Guinea declares emergency as W Africa awaits Ebola drug

Last Updated: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 15:24

Freetown: Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak that has killed 377 in the nation a "health emergency" yesterday and more flights from hard-hit west African countries were cancelled as the region awaited shipments of experimental vaccine.

Guinean President Alpha Conde announced a series of measures including strict controls at border points, travel restrictions and a ban on moving bodies "from one town to another until the end of the epidemic".

In addition all suspected victims will automatically be hospitalised until they are cleared of infection, Conde said.

As the region scrambled to halt the spread of the virus, Gambia suspended all flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to a transport ministry document obtained by AFP yesterday.

The death toll in the worst epidemic of Ebola since its discovery four decades ago climbed to 1,069 yesterday, according to the World Health Organisation which said 56 people had died in two days. Nearly 2,000 have now been infected.

Canada's Health Minister Rona Ambrose said between 800 to 1,000 doses of a vaccine called VSV-EBOV, which has shown promise in animal research but never been tested on humans, would be distributed through the WHO.

Hard-hit nations were also anxiously awaiting a consignment of up to 1,000 doses of the barely-tested drug ZMapp from the US, which has raised hopes of saving hundreds infected with the disease.

The virus has hit doctors hard in the ill-equipped and fragile health systems of the worst-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Liberia is trying to save the lives of two infected doctors and is hoping that the ZMapp serum, which has shown positive early results, arrives in time.

Sierra Leone's health ministry spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis told AFP the country had officially requested a shipment of the drug as the nation lost its second top doctor to the virus.

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 a fierce debate.

The WHO has declared it is ethical to try largely untested treatments "in the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak".  

AFP

First Published: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 15:24

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