A Saudi man who was suspected of contracting Ebola disease in Sierra Leone has died at a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry says.
If confirmed, this would be the first Ebola-related death outside Africa in an outbreak that has killed more than 900 people this year.
The man recently visited Sierra Leone, one of four countries in the outbreak.
World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak.
The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency.
Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, is one of the deadliest diseases known to humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90%.
A WHO statement on Wednesday said 932 patients had died of the disease in West Africa so far, with most of the latest fatalities reported in Liberia.
Concern has also been growing over a number of new cases in Nigeria, the region’s most populous nation. On Wednesday, a nurse who treated an Ebola patient became the second person to die of the disease there.
Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu described the outbreak as a national emergency, adding that “everyone in the world is at risk” because of air travel.
The Saudi man who was suspected of contracting the disease died of cardiac arrest, according to the website of the country’s health ministry.
The 40-year-old is said to have returned from a recent business trip to Sierra Leone.
The ministry’s website said he was being tested for Ebola, but did not say if the tests had concluded that he had the disease.
The website said the man had been treated for Ebola-like symptoms in an isolation ward and would be buried according to Islamic tradition, while following precautions set out by world health authorities.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas to Muslims from several West African countries, amid concerns that visiting pilgrims could spread the disease.
Meanwhile, two US aid workers – Dr. Kent Brantly and Nurse Nancy Writebol – who contracted Ebola in Liberia appear to be improving after receiving an unapproved medicine ahead of their evacuation back to the US.
t is not clear if the ZMapp drug, which has only been tested on monkeys, can be credited with their improvement.
Leading infectious disease experts have called for experimental treatments to be offered more widely.
The meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee is focusing solely on how to respond to the Ebola outbreak.
If a public health emergency is declared, it could involve detailed plans to identify, isolate and treat cases, as well as impose travel restrictions on affected areas.
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