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Ebola: WHO approves experimental drugs 'As death toll tops 1,000

Published by Tribune on Wed, 13 Aug 2014


The World Health Organisation authorised the use of experimental drugs in the fight against Ebola on Tuesday as the death toll topped 1,000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to succumb to the latest outbreak of the virus.According to AFP, the declaration by the UN's health agency came after a US company that makes an experimental serum said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit west Africa.'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 in a statement following a teleconference between medical experts.The current outbreak, described as the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago, has now killed 1,013 people since early this year, the WHO said.Cases have so far been limited to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, all in west Africa where ill-equipped and fragile health systems are struggling to cope.Elderly Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who became infected while helping patients in Liberia died in a Madrid hospital on Tuesday, five days after being evacuated.Monrovia said it had requested samples of an experimental drug, ZMapp, that has shown some positive effects on two US aid workers but failed to save the Spanish priest.Supplies would be brought in by a representative of the US government later this week, the Liberian government said.There is currently no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, which the WHO has declared a global public health emergency, and the use of experimental drugs has stoked an ethical debate.Despite promising results for the ZMapp treatment, made by private US company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, it is still in an early phase of development and had only been tested previously on monkeys.ZMapp is in very short supply, but its use on the Western aid workers evacuated to the United States last week triggered controversy and demands that it be made available in Africa.Mapp said it had sent all its available supplies to West Africa.'In responding to the request received this weekend from a West African nation, the available supply of ZMapp is exhausted,' it said in a statement.'Any decision to use ZMapp must be made by the patients' medical team,' it said, adding that the drug was 'provided at no cost in all cases'.The company did not reveal which nation received the doses, or how many were sent.But the Liberian presidency said: 'The White House and the United States Food and Drug Administration have approved the request for sample doses of experimental serum to treat Liberian doctors who are currently infected with the deadly Ebola virus disease.'Ebola claims its first European victim: Spanish priest dies in MadridA Spanish priest who became the first person carrying the deadly Ebola virus to be brought back to Europe for treatment has died in a Madrid hospital.Miguel Pajares, 75, died at the Carlos III Hospital, where he was being treated, a spokeswoman confirmed.As reported by MailOnline, a convoy of medics in protective suits escorted the missionary back to Spain last week after he was repatriated on a specially-adapted Airbus plane from Liberia in West Africa.Spain's Health Ministry said on Monday that it had obtained a course of the U.S.-made experimental drug ZMapp over the weekend to treat the priest.The Madrid hospital would not confirm if he had been given the drug at the time of his death.His body will be cremated tomorrow to avoid any further public health risks, the hospital added.Mr Parajes had worked for the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Spain-based Catholic humanitarian group, and had been helping to treat people with Ebola in Liberia.He had worked as a missionary in Africa for nearly five decades and was due to return to Spain for good in September.Speaking before he was flown back he said: 'I'd like to return because we have a very bad experience of what's happened here.'We are abandoned. We want to go to Spain and be treated like people.'The priest was brought back to Spain alongside a nun, who was also suspected of being infected with the virus.However, she tested negative for the disease.When the priest first arrived in Madrid, there were claims he was on a drip and was unable to walk unaided with his condition being described as stable.It was said he wasn't showing signs of bleeding, which is a symptom of an advanced stage of the illness.The priest's brother Emilio said he was 'worried but happy' about the transfer amid concerns within Spain that the nation's hospitals may not successfully contain the illness.His death comes as Turkey was put on alert over the virus after the country's health ministry said a passenger from Nigeria was taken to hospital after arriving at Istanbul airport with a high fever.The ministry said it did not know if the female passenger had Ebola but they were taking precautions.The Turkish Airlines plane, which was supposed to travel on to Barcelona, was then disinfected.Meanwhile it has been confirmed that Liberia is set to receive doses of the experimental drug to treat the condition, which will be given to two sick doctors.The news comes after a the World Health Organisation declared it is ethical to use unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines in the current outbreak in West Africa provided the right conditions are met.Its statement, however, sidestepped the key question of how to decide who should get the limited drugs.'In the particular circumstances of this outbreak and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,' the agency said.The doctors will become the first African patients to receive the drug.The U.S. government had put Liberian officials in touch with the California-based maker of ZMapp, Mapp Biopharmaceutical.The company said that in responding to a request from an unidentified West African country, it had ran out of its supply of the treatment....Scare grips CameroonThe Ebola scare has gripped Cameroon following reports that cases of the disease were imported from neighbouring Nigeria.Cameroon's minister of health has refuted the allegations. Rumors that cases of the deadly Ebola virus had been detected at the government referral hospital in Douala, Cameroon, spread quickly.Marcel Fru, 17, said he learned from television news reports that two Nigerians were taken from the Douala airport to a hospital after the virus was detected in them.Nigerians throng into Cameroon on a daily basis for business, vacation and fear of the militant group Boko Haram. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says at least 10 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Nigeria. Some clergy and traditional rulers advised people to report any suspected cases of the disease.But Minister of Health Andre Mama Fouda says the information about Nigerian Ebola victims in Cameroon is wrong.'With regards to our country Cameroon, no suspected case has been reported until (this) date,' Mama Fouda said.
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