Ebola curfew in Sierra Leone will not be extended

Medecins Sans Frontieres medical staff wearing protective clothing

Authorities say three-day lockdown was a success and helped prevent spread of disease

LAST UPDATED AT 12:21 ON Mon 22 Sep 2014

A three-day curfew in Sierra Leone, under which the West African country's six million residents were confined to their homes while health workers went door-to-door to investigate the spread of the ebola virus, will not be extended.

Officials had earlier suggested that the emergency measure might be prolonged but last night they said that the lockdown had been successful and would not need to be extended, the BBC reports.

Around 30,000 medical volunteers spent the three days visiting affected neighbourhoods looking for infected patients, educating residents about the disease, handing out soap - and looking for bodies of victims.

Yesterday, Sky News reported that 92 bodies and at least 56 previously unknown infections had been identified – though it is unclear whether all of the 56 were 'new' cases, with the BBC today reporting just 22.

Deputy chief medical officer Sarian Kamara said discovering the new cases was crucial. He said: "Had they not been discovered, they would have greatly increased transmission."

He said that up to 70 victims had been buried in the past two days. Ebola-infected bodies are highly contagious, so quick burial is essential to stop the spread of infection.

The curfew is the most aggressive measure taken against the disease in West Africa yet, says the BBC. Its introduction was controversial, with Medecins Sans Frontieres warning it could alienate the public from health workers and unnecessarily criminalise people.

However, the head of Sierra Leone's Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), Stephen Gaojia, said it had been a "huge success". It was largely respected, with some residents of the capital, Freetown, coming on to the streets to celebrate when it ended.

Three days of ‘house arrest’ for entire population of Sierra Leone

19 September 

Almost all of Sierra Leone’s six million citizens have been ordered to stay inside for three days. The curfew, which began at midnight last night, is to allow health workers to assess and tackle the Ebola epidemic which is raging in West Africa.

As 30,000 volunteers begin to make house calls this morning – educating residents about the disease, distributing soap and checking for infected patients and bodies – the UN said the outbreak was a threat to world peace, The Guardian reports.

The country’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, said that “extraordinary times” required extraordinary measures and claimed the action would be “a very big boost to our collective effort to stop the outbreak”.

However, Medecins sans Frontieres said the lockdown, from which security services are exempt, was too draconian and could be counterproductive. The medical NGO said the measures might criminalise people and “jeopardise the trust between people and health providers”.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the UN Security Council in New York yesterday declared the rise of Ebola in West Africa a “threat to international peace and security”. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, announced a special mission to fight the disease.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” said Ban, who announced he would be appointing an envoy to head the newly-created UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

He added: “This international mission ... will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks.”

Ebola: outbreak a threat to global security, warns Obama

17 September 

President Barack Obama has promised to make the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa a top national security priority, saying yesterday that the world has "a responsibility to act" to tackle the deadly outbreak.

"This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security, it’s a potential threat to global security,'' he said. ‘’If these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic, that has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease."

Almost 2,500 people have died from the disease since March, more than from all of the past outbreaks combined.

Obama's remarks came as the White House pledged $175 million to fund a military operation to the worst affected areas. US troops will be responsible for setting up a regional headquarters in Liberia as well as training thousands of healthcare workers and building Ebola treatment centres.

However healthcare leaders at the World Health Organization (WHO) say that at least $1 billion is now needed to fight a health crisis that is "unparalleled in modern times", the BBC reports.

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) warns that without further funding, cases of the virus could increase into the hundreds of thousands.

Kent Brantly, the American healthcare worker who was infected with the disease while working in West Africa and has since recovered, described the outbreak as a "fire straight from the pit of hell", according to Vox.  Speaking to the US senate, he said: "We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will keep the flames away from our shores."

Meanwhile, human trials for an Ebola vaccine have begun in Oxford. The vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the US National Institute was proven to be 100 per cent successful in animal tests and has now been fast-tracked for safety trials on humans.

Ebola: Obama to send US troops to fight West Africa outbreak 

16 September

President Barack Obama is expected to announce plans to send 3,000 US military personnel to Liberia to help tackle the deadly Ebola virus that continues to spread across West Africa.

Last month Obama said he was prepared to lead an international response to the crisis in Liberia and will today outline details of the US military operation.

