A Texas doctor who had moved to Liberia to work for a medical
charity has been infected with the deadly virus ebola.
Dr Kent Brantly, who had moved to the country before the
outbreak, is now being treated for the disease at a Liberia
Ebola, one of the world’s deadliest viruses, has been spreading
through West Africa, with the latest case being confirmed in
Nigeria after an infected businessman traveled there by plane.
Dr Brantly, medical director for the North-Carolina-based
company Samaritan’s Purse, had been part of a team working in
grueling conditions at an ebola ward in Monrovia.
The married father-of-two had to wear a special suit to protect him
from the highly contagious disease, while working in an isolation
unit in the stifling African heat.
Symptoms of ebola mimic other common illnesses such as malaria
in the early stages. But the disease is passed on quickly through
blood, bodily fluids or infected tissues in people or animals.
With only a 10 percent chance of survival, the disease has a
devastating impact on communities.
The most recent outbreak, which began earlier this year, has
already killed 672 people in at least four countries.
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.
Authorities announced Friday that blood tests from the Lagos
University Teaching Hospital confirmed Sawyer died of ebola
earlier that day and later cremated to avoid spread.
An outbreak in Lagos, Africa’s megacity where many live in
cramped conditions, could be a major disaster.
‘Lagos is completely different from other cities because we’re
talking about millions of people,’ Dr Unni Krishnan, of Plan
International’s Disaster Response and Preparedness, said.
Nigerian newspapers described the effort to contain the outbreak
as a ‘scramble’ after Sawyer arrived in Lagos for an international
conference, and then died Friday.
International airports in the country are screening passengers
arriving from foreign countries for symptoms, Yakubu Dati,
spokesman for Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, said.
Airports have also set up holding rooms in case another potential
Ebola victim lands in Nigeria.
The ease at which a traveler, who could be infected, can move on
international flights from Liberia has concerned health
It has raised fears that other passengers could unwittingly
contribute to the spread of the disease.
Officials in Togo, where Sawyer passed through, have been on
high alert since the latest case was confirmed.
Dr Lance Plyler, who leads the ebola medical efforts in Liberia that
Dr Brantly was part of, said screening airline passengers may help
slow the spread of the disease, but it couldn’t prevent it.
‘Unfortunately the initial signs of ebola imitate other diseases, like
malaria or typhoid,’ he said.
Airports in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three other West
African countries affected by the current outbreak, have
implemented some preventive measures, according to officials in
those countries. But none of the safeguards are foolproof, health
Ebola has a variable incubation period of between two and 21 days
and cannot be diagnosed on the spot.
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 officials,
but he claimed to have had no contact with her.
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, Dr
There is no ‘magic bullet’ cure for ebola, but early detection and
treatment of fluids and nutrition can be effective. Quickly isolating
patients is also crucial in slowing the spread of the disease.
As Ebola is confirmed in Nigeria, read how to prevent it here