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    Aug 13, 2014

    8 Chinese quarantined in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone


    EIGHT Chinese medical workers who treated Ebola patients have been quarantined in Sierra Leone, as health experts grapple with ethical questions over the use of experimental drugs to combat the killer virus.

    The death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history has topped 1,000, World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show.

    Meanwhile, Liberia said it had requested samples of an experimental drug and that supplies would be taken into the country "by a representative of the United States government" later this week.

    There is no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, which the WHO has declared a global public-health emergency.

    The disease has hit doctors hard in the ill-equipped and fragile health systems of the worst-hit West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    China's ambassador to Sierra Leone, Zhao Yanbo, said that seven doctors and one nurse who treated Ebola patients had been placed under quarantine, but would not be drawn on whether they were displaying symptoms of the disease.

    In addition, 24 nurses in Sierra Leone, most from the military hospital in the capital, Freetown, have been quarantined, according to Mr Yanbo and hospital director Sahr Foday.

    Dr Foday said a senior physician at Freetown's Connaught Hospital had contracted Ebola, but was responding well to treatment. The nation's sole virologist, who was at the forefront of its battle against the epidemic, died from Ebola last month.

    The WHO yesterday authorised the use of experimental drugs in the fight against Ebola, as the death toll topped 1,000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to die from the virus. Priest Miguel Pajares, 75, died in a hospital in Madrid yesterday.

    The declaration by the United Nations' health agency came after a US company that makes an experimental serum said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit West Africa.

    Liberia will receive enough of the experimental drug to treat two infected Liberian doctors, Information Minister Lewis Brown said, after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its export.

    Mr Brown said Liberia's Health Ministry had contacted the US manufacturer of ZMapp, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and asked the FDA to quickly approve its export.

    The doctors had consented in writing to the treatment, the minister said.

    Mapp and its partners, Defyrus and a subsidiary of Reynolds American, are working with the US government to quickly increase production, the company said.

    "Additional resources are being brought to bear on scaling up," the company said. "The emergency use of an experimental medicine is a highly unusual situation."