ABUJA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola free on Monday after a 42 day period with no new cases, in a success story with lessons for countries still struggling to contain the deadly virus.
“This is a spectacular success story,” WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz told a news conference in the capital Abuja, where officials broke into applause when he announced that Nigeria had shaken off the disease.
“It shows that Ebola can be contained, but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”
This year’s Ebola outbreak, the worst on record, has killed 4,546 people across the three most-affected countries, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Its arrival in Lagos, an overcrowded city of 21 million people, sparked fears of a doomsday scenario in which it becomes impossible to contain because contacts are too diffuse to trace.
As the commercial hub of Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and leading energy producer, it would have been an ideal springboard for Ebola to spread across the country.
The first case in Nigeria was imported from Liberia when Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20.
Authorities were caught unawares, airport staff were not prepared and the government had not set up any hospital isolation unit, so he was able to infect several people, including health workers in the hospital where he was taken.
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