Spanish priest becomes first European to die from Ebola

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A Spanish priest who contracted the Ebola virus in West Africa died in Madrid on Tuesday morning, becoming the first European fatality.

Miguel Parajes, 75, was flown home to Madrid from the hospital where he was working in Liberia on August 7 having begun showing symptoms of the deadly virus.

More than 1,000 people have now died from the outbreak which was first detected in Guinea in February, and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been two fatalities in Nigeria.

Parajes belonged to a Roman Catholic order that ran hospitals in many parts of the world, and was working at St Joseph's Hospital in the Liberian capital, Monrovia when he became infected.

The Spanish health ministry reported yesterday that a dose of the ZMapp trial Ebola vaccine had been obtained for the priest, but it is not known whether it was administered before he died.

The World Health Organisation held a meeting yesterday to discuss the ethics of making the experimental vaccine, which has not yet been tested on humans, more widely available. The panel of experts consulted agreed that it was ethical.

The UN health agency said in a statement: "In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention."

So far the only known recipients are American aid workers Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were given the drug after being flown home to be treated at a clinic in Atlanta.

The US government agreed to send sample doses of the drug to Liberia, the Liberian government said. It is thought that two Liberian doctors infected with the virus will be the first to receive treatment.

However, supplies of the drug are scarce. The California-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical said in a statement that it had run out of its supply and it would be months before sufficient quantities could be produced.

ZMapp is not the only drug in development, though none of them are guaranteed to be effective.

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