The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria “Ebola-free” after 42 days elapsed without a new case being diagnosed.
WHO announced that Senegal was Ebola-free on Friday.
Neither country experienced the kind of outbreak of the disease seen in other West African countries. But the reason for that has a lot to do with how they handled the crisis in the first few days after diagnosing the first patient.
In the case of Nigeria, the country immediately declared an emergency, and set out to identify all the people who had come in contact with the patient. The early detection of the disease, the swift emergency response, and a massive public education effort all combined to limit the spread of the virus to 20 people, eight of whom died.
“This is a spectacular success story that shows to the world that Ebola can be contained but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”
The outbreak there began when Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with the illness in July.
Nigeria declared a national public health emergency and Mr Sawyer later died of the disease, followed by seven Nigerians.
These included Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who diagnosed Mr Sawyer and is credited with helping to contain the outbreak at its source.
Dr Adadevoh’s son, Bankole Cardoso, told the BBC that because Mr Sawyer had been so quickly diagnosed, Nigeria was able to trace all those who could possibly have contracted the disease from him.
“That was probably the difference between us and our West African neighbours,” he said.
John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Nigeria had taken the right steps to contain the outbreak.
“Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale,” he told AFP news agency.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., authorities have released 43 people from quarantine when they failed to show symptoms of the disease after 21 days. All 43 had come in contact with the first Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan. Authorities say that 120 people who came in contact with the other two Ebola patients are still being monitored in Texas with dozens more in Ohio, and up to 800 more across the country who had flown on the plane taken by Amber Vinson, the third Ebola patient.
Vinson’s family is pushing back from the CDC’s contention that the nurse was told not to use public transportation, including flying in commercial aircraft, prior to her trip to Cleveland.
Health officials gave Texas nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly to Ohio and back even though she voiced concern about Ebola, her relatives said Sunday, adding that they have retained a high-profile attorney.
Their statement contradicted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention account of what took place before the nurse was diagnosed with the virus.
CDC officials said last week that Vinson had been told to avoid public transportation, including commercial airlines, while monitoring herself for symptoms. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said her trip to Ohio, which began before fellow nurse Nina Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, violated that restriction. The agency has acknowledged approving Vinson’s return flight.
“In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan,” the Ebola patient she treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Vinson’s family said Sunday in a statement detailing her interactions with health officials.
The family also said they have retained attorney Billy Martin, a veteran of numerous high-profile cases. He represented NFL star Michael Vick during his dogfighting case, actor Wesley Snipes during his tax case, the parents of federal intern Chandra Levy after her disappearance and the mother of former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky during the sex-and-perjury investigation of President Clinton.
Vinson’s family said that before the nurse flew to Cleveland on Oct. 10, she contacted the CDC through her work supervisor “and was fully cleared for travel.”
Say it isn’t so! The CDC tried to blame the victim for the agency’s own stupidity? I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that a government agency would lie to cover its own behind.
In a Politico poll concluded before the 3rd case of Ebola was diagnosed, just 22% of voters in swing states said they had a lot of confidence that the government could contain the disease while 33% said they didn’t. Those numbers may change as days pass and no more new cases of Ebola are diagnosed in the U.S. But the glaring, nearly incomprehensible missteps made by the government in their efforts to contain the virus in the first days of the crisis is a warning that in the months ahead, as the outbreak worsens in West Africa, the U.S. may again be challenged and found wanting in its response. No “czar,” no smooth assurances from health bureaucrats can mask the fundamental truth that we’re not ready to face an outbreak here.