12 Aug 2014

WHO to discuss Ebola treatments

6:08 am on 12 August 2014

The World Health Organisation was meeting in Switzerland on Monday with medical ethics specialists to explore the use of experimental treatments for the Ebola virus.

The virus has killed nearly 1000 people in West Africa, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and 1800 have become infected. The virus is transmitted between humans through bodily fluids.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan. Photo: AFP

When two infected American aid workers were given doses of an experimental drug, their condition apparently improved.

The WHO's discussions in Geneva on whether to support further use of the experimental drug will be difficult, the BBC reports.

Deciding against risks the accusation that a potentially life-saving treatment is available only to aid workers from wealthy countries.

Deciding in favour might, if the drug were to have major side-effects lead to charges the world's top public health body approved harmful medical experiments on some of the world's poorest people.

Meanwhile, Liberia's information minister has admitted that the country's health care system has been overwhelmed by the spread Ebola.

Lewis Brown told the BBC the system had been "overtaxed" by the outbreak, but authorities were doing their best in the face of an unprecedented crisis.

Mr Lewis said the outbreak is affecting Liberia's most populated areas, and that people there were "in denial".

"There are religious practices and beliefs, long-held traditional values that are being challenged by the procedures... to cure or at least prevent the spread of disease."

Mr Lewis said Liberia's health care system was "not the best in the wold", but rejected accusations that it had not responded quickly enough.

Nigeria's Health Ministry says it now has 10 confirmed cases of Ebola, up from seven at the last count. So far two people have died, among them the Liberian who brought the virus into Lagos.

All those infected had primary contact with Patrick Sawyer, who collapsed on arrival at the city's airport on 25 July and later died.