Ebola Vaccine For Trial Underway – WHO

Clinical trials of a preventative vaccine for the Ebola virus made by British pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, may begin next month and be made available by 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

In a statement on its website, the WHO’s head of vaccines and immunisation, Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, told French radio at the weekend: “We are targeting September for the start of clinical trials, first in the United States and certainly in African countries, since that’s where we have the cases.

“We are optimistic about making the vaccine commercially available; we think that if we start in September, we will have the results by the end of the year.

“And since this is an emergency, we can put emergency procedures in place … so that we can have a vaccine available by 2015,” Jean-Marie said.

Several vaccines are being tested, and a treatment made by a San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, ZMapp, has shown promising results on monkeys and may have been effective in treating two Americans recently infected in Africa.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry has said that its national who died last week after returning from Sierra Leone had tested negative to Ebola virus, according to initial international laboratory results.

The ministry said that samples submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back negative for the Ebola virus, adding that samples were also sent for testing to a laboratory in Germany.

Saudi Arabia is not issuing visas this year to Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea as a precaution to avoid the spread during the hajj pilgrimage, which sees massive crowd of people from around the world.

However, a Nigerian man who was quarantined after he showed Ebola-like symptoms during a trip to Hong Kong has tested negative to the deadly virus.

The southern Chinese city government said in a statement yesterday that the man had “tested negative to Ebola virus upon preliminary laboratory testing”.

The 32-year-old arrived in Hong Kong from Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, via Dubai on Thursday, and was hospitalised on Sunday after vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea.

A densely populated city of some seven million people, Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed almost 300 people 11 years ago.

On July 30, the Hong Kong government said it would quarantine, as a precaution, all people from Ebola-infected areas who showed any symptom of the disease such as fever, vomiting or diarrhoea.

Nigeria, along with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been hardest hit by the latest epidemic, which the WHO has called the worst outbreak of its kind in four decades.

The most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria confirmed two new cases on Friday of the often fatal hemorrhagic disease, bringing the total number of infections to nine, including two deaths.

As a preventive measure, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has suspended Gambian national airline from flying into the country, alleging “unsatisfactory” measures by the airline to contain the spread of Ebola virus, officials told AFP news agency.

In a letter to Gambia Bird Airlines, it wrote,   “NCAA has reviewed the measures put in place by your airline as contained in your letter of 30th July, 2014 and have found these measures unsatisfactory.”

“Consequently, your flights into Nigeria have been temporarily suspended with immediate effect until such a time that you are able to put in place, acceptable and satisfactory measures,” said the letter, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

The Gambian national carrier flies to Lagos twice weekly. It also flies to other African countries in the region: Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Senegal.

Meanwhile, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has said it is to equip health workers in the primary health care centres on relevant information on the Ebola virus disease, and the right tools to work with.

The executive director, NPHCDA, Dr Ado Mohammed, disclosed this during the weekend during a sensitization meeting with chief executive officers and Zonal Coordinators, State Primary Health Care Development Agency.

He tasked the states’ health authorities to be vigilant and to quickly report any suspected case of Ebola virus to the national emergency operation centre.