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WHO plans 6-9 month strategy to combat Ebola


Passengers are screened as they arrive at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Friday. Asian nations are using thermal imaging cameras and posting doctors at airports to screen out sick travellers as health authorities scramble to avert any outbreak of the Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa. Photo: ReutersAthit Perawongmetha

Geneva/Washington/Dublin: The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that it had drawn up a draft strategy plan to combat Ebola in West Africa over the next six to nine months, implying that it does not expect to halt the epidemic this year.

More than 1,300 people have died this year from the virus in the worst ever outbreak and WHO has faced criticism, including from medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), that it has done too little too late to fight the disease.

"WHO is working on an Ebola road map document, it's really an operational document how to fight Ebola," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said at a news briefing. "It details the strategy for WHO and health partners for six to nine months to come."

Chaib, asked whether the timeline meant that the United Nations health agency expected the epidemic now raging in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to continue until 2015, said: "Frankly no one knows when this outbreak of Ebola will end."

Ebola will be declared over in a country if two incubation periods, or 42 days in total, have passed without any confirmed case, she said. Nigeria is the fourth country with known cases.

"So with the evolving situation, with more cases reported, including in the three hot places - Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia - the situation is not yet over," Chaib said.

"So this is a planning document for six to nine months that  we will certainly revisit when we have new developments."

The WHO expects to issue details of the plan early next week, she said.

In Washington, a US missionary who contracted the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia is better after being released from an Atlanta hospital but still regaining her strength, her son said on Friday.

Nancy Writebol, 59, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was discharged earlier this week from Emory University Hospital after doctors said her symptoms had eased and blood and urine tests showed no evidence of the virus. Dr Kent Brantly, who also was stricken with Ebola in Liberia, was released on Thursday.

"She's tired and trying to rest," her son Jeremy told NBC.

"There's still some physical recovery that has to go on there.

But her color's good and strong. She seems pretty happy."

Speaking alongside his brother Brian, he said the family has experienced "the lowest of lows and at the same time the highest of highs" since Writebol contracted the Ebola virus in July while working for a Christian mission organization in Liberia, grappling first with her potential death and later her recovery.

He said faith, the care at Emory and the experimental drug ZMapp likely helped her survive the virus, which has a low  survival rate.

Nancy's husband, David, had been in quarantine after returning from Africa but the two have since reunited.

Jeremy Writebol has said the couple has not ruled out returning to their Christian mission work in West Africa.

"She still thinking about it," he told NBC. "Africa's still in their heart and the suffering of the people in western Africa is still very deep for them."

Meanwhile, an Irish man who died in Ireland shortly after returning from Sierra Leone has tested negative for the Ebola virus, health officials said on Friday.

The Health Service Executive had said on Thursday the man's death was "a suspected case" of the tropical virus and quarantined his body until tests could be carried out.

But it said in a statement on Friday that laboratory test samples had proved negative for Ebola.

The man, Dessie Quinn, who was in his mid-40s, had returned from working as an engineer in Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst affected by the west African Ebola outbreak, his company KN Network Services said.

KNNS said it had pulled all of its staff from Sierra Leone as a precaution.

Local media reported that Quinn was receiving treatment for malaria since his return to Ireland.

The HSE rejected media claims that Quinn's family did not know he was at the centre of an investigation into a suspected Ebola case.

"The HSE was in contact with some family members from the outset of the tragic situation," it said.


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