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Weighing Risks in Ebola Battle

Knowledge@Wharton   in 
August 14, 2014

Earlier this week, all eyes were fixed on media images of Kent Brantly, a 33-year-old American doctor infected with the Ebola virus, walking from an ambulance into Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital wearing a white, full-body biocontainment suit. Brantly arrived on Sunday, followed two days later by 59-year-old Nancy Writebol, another Ebola-infected American aid worker airlifted from Liberia to Emory for medical care. They are being treated with ZMapp, an experimental drug developed by San Diego, Calif.-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical that has not previously been tested on humans or received regulatory approval.

The fears surrounding Ebola are those of the unknown, as a global effort is under way to better understand the virus, contain it and treat victims in the absence of an approved vaccine or drug. Beginning in March this year, Ebola has thus far claimed 867 lives in the four West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria; another 1,603 people are suspected of, or have a confirmed, Ebola infection, according to latest updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the worst Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered 38 years ago in Sudan and Congo.

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