The death toll of the West African Ebola outbreak reached 932 and with the death of a Saudi man suspected of carrying the disease, it causes global concerns. CDC issued highest-level alert and the WHO is expected to declare a global health emergency.
Since its detection in March, the Ebola virus has infected at least 1,711 people in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. While the affected countries are struggling with the terrifying infection, international health experts are discussing actions to tackle the epidemic. On Wednesday, officials from the World Health Organization said they are meeting to discuss measures for containing the virus and keeping it from spreading around the world. During the two-day meeting, they will also decide if the outbreak should be considered a global public health emergency. If it does, this will mean travel bans will take effect to certain places and Africa, as well as possible border closures.
On Wednesday, a man suspected to have contracted Ebola died while in critical condition in an isolated ward in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. The officials said he had just returned from a business trip to Sierra Leone and after showing symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever, he died in Jeddah. Samples are now being tested in Saudi and international laboratories to find if his disease was indeed caused by Ebola. If it was, this would be the first Ebola-related death outside the four affected African countries.
In the meantime, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak. In Nigeria, authorities announced a second Ebola death – a nurse treating one of patients had contracted the virus and died. The Spanish health Ministry said it plans to transport the 75-year-old priest Miguel Pajares to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital. The Ebola-stricken man is said be weak, suffering a fever and has been isolated since last week at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital in Liberia.
This is the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded with a death rate of up to 90%. There is no vaccine and no adequate treatment at least in African communities, which also lack health care infrastructure. Medical staff is poorly equipped and insufficiently prepared, with many of them becoming victims of the disease themselves. In comparison, the patients who are currently under treatment in the U.S. show signs of improvement. They have been given an experimental drug, called ZMapp, developed by San Diego-based private biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical. Experts are saying that actually the drug hasn’t been tested on humans and its effects aren’t very clear. President Barack Obama said that it is still too soon to send the experimental drug to Africa, considering there isn’t proper infrastructure and sufficient quantities of the medicine.
Scientists say that despite the safety issues, African patients should be given the same chance. There are several antiviral drugs, monoclonal antibodies and vaccines under study for possible treatment of Ebola. Governments in Africa should be “allowed to make informed decisions” whether to use those drugs or not. However, it is WHO’s responsibility to allow using experimental medicine against Ebola and it is expected to make important decisions in the next couple of days.