Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Two new cases of Ebola in Nigeria

Health workers at an Ebola treatment centre in the city of Monrovia, Liberia (AP)
Health workers at an Ebola treatment centre in the city of Monrovia, Liberia (AP)

Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and are outside the group of medics who treated a man who arrived in the country sick and later died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.

The two new cases are the spouses of medical workers who had direct contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer. He flew into Nigeria last month with the virus and infected 11 others before he died in July.

The male and female medics both subsequently died of Ebola, after infecting their spouses, Mr Chukwu said.

Nigerian officials initially claimed the risk of exposure to others was minimal because Mr Sawyer was whisked into isolation after arriving at the airport.

But Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris later acknowledged that he was not immediately quarantined when he arrived because doctors did not suspect Ebola.

The two new patients were quarantined two days ago while being tested for the virus, Mr Chukwu said. They had previously been under surveillance but were brought in when they developed Ebola symptoms.

A total of 213 people are under surveillance in Nigeria as part of efforts to monitor anyone who may have been exposed to Ebola, Mr Chukwu said. These include six people in the south-eastern state of Enugu, he said.

The latest cases bring the total number of confirmed infections in Nigeria, including Mr Sawyer, to 14.

Five have died from the illness, five recovered and were discharged from hospital, while another four are being treated in isolation in Lagos, the commercial capital where Mr Sawyer's flight landed.

The damage has been far greater in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have each recorded hundreds of cases. Liberia has seen the most deaths, with 576.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is concerned that the scale of the outbreak has been underestimated, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and that many people with Ebola symptoms have not been identified.

New treatment centres in Liberia were overwhelmed as soon as they opened over the past two weeks by patients that were not previously identified.

In a situation assessment today, the WHO said this had "never before been seen in an Ebola outbreak", adding that it suggested "an invisible caseload of patients" going undetected by surveillance measures.

In Liberia, a teenage boy died after being shot by security forces in a slum community that was blockaded this week to stop the spread of Ebola, a government spokesman said.

Shakie Kamara, who relatives said was 15 or 16, was one of three people who sustained serious injuries during an altercation on Wednesday that erupted after security forces blocked roads in and out of the West Point slum housing at least 50,000 people.

The death risked raising tensions in West Point, which has already been a flash point. Last weekend residents ransacked a holding centre for Ebola patients after realising that some had come from other parts of the city.

Looters then made off with materials including blood-stained mattresses and sheets that could spread the disease.

The government began distributing rice to alleviate food shortages as a result of the cordoning off of West Point yesterday, said Information Minister Lewis Brown.

Countries in West Africa and beyond continue to impose travel restrictions, even though the WHO has not recommended them.

Today the Central African country of Gabon announced it was barring all flights and ships from Ebola-stricken countries. Senegal announced late yesterday that it was closing air and sea borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The land border with Guinea was also closed.

South Africa said it was imposing a travel ban for non-citizens travelling from those countries "unless the travel is considered absolutely essential".

Earlier this week, Cameroon that it was barring flights from Nigeria.

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