Ebola shutdown campaign in Sierra Leone reached 80% of target households

Sierra Leone's three-day shutdown to try to contain an Ebola virus outbreak has ended, but it's unclear how much the effort helped.

U.S. and Canadian regulators authorize use of Vancouver-based Tekimra's experimental Ebola drug

Aid workers and doctors transfer Manuel Garcia Viejo, a Spanish priest who was diagnosed with the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, from a military plane to an ambulance, near Madrid on Monday. (Spanish Defence Ministry/Associated Press)

Sierra Leone's three-day shutdown to try to contain an Ebola virus outbreak has ended, but it's unclear how much the effort helped.

About six million citizens in the West African country were asked to stay indoors until Sunday night as 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers went door to door to look for people who may be infected and to give out information about the disease.

The Ebola virus has infected an estimated 5,762 people since March and killed an 2,793 as of Sept. 18, according to the World Health Organization.

"There was massive awareness of the disease," Stephen Gaojia, head of the Ebola Emergency Operations Centre, said on Monday.

Authorities reached more than 80 per cent of the targeted households, he added.

Nyka Alexander, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in Freetown, said the overall objectives of the lockdown were met.

"The information was going in two ways instead of just people receiving broadcasts about Ebola," Alexander said. "They were able to ask questions as well."

A news conference to announce the results of the shutdown has been postponed to Thursday to give officials who fanned out across the country time to reach Freetown.

Joe Amon, director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch, doubted the effectiveness of the lockdown, saying such measures are hard to enforce.

Experimental Ebola treatments

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are the worst-affected countries in the outbreak.

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      In Liberia on Monday, a day after the country's largest Ebola treatment centre opened, health-care workers were already handling 112 patients. These included 46 patients who tested positive for Ebola. Others at the 150-bed centre are under observation or receiving treatment for other illnesses such as malaria.

      Elsewhere on Monday, Vancouver-based drug-maker Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. said that U.S. and Canadian regulators have authorized the use of its Ebola treatment, TKM-Ebola, in patients who have confirmed or suspected infections.

      The company said its treatment has been given to patients as an emergency measure and that the repeat infusions were well-tolerated.

      Medical experts have cautioned that supplies of experimental Ebola treatments are very limited. Even if the treatments are shown to be safe and effective in small clinical trials on humans, scaling up production of treatments will take time and it can be difficult to deliver the medication to those who are suffering in West Africa.

      Doctors treating a Spanish priest who was diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone said there are no samples available of another experimental drug, the ZMapp cocktail.

      The priest, Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, was in serious condition and was suffering from dehydration, with kidney and liver complications, said Javier Rodriguez, chief health officer for the Madrid region. Doctors are considering alternative treatments.

      Doctors have cautioned that it's impossible to tell what role, if any, that experimental treatments have played in the recovery of patients infected with the Ebola virus.

      Garcia is the second Spanish priest to be diagnosed with Ebola. Miguel Pajares, who received ZMapp, died last month days after being brought back to Spain from Liberia.

      The World Health Organization's panel of independent experts on Monday advised against general bans on travel or trade with affected countries.

      "Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries, resulting in detrimental economic
      consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread," the statement from WHO's  emergency committee said.

      Meanwhile, Germany's defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, urged soldiers and civilian employees to "voluntarily make yourselves available for this unusual mission," to staff an Ebola virus clinic that Germany plans to set up in West Africa.

      Nigeria has recorded 20 cases and eight deaths. Senegal has one confirmed case and no deaths.

      "On the whole, the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria are pretty much contained," WHO said in a statement.

      A separate, unrelated, Ebola outbreak has killed 41 people in Democratic Republic of Congo, where there have been 68 cases. Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo on Monday said the epidemic is "almost over" with no new cases detected for several days.

      With files from The Associated Press and Reuters