Officials at the World Health Organization said that the first round of clinical trials of a potential Ebola vaccine made by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline could begin next month. A vaccine resulting from the trials could possibly be available by 2015, MSN News reported Sunday. Late last week, WHO declared the outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in West Africa a “public health emergency.” The outbreak, which has already claimed 961 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, “constitutes an ’extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other States,” WHO said in a statement.
The declaration was based on the unanimous decision of an emergency committee meeting convened last week. “A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola,” the health organization said. Experts pointed to several ominous factors, such as the emergence of cases of Ebola in densely populated cities; cases arising among health-care workers that suggest “inadequate infection control practices;” and generally “fragile” health-care systems. WHO recommended that each of the countries affected by the outbreak declare a national emergency, clearly inform the public of the situation and ramp up efforts to limit transmission of the virus.
Meanwhile, medical ethicist will meet this week to discuss who should have access to the limited supplies of an experimental medicine for the deadly Ebola virus, WHO said. The drug was given to and benefited Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, two American aid workers who contracted the disease in West Africa. It was the first time the drug was tried on people, News reported. Writebol’s husband has returned to the United States with two other missionaries who are not showing signs of the disease, although all three will be quarantined, according to the the news. The maker of the drug has said it can’t produce large amounts of the experimental medicine, which means only a limited number of patients would be able to receive it. There is no certified vaccine or cure for Ebola.