Two new Ebola cases in Nigeria dash hopes of quick containment

Two new Ebola cases in Nigeria dash hopes of quick containment
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of the international airport in Lagos earlier this month. (Sunday Alamba / Associated Press)

Nigeria reported two new cases of Ebola virus Friday, days after the government expressed hope that the country could soon be Ebola-free.

Both are spouses of two patients who had direct contact with Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian American who brought Ebola into the country, according to a statement by the Nigerian Ministry of Health.


Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Tuesday that Nigeria could be Ebola-free within a week, with the only two known cases in isolation in Lagos, Bloomberg reported.

"They are not exposed to the public and the public is in no danger from the two," Chukwu told the news service.

Health officials have been closely watching the growth of Ebola in Nigeria, a major economic and travel hub, and Africa's most populous country.

The World Health Organization called the spread of the disease to Nigeria a “significant development in the course of this outbreak.”

Reached by phone Friday, a WHO spokesman said the response to these cases will be no different as health officials continue to try to stamp out the disease: isolation of infected patients and close-contact tracing with diligent follow-up.

Sawyer brought the disease there after he became ill on a flight from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria. He was immediately quarantined upon arrival, and later died in the hospital.

Four other people have died from the disease there, including two doctors and a nurse who were treating Sawyer, and a West African official who picked him up from the airport.

The disease has spread to 14 other people so far, a relatively small number, but one that is being closely watched.

The health ministry assured the public that "efforts will not relent until the very last case of Ebola virus disease is seen in Nigeria."

According to the latest figures from WHO, the current outbreak has or is suspected of infecting 2,473 and killed 1,350 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc