Nigeria trains 800 volunteers to fight Ebola epidemic

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(AFP) – Nigeria has trained 800 volunteers to help fight the deadly Ebola epidemic that has already claimed four lives in Africa’s most populous country, a regional governor spokesman said Saturday.

Authorities in the country’s largest city of Lagos last week appealed for volunteers to make up for a shortage of medical personnel because of a six-week doctors’ strike over pay.

“People have heeded our call for service,” said Hakeem Bello, a spokesman for Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola.

“We have trained some 800 volunteers in the area of contact tracing, sensitisation and treatment of the Ebola disease.”

Four people have died and six more infected by Ebola in Nigeria as part of the worst-ever outbreak of the deadly virus, which has killed 1,145 people across west Africa since the outbreak began this year.

Volunteers have so far been deployed to 57 districts of Nigeria, Bello said, adding that more are needed to contain the outbreak, particularly to treat those infected with the disease.

Nigerian doctors have been on strike nationwide since July 1 to demand a payrise and better working conditions.

In response, Lagos’ state government has stepped up a media campaign to raise awareness of how to prevent the spread of the disease, including across radio, television and public health announcements.

Nigeria became the fourth west African country to be hit by the Ebola epidemic last month after Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Athletes from Nigeria have been forced to withdraw from the Youth Olympics in China as a result of the outbreak, Chinese state media reported Saturday.

The International Olympic Committee has barred athletes from Ebola-hit countries from competing in pool events and combat sports.

The disease is spread by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and tissue and no cure or vaccine is currently available.

The last days of an Ebola victim can be grim, characterised by agonising muscular pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and catastrophic haemorrhaging described as “bleeding out” as vital organs break down.

Nigeria’s 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.

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 southeastern city of Enugu.

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