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Ebola health workers
Image: DPA

Ebola spreads beyond Lagos

August 28, 2014

A doctor has died from Ebola in the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt in southeastern Nigeria. It is the country's sixth Ebola death, and the first victim confirmed outside Lagos.

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The medic died on August 22, after treating a patient who had come into contact with an infected traveler from Liberia, Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said on Thursday.

"Following the report of this death by the doctor's widow the next day, the case had been thoroughly investigated and laboratory analysis showed that this doctor died from EVD (Ebola Virus Disease)," Chukwu told reporters in the capital Abuja.

The doctor had been treating a man who was a primary contact of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who brought Ebola from Liberia to Lagos last month.

The health minister added that the doctor's patient works for the Economic Community of West African States, and had evaded surveillance before traveling to Port Harcourt, where he sought treatment from the doctor. The patient has since recovered and is being monitored.

"After four days, following a manhunt for him, he returned to Lagos by which time he was found to be without symptoms," Chukwu said.

Ebola in southern Nigeria

On Wednesday, Chukwu had announced the virus was contained to Lagos, but this latest death in a city more than 435 kilometers away (270 miles), has raised new concerns.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, and Port Harcourt is a hub for several major international oil companies and expatriate workers. Nigeria also doesn't share borders with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - the other Ebola-affected countries in western Africa. The first case was brought to the country by Patrick Sawyer, who flew into Lagos.

Chukwu said health authorities had "traced, registered and placed under surveillance" several other people who had come into contact with the doctor in Port Harcourt. The doctor's widow, who is suffering Ebola symptoms has also been quarantined.

Rising death toll

Meanwhile, the World Health Oriagnization (WHO) reported on Thursday that the death toll from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa had passed 1,500. The number of cases has risen to more than 3,000.

The UN's health agency said the outbreak "continues to accelerate," and that as of August 26, 1,552 people had died from the hemorrhagic fever, while 3,062 had been infected.

"More than 40 percent of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities," the agency said in a statement.

The new figures come after the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, warned the epidemic would get worse before it gets better. Speaking in Liberia's capital Monrovia on Wednesday, he called for "urgent action" to tackle the outbreak, which is the deadliest on record.

West African health ministers gathered in Ghana on Thursday to discuss the countries' response to the epidemic.

nm/hc (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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