MONROVIA, Liberia, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Liberian officials have located all 17 patients suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus who fled a quarantine center after it was attacked over the weekend.
"We are glad to confirm that all of the 17 individuals have been accounted for and have now been transferred to JFK Ebola specialist treatment centre," said Lewis Brown, Liberia's information minister, on Tuesday.
The patients fled the quarantine clinic in West Point, a densely populated slum in the capital Monrovia, as looters ran off with items from the clinic such as bedding, stoking fears the escape would accelerate the spread of the deadly, highly contagious virus.
The news comes as the World Health Organization announced the epidemic's death toll had passed 1,200 as workers in Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia scramble to prevent the spread of the crisis and forestall food shortages in the areas under quarantine.
The virus killed 84 people in just three days, the WHO said, and the number of confirmed infections jumped 113 from last Thursday to 2,240. Libera has been the hardest-hit of the four West African nations, with 48 of the new cases and 53 deaths occurring within its borders.
Health workers have struggled to combat the spread of the disease amid deep skepticism from the community. The outbreak, which began in Guinea in February, is now by far the deadliest outbreak of the virus since it was discovered more than four decades ago.
Still, the WHO said it sees encouraging signs. It said no cases have been confirmed outside the four affected countries, while some patients who received early treatment have made recoveries.
Brown, the information minster, said three African doctors who had been treated for the disease with the experimental drug ZMapp were showing "remarkable signs of improvement."
While the drug's manufacturer said the current supply of the drug has been exhausted, Liberia's Assistant Minister of Health and Social Welfare Tolbert Nyenswah said he hopes ZMapp can be made available for the future.
"If we can save the doctors here, especially those senior medical doctors that are infected with the virus, then Liberia can be a place to do a mass trial with the drugs," he said.