• Thursday, September 18, 2014

Liberia to receive Zmapp drug to treat Ebola virus

BBC Online
Doctor for tropical medicine Florian Steiner (R) and ward physician Thomas Klotzkowski step out of a disinfection chamber after cleaning their protective suits, at the quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases at the Charite hospital in Berlin August 11. Photo: Reuters
Doctor for tropical medicine Florian Steiner (R) and ward physician Thomas Klotzkowski step out of a disinfection chamber after cleaning their protective suits, at the quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases at the Charite hospital in Berlin August 11. Photo: Reuters

Liberia will receive an untested experimental drug, Zmapp, to treat people infected with Ebola, the Liberian government says.

The move came after a request to the US from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the government said.

The news came as medical ethics specialists met in Geneva to explore the use of such new treatments.

The World Health Organization, which is hosting the meeting, says some 1,013 have died from Ebola in West Africa.

"The experimental drugs are to be brought in the country by a representative of the US government later this week," a statement on the Liberian president's website said.

However, US government officials said its role had been to put Liberian officials in contact with Zmapp maker Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

'NO COST'

The pharmaceutical company said its supply of the drug was exhausted after its supplies were sent to West Africa, AFP news agency reported.

The drug was "provided at no cost in all cases," the company added.

Zmapp has been used in the US on two aid workers who have shown signs of improvement, and a Roman Catholic priest, infected with Ebola in Liberia, who is currently being treated in a hospital in Madrid.

However, the drug has only been tested on monkeys and has not yet been evaluated for safety in humans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will announce the outcome of its emergency meeting on the role of experimental drugs on Tuesday.

NO ROCK AND HARD PLACE

Earlier, Ivory Coast announced it had banned all passenger flights from the three countries hit the worst by the spread of Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It is the second country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Workers unload medical supplies, coming from China and worth 4.9 million USD (around 3,7 million euro), for countries hit by the Ebola outbreak from an airplane at the Conakry airport on 11 August 2014.

China has sent medical supplies worth 4.9m dollars to countries hit by Ebola

There is no cure for Ebola, which has infected at least 1,779 people since the outbreak was first reported in Guinea in February.

The Liberian government was aware of the risks associated with Zmapp, but the alternative was to allow many more people to die, Information Minister Lewis Brown told the BBC on Monday.

"The alternative for not testing this is death, a certain death," he said.

"This is not even the rock and the hard place for us," he said, referring to the country's health services, which he says are overburdened with patients carrying the disease.

The situation has prompted poorly equipped health workers to abandon work and institutions to close to the public.

Ebola's initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure. Patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.

Brown said: "We think those who have been infected should be given the chance to have that tested on them if they give their consent to do so."

"We know there may be risks associated with it," the minister added, "but choosing a risk and choosing dying I am sure many would prefer to see that risk happen".

Soldiers have been deployed at checkpoints in two counties worst affected by the outbreak, Lofa and Bomi, to restrict people's movements.

Meanwhile, China has sent medical supplies worth 30m yuan ($4.9m; £2.9m) to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to help fight against the disease.

Separately, the Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone said on Monday that eight Chinese medical workers who had been treating Ebola patients had been placed in quarantine for the past two weeks in the capital.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak in West Africa a global health emergency.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, confirmed a 10th case of Ebola on Monday.

 

 

 

Published: 9:54 am Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Last modified: 12:56 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

TAGS: Ebola World Health Organization Liberia Zmapp

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