Geneva: The death toll of the Ebola epidemic neared 1,000 yesterday as the World Health Organisation (WHO) met in an emergency session in Geneva to decide whether to declare an international crisis.
The latest official toll across west Africa hit 932 deaths since the start of the year, it said yesterday, with 1,711 confirmed cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A Saudi Arabian who had travelled to Sierra Leone and had symptoms similar to those found in Ebola sufferers died yesterday of a heart attack, the health ministry said.
"The patient died of cardiac arrest, despite efforts by the medical team to resuscitate him," the ministry website reported. It added that the man will be buried in the Islamic manner, but under precautions laid down by the world health authorities.
The ministry did not reveal the results of tests carried out abroad on whether the patent had been suffering from the Ebola virus.
The Saudi case was announced Tuesday by the health ministry, which said the patient had been quarantined in hospital in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
He was admitted after showing symptoms of haemorrhagic fever upon his return from Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, the death of a nurse in Lagos came as 45 deaths were confirmed across west Africa between Saturday and Monday, with aid agencies, including Doctors Without Frontiers, saying the terrifying tropical disease is out of control.
In Liberia's capital, Monrovia, where the dead have been left unburied on the streets or abandoned in their homes, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed for divine intervention and ordered three days of fasting and prayer.
And in Sierra Leone, which has the most confirmed infection cases, troops were sent to guard hospitals to "deter relatives and friends of Ebola patients from forcefully taking them from hospitals without medical consent," a presidential aide told AFP.
The closed-door WHO meeting was not expected to make a decision until Friday. But the session itself underscored the severity of the threat the disease, which causes severe fever and unstoppable bleeding, poses.
Meanwhile, a Spanish airforce plane left for Liberia yesterday to bring an infected Spanish missionary priest home for treatment.