Africa to get experimental drugs to fight Ebola fight as death toll passes 1,000
World Health Organisation approves use of serum in West Africa
The World Health Organisation yesterday authorised the use of experimental drugs in the fight against Ebola as the death of the first European to succumb to the virus helped push the outbreak's toll above 1,000.
The UN health agency's declaration came as a United States company said it had sent all its available supplies of an experimental serum to hard-hit West Africa and eight Chinese medical workers who treated Ebola patients were placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone.
Watch: Chinese aid arrives in Ebola-hit Liberia
Zhao Yanbo, the Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone, would not say if the seven doctors and one nurse were showing any symptoms.
In Hong Kong, Dr Leung Ting-hung, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, admitted that the city's first suspected Ebola case could have been handled better after revelations that special protective gear was not worn and the site not disinfected.
Tests on the patient, a Nigerian man, were negative.
The current outbreak, described as the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago, had now killed 1,013 people, the WHO said yesterday.
Cases have so far been limited to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, all in West Africa where ill-equipped health systems are struggling to cope.
An elderly Spanish priest who became infected while helping patients in Liberia died yesterday in a Madrid hospital only five days after being evacuated.
An experimental drug, ZMapp, which showed some positive effects on two US aid workers - and sparked demands that it be made available in Africa - failed to save the priest.
There is no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, but the use of experimental drugs has stoked an ethical debate. The WHO yesterday backed their use after a meeting of medical experts in Geneva. "In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met ... it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects," the WHO said.
ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, is still in an early phase of development. Mapp said it had sent all available supplies to West Africa, but did not say how much or to which nations it had gone. Liberia said it was expecting the drug this week.