Aid agencies and the World Health Organization have previously criticised the international community for failing to respond to the humanitarian crisis which began over six months ago.

Almost 2,500 people have died and nearly 5,000 people have now been infected with the disease. Over half of the deaths have occurred in Liberia, with the World Health Organization warning that thousands more cases are to be expected. "We all recognize that this is such an extraordinary, serious epidemic," a senior government official told the New York Times.

'Operation United Assistance' is expected to involve:

  • Setting up a regional headquarters in the Liberian capital of Monrovia to coordinate the international response
  • Training up to 500 healthcare workers a week
  • Building 17 Ebola treatment centres across the country with 1,700 beds in total
  • Distributing healthcare kits and tests to thousands of households
  • Educating and training locals about the disease

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease and public health expert at Vanderbilt University, said the response was "coordinated and coherent" and showed a serious commitment from the US government. Others have criticised the government for waiting this long to act.

Ebola: Bill and Melinda Gates donate $50m 

11 September

Following calls from the UN for $600 million to fight the Ebola outbreak, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged $50 million to help fight the spread of the disease across West Africa.

Their organisation had previously donated $10 million to the emergency operations, treatment and research.

The money will go towards the purchase of medical supplies and the strengthening of existing healthcare systems, as well as towards research into possible cures and vaccines.

"We are working urgently with our partners to identify the most effective ways to help them save lives now and stop transmission of this deadly disease," said Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the Gates Foundation's chief executive officer, according to AP.

The funds will be split between the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centre for Disease Control and various other organisations working towards containing the virus.

Liberia, the country facing the largest Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is "fighting a biological war", according to Sarah Crowe, a Unicef health worker.

Her comments come days after the country's health minister warned that the disease was a threat to the nation's existence.

Crowe, who just returned from Liberia, said the country is involved in a war against "an unseen enemy without foot soldiers", according to the BBC.

"Ebola has turned survivors into human booby traps, unexploded ordinance - touch and you die. Ebola psychosis is paralysing."

Ebola: 'plague' threatens Liberia's existence 

10 September

Liberia's health minister has said his country is facing "a serious threat to its existence" and has appealed to the international community for urgent support.

Brownie Samukai told the UN Security Council that the disease was beyond the country's control and was "devouring everything in its path", the BBC reports.

More than 2,200 people have now died from the disease across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Liberia has been the worst affected nation by far, with over a 1,000 of the total deaths. Doctors warn that Ebola is spreading at an exponential rate, with half of all cases in West Africa occurring in just three weeks.

Karin Landgren, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for Liberia, described the outbreak as a "latter-day plague" saying that "Liberians are facing the greatest threat since their war". 

The blame has been placed on traditional burial practices as well as the country's crumbling infrastructure which was damaged by two civil wars in as many decades. The UN has said at least 160 health workers in the country have contracted the disease as they do not have adequate protective clothing. Hospitals are severely understaffed and there are not enough beds, with many patients being told to go home.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the international community to scale-up their response to the outbreak.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says a meeting on the international response to the outbreak will be held at this month's General Assembly.

"I don't think anyone can say right now that the international response to the Ebola outbreak is sufficient," said US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. 

Ebola vaccine: human trials after monkey test a success

08 September

Human trials of an experimental Ebola vaccine have begun in the US after it proved successful in protecting monkeys from the virus.

The World Health Organization is working to fast-track experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola to combat the outbreak in West Africa, and says that if the latest vaccine turns out to be safe it could be used in West Africa as early as November.

The tests, conducted by the US National Institutes of Health, showed that 100 per cent of the macaque monkeys survived after being vaccinated and then infected with the disease. However, a booster injection is needed to extend its effectiveness.

"The good part of this vaccine is that at five weeks or earlier you get full protection," Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the BBC. "The sobering news is the durability isn't great, but if you give a boost, a second shot, you make it really durable."

Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham described it as "really encouraging data".

The vaccine contains a genetically modified combination of two different strains of Ebola. Scientists hope that patients will react to the small amount of the virus and develop immunity against it. 

Safety trials in humans have already begun in the US and are expected to be extended to the UK and Africa.

Over 2,100 people have now died from the disease that continues to spread across West Africa. There is currently no proven cure or vaccine against the disease, but several are in development across the world.

