As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread in West Africa, officials are also beginning to express concern about the growing black market for the blood of survivors, the only approved and effective treatment for the virus to date.
So far the outbreak has struck close to 4,800 people across the region, killing more than half of them. Those who do survive are valued for their blood, which is used to create a serum for treating Ebola patients.
For example, the blood of American doctor Kent Brantly was used for another American, aid worker Rick Sacra. The blood of Ebola survivors is rich with antibodies against the virus, and with no approved drug yet to treat Ebola, many see the blood as their only hope of overcoming the deadly virus.
This has led to a growing black market for Ebola survivors’ blood, one that has officials wary. The World Health Organization warns against unauthorized blood transfusions, saying the blood can cause anaphylactic shock and death and also spread other blood-borne diseases such as HIV.
“There is a danger that such serums could contain other infections and wouldn’t be administered properly,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.
The United Nations has already committed to stamping out the Ebola blood black market, and the United States is also committing 3,000 troops to the region to ensure the safety of other medical and humanitarian aid supplies shipped there.
But at the same time, the WHO has been promoting the use of authorized, medical blood transfusions to treat Ebola.
“We are supporting use of whole blood and convalescent serum to manage Ebola virus disease in the West African Ebola outbreak,” WHO spokesman Margaret Harris said. “Whole blood has already been used in a number of centers.”
To promote legitimate blood transfusions from Ebola survivors and eliminate the black market, doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha are building a registry of survivors by blood type, Bloomberg said.
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