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WHO: Senegal Ebola case 'a top priority emergency'


DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - The effort to contain Ebola in Senegal is "a top priority emergency," the World Health Organization said Sunday, as the government continued tracing everyone who came in contact with a Guinean student who has tested positive for the deadly disease in the capital, Dakar.

Senegal faces an "urgent need" for support and supplies including hygiene kits and personal protective equipment for health workers, the WHO said in a statement Sunday.

"These needs will be met with the fastest possible speed," the WHO said.

The U.N. health agency provided new information on the movements of the 21-year-old student in the city before he was diagnosed with Ebola.

Senegal confirmed that the student had tested positive for Ebola on Friday, making the country the fifth in West Africa to be affected by an outbreak that has killed more than 1,500 people.

The student showed up at a hospital in Dakar on Aug. 26 but did not reveal that he had been in contact with other Ebola victims, said Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck.

The next day, an epidemiological surveillance team in neighboring Guinea alerted Senegalese authorities that it had lost track of a person it was monitoring three weeks earlier, and that the person may have crossed into Senegal.

The student was tracked to the hospital in Dakar that same day and was immediately quarantined, and a test confirmed he had Ebola, Seck said.

In Sunday's statement, the WHO said the student arrived in Dakar by road on Aug. 20 and was staying with relatives "in the outskirts of the city."

It said that on Aug. 23, he went to a medical facility seeking treatment for fever, diarrhea and vomiting, all symptoms of Ebola.

He was treated for malaria, however, and continued to stay with his relatives before turning up at the Dakar hospital on Aug. 26.

"Though the investigation is in its early stages, he is not presently known to have traveled elsewhere," said the WHO, which received its information from Senegal's health ministry.

The presence of Ebola in Senegal, a tourist and transport hub, could complicate efforts to bring the outbreak under control. The country has already closed its land border with Guinea, where the outbreak originated, and barred air and sea travel from Sierra Leone and Liberia in an attempt to keep the disease out.

In Dakar on Sunday, at least one pharmacy was limiting purchases of hand sanitizer to one small bottle per person because of rising demand - underscoring fears that the number of cases in the city could soon multiply.

Senegalese authorities have isolated the house where the Guinean student was staying as well as the medical facility where he sought treatment prior to visiting the Dakar hospital.

There is no cure or licensed treatment for Ebola, so health workers can only provide supportive care to patients such as keeping them hydrated.

The Guinean student "is doing very well," a doctor monitoring his case in Dakar said Sunday.

"This morning when I called the hospital, the doctor told me that the patient had no complaints and that his fever had disappeared," said Dr. Gallaye Ka in an interview with the private radio station RFM.

Health care workers are especially vulnerable to infection. The WHO says 240 health workers have contracted the disease during the current outbreak and more than half of those have died.

In Sierra Leone on Sunday, officials said they had avoided a strike threatened by workers at an Ebola treatment center in the east of the country, the region hardest hit by the outbreak.

Protective equipment is being sent to the health workers and a "monthly incentive allowance" will be paid on Monday, health ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis told The Associated Press.

On Friday, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma replaced Health Minister Miatta Kargbo with Abu Bakarr Fofanah, a move his office described as necessary to more efficiently combat the outbreak. Kargbo was recalled to work in the president's office.

Join the discussion

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snohunt August 31 2014 at 5:51 PM

It is pretty scary that students from Africa who are entering our country this week to attend colleges in the USA are not screened any more throughly than being asked if they have been exposed to ill relatives etc. and asking to report to health services if they run a temperature. We are being told that the illness can only spread by contact with bodily fluids. If that is the case, how is it that doctors, and nurses, who know infectious disease protocols and how to avoid contamination have already accounted for almost 500 of the ebola victims? Something needs to be done immediately! Schools like City University of New York which has tens of thousands of students could easily be hit, and it will just take off from there, right here in the USA.

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7 replies
rcjackson6h August 31 2014 at 5:42 PM

can you catch ebola while playing golf?

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4 replies
ladyangel558 August 31 2014 at 5:53 PM

this is what makes me mad the student knew he had contact with others with the virus and left and the area and went to a hospital and didn't tell them he had contact with peole infected with ebola !! This student has now caused another potential outbreak because they were scared or whatever but the fact remains this person put more lives in danger and maybe more people will die due to this person actions !!! Why want people listen !!! Quarantine !!! Quarantine !!! Quarantine !!! We have to keep this from speading !!!!

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7 replies
bchbum63 August 31 2014 at 5:33 PM

This virus is airborne in the fact that droplets of the virus could be transmitted via sneezing or coughing.

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5 replies
skydrop007 August 31 2014 at 5:21 PM

Call Obama he has many red lines of defense.

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4 replies
mhagerinteriors August 31 2014 at 7:44 PM

Well, this planet is overpopulated. Let it rip Ebola.

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7 replies
jajankel August 31 2014 at 7:38 PM

Good luck keeping this crap out of the US...Our TSA can make sure you don't have a water bottle, but they will let an infected person travel right on through. Wait and see.

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1 reply
hellyon3too jajankel August 31 2014 at 9:05 PM

You should be more worried about travelers with influenza or SARS. In fact, you should be even more worried about home-grown CA-MRSA. You're much more likely to get that, and it kills 23,000 Americans a year.

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goodgrief61945 August 31 2014 at 6:29 PM

"Health care workers are especially vulnerable to infection". Hmm. I think the exact opposite was said weeks ago, as health workers supposedly take all sorts of protective measures when treating Ebola patients. Coming to the USA very soon. Count on it.

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3 replies
Velocity105 August 31 2014 at 7:01 PM

African nations proliferate like rabbits, this is just nature's contraceptive, leave 'em be and let fate run it's course.

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6 replies
zzyxx August 31 2014 at 5:27 PM

all you that want to go there and help...fine...but stay there!!! do not bring this disease here!!!!!

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1 reply
hellyon3too zzyxx August 31 2014 at 6:37 PM

It's already here, and the best chance we have of ever finding an effective treatment is HERE, not in Africa.

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1 reply
kristine paula hellyon3too August 31 2014 at 9:53 PM

Agreed hellyon3too !!!! There WILL come a day when the US will need from another country.....and all the naysayers will be the FIRST in line BEGGING for help!!!!

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