Liberia expands number of Ebola treatment centers

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MONROVIA, Liberia  — Liberian authorities expanded Ebola treatment centers in the capital Saturday to cope with increasing numbers of patients, while two more airlines announced they were halting flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the deepening crisis.

Kenya Airways and regional carrier Gambia Bird join a number of other airlines in temporarily cancelling flights to avoid transmitting the disease beyond the four countries already affected in West Africa.

The Kenya Airways flights will stop as of midnight Tuesday, said Titus Naikuni, the chief executive officer of Kenya Airways. The decision was made with guidance from the country’s health ministry, Mr. Naikuni said.

Gambia Bird said it had stopped flying to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

“The decision has been taken in the light of international concern about the further spread of the Ebola virus in the West African sub-region, and with the aim of continuing to offer a safe and reliable service to all customers, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of passengers and crew,” the statement said.

Health experts have warned that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa may last another six months. At least 1,145 people have died across Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, and that may “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” the World Health Organization says.

New figures released on Friday showed that Liberia now has recorded more deaths — 413 — than any of the other affected countries.

On Saturday, a newly expanded, 34-bed Ebola treatment center was opened at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, health officials said.

Meanwhile, three Liberian health care workers who have contracted Ebola received an extremely scarce experimental serum on Friday at a hospital outside  Monrovia, a Liberian health official said Saturday.

The official, Tolbert G. Nyenswah, an assistant minister of health and social welfare, would not say if any of the three were doctors.

The drug, a mix of monoclonal antibodies called ZMapp, has been tested in animals, but has not been studied for safety or effectiveness in humans. It arrived in Liberia on Wednesday after appeals by leaders there to top officials in the United States and a letter from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to President Barack Obama.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, which provided the drug, said the “available supply of ZMapp has been exhausted.”

Liberian health officials requested the serum after it was provided to two U.S. development workers, 

Giving ZMapp to foreign aid workers has raised broad ethical questions about the disparities in treatment between white outsiders and the Africans who form the overwhelming majority of victims in the Ebola epidemic.


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