The latest figures from the WHO offered a familiar, grim picture of the spread of Ebola, which international health specialists say has been outpacing containment efforts since its identification in West Africa in March.
The only glimmer of relief, albeit faint, came when Reuters quoted Liberia’s information minister, Lewis Brown, as saying that three African doctors treated in his country with a scarce experimental drug, ZMapp, were showing “remarkable signs of improvement.” There is no licensed cure or vaccine for Ebola, which kills at least half of those infected.
The manufacturer of the experimental medication, Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, has already said that its limited stock of the drug, enough to treat a half-dozen people, is exhausted. The drug, which consists of antibodies that neutralise the Ebola virus, appears to have helped two American aid workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia.
Mr Brown was also quoted in news reports as saying that 17 people being tested for Ebola who were missing from a quarantine centre in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, over the weekend had been located. Some reports said they had been transferred to a specialist Ebola treatment center at John F Kennedy Medical Centre in Monrovia, but other accounts said they had checked in there themselves.
The 17 patients fled a temporary holding center when it was ransacked by looters, who took bloodstained sheets and mattresses that may carry the Ebola virus. The whereabouts of those items was not immediately clear on Tuesday.
At its headquarters in Geneva, the WHO said the number of people who had died in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria had reached 1,229, with 84 new fatalities reported from August 14 to 16, the latest available figures.
The total number of cases was reported as 2,240, an increase of 113 in the same period. Liberia recorded the most abrupt increase in deaths, accounting for 54 of the latest fatalities, compared with 17 in Sierra Leone and 14 in Guinea.
International health experts say the epidemic is probably much worse than the official figures suggest. Local health officials in some countries say they are expecting a sharp increase in the number of cases as they identify patients who have stayed in hiding instead of reporting to public health facilities.]]>