UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations said Wednesday a staff member in Liberia has died from "probable Ebola," while the World Health Organization said it was optimistic that an Ebola vaccine could be available for mass vaccination campaigns as early as 2015.
The spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that the death of the Liberian national is the first of a U.N. staffer in the outbreak that he is aware of.
Stephane Dujarric said the staffer was working with the U.N. mission in that country. The secretary-general's special representative there told reporters in the capital, Monrovia, on Wednesday that the staffer died last week.
"It is a sad reminder of the ever-present risk, and sobering for us as a mission and as the U.N. family," Karin Landgren said.
The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak has sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease. The United States reported its first case on Tuesday.
Global concern about the outbreak has led the United Nations to create a separate mission targeting the virus to be established in the capitals of the three main affected countries this week.
In an update issued Wednesday, the World Health Organization was optimistic there would be a fully tested and licensed Ebola vaccine available for use in mass vaccination campaigns, possibly starting in 2015.
At the conclusion of a vaccine meeting at the agency's Geneva headquarters this week, WHO said experts were aiming to "accomplish, within a matter of months, work that normally takes two to four years."
Other Ebola researchers have previously said that it would be unlikely that using untested vaccines could help slow the outbreak.
WHO acknowledged there were significant technical problems with using vaccines in West Africa, including the requirement that vaccines must be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius. Experts also said it was important to test the use of the immunizations in all groups, including children, pregnant women and people with HIV.
Even with "massive efforts," WHO said a significant number of vaccine doses would not be available until late in the first quarter of 2015.