A black market has emerged in West Africa trading the blood of Ebola survivors, the World Health Organization reported.
The convalescent serum collected from survivors' blood has been used by trained doctors to treat Ebola patients in the outbreak so far, including 51-year-old American aid worker Rick Sacra, who received blood from survivor Kent Brantly. The blood's antibodies are particularly helpful in fighting the virus, and the black market spawned from a mixture of desperation in the region and lack of reliable resources.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said at a press conference that the agency is sounding the alarm to "stamp out any black market activity." "This is something we need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem," Chan said. "The use of convalescent serum has to be done properly."
The wrong blood type could cause anaphylactic shock and death in a patient, not to mention pass on any blood-borne diseases like HIV if the original blood is infected. A black market could be disastrous for the distribution of supplies to the region. If those trading in the market grab airdropped supplies, the system could end up preventing the supplies from reaching patients in need.
Laurie Garret, senior fellow for global health at the Council of Foreign Relations, warned the black market is already steps ahead of any actions from President Obama and other global initiatives. "I'm very distressed," she told The Hill. "I don't think we're even close to playing catch up, much less mount a response that will get us ahead of the virus."