Ebola update: Experimental drug is in demand, CDC issues highest-level alert

As the Ebola outbreak continues to rage, many wonder why only Americans received the experimental drug

Published August 7, 2014 1:49PM (EDT)


After the two American Ebola patients responded well to experimental drug ZMapp, there has been international outcry for the drug (as of yet untested on human subjects) to be deployed to West Africa. According to the Guardian, President Barack Obama has said that it is too soon to send an experimental drug to the stricken region, especially as international experts convene to determine whether the outbreak is a global health emergency.

President Obama continued to speak about the spread of the disease:

"The Ebola virus both currently and in the past is controlled if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place and countries that have been affected are first to admit that what's happened here is their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren't able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough," he said. "You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and health workers. As a consequence it spread more rapidly."

There will be a panel convened by WHO to determine the ethics of using experimental treatment ZMapp. Meanwhile, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the primary developer of the drug, is scrambling to meet demand: "It's absolutely overwhelming," said Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp, in an interview with the New York Times. "We are discussing with the F.D.A. the right path to make the drug available to people as quickly and safely as possible." Producing the drug takes time because antibodies have to be produced on modified tobacco leaves.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now issued its highest-level alert, Level 1, for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The increased alert was issued in response to the disease's spread to Nigeria. Level 1 has not been issued since 2009 for a flu outbreak, and means that the agency will deploy even more staff and resources to combatting Ebola.

Meanwhile, the threat of Ebola mixed with heightened risk for malaria in Sierra Leone is creating a "slow-motion disaster." People who may have malaria are reluctant to go to hospitals with Ebola patients for fear of contracting the disease, while people who think they have Ebola are doubtful that anything can be done to help them in hospitals -- thus, a cycle of poor treatment and increased mortality.

And more:

  • The New York patient in isolation at Mount Sinai Hospital has tested negative.
  • The CDC answered questions about the experimental drug ZMapp.
  • A Spanish missionary priest tested positive for the virus. He has since been evacuated and is in stable condition.
  • The outbreak is hitting home for New York's West African immigrants.

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cdc Ebola Ebola Outbreak West Africa Zmapp