A health worker takes a passenger's temperature at the
Felix Houphouet Boigny international airport in Abidjan,
Ivory Coast, which has banned air travellers from Guinea,
Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries worst-hit by
the Ebola outbreak. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
A consignment of experimental Ebola drugs arrived by
plane in Liberia on Wednesday to treat two doctors suffering
from the virus, which has killed more than 1000 people across
four West African countries.
The drug, ZMapp, arrived in two boxes on a commercial flight
from the United States carried by Liberia's Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Augustine Ngafuan, and was unloaded at the
VIP terminal, a Reuters witness said.
It will be taken to a hospital in the capital and
administered to Liberian doctors Zukunis Ireland and Abraham
Borbor, who officials said contracted the disease while
attending to patients, including a late colleague.
The world's worst outbreak of Ebola has claimed the lives of
1,069 people and there are 1,975 probable and suspected
cases, the vast majority in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,
according to new figures from the World Health Organisation.
Three people have died in Nigeria.
The U.N. health agency said only around 10 to 12 doses of the
drug have been made and this raises difficult ethical
questions about who should get priority access.
The doctors will be the first Africans to receive it, though
it has been given to a Spanish priest who later died and two
U.S. aid workers who are reported to have shown signs of
Authorities are also concerned that ZMapp's unproven status
could leave them open to the charge that humans are being
used as guinea pigs.
"This is not the panacea to the problem. It is at the risk of
the patient," Liberia's Assistant Health Minister Tolbert
Nyenswah told journalists at Monrovia's main airport.
Information Minister Lewis Brown told Reuters the drug merely
offered a "glimmer of hope" and its use was little more than
Even so, the clamour for it is strong given that the
contagious haemorrhagic disease is killing more than half of
its victims and there is no known cure or vaccine.
"I welcome it. It is very good. Our nurses are dying. If you
bring them the medication it will make them stronger to fight
Ebola," said stationery seller James Liburd, in Monrovia.
ANOTHER DOCTOR DIES
In evidence of the ethical dilemma, Melvin Korkor, the first
Liberian doctor to survive Ebola, said he would not have used
ZMapp when he was fighting for his life because U.S.
authorities said they were not responsible for any adverse
"Any drug that has not been approved by FDA should not be
administered," he told Reuters.
One of the epidemic's most tragic consequences is the toll on
health care workers who rushed in as first responders only to
become infected themselves due to inadequate protection
measures or diagnoses of patients that came too late or were
The World Health Organization said this week that 170 health
care workers had been infected and at least 81 had died.
Sierra Leonean doctor Modupeh Cole became the latest medical
practitioner to die of Ebola, a health ministry spokesman
said on Tuesday.
He contracted the disease after treating a patient who later
proved to have the virus and died. The country's leading
Ebola doctor, Shek Umar Khan, also died last month.
Eight Chinese health workers are in quarantine in Sierra
Leone because they may have contracted Ebola, according to
the spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Freetown, Xu Zhou.
The seven doctors and one nurse treated patients at two
Chinese-run hospitals in Freetown who later died from Ebola.
One of the doctors has emerged from quarantine after a 21-day
observation period, Zhou told Reuters.
GUINEA CLOSES BORDER
Despite the stir caused by ZMapp, preventive public health
measures will be crucial to containing the outbreak,
according to the U.N. health agency.
As a result, West African and other governments, including
some which have seen no cases of the virus, have taken
measures intended to prevent the spread of the disease.
Guinea-Bissau has decided to close its frontier with eastern
neighbour Guinea, Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira told
a news conference. Germany on Wednesday urged its nationals
to leave Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, though the request
did not apply to medical workers or German diplomatic staff,
a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The outbreak has brought fresh attention to efforts to find a
cure. Scientists in the United States studying Ebola say they
have found how it blocks and disables the body's ability to
battle infections in a discovery that should help the search
for potential cures and vaccines.
The scientists found that Ebola carries a protein called VP24
that interferes with a molecule called interferon, which is
vital to the immune response.
"One of the key reasons that Ebola virus is so deadly is
because it disrupts the body's immune response to the
infection," said Chris Basler of the Icahn School of Medicine
at Mount Sinai, New York, who worked on the study.