In other developments:

  • The government in Sierra Leone has ordered a three day lock-down of the entire country. Between 19 to 21 September people will not be allowed to leave their homes in order to enable healthcare workers to locate and isolate those who are infected.
  • Barack Obama has said the US must lead the international community in containing the spread of Ebola in Africa. He said he was prepared to deploy the US military to set up isolation centres and provide security for international health care workers.
  • American healthcare worker Dr Rick Sacra, who was infected with the disease while working in Liberia, has been flown to Nebraska for treatment and is said to be improving.

Ebola: British nurse makes 'full recovery' and leaves hospital

03 September

William Pooley, the first Briton to be infected with the deadly Ebola virus, has made a full recovery according to his doctors.

The 29-year old nurse from Suffolk was being treated in a specialist isolation centre in west London's Royal Free Hospital. His doctors say he is no longer infectious and poses "no risk to the wider community in any way".

He caught the virus while working as a volunteer nurse at the centre of the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. "I was worried that I was going to die, I was worried about my family and I was scared," he said.

He was flown back to the UK and received the experimental drug zMapp, but doctors are still unable to determine whether it was directly responsible for his recovery, as patients can get better naturally. However, "levels of the virus in his bloodstream did fall significantly" following the treatment, reports the BBC's health editor James Gallagher.

Pooley said he was very lucky in to receive such high quality care, saying treatment in the UK was a "world apart" from what people were receiving in the worst affected countries in West Africa.

He also said that despite experiencing some unpleasant symptoms, they never progressed to the "worst stage of the disease", adding: "I've seen people dying horrible deaths."

He praised healthcare workers that are still operating in the region. "In the face of quite likely a horrible death, they're continuing to work all day, every day helping sick people, it's amazing."

Meanwhile, the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has criticised the international response to the outbreak in West Africa as "lethally inadequate".

Over 3,000 people are infected and more than half have died across Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea and Senegal, with a separate outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ebola virus outbreak: the economic cost

02 Septmber

The introduction of travel bans and quarantines in order to combat the outbreak of Ebola virus are having a devastating economic impact on several African countries, warns the UN.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) has issued a high-level food security alert for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, warning that the food crisis is expected to intensify in coming months, according to Reuters.

Food supplies

"With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come," the FAO's Bukar Tijani told Deutsche Welle.

Production of vital crops such as rice, maize, and palm oil is being scaled back due to a shortage of labour. This in turn is leading to sharp price hikes. For example, the price of Cassava, a staple carbohydrate in the region, has risen by 150 per cent in just two weeks.

Even before the outbreak, many households were forced to spend as much as 80 per cent of their income on food, said Vincent Martin, also from FOA. "Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach".

The UN World Food Programme has launched an emergency response to the situation in West Africa and is sending 65,000 tonnes of food to 1.3 million people in the worst affected areas.


Tourism is "one of the first casualties of any epidemic", according to the Economist.  Airlines have suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia and various governments have issued travel warnings. This comes despite advice from the World Health Organisation not to issue travel and trade bans as they are counterproductive.

The fears surrounding Ebola are even affecting popular tourist destinations in South Africa and Kenya – thousands of miles away from the affected area. Hannes Boshoff, managing director at Johannesburg-based ERM Tours, told Reuters that 80 per cent of his Asian customers had cancelled booked trips over fears of Ebola. A lot of tourists just see Africa "as one country", Boshoff said. "I try and tell people that Europe and America are closer to the Ebola outbreak than South Africa."


Several foreign mining companies including London Mining began evacuating staff based in West Africa in June, when the outbreak was still in its early stages. Since then, many more have followed suit. China Union has threatened to shut down its entire operation in Liberia if the outbreak continues to spread. Sierra Leone will miss its goal of producing $200 million worth of diamonds as miners are frightened to go down the diamond pits to work.

Despite fears of a looming food crisis, the UN says that "preventing further loss of human life and stopping the spread of the virus" remains their primary objective.

Ebola: healthcare workers go on strike over safety fears

01 September 

Healthcare workers at a large state-run hospital at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone have gone on strike over pay and hazardous working conditions.

They say they are not being provided with adequate protection against the disease after more than 20 health care workers died from the disease, ITV reports.

"The workers decided to stop working because we have not been paid our allowances and we lack some tools," adds Ishmael Mehemoh, chief supervisor at the clinic in the city of Kenema in the east of the country.

