According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 20,747 cases of Ebola and 8,234 deaths reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
A total of 838 healthcare workers have been infected by Ebola, and 495 of them have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, some of the rise in reported health worker infections is due to previously unreported cases in Sierra Leone, not a recent spike in the number of cases, the WHO said.
US Healthcare Worker Monitored in Nebraska
An American healthcare worker in Sierra Leone was flown to Nebraska after a high-risk exposure to Ebola. She is not ill and is not contagious. As a precaution, she is being monitored in a biocontainment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center.
The Nebraska Medical Center has treated three patients with Ebola. Dr. Rick Sacra, who was infected while working in Liberia, was treated and released in September. NBC freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who was also working in Liberia, was treated and released in October.
And Dr. Martin Salia, who was seriously ill when he arrived from Sierra Leone, died after less than two days of treatment.
British Nurse in Serious Condition
Pauline Cafferkey, 39, a British nurse who is being treated for Ebola in London after returning from Sierra Leone where she had been working for the charity Save the Children, is in critical condition. She is being treated at The Royal Free Hospital. She has received blood plasma from an Ebola survivor, and an undisclosed experimental anti-viral drug.
Cafferkey is the second Ebola patient to be treated in Britain since the current outbreak of Ebola began in West Africa last year.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, even though the risk is thought to be low, officials are trying to find anyone who might have come in close contact with the worker since she arrived in the United Kingdom. A person is infectious only when they are showing Ebola symptoms. The patient reportedly began to feel ill on the day she was admitted to the hospital.
One Step Closer to an Ebola Vaccine
The WHO held its second high-level meeting on Ebola vaccines and financing this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to a Reuters TV report, Sierra Leone, the West African nation that has been hit hardest by Ebola, plans to start vaccine trials in the second half of January.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it has started testing its Ebola virus vaccine in humans. The company will have more than 400,000 doses available in April.
The vaccine was developed in partnership with Denmark biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic. J&J also increased its production goals for the vaccine from 2 million to 5 million courses, if needed.
A Geneva hospital said it is restarting tests of an experimental Ebola vaccine licensed by Merck & Co. The trial was paused for three weeks to look at reports of mild joint pain in volunteers.
In a separate development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Roche Holding AG’s Ebola blood test for emergency use. The LightMix Ebola test can generate results in about three hours. In October, the FDA authorized emergency use of an Ebola test from BioFire Defense, which said its test could deliver a diagnosis in one hour.
New Cemetery Built in Liberia
According to a BBC report, Liberia has opened a new national cemetery in the capital of Monrovia. A Liberian official said the cemetery will enable “dignified and safe” burials, instead of cremations. It will allow loved ones to practice their traditional rituals, but not to touch dead bodies.
Liberian assistant health minister Tolbert Nyenswah said that new cases of Ebola, which are mostly in Grand Cape Mount County, were due to the traditional practice of washing victims' bodies.
"In a very small population, an increase in the number of cases raises high levels of concern that we need to take very seriously, the people of Liberia and people of Grand Cape Mount in particular," said Nyenswah.