WASHINGTON—The good news from West Africa began trickling in last week.
The Ebola coordinator at the Guinean Health Ministry said Tuesday in Paris that the numbers of new cases are declining in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Guinean Health Ministry official Aboubakar Sidiki Diakite said, “The figures are declining because the number of confirmed cases that we had in health care centers, the number also of suspected cases that we had in health care centers, these figures are starting to decline – not in a very significant way, but we realize that these figures are decreasing.”
In Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, a United Nations official in charge of emergency Ebola response confirmed there has been a significant improvement in the fight against the deadly disease.
Fewer people are getting infected and fewer are dying from it. But the battle against Ebola is far from over, warned the U.N. official, Anthony Banbury.
“We need NGOs and others to come in and run these facilities. We are putting in place the logistics capabilities. We are building the care centers. We are getting the equipment, everything we need to go in them,” Banbury said.
“The patients are there in far too great numbers. What we don’t have are the partners to run the facilities and we need them now,” he said.
U.S. health authorities have expressed hope that a new vaccine will bring an end to the outbreak that has killed about 5,000 people and infected close to 14,000.
Lausanne’s University Hospital in Switzerland began testing the vaccine Tuesday on healthy volunteers.
“I think the sooner we have a vaccine that works, that is safe, then the sooner we can use that vaccine to vaccinate the people in West Africa and wherever else the Ebola could spread,” said Tina, a medical doctor and Ebola vaccine volunteer whose last name was not disclosed.
Experts said there is no danger of contracting Ebola from the vaccine.
“What we measure is antibodies to the protein which is produced by the vaccine, and we also do some specific and detailed analysis on the white blood cells in the blood to ask the question whether the cells exposed to vaccine have a different biology than those who have not been exposed to the vaccine,” said Vincent Mooser with the Lausanne’s University Hospital.
If the testing proves effective, it will be done on a larger trial basis.
French researchers are in the pre-production phases of an Ebola test that would give results in 15 minutes, compared to about 24 hours it takes the current tests. Faster tests also are being developed in the United States and Japan.