Ebola Death Toll Tops 1,000

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has passed 1,000.

The UN health agency said in a news release on Monday that 1,013 people have died in the outbreak, which has hit Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Nigeria.

Authorities have recorded 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease, which causes a high fever, vomiting and bleeding. The outbreak was first identified in March in Guinea, but it likely started months earlier.

The updated WHO tally includes figures from August 7- 9, during which 52 people died and 69 more were infected.

Ebola is highly lethal and there is no licensed vaccine or treatment for the disease, but so far three infected people have received an experimental drug.

The news comes as a US company which makes an experimental drug for treating the virus sends all its available supplies to West Africa.

“In responding to the request received this weekend from a West African nation, the available supply of ZMapp is exhausted,” said a statement on the Mapp Bio website on Monday.

“Any decision to use ZMapp must be made by the patients’ medical team,” it said, adding that the drug was “provided at no cost in all cases.” The biomedical collaboration between US and Canadian researchers involves a drug that is manufactured in tobacco leaves and is hard to produce on a large scale.

The company did not reveal which nation received the doses, or how many were sent, though CNN reported that Liberia was to receive the sample doses.

The two American missionary workers who fell ill with Ebola while working in Monrovia last month were given doses of the drug. Both have been transported to an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where they are receiving continuous care.

A Spanish priest who was infected with Ebola has also been given a dose, but he died anyway, with virologists saying he probably got the drug a little too late.

The ethics of distributing experimental medications to some people but not others was the focus of a special meeting of the World Health Organisation on Monday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly stressed that the drug’s effects are unknown, since it has not been through a process of rigorous clinical trials.

In a statement released by the WHO on Tuesday, the UN agency stipulated that patients should give consent where possible to being treated with the drugs and all aspects of their care be transparent.

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