Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

Ebola crisis: Nigeria declared free of virus

2014-10-20 12:56:27


Schoolchildren in Nigeria wash their hands as they learn about Ebola prevention

Nigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz, speaking in the capital Abuja, said it was a "spectacular success story".

Nigeria won praise for its swift response after a Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.

The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to strengthen their response to the threat posed by Ebola.

European countries have committed more than 500m euros (£400m; $600m) but the UK is pressing to double that amount.

The money is being sought to help reinforce over-stretched healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and to mitigate the damage Ebola is doing to their economies.

Ahead of the talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested the EU could send a civilian EU mission to West Africa that would serve as a platform for sending medical staff.

Another diplomat said there were plans for three countries to spearhead aid to the region - the UK for Sierra Leone, France for Guinea and the US for Liberia.

Earlier, the Spanish government said a nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa had tested negative for the virus.

How not to catch Ebola:

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

Ebola basics

How Ebola attacks

What virus has hit - in maps

Uncertainty over figures

The result suggests Teresa Romero, 44, is no longer infected although a second test is required before she can be declared free of Ebola.

Ms Romero contracted the virus when treating two infected patients in a Madrid hospital.

In another development, US health officials said most of the people quarantined after coming into contact with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan had been given the all-clear. The 21-day monitoring period applied to about 50 people.

Two nurses at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas became infected with Ebola after treating Mr Duncan, who was from Liberia. He died on 8 October.

On Sunday, the Pentagon announced it would prepare a 30-person rapid reaction medical support team that could provide help to civilian doctors in the US confronted with possible Ebola cases.

It said the team would not be sent to West Africa.

Nigeria praised

The WHO can declare an Ebola outbreak over if two incubation periods of 21 days pass with no new cases. The last reported case in Nigeria - Africa's most populous country - was discovered on 5 September.

The BBC's Will Ross in Lagos says the nightmare scenario of Ebola spreading through Nigeria's 170 million people has been avoided and the nation is heaving a collective sigh of relief.

The outbreak there began when Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with the illness in July.

How Ebola virus spreads

Nigeria declared a national public health emergency and Mr Sawyer later died of the disease, followed by seven Nigerians.

These included Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who diagnosed Mr Sawyer and is credited with helping to contain the outbreak at its source.

Dr Adadevoh's son, Bankole Cardoso, told the BBC that because Mr Sawyer had been so quickly diagnosed, Nigeria was able to trace all those who could possibly have contracted the disease from him.

"That was probably the difference between us and our West African neighbours," he said.

John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Nigeria had taken the right steps to contain the outbreak.

"Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale" he told AFP news agency. "They acted aggressively, especially in terms of contact-tracing", he added.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola Virus

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

Ebola virus: Busting the myths

Source: bbc.co.uk

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