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30 Aug, 2014 00:25

First Ebola case in Senegal, five more states at risk of outbreak spread

First Ebola case in Senegal, five more states at risk of outbreak spread

West African state of Senegal has become the region's fifth country to confirm a case of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,500 people with the WHO warning that five more states are at risk for spread of the outbreak.

A university student from neighbouring Guinea first asked for medical treatment in Dakar on Tuesday but gave no sign of Ebola, Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters. The student was quarantined the next day after scientists in Guinea notified Senegalese authorities that they are unaware of whereabouts of one person who had had contact with sick people, Seck said.

Seck told the press that the student's condition is “satisfactory,” after being tested positive with the deadly virus, but it is still unclear when or how the new victim came to Senegal after the country sealed off its border with Guinea last week. The World Health Organisation has been alerted of the new case.

Meanwhile, some 160 people are being monitored in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt after a doctor died from the virus on Thursday.

The Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa began last year in Guinea. Since then, the disease has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria and now Senegal. Five more countries were identified as at risk of contracting the virus, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

“The following countries share land borders or major transportation connections with the affected countries and are therefore at risk for spread of the Ebola outbreak: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal,” the agency said, adding it will aid the new states with “surveillance, preparedness and response plan.”

Reuters / Misha Hussain

The Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report 1 is the first update issued by the WHO following Thursday's release of an Ebola response roadmap that aims to stop the spread of the virus within six to nine months. According to the latest UN statistic almost 40 percent of the reported cases have occurred within the past three weeks, and warned that eventually 20,000 people could be infected.

“There are serious problems with case management and infection prevention and control,” the report said. “The situation is worsening in Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

As individual African states battle the virus, the health minister Miatta Kargbo of Sierra Leone has been dismissed by the country's president “to create a conducive environment for efficient and effective handling of the Ebola outbreak,” that has killed more than 400 people in that country alone.

The latest official number of Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone stands at 3,069, with over 1,552 deaths, making this the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded, WHO said.

Image from un.org

The head of French Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Mego Terziam, believes the WHO doesn’t have enough resources to stop Ebola from spreading.

“I am extremely pessimistic if there is not a substantial international mobilisation,” Terziam said. “Organisations like the WHO and MSF will be not capable to mobilise additional human resources, additional logistics in order to control the epidemic.”

In order to get ready for the worst possible scenario and help those already suffering, researchers are moving forward with trials of experimental Ebola vaccines, but the first results are unlikely before the year end.

‘All hands on deck’: US pushes ahead with Ebola vaccine trials on humans

With the spread of Ebola, the WHO has deemed it ethical to try out experimental drugs that show promise in curing the decease, as there are no approved Ebola vaccines or treatments.