Ebola survivor calls for faster drug distribution

West Point marks the opening of the barricade. Photograph: Abbas Dulleh/AP
West Point marks the opening of the barricade. Photograph: Abbas Dulleh/AP
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A LIBERIAN health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug has urged the manufacturer to speed up production and despatch to Africa.

Medical assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital yesterday after she survived the disease, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa.

Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

Before her release, she urged the manufacturer of the experimental drug known as ZMapp to step up production. The company has said that all its supplies are exhausted and it will take months to make more.

“They need to make more ZMapp and send it to us,” Kobbah said.

Doctors have said there is no way to know whether ZMapp made a difference or if survivors like Kobbah recovered on their own, as around 45 per cent of people infected in this outbreak have.

The drug had never been tested in humans before it was prescribed to two Americans who were infected with Ebola in Liberia. They survived Ebola and have been released from an Atlanta hospital.

However, a study released online by the journal Nature found that ZMapp healed all 18 monkeys infected with the deadly virus.

In Liberia yesterday, crowds celebrated in the streets after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for more than a week to try to contain the disease.

Tensions diminished in the West Point neighbourhood of Liberia’s capital Monrovia after authorities lifted the blockade that had sparked unrest. Residents living in the area had feared running out of food and safe water on the peninsula.

Liberia’s president had ordered the barricade on 19 August after West Point residents stormed an Ebola health centre several days earlier.

Residents said they did not want sick people being brought into the community, although those staying at the centre were only under observation during a 21-day incubation period.

Some protesters made off with blood-stained mattresses and other materials that could potentially spread the Ebola virus.

Lifting the quarantine does not mean there is no Ebola in the West Point slum, information minister Lewis Brown said.

Authorities, though, are more confident now that they can work with residents to screen for the sick, he said.

“They’re comfortable with the way the leadership and the community is working with the health team to make sure that the community remains safe,” he said.

Liberia has been the hardest hit of the five countries with Ebola cases in West Africa, reporting at least 694 deaths among 1,378 cases.

More than 3,000 cases have been reported across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and on Friday Senegal announced its first case.

A student from Guinea who had been missing for several weeks showed up at a hospital in Dakar on Tuesday, seeking treatment but 
concealing that he had been in contact with other Ebola victims, health minister Awa Marie Coll Seck confirmed.

Authorities also sent out a team to disinfect the home where he was staying in 
Senegal.