The deadliest Ebola outbreak on record has now infected over 3,000 people and killed more than 1,500. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is concerned about the "unprecedented" number of doctors and nurses who have been affected. So far 240 have been infected and 120 have died.

Separately, the British Red Cross is appealing for doctors and nurses with experience of "acute-care and working in a resource-poor setting" to join their team of healthcare workers battling Ebola in the same Sierra Leonean city.

In other developments:

  • In extensive animal tests, the experimental drug zMapp was proven to be "100 per cent effective" in treating the disease. It has yet to be clinically tested on humans but has been given to a handful of health workers.
  • Two Liberian doctors have been released from hospital and no longer test positive for the disease after receiving the experimental drug zMapp. Dr Senga Omeonga and Kynda Kobbah were infected while treating patients but have now made a full recovery, CNN reports.
  • In Sweden, a man returning from West Africa thought to have the disease has tested negative.
  • Ivory Coast is being threatened with expulsion from the Africa cup of Nations for refusing to play against Sierra Leone "because of fears over Ebola", BBC sport reports.

Ebola virus outbreak spreads to Senegal 

    29 August

    The first case of Ebola has been confirmed in Senegal, making it the fifth country in West Africa to be affected by the outbreak of the virus, according to Reuters.

    The country's Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck said the victim had arrived in Senegal from neighbouring Guinea, where the deadly outbreak began in March.

    The young man was immediately quarantined and health officials are working to find people he may have come into contact with.

    Senegal had previously shut its borders with Guinea, but has not been able to stop people travelling to its cities, which are major trade and transport hubs.

    At least 3,000 people have now been infected with the disease across West Africa and over 1,500 have died. The World Health Organisation has warned that outbreak could accelerate, ultimately infecting upto 20,000 people.

    Ebola virus factfile 

    What is the Ebola virus and what are the symptoms? 

    The World Health Organization describes Ebola as "a severe acute viral illness". Early symptoms are similar to malaria and include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and both internal and external bleeding.

    Is there a cure? 

    There is no known cure or vaccine for the virus and the disease kills between 25 and 90 per cent of its victims. The only treatment doctors can offer is "supportive intensive care" such as rehydration of infected patients under strict quarantine.

    Where did it come from? 

    Scientists believe it was initially present in wild animals such as fruit bats living in tropical rainforests in equatorial Africa. The disease spread to humans when they came into contact with the organs, blood or other bodily fluids from infected animals through hunting.

    How is it spread? 

    Ebola is highly infectious. It can be transmitted through contact with the blood, bodily fluids and organs, including skin, of sufferers or through indirect contact with environments contaminated by the disease. The disease can also have a long incubation period, up to three weeks, which allows it to spread rapidly before diagnosis and quarantine can take place.

    Ebola cases could rise to 20,000, warns WHO

    28 August

    Cases of the Ebola virus could exceed 20,000 as the disease continues to spread at an "alarming" rate across West Africa, the World Health Organization has warned.

    The view was echoed by US health officials. "The cases are increasing. I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better," Tom Frieden, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told Al Jazeera in Liberia.

    Over 1,500 people are known to have died in the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history and over 3,000 people have been infected, with 40 per cent of those cases occurring in just the last few weeks. The fatalities already include 120 health workers.

    The news comes as health ministers from across the region meet in Ghana for the second time in the last few months to co-ordinate a response to the crisis.

     In other developments:

    • Human safety trials for a new Ebola vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline are set to begin next week.
    • The British nurse Will Pooely who is being treated at a London hospital has been given the same experimental drug zMapp used to treat two American health care workers. It is yet unclear whether the medication contributed to their recovery.
    • In Nigeria the disease has spread to the oil hub of Port Harcourt, the first recorded case outside of Lagos. The country has closed all of its school until mid-October in an effort to contain the outbreak.
    • Several more airlines have suspended flights to the region, with Royal Air Morocco now said to be the only carrier still offering flights from the Liberian and Sierra Leonean capitals. This is despite the WHO's advice that travel and trade bans are not necessary.

    Ebola: WHO calls for screening at borders in West Africa

    19 Aug

    Countries affected by the Ebola outbreak have been asked to introduce exit screenings at all international airports, seaports and major land crossings in order to stop the spread of the disease in West Africa.

