U of I Innovators Raising Money, Developing Technology to Fight Ebola Virus

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA--Innovators and volunteers are teaming up at the University of Illinois to keep the Ebola virus from spreading.

When Kenny Long visited Sierra Leone in June, he encountered the first signs of the Ebola virus. By the end of August more than 1200 people in the country were infected. Now, the outbreak is taking over the region.

"This weekend will actually be a three day national shut down where everybody will be asked to stay in their homes, nobody will go into work or anything like that," said Long.

But Long, the vice chair of the University YMCA board, will be working with others to raise money that will go to the Y in Sierra Leone.
"We're looking for this initial campaign to raise $20,000," said Long. "The first half of that, $10,000, will be used for direct humanitarian aid. So that's going to be for things, primarily disinfectant. That's really really important right now."

The other $10,000 will be used to develop a modern form of medication, based in animation.

"It will deal with all the major themes of how is ebola transmitted, the basic concepts of the disease, and what you can actually do to minimize your chances of catching the disease," said Dr. Barry Pittendrigh.

Scientific Animations Without Borders, or SAWBO, launched in 2011 as a way to educate African farmers through animated tutorials that can be accessed with a cell phone. Now, the researchers behind the project want to use that technology to educate the African people about the ebola epidemic.

"A story board has already been developed," said Pittendrigh. "So that is ready to take over to an animator to actually begin the process of animation."

Once they have the money, it will take between 60 and 90 days to develop the clip and distribute it using everything from the Internet to USB drives that fit in a wallet.

To make a donation, visit http://www.universityymca.org/.

Anyone interested in learning more about the virus is invited to a meeting at 4 pm on Thursday, September 18, in room 1092 in Lincoln Hall. Anyone who would like to get involved with the effort directly is invited to a meeting at 4 pm on Tuesday, September 23, at the University YMCA.
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