A 40-year-old Liberian man who died in Lagos, Nigeria, has become the first victim of ebola in Africa’s most populous country, according to the Nigerian government. His death makes Nigeria the fourth country to experience an ebola incident since the recent outbreak began in March.
According to the BBC, the victim is not being identified by name but is described as a possible employee of the Liberian government. Having recently lost his sister to the Ebola virus, he boarded a plane to Lagos and began to vomit and experience a high fever. He was quarantined upon landing in Nigeria on Tuesday and succumbed to the disease on Friday.
The government of Nigeria is responding with heightened surveillance for any individuals experiencing ebola symptoms throughout the country, but especially at “airports, seaports, and land borders,” according to Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu. As Nigeria does not border any of the other three countries with mass diagnoses of ebola – Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia – monitoring sea and air travel is particularly necessary to protect the citizens of Nigeria.
The man’s diagnosis and subsequent death after traveling by plane is especially a cause for alarm given that many experts believe the likelihood of ebola spreading outside the region diminished precisely because it is unlikely that someone experiencing the disease’s symptoms would be able to travel. In the United Kingdom, one expert – Health Protection Agency Director Dr Brian McCloskey – told a national news network that the odds of the disease spreading were “low… because essentially people get ill relatively quickly. They are not likely [to] get on a plane and survive a journey.” He left the possibility open, however, noting that it was “technically possible” but “extremely unlikely.”
The three countries previously affected by ebola are struggling to contain the outbreak, which, according to the World Health Organization, has affected at least 1,093 people since March. More than 600 are believed to have died from the disease in that time in what the WHO is stating is “out of control” and the deadliest outbreak of its kind in history. In Sierra Leone, concerns are heightened as one woman infected with the Ebola virus was forcibly removed from the hospital by her family after finding out she was infected. The woman, the first patient known to be affected in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, is suspected to have been taken to a local herbalist that family members may believe has a better chance of saving her life than medical personnel at a hospital.
Medical personnel are especially at risk for contracting the disease. The World Health Organization estimates that around 100 workers have contracted ebola, most notably Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor leading the fight against ebola in Sierra Leone.