Three Liberian heath workers with Ebola show ‘signs of recovery’

Outbreak overwhelms authorities as waves of sick Liberians cross closed border into Guinea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 5:04pm

Three Liberian health workers receiving an experimental drug to treat Ebola were showing signs of recovery, officials said yesterday.

The three are being treated with the last known doses of ZMapp, which had earlier been given to two infected Americans and a Spaniard. The Americans are also improving, but the Spaniard died.

"The medical professionals have informed the Liberian information ministry their progress is 'remarkable'," the ministry said in a statement, adding that they were showing "very positive signs of recovery".

Experts have cautioned that it's unclear if ZMapp, which had never before been tested in humans, is effective. Even if it is, the California-based maker of the drug has said more supplies of the drug won't be available for months.

In the meantime, experts say the best way to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa is to identify the sick, isolate them from the healthy and monitor everyone with whom they have been in contact.

More than 1,200 people have died from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria in the current outbreak and more than 2,200 have been sickened, the World Health Organisation said yesterday, adding that there were some optimistic signs that the Ebola outbreak could be contained. Authorities have struggled to treat and isolate the sick, partially because of a fear that treatment centres are places where people go to die and a lack of confidence that officials are doing enough to protect the healthy.

Many sick people have hidden in their homes, relatives have sometimes taken their loved ones away from health centres, and mobs have occasionally attacked health workers.

On Saturday, residents of the West Point slum in Liberia's capital of Monrovia attacked a centre where people were being monitored for Ebola. The raid was a result of fears that people with the disease were being brought there from all over the country, the information ministry said yesterday. During the raid, dozens of people, who were waiting to be screened for Ebola, fled the facility.

Looters made off with items, including bloody sheets and mattresses, that could spread the infection. All the patients who fled were now being screened at a hospital in Monrovia and those who tested positive were being treated, the ministry said.

It was unclear how many of the 37 who fled were confirmed with Ebola. Residents of the West Point slum had agreed to return any stolen items to the holding centre, officials said.