UK & World News

  • 7 August 2014, 9:14

Obama: Ebola Drug ZMapp 'Not Ready For Africa'

It is too soon to send an experimental drug to Africa to treat the deadly ebola virus, according to Barack Obama.

Two Americans are already receiving the ZMapp drug in the US, but the President said efforts should focus on improving facilities and sending more aid workers to the region.

"We've got to let the science guide us," the US President said.

"I don't think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful. What we do know is that the ebola virus - both currently and in the past - is controllable if you have strong public health infrastructure in place."

"Let's get all the health workers that we need on the ground," he added. "Let's help to bolster the systems that they already have in place.

"During the course of that process, I think it's entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments (that can help)."

His comments came as Liberia declared a state of emergency over the outbreak, withPresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warning that extraordinary measures were needed.

Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency last week.

Nigerian health minister Onyenbuchi Chukwutold reporters he had asked the US about accessing the experimental drugZMapp.

However, there are "virtually no doses available", according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another 45 people died between August 2 and 4, with another 108 suspected cases identified, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The death toll now stands at 932.

The WHO has convened a panel of experts to explore the use of experimental treatments and will announce a plan to deal with the virus on Friday.

ZMapp, made by a company in San Diego, is being used to treat American aid workers Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

The pair improved after being given the drug while still in Liberia, according to the group they were working for, but it is unclear whether the drug was responsible.

ZMapp has never been tested on humans and was only identified as a possible treatment in January after research by the US government and the military.

Experiments on monkeys suggest ZMapp may reduce fatalities in infected people.

It is slow to produce however, and the antibodies have to be grown in specially-modified tobacco leaves.

Symptoms of the incurable virus include fever, vomiting, severe headaches, muscular pain and, as the patient nears the end, profuse bleeding.

It is transmitted via bodily fluids rather than through the air and has a mortality rate of 60-90%.