Nigerian health authorities said on Thursday that they were holding for Ebola testing a South African national in transit to her country because she was showing potential symptoms of the disease after working in Guinea and Sierra Leone, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The South African woman, whose identity was not revealed, flew in to Lagos airport from Morocco. She was being treated as a suspected case and was being taken to Lagos Ebola treatment centre for tests to see whether she actually had the virus. The traveller, who lives in Cape Town, filled out a health questionnaire on her arrival at the airport in which she acknowledged suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, both possible symptoms of the Ebola hemorrhagic virus.
Around 2,300 people have died so far this year in the worst Ebola outbreak on record, which has mostly affected Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It has also reached Nigeria and Senegal because of sick travellers “importing” the disease. Democratic Republic of Congo has a separate outbreak.
“This person has been in Guinea and Sierra Leone since April; she has symptoms,” the Director of Port Health Services at the Lagos airport, Dr. Morenike Alex-Okoh, told Reuters.
The testing process will likely last a few days.
Nigeria has instituted Ebola screening, including infra-red temperature scans and symptoms checks, at its airports and ports after a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, infected with the disease brought it to Lagos in July. Sawyer had flown in to Nigeria from Liberia. His is one of seven deaths recorded so far out of 19 confirmed cases in Nigeria.
“Nigeria cannot afford another ‘importation’ (of Ebola),” said Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at the Florida International University College of Medicine.
Marty is working with Nigerian health authorities, under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, to maintain port of entry Ebola checks across the country. She told Reuters the fact that the South African traveller displayed several Ebola-like symptoms and had been in the high-risk zone justified her being treated as a suspected case. But such symptoms are also present in other diseases, such as malaria and cholera, hence the need for a specific Ebola test.