The growing ebola virus epidemic in Africa has claimed a second American victim, an aid worker infected while treating patients. As Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and now Nigeria work to isolate and defeat the disease, keeping the more than 1,000 people infected from spreading the illness has become an uphill battle.
CNN reports that Nancy Writebol has become the second American infected with the deadly virus. Writebol and her husband were in Liberia working with the Christian humanitarian group Serving in Mission, treating ebola patients directly in the capital, Monrovia. She is the second American patient fighting the disease after Dr. Kent Brantley, who was treating patients with the group Samaritan’s Purse. Brantley ran the operation to treat ebola patients for the organization. Both patients have been quarantined and are undergoing treatment.
Medical personnel are especially susceptible to falling ill with the disease, as they interact with patients regularly. Several high-profile doctors have been diagnosed with ebola since the outbreak began in March. In Sierra Leone, the doctor leading the operation to find a cure for ebola, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, was diagnosed last week with the disease. While Khan, Brantley, and Writebol continue to fight the disease, some medical personnel of the more than 100 officially diagnosed have died. Liberia lost one of its top public health officials, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, to ebola on Saturday, the Washington Post reported.
While Sierra Leone and Guinea are most affected by the outbreak, Liberia has taken proactive steps to attempt to isolate itself from other African countries in an attempt to limit the scope of the epidemic. The BBC reports that Liberia has closed off most of its border crossings to other nations, particular to those experiencing the ebola outbreak, and is establishing illness screening centers by the borders that remain open, to attempt to keep those infected from entering. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced this week that Liberia would keep its airports open, but establish centers to test for the disease and keep a watchful eye on those attempting to enter the country from Guinea or Sierra Leone.
As the government of Liberia attempts to isolate itself from Sierra Leone and Guinea, the government of Nigeria is trying to keep Liberians out. Nigeria became the fourth country to experience an ebola death after a Liberian government official, Patrick Sawyer, flew out of Monrovia to the city of Lagos, a metropolis home to more than 20 million people. The officials was quarantined and died shortly after arriving in Nigeria. Nigeria has canceled flights coming into its territory from Liberia and quarantined the hospital where Sawyer died. As Sawyer arrived in Nigeria through a transfer in Togo, the World Health Organization announced that it would send personnel into Togo, as well, to aid in sanitizing areas in which Sawyer may have potentially contaminated the airport.