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GENEVA, September 04 /ITAR-TASS/. About 200 health experts will gather on Thursday in Geneva for a two-day conference to discuss all aspect of the use of experimental drugs that have not yet been tested on humans in anti-Ebola efforts.
This meeting will be sequential to a mid-August conference of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gave green light to the use of anti-Ebola drugs tested only on monkeys. This radical step was made in a bid to stop the unprecedented grave Ebola outbreak that have already claimed more than 1,500 lives in Western Africa. More than 3,000 people have been infected.
Since the first Ebola outbreak in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, no drugs capable of curing this disease have been officially registered.
However, the WHO’s permission to use experimental drugs failed to solve the problem. The matter is that there are no efficient vaccines against Ebola and experimental drugs are either scarce or underdeveloped. But, according to the WHO forecasts, the number of infected people in Western Africa may reach 20,000 in the next six months.
This situation poses lots of questions, such as: what the criteria of a drug efficiency are, what kind of restrictions on its use should be imposed, how to better organize data collection for analysis. Apart from that, the experts are to outline the priorities for the use experimental drugs and decide where such drugs should go in the first instance, bearing in mind the acute shortage of such drugs. Financial aspects are important too. It is yet to be decided who is to finance the production of such drugs in the long run.
Taking part in the conference will be representatives from pharmaceutical companies who will present their latest developments. In all, specialists will speak about 20 drugs that might be used to cope with Ebola outbreak. These preparations are divided into three groups: drugs derived from the blood of humans or animals who have had Ebola; anti-virus preparations, like the ones used to treat HIV/AIDS; and, finally, vaccines.
By now, Ebola virus has spread across five countries in Western Africa, namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal. Deaths from Ebola have been reported from all these countries, except Senegal. The most serious situation is in now in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. According to the WHO estimates, this outbreak will last from six to nine months and will require about 490 million U.S. dollars.
Apart from these countries, Ebola cases have been registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the death toll has reached 31. WHO experts however say this is an isolated outbreak not linked with the one raging in Western Africa.
The World Health Organization describes Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) as “a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%.” Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. The incubation period is 2 to 21 days. There is no known cure or vaccine for the disease. The only treatment offered is “supportive intensive care.” During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.