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Ebola Spreads in Nigeria, Liberia      08/23 09:51

   ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) -- Two alarming new cases of Ebola have emerged in 
Nigeria, widening the circle of people sickened beyond the immediate group of 
caregivers who treated a dying airline passenger in one of Africa's largest 
cities.

   The outbreak also continues to spread elsewhere in West Africa, with 142 
more cases recorded, bringing the new total to 2,615 with 1,427 deaths, the 
World Health Organization said Friday.

   Most of the new cases are in Liberia, where the government was delivering 
donated rice to a slum where 50,000 people have been sealed off from the rest 
of the capital in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

   New treatment centers in Liberia are being overwhelmed by patients that were 
not previously identified. One center with 20 beds opened its doors to 70 
possibly infected people, likely coming from "shadow-zones" where people 
fearing authorities won't let doctors enter, the U.N health agency said.

   "This phenomenon strongly suggests the existence of an invisible caseload of 
patients who are not being detected by the surveillance system," the agency 
said. This has "never before been seen in an Ebola outbreak."

   The two new cases in Nigeria were infected by their spouses, both medical 
workers who had direct contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, who flew 
into Nigeria from Liberia and Togo and infected 11 others before he died in 
July. The male and female caregivers also then died of Ebola, Health Minister 
Onyebuchi Chukwu said Friday.

   Nigerian officials initially claimed the risk of exposure to others was 
minimal because Sawyer was whisked into isolation after arriving at the 
airport. Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris later acknowledged that 
Sawyer was not immediately quarantined.

   The two new cases were quarantined two days ago while being tested, Chukwu 
said. They had previously been under surveillance, meaning they were contacted 
daily to see if they developed any symptoms, but their movements were not 
restricted. Once they showed signs of the disease, they were brought in.

   Authorities are now trying to identify and monitor everyone they have been 
in contact with.

   In all, 213 people are now under surveillance in Nigeria, including six 
people, all "secondary contacts" like the caregivers' spouses, being monitored 
in the state of Enugu, more than 310 miles (500 kilometers) east of Lagos.

   A mobile laboratory capable of diagnosing the disease has been moved there, 
Chukwu said.

   Nigeria's total of confirmed infections is now 16. Five of them have died 
and five have recovered; the rest are being treated in isolation in Lagos, the 
commercial capital where Sawyer's flight landed.

   The damage has been far greater in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, each 
dealing with hundreds of cases. Liberia has been hit hardest, recording 1,082 
cases and 624 deaths.

   In Liberia, a teenage boy died after being shot by security forces in West 
Point, a slum that was blockaded this week to stop the spread of Ebola, a 
Liberia government spokesman said Friday. Shakie Kamara was hurt in a clash 
with police and soldiers who sealed off their peninsula from the rest of 
Monrovia.

   Days earlier in West Point, slum dwellers ransacked a holding center for 
Ebola patients after realizing that some patients had come from other parts of 
the city. Looters then made off with bloody sheets and mattresses that could 
spread the disease.

   The government began distributing rice, some of it donated by the World Food 
Program, to alleviate food shortages a day after cordoning off the slum, said 
Information Minister Lewis Brown.

   Some countries also continue to impose travel restrictions, even though they 
aren't recommended by the UN health agency.

   On Friday, the Central African country of Gabon announced it was barring all 
flights and ships from Ebola-stricken countries. South Africa already announced 
a travel ban for non-citizens from these countries "unless the travel is 
considered absolutely essential." Senegal closed its borders with Guinea, and 
is barring air or sea travel from Sierra Leone and Liberia. Cameroon barred 
flights from Nigeria.


(KA)


 
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