    The recommendation comes from the World Health Organization [WHO], which has set up a task force to monitor and contain the outbreak, reports Time magazine. The task force will also be responsible for providing information to governments and transport companies, but it has not so far not called for general travel bans.

    "Any person with an illness consistent with [the Ebola virus] should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation", the UN health agency said. It added that non–affected countries in the region "need to strengthen the capacity to detect and immediately contain new cases".

    Separately, it has now been confirmed that 17 patients who were freed from a quarantine centre in Liberia last week are indeed missing, the BBC reports. This is despite claims from some health care workers that they had been moved to another facility. The attack on the centre was described as Liberia's "greatest setback" during the current Ebola outbreak by the country's information minister.

    "Assaults on health workers and facilities seriously affect access to health care, depriving patients of treatment and interrupting measures to prevent and control contagious diseases", said the WHO's Dr Richard Brennan.

    The death toll has now risen to 1,229 with 2,240 confirmed cases across Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Sierra Leone is currently the worst affected nation with 810 cases of Ebola across 12 of the country's 13 districts.

    Ebola: infected patients 'freed' after raid in Liberia

    18 Aug

    Hundreds of people have reportedly raided an Ebola quarantine centre in the Liberian capital of Monrovia and released infected patients, AFP reports.

    An "angry mob" of several hundred people attacked a health centre in city's West Point township on Saturday, but there are conflicting reports about what has happened to the patients.

    Some health officials told the BBC that the patients, who have all tested positive for Ebola, had been transferred to another medical facility. But witnesses and the head of the country's health workers association, George Williams, have claimed that 17 escaped and three were taken away by their families.

    Those responsible for the raid were heard chanting "there is no Ebola" amid claims from locals that the disease was a hoax. Residents had opposed the centre, saying "we told them not to (build) their camp here. They didn't listen to us."

    Blood-stained mattresses, bedding and medical equipment were looted from the health centre, a senior police officer told the BBC. These pose a significant health hazard as the disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids. 

    "This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life," the police source said.

    If the patients have escaped, there are fears that the outbreak will spread to nearby densely populated slums in West Point, where up to 50,000 people live.

    The deadly outbreak has so far killed at least 1,145 people in West Africa, including 413 in Liberia where health officials are struggling to contain the outbreak due to widespread misinformation and fear of the disease.

    In a separate development, Kenya has closed its borders to all incoming travel from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Kenya Airways has also suspended flights to the region, despite advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) not to issue travel bans as the risk remains low. Several other airlines including British Airways and Emirates have already cancelled suspended flights to the region.


    Ebola: scale of outbreak has been 'vastly underestimated'

    15 Aug

    The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been "vastly underestimated", according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    The WHO said it would be coordinating a "massive" scaling up of the international response after it discovered that the number of reported cases and deaths did not reflect the severity of the outbreak.

    Almost 2,000 people are reported to have been infected and the latest death toll stands at 1,069 across Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Spain, where a priest infected in Liberia died earlier this week.

    The WHO did not say what it thought the actual number of cases was, but it said it expected the outbreak to continue "for some time", with its response plan extending to several months.

    It said "extraordinary measures" were now needed to contain the outbreak affecting countries that are dealing with "extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear".

    However, the organisation reiterated that the risk of transmission via air travel remains low. It has advised against travel or trade bans, instead advising countries to provide citizens travelling to the region with accurate information on how to reduce their risk of infection. 

    "Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne," Dr Isabelle Nuttall, Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response said in a statement. “It can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease.”

    In a separate development, two people in Nigeria have died after drinking salt water, rumoured to prevent the disease, according the BBC. Ministers warned the public not believe information from social media that had not been issued by the government or health officials, as fear of the disease spreads across the region.

    Ebola: Canada sends untested vaccine to West Africa

    13 Aug

    Canada has announced that it will donate an experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) to be used in West Africa.

    It said it would be donating between 800 and 1,000 doses of the vaccine but experts have warned that supplies of the drug are limited as it takes months to produce.

    Dr Gregory Taylor, deputy head of Canada's Public Health Agency told Reuters that he believed the drug was a "global resource" to be shared.

    The vaccine has never been tested on humans and Taylor admitted that they have no idea how safe the vaccine is or what the side effects will be, "but in this extraordinary circumstance in Africa right now, we're trying to do everything we can to assist."

