A third U.S. missionary working in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola as health leaders from the U.S. and United Nations said the pace of infections is increasing across West Africa.
The group SIM USA said yesterday that one of its doctors was infected while treating obstetric patients in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. The doctor isolated himself when he first had symptoms, according to a statement from the group.
Thomas Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and David Nabarro, the UN coordinator for Ebola, said in separate appearances yesterday that the outbreak is getting worse.
“The bottom line is that despite tremendous efforts from the U.S. government, the CDC, from within countries, the number of cases continues to increase and is increasing rapidly,” Frieden, who just returned from a trip to West Africa, said in a conference call with reporters. “I’m afraid that over the next few weeks those numbers will continue to increase.”
“The outbreak, it is is accelerating before us,” Nabarro told reporters yesterday in New York. “It is truly important that our response is much stronger. We must do a surge or scaling up of the response, several times, and for that I want to emphasize the importance of accelerating the response within the next two to three weeks.”
The Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria had sickened more than 3,000 people, killing 1,552 as of Aug. 26, according to the World Health Organization. More than 40 percent of the infections occurred in the past 21 days, the WHO said last week.
The U.S. doctor infected with the virus in Liberia wasn’t identified by SIM USA, which didn’t say whether he would be returned to the U.S. for treatment. The missionary group has scheduled a news conference for today.
Nancy Writebol, an aid worker with SIM, was one of two Americans who were flown to Atlanta, treated and released last month after being similarly infected in Liberia. The other was Kent Brantly, a missionary doctor with Samaritan’s Purse, another North Carolina-based aid organization.
“My heart was deeply saddened, but my faith was not shaken, when I learned another of our missionary doctors contracted Ebola,” Bruce Johnson, president of Charlotte-based SIM USA, said in the statement.
Writebol and Brantly received an experimental treatment developed by San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. before being moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. There they received standard care that includes hydration, replacing lost blood and using antibiotics to fight opportunistic infections, doctors said.
While Mapp has since said its supply of the drug is exhausted, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority today said it will contract with Mapp to provide $24.9 million to support the development and manufacturing of the medication, known as ZMapp.
This is the agency’s first involvement in the development of a product to treat viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever, according to the statement by the group, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A study of ZMapp published in the journal Nature Aug. 29 showed monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being treated with the drug. All 18 monkeys given the medicine lived, while three that weren’t treated died.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan criticized travel bans on the affected countries and urged governments hosting international events such as the UN General Assembly later this month in New York, to exercise “appropriate, respectful entry checks.”
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