GENEVA - The World Health Organisation authorised the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola as the death toll topped 1,000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to succumb to the outbreak.
The declaration by the UN's health agency came Tuesday after a US company that makes an experimental serum called ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit west Africa.
"In the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention," WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny said in Geneva after a meeting of medical experts.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced plans to step up the global response to the outbreak, while urging governments to "avoid panic and fear" over an easily-preventable disease.
The epidemic, the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago, has killed 1,013 people since early this year, the WHO said.
The announcement came before West African regional bloc ECOWAS said one of its officials had died from the disease in Nigeria, taking the total number of deaths in the country to three.
Cases have so far been limited to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which account for the bulk of victims, and Nigeria.
Terror has gripped the impoverished west African countries ravaged by the disease, with harrowing tales emerging of people being shunned by their villages as the virus fells those around them.
When AFP visited the Liberian village of Ballajah, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the capital Monrovia, 12-year-old Fatu Sherrif had been locked away with her mother's body without food and water for a week.
Her cries went unanswered as panicked residents fled the village when both her parents fell sick.
Fatu later died and her brother Barnie, 15, despite testing negative for Ebola, was left alone and hungry in an abandoned house.
"Nobody wants to come near me and they know - people told them that I don't have Ebola," he told AFP.