ABUJA (AFP) – The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria has risen to four, while six others infected with the virus are being treated in the economic capital Lagos, the health ministry said on Thursday.
Nigeria had earlier confirmed an 11th case but ministry spokesman Dan Nwomeh said that was an error due to “double counting”.
“We actually have four deaths now and six who are under treatment,” he told AFP.
The first fatality was Liberian government employee Patrick Sawyer, who brought the virus to Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city, on July 20. He died in hospital on July 25.
The other deaths include two medical workers who treated Sawyer at the First Consultants hospital in Lagos and an employee of the regional bloc known as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) who met Sawyer at the airport when he landed.
Nigeria has not recorded a case outside Lagos but there were fears that a nurse who contracted Ebola from Sawyer at the hospital may have carried the virus to the key eastern city of Enugu.
The nurse began showing symptoms after reaching her home in Enugu and was transported back to Lagos for treatment.
Officials on Wednesday said 21 people in Enugu who had contact with the nurse were being monitored.
But Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said on Thursday that 15 of those people had been cleared, with only six in the city still being watched.
The development is a positive one for health workers in Africa’s most populous country, as a spread of the outbreak beyond Lagos would put significant strain on Nigeria’s weak healthcare system.
Enugu state Health Commissioner George Eze said authorities planned to set up four screening and quarantine centres in the event an Ebola case emerges.
The nurse’s house has been “decontaminated”, Eze told journalists.
Her husband has been quarantined in Lagos as a precaution despite not showing any symptoms, he added.
The number of people under surveillance for possible infection in Lagos was reduced from 177 to 169 overnight, Chukwu said.
The virus has a maximum incubation of 21 days, so anyone who does not become symptomatic within three weeks of exposure is thought to be safe.
The worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 1,000 people since the start of the year in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria last month became the fourth west African country affected.