MSF trims Ebola operation in Liberia, mum on trial drug

MONROVIA – Global medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) has begun scaling down its Ebola operations in Liberia, citing a significant decrease in infection cases.

"I feel we're gradually kicking Ebola out of Liberia," Nelson Diakpo, psychosocial team leader at ELWA 3, the MSF's Ebola management center in capital Monrovia, told The Anadolu Agency.

The medical charity began decommissioning the first section of the ELWA 3 center.

To prevent any risk of contamination, most of the rubble from the contaminated zone was burned on site.

"I am happy to see part of this center disappearing because Ebola is declining in Liberia," said Mark Jerry, an Ebola survivor who is now a member of the MSF's psychosocial team.

"But I'll forever remember these grounds," Jerry told AA. "I lost my daughter here."

In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 8,626 people, mostly in West Africa, according to a Jan. 21 World Health Organization (WHO) status report.

In Liberia alone, the virus has claimed 3,605 lives out of 8,478 registered infections.

In August of 2014, the MSF set up the largest Ebola management center ever built as part of its regional response to the virus outbreak.

To date, the center has processed 510 patients who recovered from Ebola after receiving medical and psychosocial care.

While scaling down, the MSF has confirmed that the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia had fallen significantly.

It did not, however, reveal any plans for closing the unit, even though another treatment unit in Lofa County – which had been an epicenter of the virus – has reportedly been closed for more than a month.

Liberia's Ebola Incident Management System has reported significant progress in containing Ebola in Grand Cape Mount County, a hotspot for the virus in recent weeks.

Over 30 deaths were reported in the western county in December alone.

According to Incident Manager Tolbert Nyenswah, Grand Cape Mount has not reported any fresh cases for the past 12 days.

This, he said, meant that the county had 11 more days before it could be declared on par with 13 counties that have reported no new Ebola cases for the past 21 days.

Montserrado County is the only one of Liberia's 15 counties that is still reporting new Ebola cases.

-Mum-

MSF and an Oxford University medical team, meanwhile, are keeping mum on progress made administering an experimental anti-Ebola drug on Liberian patients.

Matthew Jackson, a doctor with the Oxford University team, said he could not say how individual patients that had received the trial drug were doing so far.

"We are trying to do [the trial] to the highest scientific standards. So we are not able to say how individual patients have done so far," he told AA.

In early January, the MSF and its partners from Oxford University began administering the experimental drug – known as Brincidofovir – to patients at ELWA 3.

Jackson said the trials were heavily regulated, as were all drug trials, adding that medical teams were not allowed to discuss the progress of the trials.

He added that publishing results right now would have to depend on rumor and not scientific criteria.

The trials aim to determine whether Brincidofovir, an antiviral drug, is an effective treatment for Ebola.

"If you had a relative with Ebola who may or may not receive the treatment, would you want it to become public?" Jackson asked. "You wouldn't want the entire country talking about it."

He said his team had designed the trial to provide an answer as soon as possible as to whether the drug they were testing was helpful or not in fighting Ebola.

"The trial is ongoing, so we don't have the answer whether it is helpful or not helpful," he told AA.

Jackson nevertheless expressed optimism that the crisis was slowly winding down.

It is the second time for experimental drugs – believed to help treat Ebola – to be dispensed on a trial basis in Liberia. The first involved the drug ZMapp, which was administered to two health workers and a doctor, Abraham Borbor, last summer.

Borbor later succumbed to Ebola and ZMapp has not been spoken about since.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency