Nigeria Assesses Ebola Cases After Officials Saw Progress

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Doctors in Nigeria’s most populous city are assessing five new suspected cases of the Ebola virus, a top medical official said, two days after the health minister expressed confidence the outbreak in the country may soon end.

The new patients were admitted to a hospital in Lagos on Aug. 19 and are being monitored in isolation wards, the state’s Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, told reporters yesterday. Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Aug. 19 that Africa’s biggest economy may be Ebola-free within a week as the number of people being treated for the virus had dropped to two.

“They are not exposed to the public and the public is in no danger from the two,” Chukwu said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Trish Regan and Shannon Pettypiece.

Nigeria’s Health Ministry said Aug. 19 that a senior doctor who was treating an Ebola patient died from the disease, the fifth since a Liberian-American last month brought the virus to Africa’s most populous nation of about 170 million people. The country has enough equipment to contain the outbreak, Chukwu said.

The outbreak, the worst since the virus was first identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, has infected 2,473 people, killing at least 1,350 through Aug. 18, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and, most recently, Nigeria, the World Health Organization said yesterday.

“It will be many months before the situation is stable and we can feel that we are ahead of the virus,” Francis Kasolo, the WHO’s sub-regional Ebola outbreak coordinator, said in an Internet panel yesterday.

Experimental Drugs

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Aug. 19 announced curfews and quarantining of certain areas of the capital, Monrovia, to prevent the spread of Ebola. The construction of a second Ebola center was completed in Liberia, which will allow Medecins Sans Frontieres to better respond to the disease, spokesman Tim Shenk said.

There is no known or approved cure for Ebola, which spreads through bodily fluids and can kill as many as 90 percent of its victims after causing bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth and rectum and a bloody, full-body rash.

Nigeria’s government has requested experimental drug TKM-Ebola from Vancouver-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., Chukwu said. Idris said that as many as three manufacturers of experimental Ebola treatments had been contacted.

Two American health workers infected with the virus in Liberia have received an experimental medicine from Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. The WHO has warned that the public had “unrealistic expectations” of the new treatments.

Officials at separate U.S. hospitals in New Mexico and California said yesterday they are sending blood samples from two patients as a precaution to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to rule out the presence of the virus.

(An earlier version of this story corrected to say construction of a second Liberian Ebola center had been completed in seventh paragraph.)