Africa’s first Ebola outbreak could be worse than feared
Nigeria is seeing its first Ebola case and it could be much worse than thought, a senior US official has warned.
The United States has said that the country is the “first country in the world” to see an outbreak of Ebola, with more than 6,000 confirmed cases in four states in the north and west of the country.
Nigeria’s health ministry has confirmed more than 2,000 new cases and nearly 1,200 deaths.
But it is not yet clear how many people are actually infected.
“We have a very high level of confidence that we are going to see many more cases in the coming weeks,” Michael Pillsbury, a deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told reporters on Monday.
The new cases will be spread more evenly across the country, allowing Nigeria to be the first to see a significant outbreak.
In a country of 24 million, the total number of people infected could be up to 10 times greater than previously thought, with the country’s largest cities and districts likely to see as many as 50,000 cases, according to experts.
There have been reports of suspected cases in some of the poorest districts, including the capital Lagos, and in other parts of the northeast.
“There are many places where we know of cases, and it looks like the population is increasing, the number of deaths is increasing,” said Dr Pillsburys Dr Richard Collins, who led the WHO team that declared the outbreak in October.
He said the outbreak could start spreading quickly in some areas, and he urged the Nigerian government to act quickly.
“Our focus should be on ensuring that we do not get into a situation where we get a situation in which there is a large number of cases and we do so quickly,” Dr Collins said.
“The first case we see in Lagos is likely to be a small number of Ebola cases.
If the first case is a very small number, we would be able to identify it very quickly and it would not affect the spread of the disease.”
But he said that if there was an outbreak, it could not be stopped “with an outbreak”.
The new case data will also be a “greatest shock” for the international community, he added.
The outbreak has hit Nigeria hard because of the nation’s reliance on imported oil, a major source of income for many in the country of 5.4 million.
In the past two weeks, the Nigerian capital has been hit by a massive fire that has killed more than 10,000 people.
President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to end the countrys dependence on oil and has vowed not to let oil prices fall.
But experts say the country has been in a “critical period” for years and has a shortage of healthcare workers and other essential services.
The UN has called for a moratorium on the sale of petrol and diesel and other goods in the first four days of the outbreak, but the government has said the move is not necessary because it is already under control.
But the country will be under a state of emergency until at least mid-September, the first day the lockdown will be lifted.