Ebola Death Toll Reaches 729, Says UN

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The deaths of 57 more people from Ebola in west Africa have pushed the overall fatality toll from the epidemic to 729, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The 57 deaths were recorded between Thursday and Sunday last week in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the UN health agency said in a statement.

It said 122 new cases were detected over those four days, taking the total number of confirmed and likely infected cases from the outbreak so far to 1,323.

WHO said the trend in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “remains precarious with ongoing… transmission of infection”.

Guinea is suffering the worst from the disease, which causes often fatal bleeding and has no vaccine.

The country’s authorities reported 20 more deaths apparently from Ebola in the last four days of last week, taking its national fatility figure to 339.

Liberia saw 27 more deaths, for a total national death toll of 156. Sierra Leone reported nine more deaths for a total 233 dead.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, reported its first death from Ebola in that period.

WHO said the medical sample taken from the patient who died in Nigeria shortly after arriving by air had still not been analysed by its regional lab because courier companies were refusing to transport it.

The UN agency added that it “does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions” be applied to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone at this time.

Nigeria’s civil aviation authority (NCAA) said on Thursday it had started temperature screening passengers arriving from places at risk from Ebola and had suspended pan-African airline Asky for bringing the first case to Lagos.

Ebola has been blamed for 729 deaths in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

One died in Lagos, a crowded city of 21 million people with some of Africa’s worst sanitation and health care.

“Screening and monitoring is being done at all major international airports. It entails checking passengers’ temperatures with a hand-held machine,” NCAA spokesman Sam Adurogboye said, adding this meant for any journey that passed through Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone.

A compulsory blood test would follow if the passenger’s temperature gave cause for concern, he said.

International airlines association IATA said the WHO was not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the outbreak, and says there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew.

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry in his 40s, collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 20 on an Asky flight. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of the city, but died early on July 25.

“We have suspended Asky until they are able to show us what measures they have put in place for passengers to ensure they do not bring Ebola,” Adurogboye said.

He said the largest Airline Arik Air was being told to maintain its self-imposed suspension of all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone for the time being.

Authorities were monitoring 59 people who were in contact with Sawyer, including airport contacts, and are seeking to make contact with all passengers that were on his flight.

The latest outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever began in the forests of remote eastern Guinea in February. It starts with headaches and fever, and final stage symptoms include external and internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine epicentres of Ebola on Thursday.