As African medics die of Ebola, debate rages over experimental drugs

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Ebola has claimed the life of another health worker in Africa — a leading doctor in the fight against the disease in Sierra Leone.

The death comes amid word that another top doctor had been considered for an experimental treatment. Ultimately, doctors decided against using the drug — and he died before he could be airlifted out of the country.

Ebola has killed more than 1,000 people in the current outbreak in West Africa. But only two Americans and a Spaniard have received ZMapp, the unproven and experimental anti-Ebola drug made in the United States.

There is very little of the experimental treatment available. The use of the drug has sparked a debate about who should get it, even though it hasn’t been tested in humans.

Doctors had considered giving ZMapp to Sheik Humarr Khann, the chief doctor treating Ebola in Sierera Leone, who had come down with the deadly disease. But according to an email from officials at the World Health Organization, they decided against it after considering his “clinical and treatment conditions.”

The organization then tried to arrange airlifting Khan out of the country, but the statement says “his condition had deteriorated too much to be transported safely.” He died on July 29th.

Doses of ZMapp have now been allocated to two Liberian doctors. Liberia’s health minister says the supplies could arrive there by day’s end. They would be the first Africans known to receive the treatment.

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APPHOTO ALIB103: In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, nurses dealing with patients await the arrival of Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as she tours areas to call on health workers not to leave there post as fear of the Ebola virus spreads throughout the city of Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization declared it is ethical to use untested drugs and vaccines in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa although the tiny supply of one experimental drug handed out to three people has been depleted and it could be many months until more is available. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh) (1 Jan 2012)


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