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Nigeria death shows Ebola can spread by air travel


By HEATHER MURDOCK

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world's deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa's largest city with 21 million people.

The fact that the traveler from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact Ebola's symptoms are similar to other diseases.

Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man's flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country.

Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease, but it is no guarantee Ebola won't travel by airplane, according to Dr. Lance Plyler, who heads Ebola medical efforts in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan's Purse.

Deadly Ebola Case Reported In Nigeria's Biggest City


"Unfortunately the initial signs of Ebola imitate other diseases, like malaria or typhoid," he said.

Ebola already had caused some 672 deaths across a wide swath of West Africa before the Nigeria case was announced. It is the deadliest outbreak on record for Ebola, and now it threatens Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.

"Lagos is completely different from other cities because we're talking about millions of people," said Plan International's Disaster Response and Preparedness Head, Dr. Unni Krishnan.

Nigerian newspapers describe the effort as a "scramble" to contain the threat after the Liberian arrived in Lagos and then died Friday.

International airports in Nigeria are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, according to Yakubu Dati, the spokesman for Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria.

Health officials are also working with ports and land borders, he said. "They are giving out information in terms of enlightenment, what to do, what to look out for."

And Nigerian airports are setting up holding rooms to ready in case another potential Ebola victim lands in Nigeria.

Airports in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three other West African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak, have implemented some preventive measures, according to officials in those countries. But none of the safeguards are foolproof, say health experts.

Doctors say health screens could be effective, but Ebola has a variable incubation period of between two and 21 days and cannot be diagnosed on the spot.

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian Ministry of Finance arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday and was immediately detained by health authorities suspecting he might have Ebola, Plyler said.

On his way to Lagos, Sawyer's plane also stopped in Lome, Togo, according to the World Health Organization.

Authorities announced Friday that blood tests from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital confirmed Sawyer died of Ebola earlier that day.

Sawyer reportedly did not show Ebola symptoms when he boarded the plane, Plyler said, but by the time he arrived in Nigeria he was vomiting and had diarrhea. There has not been another recently recorded case of Ebola spreading through air travel, he added.

Nearly 50 other passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but are not being kept in isolation, said an employee at Nigeria's Ministry of Health, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Sawyer's sister also died of Ebola in Liberia, according to Liberian officials, but he claimed to have had no contact with her. Ebola is highly contagious and kills more than 70 percent of people infected.

An outbreak in Lagos, Africa's megacity where many live in cramped conditions, could be an unprecedented disaster in what is already the largest Ebola outbreak on record.

"Lagos is completely different from other cities because we're talking about millions of people," said Plan International's Disaster Response and Preparedness Head, Dr. Unni Krishnan.

Ebola is passed by touching bodily fluids of patients even after they die, he said. Traditional burials that include rubbing the bodies of the dead contribute to the spread of the disease, Krishnan added.

There is no "magic bullet" cure for Ebola, but early detection and treatment of fluids and nutrition can be effective, said Plyler in Liberia. Quickly isolating patients who show symptoms is also crucial in slowing the spread of the disease.

West African hospital systems have weak and "often paralyzed" health care systems, he added, and are not usually equipped to handle Ebola outbreaks. International aid organizations like his and Doctors Without Borders have stepped in, but they also lack enough funding and manpower. "We need more humanitarian workers," he said. "We need resources."

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mociambz July 26 2014 at 5:21 PM

shut down all travel from Africa NOW

Flag Reply +14 rate up
5 replies
msharvie July 26 2014 at 5:33 PM

"Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease," Unfortunately Obama is letting everybody invade our borders. Don't be surprised when diseases we haven't seen in years start popping up in the United States. We have a precursor for an epidemic heading our way. Everyone needs to make Obama answer why he is not protecting our borders! He has abandoned every American citizen and embraced illegals coming across the border. What's the agenda behind this? Destruction of America? Destruction of our Constitution?

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10 replies
John Roberson July 26 2014 at 5:33 PM

aids started in Africa and Ebola is prevalent now. So, Obama is probably going to allow more immigration from Africa for his people, the land of his father.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
10 replies
s.hausherr July 26 2014 at 6:00 PM

Here's a novel idea.... ABSOLUTELY NO FLIGHTS in or out any of those countries and if anyone has traveled there, they can not board any flights whatsoever!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
kcarthey s.hausherr July 26 2014 at 7:35 PM

What about a boat?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ktcst71 July 26 2014 at 6:28 PM

One more reason, if its needed, why America MUST secure its borders.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
brenhatestwinkie ktcst71 July 26 2014 at 6:53 PM

ebola does not care, you dumb bagger

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
jer.thompson brenhatestwinkie July 26 2014 at 9:30 PM

what worthless comment from obvious ignorant dumb ass

Flag 0 rate up
BoB July 26 2014 at 5:54 PM

ebola, Gods attempt to correct one of his major screw up's, black Africa

Flag Reply +7 rate up
4 replies
raddison4x July 26 2014 at 8:13 PM

With our borders wide open, we can't stop this. This is probably why our Gov is storing coffins for 200 MILLION. With the TB and hoof and mouth diseases coming from Central America and now this Ebola from Africa, we are screwed.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
karen's computer raddison4x July 26 2014 at 8:59 PM

There is counseling and medication available to help you with your condition. Please contact you local mental health care provider as soon as possible.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
jer.thompson karen's computer July 26 2014 at 9:32 PM

Obviously you missed your medication

Flag +1 rate up
candacedean July 26 2014 at 6:53 PM

this part of Africa is total poverty and misery as corrupt politicians stash cash in Swiss banks. Breeding grounds for this illness, for sure. It will spread worldwide. It's only a matter of time.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
troopabn July 26 2014 at 6:32 PM

Barry, we hear you are now on, or planning your next vacation. Hope you read this article. Please don't go back to see the family. If you do, please stay. You can keep AF1, as long as you take the wheels off and the engine out. Immediately give pilots and crew chemical kits and hazmat suits and get them back home with a health inspection and release after a one month observation. This is what happens when you let those cross borders that haven't been inoculated.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
4 replies
e08a13 July 26 2014 at 8:32 PM

If multiple countries can suspect air travel to Israel, they can suspend them to and from Africa.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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