Samaritan's Purse/Handout via Reuters

Nigeria reports 8 new suspected cases of Ebola

The report from the capital, Lagos, comes as two men in the US and Saudi Arabia are being tested for the virus

Nigeria on Tuesday reported eight suspected cases of the deadly Ebola virus after confirming a new case one day earlier. All eight people who are suspected of having Ebola came into contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, who died from the virus in Lagos last month after flying there from Liberia.

A doctor who helped treat Sawyer was confirmed to have the disease on Monday. 

The announcement from Nigeria — amid West Africa's devastating outbreak, which has killed at least 887 people — came one day after Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City said it was testing a man who recently traveled to a West African nation where Ebola has been reported. He arrived at the emergency room with a high fever and a stomachache but was in good condition, hospital officials said.

The New York City Health Department, after consulting with the hospital and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement Monday evening that the patient is unlikely to have Ebola.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced that it is testing a Saudi man who showed symptoms of the hemorrhagic fever after a recent trip to Sierra Leone. The 40-year-old man is in critical condition and is being treated in the isolation unit of a hospital in the western city of Jiddah.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the toll from Ebola has risen to 887 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria and that more than 1,600 people have been infected. The West African outbreak is the worst Ebola epidemic ever recorded. In the most recent effort to help contain the spread of the disease, the World Bank announced that it will provide as much as $200 million to help contain the virus.

And in the first cautionary measure by a non-African airline, British Airways has suspended all its flights to and from Sierra Leone and Liberia until Aug. 31, citing the “deteriorating public health situation in both countries.” The CDC has warned people in the U.S. against nonessential travel to the affected region.

Click for the latest news and analysis on the epidemic in West Africa.

In the U.S., a plane carrying a second American aid worker infected with Ebola, Nancy Writebol, was due to arrive in Atlanta from West Africa on Tuesday, where she will receive further treatment for the virus. A specially equipped medical aircraft carrying her landed at Bangor International Airport in Maine on Tuesday morning to refuel, television station WCSH of Portland reported.

Writebol, 59, a missionary who had been working in Liberia disinfecting protective suits, will be treated by infectious-disease specialists in a special isolation ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where an American doctor, Kent Brantly, also infected with Ebola while working in Liberia, is being treated. Writebol and Brantly had been working on a joint team for missionary organizations SIM USA and Samaritan's Purse.

Writebol and Brantly both saw their conditions improve by varying degrees in Liberia after they received an experimental drug previously tested only on monkeys, a representative for Samaritan's Purse said. The treatment, ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the virus.

In a statement, the company said it was working with LeafBio of San Diego, Defyrus of Toronto, the U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada on development of the drug, which was identified as a possible treatment in January.

The drug is made in tobacco at Kentucky BioProcessing, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, in Owensboro, Kentucky, said spokesman David Howard. The plant "serves like a photocopier," and the drug is extracted from the plant, he said.

Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory and the international relief group Samaritan's Purse to provide a limited amount of ZMapp to Emory, he said.

The Kentucky company is working "to increase production of ZMapp, but that process is going to take several months," Howard said. The drug has been tested in animals, and formal testing in humans is expected to begin later this year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must grant permission to use experimental treatments in the United States, but the FDA does not have authority over the use of such a drug in other countries, and the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. An FDA spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny whether the FDA granted access to any experimental therapy for the aid workers in the U.S.

"Ebola is a tricky virus, and one day you can be up and the next day down. One day is not indicative of the outcome," Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA said. But "we're grateful this medicine was available."

Brantly received a unit of blood from an Ebola survivor, a 14-year-old boy who had been under his care. That seems to be aimed at giving Brantly antibodies that the boy may have made in response to the virus.

Emory University Hospital has one of the nation's most sophisticated infectious-disease units. Patients are sealed off from anyone not in protective gear. Ebola is spread only through direct contact with an infected person's blood or other bodily fluids, not through the air.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several in addition to ZMapp are under development.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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