Sierra Leone Ebola doctor dies as W. Africa awaits experimental meds
By Rod Macjohnson, Frankie Taggart And Zoom Dosso, AFP
August 14, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
FREETOWN/MONROVIA--A second senior doctor in Sierra Leone was confirmed dead from Ebola on Wednesday as West Africa anxiously awaited the arrival of experimental drugs to tackle the deadliest-ever outbreak of the virus.
Sierre Leone's chief medical officer Brima Kargbo said Modupeh Cole, a senior physician in the capital Freetown, had been “instrumental in the fight against the Ebola virus.”
Cole's death came only a fortnight after the country's only virologist and leading Ebola expert, Umar Khan, succumbed to the tropical disease.
Another of the worst-hit countries, Liberia, is scrambling to save two of its own infected doctors and hopes an experimental serum from the United States will arrive in time.
The presidency said Tuesday it had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the use of a barely tested ZMapp treatment that has shown positive early results.
The two infected doctors have given their written consent to try the drug, which will be delivered to the country within 48 hours. A third doctor has already died from the virus.
The World Health Organization declared Tuesday it was ethical to try largely untested treatments “in the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak.”
The company behind ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to the region following an outcry over the fact it had so far only been used on Westerners, but supplies are extremely limited.
'We are all scared'
Germany on Wednesday called on its nationals to leave the three worst-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — although it said it was keeping its embassies open.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday announced plans to step up the global response while urging governments to “avoid panic and fear” over a preventable disease.
His comments came after Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma expressed his “utter dismay” at the “slow pace” of the international community in responding to the outbreak.
In Freetown, the tropical fever is the only topic of conversation.
“We are all scared because of the way Ebola is spreading but we are taking all the necessary precautions,” says Waisu Gassama, 27, who works in the HIV department of the dilapidated, century-old Connaught Hospital.
Outside the hospital, soldiers say they have been drafted in to guard doctors and nurses, many of whom have been targeted by angry mobs blaming modern medicine for exacerbating the epidemic.
The epidemic, the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago in what was then Zaire, has killed over 1,000 people since early this year, the WHO said.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS said one of its officials had died from the disease in Nigeria, taking the total number of deaths in the country to three.
Cases have so far been limited to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which account for the bulk of victims, and Nigeria.