    This follows yesterday's decision by the WHO to allow untested and unlicensed drugs to be used in response to the epidemic. It decided that, with West Africa in the grip of the worst-ever Ebola outbreak, it would be ethical to use extend the use of experimental treatments.

    There is currently no proven Ebola vaccine or cure, but several pharmaceutical companies are developing different methods of treating and preventing the disease. 

    • zMapp, a cocktail of antibodies harvested from an infected animal's blood and grown in specially-modified tobacco leaves, works by stopping the virus from entering and infecting new cells. It has been used to treat three Western health care workers, including a Spanish priest who died yesterday, and is being sent to doctors in Liberia.
    • Blood serum is another treatment being considered by the WHO. Serum is part of blood plasma taken from a patient who has recovered from Ebola and is used to treat others as it contains essential antibodies against the disease. It has proven effective in previous outbreaks but the WHO wants stricter safety controls to be introduced.
    • The drug TKM-Ebola, developed by a Canadian pharmaceutical company, works by interfering with the virus's genetic code and stopping it from producing disease-causing proteins, the BBC reports. Human trials were halted earlier this year over safety concerns, but the company announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had partially lifted the ban, raising hopes that the drug could be made available to combat the current outbreak.

    Other vaccines, in addition to the one developed by the Canadian government, are currently in the pipeline. According to the WHO and FDA some clinical trials are being fast-tracked and new vaccines could be made available by 2016.

    Ebola: infected British nurse poses 'little risk' to public

    26 August

    Britain's first confirmed Ebola patient is being treated at a London hospital and is receiving "excellent care", as health officials insist the public risk from the disease remains "very low".

    William Pooley, a 29-year old volunteer nurse from Suffolk became infected while treating patients with the deadly disease at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

    He arrived at London's Royal Free hospital after being flown into RAF Northolt in West London on Sunday night in a specially modified military aircraft, according to the BBC.

    Pooley is being treated at a high-level isolation unit, with a specially designed tent surrounding his hospital bed to contain the disease. The specialist equipment allows doctors to treat Pooley without coming into direct contact with him, Channel 4 reports.

    The UK Department of Health has said that Pooley is not currently "seriously unwell". There is no known cure for Ebola and the treatment is said to involve rehydration, pain relief and other palliative care.

    It is yet unclear whether Pooley will receive any experimental treatment for the disease. The untested drug zMapp was given to two infected American health care workers who recovered and were released from hospital last week, but the pharmaceutical company that produces it has said stocks of the drug had been depleted and will take months to replenish.

    Health experts insist the public risk from Ebola in the UK remains "very low". Professor John Watson, deputy chief medical officer described the NHS systems for dealing with unusual infectious diseases as "robust, well-developed and well-tested".

    "UK hospitals have a proven record of dealing with imported infectious diseases and this patient will be isolated and will receive the best care possible," he said.

    Pooley's co-worker Dr Oliver Johnson told Channel Four that he was a "remarkable man" who had been working tirelessly at "ground-zero" of the outbreak.

    "We consider him a hero," said Gabriel Madiye, the executive director of The Shepherd's Hospice, where he was working. "Somebody who is sacrificing to provide care in very difficult circumstances - when our own health workers are running away." 

    In other developments:

    • The Democratic Republic of Congo has reported cases of the disease, the first outside of West Africa. The current outbreak had previously been confined to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, with a few isolated cases in Nigeria.
    • One of the Liberian doctors who was given zMapp has died, despite initially showing signs of recovery.
    • Japan has said it is willing to offer its influenza drug favipiravir, or T-705, as an experimental Ebola drug if requested.

    Ebola: did zMapp cure American healthcare workers?

    22 August 

    Two missionary healthcare workers have been released from hospital in Atlanta and cleared of the Ebola virus after receiving the experimental zMapp drug.

    After three weeks in an isolation centre, doctors confirmed that Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were now free of the disease and pose no health risk to the public.

    "I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family," said Brantly after his release, calling his recovery "miraculous".

    Brantly thanked the medical staff who treated him at Emory University Hospital and credited zMapp for the improvement in his condition. He also said his survival was a "direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers".

    However, doctors are reluctant to directly attribute the patients' recovery to the drug. "We're all very happy Brantly and Writebol have gotten better", Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Daily News. "But I think it would be a misperception to say that the drug is the thing that made them well.

