An experimental drug used to treat two American Ebola patients will be sent to Liberia, the epicenter of what has been called the worst outbreak of the hemorrhaging fever in history. The decision was made to send ZMapp after Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made a request to President Obama.
The World Health Organization held an emergency ethics meeting Monday (Aug. 12) where it was decided that remaining available doses of the drug should be sent to Africa. An additional batch arrived in Liberia Wednesday (Aug. 13) to treat two medical professionals. There are only up to a dozen doses of the drug available. ZMapp has never been approved for treatment on humans.
A 2-year-old boy’s death in December may have been what spread of the virus. More than 1,000 people have died from Ebola in Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone since February. Nigeria declared a state of emergency after an American man of Liberian descent spread Ebola to several health workers. The man, Patrick Sawyer, died in the heavily populated West African county, as did a nurse who treated him.
A priest in Spain died Tuesday (Aug. 12) despite receiving ZMapp. Miguel Pajares contracted Ebola while working in a hospital in Liberia, and is the first European to pass from the virus since the outbreak.
Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, a man leading the frontline fight against Ebola in Liberia, was never given the drug, although it was discussed. Khan died in late July, roughly one week after he contracted the virus. “What they really didn’t want to do was kill Dr. Khan with their attempt at therapy,”Dr. Armand Sprecher, public health specialist at Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times. “If word got out that M.S.F. [Médecins Sans Frontières] killed Dr. Khan, that would have implications for outbreak control,” he added, using the initials for the French name of the relief group.”
The small supply of ZMapp has now been exhausted. It will take several months to produce more doses.
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