The ebola outbreak in West Africa that has affected Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia has now spread to Nigeria after a carrier of the virus from Liberia boarded a plane bound for Nigeria.
Nigerian health officials said on Friday that a man from Liberia with high fever vomited while aboard a plane to Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and seventh most populous country worldwide. It wasn't clear how the 40-year old man managed to get on the plane but officials said the man's sister had died of Ebola.
The man, a government official with the finance ministry in Liberia was supposed to attend an international conference but following the plane incident was immediately isolated upon his arrival in Nigeria on Tuesday and eventually died on Friday. Blood tests from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital revealed that the man was positive for Ebola.
Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said that this is the first confirmed case of Ebola in the country since the outbreak started in West Africa this year. The World Health Organization has already declared the current ebola outbreak as the deadliest in history. Ebola, a highly fatal and contagious disease with no known cure, has so far infected over 1,000 and killed at least 600 in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Although there is no specific treatment that could cure Ebola, a viral disease characterized by symptoms that include intense weakness, fever, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhea which could progress into internal bleeding and organ damage, WHO said that some patients could recover as long as they are given appropriate medical care. Individuals who are at elevated risk of contracting the disease include health workers, family members of those infected with ebola, hunters in the rain forest and mourners who had direct contact with infected bodies.
Chukwu said that authorities are already investigating people who may have come in contact with the patient including the passengers of the plane that the man boarded. Measures were also put in place to prevent the further spread of the disease.
"All ports of entry into Nigeria including airports, seaports and land boarders are placed on red alert," Chukwu told the Associated Press. "Ministry of Health specialists have been positioned in all entry points. Active surveillance has also been stepped up."
WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo acknowledged the challenge of stopping the transmission and reducing the prevalence of Ebola.
"I believe it is possible to stop the transmission and reduce the number of cases, but we still have a lot to do," Sambo said.