[Ip-health] New York Times: Expert Panel to Consult on Ebola

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Aug 7 04:24:33 PDT 2014


*Expert Panel to Consult on Ebola*

6, 2014

Scrambling to catch up with the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus,
the World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it was considering
the declaration of an international public health emergency and would
convene a panel of experts in coming days to explore the use of
experimental treatments for the incurable disease.


The health organization said an emergency committee of international
experts was evaluating whether the Ebola outbreak constituted a “Public
Health Emergency of International Concern,” a classification that has only
rarely been invoked to combat deadly contagions. The classification gives
health authorities greater powers that include quarantining people in
affected areas. The committee’s recommendations are expected by Friday.

In a separate announcement
the organization said it was convening a panel of medical ethicists to
explore the use of experimental treatments for Ebola, which has a mortality
rate as high as 90 percent. The virus causes high fevers, aches and severe
internal bleeding.

“We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak,” Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny,
the W.H.O.'s assistant director general, said in the announcement. “We need
to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible
thing to do is.”

Several experimental options are under development, including a drug
administered to two Americans
had been working with Ebola patients in Liberia through Christian relief
groups. Both were flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and have
shown improvement, causing an international debate over why Americans were
given the drug when hundreds of Africans have died without access to it.

The W.H.O.'s announcement also cited the relief group workers’ apparent
response to the drug, saying it had “raised questions about whether
medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe in people should
be used in the outbreak and, given the extremely limited amount of medicine
available, if it is used, who should receive it.”

Asked about such treatments, President Obama told a news conference in
Washington it was premature for him to say, but he did not rule it out.
“We’ve got to let the science guide us,” he said.

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