ATLANTA, Georgia | DMN — A woman has been quarantined at a hospital in Hong Kong after falling ill with Ebola-like symptoms when she returned from a trip to Africa. The patient, who is said to be exhibiting symptoms similar to the deadly virus, is undergoing tests to verify the cause of her illness, local media reported. It comes as potential victims were tested for the incurable disease in the UK, and it emerged Sierra Leone’s top doctor, who had been fighting the epidemic, died from the virus. The death of a U.S. citizen in the Nigerian capital of Lagos on Friday, prompted fears of a world pandemic, as experts warned the disease could be spread by air travelers.
Dr Derek Gatherer of the University of Lancaster has warned of a global pandemic, claiming the virus is as infectious as flu. He warned each person infected with the disease could spread the virus to at least two other people, adding that the panic sparked by the death of Mr Sawyer in Lagos, is justified. ‘Anyone on the same plane could have become infected because Ebola is easy to catch,’ he said. ‘It can be passed on through vomiting, diarrhea or even from simply saliva or sweat – as well as being sexually transmitted. ‘That is why there is such alarm over Mr Sawyer because he became ill on the flight so anyone else sharing the plane could have been infected by his vomit or other bodily fluids.’
It comes as health campaigners today called for U.S. authorities to speed up their approval of a new drug hoped to be the first cure for the deadly Ebola virus. They are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States to fast-track their authorisation of the TKM-Ebola drug. The petition, created on change.org, states: ‘One of the most promising is TKM-Ebola manufactured by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. ‘This drug has been shown to be highly effective in killing the virus in primates and Phase 1 clinical trials to assess its safety in humans were started earlier this year.’ In July the FDA put clinical trials on hold, despite the face 14 research participants had already safely tolerated the drug, campaigners said.
Those responsible for the petition added: ‘Given that at least one patient has transferred the disease from Liberia to Nigeria by air travel, the possibility of a global pandemic becomes increasingly likely. ‘In view of this it’s imperative that the development of these drugs be fast-tracked by the FDA and the first step should be releasing the hold on TKM-Ebola. ‘There is a precedent for fast tracking anti-Ebola drugs in emergency cases as happened last year when a researcher was exposed to the virus and received an experimental vaccine.’ Nigerian health officials are in the process of trying to trace 30,000 people thought to have come into contact directly or indirectly with a Liberian Ebola victim.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genusEbolavirus. When infection occurs,symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.
Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone
The Ministries of Health (MoH) of Guinea and Liberia and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in several Guinean and Liberian districts.
There are five identified subspecies of Ebolavirus. Four of the five have caused disease in humans: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
The natural reservoir host of ebolaviruses remains unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic (animal-borne) with bats being the most likely reservoir. Four of the five subtypes occur in an animal host native to Africa.
A host of similar species is probably associated with Reston virus, which was isolated from infected cynomolgous monkeys imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. Several workers in the Philippines and in US holding facility outbreaks became infected with the virus, but did not become ill.
Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, died on Friday after arriving at Lagos airport on June 20, having vomited and suffered diarrhea on two flights. The 40-year-old U.S. citizen had been to the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of the city, home to around 21 million people. Mr Sawyer took two flights to reach Lagos, from Monrovia to Lome and then onto the Nigerian capital. So far 59 people who came into contact with Mr Sawyer have been identified by Nigerian health officials, and are under surveillance. But health officials have said they are looking at contacting 30,000 people who could be at risk of contracting the disease.
Professor Sunday Omilabu, from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, said health officials are in the process of tracing all those people who are thought to have been in contact with Mr Sawyer. He said: ‘We’ve been making contacts. We now have information about the (flight) manifest. ‘We have information about who and who were around. ‘So, as I’m talking, our teams are in the facility, where they’ve trained the staff, and then they (are) now asking questions about those that were closely in contact with the patient.’ Public health adviser, Yewande Adeshina, added: ‘We’re actually looking at contacting over 30,000 people in this very scenario. ‘Because any and everybody that has contacted this person is going to be treated as a suspect.’
AIRLINES ON EBOLA RED ALERT
British airlines are on alert for cases of the deadly virus, after tests revealed a man died in Nigeria from the disease, having been allowed to board an international flight from Liberia. Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, had been in Liberia for the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease, and was on his way back to his home in the US. The 40-year-old arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 20 and had suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea on two flights. He was put in isolation in hospital and died on Friday.
Nigeria has closed the Lagos hospital where Mr Sawyer was treated and put its airports and ports on ‘red alert’. ASKY airlines, the carrier which flew Mr Sawyer, suspended flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone yesterday. In Britain, the Department of Transport said UK airlines are ‘monitoring the situation’. Virgin Atlantic told DMN their staff have been trained to spot the signs and symptoms of the virulent disease, which has claimed the lives of 672 people in West Africa since February.
Health campaigners have petitioned U.S. authorities, calling for the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track their approval of a new Ebola drug, which could be the first cure for the disease.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond today declared the disease a ‘very serious threat’ to Britain as he prepares to chair an emergency meeting on how to bolster the country’s defenses against the vicious virus. British airlines are on alert for cases of the deadly virus, after tests revealed a man died in Nigeria from the disease, having been allowed to board an international flight from Liberia. A British man has also been tested for the Ebola virus, putting doctors on red alert that it could be on its way to the UK. A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) will be notified if it is confirmed the patient is suffering from the Ebola virus.
