The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stated she would be lifting the state of emergency that was implemented in order to control the outbreak of Ebola, as reports from Mali reveal a fourth person may have died of this disease in the capital.
The same day saw Doctors without Borders make an announcement regarding the launch of accelerated clinical trials in West Africa, in a bid to speed up the possible development of a treatment for the disease that has caused more than 5,000 fatalities.
Addressing the nation, the Liberian president said that while sufficient progress had been made to enable her to lift the state of emergency, it in no way meant that the outbreak was over. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, has experienced fewer cases of Ebola, but it seems new hotspots have developed. One such hotspot is close to the border with Sierra Leone, a country that has been seriously affected by Ebola, just like Guinea.
The state of emergency in Liberia included measures such as closing schools, banning any sizable public gatherings, closing down certain markets, and giving the government permission to restrict the movement of people. Schools will stay closed, but there are discussions by officials in regards to when and how to open them again.
In the meantime, a spokesman from a hospital in Bamako, the capital of Mali, stated that the fourth suspected victim of Ebola in the country was a girl. Despite it sharing a border with Guinea, where the first outbreak took place, Mali seemed to have escaped the Ebola crisis. However, at the beginning of the week, it was confirmed that a nurse had died from Ebola. According to the WHO, it is now believed that a former patient of hers, an Imam, as well as his friend are likely to have died from the disease as well.
According to a spokesman from Gabriel Toure Hospital, Mr. Adama Traore, a girl who died this week tested positive for the disease before passing away, though there was no clear information on whether she had come into contact with any of the other Ebola fatalities in the country.
Thursday saw authorities attempting to find anyone who might have come into contact with the people who died this week. So far, a minimum of 186 people have been found in Bamako and the search is still ongoing, says an internal document from the World Health Organization that the Associated Press procured.
There are teams on their way to the dead imam’s hometown to see if there are any other cases. The document also stated that health workers would be looking into the possibility of establishing a center for observation to discover any other cases that might arise.
Ebola has no cure at the moment and the limited options open to health workers include early intervention and providing supportive care to ensure patients are hydrated.
Doctors without Borders stated they would be holding clinical trials from the beginning of December in three centers for the treatment of Ebola. They will be experimenting with various medication for off-label use, which will shorten the lengthy treatment-discovery process that involves going through animal studies and testing on healthy people.
Doctor Annick Antierens, the coordinator of Doctors without Borders’ investigative collaborations, stated that they had chosen two pharmaceutical drugs to experiment with, namely Japanese and American antivirals. A convalescent plasma will be used as well, which refers to blood drawn from Ebola survivors likely to have antibodies that will prove useful.
Three different research partners will lead separate trials, which will also include the participation health officials in the countries in question as well as the UN World Health Organization.
The chief investigator for Oxford University’s trial, Peter Horby, said that if a treatment was going to be found it had to be done right away, which is why the trials must be accelerated. The trial Oxford University is leading will be testing an antiviral drug from the US in Liberia, namely Brincidofovir.
The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research will be trialing Favipiravir, a Japanese antiviral drug, in Gueckedou, Guinea, while the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine will be trialing convalescent plasma and whole blood therapy in Conakry, Guinea. The trials are expected to deliver results by February or March.
Human tests have started on a number of continents for several experimental Ebola drugs and vaccines. According to Doctors without Borders, the current epidemic has a 50 to 80 percent fatality rate in West Africa.
The coordinator of Ebola for the European Union recently stated that he was worried about the increase in the number of Ebola cases in certain areas of Sierra Leone. While visiting the country’s capital, Freetown, Christos Stylianides promised that the European Union would do more. He stated that there are immediate requirements that cannot be postponed, such as the urgent need for medical personnel. He explained that such issues are being focused on and would be part of the message he takes back to Europe.