Monday 27 January 2020

Nigeria confirms 10 new cases of Ebola as public doctors strike

A man has his temperature taken using an infrared digital laser thermometer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Reuters
A man has his temperature taken using an infrared digital laser thermometer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Reuters
An immigration officer uses an infra-red laser thermometer to examine a policeman on his arrival at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Reuters

Alastair Beach

Nigeria has confirmed 10 new cases of Ebola, up from seven at the last count, although only two have so far died, including the Liberian who brought the virus in, the health minister said.

All were people who had had primary contact with Patrick Sawyer, who collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 25 and later died, according to the Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu. A nurse who had treated him without protective gear has also died.

"As at today, 77 primary and secondary contacts of the index case have been placed under surveillance or isolation," he added.

Nigeria faces the added problem that public doctors are on strike over pay and working conditions and have resisted calls by the government to end their strike to tackle the Ebola crisis.

Meanwhile, a toddler who died in a Guinea border town just before Christmas last year was the "patient zero" who sparked the Ebola crisis, according to reports.

The two-year-old boy was from Gueckedou, a jungle village which lies on the country's border with Liberia and Sierra Leone - two countries which have been badly affected by the deadly virus.

Disease investigators said that after falling ill with a fever and vomiting, he then died on December 6, according to a report in the 'New York Times'. A week later his mother and three-year-old sister were also killed by the virus - which has claimed nearly 1000 lives across West Africa in the worst recorded outbreak in history.

The reports came as the Rwandan authorities quarantined a German student with Ebola-like symptoms, according to the country's health ministry.

Meanwhile, Spain said it had obtained a dose of a US-made experimental Ebola drug to treat a Spanish missionary priest evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for the killer virus.

The Spanish health ministry announced yesterday that the ZMapp drug was obtained in Geneva this weekend and brought to Madrid to treat Miguel Pajares. The 75-year-old priest was placed in isolation last Thursday at Madrid's Carlos III Hospital.


Ebola is one of the world's most deadly diseases, with no known vaccine or cure. The Zaire strain - the one currently spreading through West Africa - can kill up to 90pc of sufferers, although in the latest outbreak the death toll has been around 55pc.

Two Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia and evacuated back to the US have been treated with the drug and are said to be improving, but the US has resisted calls to make it available to African victims, saying not enough is yet known about its efficacy.

Officials from the World Health Organisation said that the pandemic represents an international health emergency that will likely continue spreading for months. It said 961 people have died and 1,779 have been infected.

The disease has strained health systems of affected states and governments have responded with measures including national emergencies declared in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

Three Liberia-based missionaries, including the husband of a missionary being treated for Ebola in Atlanta, have returned to the US and will be quarantined to ensure they did not contract the deadly virus, their Christian group has said.

David Writebol and two doctors, who have been treating Ebola patients in Monrovia amid the current outbreak, arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, by private charter on Sunday night.

Mr Writebol's wife, Nancy, is one of two American relief workers with Ebola getting treated at Emory University Hospital.

The missionary organisation, SIM USA, said none of the other missionaries it brought back had shown signs of being infected with the disease.

Health officials in Charlotte said they would require the three to remain under a 21-day quarantine that began in Liberia.

Three weeks is the longest incubation period between someone getting exposed to Ebola and the onset of the infection.

Irish Independent

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