Nigeria Clears Ebola?

After nearly two dozen cases of the deadly disease, Africa’s most populous country appears to have stopped the virus in its tracks.

Oct 1, 2014
Jef Akst

Lagos, NigeriaFLICKR, ROBERTAfter reports started appearing that a 40-year-old man in Nigeria died of Ebola in July, health officials were concerned that the deadly virus was spreading. But according to an announcement made yesterday (September 30) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coordinated efforts of doctors and health-care workers in Nigeria has contained the virus, with no new cases reported since August 31.

“For those who say it’s hopeless, this is an antidote—you can control Ebola,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told The New York Times (NYT). All people in Nigeria known to have been infected with the virus have either died or recovered, with an impressive cure rate of 60 percent, NYT reported, and nearly everyone who had contact with an infected patient has cleared the 21-day incubation period.

Meanwhile, however, the epidemic rages on in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the virus has killed more than 3,000 people in the last few months. These countries are less equipped than the populous Nigeria to fight the disease. The country’s success in containing Ebola has been attributed, in part, to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation center established in 2012 to fight polio, which was converted to the Ebola Emergency Operations Center after the virus appeared this summer, as well as to Nigeria-based CDC experts working on polio and HIV and training local doctors in epidemiology and to the ability of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital to test for Ebola in just six hours. The three countries at the heart of the outbreak have far fewer resources to fight the disease, Faisal Shuaib, chief of the temporary Ebola center, told NYT.

Moreover, with what resources are available being dedicated to Ebola, some worry that other diseases, such as malaria, could take hold. “The outbreak has virtually shut down malaria control efforts in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, raising fears that cases of the mosquito-borne illness may start rising—if they haven’t already,” Nature News reported.