Bamako – The World Health Organization is sending additional medical experts to Mali to help handle its first confirmed Ebola case, a spokesman said today, as a senior WHO official announced accelerated vaccine trials.
A two-year-old girl was diagnosed with Ebola in Mali yesterday, having been brought into the country from neighbouring Guinea, where the current catastrophic outbreak is believed to have started.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Markatie Daou said the dozens of people who had contact with the girl have not shown any symptoms related to the virus as of today.
More than 40 people are still being monitored, she said.
They include ten medical workers who came into contact with the girl in the town of Kayes, west of the capital of Bamako, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
He cited local authorities as saying 43 people were being monitored in total. The incubation period for Ebola is two to 21 days, so the country faces a long wait to know if it’s in the clear.
The extra WHO medical experts are being sent immediately to Mali to help its Ministry of Health respond, Jasarevic said. They will bolster a WHO team that was already in the country to help with general preparedness.
Five more potential Ebola vaccines are to start clinical trials soon, WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny said at a news conference today in Geneva, Switzerland.
Kieny also said WHO hopes that “a few hundred thousand doses” of Ebola vaccine will be available by the end of the first half of 2015.
She refused to be more specific about numbers and emphasized that she was speaking about a hope, not a plan.
The trials will involve “several tens of thousands” of subjects – perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 – she said. The beginning of the trials is being moved up to December, from January, because of a “massive effort to make this happen,” Kieny said.
WHO is not ruling out the possibility of mass Ebola vaccinations in the first half of 2015, but three conditions would have to be met, Kieny said today.
They are: a safe and effective vaccine would have to be found; the scale of the outbreak would have to be sufficient to justify mass vaccinations; and enough doses would have to be available for mass vaccination.
Liberia has the most advanced plans for an Ebola vaccine trial, involving two vaccines and a control, Kieny said. Sierra Leone has less advanced plans, and there are currently no plans for a trial in Guinea, she said.
Mali is among the countries where WHO has been planning to run vaccine trials.
Earlier today, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced on Twitter that the European Union will increase its aid to help West Africa fight Ebola by $380 million to $1.2 billion.
The EU had pledged 700 million euros, and raised its pledge to one billion euros.
China will also boost its aid to the three West African nations at the centre of the Ebola outbreak, Chinese President Xi Jinping said today, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Xi said the Chinese government will provide a fourth round of assistance to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea that will include emergency funding and supplies worth an equivalent of $82 million.
The girl in Mali, whose father died of Ebola, was taken to the hospital in Kayes after a nurse noticed she was suffering from what appeared to be Ebola-like symptoms.
The confirmed case makes Mali the sixth West African country to be hit by the virus, which WHO reported has killed more than 4,800 people.
Meanwhile, A Doctors Without Borders physician, who is the first diagnosed Ebola case in New York City jogged along the Hudson River, rode the subway, took a cab, went bowling, visited a coffee stand at a Manhattan park and ate at a meatball shop since returning home from Guinea a week ago, authorities said Friday.
But the physician, Craig Spencer, 33, wasn’t symptomatic until yesterday when he had a 100.3-degree fever between 10 and 11 a.m., Dr Mary Bassett, New York’s health commissioner, told reporters today, providing the clearest timeline of Spencer’s whereabouts before he became the fourth diagnosed Ebola case in the United States. The physician began to feel fatigued Tuesday, though without a fever.
Spencer came back from treating Ebola patients in Guinea on October 17 and developed a fever, nausea, pain and fatigue yesterday. He is isolated in stable condition at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Centre, one of the eight hospitals statewide that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated this month as part of an Ebola preparedness plan.
The doctor was described today as actively talking on his cell phone. He is “in good enough shape to be in conversation with everyone around him,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.