The Ebola outbreak continues to spiral out of control amid reports of looting at a Liberian health center and the isolation of a traveler from Sierra Leone here in the U.S.
The virus has killed at least 1,145 and sickened 982 more, according to numbers released Friday by the World Health Organization. An updated outbreak toll is expected soon.
The outbreak is already the deadliest on record and has shown no signs of slowing. About 42.5 percent of all Ebola deaths since the virus was discovered in 1976 have occurred since March 2014, according to WHO data.
Here are nine things you should know about the outbreak as fears continue to mount in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and beyond.
|Mob Loots Liberian Ebola Center|
Early Saturday morning, a mob looted an Ebola center in West Point, Liberia, stealing contaminated equipment, bloodstained mattresses and sheets, according to the Associated Press. An estimated 37 patients fled during the raid, 20 of whom have returned. The remaining 17 patients are still missing, the AP reported.
“It's important to understand here that most of the people that went into this holding facility came there voluntarily," Government Information Minister Lewis Brown told the AP. “They were forcibly removed by vandals and looters, not because they wanted to leave, so we are sure that they will return.”
WHO called for the protection of health care workers today in honor of World Humanitarian Day, noting that workers have been threatened and harassed in West Africa as a result of the Ebola outbreak.
“Doctors, nurses and other health workers must be allowed to carry out their life-saving humanitarian work free of threat of violence and insecurity,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said in a statement.
|More Americans Tested for Ebola|
A 30-year-old woman in New Mexico is being tested for Ebola, according to state officials.
The woman had recently traveled to Sierra Leone and arrived at the hospital with sore throat, headache, muscle aches and fever, according to the New Mexico Department of Health, which is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rule out Ebola.
Potential Ebola patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland and an undisclosed hospital in Ohio have all tested negative for Ebola over the past several weeks. The CDC had sent a health alert to hospitals across the country urging them to ask patients about their travel history to help identify potential Ebola cases.
As of Aug. 5, the CDC had tested blood samples for six possible Ebola patients in the United States. They were all negative.
|Officials Request Exit Screenings at Airports, Seaports|
The World Health Organization on Monday requested exit screenings at international airports, seaports and land crossings in all countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.
“Any person with an illness consistent with [Ebola virus disease] should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation,” WHO said in a statement. “There should be no international travel of Ebola contacts or cases, unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation.”
Ebola symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain and sore throat before they progress to vomiting, diarrhea and rash. Some people may also experience bleeding.
The WHO Ebola Emergency Committee advised against international travel or trade restrictions at this time.
A 35-year-old Nigerian woman, who may have had Ebola, died shortly after landing in Abu Dhabi International Airport, according to the Associated Press. The United Arab Emirates airline reportedly disinfected the plane, and the woman’s husband and five medics who worked to revive her have been quarantined until Ebola is ruled out.
|Officials Say Outbreak Is ‘Vastly’ Underestimated|
The Ebola outbreak is already the deadliest on record, and WHO officials say the impact may be far worse than reported.
The number of known infections – currently 2,127 – “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” according to staff at outbreak sites.
The agency said it's scaling up its response in "recognition of the extraordinary measures needed, on a massive scale, to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear."
|Governments Are Reviving the ‘Cordon Sanitaire’|
Officials from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have implemented a “cordon sanitaire” or sanitary barrier – a cross-border isolation zone designed to contain people with the highest infection risk.
The tactic, used to prevent the spread of plague in medieval times, literally blocks off an area thought to contain 70 percent of the epidemic. But some experts say there’s little proof that isolation zones can prevent the spread of disease.
“It may not be sufficiently structured so it can prevent people from leaving,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
|Fearful Communities Are Shunning Survivors|
An estimated 47 percent of people infected in the outbreak have survived the virus, according to WHO data. But they face fear and shame from their communities.
Survivor Sulaiman Kemokai, from Sierra Leone, said people in his community are afraid to touch him even though he’s been declared virus-free, the Associated Press reported.
The Ebola virus can only be spread through contact with bodily secretions such as blood, urine or sweat. But misinformation is rampant in areas hardest hit by the virus, health officials said.
|Infected Americans Are Recovering|
Two American health workers are recovering from Ebola after being evacuated to the U.S. from Liberia.
Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, 59, continue to receive treatment in a special isolation ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both were infected while treating patients in an Ebola ward outside Monrovia, Liberia.
In statement released Friday, Brantly said he has “a few hurdles to clear” before being released.
“I thank God for the healthcare team here who is giving me compassionate, world-class care,” he said. “I am more grateful every day to the Lord for sparing my life and continuing to heal my body.”
Writebol's husband, David, said his wife was “making good progress." He visited her in the Emory isolation ward, sharing a tender moment through the glass.
“We both placed our hands on opposite sides of the glass, moved with tears to look at each other again,” David Writebol said in a statement. “She was standing with her radiant smile, happy beyond words.”
|Drug Companies Are Rushing to Provide Treatments|
The growing outbreak has left pharmaceutical companies scrambling to test drugs that could treat and prevent the infection.
There is currently no drug approved to fight Ebola, but WHO has allowed medical professionals to use experimental or untested medications in a last ditch effort to save lives.
One drug, an experimental serum known as ZMapp, has been used to treat three patients: American health workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, and a Spanish priest. Brantly and Writebol survived but the Spanish priest did not.
Another drug, an Ebola vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institute for Health, is scheduled to be tested on humans for the first time in September. Another vaccine out of Canada is also expected to be tested, the Associated Press reported.
|FDA Warns Against Fake Ebola Treatments|
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people to avoid fake Ebola treatments and vaccines being sold online. The agency said products claiming to protect people from the infection began popping up online after the outbreak began in March.
“There are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola,” the agency said in a statement. “Although there are experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development, have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness, and the supply is very limited."
"There are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet," the FDA added. "By law, dietary supplements cannot claim to prevent or cure disease.”