Via The New York Times: W.H.O. Weighing Emergency Decree on Ebola. Excerpt:
Scrambling to catch up with the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it was considering the declaration of an international public health emergency and would convene a panel of experts in coming days to explore the use of experimental treatments for the incurable disease.
The announcements came as fears spread that a Saudi citizen may have brought the Ebola virus home to Saudi Arabia, which is still reeling from a mismanaged epidemic of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that has killed nearly 300 people in the last two years. Saudi news media said that the citizen, a businessman in his 40s, died on Wednesday at King Fahd Hospital in Jidda after exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms, and that Saudi health officials had submitted biological samples from the patient to laboratories in the United States and Germany.
The Saudi accounts emphasized that the illness had not yet been identified, and they did not specify where the patient got sick. But Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva, said in an email that the patient appeared to have been in Sierra Leone on business in some of the affected areas.
The organization also announced 108 new Ebola cases recorded from Saturday to Monday, bringing the total to 1,711, with 932 deaths. Nearly all are in the three afflicted West African countries at the epicenter of the outbreak: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
But in a sign of the spread of the disease internationally, the organization listed five new cases in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, bringing the Nigerian total to nine. The virus was discovered to have leapfrogged there by plane last week, carried by an American who had been working in Liberia and died in a Nigerian hospital.
The health organization said an emergency committee of international experts was evaluating whether the Ebola outbreak constituted a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” a classification that has only rarely been invoked to combat deadly contagions. The classification gives health authorities greater powers that include quarantining people in affected areas. The committee’s recommendations are expected by Friday.