Ebola epidemic: experimental drugs to be rushed to Africa

Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) medical workers disinfect the body bag of an Ebola victim at the MSF facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, on August 14, 2014.

Vaccine trials under way as experts fear disease could become endemic in worst-hit areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia

Experimental drugs are to be fast-tracked into west Africa so that they can be tested and, if they work, save lives in the Ebola epidemic, which, experts say, is spiralling out of control. Trials of vaccines are already in their early stages, with healthy British volunteers taking part in safety tests in the UK. The Wellcome Trust is committing £3.2m to set up sites, systems and facilities for drug testing across the affected countries as well.

There is major international concern over the spread of infection and the disintegration of healthcare systems under pressure from the disease. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US released new projections on Tuesday saying that in the worst scenario, if the spread of Ebola goes unchecked, there could be 1.4m cases by late January. The WHO has not projected that far ahead, but has warned that there could be nearly 20,000 cases by early November.

Healthcare systems in the three worst-hit countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, fragile to begin with, have largely collapsed under the strain of coping with what may prove to be one of the most serious viral disease outbreaks in modern times.

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