by Dayo Laniyan
According to officials, two US aid workers that contracted Ebola in Liberia are currently improving after taking the experimental drug labelled ‘ZMapp’.
The two missionaries, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are right now being treated in a specialist isolation unit in Atlanta. The pair are still weak, and there are still doubts as to whether ZMapp actually played a real part in their improvement, as it has never been tested on humans or even approved by the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However the fact that it was given to two Americans so far into the Ebola outbreak has sparked criticism and outrage from authorities in West Africa.
Liberia’s assistant health minister, Dr Tolbert Nyenswah told the Wall Street Journal that the news of the aid workers’ treatment had “made our job very difficult.”
“The population here is asking: ‘You said there was no cure for Ebola, but the Americans are curing it?’”
This is a sentiment shared by Peter Piot, who discovered the disease itself in 1976, David Heymann, the director of the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security and Jeremy Farraf from the Wellcome trust. In a joint statement they said that if an Ebola outbreak occurred in First World Countries, medical agencies “would begin discussions with companies and labs developing these products and then make rapid decisions about which of them might be appropriate for compassionate use.”
“African governments should be allowed to make informed decisions about whether or not to use these products- for example to protect and treat healthcare workers who run especially high risks of infection.”
In fact, it is not only African authorities that have criticised the treatment of the aid workers. Emory University Hospital in Atlanta have issued an appeal to the public for compassion after receiving “nasty emails” and 100 calls from people who are questioning why the sick aid workers should be allowed on US soil.
Currently there are three companies, the US government and the Public Health Agency of Canada that are working on the experimental drug.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical said in a statement “Zmapp was first identified as a drug candidate in January 2014 and has not yet been evaluated for safety in humans. As such, very little of the drug is currently available.”
“Mapp and its partners are co-operating with appropriate government agencies to increase production as quickly as possible.”
Almost 900 people have now died to Ebola in four West African countries since February. Although the US National Security Adviser Susan Rice has said that the risk of Ebola transmission in the US is “very low”, measures have been implemented to prevent the disease spreading.
The Emirates airline was the first international airline to suspend all flights to virus affected regions on Sunday, with British Airways now following suit, cancelling some of its flights to West Africa. Within the region, Sierra Leone and Liberia have cancelled all of its football matches, the former possibly denying its football team a chance to qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations.