Residents of Nigeria and Senegal can now breathe a little easier, after both countries were declared free of the deadly Ebola virus.
The World Health Organization listed the countries disease-free after no new cases were reported in the 42-day testing period.
‘Nigeria is now free of Ebola,’ WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz told a news conference in the capital Abuja, prompting a round of applause from other officials. ‘This is a spectacular success story … 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.’
Senegal was declared free of the deadly virus on Friday.
One traveler from Liberia triggered an outbreak in which eight people – most of them health workers – died in Nigeria, before the disease could be contained.
The traveler, a Liberian-American diplomat called Patrick Sawyer, collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20. Because the country was ill-prepared and had no screening procedures in place, Mr Sawyer was able to infect 19 people.
The positive news comes after cases increase in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, as the death toll rises to 4,500. Non-profit organizations like MSF (Médecins sans Frontières) claim the numbers are higher than reported, but are currently being downplayed to reduce fear in the grief-stricken countries.
“People are dying in greater numbers than we know, according to MSF [Médecins sans Frontières] and WHO officials. Certain departments are refusing to give them the figures – because the lower it is, the more peace of mind they can give people. The truth is that it is still not under control.”
WHO has admitted that problems with data-gathering make it hard to track the evolution of the epidemic, with the number of cases in the Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, going under-reported. Efforts to count freshly dug graves had been abandoned.
With two nurses now being treated for the virus in the United States, New York governor Chuck Schumer has called on President Obama to send Ebola experts to the city. Since NYC welcomes the most international travelers through JFK and Newark airports, the governor says the chances for Ebola present a higher risk than any other state in the U.S.
The NY Post reports:
Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the Obama administration to immediately send a team of experts to the Big Apple to ensure the safety of New Yorkers should someone test positive for Ebola.
Since the city is fed by two international airports — JFK and Newark — that see more travelers arriving from Ebola-ridden West African nations than any other part of the country, the Democratic lawmaker on Sunday urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to dispatch specialized teams to the city as a way to “remain vigilant.”
“We’re also asking, while that team is on the ground here, that they go around and do the same thing our city and state health departments are doing, go inspect the hospitals to make sure that they have everything in place,” Schumer said.
“If someone is tested positively for Ebola, they’ll be in the isolation room in the hospital where they found it,” Schumer said. “Then, immediately, the CDC team could come in and transport them to one of the four centers [in Maryland, Atlanta, Nebraska and Montana] where they know how to treat them.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced a special rapid-response team for the virus. The group will consist of 30 trained experts from various military services. Five doctors are trained to fight infectious diseases, 20 are critical-care nurses, and the other five are trainers in following infectious-disease protocols.