can humble us. Perhaps there are things we can learn from them and someday have a chance at immortality ourselves!

Thanks for reading!

Much love,



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