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First US Ebola case dies as virus nears 4000 fatalities

Nathan Smith
Thu, 09 Oct 2014

The first person diagnosed with the virus Ebola in America died this morning. His death was confirmed by the Texas hospital where he was being treated.

At the time of his death Thomas Eric Duncan - who contracted the virus while living in Liberia - was receiving the experimental broad-spectrum antiviral drug Brincidofovir which had shown promising results combatting Ebola during animal testing.

It has been a little over a week since Mr Duncan was hospitalised for treatment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Tom Frieden says the body of 42-year-old Mr Duncan will be cremated.

The Ebola virus can live in the bodies, according to the CDC, and be transmitted even after death if the body is cut, body fluids are spread or even when the body is handled. The cremation process reportedly destroys the virus.

People with Ebola may not be symptomatic for up to 21 days.

Such high virulence is thought to be the central cause for the impressive speed and breadth of the Ebola virus exploding in West Africa over the past few months.

People who were in contact with the Ebola patient in the United States are being monitored by CDC staff. Some were moved to a secure location last week.

Questions are still being raised around how Mr Duncan was admitted into the US through a supposedly rigorous customs and screening process.

According to the family of Mr Duncan, he apparently came to visit friends in the US after Liberian authorities said he was screened for Ebola before departing the West African country.

In response, the US federal government announced on Wednesday that new measures at US airports to screen for people possibly carrying the Ebola virus will include taking passenger’s temperature and handing them questionnaires

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the European Commission says there have been eight confirmed cases of Ebola in European countries as well.

Several countries in the WHO's European region, including France, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Spain, have treated patients repatriated after contracting the virus.

US and British military personnel are also reportedly in preparation to travel to Liberia and Sierra Leone to establish treatment centres and provide security for medical personnel.

The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 3879 people out of 8033 confirmed cases.

However WHO suspects the true number of cases to be much higher due to lack of trained medical personnel and weak government health institutions in West Africa unable to monitor their countries accurately.

WHO’s worst-case-scenario could see the total figure rise to 1.4 million by January 2015 if containment measures fail. These figures take into account that many cases go unreported.

Their best-case model predicts the epidemic could be “almost ended” by January 2015 if 70% of patients are treated. Presently the proportion of treatment is 18% in Liberia and 40% in Sierra Leone.

Nathan Smith
Thu, 09 Oct 2014
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First US Ebola case dies as virus nears 4000 fatalities