Suspected Ebola victim dies in Saudi Arabia

Tarik Jasarevic, from the WHO, said there were safety and ethical issues surrounding experimental Ebola drugs

A Saudi man who was being treated for Ebola-like symptoms has died at a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's health ministry says.

If confirmed, this would be the first Ebola-related death outside Africa in an outbreak that has killed more than 900 people this year.

The man recently visited Sierra Leone, one of four countries in the outbreak.

World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak.

The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency.

Ebola, a viral haemorrhagic fever, is one of the deadliest diseases known to humans, with a fatality rate of between 55% and 90%.

A person in a protective suit works at an Ebola isolation ward at a mission hospital outside of Monrovia, Liberia (4 August 2014) Health workers have to wear protective suits to ensure they do not catch the virus

A WHO statement on Wednesday said 932 patients had died of the disease in West Africa so far, with most of the latest fatalities reported in Liberia.

A man who attended Mt Sinai hospital in New York on Monday, after returning from West Africa and suffering from a fever, has tested negative for ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Visa block

Concern has also been growing over a number of new cases in Nigeria, the region's most populous nation. On Wednesday, a nurse who treated an Ebola patient became the second person to die of the disease there.

Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu described the outbreak as a national emergency, adding that "everyone in the world is at risk" because of air travel.

Map showing Ebola outbreaks since 1976

The Saudi man who was suspected of contracting the disease died of cardiac arrest, according to the website of the country's health ministry.

The 40-year-old is said to have returned from a recent business trip to Sierra Leone.

The ministry's website said he was being tested for Ebola, but did not say if the tests had concluded that he had the disease.

The website said the man had been treated in an isolation ward and would be buried according to Islamic tradition, while following precautions set out by world health authorities.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas to Muslims from several West African countries, amid concerns that visiting pilgrims could spread the disease.

Graph showing Ebola deaths since 1976

Meanwhile, two US aid workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia appear to be improving after receiving an unapproved medicine ahead of their evacuation back to the US.

But it is not clear if the ZMapp drug, which has only been tested on monkeys, can be credited with their improvement.

WHO response

In a surprise move, the WHO said on Wednesday it would convene a meeting of medical ethics specialists next week to decide whether to approve experimental treatment for Ebola.

"We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is," WHO Assistant Director General Marie-Paule Kieny said in a statement.

Some leading infectious disease experts have been calling for experimental treatments to be offered more widely to treat the disease.

The aim of the WHO's emergency committee meeting is to focus solely on how to respond to the Ebola outbreak.

If a public health emergency is declared, it could involve detailed plans to identify, isolate and treat cases, as well as impose travel restrictions on affected areas.

Liberian nurses carry the body of an Ebola victim on the way to bury them in the Banjor Community on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on 6 August 2014. Most of the latest fatalities have come from Liberia

A WHO spokesman said: "We can't speculate in advance what the committee members are going to decide in advance."

The World Bank is allocating $200m (£120m) in emergency assistance for countries battling to contain Ebola.

The virus spreads by contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. The current outbreak is killing between 50% and 60% of people infected.

There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola - but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.

Ebola has initial flu-like symptoms that can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but the current outbreak is about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats are considered to be virus' natural host

Ebola: Experimental treatments

Why Ebola is so dangerous

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