WHO declares Ebola epidemic as an international health emergency

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Nigeria became the most recent West African nation to declare a state of emergency as the result of the current outbreak of the Ebola virus. With Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea already in a state of emergency, that makes Nigeria the fourth nation to this precautionary measure.

The World Health Organization has taken the rare step of defining the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern. This is only the third time that an epidemic has been named as such, the other two being the swine flu incident from 2009 and a polio scare from earlier this year.

The director-general of the WHO has appealed for a greater international aid efforts for countries hardest hit by the disease. The response to the epidemic has been somewhat slow and some experts believe that it is likely to claim many more lives before the situation is under control. At the time of writing, there have been approximately 1,800 confirmed cases of infection resulting in close to 1,000 deaths.

The Ebola virus has no established cure or treatment and with the high-fatality rate of the current outbreak it has pushed some nations to consider measures that could be risky. Health officials are currently discussing the possibility of using experimental drugs to treat some of the most extreme cases.

The drug in question is known as ZMapp and it has been used to treat two American aid workers that were infected with the disease. The drug has not completed testing and it has yet to be proven as an effective method to treat the Ebola virus. This raises ethical concerns in regard to the use of ZMapp on a large group of human subjects. That being said, the American aid workers who were treated with the drug have begun to show signs of improvement.

The World Health Organization is currently holding emergency meetings to address a situation that they have deemed an international health emergency. While they have not taken the drastic step of recommending travel restrictions to the affected nations, they have advocated for awareness and screening of all travelers that are flying out of West Africa.