As Ebola fatalities hit 1,200, some victims on ZMapp show signs of recovery

BY Sarah Corapi  August 19, 2014 at 2:37 PM EDT
Local residents gather around a very sick Saah Exco, 10, in a back alley of the West Point slum on August 19, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The boy was one of the patients that was pulled out of a holding center for suspected Ebola patients when the facility was overrun by a mob on Saturday. A local clinic Tuesday refused to treat the boy, according to residents, because of the danger of infection, although the boy was never tested for Ebola. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Local residents gather around a very sick Saah Exco, 10, in a back alley of the West Point slum on August 19, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The boy was one of the patients that was pulled out of a holding center for suspected Ebola patients when the facility was overrun by a mob on Saturday. A local clinic Tuesday refused to treat the boy, according to residents, because of the danger of infection, although the boy was never tested for Ebola. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The world’s worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has now claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. While the disease has carved a destructive path through several West African nations, Liberia recorded the highest number of new deaths: a total of 53 between Aug. 14-16.

Amid the overwhelming death toll, the Liberian government shared promising news: three of the country’s health workers being treated with experimental drug ZMapp have shown signs of improvement.

Moreover, Nancy Writebol — one of the two Americans being treated for the virus — was also improving, according to her husband David Writebol.

“I have had the great joy to be able to look through the isolation room glass and see my beautiful wife again,” Mr. Writebol said in a statement. “She was standing with her radiant smile, happy beyond words. She is continuing to slowly gain strength, eager for the day when the barriers separating us are set aside and we can simply hold each other.”

Despite these reassuring cases, medical experts warn that the drug has never been tested in humans and has yet to be proven effective. Even if it were, the drug’s manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceuticals has said that its already limited supplies are currently exhausted and more won’t be available for months.

Experts still say that the best way to prevent the virus from spreading is to identify and isolate infected individuals.

Liberia is attempting to do just that. Their efforts were thwarted on Saturday when residents in the country’s capital attacked a center where people were being monitored for Ebola, causing possibly infected individuals to flee. But authorities announced Tuesday that all patients still missing had been found and moved to a hospital, where they are being screened and treated.

For more updates on the Ebola epidemic and what’s being done to help, tune into the PBS NewsHour tonight to watch our interview with Dr. Joanne Liu, International President for Doctors Without Borders.