In Nigeria health officials said today, they are in the process of tracing 30,000 people at risk of contracting the disease after coming into contact with a Liberian man who died on Friday. Meanwhile, the British man was taken to hospital in Birmingham after complaining of feeling ‘feverish’ on a flight back to the Midlands from West Africa. He had been travelling from Benin, Nigeria via Paris, France when he became unwell on Monday. However, after undergoing a number of tests he was given the all-clear for the virus which has already killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and infected more than 1,200 since it was first diagnosed in February. In another scare, medical staff at Charing Cross Hospital in London became concerned a man in his twenties had caught the virus this week. But his symptoms were quickly confirmed as not being linked to the bug and doctors ruled out the need for an Ebola test.
ARE YOU AT RISK OF CATCHING THE INCURABLE, DEADLY EBOLA DISEASE?
What is Ebola virus disease?
Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90 per cent.The illness affects humans as well as primates, including monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees.
How do people become infected with the virus?
Ebola is transmitted through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
In Africa infection in humans has happened as a result of contact with chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.
Once a person becomes infected, the virus can spread through contact with a sufferer’s blood, urine, saliva, stools and semen. A person can also become infected if broken skin comes into contact with a victim’s soiled clothing, bed linen or used needles.
Men who have recovered from the disease, can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for seven weeks after recovery.
Who is most at risk?
Those at risk during an outbreak include:
- health workers
- family members or others in close contact with infected people
- mourners with direct contact with the bodies of deceased victims
- hunters in contact with dead animals
What are the typical signs and symptoms?
Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. That is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and internal and external bleeding.
The incubation period is between two and 21 days. A person will become contagious once they start to show symptoms.
When should you seek medical care?
If a person is in an area affected by the outbreak, or has been in contact with a person known or suspected to have Ebola, they should seek medical help immediately.
What is the treatment?
Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. They need intravenous fluids to rehydrate them.
But there is currently no specific treatment for the disease. Some patients will recover with the appropriate care.
Can Ebola be prevented?
Currently there is no licensed vaccine for Ebola. Several are being tested but are not available for clinical use.
Is it safe to travel to affected areas?
The World Health Organisation reviews the public health situation regularly, and recommends travel or trade restrictions if necessary. The risk of infection for travellers is very low since person-to-person transmission results from direct contact with bodily fluids of victims.
Source: World Health Organisation
Fears over the ability to contain the spread of Ebola were augmented last night as it emerged the body of a young stowaway was found hidden in on a U.S. military plane. The Pentagon said the young boy, believed to be of African origin, was found near the wheel of a cargo plane which landed in Germany. The plane was on a routine mission in Africa, and had made stops in Senegal, Mali, Chad, Tunisia and the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily before arriving at Ramstein. It is thought the boy climbed aboard in Mali, which borders Guinea – where the current Ebola outbreak originated at the end of last year. It comes as hospitals and medical centers across the UK remain on red alert for the virus, with doctors being told to look out for symptoms of the disease which can go unnoticed for three weeks and kills 90 per cent of victims.
The Department of Health confirmed protections have been put in place to deal with the deadly bug, should it spread to Britain. A spokesman said: ‘We are well prepared to identity and deal with any potential cases of Ebola, although there has never been a case in this country.’ The Government’s chief scientific adviser also issued a frank warning about the disease, which he said could have a ‘major impact’ on the UK. Sir Mark Walport said: ‘The UK is fortunate in its geographical position. We’re an island. But we are living in a completely interconnected world where disruptions in countries far away will have major impacts. ‘The most dangerous infections of humans have always been those which have emerged from other species,’ he told the Daily Telegraph, referring to the virus originating in fruit bats and monkeys. He said the Government was ‘keeping a close eye’ on the outbreak and was prepared for the disease spreading to Britain, but insisted any risk was ‘very low’. He added: ‘We have to think about risk and managing risk appropriately.’
Public Health England has added to fears about the spread of the virus by saying it was ‘clearly not under control’. The Government agency’s global health director, Dr Brian McCloskey, said: ‘It is the largest outbreak of this disease to date, and it’s clear it is not under control. ‘We have alerted UK medical practitioners about the situation in West Africa and requested they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited the affected area.’ The current outbreak started in Guinea in February and spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone in weeks. Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and damage to the nervous system. There is no vaccine or cure. It is spread by contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids.
All outbreaks since 1976 – when Ebola was first identified – have been in Africa, with the previous highest death toll being 280. However, authorities around the world have been put on high alert in recent weeks after an American doctor working in Liberia became infected and passed through an airport. Nigerian health officials yesterday admitted they did not have a list of all the people who came into contact Patrick Sawyer, prompting fears the outbreak could spread. But the manifesto appears to have been disclosed as Professor Sunday Omilabu, from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, said health officials are in the process of tracing all those people who are thought to have been in contact with Mr Sawyer. He said: ‘We’ve been making contacts. We now have information about the (flight) manifest. ‘We have information about who and who were around. ‘So, as I’m talking, our teams are in the facility, where they’ve trained the staff, and then they (are) now asking questions about those that were closely in contact with the patient.’
Public health adviser, Yewande Adeshina, added: ‘We’re actually looking at contacting over 30,000 people in this very scenario. ‘Because any and everybody that has contacted this person is going to be treated as a suspect.’ Mr Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, had been in Liberia for the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease, and was on his way back to his home in the US. The 40-year-old arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 20 and had suffered from vomiting and diaherra on two flights. He was put in isolation in hospital and died on Friday. So far 59 people who came into contact with him have been identified and are under surveillance. But the airlines have yet to release flight information naming passengers and crew members.
Dr David Heymann, head of the Centre on Global Health Security, said every person who had been on the plane to Lagos with Mr Sawyer would need to be traced. Sierra Leone’s top doctor fighting Ebola died yesterday after he contracted the virus just days ago. Sheik Umar Khan was credited with treating more than 100 patients. Liberia closed most of its border crossings on Sunday and Nigeria’s airports and borders have been on full alert since Friday.