Liberia announced Monday that it would soon receive doses of an experimental Ebola drug and give it to two sick doctors, making them the first Africans to receive some of the scarce treatment in a spiraling outbreak.
The U.S. government confirmed that it had put Liberian officials in touch with the maker of ZMapp, and referred additional questions to Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. In a statement, the California-based company said that in responding to a request from an unidentified West African country, it had run out of its supply of the treatment.
The news comes as anger is growing over the fact that the only people to receive the experimental treatment so far have been Westerners: two Americans and a Spaniard, all of whom were evacuated to their home countries from Liberia.
Late Monday, the World Health Organization said 1,013 people had died in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Authorities have recorded 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease, the U.N. health agency said. The updated WHO tally includes figures from Aug. 7-9 when 52 more people died and 69 more were infected.
There is no Ebola vaccine or treatment available, but there are several in development besides ZMapp. That treatment is so new that it hasn't been tested for safety or effectiveness in humans. And the company has said it would take months to produce even modest quantities.
It was unclear how much of the treatment would be sent to Liberia.
''The U.S. Government assisted in connecting the Government of Liberia with the manufacturer,'' the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. ''Since the drug was shipped for use outside the U.S., appropriate export procedures had to be followed.''
The Liberian statement, posted on the presidency's website, said it was also receiving an experimental treatment from the World Health Organization. It was unclear if this was also referring to ZMapp or another treatment.
In the past few weeks, the experimental drug was given to two American aid workers diagnosed with the disease while working at a hospital that treated Ebola patients. On Monday, officials in Spain disclosed that the treatment was also given to a Spanish missionary priest who fell ill while working in Liberia.
The Americans are said to be improving, but there's no way to know whether the drug helped, or if they are getting better on their own, as others have. Around