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Ebola: More challenges for SA team in Sierra Leone

Experts deployed to Sierra Leone says food and other supplies are depleting.

FILE: Experts deployed to Sierra Leone says food and other supplies are depleting. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Specialists trying to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa suspect they will soon be faced with a new challenge as food and other necessary supplies are drying up due to restrictions on imports.

A South African team deployed to Sierra Leone to set up a mobile diagnostics lab says it's been a rough few days since arriving in the country a week ago.

The four-member team from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has set up its diagnostic lab in Sierra Leone.

Professor Janusz Paweska, head of the special pathogens department at the institute says it's too early to determine whether the efforts by team deployed in the region from across the world are succeeding from stopping the virus from spreading.

But Paweska says there are now facing the problem of depleting food supplies.

"This country is depending on the imports of daily supplies and this could be a problem due to measures in place to control the virus."

The professor said although the movement of infected people is now being controlled, but it's difficult to control the movement of people altogether.

The team will remain is Sierra Leone for up to three months.

The hemorrhagic fever has killed at least 1,427 people in the deadliest outbreak of the disease to date.

ZMAPP TREATMENT

One of three African doctors infected with Ebola and treated with the experimental drug, ZMapp, has died in Monrovia, Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said on Monday.

Liberia, the West African country where Ebola is spreading fastest, received three doses of the rare treatment on 13 August.

Initially, Liberia said the three doctors, Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor from Liberia and Dr Aroh Cosmos Izchukwu from Nigeria, were responding well to the treatment, raising optimism about the experimental therapy.

Asked to confirm the death of doctor Borbor, Brown said: "That is correct. He died yesterday."

Two US aid workers who caught Ebola in Liberia were declared free of the virus and released from an Atlanta hospital last week after receiving the same treatment.

But a Spanish priest who received ZMapp died.

The drug's US-based manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, says limited supplies have already been exhausted and producing more will take time.

There are other drugs in the pipeline, but all are unproven and have yet to clear even the earliest stage of clinical trials.

In the week through to 22 August, 297 new suspected, probable and confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in Liberia, the largest number of weekly cases since the epidemic began in March, according to a United Nations Children's Fund report.

Ebola can kill up to 90 percent of those infected though the fatality rate in the current epidemic is around 60 percent.

Additional information from Reuters