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30 Jul, 2014 23:35

Peace Corps leaves West Africa as Ebola outbreak expands

Peace Corps leaves West Africa as Ebola outbreak expands

The US Peace Corps announced on Wednesday that it was removing its 340 volunteers from West Africa due to recent Ebola outbreak, while the federal government is being urged to fast-track a new a drug that could possibly stave off a global pandemic.

According toReuters, 130 volunteers will leave Sierra Leone, while another 108 and 102 will depart Liberia and Guinea, respectively. The Peace Corps blamed the virus’ continued spread for the decision.

"The Peace Corps today announced that it is temporarily removing its volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea due to the increasing spread of the Ebola virus," the organization said in a statement to the news service.

Since February, 672 people have been killed in all three countries, making the recent outbreak the most devastating on record, per the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, the US State Department confirmed one American citizen has died from the virus – which triggers diarrhea and vomiting before causing internal and external bleeding. Two other aid workers have been infected and are in serious condition.

As RT reported on Tuesday, Sierra Leone’s only specialist on Ebola has also died, not even one week after being diagnosed with the virus. The current fatality rate stands at 60 percent, which is lower than the 90 percent rate typically associated with the disease.

As the highly contagious virus continues to raise concern across the world, activists have started a petition on Change.org pushing the US Food and Drug Administration to speed up the authorization of new medication that could potentially stop the virus in its tracks. There’s currently no cure for Ebola, but several drugs and vaccines are currently being tested.

“One of the most promising is TKM-Ebola manufactured by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals,” the petition states. “This drug has been shown to be highly effective in killing the virus in primates and Phase 1 clinical trials to assess its safety in humans were started earlier this year.”

The petition points to the fact that there’s been one confirmed case of the disease being transferred via air travel – from Liberia to Nigeria – and suggests the impending shadow of a pandemic makes fast-tracking the drug’s approval necessary.

“In view of this it’s imperative that the development of these drugs be fast-tracked by the FDA and the first step should be releasing the hold on TKM-Ebola. There is a precedent for fast tracking anti-Ebola drugs in emergency cases as happened last year when a researcher was exposed to the virus and received an experimental vaccine.”

Speaking with the Daily Mail, Professor Jeremy Farrar of the Welcome Trust global charity said drugs that have already been tested on humans should be deployed to the areas where they could be the most beneficial.

“It's ridiculous that we haven't got these (experimental) products out of labs and animal trials and into human testing, and at least offered to people,” he said.

“If you had a 60 per cent chance of dying tomorrow, and there was something that had been tested in healthy volunteers (but not yet tried in patients or approved), would you take it?”