Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Death shows Ebola can spread by air travel - West Africa airports take precautions

Published:Monday | July 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A man reads a newspaper on a Lagos street with the headline 'Ebola Virus kills Liberian in Lagos' on Saturday. An Ebola outbreak that has left more than 660 people dead across West Africa has spread to the continent's most populous nation after a Liberian man with a high fever vomitted aboard an airplane to Nigeria and then died. - AP


Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola last Saturday after a man sick with one of the world's deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa's largest city with 21 million people.

The fact that the traveller from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact that Ebola's symptoms are similar to other diseases.

Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man's flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country.

Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease, but it is no guarantee Ebola won't travel by airplane, according to Dr Lance Plyler, who heads Ebola medical efforts in Liberia for aid organisation Samaritan's Purse.

"Unfortunately, the initial signs of Ebola imitate other diseases, like malaria or typhoid," he said.

In the meantime, one of Liberia's most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, a government official said yesterday, as an American doctor was treated in the West African country after contracting the disease, highlighting the risks facing health workers trying to combat the spread of the deadly virus.

Dr Samuel Brisbane is the first Liberian doctor to die in an outbreak the World Health Organization (WHO) says has killed 129 people in Liberia, and more than 670 in several West African countries. A Ugandan doctor working in the country died earlier this month.

The WHO says the outbreak, the largest ever recorded, has also killed 319 people in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone. As of July 23, the total number of cases in the three countries was 1,201, it said.