As a new experimental drug administered for the first time on two US patients suffering from Ebola shows signs of working, the government of Saudi Arabia is banning travelers from Ebola stricken regions in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia from participating in certain religious ceremonies.

Ebola

When Ebola victims a Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were first diagnosed with the disease, the religious missionary they worked for searched for a potential cure – where no known cure was available. According to a report in the Washington Post, they approached the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asking for anything – even untested – that might help.

Experimental drug for Ebola works

The CDC connected Brantly and Writebol to the National Institute of Health who put them in contact with a treatment that had only been tested on monkeys previously, but it had worked.

“This so-called experimental serum is a cocktail of antibodies that have the capability of blocking the virus,” Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was quoted as saying. “The physicians in charge of the patients’ care made a risk-benefit decision. The risk was less than the potential benefit.”

The treatments are reported to be working but the patients are still not fully cured.

Saudi Arabia government cuts flights from the three Ebola-infected countries

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia government officials are taking no chances during the religious season, where the holy land for Muslims is located in Makkah.  Islamic Pilgrims from all over travel to the Grand Mosque to celebrate the Haj, the most important season of the year.

“We have communicated the instructions to the officials of all ports of entry. We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen,” Dr Khalid Marghalani, a Saudi health ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Currently direct flights between the three Ebola-infected countries and Saudi Arabia have been shuttered and international airlines, including Dubai-based Emirates, have canceled service to the infected regions.

Back in the US, the problem with an Ebola cure, according to a Washington Post report, was the lack of interest on the part of drug companies. “Part of the problem, beyond the difficulty in developing reliable treatments, has been a lack of interest from drug companies, given that Ebola has affected relatively few people compared with many other diseases,” the Post article said.