The growing number of cases in Lagos, a megacity of some 21m people, comes as authorities acknowledge they did not treat Patrick Sawyer as an ebola patient and isolate him for the first 24 hours after his arrival in Nigeria last month.
Sawyer, a 40-year-old American of Liberian descent with a wife and three young daughters in Minnesota, was travelling on a business flight to Nigeria when he fell ill.
The death of the unidentified nurse marks the second ebola death in Nigeria, and this worries health experts as it is the Africa’s most populous country and Lagos, where the deaths occurred, one of its biggest cities. Ben Webster, a Red Cross disaster response manager in London, said it is “critically important” that people displaying symptoms are identified quickly.
“It’s impossible to say whether this specific situation could have been avoided, but there is certainly more likelihood of travellers coming from an ebola-affected country in the region and authorities need to be aware, even if the infrastructure and situation is challenging.”
In Saudi Arabia, officials say a man who was being tested for the ebola virus has died. The 40-year-old returned on Sunday from Sierra Leone, where at least 286 people have died from ebola, and was hospitalised in Jiddah after showing symptoms of the viral haemorrhagic fever.
Spain’s defence ministry, meanwhile, said a medically-equipped Airbus 310 is ready to fly to Liberia to repatriate a Spanish missionary priest who has ebola.
The priest, Miguel Pajares, is one of three missionaries being kept in isolation at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital in Liberia who have tested positive for the virus, Spain’s San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Catholic humanitarian group that runs hospitals around the world, said.
There have now been at least 1,711 cases of ebola this year, which has no proven vaccine or treatment, according to new figures released yesterday by the World Health Organisation. More than 932 people have died in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria as of August 4, WHO said.
In announcing the new deaths, it noted in particular that “community resistance remains high” in Liberia.
Many fearful family members are refusing to bring sick relatives to isolation centres, preferring to treat them at home and pray for their survival. The difficulties in quarantining sick people are complicating efforts to stop ebola’s spread.
In Nigeria, the five people now infected from Sawyer would not have been contagious to their neighbours or family members until they started showing symptoms of their own, health experts say.
The delay in enforcing infection control measures, though, is another setback in the battle to stamp out the worst ebola outbreak in history.