More than 1,200 people have died from Ebola in West Africa, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday, but it said there are some signs of hope.
The latest WHO toll for the Ebola outbreak includes 2,240 cases and 1,229 deaths. It’s been by far the worst outbreak of Ebola ever, spanning four countries and some busy cities. And WHO says there’s no sign it’s slowing.
There is some good news. A Liberian-American man who traveled to Lagos, Nigeria before he died of Ebola managed to infect only 11 other people, and four of them have died. But in a promising sign, one has fully recovered and efforts to contain the virus appear to be working so far, WHO says.
“Those infected by the initial case include medical staff involved in his treatment, a patient in the same hospital, and a protocol officer in very close contact with the patient,” WHO said in a statement.
“The full recovery to date of one infected contact is additional good news. It counters the widespread perception that infection with the Ebola virus is invariably a death sentence. Evidence suggests that early detection and supportive therapy increase the prospects of survival,” it added.
Nigerian authorities had to track down everyone on the same flight as the patient, Patrick Sawyer.
“The initial patient was vomiting frequently during travel and upon arrival. No one on the same flight was infected,” WHO added.
There are other encouraging signs. “The outbreak in Guinea, where the virus made its first appearance in West Africa last December, is less alarming than in Liberia and Sierra Leone,” WHO said.
“Public awareness of the facts about Ebola is higher there than in the other affected countries. Innovative solutions are being found. For example, respected community leaders have been used to secure the cooperation of 26 villages that were highly resistant to outside help," WHO added.
Since then more cases have been found and reported. Hidden infections have been helping fuel the spread of Ebola. "However, the outbreak is not under control. As recent experience shows, progress is fragile, with a real risk that the outbreak could experience another flare-up," WHO added.
In Liberia, officials said three infected Liberian doctors who had received the experimental Ebola drug Zmapp were making "remarkable" progress.
"The medical professionals treating the three healthcare workers at Elwa hospital using the experimental American drug ZMapp have reported 'very positive signs of recovery,' the information ministry said in a statement."
They also said they had found the last 17 of 37 patients with suspected Ebola infections who fled a quarantine center in Monrovia during a looting incident over the weekend.
WHO has urged countries affected by Ebola to start exit screening of passengers on their way out to help control the spread of the virus. It doesn’t have specific guidance on how to do this, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping to train local officials. Exit screening includes watching passengers for signs of fever and asking them about possible contact with infected patients.