    "We don't have any idea whether this helped them get better, had no impact or even, unlikely, made their recovery delayed," he said.

    While Ebola has an extremely low survival rate, ten per cent of people do recover from the disease and Writebol and Brantly could have simply gotten better naturally.

    Dr Bruce Ribner, who runs the infectious disease unit at Emory University Hospital, reminded the public that the drugs were still in an experimental phase and much more research was needed before any conclusions on its effectiveness could be made.

    Stocks of the drug have now been depleted and scientists warn it could take months to produce more.

    What is 'zMapp'? 

    Developed by an American biopharmaceutical company, zMapp is a "cocktail" of antibodies harvested from an infected animal's blood and grown in specially-modified tobacco leaves. It works by stopping the virus from entering and infecting healthy cells. This type of drug has already been used in the treatment of some forms of cancer, but takes a long time to produce.

    However, according to previous trials, the treatment is only effective within a limited time frame after infection, with optimum results reported when administered within 24-hours.

    Who has it been given to? 
    • The two American aid workers would have been among the first humans to take the medication, before them, the drug had only been tested on monkeys.
    • A 75-year-old Spanish priest who was infected in Liberia was given the drug, but he later died in Madrid.
    • zMapp has also been given to three Liberian healthcare workers who are reportedly showing signs of improvement.
    Why was it given if it hadn't been approved? 

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows drugs to be administered without testing under what it calls compassionate use. This "expanded access" is what many suspect happened in this case, as it can only be extended to individuals who are facing an immediately life-threatening condition where no other treatment is possible.

    The World Health Organization has also decided that the use of untested drugs to treat the deadly outbreak is ethical.

    Ebola: police open fire to enforce Liberia quarantine

    21 August

    Police in Liberia respond with force as slum residents attempt to break Ebola quarantine to get food and water

    Liberian police have fired live rounds and teargas at residents who attempted to leave a government-imposed Ebola quarantine zone in the country's capital, Monrovia.

    Officials sealed off the city's West Point slum, home to up to 75,000 people, in order to stop the spread of the Ebola virus. But the introduction of curfews and quarantines has angered residents who say they were given no advance warning of the measures which have stopped them from buying food and water.

    Some began throwing rocks at police who were enforcing the quarantine, according to Reuters. The police responded with live rounds, tear gas and beatings. Several serious injuries were reported but no-one is known to have died during the clashes.

    The country's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended the quarantines, which have been established in areas around the country, saying they were essential to control the spread of the disease. She said that Ebola had continued to spread because of "continued denials, cultural varying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government".

    There are fears that such large scale isolations could lead to widespread unrest as the movement of essential goods is cut off. "I don't have any food and we're scared," said Alpha Barry, a West Point resident.

    The World Health Organization has begun working with local authorities to deliver emergency food aid into quarantined regions in an attempt to reduce rising tensions.

    In a separate development, a multi-million pound research package has been announced by the UK's Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust charity. £6.5m in funding will be given to researchers working on ways to tackle the disease.

    Welcome Trust Director Dr Jeremy Farrar said the severity of the outbreak demanded an immediate international response.

    Ebola: world 'failing to help' as Africa faces 'emergency'

    20 Aug

    The head of an international medical charity has accused world leaders of doing "almost zero" to help countries affected by the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history.

    "Leaders in the West are talking about their own safety and doing things like closing airlines –and not helping anyone else," Brice de la Vigne, the operations director of Medecins Sans Frontieres told The Guardian

    He argues that containing Ebola is not a complicated task, but requires international intervention. He accused leaders of lacking the political will to take action. "Time is running against us", he warned.

    Other healthcare workers have echoed De la Vigne's comments. "We are gone beyond the stage of a health crisis", said Sinead Walsh, head of Irish Aid working in Sierra Leonia's capital. "This is a humanitarian emergency now".

    In other developments, the Liberian government has imposed a curfew across the country in order to try and control the spread of the Ebola virus. Health officials have also managed to locate the missing patients who were freed from a quarantine centre last week, the BBC reports.

    Separately, the infected health care workers who have been treated with the experimental zMapp drug in Liberia are reportedly recovering, but it is yet unclear if their improving conditions are directly related to the drug. · 

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