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Africans face long wait for unproven Ebola drug

MONROVIA, Liberia — Africans seeking a drug to help contain the Ebola virus will have to wait months before a potentially life-saving experimental treatment used on two infected Americans is produced even in small amounts, officials said.

And there are no guarantees that the medication known as ZMapp would curb the spread of the dreaded disease, which starts with a fever and body aches and sometimes progresses to serious bleeding. Supplies of the drug are limited. It has never been tested for safety or effectiveness in humans.

The health minister of Nigeria, one of the four countries where Ebola has broken out, told a news conference in his country that he had asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about access to the drug. A CDC spokesman said Wednesday that "there are virtually no doses available."

Some people in other affected countries questioned why the medicine has not been offered to infected Africans.

Anthony Kamara, a 27-year-old man riding a bicycle in Freetown, Sierra Leone, said "Americans are very selfish. They only care about the lives of themselves and no one else."

He referred to ZMapp as "the miracle serum" that the United States has "refused to share with us to save African lives."

The lack of wider availability "shows simply that white patients and black patients do not have the same value in the eyes of world medicine," said Nouridine Sow, a sociology professor at the Universal Institute of Guinea.

The outbreak first emerged in Guinea and spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia before reaching Nigeria. Almost 1,000 people have died since March.

Underscoring desperate attempts to stop the disease, troops in full combat gear deployed in the rain to block people traveling to Liberia's capital from rural areas hit by Ebola. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a national state of emergency, and officials said Thursday that no one with a fever would be allowed in or out of the country.

In Sierra Leone, military forces also deployed as part of "Operation Octopus," which officials said was aimed at preventing "the unauthorized movement of Ebola-infected persons."

Liberia and Sierra Leone account for more than 60 percent of the deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

A man who says he has lost 16 relatives to Ebola tosses a soft drink into the isolation area in Kenema, Sierra Leone, for three loved ones quarantined there on Wednesday. The outbreak emerged in Guinea and spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

New York Times

A man who says he has lost 16 relatives to Ebola tosses a soft drink into the isolation area in Kenema, Sierra Leone, for three loved ones quarantined there on Wednesday. The outbreak emerged in Guinea and spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Africans face long wait for unproven Ebola drug 08/07/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:03pm]

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